The Well Read Viking

The Well Read Viking

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.