Friday, February 28, 2014
A wiseman named Bevlin had foreseen events taking place in the present and had dispatched a young knight named Tawl on a vague quest to "find the boy". Tawl is imprisoned by the corrupt archbishop of Rorn. He is eventually released so the archbishop can try and figure out what he is up to. The archbishop also gets wind of Baralis' plans and is very uneasy about them.
At first glance the Baker's Boy might appear to be a combination of standard fantasy stereotypes. This is certainly not the case. What I found extremely refreshing is that the plot focussed on the three villians, Baralis, Maybor and the archbishop and their plots as well as how they play spoiler to the three heroes. However I did have some trouble with the characterization for the three as they are all too much like stereotypical villains and can lack a degree of complexity. For example the archbishop is portrayed as glutton in almost every scene he appears in and they all seem to suffer from an unrealistic overconfidence. Oddly enough the only villain who doesnt seem to fall into this trap is Baralis assisant and I'm curious to see how he develops.
Pacing is very well controlled and the world-building is interesting as well.
Overall I enjoyed the different approach by focusing on the villains' various schemes but bit more complexity in their characterization would have been a great touch. 7.5/10.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
The first thing that I noticed about this novel is that the prose does not gel with the 'dark' fantasy setting the author was trying to create. It is rather simplistic and underdeveloped.
Most of the characters come across as highly naive. While this may suit Merida it certainly doesn't suit the rest of the cast.
The plot is highly unorganized and scampers all over the show. There is very little build up to important moments and it often seems to lack an overall vision.
There aren't quite enough typos to say the book was riddled with them but there are certainly enough to be distracting.
While the basic premise of Storm Dancer had potential, huge problems in the prose, character development and overall plot made it a chore to read. 3/10.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
As one would hope in the concluding volume in a series plot lines are constantly being resolved throughout this novel. This set up a steady pace throughout which certainly kept me engaged.
As always the main strength of any Donaldson novel is the depth of his characters. Covenant, Linden and Jeremiah all get point of view chapters and Donaldson does an amazing job of showing the toll the strain of events takes on each of them. The cast of support characters are also exceptionally strong and well fleshed out.
Overall strong pacing and engaging characters make for a fitting finale for one of the cornerstone series in fantasy literature. 8.5/10.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
With their options seemingly exhausted and Locke virtually on death's door due to poison Locke and Jean receive an offer of assistance from a source they would never have expected, one of the Bondsmagi. The Bondsmagi in question, Patience, is willing to heal Locke in exchange for the gentlemen bastards' aid in rigging an election in the city of Karthain. However the opposition have an interesting cats-paw of their own, Sabetha Belacross Locke's former lover and someone whose skills are a match for his own.
The story is divided into two main parts; the events in the present and events in the past detailing Locke's first meeting with Sabetha, interesting turning points in their relationship before detailing efforts of the teenage gentleman bastards to stage a play while juggling an overbearing patron and other obstacles. One advantage to this strategy is Lynch gets to use some interesting characters such as father Chains and Calo and Galdo who were killed in earlier books. There is however a major drawback which I will come back to.
The book starts with a roar and hiss but runs out of steam in the middle and never really recovers. Part of this is due to a lack of tension. Sabetha obviously has no intention of doing serious harm to Locke and Jean and we know that the main characters are under no threat in the past storyline, ie the major drawback. Part of this could have been alleviated by focusing more on the conflict between the two Bondsmagi factions as this is clearly a major plot point but an underdeveloped one.
Having said that the characters remain engaging and there is an interesting touch of world-building which hints at the direction this series will take.
While there are some pacing issues and a serious lack of tension strong characters make for a worthwhile read. 7/10.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Ten years ago a cosmic event named calamity occurred. This burst of energy gave a select group of men and women, now called epics, extraordinary powers. However instead of using these abilities for the betterment of mankind the epics seized power for themselves. David is a young man bent on revenge. Ten years ago he watched Steelheart, the epic who rules what was once Chicago and is said to be invincible, murder his father. However David has seen something no one else alive has, he has seen Steelheart bleed. David begins a search for the Reckoners, a shadowy group who fight the epics, although only some of the low level ones. He hopes he can convince them to help him against Steelheart and gain his vengeance.
One aspect of writing that Sanderson often has trouble with is humour and this is really evident in this novel. David is meant to be consumed by the need for vengeance in a dystopian world but is seemingly obsessed with random metaphors. This is really distracting in the first half of the book and doesn't sit well with the subject matter. Thankfully this eases once the action picks up later in the book.
I noticed in The Rithmatist, Brandon's other young adult novel, that the protagonist seemed younger than he should have and that is also the case for David here and is something Sanderson needs to address.
Sanderson is well known for his well thought out and exceedingly well organized magic systems. What he delivers in Steelheart is very out of character. The weaknesses for the epics are especially arbitrary and I hope he addresses this later in the series.
Having said all of that Sanderson does work some very well shadowed plot twists into the mix and the group of support characters is very well realized.
Overall Steelheart is a book of two halves with a problem riddled beginning and an action packed conclusion. 7/10.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
I can't help but thinking that Butcher wrote himself into a bit of corner in this final volume. It is without a doubt an action packed novel which relentless pace never lets up. However that is not necessarily a good thing and the character development, especially for the main cast, suffers as a result.
There are however two support characters where Butcher does succeed. There was a very well worked juxtaposition between Fidelias (alias Valiar Marcus) and Lady Aquitaine who have been antagonists at various parts in the series. Both have an opportunity for redemption and their stories work out very differently.
One constant throughout the series is that Tavi has always tried to come to an understanding with the enemies of Alera. With the Vord queen showing signs of very real intelligence and a yearning to understand some aspects of the Alerans for Tavi not to make an attempt to reason with her seems grossly out of character.
Overall the final volume of the Codex Alera series is a bit of a mixed bag. There is non-stop action but the good character growth in a couple of support characters is not echoed in the main cast. 7/10.
Friday, December 27, 2013
Stenwold is the main focus in this book. He has to deal with the juxtaposition of what his life was as a spymaster compared to what it now is which is more of a statesman. He is put through a ringer which tests his courage and beliefs. At least half a dozen support characters are given point of view sections throughout the book and the author does an excellent job of displaying the complexity of their motivations and ensuring the reader has a vested interest in all of them.
The world-building is interesting with the introduction of the sea-kinden who have recently taken their first steps into aptitude. This gives the author a chance to expand on the steam-punk aspects in an environment where no fuels can be burned, for obvious reasons.
The pace is well maintained throughout and the book stands rather well on it's own.
Overall strong character development and interesting world-building make for a strong installment. 8.5/10.