Thursday, April 23, 2015

Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Auri, a strange girl who lives in the tunnels below the university, knows she has only seven days before her friend Kvothe visits her again. In that time she needs to find him the perfect gift and ensure that everything is in it's proper place.

Right from the foreword Rothfuss warns that this a very different story, and one not everyone will like. There is only one character, no action and nothing resembling  a normal narrative. It is fair to say Rothfuss has taken a big chance with this story and it's one I'm glad he did because he has created something quite extraordinary and very beautiful.

Auri's perspective is very different. She is at once both very lonely yet not.... as she is able to make the world and the objects in it into something else. So even though she is the only character in this story the inanimate objects she interacts with definitely have personalities all there own. The juxtaposition between the tragedy of Auri's situation and the triumph in living her life anyway is something special.

The big reveal at the end of this story is very intriguing and I look forward to seeing how this plays into Rothfuss' next book.

Overall Rothfuss takes a big chance and delivers something unique and very different to his regular novels in this series. I hope Sanderson was taking notes. 8.5/10.

Review: Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson

Months after Steelheart's demise the city of Newcago is in a state of rebuilding. The Reckoners have come out into the open and joined forces with Steelheart's former guard hoping to keep the city free of epics. However Steelheart's demise has not gone unnoticed and Mitosis, an epic with the ability to make a seemingly endless supply of clones of himself, has arrived and is looking to kill David.

Marketed as a bridge between Steelheart and Firefight this novella simply does not deliver. In essence it boils down to an epic coming to town to kill David and is defeated, something which happens in the first chapter of Firefight as well. It simply offers nothing new and no character development at all. I can't help thinking Sanderson missed a trick by going with David's point of view again  instead of Mitosis or a former member of Steelheart's guard which might have been interesting.

Whats more this novella simply highlighted most of the short comings from the first book. David as a character simply does not work. He is supposed to be haunted by his father's death and destruction of the world he knew by epics, instead he is a goofball obsessed  with silly puns. This might work if it was a facade which cracked when he was under pressure but no such luck. Sanderson needs to stop trying so hard with humour because when he tries to force the issue it simply doesn't work. He also needs to stopping dumbing down his prose simply because it is a young adult book.

The only thing that worked for me was the way Mitosis is defeated is reasonably clever.  

Overall a very disappointing read which I wouldn't even recommend to fans of the first book. 4/10.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: Legend by David Gemmell

Ulric has united the many tribes of the Nadir people and seeks to invade the Drenai lands. The Drenai had been following a policy of appeasement seeking to negotiate with the Nadir and had thus allowed their army to dwindle. The fate of the Drenai lies at the fortress of Dros Delnoch where an insufficient force, an incompetent general and a dying earl must seek to hold. The Earl sends a message to his old comrade Druss, a legendary warrior now in his sixties. Druss heeds the summons even knowing it will mean his death as he fears dying toothless and alone but can he still be the legend men remember? Ruk is a former army officer who seeks to stay clear of the conflict but following a chance meeting with the earl's daughter leads him to fall in love with her and draws him to the fortress.

One of the most notable features of this novel for me was one many would not expect;the byplay between the characters. Amusing at the right times, without being silly and destroying the mood and often offering some rather clever insights into the human condition. Pacing is fast and often action packed.

One thing however I think could have been improved upon is the development of Ruk's character. In the beginning he is dead set against being involved in the coming war and yet in no time he has accepted his fate. I found it quite unbelievable that he wouldn't try to avoid his fate or a least rail against it. It almost like there are two different characters with not enough linking the two.

Ulric is a very convincing villain. Far from being a cartoon one-dimensional villain who muses on how history will view him and has his people's welfare at the foremost in his mind. I found the observations of some of the other characters into his motives very apt.

I am not a fan of point of view shifts in the middle of a paragraph and found it disconcerting at various points in this book.

Overall Gemmell's first novel was fast-paced, action packed and some very interesting interactions between characters, despite a few flaws. 8/10.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: The Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Scattered across an inhospitable sea linked only by airships working on a few safe currents are a number of island kingdoms. Over recent years a wasting disease has gripped these kingdoms causing crops to fail, fishing areas to run dry and even slowly killing people. Two of these kingdoms are seeking an alliance through marriage to offset these problems. However nobody knows that prince Nikandr of Khalakovo has contracted the wasting putting the alliance into jeopardy.  As part of the celebration the Dukes of the other kingdoms arrive in Khalakovo, almost immediately the grand duke is attacked by a summoned spirit and killed. Nikandr is tasked with finding the culprit, the lead suspect is autistic child who has a strange affinity with Nikandr. Nikander believes the boy is merely the puppet of a shadow group with sinister motives and his strange powers may in fact hold the key to dispelling the wasting.

Beaulieu's world building is impressive with cultures, history and magic integrated seamlessly. Initially I found his characterization impressive with representatives from the various groups portrayed with complex motives. However as the story progressed much of this was pushed to the side with a number of characters ending up as one-dimensional cartoon villains. This stems from the novels biggest problem; mistimed pacing. Everything feels far too rushed and interesting events and character progression loses a lot of significance. Rehada's  shifts in view points I felt was particularly unbelievable in such a short amount of time.

Overall Beaulieu's world building is highly impressive and his story is intriguing and original, rushed pacing however robs this novels of key elements that could have made it great. 7/10.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Review: Farlander by Col Buchanan

Ash belongs to a religious order of assassins, who offer protection by seeking vengeance on anyone who slays someone who bears their talisman. However he is aging and combined with a debilitating disease his time as an active member of the order, the last thing he values, is coming to an end. In a moment of desperation Ash makes a deal with a hallucination of the head of his order; Ash can remain in the field as long as he agrees to take on an apprentice. Nico is a young man who has lost his way, he ran away from home after his father deserted the family and he couldn't stand the men his mother attempted to replace him with. However in the heart of a besieged city Nico struggles to survive and in a moment of desperation he attempts to steal the purse of a stranger. A stranger who has plans for him. Meanwhile the holy matriarch son kills a women under the assassins protection placing them in a difficult position. Do they fulfill their obligation and risk being destroyed by an empire or lose their purpose?

I enjoy character driven stories and Farlander is certainly driven by the two main protagonists and the bond that forms between them. Fight scenes are well constructed and fast paced and the plot contains some very clever and well disguised twists. The support cast are solid if slightly underdeveloped in a few cases and the world-building is solid an unobtrusive.

Overall Buchanan delivers a solid, character driven debut. 8.25/10.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Song of the Ice Lord by J. A. Clement

The Ice Lord's armies march across the face of the known world intent on nothing but destruction. Lodden, a talented inventor, is among the survivors gathered on the Skral Islands, the last bastion against the Ice Lord's advances. He must put aside the loss of his hand and accept a world-view very different from his own in order to try and salvage something before it is too late.

I enjoyed the world-building with a number of differing cultures thrown together. Lodden comes from a society very similar to ancient Greece or an idealized version of it whereas the Skarl's are more similar to Vikings. Although Clement does explore the aspects of these very differing cultures thrown together I think it would have been interesting to get a perspective from a character who didn't find it as easy to adjust.

Much of the middle period of the book is spent building, planning and waiting for the Ice Lord's advances. This could have lead to the pacing dragging but Clemet cleverly avoids this by having the characters relate tales from folklore which I enjoyed thoroughly.

While most of the main characters are believable I did find some of the support characters lacked depth. The addition of a few unnecessary points of view during the finale of the book could have been avoided.  

Overall good world-building and some memorable main characters make for a solid read. 7/10.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Review: Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Tough Times All over by Joe Abercrombie: Set in the back streets of Sipani and follows a mysterious package as it changes hands several times through some rather dubious means. Clever way to get through a lot of different characters, some old favorites and some new ones. The way Abercrombie builds up characters in minimal words is impressive. 8/10.

What do you do? by Gillian Flynn: Arguably the best story in the collection. Follows a con-woman pretending to be psychic who is contracted by a woman to cleanse her home after her step-son exhibits some disturbing behavior. The best realized character in the collection and a very clever plot twist. 9/10

The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes: A rogue is hijacked by an almost forgotten god to rescue his last follower. Good world-building. 7/10.

Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale: Two men try to rescue the drug-addicted daughter of one of their significant others. Impressive voice and wonderfully realized characters. 8.5/10.

Tawny Petticoats by Michael Swanwick: Scifi. A pair of conmen take on a female partner for a daring caper. Well developed world-building and memorable characters but the ending was highly predictable. 7/10.

Provenance by David W. Ball: An art dealer is contacted by a likely thief about selling a painting. This one didn't really work for me. Pacing was well off and the characters left me feeling flat. 5/10.

Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn: Two women enter a magical club looking to make an alliance with the patron. The best piece of short fiction I've read by Vaughn. Appropriate atmosphere and believable characters. 8.25/10.

A year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch:  A retired gang is tasked with stealing a street. A fun blend of sci-fi and fantasy. I would love to see Lynch write more in this setting. 8.5/10.

Bad Brass by Bradley Denton: A thief/relief teacher gets mixed up in an odd musical instrument fencing incident. Very cool lead character and original story. 8.5/10.

Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest: A modern day warrior is tasked with investigating a strange spirit haunting and killing in lake in a small former  mining town. Steady enough but lacks the punch in the finale most of the others in the collection have had. 7.5/10.

The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham: A young rogue has to find away to free a slave girl who has caught the eye of the exiled prince she is protecting and has fallen in love with. Engaging lead character, solid world bundling and clever finale. 8.25/10.

A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell: A man in the military is forced to confront a younger version of himself from an alternate dimension. Didn't stand so well on it's own and the characters felt flat. 6/10.

Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor: A philosopher and apprentice purchase a book of magical spells one of which is said to make the user invisible. A fun and fast paced tale although the ending was a tad predictable. 7.5/10. 

A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix: A magical puppet and a knight have to try steal a collection of ivories before the gods within awake. Another fun one with a predictable ending. 7/10. 

Diamonds From Tequila by Walter Jon Williams:An actor who career hinges on his latest project finds himself in a dilemma when the leading lady dies. Fresh take on the premise and an engaging and believable lead character. 8.5/10. 

The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein: A bard with the ability to teleport travels with a caravan on exotic drug run through the desert. Well paced and well developed characters. 8/10.

The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle: A female sleuth and sherlock holmes like partner take on a curious case assigned to them by a little girl. Amazingly developed 'voice', engaging plot and solid characters. 9/10.

How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman: A rogue loses his lucky coat and is caught by an arch-nemesis. Another engaging voice, quirky characters and world-building. 8.75/10.

Now Showing by Connie Willis: Set in the near future a college student is reunited with the boy who walked out on her in a world where the cinema has become an encompassing experience. Another original take with clever twists and structure. 8.75/10.

The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss: Follows Bast, who trades secrets and favours with local children at the lightening tree. Fun and I enjoyed the small-scale feel. 8/10.

The Rogue Prince or, a King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin: A prequel to Martin entry into the Dangerous Women anthology. Like that tale it is structured as a historical narrative. Also like that tale this feels like a phoned in effort by Martin. Doesn't really use the theme to any degree and while the subject matter is interesting in itself it's not inspired writing by any means. Time for Martin to stop adding his own entry to these anthologies or do it properly. 6/10.  

Overall a strong collection. 8.25/10.