Book Review: Fate and Fortune by Shirley McKay (four stars)

Book Review: Fate and Fortune: a Hew Cullen Mystery # 2 by Shirley McKay (four stars)

‘Your greenness does you credit, I confess. I will be almost sad to see it clouded by experience. Nonetheless, you want to lose a little of that trust.’ 

By far McKay’s best Hew Cullen book yet. More complex plot combines with her signature deep character conflicts propels the story forward. Leavened with humor and affection.

‘Do you wish for the convolute answer, or the straight one?’ ‘Giles, you have never given a straight answer in your life.’ 

Unlike Books 1 and 3, Fate and Fortune highlights the prejudices and incivility of sixteenth-century Scotland. Hew’s rank and humanity are casually stripped away by officialdom and amateurs. His modern sensibilities crash into a stone wall of status quo.

‘Do not give way to bitterness. It is more vicious than the pox, and infectious to the core.’ 

McKay skillfully reveals the villains as Hew remains clueless. Good read.

‘He died,’ Hew whispered wretchedly, ‘and I did not know him.’ ‘And perhaps you never will,’ his friend allowed. ‘Yet we may judge a man as much by how he dies, as how he lives. And a good death, in part, is measured not by how we die, but by what we leave behind.’ 

Book Review: Fell’s Hollow by A. J. Abbiati (Four Stars)


Book Review: Fell’s Hollow: An Episodic Novel by A. J. Abbiati

(Four Stars)

“Good things sometimes come to the good, but bad always comes to the bad.”

A series of short stories set in one time and place with an overlapping cast of characters. Their stories intertwine, but never seem to end. Shahrazade-style. Have patience. Eventually many of the threads get tied.

“You must accept your fate. The sooner you do, the sooner you can live your life free from pain.” “Is your life free from pain?” “It is free from any pain brought on by disobedience. That is enough.”

Each new chapter jerks the reader away from what little had been deduced. Literary vertigo early on. Stick to it; minor characters in one tale become the protagonist of another. Even the “evil” have a story and, of course, to themselves they aren’t evil.

“She was a slave, Onya.” “A slave?” The girl’s voice dripped with disgust. Tye shrugged. “Some things don’t change. There will always be evil in the world.”

Aphorisms open each chapter from literary works within the culture. Some are good.

“Deny not the whetstone of fate/When edging the sword of purpose.”

Book Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost (Licanus #1) by James Islington

(Four Stars)

“Everyone has a darker nature. Good men fear it, and evil men embrace it.”

Excellent epic medieval fantasy. Large and varied cast with credible motivations and conflicts. Everyone has secrets; some don’t know their own. Good story telling. Conflicting views of reality add depth to a coming-of-age, gathering-the-team tale.

“The only secrets a mind cannot give up are those it doesn’t know.”

Nice cover art. Useless, unreadable Continue reading

Book Review: Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan (Five Stars)


Book Review: Age of Swords (Legends of the First Empire #2) by Michael J. Sullivan

Five Stars

“Some things are unimaginable right up until you are looking at them, and even then, you might not want to believe. Love is that way, so is death.”

If anything, better than the first book, Age of Myths. Superficially Sullivan is not an epic fantasy writer like Rothfuss or Tolkien, but he weaves an excellent story amid afresh, if derivative world. Part of the fun is his tongue-in-cheek homages to classic fantasy.

“I hated my brothers. Dead for three years and they’re still trying to kill me.”

Satisfying conclusion with appropriate hooks into the next stories. Well done. Leavened with humor. Not so much as the Riyria stores, but enough. Waited for second volume for magic school, hooray! And the training was organic, taking the reader inside Continue reading

Book Review: Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell (Four Stars)


Book Review: Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell

Four Stars

“Make no mistake, girl, the end of this road is a shallow, dirty ditch with your corpse in it.”

Swords and sorcery, with emphasis on swords. Three Musketeers meets Ryria. Improbably good (and lucky) protagonist against most of the world, with a dash of humor. Good voice, good plotting, good pace.

“Unfortunately, my need to live up to his expectations of me has always been slightly stronger than my desire to pinch him in the face.”

Told from the perspective of the leader of the disbanded and disgraced Greatcoats of the deceased king of a small country now run by the dukes as their personal toy. Knights in shining armor are bad guys. Mages are mostly bad news. And he can’t get a break.

“And people ask me why I hate magic.”

Brings this first installment to a satisfying conclusion while setting many hooks for the following tales.

“He looked scared, but he looked solid, and I guess that’s what brave looks like.”

Love the cover art of the hard cover edition, but the credit inside the book leads to a Munich ad agency. Maybe, but …?

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it was that honor just gets you into trouble.”