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
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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

Magic For Nothing: By Seanan McGuire


MAGIC FOR NOTHING

SUMMARY

Improbable, adjective:
1. Not very likely to happen; not probable.
2. Probably not a very good idea anyway.
3. See also “bad plan.”

As the youngest of the three Price children, Antimony is used to people not expecting much from her. She’s been happy playing roller derby and hanging out with her cousins, leaving the globe-trotting to her older siblings while she stays at home and tries to decide what she wants to do with her life. She always knew that one day, things would have to change. She didn’t think they’d change so fast.

Annie’s expectations keep getting shattered. She didn’t expect Verity to declare war on the Covenant of St. George on live television. She didn’t expect the Covenant to take her sister’s threat seriously. And she definitely didn’t expect to be packed off to London to infiltrate the Covenant from the inside…but as the only Price in her generation without a strong resemblance to the rest of the family, she’s the perfect choice to play spy. They need to know what’s coming. Their lives may depend on it.

But Annie has some secrets of her own, like the fact that she’s started setting things on fire when she touches them, and has no idea how to control it. Now she’s headed halfway around the world, into the den of the enemy, where blowing her cover could get her killed. She’s pretty sure things can’t get much worse.

Antimony Price is about to learn just how wrong it’s possible for one cryptozoologist to be.

REVIEW

I've been a fan of Seanan McGuire for a few years now (which in terms of McGuire’s book production equals about 300,000 books and short stories published (the absolutely amazing thing is that this is not nearly the staggering hyperbole that it appears to be when compared to reality).

Of McGuire’s books, I have a special place in my heart for her InCryptid series, as it was the first series that got me hooked on her writhing, but I've always been a little disappointed in their somewhat one off/duology nature of each of the books in the series. Yes, the books are connected and they mention some of the events from previous books, but for the most part the newer books in the series don't feel the effects of the previous books in the series until the protagonist switches back to the one in which the events occurred (meaning Alex feels the effects of his books, and Verity hers). There are of course benefits to this. First, it makes it significantly easier for new readers to jump into a series, thus allowing for a larger readership. Second, this offers easy outlets for McGuire to experiment and jump between narrators with little downside. The con however is that if this type of writing is done to often then readers can become somewhat bored, feeling that they know the formula of the writing and events, making the stories somewhat dull and predictable. That is not to say that the stories themselves are dull or that writers cannot draw from a formula to entice readers, this just points out that if done too often, the lack of consequences can cause readers to possibly become bored. (Please note that McGuire’s books are not boring, nor have they reached the repetitious point described above, this was only mentioned to emphasize the importance that McGuire’s switch to a ramification based series has on the series.)

That's why I was utterly shocked that the Magic For Nothing begins in the final moments of the previous book in the series Chaos Choreography, except from Antimony's point of view. For those that have not read Chaos Choreography, please be aware that the following section will contain spoilers.

Not only does Magic For Nothing take up in the final moments of Chaos Choreography, but because of Verity’s shocking declaration of war against the Covenant, Magic For Nothing’s entire premise is based on the effects of Verity’s actions. This includes forcing Antimony’s primary action in her attempts to infiltrate the Covenant, as well as her family’s resentment towards Verity for her selfish actions in dancing on TV and declaring war on the Covenant. This is the first time that we’ve seen such a divide/resentment in the actions of the different Price family members, and as a reader of the series it is absolutely fascinating. Not only that, but these actions bring up many feelings of resentment that have been there under the surface, making the emotional turmoil much more realistic for a close-knit family who all are forced into the family business in one way or another.

As for the book itself, other than a surprising lack of explosives (this being Antimony’s book and all), Magic For Nothing was positively ripe with action and intense sequences as Antimony infiltrates not one but two different organizations (the Covenant and the Carnival). Of course, McGuire also does a fantastic job, using the Carnival and Antimony’s surprising connection to her long-lost cousin to more fully explore Antimony’s feelings of resentment, duty, and loneliness in relation to her family and their dynamic. This is absolutely fascinating, as Verity mostly thought of herself and her dancing, trying to get out of the family business, Alex mostly cared about his research, with an almost accidental romance on the side, yet it is Antimony, the youngest and most disconnected to the family, having been teamed up against by her siblings while growing up, who seems to be the most loyal to a family and who takes on the greatest risks.

These emotional and physical ramifications propel the series forward in a way that has me positively shaking in my boots with excited energy for more.

All in all, I was a big fan of Magic For Nothing. It had action, great character development, insight into other characters in the series, and even ended with one heck of a cliff hanger that will leave readers (or at the very least THIS reader) positively begging for the next book in the series.


INFO

Published: March 7, 2017

Publisher: DAW

Price: $7.99

Link to Buy:
https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Nothing-InCryptid-Seanan-McGuire-ebook/dp/B01H17UAT0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1488863460&sr=1-1&keywords=magic+for+nothing
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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Hanging Tree: By Ben Aaron


THE HANGING TREE

SUMMARY

Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of Police Constable Peter Grant or the Folly—London’s police department for supernatural cases—even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the flats of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But the daughter of Lady Ty, influential goddess of the Tyburn river, was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favor.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the houses, where the law is something bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean.

But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.

He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week…

REVIEW

Unlike the previous Rivers of London novels Aaronovitch really lets the dam of information loose with this one. Not only do readers discover important information about the Faceless Man, but other practitioners are introduced, new forma practiced, and there’s even an explanation as to why Leslie was taken in the first place!

Now if none of that means anything to you then the first thing I would recommend for you to do is read the previous Rivers of London books. If you haven’t read them, you may be wondering what they are like? Well, I think the best explanation is they are a bit like a combination of NCSI/CSI/(pick your choice of systematic police procedurals) and Harry Dresden/Patricia Briggs (insert magic society book). So, what does that mean for you as a reader? Well, it means that there are magical battles, people slinging spells, magical creatures and entities, and lots of paper work. Yes, you heard me right, paperwork. This is one of the most unique things about the Rivers of London series, how real and detailed the police work elements of the story are. Peter, the protagonist, uses the scientific method to discover magical limitations, stories often involve police hierarchy problems (who has jurisdiction and what not, resource allocation, and who’s problem a case is when it goes south), massive amounts of field work (going door to door, research, ect…), more paper work than you can shake a stick at.

As for The Hanging Tree, specifically, it’s full of action, suspense, awesome magic with a gripping mystery tying the story all together. Each book expands the world and characters in this fantastic series, making them increasingly harder to put down. I personally love this series and feel that Aaronovitch has become one of those authors that I’m always anxiously awaiting their next book (which is a great sign for a great series).

INFO

Publisher: DAW

Published: January 31, 2017

Price: $7.99

Link to Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Hanging-Tree-Rivers-London-ebook/dp/B0125VU4KM/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1486504107&sr=1-1

Hungry Ghosts: By Stephen Blackmoore


HUNGRY GHOSTS

SUMMARY

Necromancer Eric Carter's problems keep getting bigger. Bad enough he's the unwilling husband to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte, but now her ex, the Aztec King of the dead, Mictlantecuhtli, has come back -- and it turns out that Carter and he are swapping places. As Mictlantecuhtli breaks loose of his prison of jade, Carter is slowly turning to stone.

To make matters worse, both gods are trying to get Carter to assassinate the other. But only one of them can be telling him the truth and he can't trust either one. Carter's solution? Kill them both.

If he wants to get out of this situation with his soul intact, he'll have to go to Mictlan, the Aztec land of the dead, and take down a couple of death gods while facing down the worst trials the place has to offer him: his own sins.

REVIEW

I’ll be honest I didn’t start reading Stephen Blackmoore’s Eric Carter series when it first came out. I had heard positive praise from authors I like about it, but didn’t actually manage to pick up a copy of Dead things, the first book in the Eric Carter series, until about a year ago.

Let me tell you, I’m glad that I did.

Blackmoore has created a fascinating and engaging series filled with action, mayhem and a fun take on urban fantasy. If you are looking for a comparison of known urban fantasy authors to compare this series to Eric Carter is somewhat like a mix between Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. It’s darker than the Dresden Files, but not quite as macabre filled as Sandman Slim, therefore this series may not be for everyone but if you can handle a bit more ghoulish killing in your action (well done, of course) then this could be the series for you.

As for Hungry Ghosts itself, I highly recommend reading the first two books in the series, Dead Things and Broken Souls before reading Hungry Ghosts, but once you do you’ll be very happy with the experience. The entire premise of the Hungry Ghosts is based on the previous two books in the series (hence it being a series), so please do not read these books out of order.

So, if you like urban fantasy and you’re ok with your magic a bit on the darker side of things then here comes the real question, why should you waste your precious free time reading this book. Well, first and foremost, Blackmoore is truly impressive in his action scene writing and he does not scrimp on them. Carter is always in some sort of gun fight, ghost fight, god fight, or just plain getting his butt whooped on (a bit like Harry Dresden if you will). Of course, one thing different from Dresden is the style of magic, since Carter is a necromancer, there’s a lot of death related to his magic, not only that but it really does seem that the magically enhanced folks seem to have a bit of a society that isn’t on the good side of Santa’s present list. Therefore, magic seems to be a lot more pain related, scars, blood, tattoos, things of that nature. If I didn’t lose you there then I have a strong feeling this will be the book for you.

On top of that, Eric is a strong likable protagonist (of course I personally like his old/dead best friend Alex best, his snark is certainly appreciated by me if not by Eric). Hungry Ghost deals a lot in Eric’s growth and acceptance in his part in the deaths in his family. Blackmoore does a good job showing the pain and depression that his parents and sister’s deaths have caused in him and how these events have shaped him into the character we see today. On top of that, these revelations lead to a bit of awareness that will help fill out Eric’s character more in further books.

Speaking of further books, while I would very much like to read more about Eric Carter and his world I’m genuinely curious about whether there will be more books in the series and if so where the story will go from here. Blackmoore has tied off a number of the storylines that have been driving Eric over the last three books, however, he does keep enough mystery alive that if there were more books Blackmoore could expand on this mystery treating the new books as a new chapter in Eric’s saga.

All in all, I very much recommend this to anyone who enjoys Mike Carey, Richard Kadrey and Jim Butcher, and I do hope there are more books in the Eric Carter series. It was an action packed, entertaining quick read.

INFO