Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: "Where Loyalties Lie" by Rob J. Hayes

I start my dive into the most recent Self Published Fantasy Blog Off finalists with the book currently sitting in the lead by a slim margin, Rob J. Hayes’ “Where Loyalties Lie.”

Keelin Stillwater is not your typical pirate captain. Drawn into the lifestyle by swashbuckling tales, he’s found it quite different than he expected, but he’s risen through the ranks due to his own cunning and commitment. He prefers to avoid bloodshed when possible, which doesn’t always sit well with his crew, and he has his own agenda in the pirate trade.

His relationship with his sometimes lover Elaina Black is even more complicated than the one with his crew. For one thing, his ship, The Phoenix, was stolen from her, which her father, the bloodthirsty and cruel captain Tanner Black, views as an offense that can only be answered with Keelin’s death.

Then there’s Drake Morass, a legendary rogue and sworn enemy of the Blacks, who has designs on setting himself up as the king of the pirates, but he needs Keelin’s help to do it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review: "Child of a Mad God" by R.A. Salvatore

If you’d asked me 15 years ago who my favorite authors were, R.A. Salvatore would have been near the top of the list. One of the highlights of my early entertainment writing career was chatting with Salvatore about his dark elf hero Drizzt Do’Urden, his task of killing Chewbacca in the now uncanonized Star Wars novels and various other projects.

Times change, though. Drizzt, who first brought me to Salvatore’s work, outlived my interest in him, his adventures getting a bit stale. I also never truly got into the Demon Wars saga the way that I connected with the dark elf books. Looking back through my reviews, it appears that it’s been about 14 years since I’ve read anything by Salvatore, that being a re-read of one of the earlier Dark Elf novels.

I was intrigued a month or so ago when presented with “Child of a Mad God” ($25.99, Tor), the first in a new series by Salvatore, and decided to give it a shot.

I was initially disappointed to discover that this was not a completely new project and was set in his Demon Wars world of Corona. Perhaps it was that, which led me to not be incredibly interested in the early going. Then, I met the young girl named Aoleyn, and the book turned around for me.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: "Assassin's Fate" by Robin Hobb

Since I suspect it will be my last trip with FitzChivalry Farseer, I put off reading Robin Hobb’s “Assassin’s Fate” ($32, Del Rey). Then, when I finally began, I took it slowly to savor this last journey.

Fitz and the Fool, masquerading in his Amber character, open the story in the Rain Wilds, on their journey to avenge the death of Fitz’s daughter Bee at the hands of the Servants of Clerres. Ravaged by grief, Fitz plans to bring the city down around its prophets and go out in a blaze of glory.

Unbeknownst to our favorite assassin, though, Bee is still alive. She’s held captive by a Servant named Dwalia and her minion Vindeliar, who can control minds. Dwalia is convinced that Fitz’s daughter is the Unexpected Son of prophecy, and she must bring her to Clerres to wring secrets from her and regain her standing among the Servants. Bee believes that her father has given up on her and put the Fool ahead of her. She’s beaten and abused, but not broken.

Meanwhile, as he usually does, the Fool is playing his own game in addition to helping Fitz seek revenge.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

My favorite reads of 2017

I had a lot going on in the latter quarter of the year that led me to slack off a bit in my reading, but it was still a pretty good year.

It was a year of discovering new voices for me. At least three quarters of the books that I read were by authors that I had not read before – some brand new, and at least one a classic author that I’d never given a shot. A few of my favorites also delivered solid additions to my library, and I took a few trips down memory lane, as well.

As I do every year, I want to make it clear that this list is in no way a “best of.” I simply don’t get to read enough books to qualify me to say what was the best of the year. These are just my favorite reads of 2017 (some of which are not from 2017). They also are in no particular order, though I’ll admit the first few are definitely my favorites.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Review: "The Overneath" by Peter S. Beagle

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise in “The Overneath” ($15.95, Tachyon Publications), Peter S. Beagle writes about a few unicorns. But there are a few other nice surprises in this short story collection, as well.

We’ll get the familiar ground out of the way first. Of the 13 stories in the book, three deal with unicorns of various stripes, and two focus on his bumbling magician Schmendrick.

First up is “The Green-Eyed Boy,” which tells the tale of how Schmendrick came to be apprenticed to the wizard Nikos prior to Beagle’s most well-known tale, “The Last Unicorn.” It’s a fun and funny story that should please fans of that book. Though less funny, the same could be said of “Schmendrick Alone,” in which we learn about the first time that the wizard summoned a demon that he couldn’t control.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Reader Picks: Your favorite posts of 2017

The list of most-viewed items this year is interesting and a bit disappointing in that it's almost chronological for the first half of the year. Usually the entries are scattered, with a few things getting big bursts of interest. Of course, that result is pretty par for the course with the way this blog went this year -- a great deal of traffic early, tapering off late. That's most likely my fault, as work consumed me much of the second half of the year, and I did much less reading and writing than usual. When you go a month between posts, things tend to die.

Still, I'll keep with tradition in hopes that things pick up in the coming year and offer the most viewed posts of 2017.

10. "Son of the Black Sword," by Larry Correia. Published May 2. A bit of a departure from what I'm used to with Correia -- more serious with less humor -- but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

9. "The Death of Dulgath," by Michael J. Sullivan. Published April 11. I waited far too long to visit with my old friends Royce and Hadrian. Not the best of Sullivan's Ryria novels, but certainly not a disappointment.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Review: "Kings of the Wyld" by Nicholas Eames

We’ve all heard the argument that there are no new ideas, and maybe that’s true. But new spins are always fun, and that’s just what Nicholas Eames delivers in “Kings of the Wyld” ($15.99, Orbit).

Eames introduces us to a world where mercenary bands are regarded as rock stars, but their day has faded. Where once-great bands ventured into the Heartwyld to fight hordes of horrible monsters, the bands of the new generation are manufactured stars. They’re all flash as they travel from arena to arena battling beasts that have been raised in captivity or captured and enslaved.

“Slowhand” Clay Cooper, former member of Saga, one of the most legendary classic bands, now lives a quiet life in the town of Coverdale with his wife and daughter. He works as a city guardsman and dreams of opening an inn where he can display his magic shield Blackheart above the hearth and tell tales of his glory days.