Monday, April 3, 2017

The Collapsing Empire: By John Scalzi

THE COLLAPSING EMPIRE

SUMMARY

Our universe is ruled by physics. Faster than light travel is impossible—until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field available at certain points in space-time, which can take us to other planets around other stars.

Riding The Flow, humanity spreads to innumerable other worlds. Earth is forgotten. A new empire arises, the Interdependency, based on the doctrine that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war—and, for the empire’s rulers, a system of control.

The Flow is eternal—but it’s not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well. In rare cases, entire worlds have been cut off from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that the entire Flow is moving, possibly separating all human worlds from one another forever, three individuals—a scientist, a starship captain, and the emperox of the Interdependency—must race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

REVIEW

John Scalzi has written some absolutely amazing military science fiction books between his Old Man’s War series and Redshirts. However, I completely understand that it can be intimidating to know where to jump in when an author is six books deep in a series, as is the case with The Old Man’s War series. And thus, brings us to one of the first great things about The Collapsing Empire, it is a brand-new series and perfect for readers who have never read a word of Scalzi in the past.

That said, while I mentioned his previous books are military science fiction based, this is not your typical science fiction escapism book (very few spaceship battles and ray guns and so forth), however, it is still absolutely filled to the brim with tension and excitement that is sure to keep any reader glued to their seat. Which, considering this is more of a political space thriller, discussing the interplays of inter-space merchant ventures, the pains and struggles of installing a new emperor, and the political ramification of dealing with a collapsing empire (I phrased it that way in an attempt to not give anything away, since that is after all, the title) which just goes to show how impressive of a writer Scalzi really is.

As for the other things that I enjoyed about the Collapsing Empire, I honestly loved the characters best of all. Not only were the characters likable, but the villains were understandable in their motivations, in fact, because of this and the situations that they were placed in, many of the “villains” could turn out to be much more likable characters, or at least quasi “good guys” in later books, based purely on a change of circumstances. That said, I think I loved Kiva Largos the most out of all of the characters. She is smart, kickass, and most importantly doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about her. She has her own agenda, but doesn’t try to hide it. While she is smart, she is not trying to proclaim how much smarter she is, she just wants to get what’s best for her, if she can add in revenge on top of that, then bully for her. And on top of that, she was hilarious to read from as a POV character. Kiva is just one example of where Scalzi’s strength truly resides, in creating dynamic interesting characters who readers will absolutely fall in love with.

As for the pacing, The Collapsing Empire never felt slow. In fact, while there is very little physical violence to push the story’s inciting events along, the tension that Scalzi sews throughout the book will keep readers positively mesmerized.

All in all, I loved The Collapsing Empire. It ends in a way that promises more, and I hope that Scalzi delivers soon, because I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in this exciting series. A great book for Scalzi fans and new readers alike.

INFO

Published: March 21, 2017

Publisher: Tor Books

Price: $25.99

Link to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Collapsing-Empire-John-Scalzi-ebook/dp/B01F20E7CO/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491244933&sr=1-1&keywords=john+scalzi

A Conjuring Of Light: By V.E. Schwab


A CONJURING OF LIGHT

SUMMARY


As darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire, the once precarious balance of power among the four Londons has reached its breaking point.

In the wake of tragedy, Kell—once assumed to be the last surviving Antari—begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. Lila Bard, once a commonplace—but never common—thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry.

An ancient enemy returns to claim a city while a fallen hero tries to save a kingdom in decay. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.


REVIEW

You know those books that are so good that not only are you sad when they end but you have trouble deciphering just what made it so amazing, well that’s A Conjuring of Light for me (I know, just what you want to hear from the person reviewing the book, that they are having trouble describing what they like about the book, but don’t worry I’ll try my best).

I would say that probably one of the best attributes of A Conjuring of Light, was the impressive juggling that Schwab was able to do in balancing not just the old narrators from the previous books in the series, but also include impressive comprehensive perspectives from not one, not two, but THREE new major narrators in this final book of the series (and that doesn’t even include the other short narrator shifts that were used to detail the ripple effects affecting the other Londons). These new narrators are essential to the story and really help craft the story in a way that builds upon all the previous events. These new narrators allow readers to discover answers to questions in a much softer and more subtle way than what otherwise might be possible. Some of said questions include, how the King and Queen really feel about Kell, why Alucard originally left London, why Alucard took Lila aboard originally, and much more. On top of answering questions, these new perspectives allow for Schwab to seamlessly jump between locations and events without straining, offering a much more comprehensive view of the plans and actions that have taken place, and ultimately creating a much stronger emotional toll for all of the deaths that occur (and believe me, without giving anything away, you WILL want to have some tissues handy while reading this book).

Which, speaking of deaths, yes, there are characters who die in this book. It is well done, and you will feel the emotions come welling up into your throat when they occur, but it’s worth it, so just know it’ll happen and read on.

As for other characters, Lila is still badass and amazing, and Rye is more thoroughly developed as a character and in fact probably has the most emotional growth of any of the characters, and even Holland is thoroughly explored, thus allowing his character to become three dimensional, and allowing readers to see that his actions were caused by the world he grew up in, and that it if he grew up somewhere different he could have just as easily been the hero, instead of the villain .

As for the pace and action, honestly, I had a hard time putting A Conjuring of Light down. I found myself reading late into the night, and pretty much whenever I could find a spare minute. There are loads of action scenes, and even when the action stopped the suspense was enough to keep me pressing on late into the evening.

All in all, not only has V.E. Schwab improved by leaps and bounds between each book in the Shades of Magic series, but she just flat out nails the landing in this final book of The Sahdes of Magic series. A Conjuring of Light provides a true sense of conclusion to a wonderful world, while at the same time leaving the possibilities of spinoffs open in the future. The magic that Schwab is able to weave in this world is nothing short of spectacular, and there really isn’t anything I can say that could be construed as negative about this series. The world building is grand and yet not cumbersome, the characters developed and engaging, and the plot well-paced and full of action. Therefore, there is nothing I can say but go buy this book. It is for your own good. Believe me. And when you love it, make sure to tell your friends.


INFO

Published: February 21, 2017

Publisher: Tor Books

Price: $25.99

Link to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Conjuring-Light-Novel-Shades-Magic-ebook/dp/B01EROMI2M/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491244162&sr=1-1&keywords=ve+schwab
-->

Bound: By Bendict Jacka

BOUND

SUMMARY

Right now I wasn’t seeing Richard as the teacher out of my nightmares; he was just another Dark mage, and I looked into the future to see what would happen if I turned that knife on him instead…

Alex Verus is still haunted by his time apprenticed to Richard Drakh. He’s been free of him for many years, but now the only way to keep his friends from being harmed is to again work for Richard and his deadly ally. Even worse, Alex is forced to bring the life mage Anne into this servitude as well.

After weeks of being hunted and finally cornered into what he thought was his last stand, Alex never imagined his life would be spared—and never anticipated at what price. This time, the diviner can see no way out…


REVIEW

When I first started reading Bendict Jacka’s Alex Verus series I thought it was a pleasant surprise, it was raw, full of energy and had a likeable protagonist in Alex. All in all, it was something to pass the time between Jim Butcher books.

Then after about the third book in the series Jacka’s writing began to get more advanced and the plot more intricate. Suddenly Jacka’s series didn’t feel like a collection of one off urban fantasy books collected into a series, instead like Butcher, Hearne and the other New York Times bestselling fantasy authors, this series began to really build upon itself. Decisions from previous books led to ramifications in later books, friends of Alex (the protagonist) didn’t just turn a blind eye to questionable actions he made, and most importantly Alex and his group of friends have evolved, some became stronger and more confident, some more fragile and withdrawn, and a few others have just plain quit and given up. This may sound silly, but I love these adaptations, these changes in the characters’ behavior and attitudes make for more realistic stories and overall better characters. Don’t get me wrong, just because a series doesn’t have these characteristics and adaptations in their characters doesn’t make their characters bad or undeveloped, but in my opinion these changes are some of the attributes that make the difference between A-/B+ characters and A characters. Other examples of these kinds of fuller character development can be seen in Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid series, Jim Butcher’s Dresdan Files series and Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series.

Of course, you didn’t come here to read about my enjoyment of the series as a whole, you came to read about Bound. Well, not surprising after reading my soliloquy about the series as a whole and the way in which each book builds off each other, my first bit of advice is to not read Bound unless you’ve read the other seven books in the series. However, please note I very much do recommend that you read the first seven books in the series, if you enjoy action, mystery, urban fantasy in the vein of Jim Butcher or Kevin Hearne then you will thoroughly enjoy this series.

As mentioned above, Bound has incredibly strong characters that have adapted through each book. In Bound, the ramifications of Alex and Anne’s emergency flight and the proceeding on the run exploit has come back to haunt them. We see the ramifications it had on Alex’s friends and companions. Luna in particular was shaken by the events. Jacka uses his exceptional pacing in Bound to emphasize these points. What I mean by this is that Bound both had a realistic period of time elapse to make the learning and adjustments from the terrors seem realistic as well as made this period of time flow naturally with the book without slowing down the plot or action, thus allowing readers to appreciate the time that was occurring as well as not be bogged down by small nuances. This is particularly important since the events of Burned left many of the characters (such as Luna, as mentioned above) in hysterics and a deep depression, which cannot be solved with a wave of the hand. Further, it’s theses nuances such as the slow and gradual healing, or re-learning to trust one another, or even the acceptance and adaptation to a darker thought pattern, that help truly define each character. Speaking of such changes to characters, I was particularly impressed with Alex’s evolution in Bound. Not only does Alex begin to get in touch with some of his softer emotions, but he also embraces some of his dark mage attributes as well, in an effort to finally try to combat the evils that have been complicating his life over the last eight books.

All in all, Bound is a great novel. The characters adapt and evolve, there is more action than you can shake a stick at, and the story just moves in a very engaging fashion that is sure to catch and sweep any reader of the series up off their feet. On top of that, Bound ends in a truly shocking way. I can’t say more without ruining it, but just know readers will be left dying for more and that Jacka is truly gifted in his ability to craft a well written and surprising ending. Bound is a great book, and as a fan of great books, please read it so we can all read more in this amazing series.


INFO

Published:
April 4, 2017

Publisher:
Ace

Price: $7.99

Link to Buy:
https://www.amazon.com/Bound-Alex-Verus-Novel-Book-ebook/dp/B01IAUG74Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491231078&sr=1-1&keywords=bound+benedict+jacka

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Wheel of Osheim: By Mark Lawrence

THE WHEEL OF OSHEIM

SUMMARY

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth, getting out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.

Jalan plans to return to the three w’s that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate, however, has other plans, larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jalan and Snorri face many dangers, from the corpse hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue, but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim always pulls you back. In the end, it’s win or die.

REVIEW

What can I say about Mark Lawrence? His writing is gripping, grisly, and hilarious all at the same time. Yes, you heard me correctly I did say both hilarious and grisly to describe Mark Lawrence’s writing. How can one write both in a comical as well as grisly way in the same book, might you ask? Well, I don’t know how he does it but Lawrence perfectly balances the charm/ cowardice of Jalan with the turbulent times of war with the dead. To more fully compliment Jalan and fully bring out his hilarity (while acting as the straight man) is the brave and stalwart viking Snorri. These two played off of each perfectly, making every scene they were in together an absolute delight. Honestly I don’t care what form Lawrence brings these two back in, whether it be a prequel, short story, or even a brief soliloquy, whatever it is, if it has Snorri and Jalan together again I’d love to read it.

As for the book itself, The Wheel of Osheim, like the other books in Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War series tells the tale of Snorri and Jalan as they set off across the world, evading (when they can) the dead, weaving magic, and discovering the mysteries of the past. Snorri is forever in search of saving his family in Hell, while Jalan just wants to survive and go back to a comfortable bed, with possibly a beautiful woman, and maybe some money and whatnot… but mostly just safety. In case you couldn’t guess, these two go on great adventure (much to the chagrin of Jalan) and end up in a situation to potentially save the world (or at least delay its destruction).

If you haven’t read Lawrence’s previous series, The Broken Empire, then many of the clues and connections will be somewhat meaningless to you, but if you have (and if you have, then you clearly have good taste in books, as it’s a great series) then you’ll get a real kick out of the number of interactions and interweaving storylines and answers that are answered in each series through the events of the other. For example, readers of The Wheel of Osheim are given a much more descriptive and definitive answer to what the Wheel of Osheim is and who and what the builders are, as compared to the answers given in The Broken Empire series.

Speaking of the previous books in The Red Queen’s War, once of the most impressive transformations in terms of writing is Jalan’s transformation in character over the series. What I mean by this is that Jalan is a coward and a sniveling worm at the beginning of the series. In fact, he has more problems with his personality including being lazy, weasel-like, backstabbing, and insert negative trait of your choice, that he is almost hard to root for (his one saving grace is he is funny to read about in his complaint filled narration style). However, by the end of the series he has utterly transformed, and while he still would prefer to save his own skin and live in luxury, he also has character and a sense of strength. He has stood by his friends, stood tall in battle, and even sharpened his wit immensely. This change to a strong character is remarkable, not because is occurred, but in how it occurred. Lawrence subtly crafted the sequence of events, conversations and motivations for these changes, while at the same time not changing the core of what is Jalan. And readers are able to see this throughout the series, this isn’t a transformation such as turning water into wine, leaving reader’s wondering where the characterizes came from, Lawrence slowly builds them up and allows these building blocks of events to carry the majority of the weight of the transformation in character.

All this means is that if you’re looking for a fun series, that is action packed, funny and filled with well crafted characters then The Red Queen’s War and it’s concluding novel The Wheel of Osheim are the books for you.

INFO

Publisher: Ace

Published: June 7, 2016

Price: $27.00

Link to Buy:
https://www.amazon.com/Wheel-Osheim-Red-Queens-War/dp/0425268829/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489612489&sr=8-1

Six Wakes: By Mur Lafferty

SIX WAKES

SUMMARY

A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must find their murderer -- before they kill again.

It was not common to awaken in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood.

At least, Maria Arena had never experienced it. She had no memory of how she died. That was also new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first memory was of how she died.

Maria's vat was in the front of six vats, each one holding the clone of a crew member of the starship Dormire, each clone waiting for its previous incarnation to die so it could awaken. And Maria wasn't the only one to die recently...

REVIEW

Being open and honest in this review I listened to Six Wakes on audiobook as opposed to reading it in the traditional sense. Why does that matter you might ask? Well, honestly it doesn’t matter, except it allows me to say that not only is Mur Lafferty a great writer, but she is an absolutely fantastic narrator too.

And thus ends the audiobook portion of the review.

As for the book itself, I thoroughly enjoyed Wake Six. Lafferty has crafted a compelling and suspenseful “who done it” thriller in space. But unlike most “who done it” thrillers Lafferty has created a set of circumstances that makes it so that not even the killer knows that they killed the rest of the crew. Yes, you heard me correctly, NOT EVEN THE KILLER KNOWS! How can that be you might ask? In Wake Six the six narrators/crew members are all clones, but something has gone wrong and not only do they all wake up to their mutilated and poisoned bodies floating around them, but their memories were destroyed for the decades that they were in space, leaving them instead with their last known memories being the day before they left on their voyage. That doesn’t do it for you yet? Well not only does Lafferty perfectly time the suspense, jumping between narrators to keep the reader guessing, but she also sprinkles in each of the crew’s past memories, coloring in the world around Six Wakes as well as the motivations and personalities of each of the characters.

All in all, Six Wakes is a gripping suspense filled voyage, crafted in such a way that even at the end, readers will be left guessing, and while I don’t anticipate a sequel I certainly wouldn’t turn it down. Another great book by Mur Lafferty.

INFO

Publisher:
Orbit

Published: January 31, 2017

Price: $15.99

Link to Buy:
https://www.amazon.com/Six-Wakes-Mur-Lafferty-ebook/dp/B01CDDAETS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489610085&sr=8-1&keywords=six+wakes

The Plague of Swords: By Miles Cameron



THE PLAGUE OF SWORDS

SUMMARY


ONE ENEMY HAS FALLEN. A GREATER ONE REMAINS.
NOW, IT'S WAR.

With one army defeated in a victory which will be remembered through the ages, now the Red Knight must fight again.

For every one of his allies, there is a corresponding enemy. Spread across different lands, and on sea, it will all come down to one last gamble. And to whether or not the Red Knight has guessed the foe's true intentions.

With each throw of the dice, everything could be lost.

REVIEW

Like many of the books reviewed here the Plague of Swords is part of a larger series. This is in fact the fourth book in the Traitor’s Son Cycle, and therefore readers who are new to the series should strongly consider reading the previous books in the series before reading this installment (I know shocking, right?!)

Anyway, with that out of the way, I was really very impressed with how The Plague of Swords ended up bringing so many of the loose story threads that were created in previous books in the series together. Please note, however, that this does not mean that the previous books have left large amounts of loose plot threads outstanding (something that if done poorly can result in a bad book), to the contrary, many of the story lines of each of the books were resolved within each book and I can confidently state that I thoroughly enjoyed the previous Traitor’s Son Cycle’s books and highly recommend them. However, in each of the books Cameron has left a few storylines open, thus slowly expanding the larger story arc. Therefore, as you can imagine, it was to my great pleasure that in The Plague of Swords Cameron finally began tying these storylines off and explaining what the end goals of many of the sides and characters has been all along.

Speaking of these different sides and characters, while it has taken a large amount of time to set up, Cameron has done a great job at slowly introducing and expanding each of the many sides in this ever-growing inter-world conflict. Like George r.r. Martin, Cameron has created many engaging characters and is not afraid to kill them off in the blink of an eye. Yes, you heard me correctly, it is not unusual to have characters that in the past have championed entire chapters being killed off in minor battles and even by sickness or routine travel. Why do this you might ask, in my opinion it is Cameron’s attempt to bring the strife and struggles of war to the pages with more poignancy, so that the readers more fully feel the effects of war. While this does at times lead to characters that readers enjoy being killed, it does lead to a very strong edge of your seat type of anticipation in reading this series.

Not surprisingly based on the subject matter (a medieval/magic/alien/dragon war) the Traitor’s Son Cycle is pretty much filled to the brim with nonstop action. I personally love the fight scenes from Gabriel’s perspective as these include large swaths of magical fighting and now flying, but that’s a personal preference and should not detract from the many of amazing battle scenes.

All in all, I very much enjoyed the Plague of Swords and felt that it has done a wonderful job of beginning the process of tying off the Traitor’s Son Cycle. I don’t know how many more books will be in this series, but if you enjoy medieval style fighting, magical spell slinging and enough plots to clog a spider’s web, then I would recommend jumping into this series now, while the getting is good. I highly recommend.

INFO

Publisher: Orbit

Published: October 25, 2016

Price: $16.99

Link to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Plague-Swords-Traitor-Son-Cycle-ebook/dp/B01HBK294G/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489608141&sr=8-1&keywords=the+plague+of+swords
-->

Monday, March 6, 2017

Silence Fallen: By Patricia Briggs

SILENCE FALLEN

SUMMARY

Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes—only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe...

Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise...

REVIEW

If you want the short version of this review it is simple, Silence Fallen is another amazing book by Patricia Briggs, and it will leave you craving more from Mercy and the gang.

As for more details, not only are readers given a more detailed glimpse different supernatural creatures, such as the goblins and the golem (which I LOVED the golem addition), but readers are also given a much more detailed view into the world’s supernatural political arena, including the Prague werewolf packs and why they don’t speak with Bran’s packs, and the European vampires and why Marsilia and Stefan left Europe (also how absolutely terrifying Jacob is).

Speaking of the Golem, it was such a great addition to the story. It is such a great magical creature and story that are so often overlooked, and on top of that, Briggs’ retelling of the magic that formed the Golem, coupled with the Golem’s interactions with Mercy were absolutely magical. Speaking of magic, once again we are shown that Mercy’s magic is something clearly not meant to be trifled with. On top of that, it is also clear that we have only seen the tip of her magic, and I personally can’t wait to see more. 

As for the pacing and structure, while I am not always the biggest fan of jumping between character’s perspectives once a series has set a predictable pattern of character POV, I have to hand it to Briggs that she has masterfully managed these feats in Silence Fallen. Not only does she jump between character perspectives (including a new character who turns into such a great surprise) but she also jumps between time to more fully utilize the action and suspense in this story, something that could also easily be done incorrectly. In my opinion, it is these details that make Silence Fallen different from and even more enthralling than the other great books in the Mercy Thompson series.

As I mentioned above, Silence Fallen is amazing and I fully recommend it. It’s action filled, well-paced, tense, and absolutely leaves readers wanting more in the series. All in all, a great book.

INFO

Published: March 7, 2017

Publisher: Ace

Price: $27.00

Link to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Silence-Fallen-Mercy-Thompson-Novel-ebook/dp/B01H17UAF4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1488865432&sr=1-1&keywords=silence+fallen