Thursday, November 23, 2017

Review: The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

Thirty years have passed since the events of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, King Simon and Queen Mirimele have seen their kingdom of Asten Ard move from strength to strength but not everything has gone their way. Thier son and heir John Josua died from illness in his early tenties, leaving behind two children. The Eldest, prince Morgan , is a wastrel who doesn't have any interest in learning how to rule a Kingdom, much to the despair of his grandparents.

Meanwhile Utuk’ku, the Norn queen, has apparently awoken and preparations are made to invade the lands of men once more. A small squad is dispatched on a seemily impossible mission to catch a living dragon. Among them is Nezuru,the half blood daughter of the Hikeda’ya Lord Viyeki and his mortal slave concubine Tzoj, who begins to question her place in Norn society. This is excabated when she meets Jarnulf, a human seeminly working for the Norns who has his own agenda.

One of the things Williams did extremely well in the briding novel The Heart of What was Lost was humanize the Norn characters, making the reader root for both sides of the conflict. However none of that is present in this novel sadly, with all of the Norns even Viyeki coming across as arogant. 

Pacing is generally quite slow with lots of streches without the plot seeming to advance much.

Through Simon (and a lesser extent Mirimele) Williams is able to delve into the struggle of aging and brings a real depth to these charcaters.

One of the most intriguing things for me was the vast discrepancies between Simon and Mirimele's meomories of John Josua and that of Morgan's. 

Overall I found this novel a mixed bag, with some issues with pacing and characterization. 7/10.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: The End of The Day by Claire North

Charlie was looking for a job where he could travel. Landing the role of the Harbinger of Death comes as something of s surprise to him. He has no special qualifications, just a love of people and music but the previous harbinger sees something in him. Death is well meaning and sends a harbinger sometimes as a curtsy and sometimes a warning. Initially all goes well and Charlie meets interesting people and experiences things he never could have imagined but that all changes due to unforeseen events. Charlie falls in love and the travel becomes burdensome with something to miss and he also becomes exposed to the darker side of humanity.

The three previous books under the author's North pseudonym all had a similar concept; a protagonist effected by an unexplained condition that the majority of the population was unaware of.  I was concerned that she would be unable to breakaway from this theme and am very glad to see that she has. I love character-driven novels and Charlie is wonderfully drawn human being flavored with a touch of awkwardness. His development and growth is really the crux of this novel.

In a world where the four horsemen of the Apocalypse are real entities (Death even has his own firm to look after Charlie's travel needs) I found the support characters reaction to them highly inconsistent. I was also disappointed in the finale which just sort of fizzled out.

Overall Claire has delivered a wonderfully character driven novel that proves she is not just a one trick pony, although with all new things you can't expect to reach perfection the first time around. 8/10.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: The Heart of what was Lost by Tad Williams

Following the defeat of the Storm King the remaining Norms flee through the land's of men back to their ancient city of Nakkiga. Lord Isgrimnur leads an army that intends to take thefight to Nakkiga itself and wipe out the Norms and their sleeping queen. Porto a man from the South has found himself part of the army, though all he really wants is to get himself a young man from a nearby village safely home. Viyeki a mid-ranking engineer of the Norns finds himself embroiled in the politics of the high ranking members of his society, who even in the face of destruction jockey for position.

Williams does a brilliant job delving into characters from both sides of the conflict, humanizing them so effectively you can't help but root for both of them. The shorter length of this novel means Williams pacing is markedly improved. Just how much action and political intrigue Williams is able to cram into this one is impressive, he quite cleverly has lots happen 'offscreen' that Viyeki has to piece together as best he can.

Overall Williams make a welcome return to his signature world of Osten Ard with the great character development I always expect from him, combined with welcome improved pacing. 8.5/10.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review: The Lost Prince by Edward Lazellari

Thirteen years ago a young Prince from another world was spirited to earth when his medieval style kingdom was invaded. Due to a magical mishap Daniel and his guardians were separated and had their memories stripped away. Daniel ended up in an abusive household that eventually lead to a fatal confrontation with his stepfather that led to Daniel hiding in a trailer park from the police. His guardians have unwittingly found themselves as targets of agents of the invading force that have found their way to earth (although no time has passed in the magical world). After a centaur sorceress restores their memories the guardians find themselves in a race to find the prince. The guardians also have to reconcile their new memories with the lives and families they have built on earth.

The characterization was mixed, particularly among the villains whose leader is very 80's cartoon villain dimensional. Magical explanations aside they also should have had more trouble adjusting and fitting into modern society. Some of the minor villains had more interesting motivations thankfully and I enjoyed the adjustments the guardians had to make to their new memories.

Pacing was uneven due to too many points of view, especially early on, that hurt any momentum that could have developed.

This novel is a mixed bag, a solid concept but not delivered as well as it could have been. 6/10.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: The Ruling Mask by Neil McGarry and Daniel Ravipinto

Duchess' reputation among the Gray is in jeopardy. Rumors abound that she is a bloody murderer for hire hurting her standing in the Gray and threatening to put her at odds with the Red, who have a monopoly on assassination. Duchess must find the source of these rumors and put a stop to them or risk losing everything. Meanwhile Castor turns to Duchess for help as his son is being hunted due to his connection to the aristocracy. The success of Jana and Duchess's weaving business has attracted attention and leaves them with a difficult choice. Rodass is also on the cusp of a religious war and Duchess is bound to be dragged into it as well.

The most notable element to this third installment in the series is the way the authors keep track of the web of plot lines and are able to successfully incorporate them into the larger story. The foreshadowing was very impressive. With so many plot threads (my brief synopsis doesn't do them justice) there is a risk of the narrative being bogged down. Thankfully the authors don't fall into this trap and use them to add a degree of tension throughout the story, reminiscent of the way Jim Butcher does it.

As always Duchess is the heart of this story and I really feel like she matures as a character (she even gains some insight into her father;s choices and why he made them.) and has come a long way since the first book.

Well managed story-telling and a character driven narrative  make this a must read. 9/10.    

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky

In the cold, crown of the world the wolf tribes are in ascendancy. They broke the Tiger's power over a decade ago and drove them to the peripheries. Maniye is the daughter of Akrit Stone River, chieftain of one of the wolf tribes. However her mother was a queen among the Tiger.a result she as always been an outsider in her own tribe. She holds a secret that could destroy her, she has two souls and can shift her form to both that of a wolf and a tiger.  Things begin to look up when she passes a coming of age trial and thinks she may at least win her father's approval even if she never wins his love. However she learns that Akrit his plans for her to subjugate the remaining Tiger tribes and to marry her to Broken Axe, the loner he tasked with killing her mother. Horried Maniye flees taking with her an aging snake priest who was going to be sacrificed to the Wolf. Akrit tasks Borken Axe with retrieving them. Meanwhile Asmander, a stranger from the South, journeys North seeking the famed iron wolves to prevent a civil war from spilling over.

I have been thoroughly impressed with Tchaikovsky's works since he concluded his Shadow of Apt series and he has ensured that, as good as it is, it will not define him as an author. The characterization is top notch with Maniye being a credible protagonist on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. What's more impressive is the way Tchaikovsky gives every character introduced such depth of their own without being bogged down. It truly feels like an intersection of different stories.

The world-building is an exceptional with the stone-age tribal society of the wolf described in depth and pieces of other cultures wetting the appetite without slowing the story. Pacing was also even throughout.

Overall Tchaikovsky delivers a great story defined by it's vivid characters. 9/10.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Review: The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

Frith, the crippled, last surviving son of a noble house arrives in a foreign city intent on exploring the caverns beneath a vast and ancient Citadel. Rumours say it belonged to the lost mages and that great power is there for the taking, power Frith intends to use to take back his home and get revenge on those who killed his family. To aid him he hires two mercenaries, Sir Sebastain a knight who was forced to leave his order due to his sexual orientation and Wydrin, better known as the copper cat, a sassy thief and daughter of a pirate. The two adventurers have a reason of their own for entering the citadel, one of their companions ventured in weeks before and never returned. Together the three manage to find what Frith seeks but unwittingly unleash an angry god, bent on nothing but destruction on the world.

While the three protagonists have a certain charm to them, I found all three unoriginal and  based on tired sword and sorcery tropes. Pacing was  uneven being slow and steady throughout most of the novel before rushing through a finale. World-building was adhoc and unconvincing and I couldn't help but feel that names and places were thrown together without the author having any idea of their relation in her own mind. The villains were one-dimensional and lacked any depth. While the writing was tidy enough it often felt clumsy.

Overall this novel had multiple problems and was a chore to slog through. 4.5/10.