Book Review: The Last King’s Amulet by Chris Northern (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Last King’s Amulet (The Price of Freedom #1) by Chris Northern

(Three Stars)

“It’s a lucky commander who has good men.” “It’s lucky men who have a good commander.”

Excellent war fantasy set in a Roman Republic analog with a side of political philosophy. Well written, though the protagonist is not initially attractive.  A tease of romance and magic too. What’s not like?

“It is advantageous to take enemy supplies. The rule of thumb is an enemy wagon of supplies is worth twenty of your own. It hurts them that badly.”

A professional military logistician for most of my working life I’m prejudiced, but logistics really do win wars. As demonstrated in World War Two and the 1991 Gulf War. “Leaders win through logistics. Vision, sure. Strategy, yes. But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time. In other words, you must win through superior logistics.” Tom Peters

“Spank them then give them a hug. Fighting men are like children.” “You were reading my mind.” “Actually I have been reading your books.

Northern lost a star because he ends rather than concludes this first chapter of his epic multi-volume opus. Not quite the Robert Jordan syndrome, but Jordan’s first book was good too. To sell the next book, one must deliver the goods in the current book.

“Self doubt is a cancer that can eat at you if you let it. What I needed, I realized, was to get on with it. To fight an enemy and kill him and be done. Still the thought made me sick inside. I had never killed anyone and to be completely honest I really had no desire to do so.”


Book Review: A Thousand Words for Stranger by Julia E. Czerneda (Four Stars)


Book Review: A Thousand Words for Stranger (Trade Pact Universe #1) by Julia E. Czerneda

(Four Stars)

“What’s been done to you wasn’t to help you. And what was blocked is much worse than losing your past. If you were once so powerful, so gifted— Sira, they’ve blinded and crippled you.” “I don’t feel blind or crippled. I feel sick. And I’m scared.”

Excellent science fiction. A non-Star Wars take on a Force-like power, those who can connect and the muggles. Most told from the point of view of a sort-of human character whose memory and abilities have been blocked. Through the story she must discover not only who she can trust but who she is.

“You have touched the M’hir. Part of our unconscious selves is always there, mingling Continue reading

Book Review: The Emperor’s Finest by Melissa Cuevas (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Emperor’s Finest by Melissa Cuevas

(Three Stars)

“How was he supposed to make a name for himself when his name kept getting in the way?”

Adequate space opera. Enough contrary to stereotypes to keep it interesting. Skipped basic training; hooray! Most everything predictable.

‘Such cynicism for a young officer.’ ‘Voice of experience. Youth is irrelevant.’

Lost a star for unrealistic space combat. Most operations were drawn from World War Two prototypes, which made next-to-no sense in a futuristic, nigh-tech environment. The needs of the story, rather than military considerations, seemed to drive the battles. The attack on the space platform was especially Continue reading

Book Review: In the Region of the Summer Stars by Stephen J. Lawhead (Four Stars)


Book Review: In the Region of the Summer Stars (Eirlandia #1) by Stephen J. Lawhead

(Four Stars)

‘Do you trust me?’ ‘I trust you as much as I trust any man.’ ‘Hmph! There speaks a suspicious man—a wary and skeptical man.’ ‘If so, perhaps I have earned my suspicions.’

Lawhead doing what he does best: light epic fantasy. A fun read with the right mix of protagonist stupidity and nobleness to hook epic fantasy fans. Fast paced and readable. Loosely based on the geography and history of Ireland.

‘Our lives may be forfeit, but Brecan must be stripped of power or he will become invincible—and all Eirlandia will pay the price.’ ‘Put like that, a fella would have to be a fool to Continue reading

Book Review: Shadow’s Son (Shadow Saga #1) by Jon Sprunk (Three Stars)


Book Review: Shadow’s Son (Shadow Saga #1) by Jon Sprunk

(Three Stars)

“It is not the Night We Fear,/ But the Gathering Shadows Beyond our Ken.”

Good, if pedestrian epic fantasy. Another bad guy who isn’t, good guys who aren’t, orphan who is (oops, spoiler) …. You get the idea. You’re read dozens of them. Gave Sprunk an extra star for clean storytelling and a satisfying conclusion.

“He hated admitting she was right, but he’d probably hate dying even more.”

Uncomfortably numerous parallels to Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria Revelations. Not quite plagiarism, but not as good either.

“There’s always someone looking for trouble. You try to avoid it when you can, but—” “But sometimes it finds you anyway.”

Non sequiturs: “a charcoal etching of a lighthouse” Charcoal etching? “You’re good with your hands. You could lead men.” Does not follow. “the crackle of blazing pinewood logs” (Who heats a palace with softwood?)

“We don’t cry for them, Caim. We cry for ourselves.”

Book Review: The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Tiger and the Wolf (Echoes of the Fall #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky

(Four Stars)

“Believing in freedom was just a knife the girl had made and given to the world to cut her with.”

Fun, self-contained epic fantasy. Good world and character building. Narrative occasionally bog down in wordiness. Excellent foreshadowing. Enough humor to lighten the trip.

“Well, then, when do we go? What is your plan?” “I have no plan. We do not go. I go. With my lack of plan. You’d go, too would you?” “Someone has to watch and laugh.”

Editing could have improved it. Not tight and bright. Wordiness is okay to describe inner dialogue and conflict, but it slows the narrative. Repetitious, too. “When the attack came …” occurs three times.

“Ill fortune dogged the oath-breaker, just as it would the treacherous host, the ungracious guest, the kinslayer.”

Quibbles: “peat-clad roofs” Sod-clad? “saw the fires begin to gutter” Candles gutter, not campfires. Characters change size as well as shape. As they go from one state to another, they shed all fatigue from the previous state. A conservation of energy and mass would have improved credibility. (Who worries about credibility in fantasy? Attentive readers, even if they don’t know it.) Two characters are named Maniye and Amiyen. Too similar for easy reading.

“A slave?” “Slave with no collar’s still a slave.” “Of all the slaves in the world, you are the least satisfactory.” “There are worse ambitions.”

Nice cover art.

“The Wolf hunter shrugged, suggesting that neither he nor the world were there simply for her to understand.”

Book Review: Riddle Master of Hed by Patricia A. McKillip (Four Stars)


Book Review: Riddle Master of Hed (The Riddle Master’s Game: Book 1) by Patricia A. McKillip

(Four Stars)

“When you open your minds and hands and heart to the knowing of a thing, there is no room in you for fear.”

Sorry I missed this when first published in 1976. Better than most post-LOTR imitators. McKillip may feel that she’s surpassed this earlier effort, but this is a deeper, more satisfying tale than many more famous competitors, which admittedly is a low bar.

“Truth,” the Master Ohm murmured, “needs no apology.”

It took the entire book to get the protagonist interested in his quest, along the way he discovers that everything he thought he knew—and he was a master riddler—about almost everything, was wrong.

“I have lived a thousand years, and I can recognize the smell of doom.”

Quibbles? Lots, but none that diminish the enjoyment of the text. Go with the admittedly shallow flow.

“I’m also wondering why the High One has never acted.” “Perhaps because his business is the land, not the school of wizards of Lungold. Perhaps he has already begun to act in ways you do not recognize.”

Book Review: Amáne of Teravinea by D. Maria Trimble (Three Stars)


Book Review: Amáne of Teravinea: The Chosen One by D. Maria Trimble

(Three Stars)

“Ever since I can remember, I’d aspired to be brave and strong; to have a mission in life; to be worthy of a quest. But one problem plagued me—I was born a girl.”

A fun fantasy for young readers. Good story with a good heart. Lots of teen angst; little humor. Clunking, amateur writing.

“Gallen anticipated my reaction. He ducked just in time to avoid the spray of tea that spewed from my mouth. ‘Next time you have alarming news to tell her, you could at least refrain from telling her at meal times?’”

If Amáne’s mother and the Healer had any inkling she might be the Chosen One, you’d think they would have trained her and watched her. For who and what they were, they were Continue reading

Book Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (Three Stars)


Book Review: Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

(Three Stars)

“If you got any more noticed, I think they’d have you arrested.”

Ripping good space opera. Lots of action and self-depreciating humor.

“I saw no reason to give him the whole truth. Whole truths usually just made things worse, anyway. I avoided them whenever I could.”

Marred by loose, wordy syntax. (The preceding quotes could lose several words.) Tighter is brighter.

“‘Gate’ implies something you go through, but a hyperspace gate is nothing but a space-station-sized supercomputer capable of quickly and accurately doing the computations needed for safe jumps.”

Better-than-average explanation of how jumps work in her universe. Better than Continue reading

Book Review: Element of Fire by Martha Wells (Four Stars)


Book Review: Element of Fire (Ile-Rien #1) by Martha Wells

(Four Stars)

“I have no regrets, except perhaps my choice of allies.” “And your choice of enemies?”

This freshman work shows elements of Martha Wells’ future style. Not quite four stars, but Wells gets extra credit because this was her first novel. Wells has turned the Ile-Rien stories into a franchise, presumably the subsequent ones are more polished.

“We’re going to be roasted. And eaten.” “Quit sniveling.”

Foreshadows the snarky humor which makes Continue reading