Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review: "What Remains of Heroes" by David Benem

Though I wasn’t chosen as one of the blogs for Mark Lawrence’s Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, I committed on my own to at least give all 10 finalists a chance, hoping that one of them would blow me away.

My plan is to read the samples available on Amazon for each book. If by the end of that sample, the book has grabbed me, I’ll buy it and keep reading. If not, I’ll pass on it.

Since it was one of the highest rated so far, I opted to start with David Benem’s “What Remains of Heroes,” and it was an excellent choice to begin the journey. Not only did the sample grab me, but I bought the book and mowed through the first third in the same sitting.

Benem gives us three primary characters, all of whom are about to have their lives drastically changed in a world teetering on the brink of a potentially catastrophic war with evil sorcerers known as the Necrists.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: "Owl and the City of Angels" by Kristi Charish

It was the odd title of Kristi Charish’s “Owl and the Japanese Circus” that first caught my attention last year when I was browsing for new reads. I picked it up and found a quite enjoyable adventure tale with shades of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.

The second volume in the series, “Owl and the City of Angels” ($18, Simon & Schuster) due out Oct. 5, is, if anything, more fun.

We start with antiquities thief Owl in Egypt, working on an assignment for her dragon boss, Mr. Kurosawa. Well, sort of. The dragon gave her a choice of artifacts to retrieve for him, but Owl decided she could get both, and make a personal stop along the way, too. Not a good idea.

Things go south when riots break out and the International Archeological Association (IAA) deploys an army of agents to try to capture Owl, ironically, for thefts that she didn’t commit.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Review: "The Liar's Key" by Mark Lawrence

The opening volume of Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War trilogy, “Prince of Fools,” didn’t grab my attention immediately in the way that his debut, “Prince of Thorns” did. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t as engrossed as I had been in his first three books.

Lawrence quashes my doubts about this story, though, in the second volume, “The Liar’s Key” ($26.95, Ace).

Following his reluctant adventures in “Prince of Fools,” Prince Jalan Kendeth has found something of a home among the Norsemen in Trond. He’s running an inn … sort of … and in general being the same ne’er-do-well layabout that he’s always been. A tryst with the local Jarl’s daughter changes that, though, as Jalan is chased out of town and ends up in the last place he wants to be – on a boat again.

He flees with the same man he arrived with, Snorri ver Snagason, who now owns an artifact known as Loki’s Key, which gives him the ability to unlock any door. But it’s not just any door that Snorri wants to unlock. It’s the door to death itself, which he thinks will allow him to bring his family, murdered by the Hardassa, back into the world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: "Monster Hunter International" by Larry Correia

I’ve got a friend who has been trying to get me to pick up Larry Correia’s “Monster Hunter International” ($7.99, Baen) for a while now. Looking at the description, it didn’t seem like the kind of thing I’d like. Boy, was I wrong.

Correia had me from the fantastic first line of the book: “On an otherwise ordinary Tuesday evening, I had the chance to live the American dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth story window.”

As it turns out, the incompetent jackass in question was a werewolf, and his encounter with the beast earns Owen Pitt, Correia’s main character, an interesting offer.

Owen is a big guy with a penchant for violence. Unable to live up to his war hero father, Owen took up illegal pit fighting to make ends meet until an incident in the ring caused him to do some soul-searching. In response, he took the most boring and plain job that he could think of – accounting. He didn’t count on a werewolf boss, though.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Review: "Fool's Quest" by Robin Hobb

In her second installment of The Fitz and the Fool, “Fool’s Quest” ($28, Del Rey), Robin Hobb surprisingly keeps the same deliberate pace she set in the first volume.

Though at the end of “Fool’s Assassin,” the action seemed poised to ratchet up, Fitz spends much of the second volume dithering, second-guessing himself and hesitating. Despite that, though, the book still manages to be compelling.

We pick up where the first volume left off. Withywoods has been attacked while Fitz is away at Buckkeep tending the Fool, who he himself had seriously wounded at the end of the first volume. His daughter, Bee, has been taken, though Fitz is unaware of that as the book begins.

The Fool continues to try to push Fitz toward his mission of vengeance and destruction against those who tortured and broke him, while at the same time, family and friends are trying to push Fitz toward taking a more public role in court. Revelations are made, Fitz tortures himself as he’s wont to do, and Bee’s fate, and perhaps the fate of much more, stands in the balance.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Memory Lane: "The Light Fantastic" by Terry Pratchett

Continuing my return journey through the Discworld, I find Terry Pratchett getting more in his groove with “The Light Fantastic” ($9.99, Harper).

Rincewind and Twoflower continue the wild journey that began in “The Colour of Magic” as the world begins to go crazy. A huge giant start has appeared in the night sky, and it’s getting closer as Great A’Tuin swims through space toward it. Cults pop up, magic falls out of favor, and many people think it’s the end of the disc.

Meanwhile, an ambitious wizard at Unseen University has set his sights on moving up in the world. To do that, he needs the lost spell from the Octavo, the most powerful magical book on the disc. That spell just happens to be lodged in Rincewind’s head, and the easiest way to get it is to kill him.

On revisiting the “Colour of Magic” after 20 years or so, I still thoroughly enjoyed it, but I found it to be maybe a bit weaker than I remembered. It was kind of a wandering piece, with a few subplots that didn’t really seem to go anywhere. “The Light Fantastic,” though, seemed to me to be where Pratchett really starts hitting his stride. It’s a bit tighter and maybe a little funnier.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Review: "The Gospel of Loki" by Joanne Harris

I enjoyed Joanne Harris’ first Norse mythology-themed young adult novel “Runemarks” a number of years ago, so, for the title alone, I couldn’t resist her latest “The Gospel of Loki” ($25.99, Saga Press).

The approach has become pretty common in recent years – take a classic tale and turn it around from the villain’s viewpoint. For this book, Harris turns some familiar tales from Norse mythology on their head, as we get the view through the eyes of the trickster god Loki.

From the very beginning of his relationship with Odin, Loki is an outcast in Asgard. He’s not a true god, and the others make sure he knows it. They are, however, eager to use his talents when he can help them. His perception of his treatment causes resentment that will eventually put the worlds on the path to Ragnarok.