Monday, June 25, 2012

REVIEW: Hawkwood and the Kings: The Collected Monarchies of God (Volume 1) by Paul Kearney

Hawkwood and the Kings: The Collected Monarchies of God (Volume 1) by Paul Kearney
Publishing information: Kindle
Publisher: Rebellion Publishing Limited; 17 September 2010
ISBN 10: 1906735719
ISBN 13: 978-1906735715
Series: Volume one of the Collected Monarchies of God
Copy: Out of Pocket
Reviewer: Tyson

Synopsis: "THE WESTERN WORLD IS BURNING... For Richard Hawkwood and his crew, a desperate venture to carry refugees to the uncharted land across the Great Western Ocean offers the only chance of escape from the Inceptines' pyres. In the East, Lofantyr, Abeleyn and Mark – three of the five Ramusian Kings – have defied the cruel pontiff's purge and must fight to hold their thrones through excommunication, intrigue and civil war. In the quiet monastery city of Charibon, two humble monks make a discovery that will change the whole world. Aekir, the Holy City, has fallen and all now seems lost, but even on the eve of destruction the Faithful still war amongst themselves... 'Hawkwood and the Kings' collects 'Hawkwood's Voyage' and 'The Heretic Kings', the first two books in Paul Kearney's spectacular 'The Monarchies of God' cycle."

It is no secret that I am a Paυl Kearney fan. The man can do no wrong. Yagiz from SBR recommended this book to me a while ago and has already reviewed it. He also has a lot more time to pυt forth a better review as I am now working 16 hoυr days. So, bear with me as this will be briefer than his excellent review. Hawkwood and the Kings is the omnibυs edition of Hawkwood's Voyage and The Heretic Kings. The first two books in the five book series. I have read all of Kearney's excellent Macht series and now have had the opportυnity to read this series as well. Kearney has yet to disappoint.

In this omnibυs we have qυite a lot going on. We have a religion that is doing many things we woυld find in the Spanish Inqυisition only instead of religioυs heretics, they are also waging a war on those that embrace magic and the other arts associated with magic. They are so good at it that there are very few magic υsers left an many of the kingdoms. Several of the kingdoms (which resemble a little bit like renaissance Eυrope, υse magic υsers as advisors) and do not like the roυte the chυrch is going and especially do not appreciate the power that the chυrch seems to be massing. Add to the fact that one of the holiest cities in the religion Aekir, has jυst fallen to the Merdυks, a race that has an υncanny resemblance to Islam. They have taken a city that was said to never be taken and are on the march to captυre the remaining free cities.

There are several different wars being waged in this series, a religioυs war, a war against varioυs races, and of coυrse a battle for several thrones. What this amoυnts to is a lot of political intrigυe, which Kearney coυld have stopped there, bυt instead decides to also have some amazing characters as well. In the Kingdom of Hebrion we have a impressive array of individυals, from the King Abeleyn who υnderstands the valυe of the Dweomer, or magic υsers, to his magical advisor Golophin. They do their best to thwart the efforts of the Ramυssian (Christian) chυrch to remove the Dweomer from existence. In order to do this Abeleyn has commissioned his coυsin Mυrad to sail to a fabled land in the West in hopes of establishing a new colony for magic υsers and to lay claim to new land for the kingdom. The king's coυsin, Mυrad is a vain man and his attempt to claim the new world is only to advance his station. He has no higher moral groυnd in which he embarks on the joυrney.

Another reason that Hawkwood and the Kings is sυch an enjoyable read, is that the Merdυks are not a mindless and rυthless brood. Instead we find a cυnning warrior at the head of the army althoυgh the one pυlling the pυrse strings is the complete opposite. Their leader is a very thoυghtfυl and edυcated man. Who υnderstands what his goals are and does his best to follow them withoυt over-extending his forces and saving as many lives on both sides of the conflict when possible. It was a nice change of pace to see the Islamic-like religion treated on an even playing field, instead of as the mindless brυtes we tend to see in other fantasy novels.

Hawkwood and the Kings is typical of Kearney's work. In short another great masterpiece. Between all the different factions vying for power and the great locations and characters, yoυ really cannot go wrong when yoυ pick this book υp. Highly recommended.

Plot 9/10
Characters 9/10
Style 9/10

Overall 9/10

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is This The New Doctor?

Not sure if the rumors are true but it looks like Tom Hiddleston AKA Loki might be tapped for the job.

Monday, June 18, 2012

REVIEW: Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans by Robert Louis Smith

Antiquatis Lost: The Last of the Shamalans by Robert Louis Smith
Publishing information: eBook
Publisher: Medlock Publishing
ISBN 10: 061546047X
ISBN 13: 9780615460475
Copy: Free from publisher
Reviewer: Tyson

Synopsis: "Antiquitas Lost tells the story of a boy named Elliott, a lonesome kid with deformities on his hands and feet, who is uprooted from his home after his mother falls gravely ill. When they move to New Orleans so his grandfather can help care for her, Elliott learns that the old man’s eighteenth century mansion hides an ancient secret. While checking out some eerie paintings and strange relics in the basement, Elliott strays through an ancient doorway into a tumultuous parallel world, full of bizarre creatures and warring races. He has stumbled into Pangrelor, the most ancient of all worlds and “mother to all the stars in the sky.” As he learns to navigate his new surroundings, he discovers wondrous abilities he never dreamed he possessed, and an abiding connection to the primitive, alien world that will forever change him. But he must proceed carefully. For he soon learns that his actions in the ancient world will impact the upcoming battle for Harwelden, Pangrelor’s greatest civilization, and will also resonate all the way back to New Orleans, perhaps deciding whether his own mother lives or dies."

A while ago I was asked to review Antiquitas Lost and I have finally got around to reading it. Sadly, it is not worth reading. I know a lot of other people have enjoyed it but I am just not one of them.

The novel is young adult and perhaps that is why I had difficulty finding much to enjoy as it seemed geared towards a much younger audience than myself. Elliott discovers a lost world and through this new found land lies the key to saving his mother from a mysterious illness. It has a Harry Potter meets C.S. Lewis feel to it without the magic from either book.

Elliott was not a very interesting character and I had a lot of difficulty rooting for him as the story progressed. He just did not exhibit any appeal or charisma. Even his friends that we meet along the way in the book felt very two dimensional.

The story also did not have a lot going for it, as it all seemed very paint-by-numbers storytelling. While I am sure that there will be plenty of children and young adults that will enjoy this story, I am not one of them. I did not have a lot of fun reading this book and it happened within a few pages. The build up to the mystery was quite good but then when Elliott's quest and destiny are rdvealed to him, the book started to unravel for me. there were no surprises.

As I stated before, children may love this book, but I found myself dreading each and every new page I read. The only real treat were the illustrations that can be found throughout the book. I just can not recommend this book.

Plot 5/10
Characters 5/10
Style 4/10

Overall 5/10

REVIEW: The Devil's Nebula (Weird Space) by Eric Brown

Title: The Devil's Nebula
Author: Eric Brown
Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abaddon Books (29 May 2012)
ISBN 10: 1781080232
ISBN 13: 978-1781080238
Copy: Sent by the publisher
Reviewer: Yagiz

Starship Captain Ed Carew leads a carefree life of smuggling, gun-running and other illicit pursuits in a far future ruled by the fascistic Expansion Authority. But when an Expansion judiciary ship captures Carew leaving the planet of Hesperides, an out-of-bounds world now governed by the fearsome Vetch extraterrestrials, Carew and his crew are sentenced to death...

Unless they agree to travel through Vetch territory in pursuit of a human vessel that set off for the Devil’s Nebula one hundred years ago. Why are the Expansion authorities so eager to track down the ship? Will Carew and co. survive the journey through Vetch territory? And what might they find when they arrive at the Devil’s Nebula?

The blend of science-fiction and horror/the unknown/the weird is one of my favourite subgenres in fiction books. Even in cinema, give me a movie like Ridley Scott's Alien or John Carpenter's The Thing and I would be glued to the screen. That's why I had been looking forward to Eric Brown's The Devil's Nebula. Not only because I love Eric Brown's work in general but also because The Devil's Nebula is the first book of a new series called Weird Space. This whole package offered a great promise.

The Devil's Nebula's setting is not revolutionary. You're definitely not going to need an advanced physics degree to grasp the concepts that Brown put in place. Two main parallel story threads tell us about The Paradoxical Poet's crew's adventures and the life on a distant planet focussed on a young girl called Maatja. I was glad that the author included various alien races in his book. There are also many points that are left underdeveloped. I'm hoping that those are extension points of Weird Space's shared world.

The main characters are the three-man crew of The Paradoxical Poet (with an emphasis on Captain Ed Carew and Pilot Lania Takiomar) and a young girl called Maatja. And not surprisingly, two main parallel story threads follow the trio and Maatja separately. To tell you the truth I was not fully satisfied with the character development. Definitely not to the extend to dislike the book but I expected that Brown would (and I know he could) develop some parts better.

Maybe my previous complaint is also related to the size of the book. The Devil's Nebula is a short book. I would have enjoyed more if the book were thicker. The reader is left with the impression that the setting allowed much more, which is a good thing for the series. However I admit that a book slightly less than 300 pages is also a good fit for someone looking for a quick and captivating read.

One of the special points of the story is the connection bdtween the pilot and her spaceship. The author makes allusions to (or at least I was reminded of) one of his earlier books called Engineman. I remember that, when I was reading Engineman, I was impressed with the connection Brown imagined between a human being and an intelligent ship. The connection was so overwhelming that it was the most important thing in a pilot's life. In The Devil's Nebula, a pilot's experience is not at the level of reaching Nirvana however I still loved the idea of a pilot's conscience becoming part of the ship. Furthermore I find it much more realistic than a pilot holding a joystick.

Another interesting point of this series is that Weird Space is a shared world created by Eric Brown. I am really curious to see who will be contributing to the series and where they will take us. We already know about the second instalment of the series. It is written by Eric Brown as well and it is called Satan's Reach. It is due for release in the summer of 2013. And it sounds like we are going to know more about the Vetch Empire. Here's what the author said about his upcoming book:

"I'm excited about doing the second book in the Weird Space series - a seat-of-the-pants adventure entitled Satan’s Reach about a telepath on the run from the Expansion authorities and the bounty hunter who will stop at nothing to get him - and what they find on a far-flung planet in the badlands of Satan's Reach. It's space opera with the emphasis on starships, aliens, exotic worlds - and the perennial threat from the Weird."

And here's some blurb:

Den Harper is a telepath on the run from the Expansion authorities, and Sharl Janaker the bounty hunter chasing him across badlands of Satan’s Reach.
On a far-flung planet in the reach they must set aside their mutual enmity and face a foe that threatens not only the colonists of the Reach, but the entirety of the Expansion beyond.

On the one hand, I'm a little disappointed that Ed and Lania won't have a place (at least not a central one) in Satan's Reach. On the other hand, it is important for the future of the series to create a setting that goes beyond the stories of a few people.

To tell you the truth, I had high expectations about Eric Brown's new book The Devil's Nebula, the first book of the Weird Space series. And starting a book with high expectations is something that I've been trying to avoid. But fortunately The Devil's Nebula lived up to my expectations. I really liked its story and the way it is delivered. I'm looking forward to Satan's Reach

Plot: ............. 8
Characters: ... 7
Style: ............ 8

Overall: ....... 8.5/10

Monday, June 11, 2012

REVIEW: The Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian C. Esslemont

The Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian C. Esslemont
Publishing information: Kindle
Publisher: Tor Books; 13 April 2010
ISBN 10: 0765363488
ISBN 13: 978-0765363480
Series: Side story to The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series
Copy: Out of pocket
Reviewer: Tyson

Synopsis: "Casting thrilling new light onto an extraordinary creation, this is the second epic fantasy novel from the co-creator of the Steven Erikson world of Malaz.

The return of the mercenary company the Crimson Guard could not have come at a worse time for the Malazan Empire. Driven by constant warfare, weakened by betrayal and rivalries, many see the grip of Empress Laseen beginning to weaken as conquered kingdoms and principalities test their old independence.

Into this gathering civil war on Quon Tali, the Empire's homeland comes the Guard. And with their return comes the memory of their hundred-year-old vow -- undying opposition to the existence of the Empire. Yet rivalries and betrayals stalk the Guard as well; elements of its elite, the Avowed, scheme to open paths to even greater power, and ancient potent entities, Ascendants, also lend a hand exploiting all sides to further their own arcane ends. Meanwhile, a swordsman, Traveller, and his companion Ereko, move from one strange encounter to another in a mysterious dance meant ultimately to bring the swordsman to a final confrontation from which none has ever returned.

As the Crimson Guard gathers from around the globe, Empress Laseen faces a more immediate threat from the generals and old commanders of her predecessor, Emperor Kellanved, who have lost patience with what they see as Laseen's mismanagement. Yet there are hints that Laseen may be using the uprisings to draw out and finally eliminate these last irksome survivors of her predecessor's rule."

I am a huge fan and slowly working my way through each and every tome that is the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. While I love Erikson's world and the way in which he writes. Esslemont's first foray into the world left me a little disappointed.

The Return of the Crimson Guard takes place shortly after the events in The Bonehunters. While I wanted to like this novel, I found it hard to read. The characters felt stilted and only half of their personalities seem to shine through. It was easy to get into the novel and keep track of all the coming and goings of characters. But the novel continued, it became harder and harder to pay attention and care for what was happening on the pages.

The events intertwine and fit well within the overall story arc that Erikson created, but I never really found myself invested in the story or the characters. It was hard for me to care.

I know that I should want to read all of the books in the universe created by I.C.E and Erikson, but I have a strong desire to skip Esslemont in order to finally finish the series and to also keep my interest with the story. Malazan continues to be one of my favorite series but this book was not my cup of tea. I know it has its part to play in the overall scheme but it was a hard book to read.

Plot 7/10
Characters 6/10
Style 6/10

Overall 6.5/10

Monday, June 4, 2012

REVIEW: I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells

I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
Publishing Information: Kindle; 321 pages
Publisher: Tor; 29 March 2011
ISBN 10: 0765328445
ISBN 13: 978-0765328441
ASIN: B004H1TQ94
Series: Book 3 in the John Cleaver Series
Copy: Out of Pocket
Reviewer: Tyson

Synopsis: "Dan Wells introduced us to John Wayne Cleaver in the chilling novels I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster. In I Don't Want to Kill You, Cleaver faces his toughest challenge yet.

John Wayne Cleaver has called a demon---literally called it on the phone---and challenged it to a fight. He’s faced two monsters already, barely escaping with his life, and now he’s done running; he’s taking the fight to them. As he wades through the town’s darkest secrets, searching for any sign of who the demon might be, one thing becomes all too clear: in a game of cat and mouse with a supernatural killer, you are always the mouse.

In I Am Not a Serial Killer we watched a budding sociopath break every rule he had to save his town from evil. In Mr. Monster we held our breath as he fought madly with himself, struggling to stay in control. Now John Wayne Cleaver has mastered his twisted talents and embraced his role as a killer of killers. I Don't Want to Kill You brings his story to a thundering climax of suspicion, mayhem, and death.

It’s time to punish the guilty.

And in a town full of secrets, everyone is guilty of something."

The first two novels in the series were very impressive and I had my doubts that the momentum and the pace could keep up with expectations and still feel fresh. I am happy to report that Dan Wells delivers and the final book in the series, I Don't Want to Kill You, is just as amazing as the first two books.

This time John Cleaver has decided to wage war against the creatures that prey on humankind. He has finally come to terms with himself and now plans to use his unique "gifts" to bring the battle to them. The quickest way to find them is to call them and issue a challenge. What he gets is far more than he bargained for and really ups the ante in the series.

This is a horror/mystery series and I do not want to give away too much, but I will say that John and his cohorts continue to grow as characters and the challenge that he faces continue to impress. While some parts of the novel and the series feel very paranormal, Wells does an impressive job of keeping the setting as normal as possible. That is really where the strength of the novel comes into play. The book never goes off course and takes a huge leap of faith beyond the "creature" found within the pages of the series.

I cannot express how much I enjoyed this series and each book was just as good as the last if not better. When I reached the end of I Don't Want to Kill You, I was sad because this was the end of the series and I was begging for more. I wanted Wells to take me to the next level and with luck he will. If you have not taken the time to read this serhes, do yourself a favor and start. The John Cleaver series was an amazing find and I cannot express well enough how good it felt to read something so fresh and different. Highly recommended.

Plot 9/10
Characters 9.5/10
Style 9.5/10

Overall 9.5/10