2005.03


Citadel: A satisfying novel for those familiar with Mosse’s style


Citadel
by Kate MosseI have a strange relationship with books by Kate Mosse. On the one hand, I love the atmosphere and descriptive qualities of her work — it transports you to the south of France in vivid prose; filled with the sights, sounds and smells of another time and place. She clearly loves the history and ambience of the Languedoc, and every page is filled with sensory detail.

On the other hand, Mosse's plots are slow and rambling, packed full of extraneous details and unnecessary subplots. Often chapters can go by where nothing particularly interesting or important happens, and with a little ruthless editing I'm sure each book's length could be halved.

So is the way her story told worth the story itself? Well, everyone's going to have a different opinion on that, but for what it's worth, I enjoy Mosse's books. The ch... Read More

The Last Colony: John Perry is back

The Last Colony by John Scalzi

The Last Colony, the third book in John Scalzi’s OLD MAN’S WAR series, returns us to the perspective of John Perry, the “old man” hero of the first novel in the series, Old Man’s War. John Perry is only mentioned in the second novel, The Ghost Brigades, which told the story of how the cyborg Special Forces soldiers found and defeated the scientist Charles Boutin, a traitor to the Colonial Union. On that mission they also found Zoe, Boutin’s young daughter. Zoe has been adopted by Jane Sagan and John Perry and the little family has been farming on one of Earth’s colonies where John and Jane are the leaders.

Life is easy for them until the Colonial Union comes calling — they need leaders for a new colonization effort and John and Jane have been selected. This new colony (named Roanoke.... hmmmm... I think I wouldn’t have signed up for that) ... Read More

The Icebound Land: Just as entertaining as the previous books

The Icebound Land by John Flanagan

I’m surprised by how much I’m enjoying John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series for middle grade / young adult readers. The Icebound Land is the third book and it’s just as charming as the previous books, The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge. You need to read those books before beginning The Icebound Land, so expect spoilers for them in this review.

At the end of The Burning Bridge, Horace defeated Morgarath. (This both surprised and delighted me because Morgarath was a cliché and I was afraid that the series, which contains 12 books so far, was going to be a never-ending battle between the good guys and Morgarath. I’m so glad he’s gone!) Bu... Read More

The Forgotten Sisters: A wonderful story for girls AND BOYS

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

I just adore Shannon Hale’s PRINCESS ACADEMY books for young readers. The Forgotten Sisters, released earlier this week, is the third and final installment. This review will contain spoilers for the previous books.

In book one, Princess Academy, the first school was built in Mount Eskel, an uneducated rural mining community. The purpose of the school was to educate marriageable young ladies so that the prince of their realm could choose a fitting bride. One of the potential princess wannabees, Miri, wasn’t chosen to be princess, but she learned subjects and skills that she used to better Mount Eskel’s economic situation. In the second book, Palace of Stone, Miri goes to the capital city for more education and ends up quelli... Read More

Grandville, Bete Noire: Luscious art creates good escapist fun

Grandville, Bete Noire by Bryan Talbot

Grandville, Bete Noire, Bryan Talbot’s third steam-punk themed graphic novel, has the same lavish detail and striking use of color as the first two. English Badger D.I. Archie LeBrock is back, as rough-and-tumble as ever, and in this book we spend a bit more time with Quayle or “Q,” a brilliant inventor adept at stealth weapons, like a smoking pipe that is really a bomb. It’s a nice wink in the direction of Ian Fleming.

The plot is slimmer and more predictable than the first two, and a large part of the story is taken up with the exploration of LeBrock’s relationship with the beautiful prostitute Billie, who he met in Grandville, Mon Amor. We find out a bit more about Billie, especially, in one hilarious and naughty frame, what her partic... Read More

Vortex: Killer butterflies, interplanetary archipelagos, and a satisfying ending

Vortex by Robert Charles Wilson

Turk Findley has been returned to Equatoria ten thousand years after the Hypotheticals took him and Isaac. Things have changed. The Ring of Worlds that was connected by the Arches remains, but the societies that once traveled between these interplanetary portals have died away and been replaced. The Earth, sadly, is a wasteland. Its oceans are too acidic and its air is too poisonous to support life. Unfortunately, when the Hypotheticals connected Earth to other worlds, humanity began importing oil from Equatoria, which boosted the economy but destroyed our planet.

Now, however, Turk is recruited by Treya, a member of the Vox. The Vox is a limbic democracy (as opposed to a cortical democracy) where everyone has a ... Read More

The Escapement: Fascinating and provocative

The Escapement by K.J. Parker

The Escapement picks up where Evil for Evil left off. It’s shorter than the previous two books in The Engineer Trilogy, but for all its brevity, it’s still packed with surprises. After reading two books without fully knowing what is being manipulated and planned, readers are presented with nearly constant revelations regarding characters and plot points that had only been hinted at and alluded to before.

Up to this point in the trilogy, Parker has indirectly discussed love and the question of the existence of good and evil. The Escapement explores these ideas openly in dialogue and self-monologues. Conversations about whether good and evil truly exist and about the driving force and impact of love are absolutely fascinating and provocative, and Parker has a... Read More

Surrender to the Will of the Night: Best Instrumentalities novel yet

Surrender to the Will of the Night by Glen Cook

PLOT SUMMARY: Piper Hecht’s first and greatest secret is that he knows how to kill gods. It is knowledge that makes him dangerous, but also puts him in danger — from his enemies, who fear what he might do, or who want revenge for what he has already done; and from his friends, who want to use his knowledge for their own purposes.

For example, Piper’s sister Heris and his living ancestor  Cloven Februaren, the Ninth Unknown, have made Hecht part of their fight against the return of the dark god, Kharoulke the Windwalker. At the same time, the half-mad Empress Katrin wants him to lead the armies of the Grail Empire eastward on a crusade into the Holy Lands against his fellow Pramans.

Meanwhile, all around them, the world is changing. The winters are growing longer and harder every year, and the seas are getting shallower. The far north and the high mountain rang... Read More

The Golden City: A disappointing conclusion

The Golden City by John Twelve Hawks

PLOT SUMMARY: The Golden City delivers the climax to the epic FOURTH REALM TRILOGY, a story that began “off the Grid” in Los Angeles and has taken readers on a wild ride from the underground tunnels of New York to the secret ruins buried beneath the streets of Rome and Berlin.
At the heart of the trilogy rages a battle between the Corrigan brothers, two charismatic leaders and Travelers — the name given to certain prophets with the ability to change the course of history, for better or for worse — who have drastically different visions for society.
While Gabriel struggles to lead the Resistance movement intent on bringing enlightenment to the world, his Machiavellian brother, Michael, plots for control of the powerful organization known as the Brethren, and an advanced technology that would give him the power to turn ou... Read More

The Twilight Lord: Leave it on the shelf!

The Twilight Lord by Bertrice Small

Lara, Domina of Terah has been extremely happy caring for her family and husband. She has been reunited with her other children in Terah and they are learning to love their mother again. Nothing could be better.

But over in the Dark Lands, the Twilight Lord is planning her abduction because he has seen the future and Lara is to be the mother of his heir. After erasing her memory and bringing her to the Dark Lands, the Twilight Lord plans to make Lara his bride. Will she be able to remember who she is and escape before the Twilight Lord can complete his evil plot?

Alright, I have been exceptionally kind to this series up until this book. Some might say I’ve even “thrown it a bone” more than once. Unfortunately the charade cannot continue. Where I found the other books in this series (Lara and A Distant Tomorrow) charming and... Read More

The Trouble With Witches: A lot of fun

The Trouble With Witches by Shirley Damsgaard

After reading Witch Way to Murder, I found myself craving another Ophelia and Abby mystery and went to the library for my "fix." They didn't have book two, Charmed to Death, but they did have book three, The Trouble With Witches. I decided, what the heck, you can usually read these cozy mystery series out of order anyway. Often, authors will only allude vaguely to events of previous books in case you're reading them out of sequence.

Well, I figured out pretty quickly that Shirley Damsgaard doesn't do that. I have now thoroughly spoiled myself for Charmed to Death until enough time passes that I forget the killer's name. But The Trouble With Witches was a lot of... Read More

The Titan’s Curse: The humor is the real selling point

The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

To briefly bring you up to date: the five-part Percy Jackson series revolves around updated versions of the Greek gods and their half-blood children. With Olympus currently situated in New York, many of the gods' children (who often don't know who their godly parent is, having been raised by their mortal one) attend Camp Half-Blood where they can learn to control their abilities and fend off the monsters that they attract like magnets. Percy's coming-of-age story involves him undertaking number of dangerous quests to defeat the growing power of Kronos, an ancient Titan who wants to overthrow Olympus.

Percy is now fourteen years old, and about to embark on his next big adventure. If you haven't read the two previous Percy Jackson books, then there's no use starting here, you'll need to backtrack to The Lightning Thief... Read More

The New World: Lots of action

The New World by Michael A. Stackpole

Retaining the suspense and excitement of the previous book, The New World brings to a close the epic The Age of Discovery series. Michael A. Stackpole's characterization and sense of timing remain his strengths, as well as his ability to deliver the unexpected to readers.

The New World features lots of action and combat scenes, as well as the usual elements of epic fantasy including honor, betrayal, and a climactic battle. The novel kept me on the edge of my seat, and Stackpole's use of language is quite compelling. The ending is a bit indulgent, but not to the point that it ruins an otherwise kinetic trilogy.

Cartomancy, the second book in the series, was superior in my opinion, but The New World Read More

Renegade’s Magic: A lot to admire, but not much to enjoy

Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb

Robin Hobb has just concluded her Soldier Son trilogy with the third book — Renegade's Magic. There doesn’t seem to be much point in reviewing solely Renegade's Magic, however, as anyone who has read the first two is likely to pick up the conclusion, so instead I’ll simply review the trilogy as a whole.

Of course, the first question one has to answer as a reviewer is would you recommend the book(s) to a reader. I wish I had an answer. To be honest, I’m just not sure, for several reasons. Let’s start with the positives. I think Hobb was truly ambitious with this series in a lot of ways, including:

Character — she is willing to have several very unlikeable characters drive much of the plot — including the one/two main character(s).
... Read More

Dragon Outcast: Action and adventure

Dragon Outcast by E.E. Knight

As always, E.E. Knight brings us an action/adventure story filled with everybody's favorite fantasy creature: dragons.

One thing I have especially enjoyed about The Age of Fire is that you can pick up any of the novels and completely enjoy it as a stand-alone novel. Each of the books begins at the exact same time and location, yet each follows a different dragon. In Dragon Outcast, we learn the story of the Copper, Auron and Wistala’s sibling who was denied the egg shelf. In the previous two books the Copper was given a villainous cast, as it was he who led the Dragonblade and the Dwarves to his family’s cave. But now we learn that all is not as it seems, and that the Copper’s motivations were purer than we thought. And most especially, we learn the fate of the Dragonblade, an enigma from the first two bo... Read More

Half the Blood of Brooklyn: The start of the payoff

Half the Blood of Brooklyn by Charlie Huston

So far Joe Pitt has had some pretty wild adventures and along the way he’s proven time and again to be one tough SOB. Still, even a tough SOB has a breaking point and in Half the Blood of Brooklyn we get to learn first-hand just what that breaking-point is. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Starting back at the beginning, another year has gone by and during that time Joe has firmly resumed his role as enforcer for Terry Bird and the Society. Life should be good right!? I mean, Joe’s got a steady gig now, which means Clan protection, not having to hunt for his own blood, and an income that he can use to pay for his girlfriend’s treatments. Ah, but this is Joe Pitt we’re talking about here, professional shit-magnet. So trouble’s just a stone’s throw away.

First, the Clans discover that the world’s a much larger place than th... Read More

Queen of Dragon: Not bothering with the next one

Queen of Dragons by Shana Abe

So here we are in the third book. The plot has something to do with the mysterious Drakon princess, Maricara, who was introduced in The Dream Thief and Kimba the White Lion — I mean, Kimber, the son of Kit and Rue from The Smoke Thief. There's something to do with someone murdering Drakon, I think, but frankly I didn't make it far enough to find out. Which is kind of sad, actually, because if the reader isn't sure of what's going on by page 70 or so, you're doing it wrong.

I suppose a large part of the problem was that nothing was going on. One party is talking and doing tedious stuff, the other party is talking and doing tedious stuff, and that's it. The main characters — the love interests, for crying out loud — do not even meet one another until page 50. We don't actually get to see them interact until about page 60, though, because ... Read More

Physik: Sophisticated plot, intriguing resolution

Physik by Angie Sage

I gave this book's predecessors rather lukewarm reviews, finding them a little too simplistic and reliant on the success of Harry Potter, with rather weak villains and too many periphery characters to keep track of. However, all that changes with the third installment in the series, which has a sophisticated plot with an intriguing resolution, a truly unnerving villain and a very real sense of danger and suspense. The protagonists of the series are Septimus and Jenna Heap, the former the Apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard and youngest son of the Heap family, the latter a long-lost princess raised by the Heaps who has recently found her heritage as future-ruler of the land. Together, they make a good team and are friendly, likeable and intelligent characters in their own right.
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Specials: Read it to satisfy your curiosity

Specials by Scott Westerfeld

Tally has changed since she was caught by Special Circumstances. She has become one of them: a Special. Her body and mind have been altered and she is now an elite fighting machine with super-fast reflexes and a hardened body that can withstand almost anything…but none of this can really make her happy. Tally is surrounded by "friends," but none of them can take away her memories of her friends from the Smoke and the lessons they taught her. Then she and Shay get a breakthrough and once again whiz off into the wild on their hoverboards searching for the elusive "New Smoke" where the rebels are said to be hiding. If they can find the New Smoke and bring their boss Dr. Cable to it, their lives will be easy at last… or so they think.

Although it was great to be back in Scott Westerfeld's futuristic world which I have come to know and love, Specials lacked a certain charm that... Read More