Book Review: Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson (four stars)

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: Age of Ash (Kithamar #1) by Daniel Abraham (three stars)

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: A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark (four stars)

Book Review: A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn Universe #1) by P. Djèlí Clark (four stars)

‘First story of djinn, steampunk, and Cairo’

One ring to rule them all. Sure it’s been done, but not in Cairo a hundred plus years ago with an all-female primary cast. Males appear only to make the females look better

“Boilerplate eunuchs generally don’t have much in the way of thought.” “And how is that different from men?” 

A well-done message story, though occasionally overselling the message distracts from the story. Readers who sit back and let it flow over them will be more satisfied than those who think too much. Better development than Ring Shout. Satisfying resolution.

“What would you think my motive?” “I feel a villain rant coming on.” 

(2022 Hugo Award novel finalist)

Book Review: The Unconquerable Sun by Kate Elliott (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Unconquerable Sun (Sun Chronicles #1) by Kate Elliott (Three Stars)

“This is your last chance to surrender,” I murmur as we stride along. Sun snorts. “I don’t surrender.”

Epic space opera, though the emphasis is on internecine politics more than space battles. Quasi-superhuman protagonist teams of heroes. Had a more Chinese than Greek feel. Adolescent emotions all around. Fun, lightweight read.

I am the worst of children, for I have defied my parents and abandoned my obligations. Perhaps my family honestly intends to kill me, since death is just another form of running away.

The point of view character, despite the book and series titles, is not Sun. In fact Sun is among the least interesting of the cast. Like watching the Marvel movies on fast: begins choppy and episodic. Gradually a unified picture forms, it requires patience. Numerous homages to classic earth literature.

Sun had not taken her for the blushing kind, although she definitely struck Sun as the kind who would become dramatically infatuated with a handsome enemy who’d tried to kill her.

Many errors in gravitation, orbital dynamics, and inertia. The usual Star Trekkian physics, which is to say not based on that of this universe. Popcorn for the brain.

Maybe the truth helps us understand where we stand. I’m just grateful I have people I can trust.

Book Review: The Wizard Hunters by Martha Wells (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Wizard Hunters (The Fall of Ile-Rien #1) by Martha Wells (Four Stars)

A steam-punk action-adventure tale set in the city of a previous series by Wells. This/these stories are independent. Strong, independent but not-yet self-assured female lead. Excellent story telling.

Early Wells work. Her voice has improved since. Still, fans of her Murderbot diaries may be disappointed that the self-depreciating humor and snarky inner dialogue of Murderbot aren’t there.

Unfortunately, I lost my notes, and while this is a good story I’m not inclined to re-read it just to pepper my review with quotes from the story, as is my normal practice.

Book Review: Blood of Dragons by Jack Campbell (Four Stars)

Book Review: Blood of Dragons (The Legacy of Dragons #2) by Jack Campbell (Four Stars)

“My whole life has been a lie.”
“Kira, you’re being a little overdramatic.”
“What else haven’t I been told? You are my mother, right? For real?”
Mari nodded. “Do you think I would have stuck with this if I had a choice?”

Young adult adventure, second of a trilogy, set in a future world which has clawed its way back to steam technology. And mild magic. Teen angst, fast pace, moments of humor, acts of improbably strength and endurance. Good storytelling. What’s not to like?

“Mother, I am trying to wallow in the misery of this betrayal! Fine. My life is a lie and everyone I know has been plotting against me.”
“I’m glad you’re keeping a sense of perspective about this.”

Kira grows as a person inwardly and externally. She finds a new set of worries and meets them head-on. (Nice cover art, but at no time does Kira wear goggles and wield two pistols.)

“This is a lousy game. Really. It ought to have taco trucks.”
“Jason, are you sure you’re all right?”

Kira and Jason face near starvation and limited water yet rise to a climatic, seemingly impossible battle with strength that would shame many well-fed, well-equipped soldiers. Realistic? Who cares?

“War is insanity. You already know that. You’ve now seen it first-hand. But if someone begins such insanity, someone else has to stand against that, even though it means embracing the insanity.”

Book Review: Feast of Souls by C. S. Friedman (Three Stars)

Book Review: Feast of Souls (The Magister Trilogy #1) by C. S. Friedman (Three Stars)

“Tonight . . . tonight that last precious spark will go out. And if she is lucky, if she is strong, if she is above all else determined … something else will take its place. Whether she can endure living with that something is another question entirely.”

Semi-epic fantasy fiction following a woman who becomes a Magister, thought to be impossible in her world. Based on the athra (soulfire) witch magic of a previous Friedman series, these stories ramp up the sorcery through men, who obtain their power through the soulfire of others, not themselves. But it’s not so simple. Slow paced series opener, establishing atmosphere and characters.

“You dare not regret what you are. Not even for a moment. Human sympathy is anathema to the power that keeps you alive.”

 Lots of emotion and misdirected motives. Good conflict and inner voices.

“Tomorrow could not be better if one failed to survive today.”

Manages a satisfying conclusion to the first story with sufficient hooks to draw the reader into subsequent books. Satisfying is a relative term, as some readers will be shocked and dismayed at the denouement of this story.  

“He will not be a hero himself, though he will help bring a hero into existence. His strength will never be measured, but he will test the strength of others. He will attend upon Death without seeing it, change the fate of the world without knowing it, and inspire sacrifice without understanding it.”

Book Review: Heir of Sea and Fire by Patricia A. McKillip (Three Stars)


Book Review: Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddle Master #2) by Patricia A. McKillip

(Three Stars)

“There is an instinct in me to trust you blindly. Beyond reason, and beyond hope.”

Moderns whine the former dearth of recognized female authors and lead characters in speculative fiction. Like most generalizations that’s generally wrong. This book is a case in point. Published in 1977, it features a mostly female protagonist and supporting cast. Sadly, but understandably, the series male hero … (Oops, that’d be telling.)

“I know that silence … sometimes I think it’s a silence of living, then at other times, it changes to a silence of waiting.”

Simple, direct storytelling. Great impact. Hate to think how Robert Jordan would Continue reading