Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review: Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Years ago King Galivar of Alethkar was assassinated; plunging the kingdom into a war of vengeance on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. Here the various princes fight separately against the same foe, more interested in securing gem hearts and their own personal glory than in winning the war. Bright lord Dalinar Kohlin, brother of the late king, grows increasingly frustrated with this situation and is troubled by his brother's dying words that have pointed him towards an obscure text called the Way of Kings. What's more during high storms Dalinar is plagued by visions that have him doubting his own sanity. Kaladin, a slave who has recently been brought to the shattered plains, finds himself assigned to a bridge crew whose sole purpose is to run bridges to a battlefield and draw enemy fire. Haunted by past failures Kaladin is caught on a knife edge of either giving up or trying one last time to aid those around him. Meanwhile a young woman named Shallan is seeking to train under an enigmatic scholar called Jasnah who also happens to be the king's sister. Her motives are less than pure as she plans a daring theft to steal an object of magical power, her only hope to save her troubled family.

Sanderson has really put a lot of effort into building a believable planet in Roshar with a deep history and it really shows. Lashed by periodic storms the creatures and plant life have evolved to survive the harsh conditions. Sanderson describes these in exquisite detail and is aided by illustrations taken from Shallan's drawing book. One of the most interesting creatures are called Spren and are drawn to different types of emotions and phenomena. The history in question is deep and we only scratch the surface in the opening novel.

The action is told primarily through the three protagonists point of view but there are various interludes from other characters that are set to feature in subsequent novels. Sanderson captures the inner turmoil of Dalinar and Kaladin brilliantly and while I found Shallan slightly harder to relate to I believe he did a good job in portraying her naivety. The structure tends to have alternating chapters from two of the story lines at a time with the other taking a back seat. Sanderson seems to have done this as an alternative to what he has seen in other longer series like the Wheel of Time. While I do feel that this structure should be given more of a chance I am less than convinced with it's effectivness and found myself constantly wondering what was occurring in the storyline currently sitting out. Although a number of plotlines are naturally left unresolved there are definite conclusions to arcs introduced for each of the three protagonists. There has been a bit of debate around the character's morality, namely whether they are either black or white or fit into shades of grey. My own take is that the three main protagonists are all morally good (even Shallan), though some minor characters are definitely in grey territory. Most notably Dalinar's chief rival Sadeas who is certainly more than a simple villain and a character that intrigued me.

Anyone who has read any of Brandon's work before will know that most of his books are set in the same universe with a recurring character named Hoid making sporadic appearances. Hoid is here again and features far more prominently than before even having a chapter told from his perspective. As always Brandon has some well thought out magic systems in play. Though they are less well defined and understood than in his previous work, partly due to the characters lack of knowledge and partly due to this being a longer series and I'm sure all will be revealed in time.

Overall Way of Kings is a solid opening to one of the most ambitious fantasy series in decades. 8.25/10.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: A man Rides through by Stephen R. Donaldson

With Geraden, who has been accused of his brother's murder, having fled the castle Theresa finds herself imprisoned for her part in his escape. Her situation worsens quickly with the unhinged Castellan Lebbick being given permission to use whatever means necessary to get the truth from her. Theresa is finally able to get to the bottom of who is behind the imagery attacks throughout Mordant and discovers her own talent for imagery which allows her to escape. Together with Geraden Mordant's only hope of survival rests in her hands.

Donaldson did a great job opening this novel which caught my attention from the very beginning. Instead of directly addressing the cliff-hanger ending from the first book he kind of worked his way around it from the Castellan's perspective which was highly interesting to say the least. The Castellan is an interesting character, having lost almost everything he has cared about and remaining steadfastly loyal to king Joyse who appears to have lost his mind, he is pushed to the breaking point and beyond. He and the Tor are placed in rather similar positions yet go in different directions before finally arriving at a similar fate. Theresa and Gerdan certainly develop as characters and put most of their self-doubt behind them and really mature in themselves and finally as a couple.

In the first volume the action was primarily restricted to Orison castle but Donaldson treats us to a bit of a tour de force of Mordant which doesn't quite work for me as we offered nothing more than glimpses into some intriguing places. I highly recommend any authors writing series with bloated character perspectives to note Donaldson's excellent treatment of the King Joyse and Myste and the champion’s story lines. Since they aren't central to the main plot line we only learn what Theresa knows as she learns about it, a perfect example of how to tie in multiple story arcs without the clutter.

Overall A man rides through it a fitting conclusion to a great duology. 8/10.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay

It’s funny how a book can develop a reputation. It’s even funnier when the reputation of the book in question is based on nothing more than hearsay. One such book is Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Summer Tree. It was Kay’s first novel written during the 1980’s and there is a perception that it is nowhere near as good as Kay’s subsequent work, that it has dated badly and that it should be slotted into the young adult category. Oddly enough most of these comments seem to stem from people who have either A) not read the novel in question at all or B) ‘got a few pages in before giving up’. I have learnt much to my pleasure that these people don’t know what they’re talking about.

The story begins with five university students attending a lecture and meeting a man who was much more than he appeared. Loren Silvercloack is a Wizard from another world, the first of all worlds in fact called Fionavar. Loren convinces the five of them to journey with him back to his world under the presumption that they were to be guests in the festivities celebrating the fiftieth year of the reign of Aielell the high king of Brennin. Loren, however, has an ulterior motive and is convinced that the drought affecting the kingdom is unnatural and that the five students will have a large role to play in shaping Fionavar’s future.

Like a number of other works from that time, such as that of Scott-Rohan, the story is told through an archaic style prose reminiscent of the epics, though Kay breaks this up nicely considering five of the protagonists are from modern-day earth. The story itself moves along at a good clip which works well though does lead to my only criticism. Namely that the five students agree too easily to accompany Loren back to Fionavar which struck me as a touch unrealistic. Paul and Jennifer’s reasons are explored a little later in the book and having Dave try to change his mind at the last minute was a nice touch, this is still an area I would have liked to have seen explored more. The characters themselves are well realized with their backgrounds from their different lives on earth effecting the way they perceive Fionavar. I found the scenes of Paul on the Summer Tree particularly powerful, I advise anyone who classes this book as young adult to have another read through those scenes and see if they still hold the same opinion.

Overall I believe that not enough people give Kay’s first book a fair chance as it is certainly both well-written and powerful. 8/10.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: The Charnel Prince by Greg Keyes

The kingdom of Crotheny has been thrown into chaos with the death of King William and other members of the royal family. The Briar King, a figure out of myth, has awoken from eons of slumber causing an epidemic of madness to sweep the countryside turning peaceful villagers into flesh eating monsters. Queen Muriele attempts to maintain order but is stalked by treachery on every side. She sends her protector Neil MeqVren to search for her last surviving daughter Ann. Ann meanwhile, along with Cazio, Astra and z’Acatto is searching for a way to return home and is only just beginning to understand the forces arrayed against her and the role she might play in the future. Meanwhile Aspar, Winn and Stephen have been given a magical artifact by the church and charged with slaying the Briar King. Aspar however has his doubts that the Briar King is truly evil, having had his life saved once before by the mythical figure.

The second book in the series largely follows the same cast of characters from the first book with one notable exception; the composer Leoff. Leoff had been appointed as court composer by King William but arrives when the situation has drastically changed. His character is certainly interesting and I liked the way music is used as a different power for influencing events. Keyes uses this well in setting up the finale of the book which might have gone down the ‘bring all the characters together for a massive confrontation’ route otherwise. The returning characters remain interesting, I especially liked the way Neil and Anne grew up throughout this book as these two seem to have most effected by the events of the first book. There are some intriguing hints that Aspar and Stephen may have been changed on a more physical level that will no doubt be explored in a subsequent book. I just hope Keyes doesn’t take the whole tired ‘organized religion’ is fundamentally evil route and goes with a more interesting concept when the role of the church in these events is revealed.

Overall the Charnel Prince is another strong offering from Keyes 8.25/10.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Review: The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson

Terisa is a woman with self-worth issues. Growing up as the only daughter of rich but neglectful parents has left her doubting her own existence. As a result she had decorated her apartment with dozens of mirrors to remind herself that she does in fact exist. She has also taken a job as a secretary at a mission house believing she might make a difference. However that notion is soon shattered when she sees that despite how hard the reverend tries he is ineffective. Terisa’s life is turned upside down when a young man named Geraden falls through one of her mirrors. Geraden seems just as surprised about his arrival as he had seen a mighty warrior in the mirror and came across to recruit him as a champion to save his world. Instead he found Terisa. Geraden believes that there are larger forces at work and convinces Terisa to come with him through the mirror. What she finds is a kingdom in danger ruled by a monarch well past his prime and ineffectual. With enemy forces gathering on every side can Terisa make a difference?

What I really enjoyed about this novel is how well it effortlessly combined a number of genres most notably fantasy and mystery. As Terisa was baffled as to what particular character’s motivations were so was I and I love to be kept guessing like that. Donaldson does a particularly excellent job of getting into Terisa’s head and the way her doubts and preconceptions colored everything she encountered was masterful. The magic system of imagery was well thought out and far more interesting than that of the Covenant books. Fans of Sanderson’s enigmatic magic systems will be left speechless. The only negative issue was a slight pacing one, as the beginning was a bit slow but aside from that this was a first-class read.

Overall I’m surprised that the Mirror of Her Dreams does not seem to be held in as high Esteem as the Covenant books. In my humble opinion it’s just as good if not a good deal better. After the cliffhanger ending I’m looking forward to reading the conclusion. 8.75/10

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Essay: Readers are not your bitch

It’s a debate that never seems to go away within the fantasy/sci-fi community; are authors obligated to their readers to have the next book in a series out in a set frame of time? The argument has often focused on George R.R. Martin and the next Song of Ice and Fire book A Dance With Dragons but not exclusively so. For the record here is where I stand in the debate; Of course authors are not obligated to work within such timeframes and should pursue side projects if they are that way inclined. By buying a book the reader has paid for that particular piece of literature and that piece of literature alone. Of course it is only common curtsey for an author to try and keep their readership updated with where things stand.

A recent event has recently made me reexamine the argument from a different angle, namely are readers obligated to the authors? The event in question is Melanie Rawn’s announcement on her website that TOR have cancelled the third book in the Spellbinder series, an urban fantasy/paranormal romance trilogy, due to poor sales but have signed her up to another trilogy closer to the epic fantasy of her earlier days. Rawn’s antics once the news was broken has left me, well quite simply baffled.

Before I get into that I think it is important to provide some background information. This is the second trilogy in a row that Rawn is leaving incomplete, the earlier one being Exiles. The second installment of that series came out in 1997 and ended in a cliffhanger. Melanie underwent some family troubles and a bout of depression that initially left her unable to complete the final volume The Captals Tower. Once Rawn felt herself able to write again she started on Spellbinder. As far as The Captals Tower goes it appears she has done no work on it whatsoever, aside from some possible research a few years ago, and has made no announcement when or if she will ever complete it.

When Melanie made this announcement that Spellbinder was cancelled needless to say that her fan base was not enthused which seems to have come as a surprise to Melanie. She then seems to have had something of a child’s tantrum. With the reaction not being what she expected she took the announcement down. On her website is a thread where her fans can come and rant about the Captals Tower, a place that Rawn has said herself she doesn’t go so fans can go and vent their frustrations without upsetting the author. Yet after the announcement when people were on there voicing their disappoint she turned up with a few catty remarks. On another thread when a reader voiced the opinion that he or she now waits for a series to be completed before buying and reading it Melanie came out and said she doesn’t understand that. Oh come on a reader has been waiting thirteen years so far for a conclusion to Exiles and there is still no end in sight and the author can’t understand that type of behavior? While it is obvious this latest setback is not Melanie’s fault she could have handled it a lot better. With the first two spellbinder books selling poorly there is little chance that another publisher will pickup the third but there is nothing stopping Melanie from self publishing it or posting it on her website. At the time of writing Rawn has made no announcement whatsoever about this book and she shouldn’t be surprised if her fan base doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for the proposed next trilogy. What seems to have set Melanie off is that if her readers take the wait and see approach then her new series will have just as poor sales as Spellbinder did, yet Melanie seems to believe that the readers should buy whatever she writes just because she wrote it. Readers have no such obligation and there is enough of a market out there that they won’t ever have to. Melanie Rawn it times for you to realise your readers are not your bitch.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

The speaker of the realms, Lord Hyram, is riddled with a strange sickness that is gradually destroying him. He is due to name his replacement and the obvious candidate is Queen Shezira with whom he had an earlier agreement. Prince Jehal however has other ideas. He sets in motion an elaborate scheme to seize power for himself. Against the backdrop of political byplay nobody seems to notice that the loss of a white dragon might have severe consequences. Dragon’s are kept docile through potions mixed by the alchemists, now the white is starting to remember her true nature…and how humans have enslaved her and all her kind.

Dea’s novel sets off at a breakneck pace and the reader is initially left with very little opportunity to actually get to know the protagonists. As the novel wore on I thought that Deas settled into a better rhythm but still everything felt too rushed. Prince Jehal is masterfully realized and really steals the show as the arrogant upstart prince. However aside from one or two of the other POV characters everyone else feels flat and underrealized.

World building is another area that Deas could have fleshed out considerably more. The political system is a medieval type setup with kings and queens controlling their own territory, answerable only to the speaker who is charged with keeping the peace. The political byplay is certainly interesting but several steps removed from a Martin or even a Jordan. The fact that Jehal seemed to carry out every aspect of his plan almost single-handedly felt extremely unrealistic. I don’t think there is a monarch around who has never heard of delegation. The individual cultures that are bound to exist in these kingdoms are never explored and makes the world feel entirely one dimensional.

The premise with the dragons was intriguing and I liked the direction Deas is going with it. Keeping it in the background worked well in creating a sense of impending disaster. In Deas’ favour he is easily injects humor into his banter without having it clash with the darker nature of the story. Although the issue of the speaker is more or less resolved by the end of the book, none of the other plotlines are. I realize that this is just the start of a series but it made the ending anticlimactic.

Overall I don’t feel like Deas is giving us anything really new here. What he does give is good but there are a lot of authors doing it better. The flaws in his writing are certainly not fatal and I expect Deas will come back strongly and realize his obvious potential. 6.25/10.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Shen Tai has spent the last two years among the dead. In an effort to honour the memory of his recently deceased father he has been burying the unnumbered dead on an isolated battle site. He makes no distinction between those of his own people, the Kitan, and the bones of their former enemies. As a result he is honoured by both sides who supply him with the necessary provisions to survive. Shen’s life is changed forever when he learns that the princess Cheng-Wan has decided to bequeath two hundred and fifty Sardian horses to him. One such horse is enough to reward a man greatly, four or five will raise him far beyond his peers, two-hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift more than even the emperor himself has. Before Shen can even consider what such a gift will mean he is surprised by the arrival of Chou Yan, an old friend bearing some important news. Before he can give this news he is slain by his Kanlan guard who was secretly an assassin in disguise charged with killing Shen. Shen survives the attempt but is shaken as the assassin was sent after him before he was given the horses. Shen has little choice but to return to attempt to return to the capital, hoping answers may be found there.

Like many of Kay’s previous novels Under Heaven is based on a particular time period namely 8th century China. A number of other authors have utilized Chinese culture in fantasy settings but what sets Kay apart is the way Kay seamlessly weaves an unfamiliar worldview and way of thinking about the characters and makes it feel…well normal and believable. Something I noticed in some of Kay’s earlier novels was an overarching theme; namely the world is filled with interconnecting stories. This theme is present here as well and is conveyed well through the use of character perspectives. Most of the novel is told from Shen’s perspective but are broken up by chapters from other usually minor characters view of events. Kay does a good job of conveying that while the events of Shen’s story have an impact on them they are in the middle of their own stories. Indeed the direction the story took at the three-quarter mark was intriguing. There is an all important war being fought but the reader gets no more than glimpses of it as Shen decides his life lies in another direction.

Overall I’d have to say that Under Heavn is the best Kay novel I’ve read so far. 9/10.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Series Review: The Heritage of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Although loosely connected Brook's first three novels were most defintely standalone and I was interested to see how he would handle the challenge of a series.

The first book does a reasonable job of setting things up; The shade of Allanon has charged the Ohmsfords with fulfilling quests in order to save Shannara from the threat of the federation and the mysterious Shadowen that are pulling their strings. The only major problem was the glaring sameness that some of the characters share with previous incarnations. Especially Par and Coll who are strikingly similar to Shea and Flick from the original Sword of Shanara and Morgan Leah who is just like all of his ancestors. Also all of the characters had far too obvious motivations to be all that interesting.

Brooks rectified this in the two subsequent novels by introducing a few rather intriguing characters, including Quickening and Pe Ell, who were definitely painted in shades of grey and kept me guessing right until the end. The greater focus provided by following only a few characters was also welcome and allowed major story arcs to be resolved, thus avoiding an obvious pitfall of many such series.

The final volume didn't tie things together as well as I would have liked with Brooks over relying on repetitive events to bring the characters together. How many times can these characters get captured? Wren and Walker Boh's developing characters really saved the show here for me.

Overall the Heritage of Shannara was a solid series but it is obvious at this stage in his development there were still certainly areas for Brooks to work on to complete the transition from standalone novels to writing a series. 7.25/10

The Scions of Shannara 7.25/10
The Druid of Shannara 8/10
The Elf Queen of Shannara 8/10
The Talismans of Shannara 7/10

Monday, August 30, 2010

Review: The Talismans of Shannara by Terry Brooks

The charges that the shade of Allanon placed on the Ohmsford’s have now all been complete. Wren has brought the elves back to the four lands and become their queen. Walker Boh has restored the druid’s lost citadel of Paranor and become the first of a new lines of druids and Par has recovered what he believes to be the Sword of Shannara. Despite all this they are far from safe. Rimmer Dall, leader of the Shadowen, has tailor made traps for each of the Ohmsfords to ensure they cannot pool the talismans they have painstakingly obtained.

After having really enjoyed the focus of the previous two novels in the series I was curious to see how well Brooks would handle bringing all the branching storylines back together. Unfortunately he couldn't quite pull it off as well as I’d hoped and left me feeling a little disappointed. Almost every major character gets captured at some point during the story and this becomes really old really quickly as plot device to draw characters together. Also I felt that the passages with Wren and the elves didn’t quite fit with the rest of the story seeming very out of place.

One thing though I was very impressed with was the character development of Wren and Walker Boh. Walker especially had some inspired scenes where he seemed to hint at falling back to his ‘angry young man’ persona despite all he learned and grown almost like the struggles of a smoker who has just recently given up cigarettes.

While far from a bad book Talisman's fails to deliver on the promise of the previous two novels. 7/10.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Review: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is in trouble. Again. Thomas, a white court vampire, has called in a favour and sent Harry to investigate some strange goings on the set of an adult film. The film’s producer believes he is the target of a sinister entropy curse and the women about him are dying in ever more unlikely ways. Thomas seems to have a stake in the case that Harry can’t quite figure out what and that makes him nervous. Meanwhile Marva, a particular vicious blackcourt vampire, is in town and intent on finishing Harry off and Harry’s hired help might prove just as deadly. To top it all off Harry finds himself dog sitting a boisterous puppy dog.

I think the most evident thing about the six installment of the Dresden files is that Butcher really puts Harry through his paces. No really. I know Harry usually finds himself in the deep end but this time Butcher has thrown everything at him including the kitchen sink to see how he reacts. Not even counting the obvious threats to Harry’s physical wellbeing, the beliefs he holds about his mentor Ebenezer and the white council, beliefs he has based his life on are turned on their head and Harry has to face some shocking revelations about his own family. The Dresden files are often seen as episodic but there some definite underlying plots throughout the series as evidenced by the aforementioned. Harry doubted, got very angry and of course soldiered on.

There was also a good focus on the development of a couple of support characters, namely Murphy and Thomas. It was certainly interesting to see a more vulnerable side to the cocky and calm playboy, while Murphy’s issues from previous books are dredged up and it is interesting to see how she copes and has ultimately grown as an individual.

Overall another solid offering from Butcher 8/10.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: To Green Angel Tower:Siege by Tad Williams

Prince Joshua, Simon and their allies find themselves under siege at the Stone of Farewell as King Elias sends a large force to route them out of their refuge. Meanwhile Miriamele finds herself in a precarious position, trapped aboard the Eadne Cloud it is revealed that Earl Aspitis is aware that she is King Elias’ daughter and has decided to force her into marriage and put himself inline for the throne.

This is the book in the series where everything just clicked into place for me. The growing up Simon and Miriamele have done throughout the earlier books really comes to the fore here and can be seen both through their own perspectives and through the way other characters regard them. Aside from the main protagonists the side stories are intriguing especially that of Rachel and earl Guthwulf and I’m curious to see where that leads. The previous volume has often been criticized as slow paced with not too much happening in terms of major events. Williams makes up for it here in a big way. Bloody sieges, night time skirmishes with outlandish monsters on a ship caught in a fierce storm, you name it and its in here.

Overall this book worked for me in a big way. 8.5/10

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Review: The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

The world is about to change. For centuries mankind has huddled in their homes under the scant protection of magical wards as demons roamed the night. Now two men have both been proclaimed deliver, mankind’s savior destined to lead them against the demons. Ahmann Jadir has united the desert-dwelling tribes of Krasia under his control and is now marching his forces North intent on bringing the scattered Greenland city states into his war by any means necessary. The northerners however have their own deliverer, the painted man. The painted man spurns the title however, content with spreading the previously lost battle wards amongst his people and then fighting his own war against the demons. The painted man fears that he has absorbed too much power from the demons and is slowly losing his humanity and becoming a demon himself. Meanwhile Leesha must decide if she should sacrifice her independence and become one of Jadi's wives in order to ensure Deliver's Hollows safety and facedown her own issues with letting another person love her.

Ahmann Jadir played an important, if contracted role, in the previous book. He was once Arlen's, AKA the painted mans, friend but chose to betray him when Arlen discovered a battle warded spear in a set of ancient ruins and took the prize for himself. His motives seemed pretty black and white back then, simple greed and jealously but as this book reveals those motives were in fact far from simple. The first portion of the book focuses on Jadir’s life before the first book in much the same way as Arlen, Rojer and Leesha’s stories were told. Through Jadir’s eyes we come to understand the desert dwellers culture, their sense of honour and what makes them tick. This provides an interesting contrast with the glimpse we had of them from Arlen’s perspective in the first book. This contrast between Jadir and the painted man is an overriding theme throughout the novel and sets things up nicely for their evitable confrontation in the next book.

Arlen’s discomfort at the messiah-like status he has achieved and the clash between who he was and what he has become as he encounters people from his earlier life was extremely interesting and enjoyed seeing Brett further flesh out his character. Unlike the previous novel we have a few chapters told from the demon’s perspective and I really enjoyed the way the author created a unique perspective for them and provided a greater insight into them.

Overall the desert spear is an excellent middle book, revealing more of the world the Brett introduced in his debut and hinting at even more to come. 8.5/10.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Review: Alcatraz Versus The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson

Following on from their adventure at the library of Alexandria Alcatraz and co arrive in the free kingdom city of Crystallia to a major shock; The high king is in the middle of peace negotiations with the librarians and it looks increasingly likely that the kingdom of Mokia, home to a good friend of Alcatraz, will be abandoned to face the Librarians on their own. Meanwhile Bastille has been stripped of her armour and her knighthood might soon follow. Suspecting a librarian trick Alcatraz sets about investigating.

The first two Alcatraz books were largely set in our world so it is certainly interesting to get a firsthand look into the free kingdoms, which is filled with such wonders as dragon-taxis and where every building is a castle. Although all of that is weird and wonderful I was kind of hoping Sanderson might have fleshed out the world a touch more. The style of writing remains the same with Alcatraz addressing the reader firsthand but I felt the jokes weren't quite as good this time around and seemed slightly rushed. Also the character development of Alcatraz and Bastille which I was so impressed with in the previous book seemed to stall and didn't advance much. There were some enticing hints about where Alcatraz's relationship with his estranged parents might be going but these seem to have been left to a future book to explore further.

All in all Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia was another fun read though not quite as good as the previous two volumes. Funs of the series will no doubt enjoy it but I don't think it will win any new readers. I couldn't help feeling it was slightly rushed and at times felt like it was simply killing time to the next volumes. 7/10.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Review: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Following on from the events of the previous book Laurence and Temeraire arrive back in Britain in tow with the Prussian survivors with Napoleon now firmly in control of the continent. While they were away a flu-like virus has devastated Britain’s dragon population, the only reason the nation hasn't fallen yet is that Napoleon is ignorant of this news. Tememaire and his band of untrained feral dragons are tasked with patrolling the entirety of Britain. Following an accident Temeraire is exposed to the quarantined dragons but surprisingly does not fall sick. Laurence surmises that his dragon must have developed an immunity, recalling that Temeraire had fallen sick while on route to China but had recovered after a stopover in The Cape Colony. Laurence, Temeraire and the remainder of his sick squadron are despatched to Cape Town in the hope that the cure might be found there, if not then Britain is as good as doomed as the dragons begin to die.

One thing Novik has done extremely well throughout this series is to show that both sides are not faultless in the Napoleonic war. It would have been easy to portray the French as evil conquerors and the British as faultless and noble but thankfully Novik has avoided this trap. This book marks the best example of this and the conflict that Laurence, who is both fiercely loyal to his country and has a strong sense of right and wrong, experiences when his superiors discuss the possibility of using biological warfare was masterful. Without giving too much away the finale of this book was excellent. My only criticism is about one of the aspects of these books that seems to be becoming formulaic. In the two previous novels the protagonists find themselves captives of a foreign culture and have to escape around the middle of the book. This again happens here and I hope Novik does not overuse this plot devise.

Overall this is another strong offering in an excellent series, highly recommended. 8.25/10

Saturday, June 19, 2010

News: Scott Lynch releases a new chapter in Queen of the Iron Sands

For those of you who don't know Lynch, author of the Gentleman bastard series, began releasing chapters in an online scifi serial titled Queen of the Iron Sand last year. Unfortuntely Scott's been suffering some severe depression that has prevented him doing much writing lately and the project has been on hold. Until now that is. Scott has just released the first part of chapter 5. If you haven't statred reading this serial yet you're in for a real treat so give it a go and show Scott your support.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks

Following the death of his master and in the wake of the Godking’s violent coup Kylar Stern takes his adopted daughter Uly and his love interest Elene to a new city. There he hopes to forge a new life for himself, a normal one far removed from his time as a highly skilled wetboy and the constant killing. Kylar however finds it difficult to walk away from something he has been molded all his life to do. Once he learns that his best friend and the now rightful king Logan maybe alive he is forced to give up the fledging life he was building with Elene and Uly in order to save Logan and consequently his country. Logan meanwhile is trapped in the hole among the very worst criminals where he has to do whatever is necessary to stay alive while keeping his identify a secret. Logan has always considered himself a good man but will the depths he is forced to sink to destroy him or make him stronger? Vi finds herself in a rather compromising position when she draws the Godking’s attention onto herself and is forced to try and assassinate Jarl the new Shinga and possibly the only friend she has ever had and Kylar a wetboy who just might be better than her.

That synopsis really doesn’t do this book justice and there is a huge cast of characters and a plethora of events taking place, which is also this novel’s greatest weakness. The first book was anchored nicely in being very focused on Kylar, yes there were much larger events in play but it really was Kylar’s story. Not so in this one where while Kylar does play an important role he is just one of many, I’d say too many, perspectives. I really feel Weeks was attempting too much here and there is simply too much going on and not enough about the world being explained to fully understand the side stories. The characters are really well realized and I especially liked Logan’s development and how his experiences in the hole effected him. However there were a few characters introduced who seemed rather stereotypical fantasy fare which was disappointing, for example Sister Ariel, the scholarly member of an all women magical society, was far too similar to someone like a Verin Seadi from the Wheel of Time books for me to be entirely comfortable with her.

All in all Shadow’s Edge is a good book but it really could have been great if it didn’t feel like things were so rushed and Weeks wasn’t trying to cram two books worth of material into it. 7.25/10

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: The midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin

With her debut novel for adults Kate Griffin produced a real masterpiece which pushed the boundaries of urban fantasy to new levels. I was curious to see if she could back that up in her second novel and the answer is a firm and resounding; YES.

The magical defences of London have been systematically destroyed. The ravens in the tower of London have been massacred , The wall has been defaced by graffiti and the midnight mayor, the mythical protector of the city, has been killed. With his dying breath he sent his powers through the telephone wire where it finds Matthew Swift, a sorcerer and host of the blue electric angels. Matthew, who didn’t even believe the midnight mayor existed, now finds himself thrust into the office and immediately attacked by mystical forces. The death of cities has come to London and Mathew is the last defence in his way.

Like the first book the story is told in the first person from Matthew's perspective. Again it is obvious that the author absolutely loves London and the city and is described so intensively that it is almost like the city is a character itself. The story itself follows a similar format to the first one which is the only minor criticism I could come up with. The novel is paced well, the author’s use of language creates an excellent fast-paced vibe which really reiterates that Matthew is under some serious pressure. It also nice to see Matthew's character really develop and to start question who he really is.

Overall the Midnight Mayor is another fine offering from a young author who is definitely one to watch. 8.5/10

Friday, June 4, 2010

Review: The Briar King by Greg Keyes

I will never forget reading the prologue to Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World. Without warning I was thrown into the middle of a rather confusing and intense scene. It was obvious that there was a great deal that had gone before that I was not privy too, I had to double-check the back cover to make sure that it was in fact the first book in a series. The whole experience was so disconcerting that I almost stopped reading it right then and there. I’m glad I didn’t. The prologue to Greg Keye’s Briar King bears many striking resemblances to that of Jordan’s. Both are set in the prehistory of the world that is about to be explored and both introduce characters and concepts that will only make sense much later on. Oh one more thing both pack one hell of a punch that drags you into the book and no matter how you kick and scream simply won’t let go.

Boiled right down to its base elements the plot is this; hundreds of years ago human slaves lead by Genia Dare tapped into a strange power, known as the sedos, to overthrow their Skasloi overlords. Little did they know that by using that power they had doomed themselves. This doom seems come to head in the ‘present day’ and we follow the beginning of this through the eyes of a cast of characters, including the descendents of Genia Dare. I really enjoyed the way Keye’s kept this in the background, like a hunting lion awaiting to pounce, while smaller scale events took center stage.

To use a pun Keye’s world building is literally out of this world and really deserves a great deal of attention. The history, geography and cultures are well thought out and I enjoyed seeing the influence of medieval as well as a different Mediterranean flavor in the pieces revealed in the first book. I think we really are only scratching the surface at this point and can’t wait to see where Keyes takes us from here. The cast of characters Keyes introduces us to are interesting and complex despite at first glance seeming almost stereotypical. High praise needs to be given to Asper White for being the first middle aged man in a fantasy novel to finally have the smarts to say ‘I’m one lucky bastard’ and just going with it when a pretty young woman falls in love with him instead of trying to chase her away for her own good. The most important aspect for me is that the different points of views actually feel like I’m seeing the world through different eyes to the character in the previous chapter and Keyes scores highly here as well.

All in all I couldn’t find anything Keyes did wrong, not one single thing. So I highly recommend this book. 9/10

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Review: The dragon's Lair by Elizabeth Haydon

If Ven had expected rest after fulfilling his second mission for King Vandemere as royal reporter and having just barely escaped the Thief Queen’s clutches he is sorely mistaken.Barely a day later Vandemere gives Ven a new and rather confusing mission; Ven is to try settle a dispute between two warring kingdoms, one of which is also being menaced by an angry dragon. What’s more Ven has to take most of his friends with him as the Thief Queen is still fuming and has sent every agent at her disposal to track them all down. Some of those friends don’t get on as well with each other as Ven might have hoped.

Like the two previous novels the third follows the same format of having exerts of Ven’s lost journals interspacing the rest of the text put together by ‘archaeologists’. A format which has worked well and continues to do so. The only major difference being Ven now begins every chapter with a memory from home which he relates to his present circumstances, which could be the first hint that he might be beginning to feel homesick. The piece of this book that I find most striking is the awkward position Ven finds himself in when he must keep his merrow friend Amariel’s identity from his other friends and the conflict this evidently leads to. Even though Ven does everything he believes in right in this situation he encounters hostility from both sides. I thought this was a very intriguing stance to take in a young adult novel, essentially there is often no right or wrong answer and applaud the author.

All in all I enjoyed this installment in a series that has sadly not enjoyed the attention it should have. Based on the extract for the fourth book I’m really interested to see the twists it takes from here. 7/10.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Review: Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Fifteen year old Ned Mariner finds himself whisked out of school and on a trip to France with his father, a famous photographer, who is working on a new book. Ned seems a bit uncertain how he feels about this situation until he meets Kate Wegner, an American exchange student with a deep knowledge of the areas local history, while exploring the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral. Both are surprised when they encounter a knife wielding, scarred stranger routing around in the same cathedral. It quickly becomes obvious that they have stumbled upon a world neither of them understand and an extremely old story, whose players seem to be trapped in a continuous cycle. Two men both in love with the same woman, Ysabel, who comes back to life periodically to choose one or the other. Ned finds himself thrust into an familiar position of responsibility and the life of a friend rests in the balance when Melanie, his father's assistant is chosen as the body Ysabel with inhabit. If he can’t find Ysabel before the two other men do his friend will be lost forever.

What immediately struck me when reading this novel is how well Kay gets into the head of the teenage protagonist. Ned Mariner's thoughts often drift to those things important to a boy of his age and he really feels like an individual on the cusp of manhood but still uncertain of it. The overlying theme of this work appears to be the layers of history that can become part of a place and Kay’s masterful descriptions really create a sense of that against the backdrop of France and the many peoples that have occupied it over countless centuries. Two characters from Kay’s earliest novels make an appearance but having not read the books in question I can’t fully appreciate the significance of this, aside from possibly furthering the theme of history and connectedness.

Overall I was once again wowed by Kay’s work and can’t wait to work my way through the body of his work. 8.5/10.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Review: Beyond the Wall of Time by Russell Kirkpatrick

Russell Kirkpatrick really pulled out something special with the first Husk book but lost a bit of steam in the second. I was hoping he could recapture that initial momentum and was curious how the third book, Beyond the Wall of Time would turn out.

The group, made up of three smaller groups each drawn from a different continent, has barely survived an encounter with the Son, one of three gods, and only because of the Most High’s interference. The father cannot risk aiding the travelers again against his two wayward children once they leave the house of the gods or risk destroying creation itself. The son and daughter use that to their advantage to reek havoc on an unsuspecting world, hoping to cause enough death and destruction to break the wall of time and make their escape into the world. Lenares believes she has the power to stop them but needs to unite her companions, many of whom have their own agendas. Meanwhile Husk still lurks in the shadows hoping to lure Stella and the undying man back to Adratan and take a vengeance denied to him for nearly seven decades.

Initially I felt that the pace of this novel was a bit too relentless. The travelers are hit with life threatening event after life threatening event and it’s hard to take it all in. I was a bit worried that the author was trying to jam pack everything into one book that might have needed two. About a third of the way into the book the pace settled into a better rhythm. I had hoped that in the final book Husk would have taken center stage and was a bit disappointed that his story was superseded by the clash with the Gods and he seemingly became nothing more than a tool in that struggle. Kirkpatrick seems to believe that his strength as a writer is world building but I believe he is just as good if not better at creating morally complex characters that show genuine growth and change throughout a series and that was definitely the highlight of this novel. Most noteworthy was Stella and I really enjoyed seeing her finally come to grips with the person she really is.

Overall I did enjoy this novel but never felt it delivered on the promise of the first one. I Found the same thing in Kirkpatrick’s first trilogy but he is definitely showing some real progress and I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. 7/10.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review: Enigma by C.F. Bentley

Following on from the first book a delegation from Harmony, lead by high priestess Sissy, is meeting with the CCS on a neutral space station trying to eke out a treaty for mutual protection against Maril aggression. These already tense negations are thrown into chaos when an alien ship crashes into the station. Believing that management cannot provide for their protection major Jake Devlin usurps control of the station. He gets more when he bargains for when a mysterious phantom, Mac the alien half brother of the original manager, begins wreaking havoc. Meanwhile high priest Gregor arrives seeking to bring Sissy back to harmony and regain control of her but suffers a major heart attack that threatens his life. As always Jake’s former superior and resident spymaster Pammy has her own agenda, that involves a recently discovered planet. As does a mysterious stowaway Adrial.

From that synopsis it is obvious there is a lot going on in this novel and sadly I think it suffers for it. I was left with the strong impression that the author didn’t have everything completely clear in her own mind and things can get quite confusing. Like the first novel though she has created some excellent characters but I didn’t feel like Jake and Sissy stole the show to the same extent this time around. I really enjoyed the differing agendas of some of the support characters, especially Adrial and Mac. Though at times some of the characters behaved rather irrationally. One incident that immediately springs to mind is the normally practical Jake’s decision to bring along two people suffering some very serious health problems on an expedition to an alien planet. He really should have known that could only end badly and this seemed out of character. Some of the concepts especially the idea of a First Contact Café, a neutral space station built for the express purpose of providing a meeting place for different cultures, were truly inspired.

Overall there were some really good ideas in this novel not to mention very interesting characters but I think the author struggled in conveying those ideas from her head, onto paper and then onto the reader. The end product suffered as a result. Still it was a decent read and I think Bentley will only keep on improving from here. 6.25/10

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: The Dragobone Chair by Tad Williams

Considering Tad Williams reputation and impact within the fantasy field it is something of a surprise that I have only recently gotten around to reading one of his novels. I had read his short story in the Legends 2 anthology several years ago and while it was good in itself, it wasn’t enough to inspire to pick up anything else by him. Now that I have I can see that his is a reputation well earned.

Prester John, the high king for countless decades who united the land like never before is dead. In the chaos which follows an ancient evil takes advantage of the situation inciting John’s sons into a deadly contest for the throne which no side can win. Only the scattered remnants of an ancient order are aware of the true danger and Simon, a castle scullion who has unknowingly been apprenticed to one of those members finds himself caught up in events he never would have imagined. The quest for three magical swords, each lost in the pages of history and their only hope.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the contrast between events related through Simon’s eyes to those of other characters. Simon is a teenager who has never been out of the castle in his entire life before and William’s captures his naivety perfectly. The events related by the adults felt a lot darker and reminded me a bit of Martin’s work, this felt like a real forerunner to that more realistic style of his. The byplay between Simon and the troll Binabik cut the tension nicely and was also effortlessly funny. Pacing was another area where I felt Williams excelled here with a good buildup to the large scale battle at the conclusion and introducing an interesting cliffhanger or two.

Overall Williams is simply as good as his reputation says he is and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. 8.25/10.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Review: The Elf Queen of Shannara by Terry Brooks

After being thoroughly impressed by the second volume of the heritage of Shannara series I was concerned that the third book might struggle to keep up that momentum. I needn’t have worried.

Charged with the nigh impossible task of finding and bringing the Elves back to the Four Lands by the shade of Allanon Wren Ohmsford and her mute companion Garth are forced to follow the only lead they have, the mad ramblings of an aged seer. It leads them to a meeting with Tiger Tye, one of the few remaining sky elves with the ability to ride the giant Rocs, who is able to tell them that the elves had relocated to a far off island many years ago. There has been no word from them in decades and the island is now a deathtrap filled with deadly creatures that seemed to have materialized from out of nowhere. Wren decides to risk a trip to the island, unsure if the elves are even still there and if she can bring them back if they are.

Like the second volume the third focuses on one set characters in this case Wren and Garth as they seek to fulfill their charge, with only small snippets given over to the other characters. As before I enjoyed the focus this provided and it is nice to have part of the story resolved in a single volume. Unlike the second volume though where there were multiple viewpoints following the same storyline Wren is almost the exclusive point of view character for this volume. This worked well for me as the whole journey challenged Wren’s perception of who she was and where she came from to a great extent and it was good to follow her personal growth as the story progressed. Again some of the supporting character’s motivations were more complex than the first book which was a nice touch.

Overall Brooks has again produced some of his best work and this volume is well worth a read. 8/10.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Review: The Treasured One by Daivd and Leigh Eddings

When I read The Elder Gods, the first book in the Dreamers series by David and Leigh Eddings, I thought the criticism that the series had received was rather harsh. Sure there were a few familiar elements from some of their previous series seemingly recycled straight out of their previous work but going on the first book I felt the series had great potential. Now I’m not so sure.

With the Vlagh invasion of Zelana’s domain having ended in failure it now turns its attention to one of the other Elder Gods’, Veltan, peaceful land. The Elder Gods move quickly bringing up their armies across to the threatened area. However when it is revealed there is a second invasion in the works it seems obvious that a new force, whether for ill or good, has entered the fray. A force that may surpass even the Elder Gods.

The biggest problem I have with this book is in the pacing and especially that in the first third of the book. The same ground (partly things from this book and partly things from the first.) is covered over and over again from different characters perspectives. I don’t feel this offered any major insights and really made the story feel like it was stalling. The whole book is also extremely dialogue heavy with a great deal of time spent on characters talking about doing things and not much spent actually doing them. So far though I’ve also found that the characters in this series are far less memorable and likeable than those in other Edding’s novels which has always been their main draw card.

Overall I’ve found the second book in the Dreamer’s series to be a bit of a disappointment. Hopefully the third book can turn things around. 5.75/10.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Review: The Druid of Shannara by Terry Brooks

One thing I absolutely love about Terry Brooks is that his writing and storytelling improve with each book. The Druid of Shannara, the second book in the Heritage of Shannara series is no exception.

After the events of the first book the King of the Silver River decides to take a direct hand in proceedings. He creates an avatar; a daughter named Quickening, made from ingredients of his garden and his own magic and charges her with the task of recovering the black Elfstone. The Elfstone was stolen by Uhl Belk, another fairie creature left over from the dawn of time and warped by the passing of eons. To fulfill her purpose Quickening sets about recruiting a small band of followers including a maimed Walker Boh and a virtually powerless Morgan Leah, as well as a mysterious assassin Pe Ell. Convincing each of them that all of their magic is required to recover the lost talisman.

The majority of the second book focuses on the exploits of the aforementioned characters and there are only brief glimpses into what Wren, Par and Coll are up to. In the first book there was almost a sameness about the characters in that all of their intentions were always crystal clear. Even the dark uncle Walker Boh’s motivations were fairly simple; wanting to avoid being ensnared in the machinations of the druids. This problem is rectified by the addition of two fairly complex characters in Quickening and Pe Ell. Both are much more than they appear on the surface and their motivations are murky right up until the end.

Overall I felt this book was a big step in the right direction and one which I thoroughly enjoyed. 8/10.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Review: The Other Lands by David Anthony Durham

After reading and enjoying David Anthony Durham’s first foray into fantasy, Acacia, last year I was intrigued to see if his sequel could live up to the original. He didn’t disappoint me.

Nearly a decade has past since the events of the first book. Corinn rules the empire but is disturbed at the growing unrest of the people which threatens that rule. When the league offers her a new alternative to mist to control those people she is very intrigued. Her brother Dariel is troubled by his own actions during the war with the Mein and has spent the last few years working amongst the people, this is interrupted when Corinn sends him as an emissary to the mysterious Other Lands to show their support for the League in a major dispute. Things quickly take a turn for the worse and once again the Known World is threatened by invasion. Mena meanwhile has spent the last few years hunting down monsters known as Foulthings, a task she has almost completed. The last of the Foulthings is however something she never would have expected.

One of the themes of The Other Lands is that all actions have consequences. This is made immediately apparent from the beginning with Mena hunting down the foulthings, hybrid creatures created by the after effects of the magic unleashed by the Santoth to destroy Hanish Mein’s army. The second book goes a long way into expanding the history of the land and the factors that are shaping it during this turbulent time. What I liked most about this novel is the consistent character progression, especially Corrin’s. Her inability to trust those around her and her insecurity lead to a great cliffhanger to close The Other Lands and sets the series up perfectly for the finale.

Overall I enjoyed the Other Lands and highly recommend it. Durham is certainly one to watch. 8/10

Monday, January 25, 2010

Review: The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

The last decade was an absolute gold mine for emerging talent in the fantasy genre and I’ve stumbled across yet another one in Brent Weeks.

Azoth is a young orphan living on the streets, part of a guild of child thieves. Life has always been a struggle for survival but becomes even more so when Azoth makes an enemy of Rat an older and stronger boy who is one step away from the guild leadership. Azoth dreams of becoming the apprentice of Durzo Blint the most skilled wetboy, super skilled assassin, in the city. A chance encounter with the man himself leads to an ultimatum; If Azoth can kill Rat within one week Blint will take him as an apprentice. Azoth finds that he can’t do it, at least until Rat horribly disfigures one of his best friends, Doll Girl. Once the deed is done Azoth fulfills his promise. Blint fakes Azoth’s death and the young man assumes the identity of Kylar, a young nobleman, and is thrust into a very different world. Kylar is swept up in larger events that threaten the kingdom, all the while he faces a threat of a different sort. If he fails to tap into his talent, the magical ability employed by every wetboy, Durzo will kill him.

What immediately struck me about Way of Shadows is it really is Kylar/Azoth’s story. Larger events are taking place but the focus is always on him which gives it a very intimate feel. Following a similar vein to other recent releases the story is dark and gritty but at the same time it emphasizes the message that hope lives on. I was very impressed with the way Weeks portrayed his characters, especially the younger ones. From the way Kylar grew up he is wise in some things while naïve in many others and this contrasts with the way other characters such as Logan and Doll girl, with different upbringings, see the world. One minor gripe I have is there are a few too many miraculous survivals after characters are seemingly killed. This is not so much an issue when the reader is aware of this and the characters are in the dark but I don’t think it is a good idea to bring characters back from the ‘dead’. If this happens too often it risks sucking meaning from the scenes in which important characters do actually die, a mistake often made in comic books.

Other than that The Way of Shadows is an immensely satisfying debut and one I highly recommend. 8.5/10.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune’s cover gives it a lot to live up to. The front proudly proclaims the novel as the Winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards. While on the back Arthur C. Clarke, no less, boldly claims that it is the Science Fiction equivalent of Lord of the Rings. I was certainly intrigued to see if it lived up to all the hype.

The duke of the Atreides has been sent to the desert planet of Arrakis by the emperor. His task is to oversee the mining of spice, one of the most valuable commodities in the galaxy. However the Duke is aware that the appointment is only a front for the emperor and his mortal enemy the Baron Harkonnen. The duke believes he can turn the situation to his advantage but is quickly proven wrong, his house is almost entirely wiped out and he is killed. His son Paul and his wife Jessica escape and live among the native desert dwelling people who believe Paul is a Messiah type figure. Jessica herself is a powerful member of an all women religious society and had a son against that orders wishes. But it is hinted from the very first pages that Paul could be a messiah for that order as well. Paul bides his time waiting for the opportunity to restore his house.

I can see where the comparisons with Lord of the Rings come from. The World building (or I suppose in this case universe building) is very impressive. The political and religious systems are highly elaborate and a great deal of thought as gone into the ecology of Arrakis. Interestingly character view point can change multiple times during a chapter (A style of writing that I’ve only seen echoed by Elizabeth Haydon). Rather than being jarring it is a great tool for giving the reader more of an insight into secondary characters. Each chapter begins with a quote from various books on Paul most often written by Princess Irulan, who is a minor character that only appears near the end of the book. This was quite a clever way of introducing the reader to a character obviously intended to play a larger role in subsequent books. The characters are generally well realized and convincing with one notable exception; Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. He is painted far too much as a stereotypical villain to be convincing. He is so fat that he needs machinery to support his weight, he molests little boys and with the book coming out during the cold war period it is obvious that the name ‘Vladimir’ was deliberately chosen for this purpose as well. I was almost surprised there wasn't a giant sign pinned to his back saying 'I'm the evil villian so you should hate me.' What’s more is his plans don’t tend to make a great deal of sense. He invents a substantial amount of wealth into bringing down his arch-nemesis the duke but doesn’t really seem to benefit from it and it doesn’t seem to aid his ultimate goal of having one of his descendents become emperor. So all in all he comes across as a complete idiot and I seriously doubt this was the author’s intention.

Overall Dune is an enjoyable read which seems to have stood the test of time but falls short of being a masterpiece in my opinion. Perhaps I would have gotten more out of it if I had read more Science Fiction but then again who can tell? 7.25/10

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Review: Last Light of the Sun by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavrial Kay is one of those authors I’ve heard nothing but good things about and have been meaning to check out but never got around to it. Until now that is. Having now read The Last Light of the Sun I can safely say that Kay is as good as they say he is.

The story follows a number of characters who share connections either through kinship or twists of fate. Alun ab Owyn, the younger son of a ruler, whose life is changed forever when his elder brother dies in a raid and he finds himself now his father’s heir. Consumed by a passion for revenge at the same time his faith is tested when he discovers that the fairies his ancestors believed in may be more than just stories. Ceinion one of the most renowned holy men in the land, saves Alun and his elder brother by an act of chance only to have the elder die soon after. Finds himself responsible for protecting the youngers’ life as well as his soul while trying to find a way to unite his people. Thorkell an aged raider who has his retirement spoiled when he kills a man in a fit of rage and is sent into exile. Forced to take up raiding again and he finds his life take another turn when he is captured on a raid. His son Bern, made a servant because of his father’s exile, he steals a horse and escapes seeking his own place among the raiders.

One of the themes of this novel is characters getting swept up in a tide of events larger than themselves. On a number of occasions a character would say something, either important or prophetic, and then wonder why they had said it. Almost as if an outside force is influencing them. It reminds me a bit of Homer’s Odyssey with the Gods running around in the background influencing events except in this case it is completely behind the scenes. Having mythical creatures like fairies in the story subtly reinforces this. Continuing along with this theme the reader is given a number of glimpses, usually a few pages long, into the thoughts of minor characters who either influence events or are profoundly influenced by them. Ironically enough in the end it becomes obvious one of the principal characters has played a role in another important event only vaguely related to the story but perhaps surpassing it. In terms of the actual characters themselves I enjoyed the distinction Kay made between the older and younger characters. He really conveyed the impression of how a persons view of the world can be altered by experience.

All in all I enjoyed my first foray into Kay’s work and will certainly read more from him in the future. 8.5/10.