Book Review: The Black Company by Glen Cook (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company #1) by Glen Cook

(Three Stars)

“There are no self-proclaimed villains, only regiments of self-proclaimed saints.”

Popcorn for the mind. As the opening round of a fantasy series, it reads like a collection of short stories. There’s a vector, but each chapter reads like a standalone.

“Any man who barely maintains an armistice with himself has no business poking around in an alien soul.”

Good storytelling, from the point of view of a caring, if morally-challenged medic of a mercenary regiment. Less violent than Joe Abercrombie, less humor then Michael J. Sullivan.

“I reached the gates unable to whip a grandmother. Lucky for me, the grandmas were goofing off.”

Digestible narrative gaps. Doesn’t weary or insult the reader with endless narrative. Only one big battle scene–near the end, and it’s way too long.

“I am haunted by the clear knowledge that … , in the end, evil always triumphs.”

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Book Review: The Red Wolf by Robert V. S. Redick (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Red Wolf (The Chathrand Voyage #1) by Robert V. S. Redick

(Four Stars)

“Death is the moment when everything loses value except the truth.”

Competent fantasy series opener. Ensemble cast of introduces themselves by their choices. Engaging people and plot in an adventure road trip by water on the greatest ship in the world. The concept of waking is well-developed, and a fresh way to introduce sentient beings in “lesser” animals.

“No animal, no man, no thousand year old sage is perfectly awake. True waking is … emerging from one cage into a larger, brighter, less lonely cage. It is a task never done.”

Everything that can go wrong does, which is half the fun. Coincidence and good luck Continue reading

Book Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Kearne (Three Stars)

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Book Review: A Plague of Giants (Seven Kennings #1) by Kevin Kearne

(Three Stars)

“You’ll be safe. Probably.”

As good as Kearne’s Iron Druid series, but needs polishing. I stopped and started reading it several times as the fractured storytelling, while innovative, broke the rhythm. Too many main characters, too many countries and cultures, too little continuity. (A more readable map may have helped, but the ebook map was unreadable.) Everyone sounded the same, despite a maze of cultural details meant to differentiate. In a word: boring.

“My primary talent so far was not thinking things through to the possible consequences of my actions.”

Even with the explanation of how the Bard came into possession of so many journals, the circumstances of several deaths would have prevented him from knowing all he claimed. On the other hand, Kearne ties himself Continue reading

Book Review: Stories of the Raksura 2 by Martha Wells (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Stories of the Raksura 2: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below by Martha Wells

(Three Stars)

“Now would be a good time to go, to fly west into the sun with no one to see. Except he didn’t appear to be doing that.”

Anthologies set in the world or featuring the cast of an author’s invented universe allow her to explore side issues, deepen characters and promote the greater series–especially when said short stories are offered free or included in other anthologies. Fans get a fix of a favored setting; new readers can sample without committing to a full novel. So it is here. Not great literature, not even as good as the Raksura novels, but enjoyable nonetheless.

“He had learned from bitter experiences not to try to explain unexplainable things.”

Book Review: The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Serpent Sea (Book of Raksura #2) by Martha Wells

(Four Stars)

“They might be harmless, but Moon doubted it on principle.”

A better-than-average sequel. Expands Moon’s character and the ensemble of Raksura closest to him. Fills in backstory from the first book at appropriate time, but tends toward data dumps.

“Sense doesn’t enter into it where queens are concerned.”

The stakes are high; things keep going wrong; Moon isn’t the only one who is a fish out of water.

“Sometimes I don’t have visions; sometimes I have common sense. Not that any of you listen to me.”

Martha Wells is great at inner dialogue. For an even better sample, try her Murderbot series, especially All Systems Red.

“He felt as if he’d never really come home before.”

Book Review: The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells (3.5 Stars)

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Book Review: The Cloud Roads (The Books of the Raksura #1) by Martha Wells

(3.5 Stars)

“We don’t use magic; we’re made of magic, and you can’t run away from that.”

Engaging fantasy with originality world building. Not nearly as good as her more recent Murderbot (SF) books, but few novels are. Though this story opens a series, it has a satisfying ending, not a cliff-hanger.

“I am not high-strung.”

Her protagonist has secrets and flaws and a bit snarky: cool. The inner voice makes all the difference. Enjoyable read if only to see how Wells develops and reveals her lead.

“You can tell he’s getting better because he’s getting all mouthy again.”

Quibble: Uses paces as a unit of measure, but implies something much smaller–a foot or a meter. Understand her reluctance to use geocentric measurement, but pace is wrong-footed. For example, a roads “more than one hundred paces wide.”

“I’d like something to be easy for once.”

Book Review: “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” by Aliette de Bodard (Two Stars)

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Book Review: “Children of Thorns, Children of Water” (Dominion of the Fallen #1.5) by Aliette de Bodard

(Two Stars)

“Magic pollution affected everyone.”

This short story bridges the gap between two previous novels. Opaque for first-time readers, it reads like an introduction or side-side to a bigger tale. Not much to recommend it either way. Hard to believe it was nominated for a Hugo Award; perhaps spill over popularity from the rest of the series.

“Intrigues are allowed, but nothing that threatens our unity.”

(2018 Hugo Award novellette finalist)

Book Review: City of Brass by S. A. Chakrabroty (Four Stars)

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Book Review: City of Brass (Daevabad Triolgy #1) by S. A. Chakrabroty

(Four Stars)

“Earn this. I don’t care if you have to dance on my grave.”

Excellent fantasy set in the hidden kingdom advanced beyond the historic 18th century world around it. (An Islamic Wakanda, if you will.) Bounces between two main characters with widely divergent agendas and loyalties. Good plotting and characterization. All the better considering this is Chakrabroty’s freshman effort.

“This is how lovesick idiots ruined their lives.”

Islamic culture adds a rich atmosphere to the language, dress, and attitudes: except that Continue reading

Book Review: Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Tyrant’s Throne (Greatcoats #4) by Sebastien de Castell

Three Stars

“The time for preposterous heroics has passed.” “Preposterous heroics were the only thing we were ever good at.”

Good summary and conclusion to the series … maybe. Despite several inconsequential subplots, de Castell brings all the threads together in the end. A Greek-tragedy-like appearance of the gods at the end is turned on its head; good job.

“The best we can hope for is one chance to prove ourselves, to turn our death into a sacrifice for what we believe in rather than a fate that was set upon us.”

Quibble: A face recognized by its reflection in the blade of a rapier? How wide are your rapier blades? (The very presence of rapiers in this medieval fantasy is a non sequitur, but explained in the first book.)

“Why must you always be clever after the fact, Falcio?”

Not Dumas quality, but a fun read.

“Death, like life, cares nothing for poetry.”

Book Review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Four Stars

“It wasn’t my fault. I was as much a victim of this as any of the others. If …”

You already know the story. Harris hews much closer to the traditional Poetic Edda than most modern re-interpretations, especially those of Marvel. This is a snarky self-justification by Loki, the villain of almost everyone else’s take.

“That’s history for you. Unfair, untrue, and for the most part written by folks who weren’t even there.”

Head and shoulders above many recent retellings of other myths and fairy tales which try to make the bad guy into a good guy. No, Loki is who he is. Naturally, seen from his point of view, everyone else is stupid or evil. A lot like modern American politics.

“Who needs friends when you can have the certitude of hostility?”

If someone were to cinematize this, I can see Tom Hiddleston as Loki, but not Anthony Hopkins as Odin. Better, Ian McKellen on his worst day: Gandalf with issues.

“You don’t bring wildfire into your home and expect it to stay in the fireplace.”

Quibbles: The title implies there’s good news here; there isn’t. Not for Loki, not for the AEsir, nor for the Folk (humans). The story starts in Chapter Four, before that it background.

“I could tell Odin would never understand the scale and grandeur of Chaos–at least not until the Ends of the Worlds, by which time it would be too late.”