Not everyone one loves non-linear plot lines so in order to make Station Eleven accessible to all I took it upon myself to chart thFantasy Review Barn
Not everyone one loves non-linear plot lines so in order to make Station Eleven accessible to all I took it upon myself to chart the timeline out for everyone and have included it for reference below.
Station Eleven has one of the more interesting set ups I have seen. It is nominally a post apocalyptic tale that deals with a select few survivors of a civilization ending strain of flu. Many of the familiar trappings are there; wandering bands of survivors, fascinating looks at a new life without old technologies, even a prophet emerging from the chaos consolidating power for his own vision.
But the base of the story is more Citizen Kane than Mad Max. The Rosebud of the story is an aging actor named Arthur who dies on stage in the opening scene of the story. His life and death have nothing to do with the death of humanity, in fact he dies the day the 'Georgian Flu' hits North America and is never aware of what is coming. But everyone in the book is in some way tied to him, directly or through his works, and it is one story at a time building to a larger connection that brings the whole cast together.
This is a slower paced book but incredibly well crafted. Each story drops a small hint, be it in the time of rebuilding, the hectic final days of modern humanity, or at times years before when everything was normal and problems much more mundane. The story is interesting, and questions will be answered, but it is tough to say whether there is any sort of payoff so a readers satisfaction will probably vary based on expectations. Personally I loved it; a complete memoir of life and fame hidden in the end of the world. But with its slow pace and lack of any major, central question your mileage may vary.
If there is a weakness in the book it comes from the believably of the post collapse world and in some ways the collapse itself. Yes, the very set up of the novel is the hardest to buy. The speed the sickness spreads world wide is quite insane and near complete start over humanity is going through doesn't add up. Is there no mechanical lathe still around? Scavenging is effective but manufacturing shouldn't have stopped. But since in reality all the post apocalyptic setting is just staging for a larger story it doesn't' really matter.
This is more quirky indie film than summer blockbuster. It is smart and interesting and worth reading but nothing really memorable. The setting works because of its small scale and unanswered questions but doesn't beg for further expansion. Station Eleven is a book I am glad to have read but it is a style that really could only work once. It's uniqueness is part of its charm and covers up for some of its weaknesses.
There are time when all the pieces come together. Sometimes that iNicky Drayden answered a few questions about her debut novel in this awesome Q and A
There are time when all the pieces come together. Sometimes that is because the pieces are made to be together; a dark lord chasing the orphaned farm boy and the like. But to make all the pieces come together when said pieces are a virtual grab bag of randomness takes a bit more skill. Robot uprising, pissed off demi-god, young girl with the power to naturally nuke a town, hallucinations that are real and not real and real again. All tied together in a neat little...oh who I am kidding, it was a glorious mess. But a glorious mess that all works out if one is really paying attention.
The Prey of Gods starts with a young man worrying about the state of of his private parts and mentally cussing out the man who decided circumcision should come by ritual in the teens rather than infancy. We can go ahead and call his story the sanest plot line of the book followed by a politician with a secret wannabe pop star identity. From there all the crazy elements are introduced one by one, then moved around in a wonderful whirlwind until everything important comes together in flash bang of a conclusion. Yes I just mixed metaphors like a boss, but that is only because I wanted to get in on this crazy game.
Make no mistake one would have to enjoy a health dose of weird to enjoy this book. I wish I could recommend this book with no reservations but there are still a good number of people who don't enjoy Bas Lag so obviously some will be put off by people discovering their inner sexual crab. Assuming that is you then you have permission to skip reading this review but please know you are missing out.
Are all the boring people gone?
Beyond the weird The Prey of Gods is a book that has a whole lot to say but makes the reader work to decide what exactly that is. In a near future where things generally seem to be getting better there is a bit of optimism. Yet a pissed off ancient demi-goddess threatens to tear it all down; a decidedly fatalistic look at was an optimistic future. Another character goes from young innocent to monster before possibly making the turn back. Hell the entire pop star's story-line had enough going for it to be its own contemporary novel (minus the mystic drug dealer, perhaps).
I suppose the real question is how many times in a year I can call different books 'debut of the year' and get away with it (by my count this might be the third). The Prey of Gods has the depth, excitement and action, and just enough humor to make up for its apocalyptic body count. Each character's point of view feels unique and not one character of the diverse cast feels unneeded. It may requiring altering ones mind to accommodate the insane set up but the payoff is worth it in the end.
Another highly anticipated debut that didn't disappoint.
Even have a complete disaster work out in your favor? Josette Dupris wakes up after her airship crashes a hero. This is not a FlasFantasy Review Barn
Even have a complete disaster work out in your favor? Josette Dupris wakes up after her airship crashes a hero. This is not a Flashman scenario; her quick thinking after the commanding officer bites it truly are worthy of some accolades as the tide of battle was turned by her controlled crash. But deserved accolades or not Dupris finds that the disaster she survived is only going to lead to more problems in the future. Specifically, press she doesn't want and a promotion that no one wants to give her.
For you see the new coed army thing isn't going over well among some in the Garnian command. Women are only supposed to be auxiliaries and not actually brought to combat. So taking over a airship, saving the day, and having the nation's press fall in love with your exploits? Probably not going to go over well with the Brass. Dupris soon finds herself with her own airship, an experimental specimen called the Mistral. And the first Captain's pins for a woman in the land. But with this comes the certain knowledge that taking the spotlight from her commanders is not going to bode well when it comes time for her new assignment.
Airship battles are cool, even if they can become a bit confusing as they bog down in the minutia. Military fantasy is always a balancing act between accessibility and those gritty little details of who is standing where and doing what. For the most part The Guns Above toes this line just fine; only a couple of times did I want it to get on with things. But be warned, there is plenty of maneuvering and a minutia of detail during battle that stand out dramatically from the books style the rest of the time.
A small airship is a strong setting for a book with a small cast as it forces constant character interaction without it ever feeling forced. In this case the cast mostly consists of Dupris and her resident spy Lord Bernat, spoiled noble placed on the ship only to help bring Dupris down. Dupris is a character I loved. Her struggle at the forefront of a political shift is something she recognizes and doesn't dismiss but being the best Captain she can is her number one priority. She is also genuinely funny, using a biting sort of humor that allows her to keep some distance.
Bernat was more of a mixed bag. He is first shown as something of a useless fop, my first thought was Jezel from The First Law as a comparison. But luckily he instead proves to be a capable young man without much motivation. He is also funny, and most of his conversations with Jezel are a riot to read. But as real as Dupris felt, Bernat rang a bit false for this reader. His actions at the end of the book don't necessarily match the man we met at first. And while I concede a first hand look at war could cause major changes in a man I think one extreme to the other is something of a stretch.
Overall this was quite an enjoyable read. Good characters, good humor, and a very quick and fun plot. But layered into it is a story of society on the move along with all the political ramifications that go with it. So while I didn't fall in love with the book as much as I hoped it is a book to be recommended. A secondary steampunk world with a kick ass air captain is absolutely worth checking out.
A boy chases laughter through the city. Followed by a presence he can't see the boy keys in on laughter, any laughter, and throws hFantasy Review Barn
A boy chases laughter through the city. Followed by a presence he can't see the boy keys in on laughter, any laughter, and throws himself desperately toward it looking for shelter or a way out. In a land once ruled by miracles the unnamed boy uses the only one he has at hand hoping for it to prove useful just one more time. And when finally hitting a laughter that rings a bit false...
Well that is where City of Miracles really begins.
One of the finest fantasy series of the decade is getting its conclusion. And with it some major questions will finally be answered, especially those surrounding Sigrud, a character who always stole the reader's attention but never was able to get out of the other protagonists' shadows. But City of Miracles doesn't lazily ride off into the sunset, oh no. In City of Miracles the action is turned all the way up, all the feels are given at regular doses, and (spoiler alert) there are miracles abound. Yes, questions will be answered. And a whole wide world of questions will be left to wonder about.
This has been a series in which every book felt like it belonged in the same series yet all were very different in tone. City of Stairs had action but was more focused on the mystery and a real sense of wonder. City of Blades somehow ups the mystery and politics. And City of Miracles feels like a summer blockbuster until one looks back and realizes it couldn't never work without the reader already being invested in the wonder and magic of the world.
This works for and against the narrative in some ways. It is a very different feel than the first two books and it is almost jarring to jump right into the action. Sigrud is a tougher character to follow and relate too than either Shara or Turyin Mulaghesh before him; his near invulnerability compared to their very human nature is not always endearing. And while those all important explanations eventually come I found that I preferred Sigrud when the more diminutive Shara was still the most dangerous person in the scene.
BUT, and this is a big but, those reservations I had eventually were for naught. And it would take major spoilers to explain why but Sigrud's humanity does start to show, and eventually becomes the key to everything. City of Miracles isn't necessarily a tear-jerker but the emotions do start to run high. And while the action never really slows it is always action with intelligence; each scene builds on the last and each piece of information Sigrud and his supporting cast learns will be needed to stop the new threat.
What a threat it is too. Villains have not really been present in this series before. The Gods were slaves to their nature; capable of much destruction but just as tied to the people expectations as they were to their own whims. But the new threat is certainly evil. World destroying evil. Yet even this creature, most evil seen in the series, has just enough humanity to make a reader hope for redemption
As a series conclusion City of Miracles was all I could hope for in a series I never wanted to see end. Though City of Stairs has remained my favorite of the trilogy each successive book has added much to the story. Sigrud dominates the page but both Shara and Mulaghesh (plus some important newish characters) get their own successful conclusions. And I can't help think I am due for an entire series reread sometime in the very near future.
A simple enough novel in which a woman runs from those trying to do her harm after a drug war spills over to something more personaFantasy Review Barn
A simple enough novel in which a woman runs from those trying to do her harm after a drug war spills over to something more personal. Only the major parties involved happen to be vampires. Which makes things a little more...not simple?
Certain Dark Things is completely engaging yet very simple in execution. The story follows Atl as she ends up in Mexico City while on the run from the rival family who killed her sister. Mexico City is not a good place to be a vampire; sanitation crews are always on the lookout in an attempt to keep the city bloodsucker free. A hunger for young human blood makes hiding out even harder so Atl recruits a teen street kid for a meal. She then makes a decision that could be a mistake by letting young Domingo live.
It is dark and emotional. Domingo goes from crush to possible love interest but Atl always knows her past and future involve blood and heartbreak. A jaded police officer on her trail fights her conscience when the system doesn't provide the support but a human gang does. And Nick, the spoiled son of a vampire lord, provides the perfect mix of evil and youthful arrogance while acting as the main villain.
There is a bit of a role-playing influence at work as the different vampire sub species are introduced. Atl can trace her heritage back to the Aztecs; she requires younger blood than some and can fly when she has the energy. Nick's group are bit more Dracula; making puppets out of their human victims through some sort of blood induced mind control. And hints of even more are seen throughout.
On the one had all this is fascinating and the distinctions are not gratuitous; the vampires use their various advantages in a the battle to get the upper hand on each other and a reader who stays aware will have something of a head up before each twist and turn of the plot. On the other hand there is a lot of excess world building that may never pay off; the history of vampires outings could be fascinating but is only a background detail.
As vampire tales go this is one of the better recent releases. It carefully builds a lore that could easily lead to our current myths while adding enough originality to stand on its own. The simple story was a page turner, never a bad thing. And the ending fit the personalities of the characters perfectly, not coming as a surprise but with just the right mix of melancholy and heartbreak.
A strong book with a cool take on vampire lore. Perhaps not the most memorable nor is it a genre changer but well worth reading.
A bit out of place on this humble blog as unless I missed something there were no dragons involved in this non-fiction book about tFantasy Review Barn
A bit out of place on this humble blog as unless I missed something there were no dragons involved in this non-fiction book about the history of baking powder. Nor did any of the major companies involved prone to hiring any type of magical assistance. So feel free to skip this review if the riveting battle between companies trying to sell flavorless white powder does nothing for you.
The Baking Powder War caught my eye because I am fascinated by the history of marketing and the blurb promised plenty of this. I was not disappointed on this front but I also got so much more than I expected. This was not a minor marketing battle between rival companies; the 'war' statement in the title of the book was in no way hyperbole. It can also not be overstated just how important the creation and distribution of this product was both in its time and leading up to today.
For those that don't cook baking powder is a product that leavens bread. Almost any bread product bought today (outside of artisan loafs) as well as most cakes, cookies, etc contain this product. If you put it in an oven and it gets bigger, or if it is soft and fluffy, you know it has baking powder. If it can be cooked in less than an hour the same statement holds true.
Starting with the introduction of bread making in colonial America the author takes her time showing just how important bread making was in the time period; setting up just how revolutionary this simple product ended up being. From there the focus slowly shifts down two paths; how the product was changing society and what four major companies were doing to ensure they profited the most off it. Both of these aspects were fascinating.
On the societal change front it is almost shocking how much impact this simple product has. Bread making went from something that went on all day (and took constant prep to ensure the baker had yeast at hand as a dried version is years away still) to something that could be done on more of a whim. This leavening was so important that the first patent issued in America dealt with a baking powder predecessor. Many diverse aspects were looked into, often briefly. The rise of the tin industry (baking pans were suddenly needed for breads that didn't stay self contained), the start of chemical additives to food (baking powder is convenient but it adds neither flavor nor nutritional value) and eventually the rise of chain grocers.
But the majority of the book focused on the cut throat war the various companies engaged in during a time with less ease of consumer information. Wholesale bribery of state legislature type of warfare; these companies were robber barons every bit as crafty as any steel tycoon. Early marketing was as horrifying as it is fascinating; one ad basically told women that a can of baking powder saved so much time it was like owning a slave!
I don't review non-fiction much and this certainly isn't an academic journal. Unlike fiction reviews I don't see any need to discuss pacing or narrative style. I found The Baking Powder War to be easy to read and completely fascinating. I was expecting more on marketing and was slightly disappointed that it only came up sporadically but I got so much more than I realized from this book.
Recommended for those interesting in marketing, American history, and the quality of their food.
So I have an honest question. How much does a first person narrative absolve semi-pragmatic aspects of an otherwise good to very good story? If a thirSo I have an honest question. How much does a first person narrative absolve semi-pragmatic aspects of an otherwise good to very good story? If a third person account says someone speaking a foreign language is jabbering it is quite often called out; but if a criminal overlord with some mild racist tendencies brings it up it is not necessarily the lore of the land but rather one man's train of thought. I really don't have an answer to this question at all, and it didn't affect my personal enjoyment, but it was certainly something I noticed and thought about.
But I am doing this wrong. Reviews shouldn't start with a negative should they? Ok, back it up, start with what I liked.
1. I like the first person noir feel Low Town had. The story starts with the protagonist finding the murdered victim of a well publicized missing child case and against his own best interest getting involved in the investigation. The narrative voice was STRONG. 'The Warden' has an obvious feel for the streets and quite realistically moves between the underworld he currently owns a piece of and the law he used to be part of. Take the best parts of Sam Vimes (feeling the street trough the souls of his feet) and Tracer Bullet (giving just a bit of levity to the proceedings).
2. I like the city that the book entirely takes place in. Getting an actually grasp on it is tough; it feels like Dicken's London but in a timeline without any advances in gunpowder. Mostly we see it through the underbelly; drug lords and minor traffickers. But making the protagonist a drug lord opens up the whole city; there is nothing out of place with his travels taking him anywhere from the slums to the house of nobles. When we do see the lawful side of things we see exactly the corrupt force one would expect; complete with a real monster at the top that deserves his own book.
3. And finally I can't fault the pacing or story at all; it kept me hooked throughout. Some of the twists are telegraphed a bit too hard but that is forgivable. Flashbacks are short but interesting and while they don't answer everything they help fill in the protagonist's rise and fall in society. It is a dark story for sure; the Warden is not against using violence to keep his territory and a reader can never forget he is only temperately back on the investigative trail.
Ok, I have had time to think about it and I do admit I am still kinda annoyed by the way race was portrayed at times. There was a culture that was very much a Chinese stereotype and while the protagonist himself doesn't know how much they are playing to the part it is a deliberate choice. Women also didn't a strong showing in Low Town; those with any ambition especially . This is a book that wouldn't have seemed out of place on the shelves ten years ago and yet it is not weird to see a semi-recent release fail the Betchel test completely.
Reservations aside I enjoyed this book quite a lot and will be rating it higher than some of my criticisms suggest. I am already cussing that my library doesn't have the sequel in audio format; I will have to track down that book in another form it appears. Low Town was a good blend of fantasy and Noir it is an author I will certainly be reading again.
Scavengers in the air tip off three people biking across the vast desert of the planet on their way home. Hob draws the short straw and checks out the body finding someone she knows well. When a body is found out in the dunes of Tanegawa’s World there is no real secret as to how it arrived there; the corporation TransRift runs everything on the planet and unofficial deaths are not uncommon. But events will soon prove that her now dead 'Uncle' got into something over his head. There are secrets that TransRift means to keep.
Hunger Makes the Wolf is a fast paced adventure novel with a surprising amount of depth. Though it has two central characters who hold their own it is Tanegawa's World itself that takes center stage. Through it we learn very little about the universe around it but enough to know that it is much more important than its status as small mining colony suggests. The company controls everything, being blacklisted from work is a death sentence of its own but as seen in the opening so is a push from a moving train with multiple bullet wounds.
Through flashbacks we see glimpses of how TransRift controls this land. Long hours with little concern for safty. The aforementioned blacklisting of employees stuck on a world with no other options for work. And soon enough, when Mag's family finally saves the money to send her off world to another life, we see just how far the company is willing to go in order to keep their secrets.
Hob takes the main role in this adventure, acting as the glue between several story lines that all come back to TransRift's control. She is one of the Gray Wolves, a mercenary crew living on the edge of society. She is also a witch, controlling fire though not quite understanding why or how. This and her non-company sanctioned employment make her a prime target for TransRift's wraith. Mag is her longtime friend, though an old wound has kept them apart, who starts as a damsel in distress that quickly comes into her own. The two of them are fun to read about; make no mistake they carry the story through their own decisions and actions. But as stated above, it is the world of Tanegawa's World and TransRift's control of it that drive this book.
The problem is the proprietary information TransRift holds; especially the mysterious 'Weatherman' who are necessary for space travel and so much more. For those looking for just a bit of horror in their sci-fi the Weatherman should meet all needs nicely; deliciously creepy and plenty powerful without seeming completely invincible(just mostly so). How Tanegawa's World fits into the big picture, and what the seemingly benevolent but fairly powerless government plans to do about it, are just a few of the mysteries Mag and Hob may find themselves involved in.
There are a lot of cool aspects to Hunger Makes the Wolf. It is an adventure novel. It has cool mysterious beings like the Weatherman (oh, and wait until you meet the Bone Collector). It has universe spanning implications going on in the small scale; always focused and never to ambitious for its scope. But it also does have two kick ass heroines; they are who they are because of the world they live on sure, but also because they learn from mistakes and take charge of situations.
Obviously a first book in a series there are answers to be found but many more questions to be asked when all is done. There were a few quibbles to be had about the Gray Wolves and their longevity in a world under such strict production control, and a few things about their structure were either underdeveloped or coming in upcoming books. But never did it really affect my enjoyment of the story.
Angry Robot has really upped its game lately; this is one of their best recent releases. Strong debut and I hope for a sequel to start answering a few more of my questions.
“Leaves are falling all around, It's time I was on my way. Thanks to you I'm much obliged, such a pleasant stay.”
Humor is tough to pull off. Inside jokes can fail if they are too deeply buried to be noticed or so obvious they are less a joke and more a reference (hello Scary Movie and all of its knockoffs). Running gags can fall flat if used too often; or worse if they were not even funny in the first place (look up a Nakumara). So when an author proves within pages to be a deft hand with the dealing of jokes I already know I hold a book worth reading.
Dark fantasy can likewise be hit or miss. Without some sort of levity, be it through hope or humor, it has to be damn near perfect to justify the grimness or risk losing a reader who tires of nothing but bleakness. Kings of the Wyld is a book that knows how hold the balance and as such proves to be a stand out debut.
The premise is grim. Clay is living a happy life, married with a young daughter, when an old friend and 'band' mate shows up with a plea for help. A city under siege is where Gabriel's daughter is trapped and he knows only Clay has the pull to bring all the old members of 'Saga' back together for one last impossible fight. Leaving his own happy life behind Clay joins Gabriel as they reunite with each of the scattered old legends; a wizard, a thief turned king, and a pure killing machine turned...well that would be a spoiler. Yes friends they are getting the band back together in one of the more obvious winks a reader can expect in their hilarious journey.
There is a hope to this book that separates itself from so much dark fantasy. The entire quest is driven by love; Gabriel for his daughter of course (and Clay out of respect to his own) but also out of a bond between the band themselves. Clay is a protagonist from another era; genuinely good who occasionally has to do bad things. He is Logan Ninefingers as Logan wanted to be, or rather how Logan pretended to be (I can do references too you know). Despite the bleak outlook for their particular quest the group never really loses hope or even thinks of turning back. And one particular side character's amazing journey to put the best spin on everything for a friend is down right heartbreaking! Just wait until you see to whom I refer.
But it is the humor that sets Kings of the Wyld apart. Small pop cutler references litter the pages (I saw Princess Bride and Spinal Tap among others). But the references never stop and wave to try to call attention to themselves; they are dropped subtly and left where those looking can find them. It isn't just pop culture references though as even fight scenes turn hilarious once the bands mage, Moog, joins the fray. I am still laughing about a horn that supposedly turns swords into snakes. Eames has great comedic timing, seamlessly going between action, seriousness, and humor between one line and the next.
Most impressive of all is just how tightly written Kings of the Wyld is. Most would be happy to read this book for the laughs or the rock and roll quest alone. But despite its simplistic premise, or perhaps because of it, this is a book that one would be hard pressed to poke holes in. It has an ending every bit as satisfying as the journey to took to get to it. Loose ends are tied up, side characters are not forgotten and main characters each get something out of the quest. Just enough is left for a future sequel to peak interest without being infuriatingly open.
I didn't love every character and there were a few portions of the quest that could have been edited down a bit more (everyone has their own tolerance for 'random encounters' in a book and I hit mine). A few of the Saga's problems were solved a bit too easily (though when done with comedic effect this wasn't always a negative). But all I can offer is nitpicks here, overall I was quite happily surprised by this book.
Joe Abercrombie meets Terry Pratchett, and that is not praise I would give lightly.
A new take on an old tale... Scratch that. A new take on a lot of old tales. Cold winters are a fertile ground for stories to bePosted at Booknest.eu
A new take on an old tale... Scratch that. A new take on a lot of old tales. Cold winters are a fertile ground for stories to be told around the fire. And even as the people in Pyotr's village practice Christianity they still take heed of the old stories. It is into this life that young Vasha is born; her birth the dying wish of her enigmatic mother. She grows up on the stories and has no need to believe in them because she can see the truth on her own. Vasha is a wild girl, beloved by her family but never quite understood.
Especially by her father's new wife, Anna. Every story needs its central point of conflict and the stepmother is an old classic. But what if the stepmother isn't evil but scared? Seeing daemons that no one else can see has left Anna shaken; only the villages small church gives comfort. A young priest sees Anna's fear and with it sees his own path to greatness. Sermons gain brimstone and fire and the old ways come under attack. Villagers who once left bread crumbs for creatures of the old stories become more fearful of the vengeful god Konstintine preaches. And fear only grows as the already tough winter starts to bite harder. As the village starts to look with suspicion at the strange girl in their midst Vasha will find herself face to face with two brothers known only in the old stories.
This is a seemingly simple story with a lot of depth. At times it seems to be Vasha vs the world but despite her 'strangeness' she is never short of allies. Nor is it purely a Christianity vs Pagan story as clearly both have power in Arden's version of Russia. It is also not a traditional 'retelling' as it mashes multiple folk tales into a defined historical context. What it is is a strong, original telling of a special girl and her journey between two competing worlds.
There is a lot to love here. Fans of Juliet Marillier should be happy with this debut and not just because of the folk tale influence. In fact when it comes to the prose and imagery The Bear and the Nightingale is probably a step above. This is probably also a good book for fans of Gaiman's American Gods as it deals with a battle between old and new beliefs in a much tighter and smaller focused way. The story is very polished and smartly leaves behind several years in chunks when appropriate. Most importantly the author weaves in the folk tale aspects but makes Vasha's Russia her own. For this The Bear and the Nightingale is worth a strong recommendation.
But it is not a perfect book. A strong character study it is not. Perhaps the most disappointing thing is Vasha's path is mostly laid out for her despite her fight against a predetermined path being her major drive in the book. With a few exceptions other characters fit an archetype (beloved tutor, firebrand preacher) rather than act as full characters. Anna showed a bit more depth than evil stepmother as she fights her own daemons (pun maybe intended) but often it was hard to remember she is more than her spiteful side. Of course this may be a losing battle as the characters are literally competing with the entities of Frost and Death and fairy tales for page space but it makes connecting with characters rather tough.
Overall a strong debut. With a unique voice and beautiful setting this may be a book with some staying power. More importantly Katherine Arden has set herself up as an author to keep an eye on.
Living world ships move through space; if there is any destination the people on the ships don't know it nor any history of another wa link: Booknest
Living world ships move through space; if there is any destination the people on the ships don't know it nor any history of another way. Sadly for these women the worlds are dying as entropy finally seems to be beating out their long living systems. Rival factions war for resources; recycling what they find in an effort to extend the life of their own piece of the sky. Zan wakes among one of these factions and slowly learns she has an ambitious plan for a rebirth of kinds. Problem is an almost complete memory loss gives her no idea what the plan is.
The way Hurley uses such a short page length to build multiple worlds and still have space for a story should be taught in school. No spare time is spent on wasted details yet characters' travels and conversions tell the reader everything that is needed to be known and more. This dying earth space opera checks all the right boxes. It is unique and alien. Dark, occasionally gross, and full of mystery. Strong imagery lets you see experience what Zan and her collected group of outcasts are experiencing. The world ships are a thing of wonder; but also horror as the curtain is pulled back to see exactly what it takes to keep them living for so long.
This is an author with a track record of making readers care for bad people doing bad things; even if there is occasionally justification for each action. Zan seems to be a basically good person; collecting a mixed group of allies as she works toward her unknown cause. Yet she has snatches of memories that make her doubt even her own intentions. Her path seems interlaced with Jayd's, a women who appears to be a friend (or more) but obviously has her own secrets. Both of these women are playing politics with monsters as the rival factions of the Legion cut deals, war, and otherwise live brutal lives on the unforgiving ships.
Though quickly paced the reader is always left one step behind. Because of Zan's memory loss the long game is as much a mystery to her as it is to the reader. Chapters focusing on Jayd are completely unreliable as her mind is so twisted its one is left to wonder if she even knows what she is hiding from who. This is both a pro and a con though. It makes each chapter a must read, one more page, 'oh didn't see that coming' experience. But by playing the cards so close close to the vest surprises can fall a bit flat. Questions of what is a betrayal and what is planned make it hard to get emotionally involved in the proceedings, even if intellectually one is 'all in.'
It is that lack of emotional connection that keeps this from being a really great book; though settling for really damn good is no insult. It is still completely unique, very engaging, and a stand alone to boot allowing one to avoid any fear of commitment. Come award season expect to see it get some run. Though the 'Lesbians in Space' tagline has already got a lot of internet traction please know that The Stars are Legion has an all women cast but is not solely defined by it. Men have no place on the legion and it both works and makes sense; a statement it may be but not one that doesn't back itself up within the narrative.
The Stars are Legion is yet another highly ambitious book from Kameron Hurley and once again she comes through with the good stuff. It has the scope space opera needs, the alienness that anything set in the future should have, and a strong enough story to carry it.
Typically the third book of a trilogy forever sets the tone for how readers will remember the entire series. The first book, sayPosted to Booknest.eu
Typically the third book of a trilogy forever sets the tone for how readers will remember the entire series. The first book, say Dreamer's Pool, is what is responsible for sparking interest in the over reaching plot and (hopefully) major players in the coming story. In many cases this may be a readers introduction to the author as well; life long love may follow from a suitable impressive start. Dreamer's Pool was indeed a book like this, a beautifully crafted fairy tale that introduced many to Juliet Marillier. Most importantly it introduced readers to Blackthorn and Grim, a duo sure to entertain for books to come.
Something different was going on here; a broken 'couple' who needed each other but not in a way typically seen on page. Blackthorn (not her real name) in particular always jumped off the page. She is intelligent, emotional, and complex; a mostly good person who is currently clouded by thoughts that are assuredly not so good. A fae enforced bargain ensures she stays in one place helping the locals as a wisewoman/healer instead of focusing on the revenge she so eagerly seeks. Her partner, Grim (probably also not his real name), provides a balance that she comes to rely on to remain sane. They learn a bit about each other, solve a sticky mystery, and entertain anyone who wants a fairy tale they have not seen re-spun twenty times already.
The second book of a series must then provide a reason to keep reading through the trilogy. Tower of Thorns was not the same magical experience Dreamer's Pool was but it held its own. The two protagonists learn a bit more about each other and confront the fears that may keep them apart. A new mystery is solved. If one was already a fan of the series, and more importantly, already all-in on Blackthorn's plight thenenthusiasm doesn't wane and that third book is eagerly anticipated.
Back to that third book. The one that forever sets the memories in place, Den of Wolves. A book that not only must set up a whole new sub plot (that in reality takes up the majority of the page count), but also must start tying up the dangling plot lines two books before it have left it. Success gives the Blackthorn and Grim series lasting memory. Failure (or worse, mediocrity), dooms it to the dustiest shelves of used book stores everywhere.
Something Marillier seems to excel at is letting the reader think they know where everything is going and rather than shatter that feeling gradually showing that there is way more than even the most astute reader could guess. Having the cake and eating it, who could ask for more? The serial mystery format works surprisingly well and is no exception in Den of Wolves. A construction project with a mysterious history leads both Grim and Blackthorn to question everything about the family financing it. A man with obvious fae ties may be the key to unraveling the mystery but the past is almost a blank to him. All the while Blackthorn suddenly finds herself with an opportunity to provide some closure to her own past (and thus the series). But is she willing to pay the cost?
The two plot lines are woven so tightly they almost feel like one; at no point does it feel like the author is fighting her own story to fit everything in. The frustration with this book may come in how easy it seems the long game comes together. Through two books Blackthorn was defined by her past; at least in her own head. Readers hoping for the epic confrontation with the man her hatred burns for may be disappointing by the almost casual nature of the final showdown. On one side of the coin it actually feels real; it takes more than one person to solve large problems. It also allows the protagonist to fully show her growth, specifically in the decisions she makes when her change at vengeance comes. On the other side of the coin it comes down in a fairly anti-climatic form. Still a bit heart wrenching, but not exactly exciting.
How this series is remembered reader to reader will most likely hinge on how that ending is perceived. Overall this has been a very strong series and a worthy read for any lover of fairy tales tired of the same old thing. Den of Wolves shouldn't disappoint anyone already invested. And those who haven't started Blackthorn and Grim should probably give it a chance. That all important third book did exactly what it is supposed to for the series.
Still a good book but but missing the wonder of the first book. Blackthorn isn't really surprising anymore; we know her tendencies. Grim gets a bit ofStill a good book but but missing the wonder of the first book. Blackthorn isn't really surprising anymore; we know her tendencies. Grim gets a bit of backstory and it is actually pretty meh. And when it is all done I am not sure Blackthorn actually solved anything as opposed to just being drug along.
That said, it was a page turner and still a more hopeful book than many I read so a good change of pace. Consider this series a must read for me still. ...more
Pen name of Delilah S. Dawson, Wake of Vultures sets up to be a book tailor made for the likes of me. Diverse cast, Old West vibe, and a quick pace arPen name of Delilah S. Dawson, Wake of Vultures sets up to be a book tailor made for the likes of me. Diverse cast, Old West vibe, and a quick pace are all present. And for the most part it was a hit for me. I flew through it, the protagonists’ place in the story and the overall vibe. A nice big disclaimer warns the reader that this is based on a U.S. Old West that never was; a very smart move to keep us history majors from trying to dissect the exact time frame.
The story starts with Nettie, a girl of mixed blood living with her white adopted ‘parents’ and doing all the failing farms work. A short setup lets us know that she is great with horses, treated like dirt, and convinced that as bad as things are on the farm they would only be worse in the wider world due to her skin color. But a night time run-in with a human not entirely human opens her eyes to a supernatural world that she will never be able to escape from. Suddenly she can see past the mundane, and a drowned woman is going to force her on a geas whether she wants one or not.
The author makes no bones about the purpose of the book, bring up the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag and giving us a heroine of mixed blood and confused sexual and gender identity (as in confused due to cultural conditioning, Nettie knows just what she is) in a world where neither is exactly accepted. Wake of Vultures was designed to give a presence to the oft forgotten in fantasy; people of color, LGBT characters, and oppressed natives. How well this works will never be my domain, I admit that seeing the only natives present having supernatural powers while most of the whites don’t is a bit of a flag. Still, I am a believer that natural screen time is better than writing entire groups out of the story through omission. And throughout this is a book with an agenda that manages to stand on its own through quality writing and a (mostly) tight story; it is not a story of style without substance.
Only a few issues, none of which are deal breakers. As much as I love this new wave of Old West fantasy this particular outing had a strong feel of urban fantasy. Specifically the middle of the book bogged down in the overload of myths and fantasy creatures being introduced page after page that felt more like filler than anything crucial to the plot. And I would like to make a new rule for everyone to follow. Once a character discovers that the supernatural is real they are not allowed to still be surprised when they find yet another example of the supernatural in their world. The existence of vampires should leave the mind open that there also may be werewolves, sirens, or anything else that crawls out of the woodwork.
I would recommend the book almost without reservation for the entertainment value but I am not sure I saw much to make it memorable. Overall? Pretty solid....more
I can look back at a lot of so called dark fantasy and laugh in its face at this point because The FReposted to Booknest.eu
This one may have broke me.
I can look back at a lot of so called dark fantasy and laugh in its face at this point because The Fifth Season is a whole different level. Jemisin had my heart in hand from the first chapter and while I never quite hit tears it can only be explained by my reading in a quiet shock and awe of where she was willing to take us readers. Broken families, casual acts of violence, persecution and exploitation of those with gifts (curses?) is woven into each chapter. This book was never easy to read but always worth the journey. Do I want more? Oh yes please. Just give me a light hearted comedy to cleanse the pallet first (I had a very similar reaction to The Road by Cormac McCarthey).
With three separate plotlines the story focuses on people with the magical abilities that allow them to work with stone and the minerals within them. Those smarter than I should be able to spot the central link that holds the threads together but there is no doubt it is very cleverly crafted in its presentation. Each is compelling on its own; I never turned the page and wished I could go back to that other character’s story.
The world very well could be earth in the far future but doesn’t have to be. There are no hidden Easter eggs to search for, no game of guess the real life location because none of that matters. What does matter is that this is a land that isn’t just post-apocalyptic but is post-apocalyptic many times over; human life has been nearly extinguished more than once and is being challenged yet again within the course of the story. Earth appears to be forever broken, even if it can feign normalcy for a few centuries at a time there are too many factors that can set it all off again.
The Fifth Season is a book about survival, love and lust, duty and cohesion, persecution, and quite a few impressive magical acts. I pity anyone who tries to wrap the plot into a tight little synopsis because it doesn’t lend itself to an easy explanation. Along with its ability to shred my emotions I found one of its most impressive aspects to be how alien it makes the unknown aspects of this world feel. Creatures called stone eaters play a big part in this story line but their motivations are completely unknown to all; the reader gets no insight that the flummoxed characters don’t have. Giant floating obelisks dot the landscape with obvious purpose but no explanation. Even the land’s history is shattered; a combination of lost records and a dominate cultures’ manipulation leaves people in roles without other options. Until of course the land shatters again at which point the Stonelore they follow is nothing more than a guideline.
It is almost trite to talk about characters that seem real at this point; what should be the expectation in a good book is still noteworthy though. I love characters that I care about without knowing if I really like them. Who sometimes do the right thing. Who have obvious soft spots and bias and act upon them or occasionally against them with reluctance. And with a book that focuses on only a few characters these type of characterizations are only more important. Jemisin has given me characters to care about before and she does it here again.
The Fifth Season has been one of my most anticipated books for quite some time. It was delayed for quite a while but I am happy to say it has been well worth the wait. One of the most emotional reads I have had in a long time.
Copy for review provided by publisher
First posted on Fantasy Review Barn in 2015....more
Have you started reading the Craft Sequence yet? Because if not you are now four books behind in what is probably the best seriesFantasy Review Barn
Have you started reading the Craft Sequence yet? Because if not you are now four books behind in what is probably the best series running under the speculative fiction label. I come to this conclusion slowly. I have not personally five starred any of the previous outings despite finding them all highly enjoyable. And here is a spoiler for you; I will be giving Last First Snow four stars instead of five at the end of the review.
Because what we have here is a series that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is high praise because each outing of this series has been unique and wonderful, brimming with a creative setting unlike any other and dealing with a cast of characters that hasn’t disappointed throughout. The design and outlining that has gone into crafting (bad pun) this series to date is nothing short of exceptional. Because while up to now we have seen plenty of overlapping the first three books we complete standalones in a timeline we could only guess at. With Last First Snow it is all coming together AND continuing to operate as a complete stand alone.
For the first time the main protagonists are people we have spent serious time with before though neither were the main characters in their previous appearance. A craft lawyer (aka magical necromancer who operates within some rules) and a former priest of now dead gods find their paths crossed during land negotiations. That’s right, negotiations over land. That is what this book is about. Except of course, it is so much more. Because it is a battle of classes, a battle of gods, a fight about tradition (which means live sacrifice) and of course—a battle of law. When lawyers can toss magical shields, priests can take a hands on approach to violence, and a skeleton represents the ruling class anything can happen.
What makes this book great is the same thing that has powered the three previous entries. It is fast paced and unique. It makes seemingly mundane details matter; particularly when the very base of the story involves a common land dispute. When the fantasy aspects really start to show their face they turn things up to eleven. And the strength of the characters is second to none. This is a world without villains but full of people to love and hate. Everyone has motivations that are understandable; some selfish and some less so but all very human.
But what makes this a great series is the way everything is starting to come together. It is no secret that the chronology of this series is represented by the numbers in the title. With this forth book being the first some questions are being answered. Questions I didn’t know I had. Characters are fleshed out, the land’s history is becoming clearer, even the nature of the craft that we have seen used since the beginning is becoming more clear. Context we didn’t need yet craved is being provided book but increasingly good book.
This may be the best book of the series. It may not, I seem to be saying that after each new outing. Certainly my own opinion is suspect because I am a sucker for books that hint at class warfare. And let’s give some credit for have a likeable character involved in human sacrifice (something I have only seen in Aliette de Bodard’s historical fantasy series before). Not that I am a proponent of human sacrifice but it adds an interesting dynamic in this case.
I ask again. Are you reading the Craft Sequence? Because if it isn’t obvious, I think you should be.
Mark Lawrence writes a great conversation. Not necessarily a realistic conversation, which would no doubt include more gaps and paFantasy Review Barn
Mark Lawrence writes a great conversation. Not necessarily a realistic conversation, which would no doubt include more gaps and pauses and, at least in personal experience, horribly awkward phrasing. But his conversations flow smoothly and while reading them both feel real and entertain; don’t we all remember our interactions as more witty than they probably were at the time? It is a skill that I don’t remember being exhibited as much in the first two books of the Thorns trilogy as a lunatic with a temper isn’t necessarily the best conversationalist. But in The Liar’s Key I saw the best of it in Jalan’s interactions with, well, everyone. Turns out a lying coward with a quick tongue just has more entertaining conversations.
It is probably a good thing that everything Jalan says, either out loud or in his narration, is pure gold from an entertainment standpoint. Because as much as I enjoy his voice The Liar’s Key starts of pretty slow. This pace was forced by the setting; travelogues are always tough and even more so when the cast is constrained in movement by boat travel. But the pages still turned on their own and by the half way point of the book the fireworks really start to fly. Not that the book becomes pure action, though there is plenty of that, but rather everything Jalan does or has happen to him seems to have a purpose.
The Liar’s Key is a middle book through and through. Though it has a very specific goal for the characters to reach, and sufficiently answers the questions as to if the characters reached their goal, it also spent a lot of time providing background and filling in details hinted at in Prince of Fools. This is not a criticism, outside of the early chapters the characters paths never felt like filler while pieces got moved around. In fact it is mostly a good thing that we took the time to learn some background stuff. So many interesting aspects of this broken world were introduced in book one that needed expanding on. Oh sure some may prefer an air of mystery throughout, and at times I enjoy have room for my own thoughts about the little details, but this world has been so well crafted there is always a desire to know more about it.
Some of the horror aspects are lost through these explanations though; specifically the silent sister who went from something of nightmares to a character who is still quite worth reading about but has lost some of the mystery. Tradeoffs are inevitable of course but in this case I wouldn’t be too upset; a little bit of atmosphere in exchange for a good deal of payoff.
One of the more fun aspects of post-apocalyptic works is playing spot the familiar item. I know when I found a reference to CERN I smiled a bit as I am a reader that missed almost everything in Prince of Thorns. I appreciate that the general purpose of items like phones are not a complete mystery in this world even if the actual workings are lost in the years. It stays consistent with the world as shown, that is one where a good deal of knowledge has been passed down. This also leads to one of those little details that are unimportant to the overall story but still add so much life; keep an eye out for an object that presents the ultimate test of faith.
Usually if a person says the best part about a book is that it ends then said person is mocking the title in question. But in this case it is just describing one of the best endings to a book I have ever seen. Sure, it is a bit of a cliffhanger, an always present aspect of middle books. But it is everything that is to be expected from Jalan’s story thus far; show casing every aspect of his personality competing with itself until his luck takes over everything. It took me by surprise twice; leaving me with a smile and an itch to read more.
It is a fine, fine line that sometimes separates those little details that work and those that start to fall apart and take a bookFantasy Review Barn
It is a fine, fine line that sometimes separates those little details that work and those that start to fall apart and take a book with it. Dark Eden is a book that could go wrong in a hurry by relying on some threads that have to be played just right. It is a near future society that lost its access to technology, a sci-fi dystopia if you will. And be honest how many dystopias hold up to a close reading? It also takes modern English and twists it around to fit the people speaking it. Even though I am not a linguist I tend to pay more attention to language in speculative fiction worlds than anyone wants me to and all too often it doesn’t hold up. Both of these aspects had a chance to derail the entire reading experience for me yet I made it through the whole book. A good sign.
Dark Eden is a title that can be taken quite literally. The world is a literal Eden, started by only two people stranded only five or so generations back. It is also dark, with no star in the sky the only light is provided by the life on the planet (or whatever this celestial body happens to be); native trees and animals mostly have their own light source (with tree being one of many things with Earth names the founders used them on completely new flora and fauna). Both of these setups are more than background information that sits in the back; they are intrical (it’s a word, a promise) to every portion of the story.
For several generations the people of Eden have diversified their genes best they can, scavenged for food, and eeked out an existence as they look to the dark sky for their eventual rescue promised by the founders. Their entire presence is a mistake but with three of the original five heading back to earth it is a given that if they stay close they will be found. Life is getting harder as the population grows and tradition set down by this extended family doesn’t allow for deviation. Finally one young man named John looks at the situation and decides it should change. The valley they live in can’t be everything in the world and if the animals of the land can cross the snowy dark then…
And we come back to those little details and how well they work out in this ambitious setup. Language can be a sticking point. I have read some reviews of Dark Eden that take issues with the liberties he takes with English. One on Goodreads specifically (and quite entertainingly) compares the bastardization of certain words to Dolly from the Family Circus comic; childish mishearings that have stuck in the society. And it is true, ‘versary’ instead of anniversary and radio being split into two words seems like a simplistic approach. But in this one man’s opinion it actually works here. We are dealing with a society that come from two people; any lisp, idioms, or misheard phrasing is forever stuck in the groups’ vocabulary without a larger society to correct it.
The same can be said about the use of repeating worlds for emphasis (it was cold cold out there). My love of British humor has seeped into my everyday language, which in turn has spread among my social group. I have heard many friends say things like ‘pull the other one it has bells,’ a very non regional cliché. I also am quite proud of how many people I know use ‘snake’ in place of the word steal. So I have no problem with a small society taking on linguistics of a couple of dominating personalities. Something I am known to nitpick over is a strength in my mind; just one more aspect of some pretty unique world building.
But another little detail was tougher to swallow. The book seemed to decide on an inevitable move from a fairly female dominated group to a generational shift to patriarchy. The necessity of keeping the gene pool diverse (hairlips and other birth defects already plague the colony) has also let to sexual freedom and is something that has helped women keep an equal footing in this devolving land. But changes that John brings about spark a power grab that seems destined to end with women in a secondary role. Already many women in the society seem content with being regulated to breeding stock; several men in the society seem happy to take what agency they have in their lives away.
Details like this aside I don’t hesitate to say I was hooked on this book throughout. Minus the Eden aspect (and various other biblical allusions that the people of the land have played telephone with to almost being unrecognizable) there was almost nothing recognizable about this land. Life coming from the core rather from the sun and light being provided by the native flora and fauna finally clicked in my mind as a deep sea setting on dry land; valleys acting in the same role as vents in the sea by providing heat and focal points for life. And while I hesitate to call most (if any) characters likable they are still fairly compelling.
Mother of Eden is out soon, if not all ready. Peeking ahead it looks like it skips two hundred years in the future of this land. I am going to move it to my must read pile.
Not often I say that but for The Wolf of Winter it actually is good advice. For one, it is really short. Like a single page shoRead the damn prologue.
Not often I say that but for The Wolf of Winter it actually is good advice. For one, it is really short. Like a single page short. And it appears to be a simple piece of random world building that gives the history of a simple title used throughout the book; Ulor, the leader of the people of Rhazaulle. But it matters people! It has implications to the larger story! Without, and this is important, giving anything away until the author is ready for everything to come together.
And then leaves you feeling stupid for not catching some of the little details.
The Wolf of Winter is a story that appears to have some influence from Russian culture, or at least an American’s understanding of what fantasy influenced by Russian culture should look like. I will be honest, not my area of history. The story, despite what the back cover says, is about a man named Varis who is the brother of current Ulor and far back in the succession line. Weak in stature and with watery eyes he begs off to live in seclusion where he discovers a path to the art of necromancy. The rest, as they say, is history.
The first half of this book is something of a mind twist. It isn’t that Varis path is trippy or random or hard to follow, it is actually pretty strait forward. The problem is Varis isn’t a complex character but we were given an opportunity to think he is. As he starts a single minded campaign to eliminate the entire line of succession that lays in front of him (with the aid of the trapped spirits his new magic allows him to control) and it is impossible to turn away. This is the bullied young man we thought we would be rooting for? Oh god, he wouldn’t….oh shit he just did. What is he going to do next!?
Time for part two, which if you read the back cover you know will involve young Shalindra, niece to Varis. If you have not read the back cover then don’t, the events it suggests make up the main portion of the plot don’t occur until the last forty pages of the book (we could revisit back cover blurbs here but that is a conversation for another day). Shalindra gives us a protagonist to actually root for and a completely new direction in plot. It keeps the same strength of plotting and wonderful use of language from the first half; never racing yet avoiding being dull by skipping the tedious details that just don’t matter.
As an overall experience this as a very quality read. Great imagery and quick moving, it also had a very unique take on necromancy. But taken in pieces it was at times jarring in its transitions. Time jumps are hit and miss, but very distinct changes in tone are a little rougher. As well Shalindra never really captured me quite the same way Varis did, despite having the more admirable path and being much more likable. This, for me at least, meant the book climaxed about half way through with only the final pages finally bringing my interest all the way back around.
Let’s reminisce back to Traitor’s Blade so we know where we stand with the series thus Knight's Shadow far. In my mind it read likFantasy Review Barn
Let’s reminisce back to Traitor’s Blade so we know where we stand with the series thus Knight's Shadow far. In my mind it read like three separate books, two of which were very good while being very different from each other. It started out as something of a light hearted romp. It ended on a very serious note with a strong conclusion that left me pining for the next book. The fact that I found the middle tedious and even a bit insulting was forgiven by the end. The question is which of these books to expect for the second outing.
Knight’s Shadow continued the serious tone that Traitor’s Blade ended on. It occasionally drops back to its humorous tone but it works so much better on the whole with the darker edge. It was more focused, faster paced (despite the longer word count) and made this yet another book that I have read recently that beat the debut in quality and enjoyment.
Falcio and his fellow Greatcoats have a new purpose. Years after his king’s death Falcio is committed to putting his heir on the throne. To do so he must gain support among the various Dukes, hard enough on its own and even harder with someone he once trusted building an army of her own to take control. His fellow Greatcoat Kest is struggling with a new found curse he thought would be a blessing and Brasti proves to care a little more than his flippant attitude suggests. Oh, and there is an ancient group of unbeatable assassins that may have a target on Falcio. So to recap: Protect the rightful heir, built support to stop an army, watch out for assassins. And from there things really get crazy.
There was a unique focusing agent that kept this book moving at a brisk pace. Had it been overdone it could have quickly turned to gimmick, instead it was something I loved because it was only used enough to be effective and ignored when not needed. To describe it would be something of a spoiler but I can say that it involves something that happened to Falcio at the end of Traitor’s Blade. Every morning starts to count. Throughout chapters start with Falcio waking and the implications of what is happening to him continues to matter more each time. It gives the book a countdown of sorts, forces each day in the story to matter, each action to count for something, and each failure to hurt just a bit more. Running out of time always sucks, and the urgency helps here.
The stronger focus and knowledge of exactly what kind of book it wanted to be was one reason I thought this was a stronger book than its predecessor. I also felt it benefited from the addition, and change of status, of a couple of characters. The Tailor was introduced in book one but becomes a major, even the major, player this time around. Outside of Falcio no one affects the land of Tristia more. Darriana is a new character but a great addition, one of two women Greatcoats who balance out the cast and provider of some of the more entertaining moments as she cuts the boys down to size repeatedly.
I did struggle with the ending again. The conclusion itself was pretty strong even if a bit too easy; after such a torturous journey it seems things fell into place a bit too well for the story to end. Still, some bad guys were defeated and others remain for more books to come. And there is just the right note of hope mixed with melancholy that on the whole I have to give the ending to the author.
I end by talking about a section I am still at odds about. It involved a long torture scene lasting an entire chapter. And I can’t decide how it fits in. It certainly ties into the story, and it is the author’s story to tell. But outside of providing a chance for some allegiances to be made and a certain plot snare to be escaped from I didn’t really see its purpose. It was long, drawn out, and included a couple scenes that require a trigger warning. While the series has proven that it will always be darker in tone than the early chapters suggested this may have been a bit over the top; it certainly changes the way I was reading and provided the only pages I didn’t read at a record pace. It was really only this small section that detracted me from the book on the whole and I can’t really place my finger on why. So know that there is something nasty coming up, and perhaps it will bother me and me alone.
I am still finding this to be a very entertaining series and will continue to look forward to seeing the next outing. Which at this point already can’t come soon enough because I can read these books like I eat candy.
Mayot gets his hands on an object that gives him power to rival the gods. And it is quickly apparent he plaFantasy Review Barn
All roads lead to Rome.
Mayot gets his hands on an object that gives him power to rival the gods. And it is quickly apparent he plans on using it. His presence turns into a magnet for everything to follow; a focal point for the entire cast to converge on for differing reasons. Some know exactly why they are heading to this man while some are driven there by factors beyond their control. But each soul that heads in his direction is drawn in completely; one way or another their fate will be decided in his new magnetism.
I will let you know that this book didn’t hook me right away. There was a D&D feel to some of it, starting with the naming conventions of things like the Forest of Sighs and The Book of Lost Souls. Characters felt wooden and early scene of powers in negotiations didn’t work at all. Toss in a night attack by what can only be described as ninjas and a character speaking in a faux old English accent and my eyes found themselves rolled completely into the back of the head.
But patience in this case was absolutely rewarded. The consistent build up, chapter after chapter, was handled superbly. Power growing and building; Mayot extends his reach a little more with each fight, small or large. And as his power grows the ripples are felt from farther away, leading to even more of the players in this magical world wanting the book he holds for their own. And Mayot’s plans are truly ambitious; it wasn’t until late in the book that I realized just how far he was willing to take this.
This is not a subtle book, it is a book of magic. Mayot will take on wizards, titans and gods. Some try to take, some try to manipulate (my favorite character’s favorite tactic) and some try to negotiate. And did I mention that Mayot’s methods are truly horrible? No? Some are trying to stop him only because his success will lead to things worse than death. When the Heavens Fall is completely about the buildup and the payoff; characters, history of the world, deep themes is not the game here. If you are willing to play along, which I eventually was, then there is little room for disappointment by the end.
Every so often a book does something that catches your eye that maybe isn’t central to the plot, or character, but still seems worth remembering. Turner wrote a book with a cast with a fairly mixed gender representation. Woman and men both act with strong agency. But what caught my eye was a completely lack of gender notice by the narrator. There is a standard practice (made fun of early by Terry Pratchett) that when a female mercenary is introduced a reader is immediately clued in to if this one is a possible love interest based on physical characteristics or not. But the men and women of this world are given the same treatment. Unless a specific character makes note of a physical detail a movie casting could truly be put together with a blank slate. A bit of tangent I know, but the realization hit me and I couldn’t help but mention it.
This was a book I started slow on and had some innate silliness in its set up. But I cannot ignore the buildup that eventually hooked me, nor the fact that the payoff didn’t disappoint. Mark Turner wrote a damn fine book.
Can a book end up almost exactly where you expected it to go, down to almost every single plot detail, and still manage to surprisFantasy Review Barn
Can a book end up almost exactly where you expected it to go, down to almost every single plot detail, and still manage to surprise you? That is what I found with this delightfully charming young adult book. There was no twist in the beginning, characters did what I expected, and the resolution was exactly what I called at the beginning of the book. But the author gave me enough to question my wisdom, and made me laugh throughout, and overall I was left, well, charmed.
A small town in the middle of the woods has for years found itself locked in a strange situation; children being taken and eventually showing up in their fairy tales. The sequence in which the adults try to figure out what is going on over the generations is one of the funniest passages I have read by the way; expect absurd theories involving some impressively evolving bears. But after a short three hundred years a pattern is found; two children, one good and one evil, are taken by the head master to learn fairy tale conventions.
The School for Good and Evil follows two young girls, nominally best friends, who have very different ideas about this school. Agatha is a realist and refuses to believe in the school (hidden story books not withstanding). Sophie on the other hand is certain she has everything it takes to be a story book Princess. On the night of the choosing the two are of course taken… only to be dropped off in the school opposite to what each expects.
What follows is a lot of Sophie trying to convince everyone she should be in the school for good while she eyes her prince, Agatha doing her best to get back home, and the two friends finding themselves in over the head in almost every way. All while princesses scoff, witches ready curses, and the mysterious headmaster allowing a destiny of sorts to reach a final conclusion.
This was a perfect diversion for me as it contained two of my favorite things; humor and heart. Agatha’s path will melt even the coldest heart and Sophie’s isn’t easily forgot either. And the humor is present throughout; subtle and rarely over the top but at times it made me chortle out loud. Both of these aspects more than made up for the predicable nature of the actual story. After all, this is a book of fairy tales, predictability is part of the game unless trope bending is the design (and in this case it was not).
If, like me, you partake in audio books at all then I give this book an extra nudge in your direction. The narration was fantastic, perfectly hitting the timing needed for the humor and putting just enough distinction in the voices to separate them. She even had a decent singing voice for the two or three lyrical sections found in the book.
Reading John Love is an unique experience. He crafts characters that sit just outside of humanity despite nominallyFantasy Review Barn
Reading John Love is an unique experience. He crafts characters that sit just outside of humanity despite nominally being part of it. Obsessions, large appetites for just about anything, levels of intelligence that sit just outside of insanity – these are the traits that can be found in even his most sane characters. The situations he places them in fit the same mold; even the most mundane actions have two or three competing underlying themes.
It is 2060 and the UN is holding a conference to discuss the biggest issue of the day, water rights. Hosting the summit is the New Anglican church, an impossible to describe mixture of church and business that has grown into a huge power on the strength of openness, large charity projects, and it’s charismatic arch bishop Olivia del Sarto. Olivia is a shrewd leader and largely responsible for the churches success yet is better known to the public for her voracious appetites; for food, the spotlight, and sex.
Anwar is one of The Dead, physically modified operatives employed and created by the UN. When he pulls what amounts to body guard duty better suited to ‘meatslabs’ we start to see the obsessions that will make up a good portion of the rest of his story. When his boss asks him if he accepts the mission however he says yes, and will guard Olivia with the same compulsion that drives him in everything. For the danger she faces is very real.
Lastly we have Marek. A terrorist with unparalleled success. His face has been seen, his body count much lower than many fundamentalist groups, but never caught. Not big on speeches or taunts, with no specific targets or patterns, his group truly lived by the works Justify Nothing. Marek’s ability to fade to black after not only committing the terrorist acts, but also having the compulsion to go back and ensure every death, makes him a true ghost in a near future where that seems impossible.
Evensong is a book obsessed with obsession, starting with Anwar. From the moment he takes the mission we see his cracks. Obsessed with his ranking among the low number of Dead. A weird compulsion over the value of containers vs their contents. This works in his favor in many cases; along with the heightened senses he can analyze any situation twenty ways faster than most can once. He is not alone though. While he tries to figure out the big detail missing the people in the background are obsessing even further.
Every conversation is being analyzed by each member for deeper meanings and hidden messages. Even the affliction of the voice gets ran through the mind repeatedly. Each word spoken is part of a large sparring match that goes on for all of Evensong. This goes beyond the characters. I am certain there are hidden meanings to the Evensong mass and even several Shakespeare sonnets that this book drops in that I am missing completely.
Everything builds up to a particularly noteworthy ending. A payoff was going to come, everything kept building for a point in time that we knew was coming. But it was impossible to know what the climax was going to be. Several times obvious choices were shot down in the days leading up to the event. Until finally? Huge reveal and a hell of an exciting climax. Followed by a gut wrenching afterword in a spot usually devoted to wrapping up loose ends in a pretty package. I still don’t know if the final ending ‘worked’ but it certainly leaves an impression. Obsession carries through until the very end.
This is a book that I could read three more times and find more to over analyze. I enjoyed it greatly.
A siege of a single city thousands of years in the making. Three distinct eras of history in one book each with distinct characteriFantasy Review Barn
A siege of a single city thousands of years in the making. Three distinct eras of history in one book each with distinct characteristics and all important to events of the day. Gods with real power, a real sine of wonder, and thought processes that are alien to those on a lesser plain. More importantly these gods have a since of awesome in the truly biblical meaning of the word. The Godless is unique in style, deep in history, and just a little bit wonderful.
The story starts with Ayae, a young refuge living in Mireea with a promising future as a cartographer. Despite the city knowing war is coming there is still a safe feel for the inhabitants. An attack changes that in an instant for Ayae. Despite being saved by an enigmatic man the real surprise is how she came out unscathed; pulled of the burning mess without so much as a mark. Conspiracies start to show themselves all over from there. Dead gods, living gods, and ‘keepers’ who consider themselves to be ascending gods all start to show their hands.
Told in a fractured style this isn’t a book for someone who prefers linear plot lines. Chapters often alternate between the present and one of several time lines; be it recent or distant past. Somehow this is done without ever messing with the feeling of urgency in the present day. Peeks into he past allowed this world to gain its rich history without awkward info dumps, I found myself looking forward to jumps back each and every time one showed. Done especially well is each era feels like a different time period in style and background. Turns out that if something that should be immortal dies it is not an instant thing.
Moving between the characters the larger story slowly unfolds. Ayae’s path stays within one timeline; the siege of the city and the attack on her early in the book make up her concerns. She quickly runs with some illustrious company though not always by choice. The keepers eye her because of her affinity with fire and want her full support; truly enigmatic characters who seem to be on no side. A small mercenary force moves behind enemy lines and learn the enemies’’ plans involve so much more than simple conquest. And Zaifyr, the mysterious man who pulls Ayae out of the fire, quickly becomes the highlight of the whole book. His story can be found moving between times, showing the evolution of just what people think the gods’ fall actually meant. All the while he holds a piece of power from the gods’ fall that has sent him into a cycle of insanity and back.
A slow burn of a book but with enough zip and wit to hold my attention. Characters are easy to relate to and even to cheer for. Twists actually caught me by surprise and the villain’s plan and will to act on it was worthy of the battle to come. I have said it before; this dying gods sub-genre of fantasy can stick around for as long as it wants. The Godless is another great entry into this very specific classification.
Copy used for review received from the author (and signed, thank you good sir!)....more
It has been a little while since I read a book that gave me a ‘oh hell yes,’ stand up and cheer type of scene. And if the one in thFantasy Review Barn
It has been a little while since I read a book that gave me a ‘oh hell yes,’ stand up and cheer type of scene. And if the one in the waning pages of Kushiel’s Dart consists of the type of thing that can only happen in movies or books, so be it. Because it was the accumulation of events set in motion many chapters before, with everything finally lain before the reader, and it was a rare climax that matches the buildup. The strangest thing about it? It is pure action in the middle of a war, hidden in a book that is certainly not about either of those things. But hidden in this book of political intrigue, strong sexuality, and a massive game of espionage came one of the most memorable battle scenes around.
I think I may be in love with this book. I love the setting with its almost Christian religion in which the Mary Magdalene of the world is as important as its Christ. I enjoyed each of the characters, both good and bad, none of whom ever feels like a cliché within their role. But most especially I appreciate a book that can keep me hooked from page one to six hundred and something (near a thousand pages in the paperback I am told). I can use a Game of Thrones comparison that is being pushed here because Carey actually includes the phrase in the book; there is something about royal maneuvering that just makes me smile.
If this is to be compared to Game of Thrones then it must be done right. Kushiel’s Dart is what would happen if Martin were more focused, decided Sansa was the main character of the story, then put her through hell all the while remembering that hope is occasionally welcome. So nothing at all like Game of Thrones; outside of a battle of nobility and some high quality intrigue.
If Kushiel’s Dart is known for one thing it is the very sexual tone in the books. And this is a book that lives up to its reputation. Phèdre, protagonist and narrator, is marked by a dart in her eye that labels her as anguissette, or one gets pleasure from pain. In a land where Namaah’s path is a form of worship (temple prostitution if you will) Phèdre is trained by a man named Delaunay to be something even more. She grows to be a weapon, not in a physical sense, but rather as a user of information. And in the collection of information sex is ever hers to use.
It is every bit as kinky as it sounds, but perhaps not as dirty as it seems. It would be easy to mock the prostitute’s path as an easy way to turn up the thrills but Carey takes the time to build the land and the religion that follows it in a way that makes it seem natural. Some may argue she takes too much time building it, and that may be, but as a lover of well-crafted worlds I was happy. Oh I may wonder why so many were ready to take advantage of Phèdre’s unique abilities when it is supposed to be such a rare trait, but only once did it really seem a bit too convenient.
Leave the sex behind, or rather don’t because it is interwoven into the entire canvas, and what you get is a long game of rivals trying to control the land. Double crosses, treaties made and broken, more betrayals, and a whole lot of campaigning make up the majority of the story. With a fair amount of traveling, some rough patches, and perhaps some forbidden love. Phèdre tells the story from a position of knowledge but shows only pieces of it while walking us through her path. This allows her to foreshadow at times and point out what may be important later. It was a relaxed story telling style that fit the story well.
I know this book was most likely give a new cover treatment in hopes of catching new audiences that Game of Thrones and Fifty Shades of Gray can provide. Simply by being out there again I know it got my interest and I hope it works on others s well. Because I now know this is a series that deserves a lot more readers.
Cherry Bomb is the only kind of ending that would have worked for this short series about half-vampire Soibhan Quinn. It was irreleFantasy Review Barn
Cherry Bomb is the only kind of ending that would have worked for this short series about half-vampire Soibhan Quinn. It was irrelevant, at times nonsensical, and concluded on a note of…non-conclusion. That is to say the plot lines are wrapped up, and Quinn is obviously done telling her story, but there will be no tagged on ‘where the fuck everyone is now’ kind of epilog to assure the readers everything turned out all right in the end. Nothing about Quinn’s life has turned out all that well thus far, so why should everything be wrapped up with a bow?
To recap events to this point; Quinn was a junkie attacked by a werewolf and a vampire in a time frame close enough together to make her half(a third?) of each. Conventional wisdom would say this should make her the baddest unholy monster on the block but instead she just has that many more enemies and problems. For two books she has blundered around doing strange jobs for the mysterious Mr. B but after the episode with the unicorn horn (see Red Delicious) she gets on a bus and tries to escape.
Clever transition and find Quinn living off an accountant with a S&M itch that Quinn is able to scratch. An occasional open vein is her reward for keeping the accountant happy (perhaps a parody/reference to 50 Shades or perhaps the upcoming movie has me seeing ghosts on that front). A better offer comes at a certain, specialized, kind of party and the story gets past build up and into the meat of the tale; a relic hunter has something that could completely, and quite literally, change history.
Everything I love about the series is present; Quinn has one of the most unique voices in the genre, does her best to piss off everyone around her, and flirts with but never quite completely breaks the forth wall. She seems very aware she is a walking pissed off parody in an urban fantasy novel but refuses to actually say it out loud. And when events taker her to the lowest point the silly factor leaves; same great voice but able to be serious when it is called for. The twin ghoul nasty’s have a plan appropriately over the top; a highlight came in the perversion of Christian mythos the creatures follow. Above all else the book is funny. The way the narrator plays with story telling conventions, dropping hints about upcoming info dumps and the like, is a treat to anyone who struggles to craft a sentence. And Quinn’s ongoing fight with seagulls has been bringing a smile to my face since book one.
After a strong start in Blood Oranges I felt a bit let down by the second book. I am happy that this concluding volume is much more up to standard. Looking too deep into any of the background info is a mistake. For one, the story is designed to be over the top. And for two, Quinn has told us through three books not to trust a word she says.
This series is something of a parody and that either works for people or it doesn’t. For me, despite not reading a whole lot of urban fantasy, I found it to be a delight. Each book is short enough to be a diversion without requiring a lot of commitment. And Cherry Bomb finished dup the series perfectly, both in story and tone.
Gentle readers you might not know this about me but I am a shitkicker to the core. I may put on high airs and use proper grammaReposted to Booknest.eu
Gentle readers you might not know this about me but I am a shitkicker to the core. I may put on high airs and use proper grammar and such to the best of my ability but in reality I am genuine hick. I raised hog for most of my growing days and have a fair hand with a hoss. Get me around my mama’s kin for more than an hour and this ol boy could fit in to the most authentic casting of Oklahoma y’all have ever seen.
So you bet your ass I fell in love with miss Karen Memery, spelled like Memory but with an ‘e’ there in the middle. She may not be from Oklahoma but with that accent I could sure enough take her home to meet my grandma. She is in Seattle territory, back before the states were all carved up, or maybe never will be since this ain’t your granpappy’s old west; there are airships and steam powered autotrons bouncing around that can’t be seen in any old pictures I have ever laid my eyes on. Karen is a simple girl, which don’t mean stupid, mind. She got enough lernen to read and has a real keen mind. But damned if her accent didn’t make me think of family here and gone. I fell back into it and so far ain’t looked back.
She calls herself a stargazer, and she pays her taxes as a seamstress, and I don’t think you need a schoolmarm to tell you what that means. She got lucky though, fell in with the right type of lady who runs a better sort of house. Only has to take those clients that she needs and the house muscle don’t let anything rough happen. Got herself a dream too, saving up to run with a stable of her own liker her and her daddy used to work before…well, just before. Would be no kind of story at all though if trouble didn’t come around, or maybe it would be a different kind of story, but this is the kind of story were trouble does end up coming around.
A ground war is brewing, with Karen’s Madame facing a bad sort of man who runs his own group of stargazers but in a whole different way. When two girls come to the door all bloody like a spark is hit that threatens to build quick. One of the girls escaped from Peter Bandel, the Madame’s main competition in towns a right swarmy heel. The other gal is the one doing the break out, and has a reputation for doing it more than once. Peter damn sure wants back what he reckons is his by right, servitude he don’t call slavery even with the lack of choice involved. It all goes to hell from there. Enter a U.S. Marshall chasing a serial killer, a little gun play and some steam contraptions, and a hell of a lot of people usually found sitting in the corner of a book instead standing up and taking action.
Shitkicker I may be but a long ways from the worst of the hick side of my family I sit. I love seeing a diverse cast take over a story completely. Did I mention Karen might lay with men, but paying is the only reason that would ever happen? No I didn’t because it don’t matter much where Karen’s attention lays; at least until it does. Because when she finds love she fights for it with the same fire as anyone else would. The Hotel Mon Cherry ain’t just color blind, it is completely blind. Women who are part of the madam’s circle are loved and cherished, no matter their color or where their attraction lays or even if they have a little something extra under their skirt. Don’t mean Seattle is suddenly the most enlightened town in the West, not at all. But a group of outsiders that stick together can do all right for themselves.
Call a spade a spade. Karen Memory (note the spelling, with an ‘e it is a name, but if that ‘o’ is there I am talking about the book and not the person), is a fast paced dime novel. This is a cast to adore, sure, but it ain’t no character study. Adventure full of twists and turns, gun play and chases, and a few gizmos doing what they do make up the base of this tale. Louis L’Amore sits on a good many shelves in my family, bout the only books to be found outside of the bible, and as far as I know the man wrote one book forty different times. Black hats take the girl and the cowboy gets her back. And that is what we got, excepten the cowboy is a seamstress who ain’t afraid to rough it up with the boys (or if she is she puts on her brave face and does it anyway). And she got a posse of men and women of every color and walk of life right there with her to back up her moves. Even the damsel of Karen’s tale don’t lay back and wait, doing her fair share throughout to make sure the black hats don’t carry the day.
I ain’t too certain this a book I will always remember. It is a simple story after all. But I am also pretty damn sure I haven’t done my reading of a single book this fast in quite some time. Karen Memory is a tale full of diverse characters but it don’t lean on that as its crutch nor a gimmick; it just runs a fun story using the people that have always been there but don’t always get their face on the cover.
One last thing, any character that knows what a Tobiano is, even in just a single mention. Well, she is all right by me.