Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review: "Promise of Blood," by Brian McClellan

I’m still a little uncertain about the introduction of black powder into my fantasy, but I have to admit that Brian McClellan does it with flair in “Promise of Blood” ($23.99, Orbit).

The story opens with a coup. Field Marshall Tamas and a group of co-conspirators have overthrown the government and dethroned the corrupt king Manhouch who has spent the nation into poverty and plans to sign a deal with their enemies, the Kez, to bail it out.

After the king and all of the nobility meet their end at the guillotine, the tough business of rebuilding and running the country begins. Tamas is besieged by royalists, logistical problems and threats of war, but also troubled by a mysterious threat uttered by Manhouch’s Privileged, the sorcerers of the realm, as they died. They warned him that he could not escape Kresimer’s Promise.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Tell-Tale Thoughts: "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Where else should I start this series except where it started for me, with "The Tell-Tale Heart."

Though I read the tale often for many years, I have to admit that college was likely the last time that I read it, and that's been a minute or two. I remembered it in broad strokes, naturally, but was surprised to realize that, even after all these years, I could still just about recite the first page of it word for word.

The genius of "The Tell-Tale Heart," as with so many of Poe's stories, is that the style of the story so essentially captures the madness and paranoia of the narrator.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: "The Hellbound Heart" by Clive Barker

Clive Barker's "The Hellbound Heart" ($11.99, Harper Perennial) represents a little unfinished business for me. You see, I'm a big fan of Barker, and I'm a big fan of the Hellraiser movies, at least the early ones, but I've never read the novella they were based on until now.

If you're familiar with the movie, you know the basic story. Unhappily married couple -- Rory and Julia -- moves into an inherited house and soon discovers that the husband's ne'er-do-well brother Frank is still in residence, sort of. He discovered a puzzle box, which opened a door that allowed a group of creatures known as the Cenobites to take him away for brutal torture. Now he needs Julia to help him restore himself and escape.

The movie and novella follow each other pretty much blow-by-blow. There are a few deviations in the movie, but in broad strokes it's the same. For the most part, it's one of those rare tales where I believe that I prefer the movie. I think I like the ending of the novella better, but the Cenobites, really, were made for the visual.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tell-Tale Thoughts: An Introduction

"True! Nervous, very very dreadfully nervous I had been and am, but why will you say that I am mad?"

There are few phrases in the English language that have had the kind of impact on my life that one did.

I was in fourth grade, and while I was a regular reader, most of the stuff that I read wasn't very good -- TV show tie-in novels and the like. While on a trip to visit my aunt and uncle in southern Louisiana, I happened upon a shrink-wrapped package of three classics aimed at young readers. The one that caught my eye was an abridged version of "Moby Dick." Much to my chagrin, I have to admit that, to this day, I have never finished that novel.

It was another book in the package, though, that changed my world. "Tales of Mystery and Terror" by Edgar Allan Poe, a collection of four short stories -- "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Gold Bug."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: "The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker



In some ways, Chava and Ahmad, the main characters in Helene Wecker’s “The Golem and the Jinni” ($15.99, Harper Perennial), are not all that different from the thousands of immigrants that surround them in turn-of-the-century New York. As the title tells us, though, they’re far from the average immigrant.

Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay. She traveled to New York from Poland with her would-be husband, a ne’er-do-well merchant who, unable and unwilling to find a real-world woman, enlisted the help of a disgraced rabbi who doesn’t mind meddling in the dark arts for the right price. Unlike most golems, which are little more than mindless slaves, Chava’s master wanted her to have intelligence and curiosity. She was packed away on a ship to be awakened when they arrived in New York. Unable to wait, her master awakens her on the voyage, then dies, leaving her rudderless, a babe in a new world.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Memory Lane: "The Guns of Avalon," by Roger Zelazny

I began my second visit to Roger Zelazny's world of Amber with the intent to finish last year since the books are all fairly small, quick reads. Best laid plans and all that.

Finally, though, I cracked the cover on the second in the series, "The Guns of Avalon."

Prince Corwin of Amber has mostly recovered from his imprisonment at the hands of his brother Eric, and after his escape, his attention turns to revenge and reclaiming the throne, which he believes rightfully belongs to him. To do that, he must travel through shadow to Avalon, where he can get his hands on a secret that might allow him to do the previously unthinkable -- bring guns to Amber.

But more trouble is brewing in Amber than Corwin's escape and plot.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Review: "The Emperor's Blades" by Brian Staveley

So I finally cracked the cover on my first book that was actually published in 2014, and I made a good choice to start with Brian Staveley's "The Emperor's Blades" ($27.99, Tor).
Sanlitun, the emperor of Annur, has three children set on three very different paths.

The eldest, Kaden, is heir to the Unhewn Throne and the strange, fiery eyes that mark the line of the rulers of Annur. Kaden finds himself in a remote mountain monastery, learning cryptic lessons from the monks in residence -- lessons that he doesn't yet understand the purpose of and doesn't see how they will make him a better emperor.

Kaden's younger brother Valyn is sworn to a group of elite warriors called the Kettral. Highly and brutally trained, the Kettral attack in small groups from the wings of the huge birds from which the warriors derive their name. They are the emperor's elite strike force -- the Navy Seals of Staveley's world.