Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: "Prince of Fools" by Mark Lawrence

One of the things that I always admired about the late David Gemmell was that, unlike many fantasy authors, he seemed to understand the truth of heroes – that they are usually men and women forged in the fire of a single moment, not people that scamper about committing one act of heroism after another for their entire lives.

Gemmell probably could have made a good career for himself writing book after book about his hero Druss the Legend, but gave us only a handful. Instead, he moved around the Drenai world both in time and location to give us glimpses of the rise and fall of other heroes.

It’s that same approach that Mark Lawrence uses as he begins his second trilogy, the Red Queen’s War, with “Prince of Fools” ($26.95, Ace), though I’m not sure that anyone would call Prince Jalan Kendeth a hero. But then, Jorg Ancrath was hardly a hero either.

“Prince of Fools” is set in the same world and time as Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy, and we do indeed bump into Jorg and his band of road brothers for a brief moment. But this book focuses completely on Jalan and his unlikely Norse companion Snorri ver Snagason (and speaking of Gemmell, how’s that for a nice tip of the hat?).

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tell-Tale Thoughts: "The Cask of Amontillado"

When I began this series back in February, I had planned for it to be a much more regular feature. Life happens, though, most of it good in this case, and it kind of fell by the wayside. Now, I pick it up again with the second Poe tale in that little book that I talked about – “The Cask of Amontillado.”

This is another of Poe’s most well-known tales, and one that most people read in high school. It is, oddly, one of the stories that I’ve returned to less frequently over the years. Maybe that’s because it is one that’s widely taught and the old contrarian metal head in me didn’t want anything to do with something the rest of the world finds familiar.

“The Cask of Amontillado” plays on a familiar theme in Poe’s works – live burial. It was a common fear in Poe’s time, and he used it to great effect in several stories.

New submission guidelines

I thought it was about time that I updated the old draconian submission guidelines that I had here on the site. At the time they were written, I was writing for several different outlets and getting about 8-10 books a week for review. They had become outdated as I'm a little more open to submissions these days. So, if you're a writer with an interest, check out my new submission guidelines.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Review: "Shattered" by Kevin Hearne

After a wild ride in “Hunted,” Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles makes its hardcover debut, surprisingly, with a bit of a lull in “Shattered” ($26, Del Rey).

As the book opens, Atticus and Granuaile are still in the process of recovering from being chased all over Europe by members of the Greek and Roman pantheon. 

Atticus has freed his former archdruid Owen Kennedy (Eoghan O Cinneide) from centuries of imprisonment trapped in time and must now become the teacher as he acclimates his old tutor to a very strange world. He also needs Owen to restore his damaged tattoos so that he can shift shapes again. And he needs a bigger favor from his old archdruid, who is still viewed as a neutral party in Tir na Nog – he needs to know who among the Tuatha de Danann is plotting against him.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: "Skin Game" by Jim Butcher

Over the course of the past few books of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, wizard Harry Dresden has had quite the ride, but his assignment in “Skin Game” ($27.95, Ace) might be his most difficult and distasteful.

Harry has spent much of his time of late hiding out on Demonreach Island, learning how to be warden of his prison filled with evil beings and trying to figure out how to get rid of the parasite that’s growing within him. That isolation comes to an end as his boss, Mab, the Winter Queen of Faerie comes to call.

Mab has a job for her Winter Knight that will require him to leave the relative safety of his island and face, not only the dangers of the assignment, but the friends from which he’s largely been separated.

Things get worse for Harry when he realizes that Mab has hired him out to Nicodemus Archleone, host to Anduriel of the Order of the Blackened Denarius – a group of fallen angels bound to silver coins said to be those that Judas Iscariot received for his betrayal of Jesus.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: "Boy's Life" by Robert McCammon

Every so often I lament the difficulty of finding what I consider good horror and solicit suggestions. Almost every time I do, someone brings up Robert McCammon’s “Boy’s Life” ($8.99, Pocket Books).

I finally got around to picking it up, and I disagree. Mainly because I’d really hate to classify this book as “horror.” Yes, there are horrific things in it. There are monsters and ghosts, there’s magic, there’s even a dinosaur. But there’s so much more than any one genre designation can hold.

The story centers around Cory Mackenson, a young boy growing up in the 1960s in Zephyr, Alabama. One early morning, as he rides along on his father’s milk delivery route, his life changes. A car rockets across the dark road, barely missing the milk truck, and plummets into the deep waters of Saxon’s Lake.

Cory’s father dives in to try to save the driver, only to find that the man has been brutally murdered – beaten, choked with piano wire and chained to the steering wheel to keep his body from surfacing. The only clue to go on is a tattoo of a skull with wings on the man’s arm and a bright green feather that Cory found at the scene of the crime and only he knows about.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: "Dawnflight" by Kim Headlee

One of the first advance copies of a book that I ever received for review was the Pocket Books edition of Kim Headlee’s “Dawnflight” back in 1999. Nearly 15 years later, Headlee has revisited the book, making a few changes and relaunching the series that never happened back then.

The book tells a familiar tale – the love story between King Arthur and Guinevere – but approaches it in a different way. In place of the courtly Lady Guinevere of most tales, we have the Caledonian chieftaness Gyanhumara, a warrior through-and-through who takes heads as trophies. That alone is enough to set it apart from most Arthurian stories.

After the forces of Arthur the Pendragon defeat Gyan’s people, she finds herself bound to marry one of the former enemies of her tribe as part of the treaty. Urien map Dumarec seems the most obvious choice, and despite misgivings, she agrees for the good of her people.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Review: "Raising Steam," by Terry Pratchett

The steam engine has come to the Discworld, but is the Disc ready? We find out in Terry Pratchett’s latest, “Raising Steam” ($26.95, Doubleday).

Dick Simnel, a young lad out of Sto Lat, has succeeded where many others have failed – usually in a messy pink mist. He’s harnessed steam to create the Discworld’s first locomotive, which (or should we say who) he’s named Iron Girder. And where else would he take this new invention but Ankh Morpork?

Dick ends up in the offices of one Harry King, a man who has made a very good living for his family in sanitation, but is looking for something he and his wife can take a little more pride in. He sees the engine as a way to provide that.