Saturday, November 12, 2011

Review of Sword of Fire and Sea by Erin Hoffman

Three generations ago Captain Vidarian Rulorat's great-grandfather gave up an imperial commission to commit social catastrophe by marrying a fire priestess. For love, he unwittingly doomed his family to generations of a rare genetic disease that follows families who cross elemental boundaries. Now Vidarian, the last surviving member of the Rulorat family, struggles to uphold his family legacy, and finds himself chained to a task as a result of the bride price his great-grandfather paid: the Breakwater Agreement, a seventy-year-old alliance between his family and the High Temple of Kara'zul, domain of the fire priestesses.

The priestess Endera has called upon Vidarian to fulfill his family's obligation by transporting a young fire priestess named Ariadel to a water temple far to the south, through dangerous pirate-controlled territory. A journey perilous in the best of conditions is made more so by their pursuers: rogue telepathic magic-users called the Vkortha who will stop at nothing to recover Ariadel, who has witnessed their forbidden rites.

Together, Vidarian and Ariadel will navigate more than treacherous waters: Imperial intrigue, a world that has been slowly losing its magic for generations, secrets that the priestesshoods have kept for longer, the indifference of their elemental goddesses, gryphons—once thought mythical—now returning to the world, and their own labyrinthine family legacies. Vidarian finds himself at the intersection not only of the world's most volatile elements, but of colliding universes, and the ancient and alien powers that lurk between them.
The first thing that I would like to talk about with this review is what's right on the cover. The art. Fan'freakin'tastic is what this cover is. And after completion of the novel it is something that can be marveled at more so because I think that it really does capture the essence of the characters told of in the pages that follow it. Dehong He, whose other work can be found HERE, is truly phenomenal artist and I would never have known about him if it were not for this book. A good cover art can capture the imagination of the reader and take the reader to new heights when it is good. I have to be honest, I judge books by their covers. But here is the thing, I don't judge the story inside by the cover. There is a big difference in my opinion. I won't not read a story just because the cover threw me off, but I may buy a book based on the cover art over something that a didn't catch my eye. You know the old adage, It's whats on the inside that counts not the outside. Well, from personal experience I can tell you that I have bought books with these gorgeous covers and have had my heart broken because the story did not live up to the expectations the cover gave me. But in the case of Sword of Fire and Sea this was not the issue.

At the beginning of our story we get introduced to our hero, Captain Viderian Rulorat who is being forced to hold up his families end of a bargain that he wishes that he didn't have anything to do with. As the description above states, he is soon tasked with delivering a fire priestess (yeah, badass, right?!) to a water temple. And already I am giddy cause we get our own elemental priestesses who practice some good old fashioned earth, wind, fire and water magic awesomeness. Before the journey even gets started he knows that the way he is instructed to go is treacherous at best and he is quickly advised that the journey will be made even more difficult by the Vkortha. The mind manipulating scum of a people that will stop at nothing to kill the fire priestess because she became privy to a huge secret of theirs.

Along the way, we are treated with some writing that does well for drawing you in to the surroundings. Viderian and his crew make for easy acquainting to the goings on of ship life and routine. As with any good fantasy, trouble soon ensues and the battle sequences are wrought with a deep suspense that literally had me on the edge of my seat waiting for what was going to happen next. Arialdel quite literally adds her own fuel to the fire and her and Viderian fall into this almost too perfectly matched relationship. And how could he not, I ask?
"The scent of her skin, a peculiar aroma of mingled cinnamon and sandalwood, soared into his senses, revealing a dizzying depth to the tantalizing hints that had come to him before always from a distance."
With the hypnotic lilt of such passages one cannot help being swept away with Vidarian and Ariadel on the Empress Quest as they sail the high seas of adventure. However, the adventure does lead our travelers onto land which is a good thing, because a whole novel at sea may have been a turn for the worse. Being the first of... Well, to tell you the truth I don't really know how many this series plans to take on. Maybe someone knowing the answer to that question could leave a comment? So, being the first in the series we have a barrage of characters good and bad. The sequence is small, but I am already a huge fan of Orchids. As I say, her part in this is small but I hope to see more of her and her skills in the future. And of course, who doesn't love gryphons??? There is a Gryphon on the cover and I just assume that it is Thalnarra, but I could be wrong. But there are more, lots more and that added it's own intricate part in the start of this series. The character development of the gryphons was a little strange to me at first but it takes nothing away from the story. With a great means of communication that rallied their part in the story for me, helped quite a bit and in the end I think it is an element of this series that will make it stand out.

I wouldn't call the end of this novel a cliff hanger, but there are definitely questions left unanswered and I will be anxiously awaiting the next in the series just to see where Ms. Hoffman takes the story of Captain Vidarian Rulorat. In a world where it seems magic was fading from it completely, this hero just might be the key to it coming back full tilt and that is really exciting for me. As with many first novels, our hero is stretching his proverbial wings (no pun intended) with his new strengths and just the anticipation of what he will be doing when he finally learns what he is doing is enough to keep me reading. Thank-you Ms. Hoffaman for an intriguing start to what I hope will be another great series of high magic and even higher adventure. This book soars for me and I hope many other will give it the chance it deserves.

4 out of 5 penguins! (Why penguins you ask? Because I would have given this a 3.5 but who has the heart to cut a penguin in half?)

And I leave you with some of the most amazing music ever. We all miss you Syd!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Review of Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman

C.S. Friedman, acclaimed author of The Coldfire Trilogy, returns to the epic style which has made her one of the most popular fantasy writers in the genre. In this first book of the trilogy, Friedman introduces readers to a world of high fantasy, replete with vampire-like magical powers, erotic interludes, treachery, war, sorcery, and a draconic creature of horrific power and evil that will have readers eagerly awaiting the next novel in the series.
I have to start this review out by stating that C.S. Friedman is one of my favorite fantasy and science fiction writers in all my years. I have read her Coldfire trilogy countless times. In Conquest Born and This Alien Shore have both been on my shelf for quite sometime and always come highly recommended when asked who and what to read in the science fiction / space opera realm. So when I seen that she was writing a new series I got all drooly and fanboy like and bought Feast of Souls the day that it went on the shelves. Needless to say, I devoured it. It was awesome and so much more. This blog didn't exist then and my Goodreads account didn't exist so, basically, I was a reading nobody. Not to say that people who don't blog or share their reading adventures are the pariahs of the reading world because I used to be on that boat too. Probably like most of us were. Anyway, to my point (what was my point again?). My point is this. I use to shread books. No, I don't mean I got the scissors out when I was finished and cut them up into little pieces or anything, that would be something like sacrilege, right? Yes, yes it would. No, what I mean is that I would read a ton of books and not really care what I liked about them. I just thought, man... that was fricken' awesome, ok, on to the next. Now, I guess you could say that I have matured... YEAH right, who am I fooling? Just call me Peter Pan. But seriously, this is the reason that I write a blog. C.S. Friedman is the reason I am writing this blog. I still re-read my favorites like everyone does on occasion but, I re-read this one for the specific purpose of talking about it on here. I don't even really know how I am. But I am going to give it a shot. C.S. Friedman deserves that and so much more from me.

I stated above that I was going to try. Why "try"? Because this book is massive. Not only massive on a page count level, I think the MMP weighs in about 576 pages. And when I say heavy, I am not talking in pounds here either. The scale of the story is large as well. That is why it is so captivating. I have always felt that in all her books Ms. Friedman's writing opens up into this huge spectrum. This vivid picture in my mind of a world so large. These masterful settings just enhance their inhabitants to the nth' degree. The realms of the Magister Trilogy are no exception. The backdrop is secondary of course but also necessary in knowing where our characters come from. Out of these realms our characters have back-story that gives a reader freedom to imagine what doesn't come out of the book. It is imagination in a bottle. So where do you even start reviewing a book so compelling. So thought provoking. Well, I don't know where you would start but, I am going to start with Kamala.

Kamala, Kamala, Ka-ma-la... Sounds a lot like Lam-ba-da. That is right folks, the dance of love. Wait, where am I. Oh yeah. Kamala. This female protagonist is the exact reason why I read fantasy. She knows exactly what she wants. And she knows exactly how to get it. Tormented from a past that she cannot forget or live in any longer she hunts down a magister to make something of herself. Kamala is flawed in so many ways that it isn't even funny but, that does not stop her in getting what she wants. Albeit early on she doesn't have any idea as to what that is yet. But hey, who really does. Kamala is upended into a completely new life and sure she is scared to death of what is out there but she knows that after all the unfortunate events that have happened to her, nothing can hurt her anymore. Although, Kamala's character is fueled by so much revenge and hate she maintains  a caring for humanity and an urge to protect the innocent. This makes her an uber-character in my book. You know the one... That one book of characters we all carry around with us. Yeah that one. Even if you don't know it, you have one too. You just might not be to proud to admit it. Were talking seriously flawed here people. I mean come on! Her and Andovan, dark traveling wagon, limited to know space and THAT happens. And she already knew what he was to her? AWWWW!!! Come on now, you thought I was going to tell you what happens? NOPE go read it yourself. I mean that is some horrendously screwed up AWESOMENESS there. So, lets move on to Andovan. I can only talk Kamala for so long. She literally drives me crazy. Anybody else hear Fine Young Cannibals in the back of their head like all the time?

Andovan is another character that has so much going for him as a great character. Flawed physically but so strong spirited (no pun intended). Being the third son of the King of all the realms he's pretty much left to his own devices. But after the brief descriptions of the two heirs ahead of him. His brothers seem to pale in comparison to the natural kingly qualities he has inherited from not only his father but his mother as well. Let me pause here to point out that our wonderful author is killing to birds with these semi glimpses of the other two brothers. This gives the impression that there will be more of them to come and your just going to have to wait and see. And it let's you know just how broad the scope of the story can evolve into. But for now our focus is on Andovan and Kamala and a few other sub-character plots that are revolving around the two mains. One of which are the Magisters. But in the beginning there is not really a focus on one in particular. I think this was done mainly to describe how their society works before any one is really brought out into the spotlight. But by the end, Colivar stands out to me as the Magister that is going to stir up the most old people dust. I am not going to touch to much on Andovans Mom but she has a presence in this book that is worth mentioning but, I have a feeling were not seeing the last of her.

At the end of Feast of Souls on both occasions I am left with a feeling of, how is she ever going to wrap this story up in only two more novels. When you are taking into account that this world is coming full circle and things that once were are now here again. The legend of it is magically massive and it is hard to conceive that is already a third of the way over.

Another reason that I am reading this one again is that I have just recently procured the second book to this series I know... I am a little late but life happens and books like these are the treats of life and are meant to be savored. Plus it has been a little while that I thought I needed a refresher before I dive into Wings of Wrath. Please stay tuned and as always, a final thank-you to Celia S. Friedman for without your words to fill my imagination and entertain my life, I would most certainly not be who I am today. Thank-you. You are one of the major reasons reading THIS is even possible.


I leave you all with a music artist and his video that I was recently introduced to. It is as epic as the book I just reviewed. I have to pass it on so it can hopefully reach some people who have not already seen it. It really is made of win on so many different levels.... Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review of Shadow's Lure by Jon Sprunk

The unforgiving Northlands . . .

In Othir, he was at the top of the food chain—an assassin beyond compare, a dark shadow in the night. But Caim left that life behind when he helped an empress claim her throne. And now his past has come calling again.
Searching for the truth behind the murder and disappearance of his parents, Caim discovers a land in thrall to the Shadow. Haunted by temptations from the Other Side, he becomes mired in a war he does not want to fight.
But there are some things a son of the Shadow cannot ignore, and some fights from which he can't run. In this battle, all of Caim's strength and skill won't be enough.

For none can resist the Shadow's Lure.
*** WARNING ***
This review contains spoilers for book 1 Shadow's Son.

Man! Was I glad to have this sequel in hand when I finished book one. In Shadow's Lure we start things off directly after the events in Shadow's Son so, if you have not read that one get on it straight away! Jon Sprunk brings his merry (and not so merry {Sybelle, this means you}) band of characters in for another round of chewing bubblegum and kicking ass.... And I don't think any of these characters ever heard of bubblegum.

The flow or pace of this series just keeps intensifying as we branch out into multiple plots. I was a little concerned about this at the end of book one as I knew that Caim was not sticking around in Othir and Josey was not going with him to the north. This all was a pretty smart move as it added a depth to Josey's character that I don't think we would have seen otherwise. Her plotline in my opinion was just as good as Caim's in this release. She really starts coming into her own as the new Empress and I was thoroughly impressed with her determination and strong sense of honor and duty despite feeling that she did not grow up with those things as primary concerns. In her new role it was like you got the whole political intrigue deal but it wasn't over the top and boring with a whole bunch of courtly duties and riff-raff. I honestly did not expect to see much action out of her character but, like I said I was genuinely surprised because Josey kicks royal butt! The thing I am really liking about this series is that I just want to keep reading it. There is still a LOT that can happen with Josey's plot line. The outlook for order in the cities still doesn't look good but I am hopeful that Josey is on the right track to making things work.

Now I would like to turn my attentions to the man of the hour, Mucho A'ssassino NO. freakin' 1.
Caim. Yeah, he da man, man! No seriously, I could have got away with calling his character in book one, ahhhh... Meh. But after the events of book two I have mad respect. I still think him and I are not connecting on a huge level but he is growing on me. By this I mean that If I were pretty much killing people for money from the time I was a pup, then why in the world would you not jump all over learning these shadow weapons. Well, it's not like he has had mad time in the woods to contemplate the mysteries of the universe for years, so I guess this is the way it is. I also get the feeling that he is somehow sensing that he will lose himself if he totally submits to the power of the shadows but, that could have just been that dark sword or something. I guess were just going to have to wait till book three to see what happens. Caim also comes across some pretty cool folks on his trek up north. People like Hagan that actually know who he is and can tell him a smidgen of who he is and what his father was like. Here again, this whole time sprunk is feeding us scraps of information but who cares when there is some really cool and gruesome bloodshed! This is where the writing really takes off for me. With Caim leading the action scenes in this one, these are some of the best battle sequences I have read in a long time. Sprunk also provides some pretty vivid imagery with his writing that I would like to tip my hat to. The scene where Liana and Caim are alone after their little snow-in and they stumble upon a recently attacked village that Liana recognizes and Caim walks on into some grotesque savagery. I think I went back and read that scene like three times.

This brings me to that little nasty named Sybelle. I might say that reading her scenes was kind of TORTUROUS, hehehehe. This chick has definitely got some Daddy issues. Her character POV's were just as good as any of the others and I was actually excited when they would pop-up to see how she was scheming. Like I tried to describe above with Caim I may better explain here with the simple illustration that I got all the badassery from Sybelle but kept hoping Caim starts doing some of the same stuff. Here again, this does not take away from the novel at all.

Trust me when I say that my review skimps on A LOT on some great highlights and more that I did not even mention i.e. more Kit (awesome fill-in backgroundie info), Keegan POV's and Sybelle's love child!! Let's just say the apple didn't even fall from the tree, it just rotted.

So, in conclusion, here I sit, tapping my fingers on my keys.... waiting. Well, such is the life of a fantasy series reader. Take your time Jon, but just so you know this fan can't wait for Book three!


Tribute video for the amount of bloodshed in this novel...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Follow my Blog Friday!!! Be like Abe and "Follow Me"

Looks like a great way to get people to follow your blog... Hope it works, crosses fingers!

The Question: If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?

The Answer: Although this is a really tough one for me, I am a huge fan of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan so I am going to have to go with an Asha'man!

But being a romantic at heart, I would want to be bound to an Aes Sedai. I think my girl would gladly play that role for me too!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review of Shadow's Son by Jon Sprunk

In the holy city of Othir, treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, just the place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and few scruples.
Caim makes his living on the edge of a blade, but when a routine job goes south, he is thrust into the middle of an insidious plot. Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers, and sorcery from the Other Side, his only allies are Josephine, the socialite daughter of his last victim, and Kit, a guardian spirit no one else can see. But in this fight for his life, Caim only trusts his knives and his instincts, but they won't be enough when his quest for justice leads him from Othir's hazardous back alleys to its shining corridors of power. To unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he must claim his birthright as the Shadow's Son . . .
Caim the main character in this story has had a pretty rough life. So much so that he has taken a life of crime, espionage and of course... Contract killing. Because we all know that devising complex assassination schemes is the only thing left to do when things start getting tough for a bloke. No, seriously, Shadow's Son is one of those novel's for me that I began and was not sold right away on the main character. It took me a little while to figure out if I was going to like him. I bring this up because I don't know if it was the authors intent to lay the story out this way or maybe I am being way to analytic. For me, it comes back to the age old debate of hero / antihero and good vs. evil and all that. defines antihero as: "a protagonist who lacks the attributes that make a heroic figure, as nobility of mind and spirit, a life or attitude marked by action or purpose, and the like." Caim kills people and he does it well and without emotion. The act is just a job. But at the end of the story you may just have a different opinion. Caim and his story had one saving grace for me at the beginning and that was Kit. That is not to say however that I would have passed on this because if you like action, blood, knives, guts and arterial spray then this is definitely a boat you want to be on. A friend and fellow blogger at The Stamp (of Approval) makes the remark, "I admit, I have a penchant for assassins. Am I the only one?" Well, I am here to throw in on the assassin band wagon. I don't know about everyone else but, I was gung-ho for creeping around in my ninja footed jammies as a kid. Sneaking around and getting the jump on Mom when I thought she wasn't looking, I was all about that stuff as a kid. Then onto my teenage years when I was plotting how I was going to sneak out of the house and furthermore, how I was going to sneak Mom's car out of the carport without her waking up. Yeah... I was an assassin with a car!? What are you going to say. Last but not least, there has to be a little bit of that same assassin in us that gets us up at 3:00 in the morning to make that trek in the near freezing cold to the solitude of a seemingly desolate mountain. The excitement that makes us climb a tree 20 feet in the air to sit with the bitter winds and contemplate the meanings of the universe. All for that one moment when everything goes quiet, you hear the small rustling of the brush below. The brief glimpse of your potential prey to be a stag of epic massiveness and horns that reach to the heavens. The blood racing through every vein in your body at mock speeds. Your increasing heartbeat that your mind tries to force down in seconds to keep you from leaping around like a monkey. But no, you quell your thoughts and ever so slowly pull up your well loved and honed bow. You draw the nocked arrow back to your cheek and wait. At that moment you are one with your surroundings. You feel nothing and yet everything about the moment. The only motion is the slow warm bursts of breath that seep into the air like a fine mist only to dissipate a few short seconds later. It is only you and the beast. And one of you is not going to leave these woods. You find your opening as if you were holding life itself in your hands, and then you let go. The world erupts like a volcano in your body. A thousand thoughts stream through your head as you scramble out of your nest in pursuit of your families food for the next few weeks. You've done well, you think to yourself... I am a master assassin. Maybe for me that is what makes me love these assassin books so much. Now on with the review!

The pace of Shadow's Son was, well... pretty perfect. It was fast pretty much the entire read with some of the intense scenes that keep you reading just to find out what happens next. Josephine (Josey) was introduced relatively early in the story and like Caim she had a rocky start but if you give her time, I think she rounds out really well and ends this story like a person of her station should. In this particular aspect of the ending it seemed very fairy tale storyesque but I think that it was appropriate and it works. I didn't really see it coming though and that was nice. Sometimes you see these things a mile away and it kind of ruins it. But this was cool and I loved it. Your probably wondering what I am babbling on about but I am not giving things away... So if your reading this then your just going to have to go read the book after your done listening to me babble and find out for yourself.

I am just going to briefly touch on Kit although she is probably one of my favorite aspects of the story. Kit is a ghost / spirit / demon / I don't have any more names to describe exactly what she is because partly it is still kind of a mystery even to Caim himself. Lets just say that our wonderful author has given us a sidekick or counterpart to our multifaceted con-hero that is beautiful, smart and sexy in a spirit like way and the real kicker is that nobody (atleast human) can see her except Caim. Awesome! I am really hoping we get to see a lot more development on the whole Kit - Caim dynamic. I have a gut feeling that together these two will wreak some pretty spectacular chaos when they come into their own. I think this lack of knowledge about their abilities slows the story down a little bit. But I am hoping this just adds to the development for the next two novels in the series.

Caim, Josey and Kit have a main opponent aside from other impending dooms that kind of glazes over my above stated lag. And that of course comes in the form of a little baddy named Leviticus. Yes, the real question this book asks is can the real evil in a book carry the hero's until they come into their powers and abilities. Was Mr. Pratchett correct when he said, "Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it." The answer to that is "YES"! I looked forward to when the breeze would blow then slow as Leviticus entered stage right with a silence that chilled everyone in the room. Including me and I am not even in the book! His presence added new dimension to the scenes and I found myself gripping the edges of the book waiting for him to pop in. I was sad when the aliens came in their little space shuttles and took him away!***

In summation, Shadow's Son is one fabulous first novel. Despite my little stumble with Caim at the beginning Sprunk has created some truly great characters that as the plot unfolds, thickens and wraps you up in it, just keep getting better. Your really going to want to have the next novel on hand for when you finish this one so you can jump right back into the action. I can tell you true that I am a 3rd of the way into Shadow's Lure (Book 2) and it does just keep getting better. Something is building and it is going to be HUGE! Jon, if your reading this... No pressure and keep up the excellent work. I LOVE this series thus far. Thanks for giving me yet another good read that I can recommend and pass on to all my friends.

4.5/5 Quills

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review of The Last Page by Anthony Huso

"The city of Isca is set like a dark jewel in the crown of the Duchy of Stonehold. In this sprawling landscape, the monsters one sees are nothing compared to what’s living in the city’s sewers.
Twenty-three-year-old Caliph Howl is Stonehold’s reluctant High King. Thrust onto the throne, Caliph has inherited Stonehold’s dirtiest court secrets. He also faces a brewing civil war that he is unprepared to fight. After months alone amid a swirl of gossip and political machinations, the sudden reappearance of his old lover, Sena, is a welcome bit of relief. But Sena has her own legacy to claim: she has been trained from birth by the Shradnae witchocracy—adept in espionage and the art of magical equations writ in blood—and she has been sent to spy on the High King.
Yet there are magics that demand a higher price than blood. Sena secretly plots to unlock the Cisrym Ta, an arcane text whose pages contain the power to destroy worlds. The key to opening the book lies in Caliph’s veins, forcing Sena to decide if her obsession for power is greater than her love for Caliph.
Meanwhile, a fleet of airships creeps ever closer to Isca. As the final battle in a devastating civil war looms and the last page of the Cisrym Ta waits to be read, Caliph and Sena must face the deadly consequences of their decisions. And the blood of these conflicts will stain this and other worlds forever."
I wanted to start this review off by saying that I feel somewhat ashamed that I do at times... cringe... judge a book by it's cover. But, I gotta say that the Art Department at TOR hit this one out of the park. I just love that BAM of blue and smokey eye set with glyphs of magic... I want them. I don't care what I have to do... I want them. Wonders auspiciously if I can get a full poster of this cover to hang on my wall to just look at... wishfully thinking.

The synopsis for this book left my mouth watering. An age old book, holding secrets of a forgotten, inaccessible magic. Even more intriguing is that the books lock can only be opened with a recipe of blood and love. The novel focuses mainly on two character POV's and this was great for me because as the novel progressed I kept having ping-pong like battles in my head about which character I liked more. Wait, who am I kidding? The dice roll, this scenario comes up and, I am going to take the witch every time. I am really glad that Sena ended up having a major role in this book as I may have gotten tired of Caliph Howl. But, to be fair he had his strong points as well. After Caliph and Sena have left the High College the book took on this shroud of gloom over Caliph's head that did not let up the whole book and that was what kept his character interesting for me (sad I know). Was I actually going to read about a seemingly good guy being shoved into a position of power (that he did not want) and forced to go into civil war to keep his country and people free of a government run by a high council in lieu of a king? I guess I was. And I loved it to boot! Sena's scenes took the cake for me though. We got to see a little more of her background, her training, the Shradnae witchocracy who play just as important a role in the politics as any other peoples in the novel. And who doesn't love a witch who is trained in the high art of.... well, your just going to have to read and find out!

I talk about prose a LOT in my reviews. This is not something new to me. When I was a lot younger I did not pay attention to it as much. It was, read for the adventure and the places a book took my imagination. Then over the years, that and other things started taking second string to the words and construction of sentences of a book. I can certainly still read for the story elements and plot points and character development but now, I really know I am going to love a book when in the first chapter or so it is palpable that an author has taken his time with the words he or she writes. When words effect you in a way that they almost seem tangible. Take for instance this first quote I picked out of the The Last Page,
"Numbers became symbols. Symbols compiled words. "Language shapes reality," said the philosophers and linguists. So the maths of the Unknown Tongue deconstruct reality; form new realities-whatever realities the mathematician desires. "In reality," claimed the holomorphs of Desdae, "there is none."
Wow... I think I may have read that sentence five times before I moved on. They may not be significant to the story or they may. They may not catch anyone else reading the book. But to me, they inspire. They make me smile and think happy thoughts. This is what reading does for me and this is why I will try to bury myself in books. Compelling as this may be for me, it may turn others away. The word usage in this book gets a little complex and it helps to read from a Kindle that has a built in dictionary where all I have to do is highlight the word and it can tell me the meaning in a second.

Anyway... On with the rest of the review. Another thing that made this book stand out for me is that it's a veritable garden salad mix of genre's that has something for everyone in it. I like books that are not willing to be pigeon holed into one specific boundary of genre. This book has equal parts fantasy, magic, industrial steam-punk, military (zeppelin dog-fights), and bold enough for the men to carry swords! Fan-freakin'tastic if you ask me! And... And... And... On top of all that we get monsters!!! Sorry, brief slip on monster drool overflow.

This book does have a second part coming out called "Black Bottle" and I am REALLY excited about its release. The unknown untold meaning of the elusive title "The Last Page" provides me with enough mystery to keep reading and with a strong desire to find out what is in store for these characters that I have grown to care about. Thank-you Anthony Huso for this great story. Keep up the good work and good luck in all future endeavors.

My Song for Caliph and Sena...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Review of Low Town by Daniel Polansky

Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops . . . and sorcery. Welcome to Low Town.
In the forgotten back alleys and flophouses that lie in the shadows of Rigus, the finest city of the Thirteen Lands, you will find Low Town. It is an ugly place, and its cham­pion is an ugly man. Disgraced intelligence agent. Forgotten war hero. Independent drug dealer. After a fall from grace five years ago, a man known as the Warden leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs. Every day is a constant hustle to find new customers and protect his turf from low-life competition like Tancred the Harelip and Ling Chi, the enigmatic crime lord of the heathens.

The Warden’s life of drugged iniquity is shaken by his dis­covery of a murdered child down a dead-end street . . . set­ting him on a collision course with the life he left behind. As a former agent with Black House—the secret police—he knows better than anyone that murder in Low Town is an everyday thing, the kind of crime that doesn’t get investi­gated. To protect his home, he will take part in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psy­chotic head of Black House, but the truth is far darker than he imagines. In Low Town, no one can be trusted.

Daniel Polansky has crafted a thrilling novel steeped in noir sensibilities and relentless action, and set in an original world of stunning imagination, leading to a gut-wrenching, unforeseeable conclusion. Low Town is an attention-grabbing debut that will leave readers riveted . . . and hun­gry for more.
 Extra props to the good people at Double Day Publishing for sending me an early arc of this upcoming novel to be published August 16th. After reading the premise of this one on another bloggers site, I was enticed by the brief but descriptive look into the workings of this city and the man who I would be following. That first sentence was what hooked me actually, "Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops . . . and sorcery. Welcome to Low Town.". If ever givin' the chance to meet the author I invision some cheap version of that scene in Jerry McGuire with the coined phrase changed to something like, "You had me at drug dealers and magic." With such a vivid attention to the detail of the city that this novel takes place, it was just really easy to hop from scene to scene and put it together in my head. This one crosses a bunch of different genre boundaries but did it in a real fluid way and that will appeal to someone looking for something new and different. I guess what appealed to me the most was the noir, pulp fiction, crime sort of feel to it. I have been a huge fan of both Sin City (Frank Miller) If you haven't already done so... Read immediately and The WHOLE of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher that just keep getting better and this one falls in there somewhere. In my humble opinion the writing of Low Town stands out just as well as those and more. It was a real effort on my part not to devour this one in one sitting. If I can add one thing I didn't like, it's that the pacing of the overall novel felt great and kept me turning the pages. Then I got to the end and it just felt like it came together too fast, then ended.

The man, AKA The Warden, did not let me down. I really got into the whole "Anti-hero" thing on this one. And the author did a great job setting this up throughout the whole novel. Feeding readers pieces of his past that make you think, this guy has just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. And more over the sense that the government, city and people he grew into protecting and fighting for would no doubt roll him over and stick it to him the first chance they got. And they did. This is a guy that was a war vet and a die-hard type police investigator that just got fed up with the bureaucratic bullshit and decided that he could make a better living on and doing things his way. On his own for about five years, peddling Pixies Breath (a designer drug with a name alone that would probably have me trying some) and dreamvine a free based drug that sounds like when freebased would give aurora borealis a run for best smoke and light show. Having done this business for a while you know our Warden knows the city and it's inhabitants pretty well like the back of his hand actually. Not to mention this is where he grew up, on the streets, fending for himself, doing what he had to to survive. The one thing that I really like and stuck out to me on several occasions is that our main character, although turned to a life of crime and drug addled the for the better part of the novel, was an extremely intelligent individual. I guess I can say that went a long way for me to like his character and give people something to think about when they see people on the street and decide they have them pegged for who they really are just by a quick glance.

Along with the Warden, we get to look at a slew of other characters that help bring this whole thing into fruition better than your Grandma's stew. Amoung my favorites would be Ling Chi, Mesieke, and the Madam Dark Eyes. The dialogue between the characters is full of wit and banter that I just can't get enough of and at times, I could even call it flawless. Especially, conversations between Ling Chi and the Warden. For some reason this type of refined speech has always made me giddy and excited for more. Can people actually learn to talk like that and have extended conversations? If so, I need to find someone willing to take me on as an apprentice!

Understanding fully that this review is FULL of holes, I really do hope that I have peaked someones interest in picking this one up when it comes out. It has a lot to offer with fresh ideas and great characters. I am fairly certain that we have not seen the last of Daniel Polansky and his cast of Low Town and I for one am eagerly awaiting what is in store next. Thanks Daniel for a great story that kept me guessing up to the very end.


Song I thought about for in my review...

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably together.
Right from start of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms I was hooked on finding out the fate of our young protagonist, Yeine Darr. With the recent death of her Mother she thought she knew entirely, she travels to Sky where she quickly learns that she doesn't even know half the issues, secrets, lies, games and whatever other skeletons her family hides. A quote from Cersei Lannister can sum it up the best, "In the game of thrones, you either win or you die." And that my friends is exactly what our young Yeine is up against. Understanding, that it probably was more fluff than necessary, I was kinda hoping to dig a little deeper into the back story of Yeine. Don't get me wrong, I don't think this took away from the story in any way shape or form. Being the character driven reader that I am, I was just curious at the peaks into her history that we did get and it left me wanting a little more, that's all.

This book was a great change of pace for me in the fantasy worlds that I have been navigating lately. When Yeine is thrown head first into the raunchy politics of recently becoming an heiress to the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, she has to act quickly and strategically to outwit what seems to be everybody else in the immediate Kingdom. A place where nothing goes unnoticed the odds are not stacked well in her favor. Especially, when put up against her cousins Scimina and Relad, the leading two candidates in the running for the throne. Oh, man, Scimina... How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways... And to that same regard, I can only imagine the kind of justice for such behavior in the hands of a god. Man, I wish I were a fly on the wall for everything in store for her.

It has to be said that Nahadoth is my favorite character of this story. Saying that he is a god just doesn't give him the credit that the complexity of his nature demands. The descriptions our wonderful author gives us of the Nightlord is in a word, remarkable. I love it when characters like Naha are so fleshed out you can close your eyes and see them standing right in front of you. It has to be said that this is not the only character that Ms. Jemisin does this with. All the main characters of the story have this and the story works so well around them.

Musical interlude not really related to the review but put in just because I was thinking of it and well, I can:

The Universe that Ms. Jemisin has created for us, honestly is unlike any setting that I have read about in a very long time. The idea that gods and godlings walk and breath and communicate right along side humans was absolutely fascinating to me. What takes this idea even further is that these gods are enslaved to the humans. Using their power to bend the universe to our will. Over the course of the novel you find out just how this all happened and it is a history lesson that I would have been glad to sit through back in the day. This world is highly imaginative and is a great setup for future books in this series. And with the gods right there at each turn, I am super excited to pick up the next novel The Broken Kingdoms. It is no wonder that the city in which this story takes place is called Sky because it really is a breath of fresh air. Thank-you so much Ms. Jemisin for a look into the depths of your imagination. And what a great world you have created for me to escape to. I have never been a student of language, but this story hooked me with great characters and great writing. And as it progressed the prose got better and better. Does the story develop the writing or does the writing develop the story? I don't even know if that question makes sense... But this is some awesome story telling magic.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Review of Black Halo (Aeons Gate book 2) by Sam Sykes

Lenk and his companions set sail to bring the relic away from the reach of Ulbecetonth, the Kraken Queen. Haunted by their pasts, plagued by their gods, tormented by their own people and gripped by madness, their greatest foes may be themselves.
When I finished Tome of the Undergates (book 1), I was astonished to say the least. I thought that I was on an actual 3D adventure in Disney Studio's in some Pirates of the Caribbeanesque' type ride. Point being, I wanted more, I needed to find out where this adventure would take me next. Being that Tome of the Undergates was Sam Sykes first novel, and such a great one, there was some apprehension about how Black Halo was going to turn out. Well, ladies and gentlemen, You can all relax because Mr. Sykes has done it again. In the words of Randy Jackson, "Sam Sykes is in it to win it!"

While the majority of book one takes place on a ship, the atmosphere among other things switches to an island after a brief but exciting introduction to an enormous sea creature. Said creature proves to not be of the soft cuddly variety. Gariath (our highly esteemed Dragonman) who is dealing with some mild depression with a strong case of suicidal tendencies thrown in thinks he can take this creature on by himself. This does not end well.

The next thing we know is our lovely band of miscreants are strewn about an island of unknown origin. Lenk, Kataria, and the Dragonman are separated from each other and the other three. It was at this point that I started to really wonder where the author was going with all this and I really started to worry about the the arc of the story Coming Undone.

Brief musical interlude 100% relevant to the story:

Awesome... Love that song. Anyway... I thought that this is where the story was going to take a turn for the worse. So, don't let this throw you off like it did me. Sykes opens the characterization flood gates and smacks you in the face with it like it was yesterday's tuna. I mean seriously, you get a whole new grasp on each of the characters through all this. You can get a more in depth look into someone and gain a certain understanding of a person when they are left to their own devices. More so than through countless pages of dialogue. This combined with a prose that just lifts you out of your seat will surely take your level of emotion for these characters up a couple notches. It's in the beautiful articulation of how these sentences are put together that you can see how our young author is growing and expanding. While Tome of the Undergates had some really great writing, you can just tell that more care was paid to these words so there shape was oh so more fluid. As a reader it is a great thing to look at a string of sentences and want to go back and read them over, say them out loud so that you can hear how they sound. This happens a lot more in this release and it is much better for it.
"Poets, she had suspected, were supposed to have beautiful dreams: silhouettes of women behind silk, visions of gold that blinded their closed eyes, images of fires so bright they should take the poet's breath away before she could put them to paper"

And that is just a glimpse of it...

The tension, in so many ways that you would not think possible, between Lenk and Kataria is growing into an animal force all of its own. I mean, no wonder the guy is going insane. And yet again, our highly imaginative, and deeply cruel in his suggestive tones author is not letting that cat out of it's bag or proverbial box yet. This relationship gives all new meaning to flirting with disaster and I love it! I need to know and I can't wait to find out more!!

To add to the onslaught of madness that is continually shaping our characters, we go a little more deeper into the ways of the Netherlings, the long-faced purple people that attacked our band at Irontide in the first novel. We are introduced to a few characters on this side that create a whole mess of turmoil for Lenk and his crew. Also, the introduction of a couple other races of people, the Gonwa and Owauku who at first glance seem to be working together for a common goal are probably under different agendas entirely. Another great addition to the story is that of Bralston, a highly powerful and mysterious character, schooled rigorously at the Venarium, he is a Librarian. A term we will learn that is to not be taken lightly. The shear intrigue of this character leaves you wanting to know more and I certainly hope that he is developed even further in the next novel.

At 26 years old Sam Sykes is a new powerful voice to be reckoned with in the hack and slash rag tag arena of sword and sorcery fantasy. Action packed and quest driven, Black Halo is an outstanding sequel in the The Aeons Gate Trilogy. Next up in the series is The Skybound Sea and I cannot wait to get it in my hands. Thanks Sam for another great installation to The Aeons Gate. Special thanks to the people of PYR for a copy of this book for me to provide a review that will hopefully bring more people to know yet another great author.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Review of If I Stay by Gayle Forman

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...
A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.
This is the fabulous short novel of a girl named Mia. Within the first couple pages of the book we get a very brief description of what Mia's life is like. Her family, the rock & roll parents that have ever so slowly fell into the laid back lifestyle of parenthood that we all secretly wished we had to grow up around. The 10 year difference in age little brother that she has named Teddy. Her quintessential best friend Kim. And her emo-core / punk rock boyfriend Adam. These characters at the beginning of the novel are set up like chess pieces waiting to be played a little later on in the game.

The back drop for the story is a seemingly small town in Oregon. The kind of small town that gets a little crazy about a half an inch of snow and a drizzle of freezing rain. It is a day such as this that Mia and her brother have a day off school and their parents decide that it would be a good day to take a drive to the mall for some shopping and later dinner with the Grandparents. The next thing you know is that Mia is standing outside of the vehicle casting her gaze upon a catastrophic car accident. Mia discovers that she has not come out of this completely unscathed. She finds her body just as ambulances arrive on seen. These few moments of story go by breathtakingly fast and it is the perfect opening to a novel to suck you into the rest of the story. This begins the journey of a 17 year old girl and the very real decision that she needs to face. Does she stay or does she go. This was the question I asked myself probably a hundred times in the course of the few (too few) hours that I was reading this. While in the ICU of the hospital, Mia, is a bystander. She sees the doctors and nurses all frantically rushing around to see to all the damage that has been done to her. Throughout this time Mia's memory flashes back to different portions of her life. These little glimpses into her past are the glue that hold this story together. They mold what kind of person Mia is and the environment that she grew up in. This all made me feel a sort of knowing about Mia that had me pulling for to come out of this just as if I was her family waiting on the sidelines at the hospital. Another thing that I wanted to point out in this review is Mia's love for classical music. Opposed to her parents love for rock and roll and guitar strumming and drum banging music, Mia, at a very young age took an interest in playing the cello. This adds various kinds of interesting aspects to her story that continued to pull me along and keep reading. I got the impression that Mia's life before the accident was picture perfect. Of course she had her share of teenage angst but, the novel did not reveal any other huge stumbling blocks. This idea that her life was so seamlessly perfect is well played, and it is the main reason (I believe) that had her so conflicted about her decision to stay. How was she suppose to live when her family, the people she loved and cared about the most, were no longer going to be with her.

Thanks to the wonderful technological advances we have with such devices as the Kindle. I found out directly after the acknowledgements of the book that there was a sequel to this wonderful story. It is really a good thing too, because I wanted more due to the startling ending this book has. In fact, if this story did not have a sequel, I probably would have still loved it but, I would have been left to draw my own conclusions, and that doesn't usually sit well with me. Even though there is a continuation... This story will be with me for a long time. Thank-you Ms. Forman for an awesome, heart felt, emotional at times, story that has brought back thoughts to my mind that family and friends can make all the difference when you start to lose sight of hope. I Can't wait to check out Where She Went.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review of The Magicians by Lev Grossman

 Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. He’s a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he’s still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.
Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he thought it would.
Then after graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.
I want to start this review off with a blurb by George R.R. Martin:
“These days any novel about young sorcerers at wizard school inevitably invites comparison to Harry Potter. Lev Grossman meets the challenge head on… and very successfully. The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea. Solidly rooted in the traditions of both fantasy and mainstream literary fiction, the novel tips its hat to Oz and Narnia as well to Harry, but don’t mistake this for a children’s book. Grossman’s sensibilities are thoroughly adult, his narrative dark and dangerous and full of twists. Hogwart’s was never like this.”
The above statement by a highly regarded author (in my humble opinion) in the fantasy genre is exactly what I was feeling when I was finished with this book. As the story progressed, I kept thinking about how I was going to review this novel without a nod and tip of the hat to Harry. I mean how is one fun loving book reviewer of the fantasy and speculative fiction world suppose to imagine a world without Harry Potter and his friends in it? It is not possible. Dan, a friend of mine on Goodreads pointed out in his review of the book that the similarities between them are purely superficial. Wizard... School... That is really where the similarities end. Mr. Martin has said it best, this is no Hogwarts.

Quentin Coldwater is a is a highly educated and fantastic character, but in a lot of ways he is severely flawed. Prior to his admittance into Brackebills, a highly secretive and exclusive school of magic and wizardry, his life is portrayed as semi-normal. He definitely isn't just your average teen graduating high school mind you because of his seemingly easy breeze through a public education then has him seeking out studies in an Ivy league school. This and a few other things give you the opinion that Quentin is grade A book smart and I found this aspect of him thoroughly interesting. The relationship with James and Julia at the beginning of the story adds another interesting element into the chemistry of Quentin's complex brain. These are Quentin's closest friends but there is a deep rooted underlying love that he feels for Julia that makes this friendship somewhat tedious and taxing on him. Growing up Quentin was hopelessly fond of the imaginary world of Fillory and Further, a series of novels reminiscent of The Chronicles of Narnia. And unlike a lot of other children who grew up reading such things, these novels stayed with Quentin and were still thought about through high school. So imagine his surprise while on his way from a particularly bizarre interview to Yale University he is sidetracked and mysteriously led through a passage to a school for magically gifted students. The whole interview process into Brakebills is probably what sucked me into the story so invigoratingly and then furthered through his matriculation there had me turning the pages with eagerness. Along with the totally inviting magic that is going on, Quentin is slowly growing an inevitable intimate relationship with his fellow classmate Alice. From the time we meet Alice, we can tell that there is something special about her. She is an astute student whose hard work does not go unnoticed. It is not long before her, Quentin and another fast learning student named Penny (a guy that I learned to hate throughout the entire novel) are asked to test out of the first year and jump right in with the second year students. It should not go unsaid that Quentin does develop other relationships while in his first few years at Brakebills but those were not as outstanding aspects of novel to me as others. For example, his friend Eliot plays a pretty substantial part in the story but he was not all that intriguing to me. I can even say that it is Eliot who walks Quentin down the fine line of life on the edge, so to speak. But it just wasn't the heart of the story to me. In his fifth year at the University, the novel again took off for me. The whole adventure Quentin and his classmates take to Antarctica to further their studies with the grandly interesting Professor Mayakovsky. I really wish there could be a whole novel based souly on his character. As things are, this is not the case and we only get a drivel into how he came to be professor at the totally secluded school in the antarctic. Where was I.... Oh yeah, this whole trek and stay at Brakebills Antarctica was just a great part of the story to me. From the way they arrived there, to the various look into the way they were taught and the rigorous amount of knowledge that was essentially force fed to them, and finally the final exam at the end had me breathless and wanting more.

It is not long after this we arrive at the second part of the story where Quentin and I both fell off the wagon, literally. Quentin's downward spiral into a bleak existence post Brakebills had me right there with him. This actually had me struggling to pick up the novel and read further because I knew that his path was not going to lead to total fantasy based happiness. As I suspected, it did not. Even though, I was preparing myself for the result of his behavior, I don't think it was enough for the scene with Quentin walking up the stairs of there newly acquired place in upstate New York. After all his shenanigans I should have seen it more clearly. It was really more than I could handle... I literally broke down right there with him. But I trudged on and the story does really pick up after that, although it left an ominous cloud over me that I don't really know that I fully got over until The Momentous Event near the end of the story and Alice's fate is ultimately decided. Now that it is assured there will be a part two to this great story, I am banking on this not being the last we see of the lovely Alice.

Quentin's try of a return to normalcy at the very end of the novel just rounds his character out full circle to me. It goes to show you that once you enter certain doors and they are closed behind you. There is no going back, only forward.

I am so excited for the next novel and Quentin's inevitable return to the world of Fillory. It will be a reunion that I will gladly have with all the wonderful characters and great facets of Lev Grossman's intelligent writing. Mr. Grossman, how I would love to sit and pick your brain about the upcoming story and what I have read so far. You've really got a hold of the making of a great story. Thank-you for a look into the imagination that you are so extravagantly unveiling to us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review of Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

It’s 1939. The Nazis have supermen, the British have demons, and one perfectly normal man gets caught in between

Raybould Marsh is a British secret agent in the early days of the Second World War, haunted by something strange he saw on a mission during the Spanish Civil War: a German woman with wires going into her head who looked at him as if she knew him.

When the Nazis start running missions with people who have unnatural abilities—a woman who can turn invisible, a man who can walk through walls, and the woman Marsh saw in Spain who can use her knowledge of the future to twist the present—Marsh is the man who has to face them. He rallies the secret warlocks of Britain to hold the impending invasion at bay. But magic always exacts a price. Eventually, the sacrifice necessary to defeat the enemy will be as terrible as outright loss would be.

Alan Furst meets Alan Moore in the opening of an epic of supernatural alternate history, the tale of a twentieth century like ours and also profoundly different.
Right out of the box I have to say that if you follow this author's blog you will know why I am and always am going to be a reader and not a writer. True, I only know what Ian has been gracious enough to put on his blog for all his fans to follow but, it really sounds to me like he is getting the shaft left and right when it comes to getting his books published. To his credit though he posts about all his dealings with the entire process which leads me to believe that along with his own struggle with writing AND working a full time job, that he is genuinly aware that there are people out there that have read and loved his books and are wondering where the next in the series is. Well, I am not going to go into a full rant just know that I think problems like this are just hogwash!
Now for the review... Bitter Seeds is a solid, fast paced, part historical fiction, part speculative fiction/fantasy debut novel. I have never been a huge, huge fan of history so out of the countless books out there plotted around WWII I have not read many. But this was a really great read for me as the opposing sides had warlocks and technologically advanced superhumans. To me it seemed like the Nazis had the upper hand for the majority of this portion of the story and it exacted to me just how ruthless and out of control they were. The literary prose in this book is absolutely spectacular. In fact this is the first line in the book and to me it speaks volumnes about the style and quality of writing that you are in for: "Murder on the wind: crows and ravens wheeled beneath a heavy sky, like spots of ink splashed across a leaden canvas." The book in a lot of ways is very character driven and that was appealing to me as well. Even though I have a real distaste for the methods of the S.S. military I found myself relating to the characters on that side. Getting a brief introduction when some of these key people were in there youth went a long way with me. Even on the British Royal Navy side of the war with Marsh and Will we got to see just how far people would go when desparation and loss really sinks in and takes control of you. And although she was more spoken about than anything, Gretal, I think was the real star of the show. I really hope in the upcoming parts she plays a bigger role in all the action. It is really eating at me to find out what exactly the Eidolan's have in their plot for the soul they weasled out of Will. And is Agnes REEEALLY gone? Don't know... It's a mystery that will keep me pining for the rest of the series. As always, Thank-you Mr. Tregillis for a great debut novel. May all your publishing woes vanish from the success and praise of this first novel.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Review of Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes


The debut novel from an extraordinarily talented twenty-five-year-old author. Fantasy's next global star has arrived. Lenk can barely keep control of his mismatched adventurer band at the best of times (Gariath the dragon man sees humans as little more than prey, Kataria the Shict despises most humans, and the humans in the band are little better). When they're not insulting each other's religions they're arguing about pay and conditions. So when the ship they are travelling on is attacked by pirates things don't go very well. They go a whole lot worse when an invincible demon joins the fray. The demon steals the Tome of the Undergates - a manuscript that contains all you need to open the undergates. And whichever god you believe in you don't want the undergates open. On the other side are countless more invincible demons, the manifestation of all the evil of the gods, and they want out. Full of razor-sharp wit, characters who leap off the page (and into trouble) and plunging the reader into a vivid world of adventure this is a fantasy that kicks off a series that could dominate the second decade of the century. Right off the bat, I gotta say this book was just frickin' awesome. AND... I need the next one as soon as possible. The thing that made this a really enjoyable read (by far not even the best part of the book) was simply the dialogue between this mishap band of adventurers. And when I say mishap, I mean that Sykes started his story off with five adventurers that could not possibly be any more different in their personalities. So much so that their conversations with one another are filled to the brim with so much sarcasm, hostility at times and witty dry humor that you can't hide the smiles and sudden bursts of laughter at what they are saying.
Lenk, the young, slight of build, silver haired human of the bunch is the leader of the band. His part in the start of this series doesn't dominate the script but, you can definitely tell that the story is centered around him. He faces tough decisions throughout the book that make me cringe and the majority of the time he is just in the wrong place at the wrong time or maybe the right place at the right time to take the position of the leader. His right as the leader may only be held onto the simple fact that he keeps his cohorts from killing one another. By the end of the novel though, as Lenk is starting to lose his grip on sanity, one wonders if he himself might not just start taking out his companions. The unknown conscience inside Lenk's head that is more and more present at the end is enough to keep me reading. My inquisitiveness has to know why this is happening to him and what is causing it. That is not to say that I think we have not already gotten some clues from the conversation he has on the ship ride home but, I still need to to know the nature of this thing that seems to be plaguing him. Which leads me to the next favorite character of the story, Kataria.

Kataria is a Shict. A race of people that are named after the sound of an arrow hitting it's target. How freakin' cool is that, right? She is of lean muscle and sinew. Her ears are long and pointed above her head and she hears a great deal. Also, her eyes are large and emerald of color. Her people were sought out to be destroyed by humans and she carries a hate for them that at times seems like a huge burden. Her relationship to Lenk is a strange one but almost instantly you see that there is going to be something more there. But will it actually happen? Who knows? I don't and, this is just another reason to keep me in the world of the Aeons' Gate. Their troublesome relationship really brought out the thought in my head that there really is a ever so fine line between love and hate. I don't know if this thing between the two of them can end well.

Dreadaeleon or just Dread is the wizard of the band. A lanky thing and scared senseless most of the time boy has his own set of problems. It's like Harry Potter just graduated from Hogwarts and this is where he ended up. I really hope to see this one grow throughout the rest of the series. I think there is a lot of potential that this one shows, young padawan. Dread most definitely has a thing for Asper, although things could go awry there in a heartbeat. And what will become of him now that he has possession of the red stone? His most engaging quality to me (although not brought out a whole lot in this book) is his intelligence. I got the impression from the few parts of the story that talked about his studies at school that he is no slouch and most likely is mad smart. Yeah, most definitely interested in seeing were Sykes takes this character.

Asper is the healer of the bunch. Like a modern day traveling medic who is very religion conscious. A lot is revealed about Asper throughout the the book, most interestingly this curse that she cannot stand and also knows really nothing about. Here again this one aspect of her character is not really discussed a lot but, it is one of the things that is going to keep readers turning these pages to find out what in the heck is happening to her. What in the heck IS happening to her? Being a healer, she fights hard with herself to be warrior like any of the others that she travels with. I thought this was a great add to the people the story is centered around. It added just one more difference to them and kind of solidified in my mind that opposites attract and every piece has a place in the puzzle.

Denaos, A rogue / assassin / specialized interrogation expert / well, I don't know what all else he is but, he may just be the most sane out of all of them. He reacts with the notion that his head is on straight anyway. In a lot of ways his character was elaborated on as much as the other five. This added a certain mystique to him that will hopefully be more fleshed out in upcoming installments.

And finally Gariath... What can you say about Gariath? Gariath is a Dragonman. Supposedly the last of his kind. Gariath doesn't seem to like anyone and tells anyone that frequently. There just does not seem a gap anywhere in him that allows anyone in. But you get a pretty good look into how this came to be near the end of this volume. All in all Gariath turned out to be my most favorite of the bunch. He just doesn't care what anyone else thinks and sets out to do what he does best. He has respect for someone that can put up a good fight and more or less just tears down anything in his way. The fact that he is part dragon (tail and all) and part human is just icing on the cake.

Well, there you have it. All in all this is a quest style fantasy novel with lovable aspects coming out the wazoo. But, at the heart of it, I kept reading for the characters. It is amazing how Sykes weaved together a plot that would keep this rag-tag bunch of misfits together throughout. There is so much more to the beginning of this series that I am not even covering here in this review. So many questions unanswered is why I will keep reading these books. You might not think it is possible to take some of the bleakest scenarios and add things into them that make them laugh out loud but Sam Sykes makes it happen. I applaud his great work here with Tome of the Undergates. And I look forward to the rest of this series. Thank-you Mr. Sykes for making an adventurer out of me through your story.