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...