Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: "Scourged" by Kevin Hearne

If my glowing reviews of the early books in any way influenced you to pick up Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, I’d like to take this moment to apologize.

At one time, this series was energetic and fun. I looked forward to each new installment. The fact that I waited months after its release to read the appropriately-titled “Scourged” ($27, Random House) speaks volumes about my opinion on the last couple of books. Still, I had faith that Hearne would pull it together for a grand finale. Instead, he basically did the equivalent of throwing a flaming bag of Irish wolfhound feces on his readers’ front porches.

Ragnarok is upon us … sort of. The story feels both rushed and like it takes forever to get to the point – what little point there is. Atticus is hurriedly making preparations for the final battle, while Owen and Granuaile are doing … things. That’s pretty much the plot of the first half of the book, which if I’m being honest, wasn’t awful. Granuaile seemed less annoying than usual, and Owen is always fun. We get to spend a little time with Oberon (basically all we’ll get in this story) and we meet a new dog named Starbuck who brings a little levity into the situation. I still had hope Hearne might pull it together somehow.

Then Ragnarok begins.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Review: "War Cry" by Brian McClellan

There’s one huge problem with Brian McClellan’s “War Cry” ($11.99, Tor). There’s simply not enough of it. It's an incredible setting and story that grips you the way that most of McClellan's work does, but it leaves you wanting to know far more about the world and the characters than you get in this introduction.

McClellan puts us in the middle of a platoon of guerilla warriors in a setting that gave me a bit of a World War II vibe. Unfortunately for this troop, they’re stranded behind enemy lines in a war that has gone on for as long as anyone can remember. Supplies are short, their numbers are dwindling, but still they do what they can.

They’ve survived mainly on the strength of their resourcefulness and an illusionist that can disguise their base and movements. Then their pilot, one of the last left on their side as far as they know, learns of a possible supply score. It’s a big risk, but they have to take it, and it may finally change the course of the war.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Review: "Sufficiently Advanced Magic" by Andrew Rowe

The early going of Andrew Rowe’s gaming-inspired “Sufficiently Advanced Magic” ($3.99 digital, self-published) left me not quite sure what to expect, but I ended up with a very pleasant surprise and a great read.

The story, which finished second in this year's Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, follows Corin Cadence, who is set to enter the Serpent Spire for his judgment. If he’s successful, he’ll receive his attunement and know where his powers lie. If he’s not, well, he’s not likely to return. Corin comes from a powerful family with a demanding father, so expectations are high.

He has his own plans for the Spire, though. Corin’s older brother, Tristan, is one of the ones who didn’t return, and he intends to become powerful enough to climb the Spire, find his brother and bring him back.

Corin’s judgment doesn’t go quite as planned, though, landing him in a bad position both with his family and a visage of the Goddess. He'll need some help to unravel the tangled mess his life has become.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Memory Lane: "Sourcery" by Terry Pratchett

This has been a very strange year for me. I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten through August of a year only having read about a half-dozen books. Certainly it hasn’t happened in the last 30 years or so. I really can’t say what’s made it that way. I find myself at another one of those strange turns in life, but I’m used to those now, and I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve read outside of a few DNFs.

The general funk around my reading this year, though, made me decide it was time to dive back into my Discworld re-read, and just my luck, I was at the book that started it all, “Sourcery” ($9.99, Harper).

During my college years, I was a regular at several local used book stores. I didn’t have the money for new books, but I could drop a dollar or two on a used one. Most of the stores around here gave you credit for the type of book you traded – fantasy/SF could only be traded for fantasy/SF, for example – but then I found one that traded for anything. I collected boxes of romance novels that my older female relatives had laying around, westerns from a grandfather and anything else that I could find and built a huge pile of credit there.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Review: "Summerland" by Hannu Rajaniemi

Hannu Rajaniemi’s “Summerland” ($25.99, Tor) proved an unusual read for me in more ways than one.

In 1930s Europe, no one fears death anymore. At least not if they have a Ticket to Summerland. Not only do the living know about the afterlife in Rajaniemi’s alternate history, but they can communicate with people there, and the dead can visit the world of the living whenever they want through mediums and other means.

It’s no surprise, then, that the European powers of the time would wrangle over control of the world of the dead, just as they do the world of the living.

Rachel White is a good, but dissatisfied SIS agent with the British Empire. As a woman in the 1930s, she doesn’t get the respect of her fellow agents or superiors, no matter how good her work. Then she learns of a Soviet mole in Summerland. Instead of being put on the case, she’s removed from her position and placed in an accounting position.

But with the possible fate of the afterlife on the line, Rachel isn’t going to give up the chase.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Review: "Orconomics" by J. Zachary Pike

As you may have noticed if you visit this site occasionally, my reading has been pretty slow this year. I’m only averaging about one book per month, and May was the first month in my memory that I didn’t finish one at all. There are a few DNFs in the mix, but despite there being new books by some authors I really like that I haven’t gotten to yet, I’ve been in a bit of a slump.

Then I stumbled across J. Zachary Pike’s “Orconomics” ($13.99, Gnomish Press). After getting a few chuckles out of the sample, I still wasn’t sure about it, but the book turned out to be just what I needed.

Gorm Ingerson is a disgraced professional hero. Once known as the Pyrebeard, he was one of the most feared berserkers in the game. Then, a raid on a necromancer’s stronghold went south. He was stripped of his rank, and now wakes up drunk in a ditch most every day. That is until, quite accidentally, he befriends a goblin. He sets out to get the goblin his NPC papers (making him off limits for heroes to claim a bounty). That move sets Gorm on a world-changing path.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review: "Where Loyalties Lie" by Rob J. Hayes

I start my dive into the most recent Self Published Fantasy Blog Off finalists with the book currently sitting in the lead by a slim margin, Rob J. Hayes’ “Where Loyalties Lie.”

Keelin Stillwater is not your typical pirate captain. Drawn into the lifestyle by swashbuckling tales, he’s found it quite different than he expected, but he’s risen through the ranks due to his own cunning and commitment. He prefers to avoid bloodshed when possible, which doesn’t always sit well with his crew, and he has his own agenda in the pirate trade.

His relationship with his sometimes lover Elaina Black is even more complicated than the one with his crew. For one thing, his ship, The Phoenix, was stolen from her, which her father, the bloodthirsty and cruel captain Tanner Black, views as an offense that can only be answered with Keelin’s death.

Then there’s Drake Morass, a legendary rogue and sworn enemy of the Blacks, who has designs on setting himself up as the king of the pirates, but he needs Keelin’s help to do it.