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


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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.”

Book Review: The Scholast in the Low Waters Kingdom by Max Gladstone (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Scholast in the Low Waters Kingdom by Max Gladstone

Four Stars

“I don’t understand.” “Those are the first words of the wise.”

Vintage Gladstone is a one-gulp package. All the best of Gladstone’s world creation and social consciousness in thirty-six pages.

“Lies are particularly suited to the situation. Like art.”

Well-drawn characters. Threads into other realms, clearly defined enough to make this story a pleasure.

“What’s the good of this friendship of yours if you don’t trust me?”

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: Hand of Adonai by Aaron Gansky (Three Stars)

Book Review: Hand of Adonai: The Book of Things to Come by Aaron Gansky

Three Stars

“Trust us. We know what we’re doing.” “Speak for yourself.”

Think: Breakfast Club does a Christian Dungeons and Dragons via Tron. It works better than it should. One of the brightest angles is the creators wondering why they fashioned the game as they did: making living through their creation difficult.

The D&D-role-playing game created by two of the high-school-age characters is as cheesy and illogical as you’d expect. That worked for me. “Writing demonstrated control and subtlety” didn’t. The set-up is good, and the cast right. The emotions seem authentic and well-considered. Even the sudden appearance of heroic skills is adequately explained.

“Hope, that feathered pest, perched in her heart again.”

The target audience are tweens. The cast is a study in stereotypes both before and after (If I tell you what that refers to …), but Continue reading