Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: "The Blade Itself" by Joe Abercrombie

My attempt to catch up with some of the “big” books I’ve missed in recent years continues with the first installment of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, “The Blade Itself” ($17, Pyr).

The story starts with introductions to a cast of characters. Up first is Logen Ninefingers, a legendary barbarian warrior who finds himself a bit down on his luck and, in fact, running for his life from his former boss who has become King in the North and a group of savage warriors who seem to want to kill everything.

Then, we’re whisked away to learn about Jezal dan Luthar, a dashing, narcissistic swordsman, who is also a bit of a lazy, unmotivated jackass. (OK, he’s more than a bit of a jackass.) Jezal’s mentor Collem West is a commoner who has risen to a high rank through his military prowess, and also has a sister named Ardee that will play heavily in Luthar’s life.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: "The Rook" by Daniel O'Malley

In Daniel O’Malley’s fine debut, “The Rook” ($25.99, Little, Brown), Myfawny Thomas is a secret agent for the British government. The problem is, she doesn’t know it. At least, not at first.

Myfawny (pronounced like Tiffany, she tells us) wakes up in a park in London, surrounded by dead bodies. There’s a note in her jacket pocket that explains she is wearing someone else’s body and gives her quick instructions to get out of her present predicament. A second letter, once she’s in a more secure situation, offers her a choice. There are two safe deposit boxes, one contains the life of the former Myfawny Thomas, the other instructions and enough money to run away and create a new life. Our amnesiac hero makes the choice pretty much anyone would make – take the money and run. But something happens at the bank that changes her mind. Now, she’s determined to find out who the real Myfawny Thomas is and catch the person who erased her memories.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blast from the past

I have recently unearthed a bunch of reviews from some of the earliest days of my original review site, back in the late 1990s. After much inner debate, I've decided to share some of those, so if you take a look at the timeline at the lower right side of the page over the coming weeks, you'll notice some new reviews popping in from the past.

I'll warn you in advance that some of them, particularly the earliest ones, are very short and not very good. But re-reading them has been interesting for me, and maybe it will be for someone else, too.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Memory Lane: "Golden Sword of Dragonwalk" by R.L. Stine

I’ve always loved used book fairs and sales. In years past, I’d bring home huge stacks every time I went. Books that looked marginally interesting to me, well they were only a buck or two, sometimes less, throw them in the basket. These days, I’m a little pickier about what I bring home, mainly because I don’t want to end up on one of those A&E shows. I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that not every book that I get for review needs to come home, and I’m painfully culling the books that fill up my storage building and donating them to the local symphony league’s semi-annual sale, which is also a great place for me to replenish the hoard.

I stopped in last weekend looking not for myself, but for my son. He’s a “Nate the Great” addict, and I’ve been desperately searching for other books that he likes as well as those to keep him going after he runs through that series. The book fair’s a great place for that because I can walk out with a huge stack of books for five or six dollars – the price of one new book. If he sets one aside after the first page, not interested, I’m not that worried about it. It only cost a quarter or 50 cents.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Review: "Farlander" by Col Buchanan

I initially picked up Col Buchanan’s debut “Farlander” ($24.99, Tor) for a couple of reasons. One, I’m a sucker for assassin’s apprentice stories and was hoping for something along the lines of Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy or Brent Weeks’ Night Angel Series. Second, the cover intrigued me with the flying machine in the background and the hint that Buchanan’s world could be a little different from what I’m used to.

The book follows the story of a boy named Nico, who has run away from home and is living as best he can on the streets of a city under siege. On his first attempt at stealing to support himself and a friend, Nico is caught. As it turns out, the man he was stealing from is a farlander named Ash, who is part of a guild of assassins known as the Roshun. Ash is aging and his health is fading. He needs to take on an apprentice, so Nico is offered the option of a harsh and public punishment or going with the farlander for training.