Here be Dragons

Archive for September, 2013

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Fantasy Review: ‘The Crown of the Blood’ by Gav Thorpe

First things first, big props to the Goodreads reviewer who coined “sandalpunk” to describe this book.  The whole punk thing should have probably stopped after cyber and steam (though to be honest, I have also used bio-punk to describe something), but really in this case it works.  So that’s that.

Or rather it isn’t, because now I have started a review with a term to describe the book, without telling anyone what the term means.  Stupid stupid stupid, come on man do you expect everyone to get on Goodreads, scroll down, and find the review that coined the term?  Explain yourself!  Ok, sandalpunk is fantasy set in a faux roman or Greek setting (I believe the person who coined it specified Roman, but screw that I am co-opting it and adding Greek so I can count Kearney’s Macht trilogy). (more…)

Urban Fantasy Review: Hard Bitten by Chloe Neill

Synopsis:

Caroline Merit, aka Merit the Cadogan House vampire and Sentinel, faces another crisis connected with her nemesis, Celina Desaulniers or Marie Collette Navarre. This time her house is blamed for every vampire-related disturbance in the beautiful but windy city of Chicago. It’s clear that somebody wants to create these disturbances only too often – vampires are secretly given a certain drug, white pills with a V pressed in them, and then they are invited to raves with humans. The drug makes them very volatile and aggressive- small wonder most of these raves end up in bloodshed and the help of the police is required. The problem is that more and more humans are rallying against supernaturals and especially against vampires – some of them picket the Cadogan House day and night with protest signs letting the vamps know that they are not welcome (to say the least of it).

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Fantasy Review: ‘The Living Sword’ by Pemry Janes

This is rather a short book, closer to a novella than a full-length novel, but it packs a hefty punch for its size. Eurik is a human who was found as a baby in a boat with his dead parents, and raised by a non-human island-based society called the San. Ah, the orphan of unknown heritage story, that’s always a good one, if a little over-used. The opening chapters, where we see Eurik living amongst the very alien San, are terrific. I’m a big fan of non-human societies, and this one has been very well thought out. But then, sadly, Eurik is given the living sword of the title, the only possession found on the boat, and told he has to leave the island to find out what happened to his parents, and where they came from. This means living amongst humans for the first time, a race (or species, maybe?) he’s previously only read about in books.

The humans, frankly, are less interesting, because their way of life is very similar to that of millions of other fantasy human societies. It’s the differences, the idiosyncrasies of this world that make it interesting. Fortunately, the author doesn’t belabour the idea that the human world is very new to Eurik. He’s well read, so he manages to recognise many ordinary items (bread, for instance) from book descriptions. It would be tedious if every common item he saw was described through his eyes as something novel and strange. Still, he does seem to accept things very quickly, without too many ‘whoa! whatever’s that’ outbreaks. (more…)

Wheel Of Time For The First Time: ‘Eye of the World’ by Robert Jordan

Oh boy here we go.  For two years I have been saying I was going to start reading The Wheel of Time, see the series that it seems everyone else in the entire world has read.  I knew it would be difficult, after all I am no doubt jaded by reading so much other fantasy before it; I will be seeing clichés throughout.  I also in no way, shape, or form can say that I am going into this reading with as a blank slate; for a series I had read not one word of I know an amazing amount about The Wheel of Time.  I would have had to hide under a rock to not pick up huge chunks of information about this amazingly popular series; instead I use my phone to browse fantasy message boards all day (fantasy fiction message boards, get that thought out of your mind you sick @#%#!).

So I grabbed my new (used) paperback copy and prepared myself.  Warnings are there, I know to expect braid tugging, arms crossed under breasts (anyone else try this at home?), weapons being fingered, and random attacks of orcs (sorry, trollocs), all following around the one true hero of the world, Rand whats’his’name.  I already KNEW that the first book is way too similar to Lord of the Rings for some people, and I already knew that Terry Goodkind stands accused of borrowing a little too literally from Jordan.  So with all this in mind, and book in hand, I wisely kept a pen and notepad (ripped piece of paper with an old grocery list on the back), because I know every little mistake I make will be jumped on immediately.  I am dealing with sacred ground here. (more…)

Fantasy Review: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Synopsis:

The end of the world a.k.a Armageddon is finally scheduled. The evil against the good, global cataclysms, wars, famine, the Moon looking like blood and so on. In order to do it right the son of Satan has to be born and brought up among humans. A demon called Anthony Crowley, working more closely than he should with an angel called Aziraphale, is supposed to ensure the boy goes to the right, influential American family ( a kind of parody of a very old thriller “The Omen”). Things get tangled up because of his clumsiness, one chattering nun, an ordinary Englishman expecting his first newborn baby and a bunch of other strange events. While both Heaven and Hell are in a race to make sure he does what THEY want the devil’s spawn ends up being named Adam (not Damien or Warlock or anything evil) and happens to be raised in a provincial British town by ordinary lower middle class people. It is not exactly something good for his devilishness or the plans of the mighty forces above and below. Even his hell hound turns into an innocuous mongrel who loves chasing cats. The four riders of Apocalypse have obtained their orders though and are determined to carry them out. What will happen to all these people? Will anybody be able to locate the boy and start the end of the world properly? Perhaps a witch or two will come in handy; them and some witchfinders, their natural enemies…and an unusual book with deadly precise prophecies, written by the late Agnes Nutter. (more…)

Fantasy Review: ‘The Crown Tower’ by Michael J Sullivan

Prequels are difficult. Fans already know everything that happens down the line, so it’s hard to create enough tension and uncertainty (It’s a battle! Will they survive??? Um, sure they will. Oh.). The characters are established, but there has to be enough information for new readers to follow along without boring the fans witless. It’s a tricky balancing act, but Mr Sullivan pulls it off magnificently. I loved this book to pieces, almost more than the original books (The Riyria Revelations), if that isn’t too sacrilegious. It’s a fun, easy to read, exciting romp, with the bonus of characters that have already had the benefit of several books to become beautifully well-rounded.

The plot, in brief: our heroes, Royce the cold-blooded assassin/thief, and Hadrian the highly trained soldier weary of killing, are brought together by eccentric academic Arcadius for one seemingly impossible job. They have to steal a journal from the top of the Crown Tower, home of the main religious leader, and bring it to Arcadius to read. And the sticking point is that, even though Royce can do the job single-handed, they both have to go. (more…)

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