The Well Read Viking

The Well Read Viking

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Bulfinch by Hannah Sternberg

This is not your traditional urban fantasy novel, nor is it your usual novel about coping with loss. Somehow it managed to combine the two into something that is fairly palatable.

Bulfinch starts out discussing the life of a young girl. She had been quite happy, but while her parents were out on a cruise they disappeared and were never found. From that point on Rosie is forced to live with her eccentric and scholarly uncle. She never truly accepts that her parents are gone so she lives her life as if they are one day just going to return. For seven years this goes on. She graduates from high school at an early age and quickly gets her undergrad and is in the beginning stages of her graduate program.

One cherished memory she had from her childhood was the time that a piece of mail was wrongfully sent to their address. They went searching for the proper owner, but they could not find him. Eventually the young Rosie gave in and opened the letter. It contained a page from a book and the story enthralled her. Back in her current day, Rosie was having some struggles and so she pulled out this letter and reread it and imagined it out in her mind. The world went a bit odd for a moment and when she gathered herself she noticed that she was not alone. A knight was standing before her, yelling in some foreign tongue.

This book had a lot of things going for it. It was unique, it had a lot of heart and the prose was just delightful. It was one of those books that is a treat for the mind in the way it is written out. The part that detracted from the book for me was just how awful this woman was to her uncle. She had a lot of anger and hatred for a man who had done nothing to deserve it. It just seemed far too vitriolic for the character. The relationship does get better, but it never gets to the place where it should be.

All in all it was an enjoyable, short read.

Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians is an interesting blend of books that, while distasteful at times, somehow manages to work. Imagine a book that was a blend of Harry Potter, Narnia and The Catcher in the Rye. I can see you raising your eyebrow at me, but that is truly what this book feels like.

Quentin is a mopey super genius. He has a great life, but all he does in complain about it and how he just isn't happy. He does this the entire book. That is where The Catcher in the Rye comes in. Quentin is just like that prick Holden Caulfield.  All either of them did was complain. I couldn't stand it in Catcher and I didn't much care for it here either. The good news for this book is that it had other things involved that were able to catch my fancy.

Quentin and his friend are both on their way to an interview to enter Princeton. They arrive, but strangely no one answers the door. Curious, they peek their heads inside and look around. They find the corpse of the man who was to interview them. While in a state of shock they head out the door. Holden takes an envelope from the desk that had his name on it without realizing that this act was going to change his entire future. As he opens it he finds a supposed copy of a lost manuscript from a book series that he loved as a child. The book series is basically the Chronicles of Narnia. A paper flies out and he chases it through a garden and he feels the winter chill leave as he steps into a warmer climate. He has found himself at a school that teaches magic.

After a rigorous testing process he finds that he has been accepted to this school and that he is going to leave his old life behind. The idea thrills him and he embarks on a five year journey in his education as a magician. Along the way he finds a group of friends and a girlfriend. They all graduate and everything seems grand, but Quentin's darn sense of ennui and angst just keeps coming back. Eventually through random acts he and his friends find themselves in the world from the book series with which he is obsessed. Turns out the place is real, but not quite how he imagined.

If people are looking to read this book because they think it is just a slightly more adult version of Harry Potter they should just stop. This book is not for them. Yes it does have some similarities. There is a school for magic that trains people from the real world, but other than that and a few snarky mentions of things from Harry Potter (Quidditch and Hermione shrinking her teeth) they are quite different books. Harry Potter embodies a sense of wonder about the mystical world, that while it has some darkness in it, it is much clearer on good vs evil. In Harry Potter it is clear who the heroes are, but in this book there is a lot more gray area.

Overall the writing kept me engaged. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. the author managed to blend the different styles in well. I already mentioned by disdain for Quentin, but I will mention it again. Sometimes he seems like he wants to be sad for sadness sake. Not true depression, but the woe is me nonsense. I will continue to read the series to see what happens, and I hope that he will change at least a little.

Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wizard Blues by Steven A. Simpson

After receiving this book from a Goodreads giveaway I did not have very high expectations for this book. A blurb I read of the book compared it to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. That is usually a red flag for me since it appears to just be an attempt to attach a book to a much more successful and well written work. I also sighed a little when I saw that the names of the two main characters were going to be Ocean and Sky. It made me think I was accidentally reading the sign in sheet at a hippie commune. With all my reservations and prejudging, this book wasn't half bad.

As this book starts we meet up with twin brothers. As they are growing up they start to display some magical talents. Mostly it is small things, but it leads their parents into searching for a place where they might learn to develop their skills. Unfortunately for the family, tragedy strikes. The two boys make the decision to continue to seek their training and they join up with a wizard. For a few years they roam around together, but the wizard says that the time has come for them to enroll in school to learn all that magic has to offer. They do so and soon enough they are facing graduation and the real world.

 After they leave as full-fledged wizards they are told to report to a leader in their organization, but on their way they run into a dwarf child and they soon change their destination to help the lad and his family. The dwarven village they run to is being terrorized by a shadowy beast in their mines. The two brothers must do what they can to solve this issue before more lives are lost.

All in all I did enjoy this book, but it wasn't what I would call a page turner. As I was reading the book I was engaged, but as soon as I put it down I forgot about it. I wasn't sucked in like I am for some books. A lot of what was in the book felt like your standard fantasy fare, which isn't bad, but I like to have a little uniqueness in what I am reading. There were a few things at the end that were revealed that made me think that the second book might have more to offer in originality than this one did. If you want a short fantasy book that isn't half bad or mentally taxing then you are in the right place.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Before I get started on the review I need to make it clear that I like John Green the man and that it might color my review a little bit. For years, John Green and his brother Hank have had a YouTube channel where they attempt to, and I quote, "decrease world suck". I like what they are trying to do and I also like the fact that the people associated with them are called Nerdfighters. The name just makes me happy. Do try to remember it isn't a group of people who happen to fight nerds, but rather a group of nerds who fight to make the world a better place.

John Green is much better known for his other novels, The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. While this novel is also categorized as young adult it is quite different from the other two. In this book we are introduced to a young man named Colin. Like most teenagers he has issues, but unlike most his issues stem from the fact that he was a child prodigy. For him the was is the part that gets to him. He is worried that he is going to be one of those child prodigies that does not move along the path towards being a genius. While he was dating this didn't seem to bother him as much, but since he was recently dumped by his nineteenth girlfriend named Katherine (I haven't had nearly that many girlfriends, let alone ones with the same name) he is back to giving all his focus to his legacy.

Colin's best friend, Hassan, sees that Colin is all broken up so he suggests that what he needs to get his head right is a road trip. With their parents convinced they head out on the open road. While out there they meet up with some interesting characters and they each have a chance to face some of their biggest faults and inner demons.

This book was quite entertaining for me. It could be that the fact that Colin was trying to perfect an equation to explain how long relationships will last was something with which I could relate. I had been working on something similar when I was younger as well. (It was quite accurate, until one couple showed up and ruined it all.) It also could be the fact that I enjoy the way John Green writes. All of his characters are incredibly loquacious and verbose. They will use 12 words when 7 would have sufficed, but I like that for some reason.

If you are looking for a good coming of age story that has some entertaining footnotes and random mathematical formulas (not too many, I promise), you are in the right place. It is a quick read at fewer than 230 pages, but John Green makes good use of them.  

Rating: 4 Stars

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

In Robert Jackson Bennett's City of Stairs I found a fantasy book unlike any other that I had read. Instead of taking place in a world that felt like Europe in the Middle Ages it takes a different approach and throws you in a world that feels more like Russia than anything else. I am no historian, but that is what it felt like to me and I am sticking to it.

A big part of the premise of the book is trying to show you how our view of history can color all of our actions. It also discusses the effect history has on the perception of people. When we are introduced to this world we find out that the "divinities" (the local gods) have been killed off. The country that is currently in power had in the past been subjugated by the lands with divinities for their lack of a deity. Eventually a man discovered a method to kill the divinities and went to war and won. Now that they were in power they were doing their best to suppress all mentions of the divinities and to get rid of all the history that related to their power or the miracles they produced. This leads me to the magic system in the book.  

Not only was the setting unique, the magic system was also unlike any other that I had read. While the divinities were alive they created many miracles. Some of them could be as simple as a stone cup that left in the sun would fill with goat's milk every morning. They could imbue an item with power or teach others certain steps to take to have a miracle take shape for them. For example if they drew on a mirror or window with a certain symbol they could create a visual connection with another room to have a conversation with the person there.

When the divinities died most of these stopped working, but not all of them. All items and books that discussed these things were destroyed or locked away for fear that they would be dangerous, in that they would cause the newly godless people to remember what they had lost and cause them to riot.

This book is very well written. It has interesting characters, spies, political intrigue, religious fanaticism and plenty more. I will admit that the first 30-50 pages were decent, but I wasn't hooked until a little bit past that. Once I was hooked however, I couldn't put the book down. I am very interested to see what Bennett will offer us in the future and I hope that this world gets visited at least once more.

Rating 4.5 Stars

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Once again I have found myself amazed at Brandon Sanderson's ability to create magic systems. Each time he starts writing a series he manages to fully capture and develop the most random and interesting magic systems out there. I was enthralled with the intricacies involved in the magic his Mistborn series. Next he managed to take that up a notch with the Stormlight Archives, and now he somehow did it again. In his first foray into Young Adult literature he went with a magic system that involves geometry and chalk doodles. Just reading that line makes you think that it might be ridiculous, but as you get into the book you find that again he has made a magic system that makes sense in the world he has created and it meshes well and never feels out of place. I will admit that if this were not a Young Adult novel it might not have worked out as well.

This book takes place in a historically different version of the United States. Instead of it being one landmass the United States is actually a collection of autonomous islands that are loosely bound together and are called the United Isles. The thing that binds these islands together is an enemy located at the center of them all in a place called Nebrask. The enemy is a bunch of wild chalk figures called chalklings. There are people trained in the Rithmatics (the combination of geometry and chalk drawings) called rithmatists. They were called to the position in a ritual at age 8 and are taught special courses at prestigious schools.

It is at one such school that we meet the main protagonist. Joel is not from a wealthy family and he was not chosen to be a rithmatist, but he finds himself fascinated with it all the same. He finds that he understands the principles behind geometry much better that the actual rithmatic students, but sadly his work has no power. As he goes about his life he finds himself heavily involved in trying to solve an investigation involving kidnapped rithmatist students.

As the book continues the stakes continue to rise, friendships are made, lost things are discovered and new geometrical secrets are revealed. I really enjoyed this book. I finished it in an afternoon because I couldn't find the will to put the book down. I would recommend this book to anyone that likes unique magic systems, young adult fantasy or "gearpunk" enthusiasts. I am quite looking forward to the next installment in this series and I do regret that it is something I have to wait for, but I guess patience is something worth developing.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Jade Sky by Patrick Freivald

I received this book from LibraryThing. When I first read the description of the book I felt like I knew what type of book it was going to be. The blurb mentioned that the main character, Matt Rowley, was a commando for the International Council on Augmented Phenomena and that he hunted down superhuman monsters with his own augmented abilities. In my mind I thought that meant that this book was going to be a cross between Monster Hunter International and the Dresden Files. I love those series so I figured I would love this as well.

As I started reading I found out that it wasn't going to be anything like those series, but that this wasn't a bad thing. Patrick Freivald was giving us something new. Imagine you are in a world that has the ability to augment humans. They can make them super strong, super-fast, give them the ability to regenerate and in some cases even see a few seconds in the future. There is a catch, however. If you augment yourself too much you will end up succumbing to the whispers in your mind and "bonking out". You end up killing anything else that is near. The more you augment the louder and stronger the whispering gets. With people augmenting themselves the government decided they needed a group of their own to handle these creatures, and so ICAP was born.

In this book you follow Matt on a journey as he seeks answers to what has been done to him and whether what he has believed from the beginning is true. This book is full of furious, fast and blood drenched fighting. The story is fast paced and the main character is likable and is someone to whom you can relate (Even though he can reattach a limb that has been hacked off). The book takes you places you do not expect and dives into some esoteric religious topics. If you are looking for a fast read (the book is only 236 pages) that has a lot of action and some religion and magic thrown in then this is the book for you.

Rating 4.25/5 Stars      

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Warbound by Larry Correia

Man was this a fun book to read. In this thrilling conclusion to the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia has once again managed to write a novel that I was hard pressed to put down. As with his MHI series (Monster Hunter International) Larry has created a world that is full of violence and war, but that hasn't sunk itself so deep into a mire of misery and pain that it would be impossible for people with purely good motives to exist. While it is bloody, this book is not what I would call gritty. The  book doesn't leave you gaping at man's depravity, but rather it has you looking more towards a hope for the future of these people. I will admit that I do enjoy that type of book, but this one was refreshing change of pace.

This book series takes place in the 1930's. In this alternate history a power began to appear in certain people. These people began to develop certain abilities. Some were able to manipulate gravity (Heavies), some could control fire (Torches) and a whole host of other powers. Some of them are more common than others, but those with the same ability are limited in the same way, with the only difference being the level of power of the individual and their ingenuity with the power. As with any type of power, some will use it wisely and some will use it for evil purposes.

The characters created by Larry Correia were all very well done. Each character is unique and each character had something that drew me to them and made me want them to succeed (villains excluded). The world building in this series is top notch. He manages to take magic and the world state of the thirties to create a believable world situation. It shows that the setting and background were both researched quite well.

As I stated with Monster Hunter International, this book is not going to test your intellect and force into any deep philosophical discussion or contemplation. Rather it is what I would call a fun summer read. It is a lighthearted fare, full of action and guns and interesting superpowers. While it does have some things in common with the other series (like being awesome), this series is quite different. Larry manages to keep both worlds afloat without crossing the ideas of one into the other.

If you are looking for a fun summer read full of action, guns, superpowers and a smidgen of Lovecraftian horror, then this is the book for you. I am sad that the trilogy has come to an end, but at least I know that Larry is working on other books that will take me on lighthearted romps through worlds of violence and mayhem.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Emperor of Thorns is the final book in the trilogy The Broken Empire. I have found myself engrossed time and time again by the characters and story that Mark Lawrence has created. The main character, Jorg, is not what you would call a hero, not in any sense of the word. He murders, sometimes for the fun of it. He sleeps around and at times is contrary just for the hell of it. Even with the fact that he is a clear antihero, you find yourself rooting for him and his goals.

If one line could sum up the contents of a book the phrase "Dark times call for dark choices. Choose me." would be the phrase. This book is dark. The world in which this book takes place is not a pretty one. People are living in the crumbling remains of a past society that has mainly been forgotten. There is clear evidence that this world was devastated by nuclear disaster and they are trying to put things the way they were as best they can.

As with the first two books of this series the timeline jumps back and forth. It gives you a current look at Jorg and his situation and it also gives you a glimpse into different parts of his past that has some import on what is going to happen. When you reach the end of the book you will not find the ending you expect, but you will find an ending that makes perfect sense given the world and the character.

If you are looking for a book to set aside all fantasy tradition and tropes, a book that treads in uncharted territory, then this book is for you.  This book series, in its way, is just like the New York Yankees. You either love it or you hate it. Middle ground is basically nonexistent.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Eyes of God by John Marco

Recently I won the fourth book of this series. I figured to give it a fair shake I should probably read the first three. As I started into the first book of the series I couldn't help but make comparisons to a famous legend.

As the book starts out King Akeela (Arthur) is trying to make peace with the lands around him and he ends up engaged to a lovely princess named Cassandra (Guinevere). The King's champion is named Lukien (Lancelot). He has never been beaten in battle or game, he is simply the best my far. (Camelot reference for you folks out there) Both Lukien and Cassandra love the king, but sadly they both love him like a brother. They try to tell themselves that their affection for each other is wrong, but it is too powerful. They end up betraying the king by getting together to act on their love. They hate what they are doing to the king, but they are unable to stop.

Sound similar at all? Oh and did I mention that the young king is an idealist who is trying to make his kingdom one that is based on equality? To make your life easier just remember this legend and skip to page two hundred and once you get there be prepared for a rough slog through the next few hundred pages. Normally a book of this size will take me a few days to read. Pages 200-370 took me about a week and a half. I just could not find the energy or interest to keep reading. When I read a book and I am distracted by needing to work or do real things (it happens on occasion, not often mind you, but it happens) I will almost always head right back to the book as soon as I am able. That was not the case with this book. I would finish my work, look over at the book and decide that staring out the window seemed like a much better use of my time.

Eventually the writing of the book improved and the story seemed to take off. After the rough start I finally found myself interested with what was happening to the characters and the story arc. Maybe it was because the story jumped to 16 years in the future or maybe it was just the fact that the characters seemed more rounded and less like their counterparts in Arthurian legend or maybe I knew that I couldn't move on to another book until I finished this one. No matter the reason the last four hundred pages went by like a breeze.

If you are willing to give an author a chance on their first book and you don't mind a blatant rehashing of a legend for a quarter of the book I guess you could do worse than pick up this book. The last half of the book gave me enough hope to go on with the rest of the series. Fingers crossed that this doesn't become a decision I regret.

Rating: 3 Stars

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Balance Broken by J.T. Hartke

A year and a half ago I entered a giveaway to receive this book. I did not win, but for some reason I kept it around on my lists. Time past and I wound up forgetting about this book, but recently as I scrolled through my to-reads I saw this book and I figured it was time.

As the story begins we are introduced to two characters who both have visions that tell them that they will be integral in changing and shaping the fate of the world. When this happens we have no idea who these people are and what their goals might be. As the book progresses we see more about the motivations of the characters and who they really are and for what side they fight. As this is happening we get introduced to a whole host of other characters who end up getting involved in the main plot at different points.

While this book does follow a familiar fantasy pattern of a protagonist that is coming of age, it does it in a way that is not quite normal. This book actually features two main protagonists, a male and a female, and it follows the growth of the two of them in their respective spheres. I found that many of the characters had depth. They had flaws with which we could associate and they acted like real people would.

The way this book is organized is to have each chapter from a different characters point of view. This allows us to get to know them better and it keeps the book fresh throughout. The action is well paced and the book never feels like it is dragging. Each page grabs your attention and forces you to go on, even though you might have other things to do.  I do have a small complaint (I always do). Sometimes during the action an order would be shouted out or they would be going about things and it ended up feeling a little under-described. One example that comes to mind is when we are introduced to the dwarf mage. He is told to engage in battle but the description of what he did was sparse.

One thing that I really did enjoy was the system of magic that J.T. Hartke created. It was well thought out and well explained. It made the magic that happened seem more real. As a whole I really enjoyed reading this book, and would recommend it to anyone that likes fantasy or a fun fast paced story. I will most certainly be looking for the sequel when it comes out.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pandora's Star by Peter F. Hamilton

To start off I feel that I should say that Science Fiction is not normally my thing. I love to watch it, but to read it has been a different story. Give me swords and magic over ray guns and technology any day. With that in mind I had a friend of mine ask me for a book suggestion. He isn't really into fantasy, but he loves stories about space and whatnot. That put me in a bind. I had no idea what to recommend to him.  Time was passing so I turned to my trusty source of Goodreads. I found out what they had rated highly and placed on their Sci Fi lists and passed the news on. In reading the description of this book I came across the term "space opera". How could I not read a book belonging to the genre of space opera? I started reading the book and I was immediately sucked into the writing of Peter F. Hamilton.

The book starts off just as the human race is about to land on Mars. Humans have come a long way and are reaching further out in to the stars and are making huge advances in undoing the effects of aging. As the ship lands the world prepares for a solemn moment. As the pompous words are being spoken they hear some laughter. As they go around the outside of their craft they find a man in a homemade spacesuit watching them from a wormhole that connects back to California.

Fast forward 300 years. The human race has expanded through the universe and now lives on 600 different worlds. These worlds are connected by wormhole gateways. There also is rarely death. The technology allows for people who have aged to go through a rejuvenation cycle and come out looking and feeling like they are twenty. It is a good time to be alive. You can pretty much find a world that matches the society you would like to live in.

As the people are going about their lives a discovery is made. Two star systems many light years away just vanished. With further tests they see that it happened in less than a second. The humans were perplexed. What has the technology to do such a thing and why. A crew is put together and a ship is built to find out all that they can about the so-called Dyson Pair.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters were very well developed and his ideas of technology were fascinating. It is not a small book though. Coming in at over 1100 pages it is quite the commitment. The bad news also is that it is actually just part one of a two part series. If you read this one you have to go on and read Judas Unchained to get any type of conclusion. Being so lengthy at times it felt like the side plots went on a little long. Not often, but on a few occasions I felt that he should get on to the next part. I guess if you like Sci Fi or are curious about space opera as I was I would definitely recommend this book.

Rating: 4.5 stars.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

I am a big fan of Jim Butcher, at least his Dresden Files series. I am only halfway through that series and I am quite enjoying it. Since I liked his other work I figured I should give his true fantasy series a try. If you read the blurb about the author at the end of the book you can see that much of his writing and life has been shaped by the Lord of the Rings and other fantasy works. Since it was his first love he has always wanted to try his own hand at writing an epic fantasy series.

 If the gossip is true the way this series came about is quite unique. Apparently he was having a debate with a friend as to whether the author or the one great idea was more important to a book's success. The friend said that having a good idea was more important and Jim said that an author can make pretty much any idea into a good book. That day a challenge was born. Jim was challenged to make a quality tale about the missing 9th Roman legion and Pokemon. Out of these random ideas came The Codex Alera series.

In the world of Alera the elements have different entities bound to them. These entities are called furies. When people start to come of age they have the possibility of bonding with their own furies. The different furies enhance different powers and grant different abilities. For example if you bond with an earth fury you can enhance your strength and also seek know where people are standing through ripples you send in the ground. Sky furies can give you the ability to levitate yourself and others depending on the amount of power you have. A few rare people have bonded with more than one.

In this world we are introduced to a young man who has not bonded with a single fury. He is considered a freak for what he lacks even though he does what he can to compensate for it. As he goes about his tasks he manages to uncover a plot to overthrow the current ruler and he becomes deeply involved on the intrigue and fight to saw his home and lord.

I quite enjoyed the characters and a lot of aspects of the world, but there were a few thinks of which I wanted more. The system of magic was not explained well enough for me. How do they bond with these furies? Why do certain people get chosen my certain ones? How do some people have more power than others? What are the limits to these powers? I have more questions, but I figure that you got my point and I still have hope that the future books will explain away some of these.

If you are looking for a fantasy book that is a quick read I would suggest this one. I do not know how the series is going to turn out, but if it is like the Dresden Files it will get better as it goes along.

Rating 3.75/5

Monday, March 17, 2014

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

In Joe Abercrombie's most recent work I found myself seeing this world from an entirely different view. While this book still maintains the grittiness that is prevalent in the rest of the series it adds a new element. This book becomes a western. Now bear with me, it isn't like he takes away what makes it a fantasy and plops the characters in an area that feels completely out of place. He keeps what has made the series great and given it a new edge and I loved it for that. It didn't hurt that it brought back my favorite character from the First Law trilogy, Logen Ninefingers who is also known as the Bloody Nine. That is right, the Bloody Nine is back!

This book follows a familiar western plot in that someone comes home and finds that a person they love has been kidnapped. Those who have just found their loss drop everything on go on the chase to hunt down the people who have wronged them and to rescue their loved ones. In the course of their quest they end up joining a caravan of people who are heading out into the wilderness seeking their fortune in the mountains where gold has been sighted. This book has everything you want in a western: bar fights, prospecting, caravan raids, "Indian" attacks, wagon trains, last stands, and even a stagecoach chase.

I agree that this sounds like a very westerny plot and it is, but Joe manages to maintain his unique voice and keep you engaged in the story. I would recommend that if you want to read this book that you read the first trilogy. It isn't needed to understand the plot, but it will give you a bit more insight on the characters. In his three standalone books in this series he takes a different genre and makes it his own. He has been successful in his attempts at a revenge thriller and also war fiction, but I would have to say that this is my favorite of the three. Once again the good news is that the entire series is out so you can start it and not worry about having to wait for the next one to come out.

If you don't mind reading about the darker side of humanity and are looking for a fantasy series I would tell you to go out and seek out this author at once.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Heir of Novron by Michael J. Sullivan

As I came to the end of this series all I could do was smile. This book had made me happy and made me feel good about the world. You know that the book is well done when it leaves you with that sense that all is right with the world. It doesn’t happen that often, but I feel fulfilled and complacent in the wake of this book.

 In the course of this series you can see the growth in the author. As the books go along his writing improves and at the end you are left knowing that everything has been wrapped up. This is not a gritty and realistic fantasy. It follows the traditional ideas of fantasy and for this series that was a good thing.

This book ends the series with a bang. There are a few plot twists that you probably saw coming, but that didn’t make them any less rewarding. I can tell you that I will be following this author and I will be revisiting this series for sure.  If you are looking for a fantasy series that is well written and enjoyable (and has already been entirely written) I would recommend this one for you.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

As I begin to write this review I fear that I may not be able to judge this book impartially. I love the work of Brandon Sanderson. I loved it ever since he took over the Wheel of Time series and the moment it was announced that he would be undertaking his own epic fantasy series I may have swooned. No one can prove anything, but it may have happened. The Way of Kings came out in 2010 and it captured me instantly. The worst moment came when I realized that the book was over and the second was still years away. Since then I have waited fairly impatiently for the day that this book would be released. The day finally came and I have to admit I acted like a school girl when I saw the package waiting for me.

I loved every minute of this book. Every. One. For 1087 pages I wanted nothing more than to keep going to find out what the next page would bring. The hardest thing I have done in a long time came when I forced myself to put the book down to sleep.

The first book introduced us to a fascinating world. Brandon Sanderson has to be one of the finest world builders out there. Each one is full of unique religions and ideas of magic. They are compelling because of their depth and the incredible thought that has been put in them. In my opinion this world is a step above Mistborn (not to take anything away from that series).

While the first book may have introduced us to the majority of characters, this book helped shape their identities. I know that this book is a hefty tome, but none of it is wasted space. Each page holds something of import. As I have previously stated I am a fan of gritty, realistic fantasy. This is not one of those, but I love it for that. In this book heroes act like heroes. Sure they can have doubts, but when it matters they do what is right. The characters aren't shallow in any sense because of the lack of grit, rather they make me feel like we can all be better.

I can tell that I am gushing and writing random nonsense, but a truly amazing book has the ability to bring that out of me. This is the type of book that makes me regret giving other books 5 stars. Sure they were great, but this one is still a step above. If I had access to a roof where I currently am you could bet your britches I would be shouting to the world that this is something they should read. I guess I will just have to settle for the internet.    

Rating 5/5 stars

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rogue's Home and Player's Ruse by Hilari Bell

As some of you know I am a fan of buying random books that catch my fancy. In one such binge I purchased the first book of the Farsala series by Hilari Bell. I was pleased enough with what I found to buy the rest of that series and the first book of her new Knight and Rogue series. I quite enjoyed the characters and the story, but sadly there was only one book currently out in the series. Six years passed and I forgot about the author and this series until it came time to reorganize my books. During this Herculean task I came across these abandoned books and my interest in the series was rekindled. I did a quick search and I found that there were two new tales to be had, Rogue's Home and Player's Ruse. I realize that many of you have not read the first book so I will do my best to keep spoilers of that novel out of my review.

Rogue's Home

To help you understand the story I will give the background of the characters from the first novel. Michael has taken it upon himself to revive a dead tradition and vows to become a knight errant. He takes his indebted man Fisk and makes him his squire. Michael is a good man (well, a man in a few years at least) and wants to be able to help those in need. He does not want to be forced into the role of his brother's steward just because he is the fourth born son. Michael and Fisk go on a quest for justice and end up getting surprised by the results.  Michael "the knight errant" and "his squire" Fisk are heading back to Michael's home to face the disappointment of his father, who would do just about anything to have his son give up his ridiculous ideals and come home.

As they arrive in town Fisk receives a letter from the home he had left years before. The letter gave him no details, but it appeared that his family was in dire straits. Michael faced his father's wrath and was left the worse for it, but he soldiers on. In an attempt to protect his friend Fisk leaves in the night to take care of his family, but as would any honorable man Michael follows him to help the best he can. As the two arrive in town they find themselves embroiled in an investigation to clear a good man's name, but they find that as they try to clear this man's name they become the targets themselves.

This novel was written for a young adult audience, but I found that it held my attention as well. One of the unique things about this author is the way that she presents the material. The novel is written in the first person, but each chapter switches between the main characters. It took me a second to get used to it, but once I did I came to enjoy the differences in narrative that they each presented. The book does not have an intricate plot, but there is enough misdirection and foreshadowing to make it a fun read. The banter between the two was not quite the same as in the first one and I missed it a bit, but you can tell that the author loves writing about the characters and that goes a long way. If you want to read a lighthearted buddy adventure/mystery set in a fantasy world I would recommend this series for sure.

Rating 4/5 Stars    

Player's Ruse

A year and a half after the events of Rogue's Home we find that the duo have been keeping a fairly low profile and have set themselves up in a small town.  This all changes when the object of Michael's unrequited love comes calling for help.  As noble men are wont to do (especially ones in love), he promises her that they will help her in her quest. As they arrive at their destination a bizarre twist of fate forces them into a small group of travelling players. They go about their duties the best they can, but it soon becomes apparent that someone means them ill.

Once again the two friends have found themselves caught in the middle of a mystery/adventure. The knight errant would have it no other way since it is what his duty demands of him (much like a young Frederic from Pirates of Penzance). They race to find out who is involved in the plot before any more life is lost, especially their own.

I really enjoyed this young adult novel. I felt that the banter between the two was closer to the level in the first book. I felt that the plot of this book was more engaging than that of the second book (even though the plot of the second one wasn't bad). It introduces some new interesting characters and it works on showing the growth of the two leads. I thought that this novel was well done and I look forward to continuing this series when the next book comes out.

Rating 4/5 Stars

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

The First Law series by Joe Abercrombie consists of a trilogy and three standalone books. The Heroes is the second of the latter. Set about nine years after the events of the trilogy this book brings back a couple of the more minor characters and gives them a chance to shine. The book focuses on a battle that takes place over the course of three days.

I have always loved Joe Abercrombie's dark and gritty approach towards realism. He doesn't sugar coat any of the actions done by the characters and in doing so he gives them a fuller and richer feel. These characters are three dimensional. They have fears and doubts. They question the decisions they have made and try to put on a front for those around them. In short that act like human beings.

What really stood out for me was the fact that we got to see the action from every possible angle. When it starts out you read and you feel that you know who the bad guy is, but in the next moment you are seeing the events from another perspective and your sensibilities begin to shift. The person who was once the enemy is now someone with whom you sympathize. There is no clear cut division between good and evil. Each person has some of both residing within them.

If you are a fan of gritty fantasy that doesn't mind getting mired in the muck and wallowing in it I would recommend this book for sure. It stands on its own as a novel and does not require you to read the trilogy to enjoy it, but it is something that I would recommend. The only quibble I had with the book was the fact that the author snuck in some links to our world that took me out of the book for a moment. The first came when one of the characters created the first sandwich. It was a little ridiculous and it seemed out of place since it was never mentioned again and did not do much to advance the plot or character building. That being said it was quite the minor thing and it did not keep me from wholeheartedly enjoying this work.

Rating 4.5/5 stars.