Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review of The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.
But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change
Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their very lives.
And soon, George is as well.
 Please forgive if I add all the blue material I can to this review of magnanimous proportions, I can only attest that I have been chewing the scenery for more than a few years. Hopefully it will be the freak act that I see it to be in my head!

Enter stage right, a strapping and upstanding young lad of only sixteen years who goes by the name of George Carole. George has many talents and secrets. He's going to share a few with you in these pages you're about to read. And in the end, a lucky few will know what it is to see first hand what magic, mystery and myth truly are. But I digress ...

I am one of the lucky ones. Books have always been a part of my life and maybe that in itself is what gives me the ability ... to let go. To pick up a book such as this one and be transported to another place, another time, another ... life. You see it all the time, advertisements for libraries transformed into gateways into other worlds. Right about now the theme song to Reading Rainbow should all be making it's way through the cobwebbed or maybe not so cobwebbed parts of your brain... "I can be anything ... da da da... Take a look, it's in a book, it's reading rainbow". Ahhhh, the good old days. It's funny after so many re-watchings of Star Trek: TNG, I can no longer imagine LeVar Burton narrating reading rainbow without his visor on! On with the show!

Be wary my faithful readers this book is going to take you on an adventure ride that may leave you a bit unhinged. Reflecting back on the various parts of this novel, I am even now struck by the fact that I can't really say that I have any parts of it that I did not enjoy. It is what a stand alone novel should be. A beginning (of sorts), a middle, and an end (also of sorts). Maybe it is just my coffee addled brain, but a good story blends these so well that you don't know which is which and in the end after the last page has been turned you realize that the book you have just read really came full circle. In the pages of this book you can attest to only following the life and goings on of George for a few months, but good writing will break the barrier of time and you will more likely feel as though you have yourself been traveling with the troupe for years and years. I applaud the fantastic elements of this story truly for what they are. I revel in them, breath them in, take them straight out of the novel and make a playground of them in my head... So sorry, bit overboard, right there. The writing lends itself to drawing vivid images of every scene in this made for my head movie, of sorts? Get me? No, no probably not. The characters in this book are unlike (most likely) anyone you will ever have the chance to meet in your real day to day life. And I am so so glad I have had the chance to have met them. There is an air of mystery in the whole cast, which added to the mystery of the overall plot leads to some enticing reading. But as the story treads on you will become familiar with these people ... almost intimately so. The Characters that make up the the actual troupe are all amazing each one with their own set of dynamics that only after a short time opens them up so you can see them for who they truly are. I have to say that Heironomo (Harry as he is referred to in the book) is probably my favorite. I would pine just as George does in the book for hours spent with him. Shoot ... I want to do a mind meld with him just so I can know everything he does. Trust me, I think you will too.  Secondly, This other "person" in this "other" place was grandly "fleshed" out so that I just could not put the book down while "she" was in it. I have been waiting my whole life to meet her. In the end I guess I won't have the chance after what Silenus does to her. Not being able to tip the secret jar pains me so. The book as a whole is a true testament to the old adage, "Things aren't always what they seem. The reveals keep coming the whole way through the book and it seems that the wow factor just keeps growing. Honestly, if it weren't for persistent schedules and mundane things like sleeping, you could sit and read this novel from cover to cover. It is just that good. Just like sitting and watching a fireworks show or even possibly the best magic performance you have ever seen, you will not want them to end.

Robert Jackson Bennett, my stage hat is off to you. You have really put on the show of a lifetime in this book of yours. This story of George and The Troupe that he ultimately becomes a part of opened up doors in my mind that have been left unopened for a very long time. Thank-you for giving me the opportunity to travel the country and the spaces between with The Troupe. Now I just need to get my hands on your other books. First up, Mr. Shivers, I believe.

As is the case with most theme park rides, this one comes with a height requirement. Let's say 60". Silenus has a bit of a potty mouth. So, check your vocabulary requirements at the gate.

5 out of 5 Benevolently beckoned boggarts bran-dishing berries of mind bending substance and origin.

Is it just me or would Jim Croce make the perfect Silenus if you put him in a top hat and checkered pants?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review of Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies–or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon’s dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he’s about to find out for himself.
Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men’s enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he’s killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next.

Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience!
A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER explores the brutal politics of Empire–and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man’s soul.

Before I get into specifics of the beast that is Scourge of the Betrayer, let me start off by gushing half my blood supply out of my partially severed head from craning my neck to read this in the wee hours of the night just to boast about how good it is. Sorry if that last statement was a tad on the graphic side but if you are going to pick up this book, it's things like that that are waiting for you.

I don't read reviews prior to reading a book. I wait till after I finish them. Sure, I will scan a few lines, blurbs and what have you, that a base network of people and places that I have strategically, scoured and suffered putting together to achieve the necessary niceties that my fellow reading buddies I relate to well in reading choices have bled their hard pondered thoughts onto the world. {That may have been the longest run-on sentence in the history of run- on sentences but ... I am a rebel. And you blessed reader are just going to have to like it!} Sure this work is in the tradition of Glen Cook with his military fantasy, it has the grit of battle you will find in a Dan Abnett or Joe Abercrombie book. But it is not by those people either, this is Jeff Salyards and you would do well to remember his name. There are some works like this, that although good, don't quite hit the mark. I tell you now folks ... This is what dead center looks like. I cannot be certain as to the level or the amount of time and effort that went into this story, but if I were to guess my money is on a great deal. And although it isn't the expansive (at least not yet) titles like Sanderson, Jordan or Martin put out, rest assured that Salyards knows his tale frontwards and backwards. It's tight writing and does well with pace, plot and some other "p" word that I know I am forgetting to throw in there.

The line space directly above and directly below this sentence is to show emphasis on the next two sentences:

The fighting / battle / action sequences and narration of our main character (Arki) during said scenes are spot on. The mechanics of each are honed, well oiled and bite with their own brutal reality.

We all read things differently based on a thousand different variables that I cannot begin to get into here. So in the end it's simple, read what you like. I have been watching horror, reading horror, bizarro, fantasy, stuff you wouldn't even think can come out of somebody's head; see Carlon Mellick III, and yes in some cases experiencing these same things with shock values that are pretty high up on a scale that doesn't even exist. So yeah, when someone said, "It's gritty" or "that was some scary shit, dude". Well, I kinda gotta just nod my head, hope they don't catch my crafty ability to roll my eyes without actually rolling my eyes, and think I am going to have to experience it for myself and see. 

There ... Yeah ... That doesn't even cover it. Let me tell you that this is a new story that has not been done before. The dynamics of our characters are complex and meaty and I like it! Just the contrast alone between our young scrive and his charge, is a bear trap in waiting for good interesting dialogue. There are twists and surprises in this book that took me totally off guard. I laughed out loud several times and even once put the book down totally dumb founded and said... "That didn't just happen, did it?

In conclusion Salyards has created a well of opportunity here for the next couple volumes in this series. Seeing how the series name is Bloodsounders's Arc, we may be in for more than a trilogy and that does nothing but make me smile. There is a lot of directions this could go and I can't wait for the next installment. I can't wait to check out Braylar's sister. Wait that didn't sound right. That was almost like, "Hey Killcoin, would you mind if I, ahhh checked out your sister?" Probably, got me killed just now. No, it's going to be awesome. Thank-you Jeff, for a great, great read. I will be recommending this to all my literary friends and probably even ones that are not.

5 out of 5 Bloody Sword Swinging Syldoons Singing Sweet Songs over Sour Wine.

This book is definitely deserving of some MM.
WARNING strong language used in video above, please refrain from watching unless you are over the age of 200.