Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Review: "The Armored Saint" by Myke Cole

Not being much of a military SF fan, I hadn’t read Myke Cole until the Tor newsletter offered “The Armored Saint” ($14.99, Tor) as a holiday gift to subscribers recently. It arrived just as I was finishing my previous read, and being a metal fan, I couldn’t resist the title. (I don’t know Cole’s musical preferences, but I like to at least think it’s a reference anyway.)

Heloise has grown up in a small village under an oppressive theocratic regime. The Order roams the land, striking fear into everyone, as they hunt and kill those who use magic. “Suffer no wizard to live” is the mantra, and with good reason. Magic can open a portal to Hell and allow demons into the world. At least, that’s what Heloise has always been told.

Then she and her family are called upon to participate in an act known as a Knitting where they are the last line of defense against a village the Order has judged to be tainted by a wizard. What she sees on that night rocks her to her core.

Monday, December 31, 2018

My favorite reads of 2018

There’s not a lot to recap as the calendar runs out on 2018. It was a slow and strange reading year for me. It was a year of less reading time and more DNFs than I can ever remember. I probably abandoned more books than I finished.

Wrapping up

Even some of those that I stayed with disappointed. A couple of series that I had enjoyed in the past came to very unsatisfying conclusions for me, but I felt I had to see them through. One bright spot in the series conclusions is also the first of my favorite reads of the year (not No. 1, mind you, just the first to be mentioned).

“Assassin’s Fate” by Robin Hobb. This was a very bittersweet book for me, so much so that I put off reading it for a long time after its release. I’ve known and loved FitzChivalry Farseer for more than two decades, and I felt certain this would be my last journey with him. It was not a perfect book nor the best in his tale, but it was, at least, a satisfying conclusion.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Freebies: "Christmas Eve" by Jim Butcher

Just in case you guys missed it like I did on Christmas Eve, Jim Butcher released a new Harry Dresden story in the spirit of the holiday season.

Still hopeful that we'll see "Peace Talks" in the coming year, but it's a really good story and some Dresden is better than no Dresden.

Read it here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Review: "Wrath of Empire" by Brian McClellan

In a year where I have almost as many DNFs as finished reads, it’s nice to have a few authors you know you can count on. Brian McClellan is one of those, and “Wrath of Empire” ($27, Orbit), the second book in his Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy, did not disappoint.

The Dynize have occupied Landfall and have their sights set on the rest of Fatrasta and the remaining godstones so that they can resurrect their fallen god. Taniel Two-Shot, known as the Red Hand, and his companion Ka-Poel, a Dynize bone-eye sorcerer, are determined to see that doesn’t happen, and he’s using every resource he has available.

In Landfall, Michel Brevis is working with the remaining Blackhats, despite having betrayed them, to try to get families smuggled out of the city and to safety as the Dynize round them up. When he gets a visit from Taniel, his mission changes. He’s to find a Dynize informant named Mara and get her out of the city. When his cover is blown, he finds himself in bed with the enemy to try to complete his mission.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Review: "The Core" by Peter V. Brett

Coming off major disappointment with my last series wrap-up book, I jumped right into another with Peter V. Brett’s “The Core” ($8.99, Del Rey).

Sharak Ka has arrived on a world in utter chaos. Thanks to their captured Alagai Ka, the demon mind prince, Arlen Bales and Ahmann Jardir have discovered that the human race’s prospects in the final battle against the corelings are even more grim than they thought. It will take bold action to avoid the utter destruction of humanity, and they have to roll the dice, with the fate of the world in the balance.

As they prepare for their journey to the Core to face whatever horrors await, much work still has to be done to unite the people on the surface of the world against a much larger threat. That work largely falls to Inevera, who rules the Krasians in all but title with Jardir missing, and Leesha Paper, now the countess of the Hollow. Somehow, they have to repair fractured relationships and focus people on a new threat – a massive demon army no longer working as individuals, but as a well-oiled machine guided by the strategy of the minds.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Review: "The Fantasy Fiction Formula" by Deborah Chester

I picked up Deborah Chester’s “The Fantasy Fiction Formula” ($19.95, Manchester University Press) about a year ago for the simple reason that it received such high praise from Jim Butcher, an author I admire greatly. He basically gave Chester credit for giving him the secret to success, which intrigued me.

I used to read “how to write” books with some regularity, but it’s been a long time since I cracked one. After a while much of the advice becomes repetitive and a bit boring. It seems there aren’t that many different ways to do it.

I started “The Fantasy Fiction Formula” about a year ago, and I wandered away from it. Mainly because in the early going there weren’t that many new ideas. It was all about planning your characters and knowing their motivations, desires and goals – things that have been covered over and over.

I recently picked it up again, this time determined to push through looking for some magical formula to help me get past my own personal block: I seem to be a natural novella writer. Every time I sit down to write a book, the finished product falls in the 35-45,000 word range. I’ve done it about five times now with the same result. In revisions, I end up trying to bulk it up to novel length, and I always feel that I’m just bloating it and the shorter version was much stronger. I was hoping for some sage advice to get me to that 60,000-plus word level.

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.