Book Review: Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse (four stars)
She could hear [redacted]’s warning not to trust the Virtues, that righteous men had a way of lying to themselves.
John Milton does Leadville. A mashup of medieval angels and demons with a wild west mineral boom town that works. Creative alternate history novella but lacks the verisimilitude of Roanhorse’s Navajo novels.
“Trust a man who knows his value to deny a woman hers.”
Roanhorse captures the thoughts and emotions of her point of view character with insight and sympathy, especially her monomania. Main character, driven by her self-assigned obligations, betrays everyone else to save her sister. Everyone. Theological issues add depth, not cheap thrills as in much modern literature. Excellent duplicity and irrational behavior. Invented invective works.
“Then one day, I will see you in hell,” she said, as challenge and threat and vow.
Book Review: The Serpent’s Egg by Caroline Stevermer (four stars)
“I’ve waited all my life to make a scandal, now I can rest easy.”
Good, clean fun. Old-school epic fantasy set in late medieval Europe analog with complex characterizations and plotting. Leavened with humor and chivalry—the good kind.
To see was of no use until she understood, but she would never understand until she tried to see.
Large cast of well-drawn characters on both sides. Complexity of characterization beyond core cast adds credibility. Stevermer respects the reader’s intelligence with occasional gaps which the reader must navigate. Excellent.
“In short, I am a wreck—physically, morally, intellectually—” “Do shut up.” “Everyone tells me that eventually.”
Review: The Gallant by Janny Wurtz (three stars)
‘Cold sober, he might have remembered the warning: no one who crossed paths with one of the Seven survived the experience unchanged.’
Decent novella. Best appreciated by those who have read other of Wurtz’s Wars of Light and Shadow corpus, otherwise pointless. Cover art by the author unrelated to the story.
‘Davien’s concern had rigorously proven the pitfall that risked the mysteries to entropy: sooner or later, the rot of self-interest undermined guided wisdom.’
Book Review: Tress of the Emerald Sea (The Cosmere) by Brandon Sanderson (four stars)
In the land where everyone screams, everyone is also slightly deaf.
Most enjoyable Sanderson tale to date. Sanderson is a master world creator. This standalone fantasy novel showcases his world-building mastery, even though it occurs in his already-developed universe, the Cosmere. Hints of science fiction. Apart from a notable exception, this story’s association to others is undetectable to average readers.
It is the sharpness of the wielder, and not the sharpness of the sword, that foreshadows mishap.
If anything better than some of his expansive epics. He still shares insights to the foibles of humanity, leavened here with humor. Do read his afterword on the origin of the tale.
“You have everything you need.”
Book Review: A Deadly Education (Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik (four stars)
Well, too bad for the losers who couldn’t stay afloat without his help. We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow.
Excellent young adult fantasy. Read despite it being another school of magic novel. Novik turns all those nice academies upside down. Focus is restricted to inside the school. And no faculty, advisors, professors of this and that. Kids struggling to stay alive. Yeah, it’s that kind of school.
Of course they’d be scared of me. I could see that now with perfect clarity, despite the pathetic dreams that I’d hung on to all these years, because I was scared of me, too.
Protagonist is sharp-tongued loner, but shares her inner pain and doubts with reader. Loved the last sentence. Successfully closed this story with plenty of hooks into the next. Gratuitous profanity cast Novik a star.
Hope is good strong drink, especially when you can get someone else to buy it for you.
Book Review: Hogfather (Death #4) by Terry Pratchett (three stars)
“You a witch or something?” moaned the bogeyman. “I’m just . . . something.
A several bubbles off straight-and-level look at Christmas, except in Discworld it’s Hogwatch and the fat guy in the Santa suit is … well, it’s Pratchett’s zany take on all things remotely Yule. If you’ve read the blurb you know what … or, who is up. Full of cynicism and snarky takes on everything and everyone.
“I just want to make sure I’ve got this clear,” said the oh god [of hangovers] in a reasonable tone of voice. “You think your grandfather is Death and you think he’s acting strange?”
Pratchett is an acquired taste, which I never acquired. This is my fourth attempt. The ping pong progress is familiar to his fans; disorientating to the rest. Some excellent zingers, but no substance.
“Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.”
Book Review: The Forever King (Forever King #1) by Molly Cochran (four stars)
“My life is important. To me. Because it is short, and precious. Because each day may be my last.’
Imaginative retelling as well as forward projection of the classic tale. Cochran recasts both the origin tale and her modern addendum relative to the received classic story. At that she does less violence—and achieves a more cogent whole—than many twentieth century adaptations.
‘The past was immutable and eternal. A man could not change a moment of it. The only thing in his power was the choice to forgive himself.’
Main characters are presented with human limitations, including their unawareness of their own potential. Gritty, but not gratuitous. Old-fashioned in many ways.
“But I don’t want to be safe! I want to be alive!”
Quibble: In hewing to Malory’s timeline, Cochran commits numerous anachronisms, such as Saxons being the invading enemy in a Crusades-era England. To fully enjoy this version, the reader must let go of prior knowledge of history and literature and go with this version.
“I wonder if one lifetime will be enough.” “It’s never enough.” “Is that why things never change?” “Perhaps.”
Book Review: Past Imperative (The Great Game #1) by Dave Duncan (three stars)
“None of it made real-world sense, nor ever would. You could not expect Sherlock Holmes if you already had Merlin.”
Engaging story of people and places who are not what they seem, or even what they themselves believe them to be. Draws on English archetypes and supposed religious prophecy on an almost-parallel world. Bounces between fantasy and science fiction as easily as between the universes portrayed. A small side of historical fiction. Previous exposure to Shakespeare not required but enhances the fun.
“She ducked into a doorway and made herself as flat as paint.”
Both protagonists are unwitting and unwilling pawns in a greater game. Drawing them toward each other compounds their confusion. Great fun for the reader.
“How can I tell if they’re friends or enemies?” “Well, look out for johnnies in black gowns like monks. They’re called ‘reapers’ and they’re deadly. They can slay a chap with a touch. Otherwise—friends will help you. If they try to kill you, assume they’re enemies.” “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Book Review: Age of Ash (Kithamar #1) by Daniel Abraham (three stars)
“It was as if she’d known all along that the dream was only a dream, and that someday she’d have to wake up. The only difference between then and now was that the day had come.”
Well-written quasi-Medieval fantasy with strong female characters. Believable inner voice of friends who become adversaries as they try to figure out who they are and how they fit.
The sunlight felt weak, strained through the clouds like milk through cheesecloth.
Plot involves many well-handled handoffs between point of view characters. Occasional, mild humor. Excessive and gratuitous profanity.
She felt something loosen in her chest. Relief flowed into her, so profound it could have been sorrow.
Book Review: Tales of the Thieftaker (Thieftaker Chronicles #0.5) by D. B. Jackson (four stars)
“That’s probably more than we deserve.” “What we deserve and what befalls us are seldom one and the same.”
Better than average anthology of shorter stories. Many explore Ethan Kaille’s history, but “The Ruby Blade” is an essential background story for Thieftaker readers. “The Witch of Dedham” is poignant. All are standalone tales therefore necessitating much repetition of backstory.
“We don’t call ourselves witches. We’re conjurers, spellmakers, spellers even. Preachers rail against witchery as a tool of the devil. I don’t believe there’s evil in what I do.”
Eighteenth-century Boston and seafaring details enhance credibility. Anachronistic public displays of affection and “living in sin” which would have been as bad as witchcraft in that day, but mild to modern sensibilities.
“And I couldn’t stand to be relegated to such a place.” “And that’s your problem. You see a place. I see a life. There’s a difference.” “Dear God, I don’t know whether to weep or vomit.”