Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: The Ghost King (Transitions #3, The Legend of Drizzt #19)

The Ghost King (Transitions #3; Legend of Drizzt #19)The Ghost King by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Don't miss the gripping conclusion to Salvatore's New York Times best-selling Transitions trilogy!

When the Spellplague ravages Faerûn, Drizzt and his companions are caught in the chaos. Seeking out the help of the priest Cadderly–the hero of the recently reissued series The Cleric Quintet–Drizzt finds himself facing his most powerful and elusive foe, the twisted Crenshinibon, the demonic crystal shard he believed had been destroyed years ago.


This is hard for me, and for you to understand that, I have to tell you a story.

First I want to say it's amazing how much a person can love a work of art, a creation. That is why I will never fault fans, even if the work itself is extremely faulty with many issues that impressionable teenagers shouldn't be exposed to. (But that is a story for another time.)

My point is that R.A. Salvatore's work is the reason why I started to write fantasy. So, giving it three stars hurts a little. It hurts the remnants of that fourteen year old girl who finally found her place, and was terrified of it till college. It hurts the little girl who used to secretly watch anime on Cartoon Network without telling anyone at school. It hurt the little girl who read her adult mystery novels at home, while trying to read age appropriate books in front of other people.

You see, I was thirteen when I fell in love with Harry Potter. That made me realize I loved fantasy. So I went looking for more. Tried reading The Hobbit, and utterly failed. (It was boring, still is.) And then someone told me about the Drizzt books. Some kid online I used to do one of those post style roll-plays with.

So I bought Homeland, and to my surprise it was signed. I read it, loved it, and proceeded to read his Drizzt books and his Demon Wars Saga works. I started mixing in other fantasy, but most of it was different genres. Humor, urban fantasy. The occasional mystery. Then literary works once I entered college (aside from my Lord of the Rings class). I fell behind.

One day I bought the ebooks of the ones I hadn't read yet, this being the first. It took my a while to get through it. For a while I couldn't pin down why. Then it hit me. My nostalgia had bottomed out, collapsed, vanished into thin air. I had become too educated and well read, and these books weren't holding up to my new standards.

The first thing I noticed was that the writing just wasn't that special. It lacked the emotional detail I was looking for. It was straight forward fantasy narrative, but was all over the place. Most of the time it seemed to try to be shooting for third person omniscient, but kind of failing. It was honestly a bit annoying. I mean the writing wasn't bad, but not special. It was like reading Garden of the Moon again. It didn't hold my interest.

And the characters. Damn. How do I say this? When a writer has 20 years of work they need to do something with, I expect such finality to have more of a slow build. Instead I feel like it came on like a truck leaving a smeared mess in it's wake.

First, the falling apart of magic. That alone could get some serious mileage. It's changing how people live. I got broadsided with no reason why.

Instead I got to watch some people panic, favorite characters become absolutely useless, and Cadderly become a walking deus ex machina. I don't even know what really happened. I'm just confused and kind of upset. I mean these characters have always had a slight comic book quality, you know, feats of heroism that would make shounen characters clap in appreciation at the sheer ridiculous, but damn.

I don't even know how I can voice my disappointment anymore. I seriously have no more words. I want to downgrade to a two star, but I guess I have a small shred of nostalgia left over. I don't even know why that's still there. The leftover fan in me is very angry right now. I just realized that. I thought I didn't care about the events in the book, but I do. I feel cheated. Everything felt so sloppy and haphazard. Things just happened. They happened, feeling unconnected to everything else. That is what it was like. That is why I'm disappointed and a bit sad.

I'm angry (view spoiler).

I'm angry characters I loved were just kind of there.

I'm angry I wanted it to be awesome, and then it just wasn't.

Screw it, two stars.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review: Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1)Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Bled dry by warfare, the vast Malazan empire simmers with discontent. Sergeant Whiskeyjack's Bridgeburners and surviving sorceress Tattersail wanted to mourn the dead of Pale. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities, holds out, Empress Lasseen’s ambition knows no bounds, and the gods intend to intervene.


This book has been on my list for a long time, and I really wanted to like it. Everyone said it was so good, an absolute must read. I hate saying I was disappointed. It was just kind of. . . meh.

Before the fans of this book set fire to my account, I did give it three stars, so there were things I liked. I'll start with those.

My absolute favorite thing is the magic system. The idea of drawing power from distinct pathways (warrens) is not only easy to imagine, but has set limits from the get go. Erikson utilizes the Warrens to their full extent. I really enjoyed it. That said, many of the scenes involving magic felt a bit extraneous or pointless for most of the novel.

Which leads into many of the issues I had with the book. First, it failed to hold my interest. Many things just kind of happened with hardly any explanation. I spent most of my time questioning the relevance of events than just going with the flow. I had a hard time keeping track of characters and what role they played. It was all very convoluted. Even with the climax, I felt that much of the book was a little pointless. I could have missed something, but I don't feel like double checking at the moment.

And the names, face it, they were terrible. Tattersail? Sorry? (I would make fun of Whiskeyjack if I didn't meet someone with that as their honest last name.)

The writing itself wasn't terrible, but it wasn't the best either. There was awkward phrasing and stiff dialogue, but for the most part it was a tad wordy. If you aren't picky about the writing, it's passable.

I gave this book three stars because most of what the book tries is a little more original than some fantasy, but it stumbles a bit on the execution. The world building is a bit spotty, but what is there is consistent and makes sense within the context. Feel free to check out this book. The magic system is cool. I just hope you aren't as disappointed as I am.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Book Review: The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes #1)

The Steel RemainsThe Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A dark lord will rise. Such is the prophecy that dogs Ringil Eskiath—Gil, for short—a washed-up mercenary and onetime war hero whose cynicism is surpassed only by the speed of his sword. Gil is estranged from his aristocratic family, but when his mother enlists his help in freeing a cousin sold into slavery, Gil sets out to track her down. But it soon becomes apparent that more is at stake than the fate of one young woman. Grim sorceries are awakening in the land. Some speak in whispers of the return of the Aldrain, a race of widely feared, cruel yet beautiful demons. Now Gil and two old comrades are all that stand in the way of a prophecy whose fulfillment will drown an entire world in blood. But with heroes like these, the cure is likely to be worse than the disease.


I've put off writing this review for a while because I wasn't sure what to say. I didn't want to give too much away. I've had this book on my list for a while because I wanted to read it once someone said it's got great representation of characters of color and different sexualities. I can say I wasn't disappointed.

The Steel Remains is an epic fantasy that has the tone of gritty noir. It's tone is dark with a side of graphic violence and sex, so certainly not for everyone. Why did I like it so much? For one, the characters.

The main character is Ringil, Gil for short. He's a war vet, in his thirties, and getting a little squishy around the middle. He has a very low BS tolerance, and is the kind of person who will tell it like it is. And he's openly gay in a society where that's bound to get you executed. He hasn't been because he's nobility, and he knows this. His dislike of politics basically makes Gil a walking middle finger. Everyone praises him as a hero, but would rather not know too much.

A character like Gil could have been a disaster, but Morgan handles him well. Gil's cynicism is well established and fleshed out. He's relatively intelligent and knows who to speak to when he needs information, and when it isn't time to fight. I rather like him.

Gil's old war friends Egar and Archeth are just as well filled out with their own problems and story arcs. Archeth is a half "alien" advisor to a conquering king, and Egar is the leader of his northern nomadic tribe. Like Gil, these two could have easily fallen into fantasy stereotypes, but feel equally as developed. When all three finally meet up before the book's climax, they mesh well together and you can tell they're old friends.

One of my favorite things about this book was the world building. It really makes this fantasy feel like it could be more speculative fiction with interdimensional bad guys and a long gone alien race with faint steampunk elements.

I gave the book four stars because I thought the pacing was a bit odd in some points. The events jump between Ringil, Egar, and Archeth at their respective locations, and I thought the order should have been rearranged around the middle. I don't know if I'm right because I didn't keep a chronology map, so it remains just a feeling.

So, if you like gritty fantasy with a pseudo sci-fi edge and well rounded characters, than you should check out this book. Make sure you can stand effective descriptions of gore and erotic sex scenes between two men, or erotic sex scenes period. Like I said, not for everybody.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: The Cormorant (Miriam Black #3)

The CormorantThe Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miriam is on the road again, having transitioned from "thief" to "killer".

Hired by a wealthy businessman, she heads down to Florida to practice the one thing she's good at, but in her vision she sees him die by another's hand and on the wall written in blood is a message just for Miriam. She's expected...

This might be slightly spoilery. I'm not sure. Proceed with caution.

What can I tell you about a book that I waited with bated breath for? A book that I stared longingly at the Amazon page over, dreaming that I could reach through and pluck it our of the sea of ones and zeroes. What can I tell you about the third book of a series that I have come to love so much they sit snuggled up against all my other favorite writers.

I can tell you that this book was the best so far.

It is a year after Mockingbird, and Miriam is crashing with some losers she saved. She has taken it upon herself to save people by taking the life of those who will kill them. After something goes wrong, she decides to leave, but not before getting a lucrative offer to read some rich man's death down at the tippy-tip of Florida. It's there that she learns and old foe is gunning for her, and everyone she's made a connection to on her journey is fair game.

Miriam is still on the surface the Miriam we know; rude and crude with her perpetual cigarette and bottle of booze. But here is why this book is better than the last. We learn more about her. This time the trip is less about trying to just stop Fate. It's more about trying to stop Fate from happening to her. Miriam has always thought she was bad for people, but this book really takes that belief of her's through the wringer. This belief is really challenged when she finally goes to see her mom.

Yes, Miriam and her mom. A moment I was desperately waiting for. It's one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book, and damn. It's hard to read, but satisfying. I knew it wasn't going to be sunshine and rainbows. It isn't. Instead you see the character grow. Miriam has always been a character that we knew was as vulnerable on the inside as she was hard on the outside. All of that starts to shift. Miriam is starting to feel, dare I say it, a bit more complete.

While yes, there is all this fun character growth, it doesn't stop the rocket fast pace, or stop Wendig from giving the reader the thrill ride we expect. I'll just say that we see an old face, and we're treated too one of the most spectacularly disturbing and gory bad guy deaths I've ever read. It's really amazing.

Wendig's writing skills have improved a bit as well (as if that was ever a consideration) proved by his seamless weaving of the timeline. Most of the book is Miriam telling two Feds what went down before they caught up to her. Wendig's always played a little with time in these books, but it is at its most flawless here.

In case you haven't picked up on it by now, I wasn't disappointed.

And in case you haven't gotten the idea about how much I love these books, my reviews of Blackbirds and Mockingbird. So I suggest checking out this horror/thriller/urban fantasy mish-mash of great writing. If anything, do it for Miriam Black.

Book Review: Parasite

Parasite (Parasitology, #1)Parasite by Mira Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.

I'm going to first say that this is not my first time reading the words of Mira Grant. I know her by her real name, Seanan McGuire. I'm quite in love with her fun little InCryptid series. I had been thinking about reading her Mira Grant works for a while, and when I was at the library I saw this book. Before I picked it up, I started looking for her Feed books, but didn't find them. So I said, "Why not?" and picked this up.

In Parasite, people have bio-engineered intestinal tapeworms to help them regulate their medications, allergies, and to keep them from getting sick. Six years ago, Sally Mitchel - she now goes by Sal - was in a car accident and declared brain dead, until she woke up the day they were going to pull the plug. She has no memory, and no tapeworm. Now people are starting to cut out and "sleepwalk." Sal is caught in the middle, and she's looking for answers.

My initial reaction was that I thought it was a bit predictable. I totally figured out the end. And then I thought about it some more and realized that I think it was supposed to be that way on purpose. The "big reveal" was really more for the character than the reader, putting this work squarely in the "character focused" category. When I thought about it that way, I was less disappointed. But only just slightly.

You see, I like character studies. I like them a lot, but I didn't find Sal all that compelling. She was pretty boring and average feeling. She was just kind of, meh. I liked the parts where she talked about her love of carnivorous plants and wish there was more of those little quirks to her.

I suggest checking out The Rook for a slightly better done version of a woman waking up with a completely new personality.

Overall, while the science felt a tad iffy, I liked the world building. It was a traditional zombie story meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers, so it feels much different than a group of intrepid survivors band together to... survive. Thank the holy high heavens. I was getting tired of that particular plot.

What I really liked was the theme of science as a double edged blade. It's one of my favorite themes because ethical quandaries can make for great character moments.

I'll probably read the next one when it comes out because I'm the type of person who wants to know what happens. I give it three stars for a bland protagonist, but the writing is good and the premise is interesting. I suggest checking it out if you're looking for "zombie" stories outside the mold.

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