Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Lore and Order by Steve Peacock

Jameson Parker is a warlock, a government sanctioned and controlled wizard with his magic being limited to whatever he can have signed off by Whitehall's bureaucrats. Jameson is however okay with that seeing as how the power of his magic once consumed him and made him into the 'dark lord of Hampshire'. Oh and if he used his magic without permission his bosses may explode his heart. When fires begin sprouting up all over Humberside City it is obvious an arsonist is involved and when a magical connection is inferred Jameson is sent to investigate. However with his government bosses  having major trust issues with him and the other local warlocks looking to start their own revolution, things may get complicated. 

As with most urban-fantasy novels, this one is written from a first person perspective and like other novels in this genre the key to a great read is having an engaging lead character. Jameson Parker certainly ticks all the right boxes. There are similarities to Harry Dresden and Bobby Dollar but these are largely superficial and I did enjoy his 'Britishness' and his surprisingly playful nature. 

The world-building is pretty interesting without being overbearing and I felt that Peacock used the setting of Humberside well enough. 

Pacing is well-controlled with never a lull throughout proceedings. I did enjoy the theme of the lead character having to rely on other non-magical solutions and thought this was worked rather cleverly into the conclusion.

My only minor gripe was with the random paragraph breaks mid-sentence which were distracting and broke the flow. It was also something that could have been easily remedied. 

Overall Peacock delivers a a strong lead-character driven novel and I can't wait to see where the next novel takes us. 8.5/10.   

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology

An anthology based on a look behind the scenes into the writing process itself, from brain storming story ideas, through the initial drafts, writing group feedback and final drafts. I haven't come across anything like this before. It's a very cool concept and will be a useful tool to budding writers and any readers with an interest in all things 'behind the scenes.' Of course all that aside the story themselves still need to work on their own and I'd say for the most part they do.

A Fire in the Heavens by Mary Robinette Kowal: A priestess of a religious minority group sails across the ocean hoping to help her people escape discrimination by finding the land where the mythical founders of her religion hailed from. However she finds more than she bargained for and there may be a good reason her ancestors fled. A very believable and well-developed protagonist steals the show and is well supported by some well conceived support characters. World-building is solid and the plot is well paced. 8.5/10.

I.E. Demon by Dan Wells:Members of the U.S. military are tasked with field testing new technology which disables explosive devices. However they run into problems when the device malfunctions and they find themselves the target of a very angry gremlin. The weakest story in the collection by a country mile. The two speaking characters are underwhelming, with no real development and the story has very real issues of 'telling' rather than 'showing'. The concept itself is interesting and the conclusion is well thought out but everything else felt rushed. From the writing group discussions it is revealed that Wells was working to a word number constraint but I don't think that is a good enough excuse. The word count should be firmly dictated by the needs of the story not the other way around. 5/10.

An Honest Death by Howard Tayler: A biotech firm has developed a way to cancel the aging process making human immortality a reality. However when when death himself takes issue with this development and confronts the cooperation CEO his security team find themselves in an unprecedented situation. Is it all an elaborate hoax and if not can they protect their boss from the grim reaper? A very strong and well developed core cast of characters were the driving force in this story. The concept was clever and well considered and the pacing was spot on. 8.5/10.

Sixth of the Dusk by Brandon Sanderson. Set in a world where birds raised on archipelago chain grant people amazing abilities. A lone trapper must face up to the end of his world as outsiders seek to learn the source of the birds' ability. When he meets up with a stranded member of the outsider crew he learns that the fate of the island and their world itself is in their hands. Everything I have come to expect from Sanderson on his best days. The world-building was outstanding, the interaction between the two protagonists was believable and wove the various plot lines and themes together. An exceptionally well considered and satisfying conclusion to top it all off. 9/10.

Overall three of the story in this collection are absolute gems and the anthology offers something unique in the way it looks at the writing process. 8/10.