Posts Tagged ‘Book Review’

Kraken.jpg

The Kraken Sea doesn’t stop. Its pacing only ramps up and spirals out of control until the very entwined ending. In fact, there are no chapters and it reads a bit like an epic ballad. There’s also no break once you starting reading this unique, novella in length story from E. Catherine Tobler. I finished it all in one night after a two or three hour binge, I’m not sure of the actual time. I lost track of myself and surroundings a bit while immersing myself in this story.

We follow a special boy named Jackson and his struggle to find himself in a world he is so different from. His character rapidly evolves in more ways than one, he grows up in mind to be a man, however he is isn’t truly human but something more.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one and being published by Apex, I wasn’t disappointed. My initial assumptions for the storyline were far off base, at the very beginning I was thinking this might have a Chronicles of Narnia relation. Tobler has an ability to grab the reader by their throat and shove them face first  into a muddied world of mythical creatures and territorial battles between rival houses. The author does all this by weaving beautiful prose in a blend of wondrous character descriptions and actions somehow simultaneously, it really is a very artistic writing style.

If I had to give a few basic descriptions to give the overall feel of this story, I would go with: dark, mysterious, and tantalizing. I felt like I was trailing the entire time on the rooftops behind Jackson and Mae, watching from behind a cloud of mist as their stories unfolded. I still have more questions than answers with this one but that didn’t stop me from enjoying The Kraken Sea.

If you are looking for something a bit unique, a bit thrilling, and something that will take your mind to another plane of reality, then you really should give The Kraken Sea a look.

 

25111218Unless you have been living in a bomb shelter or have an extremely limited of knowledge of the current status of Warhammer 40k advents, then you wouldn’t be aware that, I Am Slaughter, by the legendary Dan Abnett, is the first installment in a large scale series of novels entitled “The Beast Arises”.

To be honest I’ve read books about Space Marines battling Orks; shocked, right? I’ll let you in on another little secret: I’ve read a lot of books about Space Marines battling Orks and this is what made me a little hesitant in jumping aboard this new series. I figured that I am Slaughter would simply be more of the same and it is, more or less.

The pacing of this one was a slow burn for me. I don’t think I really started getting into it until about page fifty. You can tell that Abnett was instructed to lay out a myriad of plots for future authors to follow, also his normal character attachments and dialogue I reminisce about when discussing his writing is a tad lacking. I recognized his banter mostly within the character Magos Laurentis near the end of the book.

I did enjoy the mystique behind the battle on Ardamantua with the Chromes. The eventual play of the Orks behind the gravitational issues and death of the world didn’t evolve exactly as I was expecting, which was nice. Abnett has also created some pretty high expectations for whichever authors get to play around with Vangorich and Beast Krule in the follow-up books.

I Am Slaughter ends with only questions and leaves the reader craving more. I’m excited to see where Rob Sanders picks up in the next installment Predator, Prey and I think Black Library’s The Beast Arises series has a bright future ahead of it. “Daylight Wall stands forever. No wall stands against it.” – Daylight

blprocessed-ragnar20cover  In all aspects of this story, Ragnar Blackmane by Aaron Dembski-Bowden reads like a tribute tale in honor of past Ragnar works, and that is a very good thing. This is somewhat of a saga within a saga and it took awhile for the past to meet up with the present and I wasn’t entirely sure that it was eventually going to connect as smoothly as it did.

Ragnar starts out waist deep in a hopeless battle on Cadia; he makes a promise to hold back the endless tide of invaders until sunset. While preparing for a final wave of assailants, he is speaking his fallen brother’s names out-loud in honor of their memories as per his ritual, when he is posed with the question of: Who is the one battle-brother Ragnar would most wish by his side at this hour? His answer is “Razortongue”

The flash back to Ragnar and Razortongue’s time together is how I am reminded of past Ragnar books, tales of a young Ragnar committing rash mistakes and having to fight tooth and claw to make amends for his errors.

I only have one quarrel with this book: the serializing change from the first few Lords of the Space Marines limited editions to this Space Marine Legends series title, the switch to this identical format but with a different series name makes absolutely no sense to me.

My review doesn’t do the book justice, however, as the glorious cover and limited edition format is well worth the cover price for any collector and the story is beautifully written. It was enough to dig me out of my grave and write a minor tribute to one of the great Black Library authors, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, and pay tribute to his fine work.

Sweet, succulent magic. It seduces us and traps us; mesmerized, we can’t and don’t want to get away. And Heirs of the Demon King Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell is flush with it. Uprising is all about the magic. Although once free flowing, admired, and respected, magic is now outlawed in England. King Richard the Fifth rules with an iron hand with the aid of his Inquisitors who route out magic wherever it is found. However, small pockets of magic users exist, including Mathias Eynon and his betrothed, Tagan. Soon Richard must choose to complete the supreme sacrifice to cement his reign, a demonic bargain made by his royal ancestors. Mathias and Tagan are chosen to band together with other magical beings to fight this coming evil. Will the young lovers and their comrades be able to vanquish the demons or will the monstrosities prove victorious and bring hell to earth?

This is a fast-paced, exciting light vs. dark tale. One of the characters reminded me a bit of The Three Musketeers’ Aramis – or perhaps Johnny Depp’s Captain Sparrow – the flamboyant, foppish, lady lover who we love to hate and hate to love. Cawkwell has given us good-guy characters that are easily likeable. She has also provided us a couple of baddies that call out for boos, hisses, and tomatoes. The central villain, Inquisitor Charles Weaver, is fairly evil to the core which actually seems to make him both odious and appealing at the same time.

If there were any failings with Uprising, I would have to say it was our main heroes, Mathias and Tagan. Son of an executed magic user, Mathias’ mother fades to oblivion and he ends up being raised by a master magician. Tagan is the daughter of a blacksmith, raised on the forge. Both of these characters seemed to need more development. They just needed a bit more maturing, perhaps.

However, the story and settings are fully thought out and have a rich feel to them. The pacing is quick, lively, and suspenseful. Cawkwell’s Uprising will keep you on the edge. You won’t want to put this one down.

 

 

I’ll get to the gist of this review right away – Jason, you are a fantastic writer! In the introduction by Geoffrey Girard, he calls you “…a dumbass…” because you have focused on publishing, rather than writing. I can only say that I totally agree with him!

Every story in Irredeemable shocks, probes, touches, thrills, and titillates. Sizemore has created retribution, revenge, and, yes, even redemption in these stories. Each story is infused with the supernatural and the spiritual as Sizemore introduces us to many rich, tortured characters. Have they killed their wives, their kids, their pets? Have they succumbed to bribery and temptation? Devils and demons are here as well as young prankster kids who are just starting out on their evil paths. Vivid characters all. I think I’ve met some of them at Walmart.

The misty hollows call out to you here and the hair on your arms and the back of your neck tingles. But you feel the same prickles in an elevator in an urban setting as well. The horror lurks everywhere; you don’t have long to wait.

Read this book. In the bright light. Through your hands that shield your eyes. Like watching a freshly smoking accident, you won’t be able to peel your eyes away.

Heartwood by Freya Robertson reminded me of a train. Not a smooth, lightening bullet, train, but a heavy duty, gnarly freight train. It started out slowly, chugging and plugging along, and then little by little it built up speed until it was barreling along, all power and there was no stopping it until it came to its final screeching halt. I didn’t want to put this book down once it got its speed up.

As the image on the cover suggests, Heartwood is all about noble knights on a quest. The knights set out to save their beloved Arbor, a tree that is the magical holy symbol of their religion and has kept the land of Anguis united for hundreds of years. The Arbor grows in Heartwood, a military base and religious enclave that has been erected surrounding the tree. After an attack on the tree by mysterious warriors, the Militis of Heartwood (holy knights raised to protect the tree) and other leaders must find ways to energize and heal the tree, and bring peace back to Anguis.

There are quite a few main characters that battle in this exciting romp, and it’s refreshing that there’s a nice balance of tough, seasoned females, rather than a preponderance of hardened male lead characters. Chonrad, the Lord of Barle, represents the calm, fair-minded aristocracy. A widowed father, Chonrad struggles with his deeply buried bitterness over not having been chosen to serve as a Militis as a child. Procella is a high ranking Militis knight, fanatically loyal to her religion and her duty to serve. Beata is a young dean of Heartwood, brilliant fighter who finds love and her ability to lead as she participates in the quest. Then there are the knight twins, Gavius and Gravis. Identical in appearance, they emerge as light and dark, confidence and uncertainty, gaiety and gravity. (Were the names chosen to represent these attributes?) Dolosus was chosen late in life to serve with the Militis and has lost an arm due to a wild, negligent streak. Can he triumph even with being disadvantaged in battle? All the characters must face a challenge, overcome it, and then rejoin the fight to repair the Arbor.

The main foes in Heartwood are water warriors. These guys are pretty sweet. Watery, green glowing eyes, they emerge from the water to attack the Arbor and ruthlessly slaughter those in Heartwood. Their armor, city are cool and Robertson has come up with some inventive baddies here; they are quite a bit more interesting than the good guys. Which leads to a bit of the problem with Robertson’s female lead characters, they all cave in to their emotions. Oh, they put up a bit a struggle with their feelings, but all of them eventually succumb to a male character’s advances. It was somewhat of a letdown each time when you were so hoping for a much stronger character to emerge. Robertson relied quite a bit on the romance novel formula for these characters.

Also, although the story was exciting, leading to the major climax at the end, the many intervals switching back and forth from character to character were so similar to each other that it became somewhat predictable rather quickly. Character travels a short distance. Some supernatural or psychic occurrence shakes him or her up, causing them to question their integrity. Then each character had to overcome their lack of confidence or faults. What I enjoyed and was surprising were the number of characters Robertson surprisingly kills off. She certainly kept us off guard in that respect.

Despite these couple of disappointing glitches in Heartwood, I really liked the book as a whole. The characters were enjoyable, the world felt rich and its history well built, and the ending was really full and satisfying. It’s so rare lately when a book gets wrapped up and doesn’t leave you hanging for the sequel.

Talus and The Frozen King by Graham Edwards is a good start to what could possibly become a great series of mysteries. The cover promotes the book by saying “Introducing The World’s First Detective.” And I truly got that feeling when main character, Talus, a bard and our “first detective” utters the phrase, “…there’s no time to lose!” I had visions of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (only wearing bear skins and with greasy hair) chasing the baddies in their black hansoms down a darkened, narrow, cobblestone English road! The similarities are very apparent – Talus observes everything and deduces the truth from each clue. His sidekick, Bran, originally a fisherman, is our somewhat bumbling Watson, typically preferring brawn to brains. There is even a Moriarty, “Mishina”, a shaman, who plays to Talus’ weakness for solving challenging mysteries.

What I really found unique here was the world into which these characters are thrust – the cold, icy, coastal realm inhabited by isolated tribes of Neolithic peoples. Edwards brings them to life with their rituals that seem very alien to us. Mud-painted faces, stone tools, bone weapons, are all rich details that add to the raw feeling of the island of Creyak where someone has murdered the king.

Talus is a very interesting character. He searches for his humanity, his brilliance often seems to dull his true emotions for as he analyzes each clue, he begins to analyze his relationships with friends and lovers. His physical appearance is appealing, too, with his bald head, rail thin body, and tattered robes. Bran is our more down-to-earth, emotional character. He has suffered great loss, both emotionally and physically. Strong and human, Bran is the perfect complement to Talus’s logical mind. They work as a pair to expose the murderous plot and at the same time discover some truths about their own pysches.

Bran will continue to follow Talus on a quest north, to the top of the world. They will most certainly find more adventures and mysteries to solve as they continue their journey. The game’s afoot, Bran!

 

If you like tidy endings and nice crisp packages tied up perfectly with curly ribbon then Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King is not the book for you. Just when I thought I had a handle on which direction King was going to take us, he surprised me again and again.

Susan Gardner is the sole survivor of a terrorist attack on a flight she had taken. Now struck with amnesia and being pursued by both the terrorists, the FBI, Homeland Security and the paparazzi, Susan must discover who she is and what role, if any she played in the terrifying event. To further complicate matters, Susan can hear the voices of each and every dead passenger on the pivotal flight. Susan’s ally for much of the book, her protector, Sergeant Steve Krupinski, barrels along in Bruce-Willis-Die-Hard fashion – smashing things, smashing people, hotwiring vehicles, all in an effort to effort to protect our heroine.  The terrorist group, Death’s Disciples, is vicious and mysterious, albeit quite vague and amorphous for much of the book. As the plot thickens and boils near the end, all is made disturbingly clear.

I enjoyed all the characters in King’s book, particularly Susan who breaks down any pre-conceived stereotypes you may form towards the beginning of the book. I would have liked to have had a little more in-depth background about a few of the more minor characters, just because I liked them. For example the Goth girl-terrorist-wannabee, Calliope Dirge; just her name alone merits more details.

King begins in first person and occasionally slides back into first person as he presents us with Susan’s varied points of views. I’m not real sure how effective this was; I enjoyed it at first, but then quickly became a little annoyed with this flipping back and forth as it seemed to break up the continuity and the rhythm of the story. But not a big thing.

Much of the story takes place in Chicago or its environs. Knowing this city well, and having travelled both its pristine shores and its seamy, grimy bowels, it was easy to imagine the chase scenes, the congestion, the crowded, milling conditions. King did well setting the background.

Exciting from page one until the last page, Death’s Disciples will take you on a run-away subway train ride from start to finish. Climb on in and hold on tight!

 

Just gripping. The Emperor of Thorns drags you in from the very beginning and won’t let loose its teeth. I could barely put the book down. Mark Lawrence has twisted the knife to the breaking point in this exciting conclusion to his Broken Empire series.

In this third and final entry in the series we follow King Honorous Jorg Renar, King of Ancrath and all of his ill-begotten titles, in his quest to become emperor and unite the fractured, battling kingdoms. Jorg has grown to manhood in this book, at once resigned to his destiny of revenge and yet still questioning his actions at the same time. He stays true to his character throughout, showing no mercy, making rash, quick, and often gruesome decisions. Precisely what the empire needs as the Dead King slaughters his way to claim his own place on the throne.

Somehow I missed reading the second installment in this series and perhaps that is why I did find this book not as enjoyable reading as a ‘stand alone’ book. Many of the characters jump out to play large roles here that presumably were from either the first or second books. I would have really benefited from just a little brief description of who they were and how they related to our hero Jorg. For example maybe because I missed the second book, I had forgotten who or what Gorgoth was and how he came to be with Jorg. Eventually I did recall many of the characters or at least a smattering of memory, enough to still enjoy the interaction.

Also, the book is written with juxtaposing of past and present. I found that a bit confusing, losing some momentum as I had to reach back every so often to “Five years earlier”, then return to the present and have to pick up the path.

It was really satisfying to finally be introduced to the mysterious ‘Builders’ and discover their secrets; although we have suspected all along who they might really be and what were the results of their actions. We also learn more of the Dead King, which induces a final “aha!” moment at the end of the book. There was a deep, intriguing complexity in Emperor of Thorns; Lawrence weaves marvelous schemes and designs of the characters. And of course, there is the delicious slicing and dicing sprinkled just right throughout.

As always, though, Lawrence writes with a cruel streak, always fresh. His images are rich and lush with attention to the smallest detail and feel of atmosphere, environment, metaphor and simile. My stomach heaved right along with necromancer Chella as she reached into the dung hole to attempt to retrieve a fallen brooch. My nose burned with the pleasant sting of spices and my ears were bombarded with the din from the bustling hoards on the docks as Jorg lands ashore.

Often, in an effort to milk that “cash cow” that Lawrence alludes to, writers will prolong that ending to their books or leave us hanging with vague foreshadowing or just inconclusive endings. It was quite gratifying that Lawrence presents a final end to the Broken Empire saga. You must read this trilogy to find out just what that end might be!

It’s not often I refer back to the author’s blurb before the book, but in this instance, it is necessary. No, not necessary, but required to give mention of it here in this review. The author explains who he wrote the book for and it isn’t your typical: Mom, Dad, Daughter, Son, Bother, Sister, Wife, bla bla bla. He explains that this book is for you, the undesired, the outraged, the outcast and neglected, the failures, fuck-ups, and misfits. (Do you see your proper category anywhere in there yet? If not you’re still included, too.) I bring this up, because I related to Tommy Pic, to his pain of failure, his want of achieving greatness for his films, his bouts of psychotic episodes.  I related to Tommy Pic and so will you to a certain degree; that’s what makes this book special.

I’ve read two books written from first person point-of-view within the last week and I’ve been shocked at how fantastic they have been.  I was especially stunned because while I had an idea that “What Makes You Die”, was going be good, I just didn’t know it was going to be this GOOD.  Tommy Pic is a screenwriter who’s met both brutal ends of the Hollywood spectrum, failure and success, a pair that always seem to be at hand and Tommy has finally reached the down-and-out category.  The premise of the story has us following in the faltering footsteps of a delusional, alcoholic, sick-minded, yet entertaining Tommy, in an attempt to recreate the final acts of a mysterious screenplay that he has no recollection of ever writing.

“Trying to recapture the hallucinations that crafted his masterpiece, he chases his kidnapped childhood love, a witch from the magic shop downstairs, and the Komodo dragon he tried to cut out of his gut one Christmas Eve. The path to professional redemption may be more dangerous than the fall.”

If this sounds insanely brilliantly, it’s because it is insanely brilliant. These are just a few tantalizing scenes we are gifted with, amongst so many others that will rear up and slap you in the face with a dousing of strongly mixed emotions. Ironically one of the characters in this novella, Bango the Clown would literally slap you in the face with a shoe. As for the other characters, Eva (Tommy’s witch/girl interest) is my favorite; she brings a refreshing aura about her that lends us a sense of clarity and feeling that maybe things can get better for Tommy. What Makes You Die is comprised of a rich cast that wouldn’t be complete without Tommy’s imaginary family members, Bango the Clown, his less than angelic agent Monty Stobbs, and, yes, the famous Komodo dragon, Gideon, living within Tommy’s stomach and leaving him Post-it notes everywhere.

I truly had an extremely difficult time putting this one down for even a few minutes to get some work finished.  Fail or succeed, author Piccirilli, does a masterful job of making us cling to every scene and page that unfolds in Tommy Pic’s quest to finish his unremembered script “What Makes You Die”. I’ve read Tom Piccirilli’s short, “Subletting God’s Head” in the anthology Dark Faith: Invocations and now after finishing “What Makes You Die”, I can say that I’m a big fan of Mr. Piccirilli’s work.The only qualms I had within this book arose at the ending.  All I can say is that some of the haze and fog which blinds Tommy Pic’s eyes doesn’t completely evaporate with the novella’s conclusion. I’m guessing this was the author’s intention.

9 out of 10 Liams for “What Makes You Die” by Tom Piccirilli. This is one of those rare books where if I’m asked to recommend something special, I’ll be shoving this down a lot of throats.

Thanks to Apex Publications for providing me with this review copy.