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.”

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Book Review: The Shadow of the Lion by Mercedes Lackey (Five Stars)

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Book Review: The Shadow of the Lion (Heirs of Alexandria #1) by Mercedes Lackey et al.

(Five Stars)

“Just as simple as original sin and just as seductive.”

Excellent. Amazingly deep, rich epic fantasy set in an alternate timeline very close to Renaissance northern Italy. The nations, myths, religions, factions and families are close enough to historical that the student of history has a leg up on the fun. Yet Lackey has shifted emphasis, history there, motives somewhere else just enough to create a fascinating new universe.

“There is such a thing as evil in the world, which cannot be persuaded, but only defeated.”

Amazing that Lackey produces such good word so quickly. Nonetheless, there are signs of this story being rushed to print. For example, modern expressions, Continue reading

Book Review: The Stone in the Skull by Elizabeth Bear (Two Stars)

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Book Review: The Stone in the Skull (Lotus Kingdoms #1) by Elizabeth Bear

Two Stars

“We’re not the heroes of the story. We’re those guys who wander in during the third act to pick up the dirty work.”

A pleasant excursion into a world analogous to southern Asia before the British spoiled the local fun. Don’t read the blurb; it reveals too much backstory about the cauled sun and other phenomena of this world, robbing the reader of wonder and discovery.

“Duty above anything else. And then the lifetime regret for choices untaken.”

Decent character and world building. Enough strands that, at first, the reader is adrift. Enough point of view characters to bring the reader into the story without Continue reading

Book Review: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) by John Scalzi

Three Stars

“This isn’t going to end well.” “Does it ever?”

Scalzi delivers the goods. So many other authors of science fiction fail simple narration, if not science. Scalzi is a master storyteller and covers himself on the science front as well. Unlike many first-of-a-series novels, this story has a satisfying conclusion even as it sets the hook for follow-on tales. A good, fast, enjoyable read.

“I’m busy with the end of everything.”

Perhaps compensating for the male cast imbalance of previous works, almost all the major characters are female.

“… the human tendency to ignore or deny facts until the last possible instant, and then for several days after that, too.”

The f-word occurs in some form 202 times. Half of those are to establish the credentials of one of the female leads, but most weren’t necessary. Cost him a star. It’s not as if Scalzi hasn’t Continue reading

Book Review: Past Imperative by Dave Duncan. Three Stars

Book Review: Past Imperative (Great Game #1) by Dave Duncan.

Three Stars

“What happens after depends on what happens during.”

What if there is a form of magic in our mundane world? Right before our eyes, but unrecognized. What if, under certain conditions and in certain places, that magic swells into something truly supernatural? What if … but that would be telling.

“Everything has a purpose.”

Good opening to an extended series: the Great Game. Good world(s) and character building. The protagonists are identifiable, but neither stereotypes nor perfect. Their foibles make them that much more interesting. A satisfying hook to pull the reader into the story/ies. I suggest skipping the Foreword. While it contains interesting insights, it also contains too many spoilers.

“Magic can never be described as believable, but it must be consistent, and should reasonably meld with the politics and religion of the world.”

Creates a world, bestiary, languages, religion and literature without inflicting massive data dumps on the reader.

“He concluded that anything so lacking in sense must obviously be very holy.”

A satisfying climax and hook into the next novel. Progressive revelation expands the reader’s knowledge and interest.

“[She] swept into the room like Boadicea sacking Londinium.”

Book Review: Driftmetal by J. C. Staudt Three Stars

Book Review: Driftmetal by J. C. Staudt

Three Stars out of Five

Popcorn for the brain … buttered and salted.

A fun steampunk romp through a different world, where there is no “world” and there are two species of humans–unmodified primitives and the “normal” enhanced folks. Muller Jake is one of the latter, as well as something of a rogue. Think Han Solo with R2D2 and 3CPO options.

An admitted “serial novel” this one pauses rather than ends, but Staudt gives the reader a better-than-average conclusion for this opening episode.

Nice cover.