I tend to write long reviews for everything I read, but I’ve found that increasingly difficult as I read more. It’s particularly difficult with second and third books in a series. From time to time I’m going to do posts like this one where I bundle a bunch of reviews together. Most of them will be second and third volumes in a series, but occasionally I’ll throw a standalone in as well. I’ll also write up novels here that I didn’t finish (very rare) and I’ll try to explain why without actually reviewing it. Enjoy!
Shadow Master by Jon Sprunk
I finished Shadow’s Master last night, concluding Jon Sprunk’s trilogy that began a few years ago with Shadow’s Son. I’m keeping this review short because I’ve said almost everything about the series and Sprunk’s style that needs to be said in my reviews of Shadow’s Son and Shadow’s Lure. For those who’ve been awaiting this final installment I can confidently say it’s a fitting end to Caim, Josey, and Kit’s stories. The novel is also a bit of a return capturing the kinetic violence and unrelenting pace of the first volume.
If I have one complaint about the series, and it’s a relatively big one, it’s that Sprunk doesn’t do a very good job of giving his world and magic system the depth that could have taken the series to another level. There are times when the magic becomes deus ex machina almost entirely due to the fact that it’s just unexplained. None of that really detracted from my enjoyment, but it is something I’d like to see Sprunk do better in his next series.
The Ruined City by Paula Brandon
Last year I wrote a review for The Traitor’s Daughter, the first book in Paula Brandon’s The Veiled Isles Trilogy. I found it wildly entertaining, but lamented the book’s marketing strategy that pushed it more toward romantic fantasy readers. The romance comes across as a secondary story line to the true conflict in the series which revolves around the corruption of the Source, a magical energy that’s in danger of reversing course and altering the world. Brandon shines in this space, utilizing interesting, flawed, and wholly believable characters with goals that are equal parts right and wrong.
Book two, The Ruined City, picks right up where Traitor’s Daughter left off. Admittedly, Brandon does open up the throttle on the romance, taking Jianna and Rione’s relationship to the next level. It’s handled well, and never descends into the sugary annoyance the novel’s cover might suggest. Unfortunately, it occasionally portrays Jianna as a girl waiting around for men to solve her problems. The novel’s conclusion gives me hope that will change in the final volume, due out this summer.
Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan R. Long
Being Long’s first original novel, I would typically write a long form review about Jane Carver of Waar. Except as much as I enjoyed the read, I don’t have a whole lot to say. Long takes Edgar Rice Burrough’s classic John Carter stories and gives them a modern bent with a strong, female protagonist. The novel reads like a pulp lover’s fantasy with over the top action, humor, and a good amount of sex.
It’s not just cheap thrills. Long embeds a good amount of commentary on racial and gender equality, class warfare, and biker chicks. As I’ve never read Burrough’s original series, I suspect there was a lot of nuance I missed that fans will pick up on. Either way, it was a ton of fun to read and I highly recommend it.
The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron
Ok, I’m totally cheating because I haven’t read the entire Legend of Eli Monpress. It’s an omnibus of three novels — Spirit Thief, Spirit Rebellion, and Spirit Eater. Orbit has released them in this format, I presume, to get some new readers involved in time for the fourth installment, The Spirit War, due out this summer. Personally, I’d never heard of the series before despite the fact that it’s part of one of the most popular sub-genres in fantasy (thief/assassin). I can’t help but wonder if the original covers had something to do with it (very urban fantasy don’t you think?).
I did finish the first of the original three novels and I’m glad to report it was a fun read. Shallow, overly light on the world and character building, but also possessing a great voice with a fast paced adventure plot. I think the target demographic is younger readers, but there’s plenty here to enjoy for everyone. I don’t hesitate to recommend the omnibus. I mean it’s three books for $10, how can you beat that? I plan to finish it before the fourth book is released.
Giant Thief by David Tallerman
I’m kind of cheating here too. I didn’t finish Giant Thief. I didn’t even get very far — around 90 pages. It’s not a bad book. It’s well written and the plot wasn’t unworthy, but the narrator didn’t do it for me at all. I found his voice bland and completely uninteresting. A first person novel pins everything on the reader’s ability to connect to the narrator, and I just didn’t. I can’t recommend or not recommend it and I hate that. I try to finish everything I start, even bad books, but this was a rare case where I just didn’t dislike or like it enough to continue. Most of the reviews out there, from people I trust (Far Beyond Reality), have been good so maybe I just caught it on a bad week.