Friday, March 14, 2014

Review: At Faith's End by Chris Galford

With the Idasian emperor having fallen a power vacuum has emerged which many contenders would seek to full.Leopold a priest and brother to the late emperor, strongly supported by his wife, who has been out of the empire for decades sets to work taking the throne. His main opponent is a nobleman Walthere Cullick who has the empress under his thumb and hopes to marry his daughter Charlotte to the former emperor's young son. Meanwhile the emperor's bastard son Tessel has taken control of the imperial army in the field. He lacks the support of the nobles and when an attempt on his life fails he decides to lead the army home intent on conquest. Rurik Matair is uncertain of his own place, he is caught between his loyalty to Tessel and his own brother. His friends in the company of the eagle have turned their backs on them unsure if he is responsible for raping Essa when she was drugged. All the while the man responsible the deranged baker Voren would like nothing better than to see the end of Rurik.

Like the first book the biggest strength of this one is the diversity and complexity of it's well realized cast of characters. Having said that I was disappointed that some of the events that happen do not seem to leave an emotional impact on the characters. For example a group of merecenaries attempt to rape Essa but this does not seem to have any impact on her going foward.

Pacing is initially very slow with little happening in the first third of the book. Having said that once it does pick up I was hooked and thought the ending in particular was well realized.

Another minor issue is that two conversations that Rurik has with Alviss and Essa later in the book seem to be completly recycled from earlier. This should have been picked up in editing.

Overall this is a good solid book but several issues make it somewhat less than it's predecessor. 7/10.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review:Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams

Bobby Dollar is on something of an enforced probation as some of the higher powers in Heaven look at his role in the events of the emergence of a "third way."  Things quickly get worse as an undead creature named Smyler begins attacking Bobby. Smyler is after the location of an archangels feather that Bobby has which could cause trouble for Eligor a grand duke of hell by proving he has been making deals with someone in heaven behind his colleagues' backs. That coupled with the fact that someone pretty powerful needs to have been involved to bring Smyler back from the dead is enough for Bobby to decide to take the fight to Eligor. He embarks on a seemingly doomed venture into hell itself to rescue his demon girlfriend Casimira from Eligor's backyard.

Bobby's journey through hell is an emotional tour de force. While the first volume touched on the themes of redemption and characters of shades of grey this one takes it to the next level as Bobby encounters not only evil in hell but some good as well. It definitely doesn't shy away from some tough questions and the characterization definitely takes a step up from the previous volume. 

My only critique would be the ending is a touch predictable and does seem a bit underwhelming compared to the rest of the story.

Overall  Williams improves on his previous urban fantasy effort with a tough emotional punch. 8.25/10.