Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: "The Slow Regard of Silent Things" by Patrick Rothfuss


Patrick Rothfuss warns us in the prologue to “The Slow Regard of Silent Things” ($18.95, DAW) that fans of the Kingkiller Chronicles may want to skip this novella. If they do, though, they’re missing out.

True, this slim volume doesn’t really move Rothfuss’ story along, and it certainly gave people waiting impatiently on the third book something to gripe about. But it does have a certain charm and shows a slightly different side of the writer.

The story, more a novel-length vignette if such a thing can exist, follows Auri as she goes about her day-to-day life in the Underthing below the university, preparing for a visitor. The book follows her for several days as she gets things in order, and while she does have adventures, they’re certainly not of the kind that Kvothe is involved in above the ground. Though, as we see early on when she dives for treasures, they can be just as dangerous.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Review: "The Witch Hunter" by Virginia Boecker


In her debut novel, “The Witch Hunter” ($18, Little, Brown), Virginia Boecker takes us to an alternate version of 16th Century England where magic is very real and practicing it can be hazardous to your health.

Elizabeth Grey is coming of age in a violent occupation. She’s been trained since she was a child for one purpose – to bring witches to justice – and she’s been very good at it. Until recently, that is, when other issues have been occupying her mind.

The tables turn on Elizabeth when she is caught with some forbidden herbs and accused of witchcraft herself. She’s imprisoned and scheduled for execution, but Nicholas Perevil, the country’s most notorious and most wanted wizard, rescues her. He offers her life in return for her help in breaking a curse that’s been placed on him.

She begins her journey as a reluctant savior for a man she’s been taught to hate, but the path she travels will turn the world that she’s known for most of her life upside down.

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.