Here be Dragons

Archive for April, 2013

Steampunk Review: ‘Deadly Games’ by Lindsay Buroker

Nathan’s Review:  (posted 24th April 2013)

Say one thing about the Emperor Edge series, it is highly consistent.  Three books in and I know exactly what to expect from each book at this point.  I know that I will be very entertained by enjoyable banter between entertaining characters.  I  know that main character Amaranthe Lokdon  will come up with the craziest, most implausible plan imaginable, her crew will go with it, it will fail, and quick thinking from her and her crew will save the day.  And to top it off, I know when it is over I will immediately go to Amazon and book mark the next book, then try to talk myself out of buying right away…It will be there later man, have some control!

This time around Lokdon discovers that athletes are disappearing from some Olympic-like event before it even starts.  Hey, our crew is in great shape!  Let’s enter Basilard into an event against people who have trained their whole life.  This way we have an insider AND a chance to speak to the Emperor at the end.  It is fool proof!  Following a patter in the series the plan falls apart, a couple teammates get kidnapped, and things spiral farther out of control.

I think even the characters are starting to realize they live in a slightly silly land, saying things like “you have a tendency to wander into the enemy camp to chat with the head villain.”  The magic is starting to get a bit powerful; it is getting harder to understand how the Empire is so powerful when it is willfully ignorant of such a powerful force.  And I really am not buying how Lokdon is feeding her people working as mercenaries with such high standards.

But those area all minor squabbles.  Fans of the series get more of what they want.  These books still move at lightning speed; walking the line very well by showing a lot of action without getting bogged down by repetitive details.  And the characters continue to.. not grow.. but do all the things that made them so endearing in the first place.  Maldynado alone makes the book a great buy, Sicarius shows a little personality behind his too perfect cool exterior, and Lokdon shows both charm and wit.  Even Akstyr shows some usefulness for the first time.

Still not books for everyone, but still just right for me when I want something light.  Three books down and I only want to read some more.

4 stars.  One more way these books have stayed consistent.

Pauline’s Review:

This is the third of the ‘Emperor’s Edge’ series, featuring former enforcer (cop) Amaranthe and her motley band of outlaws cum undercover agents – Sicarius the assassin, Maldynado the ladies’ man, Books the scholar, Akstyr the learner mage and Basilard the former slave wrestler. The steampunk setting is, as always, a nicely drawn backdrop and convenient plot device, so that one of the events in the games of the title is the clank race, where contestants compete on a mechanical (and rather unpleasant) obstacle course. As usual, there’s a mysterious series of events for the team to investigate in the hope of ingratiating themselves with the young emperor, and restoring themselves to respectability. There are also some ongoing backstories, and the author is brilliant at reminding the reader of past details at just the right moment, and without it ever feeling contrived. If only all authors were so skilled.

This is a million miles from the gritty realism end of fantasy. The characters are just the right side of caricature, and the plot – well, it really doesn’t matter. It rolls along nicely, a jolly adventure that is always one wobbly step away from disaster but never quite teeters over the brink. It’s predictable in the sense that the eventual outcome is never in any real doubt, but there’s a huge tangle of twists and turns along the way, most emanating from the fertile (if not always sensible) imagination of Amaranthe. You’ve got to love a character who never fails to have a hairbrained idea, however dire the circumstances. There are moments when it’s tempting to pause and think – how on earth did they get into this situation? And how can they possibly get out of it? There are times, too, when it all got a little bit over the top. The amount of punishment the characters manage to take, the number of armed and/or magic-wielding opponents they tackle simultaneously, and the sheer number of problems they encounter, all of it becomes just a little too cartoonish sometimes. And then there’s another brilliant bit of humour, and I just don’t care. In the end, it’s the characters who matter, and the funny, tetchy and even (occasionally) affectionate moments between them that make these books so wonderful. Even Sicarius the ice-cold assassin gets some bonding with Basilard, and… and… no, it can’t be… is that a romantic interlude with Amaranthe? Well, sort of, maybe.

For anyone looking for a light read, with plenty of action and huge dollops of witty banter between the characters, this fits the bill beautifully. These books are just so entertaining, it’s all too easy to think – just another chapter, and then another, and perhaps just one more… The book equivalent of a box of chocolates. Lovely stuff. Four stars. 

Books in the series
The Emperor’s Edge
Dark Currents
Deadly Games
Conspiracy
Blood and Betrayal 

Review: ‘Star Wars: Crucible’ by Troy Denning

Forgive the self-indulgent review.  I will give my honest opinion for this newest Star Wars book, but I also want to chime in my thoughts on the Expanded Universe in general.  Specifically, with the possibility of a reset coming after the Disney buyout what I hope to see in the next go around.

First for a review of the book at hand.  I will not even begin to bother with a recap at this point, there is no point.  This book would be completely impossible to read without knowing the full and total backstory of all the Star Wars books before it, and even managed to throw some curve balls at me, a man who has been reading these books for over fifteen years.

It was alright. ‘Meh’ may sum it up better.  Certainly an improvement over the horrible books I slogged through from Fate of the Jedi.  What I appreciated the most in this book was the smaller scale of the conflict.  While eventually it became apparent the fate of the galaxy could be at stake, most of the book dealt with a smaller conflict in an out of the way area of the galaxy.  This allowed the book to focus on a smaller cast, spend more time with the characters, and lent a bit of believability to the scale of the threat that has been lost in the Star Wars universe for a while.  So that was nice, and something I want to get into after the actual review.

What wasn’t so nice was the stupidity of some of the plot lines.
My biggest gripe is a common one.  If an author puts a genius/mastermind type character in the book they better be able to back it up.  I am not as a reader going to buy their skills if I don’t see it on page.  Thus the two main villains of the book lost all credibility for me.  Their amazing mental capacities were mundane; they were outsmarted at almost every turn despite us being told otherwise by the narration.  They were completely dependent on Vestra, the only compelling character from the Fate of the Jedi series.  Their insane method of interrogation involved a card game with a known expert on the game.  They backstab almost everyone they deal with yet still find people willing to deal.

Smaller gripes.  Han battling a force user and somehow getting a shot into his knee.  A space station that stretches time yet the author only using that detail when convenient, otherwise characters outside and in seem to be moving at the same pace.  The inconstancy with Mando’s strength here vs earlier books(specifically their lack of it).
The final nail for me was an incredibly dumb ending.  Some type of timeless alternate universe where death requires specific circumstances otherwise people come back to life.  Or something.  Then because it is a timeless area one person has to tell another their entire history together because of unexplained amnesia (but has time to do because time is timeless here).  They leave the area by wishing their way out, or clicking their shoes, or something equally outlandish, it didn’t make much sense.

3 Stars.  Doesn’t really deserve it, but it was better than the Fate of the Jedi series throughout, so that is something.

Copy for review received through Netgalley.

Now, as promised, a quick word on the state of the EU and what could be a complete reset.

My credentials?  Just a longtime fan who has been reading these books for over 15 years.  Truth be told I have not really enjoyed the new books since about half way through NJO, I just keep reading to keep up with the story.  Staring with Fate of the Jedi I have been more and more lost due to knowing nothing about the Clone Wars era EU.
What got me thinking about this was how hopeful I was for this new book.  I saw what I would like to see if a reset happens in the blurb.  Specifically smaller scale conflicts rather than the constant escalation that has taken the EU beyond the point of silly.  A larger universe where every major threat wasn’t dealt with by the same five people.  Of course I didn’t get this from the book, but damn I was hopeful.

So I will lay out what I hope for, and then leave it at that.  I want the SW EU to take the Warhammer approach.  It is time to leave behind the overreaching arcs, the characters we all know, and instead let every author do their own thing.

-Smaller conflicts/Bigger Universe- The stakes can be just as high, but the later books have tried to focus on everything at once and ending being highly shallow.  Let’s do more books like the X-wing series.  A small cast of unknowns doing to amazing things, but only within their own roles.   It doesn’t always have to be about the fate of the entire galaxy, I would be just as intrigued it was about the fate of one planet, or one unit, or one family (Yes it has been done in a couple books, but few and far between).  Larger conflicts have just lead to constant escalation to the point of pure silly.  Of course the worse example is the Sun Crusher as a one up to the Death Star.  But just as bad is the series of events leading to Abaloth, who is what exactly, pure dark side energy?

-Drop the timeline/characters- The timeline was problematic early on as trilogies were squeezed between other books, and suddenly those later in the sequence had scenes that made no sense.  So drop it.  It isn’t important if you’re dealing with single systems or groups of people.  I have heard people say the best storyline in the EU is from the video game Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, was it hurt by not being in a known timeline?  I think not.  And it certainly wasn’t hurt by not having a recognizable character.  The fact is focusing on Luke/Leah/Han has gone on for far too long.  They have their hands in everything and it is not believable.  It also makes the universe feel tiny, as no matter what happens you know the whole gang will soon be there.

  Worse, with every author dealing with the same characters and timelines the better authors are forced to live with stupid decisions from lesser ones (KJA turning Mara Jade into nothing more than a prize Lando is hoping to win, with Zahn basically retconing the story line by making it all an act later on).

Besides making more compelling stories I see to major advantages to my suggestions.  The first is a new reader can truly start anywhere.  When reading NJO I often had to look up backstories from the silly Jedi Academy books that it was assumed I knew.  In the last installment I had to look up the Mortis Monolith.  And of course Aboleth requires a bit of back story for FotJ to click right.  The second is I can skip books that get universally bad reviews.  Read Zahn and Stackpole, skip KJA and Hambaly, and not lose any of the stories by doing so.  Feels good!

Of course none of this will happen.  The EU made a lot of money doing it the way they did, and I fully expect that once the new movies come out we will see a new set of books following the continued adventures of about six people as they save everyone from everything.

The End.

Oh, and I have said it before and not stuck with it, but I am so done with these extended story arcs.  My Star Wars reading will be limited to X-Wing books and a few old favorites when I need a familiar face.

Steampunk Fantasy Review: Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

Synopsis:

Ondinium is a mountainous city-state whose physical strata mirror their caste system. At the bottom is Tertius, the seediest and the poorest part whose inhabitants are immigrants, workers, engineers and often criminals. In the middle is Secundus, where are situated the higher-end shops, markets, and the University. And at the top is Primus, land of the few – rich and privileged. The classes are separated into four groups: the administrative ruling class, called Exalteds, executive police caste (Lictors), labouring plebeians, and free-flying icarii who run messages between all three rings of society. Dru Pagliassotti draws clear lines between them – their functions in society, how they relate to each other, how trapped they are in their own castes. Each member of the groups have different tattoos or emblems to signify their place. Exalteds are the real aristocrats and rulers – they wear white ivory masks in public and usually keep themselves to themselves. All citizens are subject to the Great Engine, a steam-powered computerized machine that also determines one’s career, but that is counterbalanced by a human, Exalted-led Council. Even machines sometimes make mistakes.

Floating through and around this society are the icari, caste-less messengers who fly with wings made of ondinium, a super-buoyant metal. Taya Icarus is one such messenger, and one day on her way back from a job she saves two exalteds from a wireferry crash. As she investigates (unofficially), her path crosses that of the exalted Forlore brothers which couldn’t have differed more. The younger Alister is handsome and charming, a ladies’ man but also the youngest member of the Council and the greatest programmer of the engines that run the city. The oldest, Cristof, is skinny, rude and grouchy; he renounced his caste and lives as an unmasked clockwright in Tertius. Both brothers seem to fancy Taya in their own way but, as she is making her choice, she discovers that not all shiny stuff is gold and not all handsome men are worth a heartache…not to mention the fact that she can’t count on anything more than a short fling – not when the Exalteds are involved.

Titillating factor:

Just a few kisses nothing more – it is a YA novel after all. I approve. 🙂

What I liked:

I didn’t expect much but maybe just because of it was charmed.

First of all Ms. Pagliassotti lets the reader explore Ondinium without resorting to clumsy info-dumps. Undoubtedly, the world-building is the most impressive aspect of Clockwork Heart, and although one can recognize the possible sources scattered around fantasy literature (like Tolkien’s Gondor but also Plato’s Atlantis and ancient Rome), the author has made this world truly original.

Each immigrant group living in Ondinium has their own stereotypes and opinions about other groups, and appropriate relationships and tensions. There is also an underground group called the Torn Cards that hates the government – so-called for their calling card, torn programming cards, that they leave at the sites of their terrorist attacks. No vampires or werewolves on the horizon. No zombies either…

When it comes to characters Ms. Pagliassotti created a compelling, sympathetic heroine you can relate to. Although it is a YA novel the heroine never acts too stupid to live and the hero isn’t a cloying, insufferably noble jerk. Taya’s actions and inner deliberations are definitely more mature than you would expect. I found her a smart, capable, sensible woman who knows what she wants (so no, no ugly love triangle here either). The Forlore brothers are three-dimensional and fascinating. Without giving anything away, I wholeheartedly agreed with Taya’s eventual romantic choice. She proved she had brains and her heart was definitely in the right place.

What I didn’t like:

The plot dragged along for too many pages, especially at the end. It made me bored as the book became a bit too predictable right from the middle of the narration. It would be better if the main baddie was revealed later – as it is, the final showdown felt oddly overshadowed by the earlier, dramatic confrontation between Taya and the Forlore brothers. In other words the novel would have been better if it had been about 1/4th of its length shorter (but, as it is a debut let’s cut the author some slack).

Also the steampunk aspect…well, I read steampunk just because I love when these queerly complicated anachronistic machines become pretty much rightful characters of the story. Unfortunately here they were employed only as props. I don’t feel that the author intended to exploit the ethos, awe and science that characterizes the steampunk genre to the full, focusing too much on the romantic thread instead. That’s why I wouldn’t really consider this book pure steampunk, though it certainly contains those elements. It’s first and foremost romantic fantasy. As you might guess it wasn’t exactly up to my expectations.

Final verdict:
This was a pleasant mix of romance, mystery and steampunk but it lacked real scientific passion and a better pacing of narration. It was fun and easy to read though – perfect for a lazy summer day.

Fantasy Review: ‘Witches Abroad’ by Terry Pratchett

Part 12 of The Compete Discworld Reread

First things first, I must say my reading comprehension has gone up by quite a lot since I started reviewing all the books I read.  For instance I know I have read ‘Witches Abroad’ a half dozen times in my life and never once realized that the ‘Cinderella’ of the story (Emberella) was of mixed heritage.  In no way does this affect the story or the review, just jumped out at me for the first time.

Anyway….

Another book following Granny Weatherwax so you must know I am all in.  Continuing, and expanding on, the theme of stories gaining a life of their own, this time following fairy tales rather than Shakespeare.   Magrat inherits a magic wand and the duties of fairy godmother, as well as a long time battle with another fairy godmother.  She learns she needs to travel to Genua to stop the serving girl from marrying the prince.  The late godmother lets Magrat know she is not to bring Nanny and Granny along, so of course all three witches head to Genua.  Off to Genua!  And Magrat may have a chance to stop a story if she can get the wand set to something other than pumpkin.

A bit different from the last few Discworld books in that it doesn’t have competing stories fighting for space.  Instead it is firmly focused on the Witches journey and Emberella’s fate.  This should make it one of the more focused of the series, but I found it to be a bit uneven at first.  The traveling especially was hit and miss; providing some of the funniest portions of the story but dragging after a while.  Granny continues to be my hero when she takes on the card sharks in riverboat gambling (humming off tune and itching the inside of her ear the whole time).  Along the route they see the results of a godmother giving happy endings, with horrifying results (think Shrek 2). 

Once in Genua the story tightens up.  A perfect town is kept that way with an iron first (think Shrek 1. Wow, they had to have read Pratchett before writing those movies).  A practitioner of Voodoo has been holding the Fairy Godmother at bay but will need the Lancre witches to tip the balance.  Because if the resident fairy godmother has her way Emberella WILL marry the prince and there WILL be happily ever after, whether anyone wants it or not.  Both sides know they must now play within the story and each must figure out the best way to cheat within the framework.   Who is good and who is bad?  Is forced happiness real happiness?  Is Granny always the good one, and if so, does she really want to be?

Oh yes, some of my favorite parts for others to compare with their own: A small town deciding to stop the running of the bulls after the witches visit, Granny showing a voodoo doll can work both ways, and Magrat proving to be more mongoose than mouse.

I can’t be objective because the Lancre witches continue to be my favorite, and have been for years.  I also am fond of this book because it had one of Pratchett’s strongest endings, especially withen the sometimes inconsistent early books.  The only downside I see at all is the travelling, while funny, dragged a bit too long for my taste.

One last interesting fact, pointed out to me before I started rereading this book by another fan; all five major characters in this book are women, and the only male who really matters to the story is actually a cat.  Who else but Pratchett could do this so subtle that most wouldn’t even notice?

4 stars

Sci-Fi Review: ‘Caszandra’ by Andrea K Höst

This is the third part of the Touchstone trilogy, and anyone who, like me, loved the first two, won’t have any problem enjoying this too. I’ve classified these as sci-fi (other planets, high-tech everywhere) but I’m getting less sure, since the technology is delightfully arm-wavy. All communication is via the ‘interface’, a brain-embedded universal internet which is incredibly useful at crucial moments. It can send/receive messages, provide all sorts of background information (aka instant info-dump) at the drop of a hat, and helpfully records everything so that the detail can be picked up later. There are ‘drones’ (robot things) which are deployed in a variety of plot-facilitating ways. Then there’s the literal world-building – when a new building is required, a bucket of special goop is ‘programmed’ with an architectural plan and away it goes. It beats scaffolding and uncouth building workers, anyway. Even the ‘ships’ used for inter-planetary travel are largely undescribed and unexplained. Then there are ‘psychics’ with all sorts of powers – elemental, levitation and teleportation, as well as actual psychic (mind-reading, sort of) abilities – all of which seems suspiciously fantasy. No quest, no secret heir to the kingdom, and definitely no magic swords, but there is a heroine with mysterious unexplained powers. There are monsters and at least one traditional fantasy beast, too.

Whatever you call it, the setup is much the same. Cass is still the stranger from Earth with the weird unexplained abilities which are so useful in unlocking the abandoned planet Muina, if they don’t get her killed her first. The inter-planetary politics and resettlement are taking centre stage now, but the psychic military, the Setari, are still back and forth on missions to fight monsters. And we finally have a Big Bad – the particularly creepy humanoid monsters who are both intelligent and organised. And hell-bent on destruction and mayhem, not to mention capturing Cass. So the race is on to find out what is going on, and a way to fight back.

The tension ramps up nicely to the grand confrontation, and much of the book has rather a heavy background tone. Cass and friends are doing various fluffy things (going shopping, eating out, socialising) while waiting for the Big Bad (the Cruzatch) to turn up again and kidnap Cass for various evil purposes, destroy the known world, kill all the nice friends and generally carry out their villainous plans. The good guys, meanwhile, are more or less floundering round trying to guess what awful thing might be coming up next, with no greater ambition than just – well, surviving. Their only plan seems to be – let’s blow stuff up and see if that helps. Or throw Cass at something to see what happens (which has been going on throughout, really).

This part of the book stretches the diary format to its absolute limits. It worked well earlier on, I think, to get the reader right under Cass’s skin, and was a very effective way of getting across her sense of isolation and differentness. It really doesn’t work so well for big battle scenes, because the reader knows immediately that Cass survived, or she wouldn’t be writing her diary afterwards. So the big confrontation is effectively told in abbreviated summary form (‘and then I… and then we…’), which loses a lot of the tension. There is also the problem that the romance has been settled, and while it’s a lot of fun going through the are-they-no-surely-not phase with friends, it was actually more fun when they were kept apart and Cass secretly had the hots for him. Or at least, it was more tense. A large part of the atmosphere in the first two books revolved around the very strict military protocols wrapped around everything Cass did and the stiffly correct attitude of the Setari, which kept her so heart-rendingly alone. Now that she’s sleeping with one of the Setari and is (largely) friends with the rest, things get a little warm and fuzzy and group-hug-y.

One aspect is unchanged, however; everything still hinges on Cass and her strange set of abilities as ‘touchstone’, the key to revealing the past, what went wrong to cause the planet Muina to be abandoned, and (indirectly) the present and future too. It’s surprising how often these talents drive the plot by revealing key information or making some unfeasibly difficult task possible, but while this is very convenient, it never feels like deus ex machina, since Cass has had these abilities from the start and has simply learned to use them (or to use them better, perhaps). Plus they frequently go wrong or out of control or twist off in unexpected ways. The author is very good at following the appropriate logic for these developments, so that when Cass has one of her frequent brushes with death, she is ‘grounded’ for a while afterwards, even when it might have been more dramatic to have her present at some incident or other, instead of hearing about it second hand. Nice, too, to see Cass herself using her talents directly to fight her own battles (sometimes literally), instead of being a passive tool to be manipulated. The moment when, in the midst of mayhem, she decides to visualise into reality a battle-winning device of awesome proportions is simply epic.

This is the final part of the trilogy, and I hugely enjoyed the first two parts, so it’s not exactly a big surprise that I loved this one too. Of course, it’s not perfect (what is?). The problem with keeping track of the vast array of characters is even greater this time round, and apart from the Big Bad they all seem to be rather nice, pleasant people. Even the few set up as hostile turn out to be gruff and suspicious rather than outright nasty, in the end. And who’d have thought so many of them would be breath-takingly beautiful, intelligent people? From being entirely alone on a strange planet, Cass ends up friends with pretty much everyone, which is slightly implausible. The complexities of a society of umpteen million people are fairly comprehensively airbrushed away into one homogenous mass (although I guess the ubiquitous interface would eliminate a lot of differences). The rather different society on Nuri was interesting, and I would have liked to know more about it. I also found it strange that so much of life on Tare and Muina was similar to Earth; there was really no effort to make these worlds truly alien, apart from a few minor details tossed in here and there. And anyone looking for explanations for every little mystery will be disappointed, since much remained unanswered or vague.

In the end, though, none of that mattered. I loved Cass’s shift over the course of the trilogy from schoolgirl thinking only about romance and exams, to the saviour of worlds and the focus of inter-planetary law-making. And she makes the transition without fuss – the occasional totally justified hissy-fit excepted – and without losing her essential nature or her sense of humour. Much of what she goes through is pretty horrible but she bears it with quiet fortitude and oodles of common sense. One of my favourite fictional characters. Five stars.

Touchstone series
Stray
Lab Rat One
Caszandra

Fantasy Review: ‘Reaper’s Challenge’ by T.J. Dipple

Let me start by saying that I enjoyed this book.  It had some flaws and was very simple, and the review I am about to write will discuss several of said flaws.  But I want it to be understood that I truly did like a lot of this book; it was quick paced, had some original ideas and a better ending than it appeared to be heading for.

This is a fantasy novel focused on the city guard of a city called Kavernhive.  Kavernhive is a city protected at night by the haze, a bunch of glowing orange balls that keep people from dying violent deaths.  Following an elite group of guards called the Blades, conflict comes to the city when a murderer has found a way around the haze and seems intent on bringing down the cities protection all together.  Rookie guard ‘Recruit’ joins the blades in their search for the killer.  A secondary plotline involves the Blades long running dispute with the cities assassin guild (now a requirement in every fantasy city).

Don’t look to close or the whole thing falls apart.  The haze is a very cool idea with some logical inconsistencies; the how and when it heals specifically lost me.  The need for such a substantial guard when there is a lack of violent crime also confused.  How a long running war is kept going when nights are off limits, well there are some leaps of faith needed to buy the idea of the haze.

It is also hard to buy into just how elite a guard unite the Blades are.  At one time it is mentioned by an enemy that it would take at least four men per Blade to fight them; indeed they consistently fought much greater numbers and won.  This isn’t a ‘Best of the Best’ unit that takes established guards that have proven themselves; they are just awesome by luck.  Recruit is brought in immediately after basic training.  Throw in the just as elite female Valkyrie unit (who are around just long enough to hook up with the Blades) and the entire city watch dynamic gets a little hazy (oh,  inadvertent pun!).

Toss in some unconvincing politics: A king says “I cannot order you to take down the guild.  Do you hear me? I can’t do it,” and his nobles don’t smell out the oh so subtle hidden meaning.  Add some language issues, including a whole lot of people saying “Reaper’s Balls!”  There are some definite negatives to the book that keep me from recommending it for everyone.  Yet I said I enjoyed it, and I did.  So here is why.

When not trying to pick apart what the haze is I can admit the author stays pretty consistent in its use, and it is an interesting dynamic.  The characters are pretty one dimensional, but have some pretty decent interactions with each other.  The book moves very quickly, and while easy to read may not be the best compliment sometimes it is a positive depending on mood.  And after what appeared to be an anticlimactic ending the story escalated fairly naturally into something with even greater stakes, and did so well.   So while I can’t recommend this book for everyone, neither will I tell people to stay away completely.  This book would probably be best for those looking for manly men doing manly things in a short number of pages; perhaps while waiting for the latest Warhammer book.

3 stars

Review: ‘Guardians of Evion: Destiny’ by Evelinn Enoksen

This is so weird.  ‘Guardians of Evion: Destiny’ is a book with a very heavy Pern influence.  Just from the book description that should be fairly obvious  and is not what I consider weird.  What is weird is that this short, 300 or so page book follows the same arc the Pern series did, both in content and quality.  Let me explain!  Oh, if you haven’t read the Pern series this entire review is worthless.

Act1

Pern:  Lessa is different because she talks to dragons.  But after a very crappy early life she gets to go with the dragon riders to live around dragons.  Even better it turns out she is special, and soon gets the most important dragon.

Themes: Differences between the dragon riders and others cause friction but dragons are going to be very important in upcoming times due to an unknown external danger.  A few visionaries must convince those in power to act.

Genre: Fantasy

Quality: Very Good

Evion: Numak is a young boy with a sense of wonder, he has always been ostracized by his town due to his ability but that is ok, he gets to go with the dragon riders now.  And once there he learns he is pretty special, maybe the most powerful telepath around.  Oh, and he eventually gets the biggest most powerful dragon.

Themes: Differences between the dragon riders and others cause friction but dragons are going to be very important in upcoming times due to an unknown external danger.  A few visionaries must convince those in power to act. 

Genre: Fantasy

Quality: Very Good

I found the first portions of the book to be a real page turner.  Numak’s story was pretty intriguing, and despite the Pern similarities there was a unique feel to Evion.  Perhaps the best praise I could give to this book was the author’s ability to throw so much at the reader without losing track of all the details.  Though it followed only a couple of characters it was easy to learn the lay of the land in Evion, including major powers and hierarchies.

Act 2

Pern:  Eventually it is time to take care of the external threat.  It is learned that people were from Earth originally, and there is a lot of old Earth technology around that can help them defeat the external threat.  Focus turns from dragon riders to said technology, series does a complete 180.

Genre
: Science Fiction

Quality
:  Sporadic as hell

Evion:  Eventually it is time to take care of the external threat.  It is learned that people were from Earth originally, and there is a lot of old Earth technology around that can help them defeat the external threat.  Focus turns from dragon riders to said technology, series does a complete 180.

Genre
: Science Fiction

Quality:
Sporadic and rushed.  Too much going on when it appears only one story line is really going to affect the outcome.

The second act was a completely different book with only the characters in common (though they all went through so many revelations of who they really are that even that is tenuous).  The fantasy feel is dropped completely in exchange for a sci-fi story based on alien ant farms and human telepathy.  Obviously your mileage may vary on how enjoyable this is.  I cannot fault the book for the shift and much of it was a smooth transition, but it personally wasn’t where I was hoping to see the book go.

What did cause some problems for me in the later portions of the book was how little anything but Numak’s storyline mattered.  Because ultimately he was central to the planned threat to the world, everything else was window dressing.  In particular there was a lot of set up for a very anti-climactic final battle.  For a book that started fairly strong when it came to weaving story lines it was disappointing to see so few of them end up being important.

3 stars.  I don’t see myself continuing the series, but I am very interested in the authors planned comedic fantasy.

Oh, want one last Pern similarity?  Just like in McCaffrey’s books a rape isn’t a rape if it is fueled by dragon’s emotions, it is the start of true love! 

Copy for review was provided by the publisher.

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