Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Review: Song of the Ice Lord by J. A. Clement

The Ice Lord's armies march across the face of the known world intent on nothing but destruction. Lodden, a talented inventor, is among the survivors gathered on the Skral Islands, the last bastion against the Ice Lord's advances. He must put aside the loss of his hand and accept a world-view very different from his own in order to try and salvage something before it is too late.

I enjoyed the world-building with a number of differing cultures thrown together. Lodden comes from a society very similar to ancient Greece or an idealized version of it whereas the Skarl's are more similar to Vikings. Although Clement does explore the aspects of these very differing cultures thrown together I think it would have been interesting to get a perspective from a character who didn't find it as easy to adjust.

Much of the middle period of the book is spent building, planning and waiting for the Ice Lord's advances. This could have lead to the pacing dragging but Clemet cleverly avoids this by having the characters relate tales from folklore which I enjoyed thoroughly.

While most of the main characters are believable I did find some of the support characters lacked depth. The addition of a few unnecessary points of view during the finale of the book could have been avoided.  

Overall good world-building and some memorable main characters make for a solid read. 7/10.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Review: Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Tough Times All over by Joe Abercrombie: Set in the back streets of Sipani and follows a mysterious package as it changes hands several times through some rather dubious means. Clever way to get through a lot of different characters, some old favorites and some new ones. The way Abercrombie builds up characters in minimal words is impressive. 8/10.

What do you do? by Gillian Flynn: Arguably the best story in the collection. Follows a con-woman pretending to be psychic who is contracted by a woman to cleanse her home after her step-son exhibits some disturbing behavior. The best realized character in the collection and a very clever plot twist. 9/10

The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes: A rogue is hijacked by an almost forgotten god to rescue his last follower. Good world-building. 7/10.

Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale: Two men try to rescue the drug-addicted daughter of one of their significant others. Impressive voice and wonderfully realized characters. 8.5/10.

Tawny Petticoats by Michael Swanwick: Scifi. A pair of conmen take on a female partner for a daring caper. Well developed world-building and memorable characters but the ending was highly predictable. 7/10.

Provenance by David W. Ball: An art dealer is contacted by a likely thief about selling a painting. This one didn't really work for me. Pacing was well off and the characters left me feeling flat. 5/10.

Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn: Two women enter a magical club looking to make an alliance with the patron. The best piece of short fiction I've read by Vaughn. Appropriate atmosphere and believable characters. 8.25/10.

A year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch:  A retired gang is tasked with stealing a street. A fun blend of sci-fi and fantasy. I would love to see Lynch write more in this setting. 8.5/10.

Bad Brass by Bradley Denton: A thief/relief teacher gets mixed up in an odd musical instrument fencing incident. Very cool lead character and original story. 8.5/10.

Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest: A modern day warrior is tasked with investigating a strange spirit haunting and killing in lake in a small former  mining town. Steady enough but lacks the punch in the finale most of the others in the collection have had. 7.5/10.

The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham: A young rogue has to find away to free a slave girl who has caught the eye of the exiled prince she is protecting and has fallen in love with. Engaging lead character, solid world bundling and clever finale. 8.25/10.

A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell: A man in the military is forced to confront a younger version of himself from an alternate dimension. Didn't stand so well on it's own and the characters felt flat. 6/10.

Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor: A philosopher and apprentice purchase a book of magical spells one of which is said to make the user invisible. A fun and fast paced tale although the ending was a tad predictable. 7.5/10. 

A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix: A magical puppet and a knight have to try steal a collection of ivories before the gods within awake. Another fun one with a predictable ending. 7/10. 

Diamonds From Tequila by Walter Jon Williams:An actor who career hinges on his latest project finds himself in a dilemma when the leading lady dies. Fresh take on the premise and an engaging and believable lead character. 8.5/10. 

The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein: A bard with the ability to teleport travels with a caravan on exotic drug run through the desert. Well paced and well developed characters. 8/10.

The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle: A female sleuth and sherlock holmes like partner take on a curious case assigned to them by a little girl. Amazingly developed 'voice', engaging plot and solid characters. 9/10.

How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman: A rogue loses his lucky coat and is caught by an arch-nemesis. Another engaging voice, quirky characters and world-building. 8.75/10.

Now Showing by Connie Willis: Set in the near future a college student is reunited with the boy who walked out on her in a world where the cinema has become an encompassing experience. Another original take with clever twists and structure. 8.75/10.

The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss: Follows Bast, who trades secrets and favours with local children at the lightening tree. Fun and I enjoyed the small-scale feel. 8/10.

The Rogue Prince or, a King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin: A prequel to Martin entry into the Dangerous Women anthology. Like that tale it is structured as a historical narrative. Also like that tale this feels like a phoned in effort by Martin. Doesn't really use the theme to any degree and while the subject matter is interesting in itself it's not inspired writing by any means. Time for Martin to stop adding his own entry to these anthologies or do it properly. 6/10.  

Overall a strong collection. 8.25/10.