Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage, #3)The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have very few bad things to say about the conclusion to this epic Flintlock Fantasy. There's tons of action, tons of characters to develop and enjoy, and plenty of interesting reveals.

Specifically, however, is how much I've been enjoying Bo and Nila. Don't get me wrong, I'm head over heels for Taniel's storyline and enjoyed it from start to finish, but Bo's understatements and Nila's growing power from a washerwoman into a firestorm was easily my favorite bit.

The Adamant storyline felt like a bit of a letdown, honestly, after all the mystery in the first two books, but that's okay when I consider that all the main players finally converge and either work together or are at least working toward the same somethings in this book. The reveals about the gods were a plain delight for me, as good as in the first book as in the third.

The fact that all these poor mortals have to deal with them or kick their butts or, now, need to deal without their cooking, is probably the best thing to happen to these folks. I'm sure some would disagree with me, but having these immortals around is definitely a bad thing, not that they're inherently evil... they're simply too much like us. :)

As for the ending, I may have enjoyed it a bit too much, wanting to see the wrap up very dearly. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the books, but there were some parts that did go on too long and it's a very specific complaint of my own. A lot of people like the drawn-out war stuff. I generally don't. Fortunately, McClellan's a good writer and makes everything pretty exciting and obviously very clear. Flintlock Fantasy is a very fun genre. :)

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The Crimson Campaign (Powder Mage, #2)The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For all you fans of the grimdark fantasy epics, this one shines bright. Blindingly so.

I particularly like the fact that we stick with the same three PoV's as the first book, namely Inspector Adamat with his quest back at home, Taniel with his self-destructive god-killing front-line support, and Tamas far into enemy territory fighting the war against Kez while the rest of the army assumes that he's long-dead.

There's a lot of war and interesting developments, here, but primarily it's all about the war. For myself, I think I still prefer Adamat's revenge-fueled mystery at home, but Taniel's storyline probably has the most fascinating developments. It helps that a god-chef manages to steal the show practically every single time he shows up on the page. :)

I'm not generally a huge fan of extended campaigns of war but these are quite decent. I think I like the premise of the magic system even more, though. I keep imagining all these musketeers snorting vast quantities of cocaine rather than horns of gunpowder. Snort, snort, snort. And thankfully, even though some of the highs and lows could definitely be extended to such drug use, this isn't the main focus of the tale. Indeed, life and death are on the line and we've got an entire army to manage, here!

Still, it's something to consider, horribly so, for the next novel!

All in all, this is a pretty fascinating continuation and its hook is genuinely cool. :)

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Friday, September 22, 2017

The Core (The Demon Cycle, #5)The Core by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I have been honored with a review copy from the publisher, let me be very clear about something: I practically demanded it. :)

I read the rest of the series at the beginning of the month and grew so hooked on it that I couldn't pause to read anything else. And then, thanks to a friend, I pushed my luck and asked the publishers directly for a copy. I admit that I was practically foaming at the mouth, too, and nothing much changed when I received my copy.

So what is this? A raving from a fanboy?


But let me be also very clear about something else: this book is amazing all on its own, or I should say, it caps the rest of the series like the Spear of Ala, as magical and grand a the city below the Earth, the bastion of magic that has withstood thousands of years of swarming demons, unaided.

Any issues I may have had with the previous novels are wiped clean away. Indeed, all of the characters, small and great, have their place in the upcoming battle that tears apart all the cities and hamlets, all of which withstand or fall under an endless onslaught of demons great and small.

The title also gives it away. Arlan and Jadir and Renna go deep into the bowels of the Earth to take on the Core and all the spawn and let me just say... it is amazing. So magical, so dangerous, so mind-blowingly huge.

This fantasy series is easily one of my favorites. Part grimdark, part extremely magical fantasy filled to the brim with demons, and part character study. Any kind of patience you give the previous books will be repaid with pure gold in this one, but be forewarned: there's some really graphic stuff here. There's another author who does a Eunich Army, of course, but George doesn't come anywhere as grim and descriptive as this.

Hell, I'm tempted to start it all up again and enjoy it afresh now that I've grown to love all the different peoples and cultures.

All I can and should say is Bravo! :)

I'm so very happy to have read this series. :)

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White SilenceWhite Silence by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can honestly say that Jodi Taylor is awesome. :)

I've been rocking hard to her St. Mary's series and truly had no trepidation when it came to seeing her try her hand with something different, and that faith has been repaid a hundredfold.

Do you like paranormal thrillers? Do you like aura reading and a whole bunch of goodies that might come when you least expect it? How about very normal MC's with a secret, a holding back, an edge of the precipice kind of thing?

I love this stuff. It's atmospheric and gentle and dedicated to getting character and tension right, but more than that, it's humorous, genuine, and rather interestingly diverse when you consider where it begins.

And then there are the surprises. The laugh out loud or evil extended laugh kind. There's the genuine desire for revenge, the budding love, the betrayals, the hope.

And above all, there's the ever-abiding desire for more.

This can't be all there is. I won't allow it. :) I'm Caged. I need more. :)

For everyone else who may or may not be on the fence, just think about the best feels from Odd Thomas for all you Koontz fans. If that isn't enough, then I don't know what is. :)

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

AmpedAmped by Daniel H. Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oddly enough, I had this really weird impression that it was a YA novel from start to finish even though I know, objectively, that the MC is a school teacher. It's just the feel of it.

That being said, it wasn't bad. In fact, it kinda had the whole Little Brother vibe to it, at least when it came to the fear-mongering and the whole oppressive society bits mixed with high-tech to fight it.

The augmented humans, the Amped, the transhumans, are smarter, faster, more naturally capable, and they're also on the hate-train by everyone else, thanks to natural human fear. Non-citizens.

It's okay. I mean, we've seen this kind of thing a million times, especially in YA, so I should be forgiven for making that connection. :)

The whole plot is pretty standard with your normal situation-meets-new-abilities progression, but what I thought was most amusing was that the whole super-villain/super-hero thing was firmly planted in the red-neck okie vibe. :) I was like... woah. :)

Not surprised, really. Daniel Wilson was great with the Native Americans in his Robopocalypse novels and I was digging it there, too.

What really shines in this novel is the whole Amped technology and the progression and exploration of it. The politics around it was okay, but the fighting and developments were very cool. Maybe it's not enough to hang a whole novel on, and I really could have enjoyed this better with a more original plot, but I still had a good time and I'm glad I read it. :)

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Folded World (A Dirge for Prester John, #2)The Folded World by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Again, as with the previous book, it's almost impossible to describe the events taking place here or giving real justice to its in-depth exploration of God, innocence, war, and love.

However, I can point to the mythical land of medieval beasts that Prester John converts to Christianity, the events of the first book that make John their king, how he becomes immortal, loves, has a family, and how all these beasts just humor him good-naturedly. They're Edenic and this magical land is pretty much Eden already.

But then we get a call to arms to save the Seat of the Holy Roman Empire against the Saracens and who raises the flag, along with all the innocent immortals who may or may not be angels? John Prester.

It's simple in the way I say it, but believe me, there's nothing simple going on inside the pages. We've got multiple PoVs... from John, his immortal and monstrous wife, and a famous explorer on the outside. They all have their own concerns and takes on reality and it's truly fascinating to behold.

Valente does no less than build a cosmos, a philosophy of living, of learning, and of loss of innocence on a grand scale. We are caught in traps of our own devising and we love with pure grace and we discover that we've changed too much to ever come back. It's really beautiful.

However, my personal enjoyment beyond the outright appreciation was kinda lacking. I can absolutely love what she tries to accomplish here and really get thrilled by the complex scaffolding of the chapters and structure and execution, her love of the language and the wordcraft, but overall, I wasn't personally awed by the story or the message. I can admit that I was (and am) awed by Valente's writing.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

The Habitation of the Blessed (A Dirge for Prester John, #1)The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most, if not all, attempts to render this book into something more than just a coherent seedling of the tale and not the tale itself is doomed before it even begins.

As of the tale of Prester John, read from a book that sprouted up from a book tree only to rot even as it is read, I'm lost in a welter of sensations and presentiments and, if the later parts are to be judged higher than the former, I'm forced to call this a supreme work of the imagination.

Only, it's also very firmly rooted in Medieval classics that require no modern quirks of plot or theme, rather, a dedication to getting the thoughts out in whatever shape or form the author deems fit.

It's pretty awesome and quite like any of the early classics I've enjoyed that like to meander and get to their point in their own way in their own time, and this is what happens in spades.

We see this tale from multiple views and worldviews, from modern Enlightenment to the Medieval mindset trying to force reality into a Christian box to the view of angels (though they would deny it) and demons (of which there is no proof).

Fascinating and quite frustrating is one way of putting this book. One must experience it and suffer through its turns in turn, on the hope of being planted or eating a black leaf or of living forever and changing lives in a pleasant fiction of lottery.

Clever and unique and firmly rooted in a classical style, it is, nonetheless, a superb work of the imagination and it fleshes out some of the weirdest vagaries of history. I did imagine, several times as I read this, that I was going to be bombarded with Christian sentiments very much in the tune of Prester John, but amusingly enough, poor John was stymied repeatedly and was, in the end, defeated by the Eden he was set to convert. :)

This is a tiny spoiler for those who might be turned off by their own presentiments. :) For me? I thought it had heart and soul.

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