Friday, December 17, 2021

Advent Ghosts 2021:The Cracker

 Multihued lights spiraled their way around the Christmas tree mesmerizing the families clustered around the restaurant’s sea of tables. Jeff ignored them, mechanically chomping down on a mouthful of ham. Christmas had been his life for the decades he’d worked at Hallmark crackers. ‘Budget cuts,’ explained his boss, an upstart who couldn’t tell a cracker snap from tissue.

Jeff chuckled. Safety checks were another victim of those cuts. Scattered explosions would bury Hallmark under an avalanche of lawsuits.

“Buck up mate.” A jovial fellow exclaimed, offering a cracker.

The blood drained from Jeff’s face when he discerned a familiar logo.  

Friday, December 18, 2020

Advent Ghosts 2020: Christmas Lights

 “Oh, look how pretty the lights are John!” Sarah exclaimed, practically bouncing in her boots.

Seemingly endless rows of fairy lights lit up the house like the constellations on a clear night.

“Can we take a closer look?”

“I don’t see why not?” John shrugged, “That’s what Christmas lights are for right?”

The creature hunched in the shadows as still as the mountains it had outlived, cold eyes intently staring as it’s prey ambled closer. It was a trick almost as old as the creature itself and had served it well in the depths. Food always came to the light.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Advent ghosts 2019: The Deal

Martin flopped into bed. The sheets engulfing him and dispelling whirling thoughts of litigations.

"Did you put the milk and cookies out?" Sarah asked "Timmy will be devastated if you haven't.

"All sorted" Martin lied.

An empty glass and a few sprinkled crumbs and Timmy wouldn't know the difference.

Santa was furious. Somehow these short-lived mortals kept the memory of their deal alive, binding him with libations through guest rights that no Fae could break. Although perhaps not here. Santa smirked as he spotted the bare kitchen counter. He stalked towards the child's bedroom, licking his lips all the way.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: The Core by Peter V. Brett

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Having captured the lead mind demon Alagai Ka and discovered that queen demon is set to lay a new set of queens leading to a civil war of sorts between that demons that will result in humanity's destruction, Arlen, his wife Rena and Ahmann hatch a desperate plan to have Alagai Ka lead them to the core and stop it. While they are gone the leaders of the rest of humanity need to try and keep their people alive through sustained attacks by the demons.

Pacing has been an issue in the middle books in this series but is well handled in the finale. I found a good balance between the main and secondary plots. I also found Brett cleverly introduced material for outrigger series without compromising on what was happening in this one.

It was particularly interesting to see the issue of faith addressed particularly between the interactions between Arlen and Ahmann. For me this was the strongest development in Ahmann's character throughout the entire series.

Overall a well balanced finale. 8.5/10.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Review: The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

Thirty years have passed since the events of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, King Simon and Queen Mirimele have seen their kingdom of Asten Ard move from strength to strength but not everything has gone their way. Thier son and heir John Josua died from illness in his early tenties, leaving behind two children. The Eldest, prince Morgan , is a wastrel who doesn't have any interest in learning how to rule a Kingdom, much to the despair of his grandparents.

Meanwhile Utuk’ku, the Norn queen, has apparently awoken and preparations are made to invade the lands of men once more. A small squad is dispatched on a seemily impossible mission to catch a living dragon. Among them is Nezuru,the half blood daughter of the Hikeda’ya Lord Viyeki and his mortal slave concubine Tzoj, who begins to question her place in Norn society. This is excabated when she meets Jarnulf, a human seeminly working for the Norns who has his own agenda.

One of the things Williams did extremely well in the briding novel The Heart of What was Lost was humanize the Norn characters, making the reader root for both sides of the conflict. However none of that is present in this novel sadly, with all of the Norns even Viyeki coming across as arogant. 

Pacing is generally quite slow with lots of streches without the plot seeming to advance much.

Through Simon (and a lesser extent Mirimele) Williams is able to delve into the struggle of aging and brings a real depth to these charcaters.

One of the most intriguing things for me was the vast discrepancies between Simon and Mirimele's meomories of John Josua and that of Morgan's. 

Overall I found this novel a mixed bag, with some issues with pacing and characterization. 7/10.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: The End of The Day by Claire North

Charlie was looking for a job where he could travel. Landing the role of the Harbinger of Death comes as something of s surprise to him. He has no special qualifications, just a love of people and music but the previous harbinger sees something in him. Death is well meaning and sends a harbinger sometimes as a curtsy and sometimes a warning. Initially all goes well and Charlie meets interesting people and experiences things he never could have imagined but that all changes due to unforeseen events. Charlie falls in love and the travel becomes burdensome with something to miss and he also becomes exposed to the darker side of humanity.

The three previous books under the author's North pseudonym all had a similar concept; a protagonist effected by an unexplained condition that the majority of the population was unaware of.  I was concerned that she would be unable to breakaway from this theme and am very glad to see that she has. I love character-driven novels and Charlie is wonderfully drawn human being flavored with a touch of awkwardness. His development and growth is really the crux of this novel.

In a world where the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are real entities (Death even has his own firm to look after Charlie's travel needs) I found the support characters reaction to them highly inconsistent. I was also disappointed in the finale which just sort of fizzled out.

Overall Claire has delivered a wonderfully character driven novel that proves she is not just a one trick pony, although with all new things you can't expect to reach perfection the first time around. 8/10.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: The Heart of what was Lost by Tad Williams

Following the defeat of the Storm King the remaining Norms flee through the land's of men back to their ancient city of Nakkiga. Lord Isgrimnur leads an army that intends to take thefight to Nakkiga itself and wipe out the Norms and their sleeping queen. Porto a man from the South has found himself part of the army, though all he really wants is to get himself a young man from a nearby village safely home. Viyeki a mid-ranking engineer of the Norns finds himself embroiled in the politics of the high ranking members of his society, who even in the face of destruction jockey for position.

Williams does a brilliant job delving into characters from both sides of the conflict, humanizing them so effectively you can't help but root for both of them. The shorter length of this novel means Williams pacing is markedly improved. Just how much action and political intrigue Williams is able to cram into this one is impressive, he quite cleverly has lots happen 'offscreen' that Viyeki has to piece together as best he can.

Overall Williams make a welcome return to his signature world of Osten Ard with the great character development I always expect from him, combined with welcome improved pacing. 8.5/10.