Monday, May 18, 2015

Memory Lane: "The Colour of Magic" by Terry Pratchett

With the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett a few weeks ago, I decided that it might be time to revisit some of those early Discworld novels that I haven't read in years. I was tempted to begin my journey with "Sourcery," which was my first Pratchett novel, but after much debate, I decided to start at the beginning with "The Colour of Magic" ($9.99, Harper Collins).

This first volume does a delightful job of introducing the reader to the zany and colorful world of the Disc through the eyes of the inept failed wizard Rincewind and the world's first tourist, Twoflower.

Rincewind, who is much more comfortable running away from trouble than toward it, at first tries to avoid the flamboyant tourist from a strange land and his, umm, interesting luggage. That becomes impossible when Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of the, ahem, "grand" city of Ankh-Morpork charges the wizard with protecting the tourist. As fans of Pratchett know already, no one refuses Vetinari -- at least no one who survives more than a few more sentences.

That sets Rincewind on a path that will take him to the very edge of the disc and beyond, and also serves to introduce readers to a wide swath of the world that we all came to know and love.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Review: "The Desert Spear" by Peter V. Brett

Peter V. Brett takes the reader by surprise a little in “The Desert Spear” ($7.99, Del Rey), the second book of his Demon Cycle.

In “The Warded Man,” we get a villainous picture of Ahmann Jardir that’s largely from the point of view of lead character Arlen Bales. In the follow-up, Jardir takes the spotlight for the majority of the first half of the book, and we’re left with a very different picture of the man who would be The Deliverer.

The early portion of the book takes us through Jardir’s young life, the beginnings of his friendship with the khaffit Abban, and the things that shaped the man who wields the Spear of Kaji. While there are still disturbing things about the man, we leave his tale with a much more sympathetic view of him and his motivations.

In the present-day storyline, Jardir has taken the role of Shar’Dama Ka, the Krasian version of The Deliverer. He has uncovered the secrets of Anoch Sun, first discovered by Arlen Bales, and has crossed the desert to bring the Daylight War to the greenlanders of Thesa, who he views as weak. He plans to subjugate and occupy their lands, while conscripting the able-bodied to join his fight against the night demons.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: "Shadow, Shadow" by V.B. Marlowe

There’s probably never been a better time, or perhaps, a worse time for indie and self-published authors. On the one hand, it’s now easier than ever to see your story in print and promote it. On the other, that same ease has created a glut of books, most of them pretty bad, that may make people less likely to pick up an indie or self-published title.

I’m guilty myself of often dismissing books that don’t come from a big publisher because of past experience. Every now and then, though, something catches my eye and draws me in.

I’m not sure exactly what it was about V.B. Marlowe’s “Shadow, Shadow” ($11.99, All Night Reads) that drew my attention – probably a combination of the title, the cover and the description – but I’m glad it did.

Marlowe introduces us to the small town of Shadow Pines and four teenagers who, at first, seem very different – Harley, the misfit punk girl; Teaghan, the quiet mousy type; Brock, the most popular boy in school; and Gianna, the activist. All, though, share a birthday and receive a mysterious gift from the new novelty shop in town.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Review: "The Autumn Republic" by Brian McClellan

Field Marshal Tamas has fought his way through the Kez army and across inhospitable terrain to return to Adro after being caught behind enemy lines, but what he returns to is a country in chaos in “The Autumn Republic” ($26, Orbit), the final volume of Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy.

When Tamas returns to the capital city of Adopest, he finds it controlled by Brudanian troops, it’s once-magnificent temples smashed to rubble and the scheming Lord Claremonte facing off against Ricard Tumblar, a member of Tamas’ council, in the city’s first election. It's an election that his own coup set up, but it could now turn disastrous for his country.

Tamas has no time to set things right in Adopest, though. The Kez on Adro’s borders remain a larger threat than Claremonte, and in his absence he soon discovers that his troops have fallen into chaos and treachery.

If that’s not enough, his son, Taniel Two-Shot, was captured and tortured by the Kez god Kressimer, but escaped. He and his companion Ka-Poel, a savage magician, are now trapped in Kez territory. Tamas will need Taniel, and every friend and supporter that he has left, to save Adro.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review: "Heir to the Jedi" by Kevin Hearne

I can’t remember the last time I read a Star Wars tie-in novel, but it must have been 10 or 12 years ago at least.

For a time in the mid-to-late 1990s, I was buying them regularly. I read Timothy Zahn’s incredible Thrawn Trilogy (don’t get me started Disney), and several of the series that came after that. But in the early ’00s, I drifted away from tie-ins altogether – Star Wars or otherwise.

So what draws me back in? Kevin Hearne.

I’ve loved Hearne’s Iron Druid series, and I thought “Heir to the Jedi” ($28, Del Rey) would be great fun. I also harbored hope that, with the obvious title nod to Zahn’s “Heir to the Empire,” it might be the beginning of something as strong.

The truth is, though, it’s kind of boring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: "The Burning Land" by Victoria Strauss

When Victoria Strauss’ debut novel “The Arm of the Stone” came out, I was impressed.

I continued to enjoy her work through the sequel “Garden of the Stone” and the first book of her second series, “The Burning Land.” A recent re-release of “The Burning Land” ($7.99, Open Road Media) gave me the chance to revisit Strauss’ work.

“The Burning Land” opens on a world coming out of more than three quarters of a century of conflict between the religious Aratists and the atheist Caryaxists. The Aratists have regained control of the land and are going about the process of setting things back to their version of right.

Gyalo, a powerful and promising young Shaper, is chosen to lead an expedition across the Burning Land, a vast and inhospitable desert believed to be the resting place of the god Arata. Leaders of the church have heard rumors of Aratists who were banished into the desert by the Caryaxist regime, and their Dreamers have recently caught glimpses of what might be a community built by the surviving Aratists.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Tribute: Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015)



When I was in high school and college, there were several really good used book stores in the area. They were a haven for me – a place where I could get a lot of books for not much cash and even trade in what I had for credit.

It was on a search through the shelves of one of my favorite haunts that I happened upon a slim volume by the title of “Sourcery.” It was likely the strange spelling of the word that first caught my attention. When I pulled it from the shelf, things got even stranger. The cover featured an inexplicable picture of a sort of addled looking wizard and an orangutan. For a buck, I couldn’t resist adding it to my stack. I just had to see what it was about.

That’s how my 25-year-long love affair with Sir Terry Pratchett began.