Man, it’s been a while since I wrote a review. This blog is becoming more like “Staffer’s Crazy Rants about Publishing Stuff” than a review site. I can’t say I lament the change, but it’s nice to just write a review sometimes. Know what I’m saying? And why not jump back into the pool with what is already appearing to be hypiest title of early 2014, Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades. The title is one word from being fantasy buzz word saturated. Why couldn’t it be The Emperor’s Blades of Shadows or The Emperor’s Cloak of Blades? Come on folks, if you’re going to shoot the moon don’t get left holding the King of Hearts.
Yes, that was a reference to the classic card game, Hearts, which no one under the age of 40 has probably ever played, but I played prolifically in my teenage years due to being an only child.… Read the rest
Scott Lynch tackles something in Republic of Thieves that falls flat on its face. Politics. This doesn’t mean the novel fails. It’s actually a wonderful addition to a series that continues to excel with Lynch’s unique voice and kinetic narratives. Where Republic of Thieves falls short, MJ Locke’s Up Against It knocks it out of the park with the best portrayal of authentic politics I’ve found in the speculative genres.
At its roots, Up Against It is an asteroid colony disaster movie. When an accident occurs, destroying precious ice reserves, the entire colony is at risk if they can’t replenish it. Phocaea’s resource manager, Jane, is tasked with making that happen, while keeping the colony’s residents from tearing each other, and the government, apart. Add to that Mars’ mafia trying to move in, a group of teenage kids caught in the middle, a rogue AI coming to life, social structures based on internet popularity, and ubiquitous cameras beaming reality TV back to Earth.… Read the rest
As I’ve been moving lately, I find my writing time has declined somewhat. I’m sure things will settle down soon. Until then, here’s three quick reviews of some recently read stuff.
Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
Rachel Bach is also Rachel Aaron, author of the more young adult oriented Eli Monpress Trilogy. She’s taken the name Bach to brand her science fiction as separate, at least in part because it’s quite a bit more mature. That is to say there’s sex and swearing.
Devi Morris is a power armor mercenary with plans to become one of the elite warriors in the galaxy, but it’s tough getting noticed. To speed up the process, she takes a job on the aptly named Glorious Fool. Known for attracting trouble like bees to honey, one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years anywhere else. And so begins Fortune’s Pawn.… Read the rest
Richard Ford made me into Emperor Palpatine because all I could think reading the opening chapters of Herald of the Storm was, ‘Patience my friend. . .’ None are particularly boring, but they are exhausting. Ford takes eight chapters and some hundred pages before a point of view character is revisited. With only 398 pages to work with, so many characters left the novel rushed and me not particularly invested in anyone’s fate.
Herald of the Storm opens with a herald (stunning right?), coming to the city of Steelhaven. He brings word of his employer’s intent to defeat King Cael in the north, and offers deals to those within the city who will aid him. Despite the rebellion he sows, the populace seems content in their ignorance and life goes on as normal to one degree or another–officials squander their wealth, assassins and thieves lurk in the shadows, and agendas run rampant.… Read the rest
If I was put on the spot right now, on this blog, with all of you listening, to name the most important science fiction and fantasy series of the last decade I couldn’t give you an answer. If you asked for my top five, well. . . I could probably do that. I’m not going to, but I could. All I will say is that Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire Trilogy would be on the list. It may not be first, but it would be in the discussion. I finished Emperor of Thorns recently and I feel privileged to have read it.
By now most everyone has heard what the Broken Empire Trilogy is about. Young Jorg Ancrath had a shitty childhood. He watched his mother and younger brother butchered by his uncle’s men. His father lit his dog on fire, and subsequently tried to kill Jorg. Eventually, he ran away from home in the company of some of the most villainous hooligans who he eventually came to lead before the age of 14.… Read the rest
The Winds of Khalakovo, the first installment in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Lay of Anuskaya series, was raved about on this blog in 2011. I acquired the follow-up, The Straits of Galahesh, several months before it was released in 2012. Unfortunately, the first fifty pages felt impenetrable even after reading them a dozen different times. When Beaulieu announced the upcoming release of the final volume, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, I committed myself to finishing the second novel in order to read the conclusion. Despite a long, arduous struggle through Straits of Galahesh that never really abated, I’m so pleased to call Flames of Shadam Khoreh a rousing success that exceeds all of the expectations placed on it by Beaulieu’s exceptional debut.
Beaulieu’s third book begins nearly two years after the events of Straits of Galahesh. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited.… Read the rest
What separated The Warded Man from the detritus of epic fantasy was that it was written with intent. Not only intending to tell a wide ranging and intricate fantasy story, Peter Brett wrote a novel about fear, and terror, and how people respond under those circumstances. At least partially inspired by the events of September 11, 2001, it’s my contention that the positive response to his first novel had more to do with that resonance, and his execution of it, than any particular fantasy epicness. It would also be my contention that the progression of the narrative, beyond that theme, has fundamentally diluted that theme, leaving subsequent volumes to rely far more on how effectively they engaged as epic fantasy.
By that statement I’m not implying that there’s something wrong with Desert Spear, Brett’s follow up to the Warded Man. It is in many ways a better book, but Arlen can’t always be the brave boy daring to go into the night, and his father can’t always be too afraid to save his wife.… Read the rest
Ask me what the I think the most impressive work of fantasy is, and I will answer — The Malazan Book of the Fallen. Steven Erikson’s ten novel series is astounding, challenging, interesting, riveting, and it’s often an awful mess. I say that last with a smile on my face. Erikson meanders through points of view, intersects plots, forgets plots, leaves others intentionally dangling, and rarely provides satisfying conclusions. His answer to this charge would be: history’s a mess too. That’s a perspective he embraces like never before in his newest novel, The Forge of Darkness.
I’ve heard Forge of Darkness referenced as a new entry point into Erikson’s work, and a prequel to Malazan. Such classifications are problematic. To begin, it’s quintessential Erikson — not easier to read, or more direct in its approach. There are also seemingly infinite numbers of points of view characters, so many in fact that keeping track of them often requires note taking.… Read the rest
David Hair’s first adult novel, Mage’s Blood, does a bit of hand waving. I’ll go into detail about it later, but suffice to say that he doesn’t think very far beyond the snapshot in time that contains his narrative. I’m also a little tired of the female character who sleeps around to gain an illusion of power. Those flaws aside, recognizing them for what they are, Mage’s Blood is one of the better epic fantasy series first installments I’ve read in recent years.
It should be noted that when I refer to the term epic fantasy, I really mean it. Sweeping conflicts, clashes of cultures, political and personal entanglements, rich and in-depth magic, and mighty warriors dot the landscape. There’s even descriptions of food,
. . .they ate a cold meal of dried meat and breads, washed down with a small flask of arak and some water, all from the wagon’s spoils.
… Read the rest