Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Deadbeat by Jim Butcher

Harry is not in the best of spaces right now. He is still having trouble getting used to his crippled hand and his half-vampire half-brother Thomas has issues of his own which he won’t share. What’s worse is that Karrin Murphy, Harry’s best friend and potential love interest, is off to Hawaii for a romantic getaway with a dangerous mercenary named Kincaid and Harry is stuck watering her plants. Things only go down hill when uber-vampire Marva threatens to destroy Murphy’s reputation unless Harry helps her retrieve a mystical book known as the word of Kemmler, a book which several powerful necromancers are determined to find as well.

What’s really evident in this book is how all the stuff Harry has been through is beginning to take it’s toll on him and Butcher really captures Harry's fatigue and frustration well. Harry is afraid to draw on his fire magic after the damage done to his hand and the people around Harry are beginning to notice that something isn’t quite right with him. Robbed of his usual assistance from Murphy, Harry finds aid from the unlikely source of a middle-aged polka playing mortician named Butters, whose character also develops interestingly, if slightly predictably, throughout the book. Lasciel, the fallen angel who gained a foothold in Harry’s mind by him
picking up the Roman coin she is housed in, also features prominently and is bound to play an even larger role in future installments. The way she subtly tries to tempt Harry is masterfully done.

Overall Dead Beat is another solid instalment in the Dresden files. 8.25/10

Monday, January 3, 2011

Review: Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Having finally overcome his inner turmoil the dragon reborn, Rand al'Thor, travels to the White Tower. There he informs the new Amyrlin Seat, Egwene al'Vere his intentions for facing the Dark One; Rand plans to destory the remaining seals on the Dark One's prision and release him so he can be faced while they still have some degree of strength left. Egwene is shocked at this proclamation and sets about gathering together the various nations’ leaders and their armies to confront Rand and try and change his mind. Meanwhile Perrin and his forces are slowly making their way towards Caemlyn but encounter a snag when they run across a White Cloak army which has captured some of his people. The White Cloaks are now led by Gawyn Trakand who is determined to see that Perrin is brought to justice for the murder of two White Cloaks years earlier. Perrin is forced into a corner where the only option seems to be to face the White Cloak army, while he is reaching the culmination of his struggle with his inner wolf. Mat Cauthon is already in Caemlyn but has problems of his own; he is still hunted by the golem and he intends to travel with the Thom and Noal to the Tower of Genji in an effort to save Moiraine.

Like the previous volume the first few scenes had me worried that Sanderson wouldn't capture the spirit of the characters properly. Siuan Sanche came across as an overly exaggerated part of her personality and was dropping fisherman's metaphors every second line and Gawyn felt off as well. Thankfully this issue was overcome again once Sanderson got into his stride and I think he got Gawyn in particular right. Mat and to a lesser extent Perrin also felt off in the previous volume but there are no such issues with them this time around and Mat in particular felt just right.

The Gathering Storm focused on Rand and Egwene and while the narative is a bit more spread this time around there is a strong focus on Perrin and Mat. Again we are treated to scenes that have been years, sometimes decades, in the making and these are handled really well. Even the mystery of Asmodean's killer is finally put to rest. Unlike the previous volume it is evidently apparent that the last battle is upon us and there are some amazingly strongly handled fight scenes coming out of the borderlands. A special treat for me was Aviendha's journey to Rhuidain and I definitely feel that the strongest scene in the book came out of this.

Overall the penultimate Wheel of Time book is another hit and it was nice to see the minor issues with the Gathering Storm were worked out. Bring on a Memory of Light. 9/10