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.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Game of Thrones 15 min. Preview!

I cannot wait for April 17th! If you have not watched it yet here is the 15 min. preview for the The Game of Thrones. If don't have HBO, get it. If you have not read A Song of Ice and Fire books 1-4, go get them and read them. I cannot say how epic this story is... You will just have to read it and find out.