Book Review: Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Knight’s Shadow (Greatcoats #2) by Sebastien de Castell

Four Stars

“Yes, I’m trusting our lives to that fat slug, and yes, of course, he’s going to betray us.”

A little grittier than the first in this series. Classic epic fantasy with a side order of humor. Not heavy reading nor great literature, but enjoyable. Interestingly, all the transformational characters are female. The men are who they are, though Falcio’s struggle is being who he really is.

“The truth that makes our courage fail and our hearts surrender. That we fear most is simply ourselves.”

The stakes are higher and the odds lower, and the protagonist has a one-liner for every occasion. Good story telling. Fun interaction between characters.

“Love isn’t a cage.”

Countless epigrams: some witty, some pithy, some memorable. Like the cover art.

“Happiness is … grains of sand spread out in a desert of violence and anguish.”

Book Review: To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams (Four Stars)

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Book Review: To Green Angel Tower (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn #3, Parts 1 and 2) by Tad Williams

Four Stars

“Forever is a long time to carry grudges.”

Excellent. Successful and satisfying conclusion to a huge epic fantasy. Sixteen hundred pages (in this story) of complex plots, sub-plots and sub-sub-plots set in multiple, fully-realized cultures, many more than medieval Europe analogs. Language, history, clothing, religion, music, clothes, prejudices: the whole boatload. Immersive. Loads of quotable epigrams.

“If what we have experienced lately has been God’s way of showing his favor, I think I would be willing to try a little of his punishment, for a change.”

Religion is a major part of these cultures and the stories. The various faiths are treated respectfully. A realistic variety of responses by people to the religion of their and other cultures. Some are redeemed; some are lost.

“One day I would have to send my son off to do something I could not do. And I would never sleep again.”

What’s not to like? The 1600 pages may be a clue. Williams almost pulls a Robert Jordan. (Not a complement.) Basically, he lost control of Continue reading

Book Review: The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams (Five Stars)

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Book Review: The Dragonbone Chair (Memory Sorrow and Thorn #1) by Tad Williams

Five Stars

“Brave and foolish often live in the same cave.”

Where has this book been all my life? Well, since it was published in 1988. So much better than many Lord of the Rings rip-offs. Epic fantasy in a quasi-European medieval setting (though the Sithi are as much Nipponese as elvish; and the name is unfortunately similar to the evil characters of Star Wars). Good world building, good character development, complex cast and motives and history and ….

“Books are magic because they span time and distance more surely than any spell or charm.”

Unlike many LOTR clones, Williams’ series has a so-flawed-as-to-be-disgusting hero. Not that Simon’s bad, he’s just … irritating–in the hero-worshiping, ADD teen boy way. Well, he’s got room to grow. The other men are complex and driven as necessary.

“Why is everyone forever forcing their horrible secrets on me?”

Unfortunately, most female characters are not so well developed, though telling about the exception Continue reading

Book Review: The Children of Hùrin by J. R. R. Tolkien (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Children of Hùrin by J. R. R. Tolkien

Three Stars

“In their light we are dimmed, or we burn with too quick a flame, and the weight of our doom lies heavier on us.”

This volume is a necessary, one might say essential, part of the corpus of Tolkien’s history of Middle Earth. Followers of Tolkien will certainly want to read it. Alas, however, this work lacks the quality of the works published in Tolkien’s lifetime. I blame the efforts of his son and executors less than the simple press of time and lack of collaborators while Tolkien still lived.

“Fear both the heat and the cold of your heart, and strive for patience.”

Reads like a synopsis with occasional dialogue at key points. That it approaches being a coherent whole forty years after the author’s death is credit to Continue reading

Book Review: Age of Myths by Michael J. Sullivan (Five Stars)

Book Review: Age of Myths (The Legends of the First Empire #1) by Michael J. Sullivan

Five Stars

“If you can’t trust an ancient talking tree, what was the point of having one?”

I previously rated the beta-version of this book four stars; the final is even better. Sullivan may not be in the first rank of current fantasy authors, but he has talent. He writes well-thought out, satisfying, witty tales. Fun to read.

“It’s easier to believe the outrageous lie confirming what you suspect than the obvious truth that denies it.”

This book inaugurates a five-book epic set in the same world as his Riyira tales, but ages earlier. In fact, these are the stories behind Continue reading

Book Review: The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1) by Brian Staveley

Three Stars

(Potential spoilers)

“There is no should; there is only what is.”

As I read the opening chapters of this book I kept asking myself if I’d read it before. My Goodreads.com database reported I hadn’t, but it sure felt familiar. Having read all 480 pages I’m sure it is a new story, but many of the elements are familiar.

“No blade is as keen as surprise.”

Perhaps the familiarity stems from this story including all the current de rigueur epic fantasy tropes (and a few borrowed from science fiction): all of them. Nihilism. Maps. Mysterious murders. Ninjas. Assassin orders. Inscrutable monks. Yoda. Alien monsters. Extinct super races. Hints of extraterrestrial origins. Aphorisms. Rigid soldiers. Sadistic trainers. Hypocritical churchman. Lesbian waifs. Gentle-hearted giants. Prideful nobles. Incredibly accurate archers. Traitors. Magicians. Blood by the gallon. All it lacks are lions and tigers and bears. Oh, my.

“Every son should have a chance to know his father, not as a child knows his protector, but as a man knows a man.”

All that and a decent plot. Good storytelling and character development. Not too many typographical errors, which should be a given but isn’t these days.

“Resist faith. Resist trust. Believe in what you touch with your hands. The rest is error and air.”

Uncommon for series these days, it even brings the current volume to a satisfying close while sets hooks to draw the read into the next.

“Low expectations are the key to success.”

Why only three stars? Because it’s all been done. Almost every twist and turn felt like a re-run. It was good; it was competent; it didn’t hook my heart. I liked it, I just didn’t love it.

“A man wants to die with his limbs and his dignity intact.”

Book Review: Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss (Four Stars)

Book Review: Sunset Mantle by Alter S. Reiss

Four Stars out of Five

Engaging take on the exiled soldier taking on an impossible mission epic fantasy. Well-developed plot and engaging characters. Great voice. What’s not to like? The storytelling. It reads almost as if English is not the author’s first language. Occasional awkward phrases. Amateurish grammar. Inconsistent punctuation. (Why is the placement of commas a big deal? It isn’t until it jerks you out of the flow of the story. As it often does here.) Needed one more proofreading by a real editor, because he delivers such a good voice.

Sunset Mantle earns its fourth star, however, for something which rarely occurs in fantasy literature: a full-blown, integral-to-the-story religion. Not a copy–must less caricature–of one of our world religions, as is de rigueur for current fantasy and science fiction, but a fully developed system of beliefs and practices presented almost anthropologically as “what these people believed.” Even the bad guys believe in God, though it doesn’t straighten their bent to evil. The presence of such a belief system adds depth to the characters and story, even though there are no supernatural elements to the story.

Finally, though Reiss leaves himself plenty of hooks into a sequel, he weaves all the main threads into a satisfying tapestry to close this story.

Loved the Cover art.

Looking for more and better from him.

Sneak Peak: Rhune by Michael J. Sullivan

Sneak Peak: Rhune by Michael J. Sullivan

(no rating yet)

I just finished reading the beta version of this new novel by Sullivan. I can’t tell you anything about the story, of course, but I do suggest you add it to your “I want to read this” list.

Fans of the Riyria books, rejoice! If this book is any indication, the First Empire series will be a welcome addition to the Riyria series.

If anything Sullivan’s writing is better, and the book has more depth and subtly than his previous publications. This is so good; fans of epic high fantasy won’t want to miss it.

Book Review: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (4 stars)

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

(4 out of 5 stars)

“Expectation is not just about what people expected of you. It was about what you expected of yourself.”
Much better than The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1), but still not quite a five. This is a coherent story, for one thing. Still a large, rambling cast–many with a full array of foibles and strengths. Everyone is flawed; some fatally so. Way too much back story on Shallan. (All the better to hide a plot reversal in.)

But with this book Continue reading