ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review
An incredibly entertaining start to a new space opera series.
Velocity Weapon is thARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review
An incredibly entertaining start to a new space opera series.
Velocity Weapon is the first book in The Protectorate series by Megan E. O’Keefe. This was my first experience reading O’Keefe’s work and I had a fantastic time with it. isn’t an easy book for me to review. It’s not because I found the book to be disappointing or not up to my preference, but I honestly think that many components of the storyline or what makes this book truly great can be considered a spoiler that the task of reviewing this book ended up being more difficult than usual.
“Being offended by facts is a long human tradition.”
The story in Velocity Weapon begins with Sanda finding herself awake 230 years in the future inside a sentient spaceship who calls himself Bero, shortened from The Light of Berossus. Bero is an enemy spaceship and he tells Sanda that the war has ended; the star system is completely dead now. Then, we have Biran—Sanda’s younger brother—as the second main POV character; his story takes place in the present timeline as he tries to find Sanda’s location. Separated by distance and time, both Sanda and Biran will have to do everything they can to survive or unveil the truth. Velocity Weapon tells a story of survival and intergalactic politics. I found the pacing and the tone of this book to be refreshing to read. O’Keefe’s storytelling style has a way of keeping things fun and gripping without ever making the tone of the story too dark; the right balance of varying emotions in this book was achieved through its charming characters.
‘In the upper right of her HUD, text flashed: :-P “Oh my god. They taught you emoticons.”’
I do believe that Velocity Weapon is a cleverly crafted novel. The usage of dual timelines in this book exhibited a strong sense of mystery; it made me intrigued to find out what happened within that 230 years differences. It was awesome to see how Biran’s and Sanda’s story connects with each other despite the differences in the timeline. O’Keefe cloaked revelations that should’ve been easily spotted in plain sight by making sure that the reader will be too immersed in the specific scene they’re reading; I was too absorbed to theorize about anything else. The characters, especially Sanda, was so easy to root for. A heroine like Sanda is hard to find in current SFF market; she’s a badass with no overpowered skills and she’s not a damsel in distress who’s hopelessly waiting to be saved. Not only that, reading her banter and dialogues with Bero and other side characters were super immersive, funny, and most importantly, hard to put down. The characterizations, their sexuality, their interactions, and the world of the series itself felt natural.
Admittedly, there was actually another prominent POV—Jules—other than Sanda’s and Biran’s. Although I found Jules’s storyline to be full of well-written actions, I didn’t find myself feeling invested in her story as much as I did for Sanda’s and Biran’s. This doesn’t mean that Jules’s story was lacking per se, it’s just that the sibling’s story was too good that every time the narrative shifted to Jules, I just wanted to go back to reading Sanda or Biran’s POV as fast as possible. Luckily, Jules’s last chapter in this book shows good promises on connectivity to the overarching storyline and more great things to come in the next installment.
I’m going to close my review here. In order to make this review spoiler-free, please know that I purposely left out some factors that, in my opinion, made the quality of the book even better. Imbued with exhilarating twists and turn, Velocity Weapon was a purely entertaining reading experience. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, space opera and the Mass Effect video game series by Bioware, your decision to purchase and read this delightful book should be settled already.
ARC provided by the publisher—Subterranean Press—in exchange for an honest review.
Anthony Ryan is back with a brand new novella in a compleARC provided by the publisher—Subterranean Press—in exchange for an honest review.
Anthony Ryan is back with a brand new novella in a completely new world.
It’s been two hundred years since the Kingdom of Alnachim was destroyed by The Mad God. Alnachim, now called the Execration, has become a wasteland full of monsters and terrors. For decades, pilgrimages to reach the center of the Execration were made by desperate people so they can meet the Mad God and have their wish granted; none ever returned. The story follows Pilgrim, a veteran warrior with an unknown past, and his six companions as they attempt a pilgrimage to have his wish for redemption granted.
“Is it a crime for a god to destroy what he made?” “Perhaps not. But to destroy all those who lived under his protection certainly is.”
I don’t have a lot of things to say regarding A Pilgrimage of Swords because of its small size. This novella was great and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I, however, truly wish this was a full standalone novel; there’s so much room for incredible developments here. This is a quest-based story accompanied with a variety of unique characters in an intriguing post-apocalyptic world, I also found Ryan’s writing in this book to be one of the best he has done so far; in my opinion, adding more pages to this story would’ve benefited the book more rather than leaving it as a novella. Other than Pilgrim and one or two other characters, the rest of the characters didn’t receive enough—understandably—development because of the small pages count of the book. I found it a bit difficult for me to empathize with a lot of them because there’s no background exploration or what each of the character’s purpose in the pilgrimage was. I didn't know this was a novella (and short stories/novella very rarely works for me) when I requested for it so the blame fully lies with me.
“Perfection is an impossibility,” Book said, a quotation from the Injunctions of the First Risen. “It is through our imperfections that we come to know ourselves.”
That being said, I do think that A Pilgrimage of Swords was a great quest-based fantasy novella and I would recommend it for those of you who are looking for a short read in the genre. Seeing Ryan’s continuous improvement in writing and storytelling makes me excited to read more of his future work.
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
A brutally gripping story tinged with despair; Solace Lost is a character-driven gReview copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
A brutally gripping story tinged with despair; Solace Lost is a character-driven grimdark fantasy debut that earned its title mercilessly.
Solace Lost is Michael Sliter’s debut; the first book out of four in the Pandemonium Rising series. Before I begin my review, I strongly urge that you read this novel only IF you’re a grimdark fantasy enthusiast. I don’t usually include content warnings in my review but I feel like this book truly warranted one; as it involved a minor spoiler I’ll mention it at the end of my review.
The main story in Solace Lost follows four main characters: Fenrir, Merigold, Hafgan, and Emma. Ardia is on the brink of a civil war and these four distinctive characters will have their fates intertwined, for better or worse. As I mentioned before, this is utterly a character-driven story and its main strength lies mostly within the characterizations. Each main character has different personality traits, and the inner voices given by the author to these characters made them feel real. Living up to the grimdark genre, none of the main characters can simply be defined as good or bad. The only character that started out as good and kind-hearted was Merigold. That too, for only a while before atrocious things happened to her and she found her life completely turned upside down. I won’t go as far as saying that I loved these characters but I did find myself totally invested in knowing about their journeys. This was especially true for Fenrir and Merigold’s POVs; they dominated the plot of this book and I found their storyline to be the most engaging out of all the characters.
That being said, just because you’re a fan of character-driven fantasy doesn’t mean you should just jump into this immediately. I mean it, this book is an embodiment of darkness and depression; please make sure you’re in the right mindset for a harrowing story before giving this book a go. In my opinion, the tone of the book was even darker than Abercrombie’s First Law series. There’s close to zero hope for the characters here - there’s no comic relief, no humor. Just when you thought they found a flame of hope, it was extinguished immediately. Characters who relied on faith eventually succumbed to the harsh reality of life and decided to take matters into their own hands.
“After all, one couldn’t expect a bolt of lightning to strike someone who’d committed an evil deed.”
The author’s prose was simple and descriptive; easy to read, vivid, and immersive. The descriptive nature of the prose did make the pacing of the book feel a bit too slow sometimes; the dialogues were far and few in between, and most of the time we’re entrenched deep in the character’s mind and actions rather than their conversations. The good thing though, the writing style was able to pull me inside the novel. The environments, the landscapes, the smell; it felt like I was really there. The intricacies of the world-building—detailed lore, magic, and history that left me wanting more—plus the palpable tone of the book infiltrated my mind and I was equally moved and distraught by the events that occurred in the book. I could be wrong here, but I have a feeling that the modus operandi performed by the members of The House towards their target—cutting a finger, leaving them nine-fingered—is inspired by Logen Ninefingers from The First Law series; one of my favorite series of all time, and I found this to be a nice touch.
The story does have magic and we do get to see some scenes of the magic in the second half of the book and it was delivered with explosive impact. The discussion about faith and how it connects to perseverance, strength, hardships and the magic itself was one of my favorite part of the novel. Why do bad things happen to good people? If there’s a god, why does He keep on letting bad things happen? This is an old philosophical and religious debate that’s been discussed countless times. I think the authors did a fine job of exploring the topic. Check out this passage for example, it’s a long one but absolutely worth the read:
“We are all born with the capacity for good and evil, Harmony and Pandemonium. However, the course of a person’s life is not set at birth. No one is born a rapist or a murderer. Or a saint, for that matter. The experiences in their lives—their family, their friends, the events experienced as a child—all feed either this internal Harmony or Pandemonium. Children born by good parents awash in Harmony have a propensity for Harmony, of course. An internal drive for peace and love and protection. But, if they spend time with greedy, vicious friends, surrounded by evil, they will, themselves, become tainted and corrupted. However, the reverse is also true. A child, born with the propensity for Pandemonium, if raised by a loving mother and family, shown the correct path to faith and decency, will grow to be a good person.”
As for minor issues, I did have a few problems with the pacing; this was most evident in the first 20% of the book where the book felt so dense because dialogues were relatively few. The other minor issue was that I found Emma and Hafgan’s storylines to be heavily overshadowed by Fenrir’s and Merigold’s. This doesn’t mean that their storyline was boring or bad per se; it’s just that I’m much more intrigued in reading Fenrir’s and Merigold’s storyline instead. Fortunately, judging from how the book ended, it seems like things are about to get very interesting for every character in the next installment.
Overall, I loved this book. Solace Lost is a riveting grimdark debut that does not hold back its punches. Designed specifically for fans of the genre, it was an incredibly compelling and tragic tale that deals with heavy themes about loss, racial issues, humanity, and faith with maximum force. Sliter has crafted something that would definitely make the Lord and Queen of Grimdark proud. Undoubtedly, I’m looking forward to reading the next installment.
Content warning and minor spoiler on when it happened: (view spoiler)[During 20%-35% mark of the book, a character's POV revolved completely around rape, explicit and implicit. The prolonging of the atrocities done to her was uncomfortable to read (and write, I assume). The explicit rape scene happened once, the rest happened off-screen and mentioned in quite a detailed manner. This event eventually completely changed and shaped the character’s development powerfully, but I do believe the event itself didn’t have to be that long. Something to consider if you’re intend to read this book. (hide spoiler)]
The Light Brigade is my first sci-fi read of the year (shocking, I know) and it’s also the first time I read Kameron Hurley’s book; I assur4.5/5 stars
The Light Brigade is my first sci-fi read of the year (shocking, I know) and it’s also the first time I read Kameron Hurley’s book; I assure you it won’t be the last.
“I suppose it’s an old story, isn’t it? The oldest story. It’s the dark against the light. The dark is always the easier path. Power. Domination. Blind obedience. Fear always works to build order, in the short term. But it can’t last. Fear doesn’t inspired anything like love does.”
What do you do when you lose everything? Taking vengeance against the perpetrator seems to be the most common and logical path to follow. In this superbly written military sci-fi, The Blink has taken everything of importance away from Dietz in the blink—see what I did here?—of an eye. With mind completely concentrated on revenge, Dietz joined the corporate army. The Corps uses an advanced technology that’s able to break down any matter into particles of light—look at the cover art—and transfer them anywhere they want. After a case of desynchronized combat drop from the platoons, Dietz ends up experiencing war differently, leading to a stream of questions regarding sanity, time, freedom, and the purpose of war. In the journey towards becoming a Paladin, Dietz finds that the matter of being a hero isn't something as simple as exacting revenge or participating in a war that requires soldiers to follow orders with blind obedience.
“I believe there’s sometimes a greater evil that must be vanquished. But more often than we’d like to admit, there is no greater evil, just an exchange of one set of oppressive horrors with another. Wars are for old people. For rich people. For people protected by the perpetuation of horrors on others.”
From what I've heard throughout the years, military sci-fi isn't really what I’d call the most accessible sub-genre out there; some readers I know who love sci-fi have mentioned that the sci-fi weapons and tech commonly utilized in the sub-genre can be distracting and difficult to understand/visualize. No need to worry here; easy accessibility is definitely one of the most evident strengths in Hurley’s visceral storytelling. The Light Brigade is a military sci-fi that focuses on futuristic war; a prominent time travel element featuring multiple timelines also dominated the narrative. This novel could've easily been inaccessible to readers who are not invested in this particular sub-genre but I really don’t think that will be the case here. Hurley’s prose is very effective at making sure that readers will be able to follow what’s going on; even the tech and gadgets being used in the story were explained efficiently.
“Don’t tell me every revolution is peaceful. Revolutions rely on the tireless work of faceless masses whose lives mean so little individually that their names weren’t known to their movements even when alive.”
As if this novel hasn’t been crafted cleverly enough, Hurley implemented an absolutely brilliant take on creating a character that doesn’t require a gender label. Noticed that I haven’t mentioned Dietz’s gender in my review? There wasn’t any instance where Dietz was called or mentioned by gender. This reminded me of Martha Well’s All Systems Red, where the main character is a robot and there are no gender nouns to label it. However, in All Systems Red, I found myself thinking that the main character is a female robot; that’s simply not the case here. Dietz is a character that would totally work with any gender that readers prefer and in my opinion, this was a super refreshing reading experience in SFF. Writing this review without calling Dietz by any gender pronouns was difficult enough, and I can’t even imagine the task of writing a full novel with this approach.
“The heroes were always the ordinary people who pursued extraordinary change.”
One last thing before I end my review. I’d like to talk about how relevant I found the passages and conflicts discussed in this book. The Light Brigade was written with so much emotion and passion; it felt to me like Hurley was truly pouring her feelings into every page. Just check out the first page if you don’t believe me; the first page alone hooked me immediately and it didn’t let up until the final page. War, conflicts, and the illusion of free choices were some of the most important themes being discussed and they were delivered with destructive impact. I highlighted a ridiculous amount of passages in this book and I truly wish I could just paste them all here. But for the sake of future readers' maximum enjoyment, I’ll refrain from doing so. The quote below is the last one that I’ll share, and I feel like this one really nails one of the problems we face regarding our past, present, and most likely, future society.
“The corps were rich enough to provide for everyone. They chose not to, because the existence of places like the labor camps outside Sao Paulo ensured there was a life worse than the one they offered. If you gave people mashed protein cakes when their only other option was to eat horseshit, they would call you a hero and happily eat your tasteless mash. They would throw down their lives for you. Give up their souls.”
This doesn’t mean that everything's grim here. Beneath all the deaths, hellfire, sorrow, war and gore, hope and love prevail in Dietz’s motivational journey for truth, freedom, justice, and peace. Exciting action scenes, easy accessibility, a totally clever plot, evocative characters, and compelling prose that offers resonating philosophical questions all combined to create an amazing novel. The Light Brigade was a tremendously addictive and intelligent military sci-fi that deserves to be read, reread, and remembered by every reader of the genre. I recommend this immensely entertaining book to any sci-fi enthusiast who loves reading a grim war story that’s balanced with humor, heart, and hope. Also, if you’ve read and loved All You Need is Kill (Edge of Tomorrow is the movie adaptation based on this), this incredibly engaging novel would be perfect for you.
“Don’t just fight the darkness, friends. Let’s be the light.” – Kameron Hurley
ARC provided by the publisher—St. Martin’s Press—in exchange for an honest review.
A Hero Born is the start to Jin Yong’s highly praised classic serieARC provided by the publisher—St. Martin’s Press—in exchange for an honest review.
A Hero Born is the start to Jin Yong’s highly praised classic series but a lot of the promising quality of the book seems to get lost in translation.
I’m genuinely sad with my ratings for this one, but I have to be honest that I have mixed feelings towards this novel. When I was around 5 years old, I used to watch The Legends of the Condor Heroes a lot with my parents. When I missed an episode, my parents would tell me the story in detail; teaching me the meaning behind the actions of each character. This series, even though I’ve never read it until now, has a spot of nostalgia for me. That being said, it’s been more than 20 years and I honestly remember extremely little about it. What I do remember is that the story eventually grew significantly larger in scope and complexity than the coming-of-age tale we have in A Hero Born. I’ll divide this review strictly into what worked and what didn’t; let’s start with the parts that worked first.
A Hero Born has an engrossing story, even though the prose and the naming didn’t work (more on this in the next paragraph) for me, I found that my interest to continue reading was always there. The actions were great, the depiction of kung-fu was exciting and refreshing to read. I also enjoyed reading the theme of friendships, loyalty, and love within this book. Remember, this is just the first book of a sub-series that became a much bigger series, and for the beginning installment, I think the storyline in A Hero Born, although understandably quite full of cliché due to it being published more than 50 years ago, the book served its job as a setup for the next installments wonderfully.
As for what didn’t work, it lies mostly in the translations that seem to translate every word and names literally. Now, I haven’t read the original Chinese material and because of that, I can’t precisely compare the quality of the prose itself; I can’t blame every part that didn’t work on the translation. However, as for this edition, the prose feels so unnatural and clunky to read; some doesn’t even make sense. “An arrow hit the back of his head.” And the same character proceeded to sing as if nothing happened, what does that even mean? Which part of the arrow hit him that he was able to walk unscathed? And then there was a character who ran into a pole and literally died after. Think about it, hit in the back of the head by an arrow and ran into a pole, which one would kill a person realistically? As for why I think everything was translated literally, this can easily be analyzed from the character’s names. Instead of sticking with the original Chinese name, the translator translated the names literally. Here are a few examples:
-Duan Tiande became Justice Duan -Huang Rong became Lotus Huang -Guo Xiaotian became Skyfury Guo -Yang Tiexin became Ironheart Yang -Bao Xiruo became Charity Bao -Li Ping became Lily Li (Just try saying this translated name repeatedly: Lilililililililililililililililili)
For me who’s used to the original names, this is all so awkward. Plus, it just seems inconsistent because some of the main characters like Guo Jing, Yang Kang, and other Mongolian characters do retain their original names. Add the fact that the narrative used head jumping (which I’m not a fan of) with a dose of omniscient style, there were simply a lot of times where I had severe difficulty in immersing myself to the story.
I’ve heard that the next installment of the series has a different translator so fingers crossed it will be a much better experience if I do move forward. For now, though, I must say that I prefer watching the TV series adaptation (any one of them) more than reading this translated work.
Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Continuously fun and light-hearted in tone, Six Sacred Swords was a great beginninReview copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Continuously fun and light-hearted in tone, Six Sacred Swords was a great beginning to a new spin-off series by Andrew Rowe.
Six Sacred Swords is the first book in Weapons and Wielders series by Andrew Rowe. It is unknown at the moment how many books are planned for this series, but one thing for sure that you should know is that this series serves as a prequel to Rowe’s Arcane Ascensions series; a series I highly enjoyed. Some of the most dominant elements in Arcane Ascensions are the intricate magic system, the magic school setting, the tests, and the dungeon crawlers. Six Sacred Swords is both different and similar to Arcane Ascension by excluding the magic theory and magic school setting; focusing the narrative on the fun adventure, video games dungeon-crawler aspect, and anime-esque battle scenes. At the same time, this series serves also as a sequel series to Rowe’s War of Broken Mirrors; I haven’t read this one. That being said, rest assured that you can definitely start your journey into Rowe’s imagination by starting with this book.
Keras Selyrian is on his way to becoming a legend. He has fought and defeated false divinities, thieving sorcerers, and corrupt demigods but he has been transported to Kaldwyn. Kaldwyn brings a new kind of danger for Keras as he tries to collect the Six Sacred Swords; Kaldwyn’s most famous artifacts. Similar to Arcane Ascension, if you love reading SFF and you love playing JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Games), I really think you can’t go wrong with giving Rowe’s series a try. It doesn’t matter whether you start from Sufficiently Advanced Magic or this book, both books serve absolutely well as a great homage to JRPG and both are highly entertaining light-hearted adventure stories. Seriously, just from the chapter titles alone, you’ll get a good idea just how much of this book is a homage to JRPG’s. A few examples:
Chapter II – Breath of Fire (From the JRPG franchise Breath of Fire)
Chapter III – A Dragon’s Quest (From the JRPG franchise Dragon’s Quest)
Chapter XI – A Link to the Future (From The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)
Chapter XIV – Brave By Default (From the video game Bravely Default)
There are just a few examples, all the titles within this book are inspired by real-life JRPG that I have enjoyed playing growing up. However, what makes this book even more fun to read for me was how Rowe connects the content to reflect the title of the chapter; it felt like I was truly playing and reading a JRPG/novel, if that makes sense.
I honestly found this book to even more entertaining to read and light-hearted in tone compared to Arcane Ascensions for two main reasons. The first one is that although I immensely enjoyed Arcane Ascensions, I also have to admit that the magic systems’ explanation of that series at times can be a bit overkill that they ended up being quite tiring to read after a while. The second reason is that Keras is a very engaging main character; he has an incredibly positive attitude that's worth rooting for. Plus, the small cast of main characters in this book actually helped to make the book felt more intimate. The friendship between Keras, Reika, and Dawnbringer was utterly delightful to read; putting a smile upon my face on many occasions. I mean, a kind-hearted and powerful swordsman, an introvert romance-genre loving dragon, and a sassy sentient sword make for an incredible trio.
I have to admit that I haven’t been playing video games a lot for the past three years. I used to be able to play more than 40 video games per year, but now, as I get older and life gets busier, I only play one or two games per year at most. It’s a sad statistic, I know, but the only way I can increase that stats is by sacrificing my reading/reviewing time and honestly right now, I’m enjoying reading/reviewing more for many reasons that will be too long to explain here. My point is this, I’m grateful for books like this. For a book I read for the first time, it was able to spark a sense of nostalgia; reminding me of the adventure I had playing video games growing up, and just for that alone, this was a worthwhile read. I highly recommend Six Sacred Swords for any reader who’s in the mood for compelling light-hearted adventure. If you’re already a fan of Arcane Ascensions like I am, you’ll find a lot of things to love here; even more so if you’re not a fan of magic-school or intricate magic systems. Right now, I’m actually looking forward to the sequel of this book more than Arcane Ascensions, it was that enjoyable to read and I want more from it.