Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

As a teenager Isaac Vaino discovered he had the magic to pull any item, provided it would fit, out of a book. Anything from a ray gun from a science fiction novel to Excalibur from a book about King Arthur. Whats more he was recruited into a secret organization founded by Johannes Guttenberg charged with protecting the general population from magic and keeping it a secret. Isaac's dreams were shattered when a field operation went horribly wrong. He was taken off active duty and forbidden to use magic but was still allowed to remain with the Libriomancer's as researcher posing as a small town librarian. All that changes when Isaac is attacked by a group of vampires and saved by a kick-ass dryad named Lena who he has something of a crush on. Isaac learns that Guttenberg has disappeared the Libriomance's are under attack and something has the vampires spooked as well. Whats'more Lena romantically propositions Isaac afraid that if her current lover is turned to a vampire she will become something truly evil as the desires of her lover shape who she is. Of course this gives Isaac some serious moral implications to ponder.

I must admit I was hesitant regarding the concept; having a protagonist able to pull anything he might need from the pages of the book sounded problematic. Thankfully Hines establishes a very well thought out set of ground rules and limitations that make it work. Having the world-building based on this concept was a nice touch, For example different breeds of vampires are the result of different books and might not have weakness one would expect.  I always enjoyed the way Hines keeps the balance between the quirky and serious aspects of this book. Considering the moral implications involved in a very intelligent manner was a very nice touch.

The action is fast-paced and the characters are engaging.

Overall Hines combines a well though out concept and delivers a balanced and enjoyable read. 8/10.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchiakovsky

The two allied countries of Denland and Lascanne find themselves at war after the assassination of the king of Denland. Denland becomes a republic and can't have a working monarchy on their doorstep as it undermines their political position. Emily Marchwic is head of a noble house that has steadily declined after her father committed suicide years before. The man she blames for her father's death Mr Northway is the governor of their town and when he refuses to use his powers to prevent her fifteen year old brother from being sent to the front she hates him even more. However as she struggles to keep her family together she begins to understand he may not entirely be the villain she sees shes him as. When an announcement is made that each household must supply one woman for the front Emily volunteers herself, despite Mr Northway's efforts to save her. There she finds that the war and the fabric of her society itself may not be exactly what she has always been told.

What immediately impressed me with this book is the tone, reminiscent of something like the American civil war, that Tchiakovsky is able to capture. It is highly immersive and very different to that in his Shadows of the Apt  series. Emily is a convincing lead who grows as a character throughout the story. Supporting her are a complex cast of well-drawn supporting characters.

World-building is impressive without being intrusive, the action sequences infused with suspense all leading to a very satisfying conclusion.

Overall Tchaikovsky's first foray into stand-alone work is an impressive one. 9/10.