Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: "Owl and the Electric Samurai," by Kristi Charish

In her third adventure, “Owl and the Electric Samurai” ($18, Simon and Schuster), things get even more sticky for Kristi Charish’s antiquities thief Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl.

As the book opens, Owl finds her loyalties divided and about to be divided further. She’s trying to retrieve artifacts for her dragon boss, Mr. Kurosawa, being pressured by the IAA to find the two creators of the World Quest game and being tempted by the possibility of stumbling into the fabled land of Shangri-La.

All of those things come together when she’s called home and given a new assignment by Kurosawa, to retrieve an ancient and magical suit of armor last worn by one of Genghis Khan’s generals. Dubbed the Electric Samurai by Owl, the suit has been missing since that time, and the faction that now wants it raises concerns about the stability of supernatural society.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Tell-Tale Thoughts: Ligeia

If ever there were a Poe tale that I almost gave up on in my youth, it was “Ligeia.” As I started this story for the first time, I remember asking myself where was the Poe that I knew and loved. Where was the neurotic and deranged narrator? Where were the creepy horrors? Why was this guy spouting pages of praise for the beauty of his now-dead love? Romance has no place in my tales of terror.

Of course, I came to realize over the years that there was more depth to Poe than creepy-eyed old men, deadly diseases, living burial and the like, and while “Ligeia” still wouldn’t be my favorite story by a long shot, I came to appreciate it more.

The story tells the tale of a man who loses the love of his life. While he was singing the praises of her beauty and presence, though, the younger me failed to notice that, indeed, this subject does have some of the deranged tendencies of Poe’s unfortunate narrators. If nothing else, he’s certainly obsessed with his lost love, yet for all those lavish details, he claims to be unable to remember how they met and isn’t sure that he ever knew her surname.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: "The Grey Bastards" by Jonathan French

I started reading Jonathan French’s “The Grey Bastards” a few days before it was named the winner of this year’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off. Like its predecessor in the contest, it’s a most worthy recipient.

Numbers-wise, “The Grey Bastards” scored impressively in the second year of Mark Lawrence’s contest. It pulled down an average rating of 8.65 of 10, and scored the only perfect 10 awarded by any blog in the two years of the contest. If I awarded stars or scores here, mine would definitely be in that range.

The book follows the story of Jackal, a member of the half-orc hoof known as The Grey Bastards. After the last incursion of full-blood orcs, the hoofs, formerly kept as slaves, were granted the barren lands known as the Lots for their service to the kingdom of Hispartha. They exist to serve as the last line of defense against another orc invasion.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Review: "Son of the Black Sword" by Larry Correia

I’ve enjoyed Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter novels quite a bit, so I decided to give his more traditional fantasy, “Son of the Black Sword” ($8.99, Baen), a go. It’s a bit different from what I’m used to from Correia, but still highly entertaining.

Ashok Vadal is perhaps the most fierce Protector that the world has ever seen. His devotion to the Law and its caste system is unrelenting and unquestionable. Unusual among the Protectors, Ashok wields the ancestor blade Angruvadal, a semi-sentient sword that retains the memories of all of the warriors who have ever carried it. The black steel ancestor blades can only be used by those that they find worthy and dishonoring the blade can destroy it. That’s why their numbers are dwindling, and they are highly valued by the houses that own them.

Ashok has never questioned his orders and never flinched from doing his duty, no matter how brutal, but a deathbed confession from the Lord Protector of his order could shatter all that he has ever known.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: "The Death of Dulgath," by Michael J. Sullivan

It’s been too long since I traveled with Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, so it was good to see them again in Michael J. Sullivan’s “The Death of Dulgath” ($14.95, Riyria Enterprises).

Riyria has drawn one of its strangest assignments yet. After three failed assassination attempts, Royce and Hadrian have been hired to protect the Lady Dulgath, who rules over a strange and prosperous land where it never rains during the day and crops never fail.

Well, not protect, exactly. Royce has been hired to find the best way to assassinate her so that the local officials can prevent it.

The Lady Dulgath, though, turns out to be quite a bit more than Royce and Hadrian expect. She seems to have knowledge beyond her years, and she’s also seemingly unconcerned about the attempts on her life.

Add to that the fact that Royce and Hadrian don’t exactly endear themselves to the local public upon their arrival, and you have a very uncomfortable situation for our favorite thieves.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Celebrating 20 years: The top 10 posts and SPFBO thanks

The year was 1997, and I had just logged on to the internet. After a few months of cruising around and checking things out, I came up with some big plans. I'd always wanted to be an entertainment writer and own a bookstore, and the internet put those possibilities in front of me.

On the World Wide Web, I could reach an audience that would appreciate my reviews of heavy metal music and fantasy books like the readers of the newspaper that I was writing for at the time never would. Associates programs gave me the opportunity to have a book and music store without a lot of the hassle of actually running a book and music store. It was the perfect storm, so I thought.

That led to the launch of two sites on the old members.aol.com servers, The Hall of the Mountain King (viewable via the Internet Archive), which served as landing page and music site, and The Bookwyrm (also viewable via the Internet Archive), which housed my book content. In my mind, these two sites would eventually become go-to hubs for content on fantasy fiction and heavy metal. As you can see, that didn't work out quite as I'd planned.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: "They Mostly Come Out at Night" by Benedict Patrick

With “They Mostly Come Out at Night” ($3.99 ebook, $8.99 paperback), Benedict Patrick gives us something of a fairy tale that’s more than just a bit Grimm.

Lonan lives as an outcast, blamed for a long-ago incident that was not his fault. His village is terrorized by creatures known as the Wolves, who come in the night. As a result, every home has a basement with a sturdy door and every family is locked behind those doors when darkness falls. The night in question, Lonan shouted to try to warn people about the real culprit, but it was his shouts that were blamed for the violence that took the lives of several villagers, including his father, and severely scarred the love of his life.

He’s not only shunned because of that incident, but because he is Knackless, never having found his gift in life. Now an adult, Lonan is barely tolerated in the village, and only welcomed by a few – his younger sister, the healer Mother Ogma and her invalid house guest.