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.

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.