Saturday, July 21, 2012

Review: Canticle by Ken Scholes

The birth of Rudolfo's son and heir to the Ninefold forest is imminent and several heads of state have converged to honour his first born child. During the feast a group of magicked assassins attack and kill several dignitaries including Hanric, the marsh queen’s shadow ruler. This forces young Winter to publicly take the throne. Rufolfo is inexplicably left untouched. Amid the turmoil Jin Li Tam gives birth to Jacob but the child is sickly, the result of the powders used to enable his conception. Rudolfo is left with no choice but to seek out Jin's father in hopes of a cure, a man he swore to kill when next they met. Meanwhile another metal man has arrived bearing news about a hidden library which stores all of the knowledge lost with Windwir's fall. Geb and Isaac are despatched to find it. Petronus and Li Tam are searching for an outside threat that they believe is responsible for Windwir's downfall, however people close to them may already be compromised.

Scholes does an excellent job of infusing an atmosphere of tension throughout the novel. I loved the frustration of the characters as they realized their choices were already anticipated by an overarching outside influence. Like the first novel Scholes’s pacing is spot on throughout and he uses multiple POV's shift and short sharp chapters to good effect. World-building is solid throughout as well without encroaching on the plot.

Overall Scholes certainly improves on his impressive debut. 8.5/10.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

Hammond arrives in Australia with a message for Laurence and Temeraire. The government has decided to reinstate Laurence into the Aerial Corps provided they agree to undertake a mission to Brazil and attempt negotiate a peace between the Tswana, who have come to recover what slaves they can, and the Portuguese. After some soul searching they agree but the trip to South America may not be as smooth as they would have hoped.

Like the previous volume Tongue of Serpents this book reads like a bit of a travelogue at times. I think the main problem is a lot of the tension from the earlier books is missing and I never believed that the characters were in any real peril. The conclusion is also a bit of a non-event and it almost feels like Novik is simply passing time in this volume and the last. The charm of the characters is still evident so there is still enough to keep fans of the series interested but I doubt it would win anyone else over.

Overall like its predecessor Crucible of Gold lacks a spark that made the earlier books so compelling. 7/10.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Review: The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe

Five years have passed since the events of the first book and Malian and Kalan have gone into hiding. The heralds Jehane Mor and Tarathan arrive at the city of Ij during the grand festival of masks. There they find Haimyr minstrel of the house of night who attempts to solicit their aid in finding Malain as he refuses to believe that she is dead and the house of night needs her now more than ever. The heralds decline the offer and soon find themselves in a cat-and-mouse game of survival as an unknown force assassinates the members of the heralds guild across the city. Meanwhile a cartographer master Carrik has had to evade outlaws to reach a keep in the wilderness and fulfil his commission. Things at the keep however are not as simple as they seem.

The problem with a lot of middle books is that after the success of a debut novel the author tries to replicate the formula verbatim and delivers something too similar to the original. Lowe neatly side steps this problem. Her second novel has a very different feel and atmosphere to the original and I loved the change of pace and espionage feel to the opening with the heralds. With most of the action taking place away from the wall Lowe introduces us to some other interesting places in Haarth and the peoples and cultures are well realized and very believable. Malian and Kalan are also different people and certainly more mature than five years ago and Lowe moves very much away from the coming of age hero story in the original.

Overall Lowe second effort is stronger than the very good original and one of the better middle books I’ve read in some time. 8.5/10.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: Infinite Devotion by L.E. Waters

Maya continues delving into her pasts lives. This time she explores the incarnations of misunderstood noblewoman Lucrezia Borgia in Renaissance Italy, a young stowaway on a doomed Spanish invasion of Britain and Count Redmond O’Hanlon a robin Hood-like outlaw in Ireland. Linking the three lives is Maya's soul’s attempts to learn the lesson of devotion.

Like the first book the concept is a clever one that allows the author to set multiple short stories in different time periods. Again the time periods concerned are well researched and have an authentic feel to them.

The links between the lives and the interconnected lesson Maya's soul must learn were better explored than the first book which was an area I was looking for improvement. Pacing however is not quite as good. The Lucrezia's story and the beginning of the stowaway story lagged a bit. Luckily the pace picked up considerably through the middle of the second story and I thought The O'Hanlon one was very well balanced and the highlight of the three.

Overall Waters delivers a good read. Links between lives and hence the overarching story are better conveyed but pacing does suffer at times. 7/10.