Night of the Soul Stealer: For kids who like being scared

Night of the Soul Stealer by Joseph Delaney

Night of the Soul Stealer, the third book in Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE (or WARDSTONE CHRONICLES) series is another intense scary story for children. Fans of the first two books, Revenge of the Witch and Curse of the Bane, which readers should finish first, will be pleased. I’m listening to Christopher Evan narrate HarperAudio’s version of the series.

The weather is getting colder, so it’s time to travel to the Spook’s winter residence, a solitary little house set in a harsh and desolate landscape. On the way, Alice, Tom’s only friend, is dropped off at a distant neighbors’ house. There’s some reason why the Spook doesn’t want her at his depressing winter estate. W... Read More

The Fuller Memorandum: I can’t get enough of THE LAUNDRY FILES

The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross

I just can’t get enough of THE LAUNDRY FILES. This series has almost everything I want in an urban SFF adventure — an intelligent hero with a wry sense of humor and a great voice; an eclectic supporting cast; a fast pace with lots of action and plot twists; a cool mix of fantasy and science fiction; occasionally odd (and interesting) structural choices; a reverence for geek culture; and a smattering of computer science, mathematics, quantum physics and neuroscience. And Lovecraft. I love it.

In The Fuller Memorandum, the third LAUNDRY FILES novel, things start badly for Bob after he accidentally kills a bystander during a mission. He’s sent home to await an inquiry. That’s pretty bad, but soon things get worse. His enigmatic boss goes missing, there are R... Read More

Cursor’s Fury: Sloppy plot, uninspired prose, exciting story

Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher

After having dealt with the Vord horde in Academ’s Fury, there are new worries in Cursor’s Fury, the third novel in Jim Butcher’s CODEX ALERA saga. The rebel uprising has gained strength and the aging and heirless First Lord of Alera is in danger of being overthrown. Those who are loyal, including Tavi and his friends and relatives, are targets. While Bernard, Amara, and Isana make some dubious alliances to try to counter the rebels, Tavi, who is now a Cursor, has been sent as a spy to a newly formed army legion. Clearly Tavi is being protected (ah, but for what purpose?) because nobody expects this remote legion to see any action.... but everybody is wrong and Tavi ends up commanding an ill-prepared military force.

As usual, this installment of CODEX ALERA is full of action and intrigue. A lot of the plot is pretty implausible — especially the parts dealing with... Read More

The Empire of Gut and Bone: Hard to recommend

The Empire of Gut and Bone by M.T. Anderson

The Empire of Gut and Bone is the third book of the Norumbegan Quartet by M.T. Anderson, coming after The Game of Sunken Places and its sequel The Suburb Beyond the Stars. Unfortunately, it has many of the same problems as those first two books, which led to my ranking them relatively poorly. Which is a shame, because there are some good ideas at the core of this series, such as this book’s setting, and Anderson has shown himself to be capable of simply great work in the Octavian Nothing books.

At the end of The Suburb Beyond the Stars, the two main characters, Brian and Gregory — along with the automaton troll named Kalgrash whom Brian has befriended an... Read More

Stonewielder: Esslemont’s best book so far

Stonewielder by Ian C. Esslemont

Stonewielder is Ian C. Esslemont’s third book in the Malazan series co-created with Steven Erikson, and which Erikson has been exploring for years with his own series. If you look over my reviews for Esslemont’s first two Malazan books, Night of Knives and Return of the Crimson Guard, you’ll see I’ve given them mixed reviews, though I thought Return of the Crimson Guard was an improvement on Night of Knives and boded well for the next book in the series. That prediction turned out to be mostly accurate, as Stonewielder... Read More

Shadowrise: A strong continuation of this series

Shadowrise by Tad Williams

Shadowrise is Tad Williams' third and thus concluding novel of the Shadowmarch trilogy, begun in Shadowmarch and continued in Shadowplay. So in this final volume… wait, hold on… I’m now being told that Williams, clearly feeling a sense of fantasy author peer pressure, has decided that, yes, while this is the “concluding volume,” it has in fact been split into two (hmmm, where have I heard that before), making this trilogy, in usual fantasy fashion, four books. At least. Maybe five. Who knows?

In truth though, I’ve found the degree to which this sort of thing annoys me is in direct inverse relation to the quality of the books themselves. And I can’t say I found myself particularly upset that Williams has extended Read More

Shadows Past: Has its ups and downs

Shadows Past by Lorna Freeman

Lorna Freeman's Borderlands series has seen its ups and downs for me. Shadows Past is cut from the same cloth; I just felt like it took a long time to tell next to no story, and then all the good parts were crammed into the end.

The main character, Rabbit, has been constantly changing throughout this series. His story is very interesting, between his upbringing in a wild and magical part of the world and his ties to the royalty of a nearby nation. His growth as a person and his maturation, however, still leave me very uncomfortable. I just don't buy into his weak demeanor when he has spent so much time as a soldier and has been through the hard experiences he has. Freeman can't seem to make up her mind between making him a tough trooper or a mooning boy-child.

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Every Which Way But Dead: Still on the journey

Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison

I sped from The Good, the Bad and the Undead (which I thoroughly enjoyed) straight into Every Which Way But Dead, and was a little disappointed. I genuinely loved the second book in the Hollows series — it had a tight plot, a spicing of sex, plenty of danger, and I just could not stop turning pages.

Every Which Way But Dead was a little different. Many of the good qualities of the second book remained. I loved the characters (including a few new characters such as Ceri and David the Were), the action was gripping, and I loved learning more about the history of Harrison's alternate reality. We also finally learn about Trent's links to Rachel's family and some of the reasons why she is so important to the demon Big Al.

We are plunged straight into the action here, when Big Al comes to make good on R... Read More

ArchEnemy: Exciting finish to one of the best current YA series

ArchEnemy by Frank Beddor

PLOT SUMMARY: The power of Imagination has been lost! Now it’s all about the artillery as AD52’s, crystal shooters, spikejack tumblers and orb cannons are unleashed in a war of weapons and brute force.

As Alyss searches wildly for the solution to the disaster that has engulfed her Queendom, Arch declares himself King of Wonderland. Meanwhile, deep within the Valley of Mushrooms, the Caterpillar Oracles issue this prophecy: “Action shall be taken to ensure the safety of the Heart Crystal. For Everqueen.” But who is Everqueen?

As the metamorphosis of Wonderland unfolds, enemies become allies, bitter rivals face off, and Queen Alyss and Redd Heart must both confront their pasts in this thrilling, no-holds-barred conclusion to the New York Times bestselling series...

CLASSIFICATION: The Looking Glass Wars tr... Read More

Goblin War: Humorous adventure fantasy for kids and adults

Goblin War by Jim Hines

Goblin War is a completely different novel from the first two novels in this series. Those two books were constrained by the small world of the lair and its surrounding caves. The goblins never left the caves under their mountain, for all the adventures that they had. This meant that the second novel, while having a different set of circumstances, was much like the first in plot and style, and didn’t add too much that was new to Jig the Goblin’s story. But in Goblin War, author Jim C. Hines has Jig and many of his fellow goblins leave the cave for the wider world, a world that pretty much wants to destroy them.

Jig is trapped between two competing factions, both intent on wiping out him and his goblin clan. The first, the human rulers of the upper world, need slave labor to perform various tasks too dangerous for the morally superior h... Read More

Shadow in the Deep: Characters killed off

Shadow in the Deep by L.B. Graham

The third book by L.B. Graham, a Christian and Covenant Seminary grad, is probably one of the most wonderful books I have ever read. Shadow in the Deep picks up where Bringer of Storms left off after the destruction of Col Marena by Malek's followers. The prophet Valzaan is dead, and Benjiah must take his place. Aljeron must lead the people of Werthanin to safety across the sea to Cimaris Rul while the Bringer of Storms continues to use his powers to manifest rain across over Kirthanin.

But this is not what makes this book particularly wonderful. It is a book that has little new happening and more provides a preparation for the next book in the series. It truly is a middle book in a larger series — a good book, but not as exciting as the first or last book. Due to its place in the series, there are very few solutions to problems, only the conti... Read More

Powers: The best in the series

Powers by Ursula Le Guin

Powers is the third and, in my opinion, the best of the Annals of the Western Shore novels. In this book, we meet Gavir, a slave in the City State of Etra. Gavir was born in the marshes but was stolen, along with his sister, by slavers and brought to Etra. He has the power to clearly remember things he has seen before and even some events that have not yet happened to him. This gift is not uncommon in the marshes, but the people of Etra fear powers, so his sister tells him not to speak of it. His memory, however, is prized by the household who owns him and he is being trained to be the teacher of the households' children. He is well treated (except by another slave who holds a grudge against him), well educated, and happy.

But things go awry and Gavir ends up on a journey in which he encounters different people, idea... Read More