Reviews

Review: Acacia by David Anthony Durham

Book review of David Anthony Durham’s Acacia

David Anthony Durham's Acacia

I approached Acacia with a general good feeling – David Anthony Durham has been hailed as a bright new name in fantasy literature, and I tend to enjoy fantasy by authors with a background in history. I’ve never read any other works by Durham, but I was excited to enter a new world from this author.

The largest problem with Acacia for me was the characterization. The main characters are royalty, and really children of royaly at that, which you don’t see as the focus of large fantasy novels, for the most part. That given, it is a noble effort to try to take on such a task; fleshing out believable adolescent characters who are part of the upper crust of the food chain. Unfortunately in Acacia, I was unable to connect with the characters and really believe the world they were involved in. I was unable to avoid contrasting the characters in Acacia with another fairly popular cast of royal teens in current fantasy literature: namely the Starks from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. When stacked up against Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran and Rickon, Aliver, Mena, Corinn and Dariel just don’t cut it.

Acacia does contain some wonderful world building, and Durham’s ability at describing different scenes and worlds is top notch. There are a few different societies in Acacia, and Durham does a nice job of bringing the surroundings to life.

What this adds up to is mediocre at best. Bland characterization paired with great description leads to a big novel with characters you don’t care about. This makes a novel especially difficult to get through, and for this I believe I put Acacia down on two occasions and flew through other books in the meantime. I just couldn’t bring myself to swallow Acacia in one gulp.

This raises an interesting question: does an unengaging novel cause the reader to put it down sporadically (therefore devaluing the experience), or do other external factors in one’s life that cause a reader to put down a novel at random intervals cause the novel to seem unengaging? Personally, I think it was the former for me, but I do consider this type of question when putting together reviews.

Unfortunately for me, Acacia didn’t deliver the goods as an engaging epic fantasy. It can be a rough ride when you don’t feel for the characters in a novel, and the paperback version of the novel is over 750 pages. Rough ride indeed.

You can purchase Acacia over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 5 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: David Anthony Durham, Reviews, The War with the Mein | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Review: Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Book review of Daniel Suarez’ Daemon

Daniel Suarez' DaemonI mainly cover fantasy here at Fantasy Book News, but this novel covers a fairly mixed bag from a genre perspective. I first heard about Daemon when The Dragon Page interviewed Daniel Suarez, and my interest was piqued when conversation mentioned that the novel was so accurate that the federal government had taken notice. I generally stray from technical or sci-fi books, simply because I get my fill of technology in my day to day life, but I am very interested in future technology, and a novel that blends reality with fantasy so well that the line blurs was something I definitely had to check out.

First and foremost, Daemon is the fastest I’ve ever read a novel. I read it in a week, and the paperback volume I have is 617 pages. I’m by no means a slow reader, but I have other responsibilities in life, like family, work, etc. that pull me away from reading on a regular schedule. Daemon was so addictive that I catered my daily routine to it, rather than the opposite being true, as is the case with most novels. This novel surpasses the level of action pacing seen in Dan Brown’s novels.

I should mention that this is a highly technical read, but not so much that you can’t follow the story if you’re not an IT professional. I think the level of detail is just second nature to Daniel Suarez based on his background: he has designed and developed software for the defense, finance and entertainment industries. The technical detail in Daemon should not scare off readers who fear they may not understand the details; to the contrary, it adds a believable level of detail.

I decided to include a review of Daemon here because the novel does have elements of fantasy. There are entire chapters that take place inside MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), including two of the more popular video games published by main character Matthew Sobul’s company. If you opened the book randomly and happened to land on one of these pages, you would think you’re reading a fantasy novel.

Daemon is a fast-paced techno-thriller, containing sophisticated action sequences reminiscent of the tv show 24, elements of suspense and horror, and even a pair of graphic sex scenes thrown in for good measure. The plot focuses on a daemon (Disk And Execution MONitor) script, written by computer gaming industry genius Matthew Sobul, that monitors news websites for headlines. On the day Sobul’s obituary crosses the web, the script is executed, setting in motion a slew of electronic work orders and other database highjacking procedures in an attempt to control a large swath of the modern economy.

The novel follows detective Peter Sebeck in his attempt to contain the daemon, Brian Gragg, a young hacker who discovers the daemon through in-game contact with a Nazi avatar created by Sobul prior to his death, and a slew of other characters contacted by the daemon to perform tasks. One such example is Charles Mosely, a prisoner working in a prison’s call center for pennies, who is contacted by phone one day by the daemon. The daemon orchestrates his release from prison, and subsequently employs him as a soldier.

There are wonderful elements of what I normally call “magic” in fantasy novels, but in this case they are technologically driven. Employees of the daemon wear glasses that give them a heads up display of the world around them, enhanced with additional information, like a video game. They can control computer-driven cars with the flick of a finger. The word magic has been recently been reintroduced to the public as a marketing tool with Apple’s iPad, with the basic premise that any new technology that we don’t fully understand yet seems like magic, that is until we understand it, then its just another technology, and this is the same idea introduced in Daemon.

I really enjoyed one of the central themes in Daemon, which is a debate that will become more prevalent in coming years: the question of whether to attempt to contain or regulate a technology versus accepting it and having a reliable security system in place in the event of a catastrophe. This question is one that will never be answered absolutely, as it is driven by the larger force of evolution, which cannot be stopped. Daemon deals with this question in fantastic fashion, and is a big part of what makes flying through the action sequences contained in its pages so fun.

I don’t read many thrillers, but I read fantasy novels like its my job, so I guess I feel semi-qualified to review Daemon. I can firmly say that anyone who’s into technology and believable technology-driven fantasy elements will thoroughly enjoy Daemon.

You can purchase Daemon over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Daniel Suarez, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Book review of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself

The Blade ItselfJoe Abercrombie is one of the hottest new authors in the fantasy genre, and The Blade Itself was his first published work, originally published in London in 2006, with the copy I read having been published by Pyr in 2007. He has since completed The First Law Trilogy, and written two standalone novels, Best Served Cold (June 2009), and The Heroes (forthcoming). I’ve seen countless reviews surrounding The Blade Itself series, garnering praise from other fast-paced fantasy authors such as one of my personal heroes, Scott Lynch. I have to give a shout out to  author Sarah Darmody, who not only recommended The Blade Itself to me, but stated we have similar taste in fantasy novels – excellent taste, that is. Let’s just say that with The Blade Itself, I was ready for a smashing good romp.

And a smashing good romp does Abercrombie deliver. What stands out immediately with The Blade Itself is Abercrombie’s talent with pacing a story. The Blade Itself is as good, if not better, from a pacing perspective, than Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards Cycle. When compared with fast-paced novel in other genres, like Dan Brown’s novels or maybe Daemon by Daniel Suarez, The Blade Itself holds its own.

Where The Blade Itself can’t quite keep up a Dan Brown novel in terms of sheer pacing, it more than makes up for it in hilarity. I found myself literally laughing out loud more at this novel than probably any other fantasy novel I’ve ever read. Abercrombie is just a downright funny guy. While there are definitely better examples in the novel, here’s one I noted while reading:

Hoff glared back at him for a very long while. “Seek it wherever you like,” he growled, “and with as much persistence as you please. But not here. Good…day!” If you could have stabbed someone in the face with the phrase “good day”, the head of the Guild of Mercers would have lain dead on the floor.

Its brutally honest statements like this, that appear when you least expect them, that had me rolling with laughter. Speaking of brutality, The Blade Itself has some fantastic bloody fight scenes. This is definitely not a novel for the faint of heart. Abercrombie has created a wonderfully crude, yet highly intelligent, barbarian character in Logen Ninefingers, a.k.a. The Bloody Nine. Couple him with an extremely powerful, yet smart-alecky wizard, The First of the Magi, Bayaz, and you’ve got a quality core duo of characters for the novel. The Blade Itself also follows two other main characters, Inquisitor Glokta, and Captain Jezal dan Luthar, whose stories I found myself equally engrossed in.

The Blade Itself is driven by its quality characters, its fast pace, and Abercrombie’s natural tendency to spice up a situation with comedy. I could easily recommend it for these qualities, or the strikingly realistic fight scenes. But The Blade Itself has more to offer yet. You’ll find sprinkled throughout this novel nuggets of truth, as I typically quantify in some of my favorite novels:

“If a man seeks to change the world, he should first understand it…the tree is only as strong as its root, and knowledge is the root of all power.”

Abercrombie even manages to work in a moment that reminds me of some of the Kerouac novels I’ve read:

South then, and become a wanderer. There was always work for a man with his skills. Hard work, and dark, but work all the same. There was an appeal in it, he had to admit. To have no one depending on him but himself, for his decisions to hold no importance, for no one’s life or death to be in his hands. He had enemies in the south, that was a fact. But the Bloody Nine had dealt with enemies before.”

Overall, The Blade Itself more than lived up to its expectations, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next novels in this series, and Abercrombie’s standalone works that follow. If you’re up for a a fast-paced action fantasy with a good sense of humor, they don’t come more highly recommended than The Blade Itself.

You can purchase The Blade Itself over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Joe Abercrombie, Reviews, The First Law | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Review: Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book review of Adrian Tchaokovsky’s Empire in Black and Gold

Empire in Black and GoldAdrian Tchaikovsky has been tearing up the fantasy genre recently. Pyr is releasing the novels in the Shadows of the Apt series at a blistering pace: Empire in Black and Gold is the first and was released in early 2010. The Scarab Path, book 5 (yes, that’s right, 5) in the series is already available on Amazon.com. The cover for Empire in Black and Gold reminds me of a comic book, and the characters in the novel actually support the theme that this book would easily make the translation to graphic novel or feature film. I had read a few reviews prior to picking up Empire in Black and Gold, but I didn’t quite know what to expect.

I was wary after about the first fifty pages of Empire in Black and Gold, as while I was starting to like the characters, and the action was surely top notch, I was slightly annoyed by the play on words that is the mark of authors who are just starting off their careers. Here’s an example:

“Will you find some calm?” he said, starting to lose his own.

This type of prose drives me nuts, as it strikes me as an author attempting to be tricky with words, and falling flat on his face. It also interrupts the flow of the page, because you just have to stop and shake your head. However, this is a minor flaw, and one that does not resurface much as the novel progressed, and I was thoroughly entertained as I made my way through Empire in Black and Gold.

The front runner of Empire in Black and Gold’s qualities is undeniably its fast-paced action scenes. Tchaikovsky has a wonderful knack for writing thrilling action sequences, that move quickly, but pause in all the right moments just enough to give you a taste of description. It is this talent that reminded me of some of the engrossing detail sequences of Terry Goodkind in Wizard’s First Rule.

Tchaikovsky has created some wonderful characters in Empire in Black and Gold. The characters are all based on some type of insect, from wasp to beetle to dragonfly, spider and mantis, among many others. There is a fantastic butterfly-kinden character named “Grief in Chains”, the idea for which I found highly inventive, for the short periods that she appears in the novel. Where the characterization is lacking in Empire in Black and Gold is in the description of the characters. While these are characters you connect with and feel for, I would have really enjoyed a bit more description of the different insect-kinden types. Instead, we’re just told they are some type of insect, and its up to the reader to guess to what degree that influences their physical attributes.

While Empire in Black and Gold is definitely an action novel first, there are undertones of horror that appear infrequently, which work nicely when paired with an action fantasy. Some of the description contained in the horror scenes is downright dripping with fear:

Who asks? in a voice that was like a dry chorus of a hundred voices. He could not tell whether it came from the trees themselves or from between them, but the sound of it froze him. A voice like dry leaves and the dead husks of things, and the passage of five hundred years.

Where Empire in Black and Gold shines is in Tchaikovsky’s ability to take characters that are at first glance foreign and unfamiliar and make them real. Take this conversation between a wasp and a dragonfly-kinden:

“Well, next time you shed my kinden’s blood, think on this: we are but men, no less nor more than other men, and we strive and feel joy and fail as men have always done. We live in the darkness that is the birthright of us all, that of hurt and ignorance, only sometimes…sometimes there comes the sun.”

Empire in Black and Gold is a fantastic first novel in a promising new series. I’m definitely looking forward to finding time to consume the second novel in the series.

You can purchase Empire in Black and Gold over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 7 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Reviews, Shadows of the Apt | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Review: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Book review of Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris

ElantrisBrandon Sanderson is one of the hottest names in fantasy right now, since he took up the reigns of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series following Jordan’s passing. I’ve already read Mistborn, but I wanted to go back to the start of Sanderson’s fantasy career, and so here I am with Elantris. Elantris came highly recommended to me by the same friend who recommended Tigana a few years back, so I had fairly high hopes for the novel. Elantris is a stand-alone novel, and does a great job of telling a story within one volume.

Elantris takes place mainly in the city of Kae, one of the four outlying cities that surround the city of Elantris. The city of Elantris itself is past its glory days, to say the least. Formerly, all inhabitants of Elantris posessed god-like qualities, coming to individuals who inhabited the surrounding cities in a sudden, transformational process called the Shaod. The novel opens in more recent times, where the Shaod seems to have the complete opposite effect on people: dark, splotchy skin, hair loss, among other various ailments. It is here that Elantris displays a nice social commentary on the effects of various diseases, with the Shaod having some fairly similar qualities to cancer. The magic system in Elantris is similarly as broken as the Shaod: the magic was once controlled by the drawing of symbols, but when drawn now, they hover for a moment in the air, fizzle and die. The city of Elantris itself has even become completely run-down, covered in a thick, slimy grime. It is this bleak scenario that Sanderson paints within the opening pages of Elantris.

The story of Elantris follows three main characters: Raoden, prince of Arelon, Hrathen, high priest of Fjordell, and Sarene, princess of Teod. Royalty and high ranking religious officials can sometimes be tricky characters to pull off; Sanderson does so in Elantris in wonderful form. These are characters that you get to know, feel for, and similar to George R.R. Martin’s work, you’ll occasionally find yourself confused as to who to be rooting for. Absolute quality characterization.

Elantris has similar elements when compared with Mistborn: characters you love, with seemingly unobtainable goals, with undercurrents of justice, truth, and hope. Sanderson is a master of building up what seems like a completely impossible feat, and somehow finding his characters working through it. The idea of a character in a seemingly hopeless situation (in Elantris‘ case characters with a disease that has done everything to kill them but stop them from walking around), but finding hope, and an optimistic view despite all odds is one that I heard refrained in Mistborn,  but again is one that Sanderson accomplishes to a resoundingly satisfying effect.

Sanderson mixes in various elements of truth in Elantris, one that I found particularly familiar being the following:

“We have no slaves in Teod, my lords, and we get along just fine. In fact, not even Fjorden uses a serf-based system anymore. They found something better – they discovered that a man will work much more productively when he works for himself.”

Elantris is chock full of little gems like this one.

Elantris is a fantasy novel that gets it right. It moves quickly, contains vivid characters in situations you can relate to, introduces a truly unique and inventive magic system, and underpins the whole thing with themes of hope. The first 500 pages went by quickly, and the last 100 or so were the most entertaining pages of literature I’ve read in a long time. You’ll be doing yourself a disservice if Elantris doesn’t end up on your shelf.

You can purchase Elantris over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 10 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Brandon Sanderson, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist

Book review of Raymond E. Feist’s Magician: Apprentice

Magician: ApprenticeIts not often I get to review a book for which I’ve read the original, the author’s preferred edition, and the graphic novel interpretation. Magician: Apprentice is a book that I’ve read countless times, and The Riftwar Saga was one of my favorite original fantasy series along with the Dragonlance Chronicles books I read growing up. Like a lot of other fantasy novels, it was one I read prior to starting this site, so I decided to give it another read so I could include it here at Fantasy Book News. And as always, it was a delight.

Going back and reading Magician: Apprentice is like putting on an old coat that I’ve worn in years past, but has been hanging up in my closet for a while. Its comfortable, broken in, and I know what to expect. But I also know that its been long enough since the last time I’ve ventured through its pages that I’ve likely forgotten some of the details, so there’s bound to be a bit of variety. Its also valuable to compare some of the classics with some of the modern fantasy fiction I’ve been reading more of lately, and Magician: Apprentice is a perfect candidate.

Magician: Apprentice is a great book because of its simplicity. It doesn’t try to over-complicate anything, and is very direct with its characters, plot-lines and action scenes. I believe it is this simplicity that afforded Feist such success with this first novel in the Riftwar series: its an energized tale that is accessible to a broad range of readers. When compared with more recent fantasy novels, Magician: Apprentice is a bit shorter, and seems to move a bit more quickly than the majority of other fantasy novels I’ve read recently.

Feist writes with a passion in Magician: Apprentice, and the reader reaps the benefits. The novel has all the elements a reader expects from a fantasy novel and more: a coming of age tale, a few light romantic themes, very basic political structure, action on the open sea, plenty of battle scenes, a trek through the mines, and of course an invading army from another world. What more could you ask for?

Magician: Apprentice is a wonderful novel for teen readers as well as adults looking for a good tale. There is nothing in the novel that parents should have to worry about, so parents can be confident in buying this as well as the following books in the Riftwar Saga. And since its initial publication in 1982, its been adapted as a graphic novel by Marvel Comics, so readers can delight in seeing their favorite characters Pug, Kulgan and others come to life in the pages of a comic book.

I would highly recommend Magician: Apprentice to anyone looking to get started in Feist’s worlds of fantasy, and any readers just testing the fantasy novel waters for the first time. Its a delight you’ll come to appreciate for years to come.

You can purchase Magician: Apprentice over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 9 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Raymond E. Feist, Reviews, The Riftwar Saga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Review: Lamentation by Ken Scholes

Book review of Ken Scholes’ Lamentation

LamentationKen Scholes debut novel is a delight, plain and simple. I approached Lamentation after hearing a lot of buzz online, a lot of it crossing here at Fantasy Book News in our weekly Fantasy Blogosphere posts. Scholes has been hailed as a brilliant new voice in the fantasy genre, leaning on his background which includes service in two branches in the military, a degree in history and a stint as a clergyman. I was delighted to find that Lamentation not only lives up to the hype, but completely exceeded my expectations.

Lamentation is the first in a five book series, collectively titled “The Psalms of Isaak”, although it is not clear after reading the first book whether the “Isaak” referred to is the dead twin of the lead character Rudolfo, or the mechanical man Rudolfo names after his deceased brother. Scholes has taken a unique twist on the fantasy genre with Lamentation. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world where the past had seen heights of technological innovation, but after reaching a certain plateau in technological progress, the technology lead to a disaster and subsequent technological regression, giving the novel a fine social commentary on the dangers of the technological advances in our own world. At the height of this pre-apocalyptic era there existed mechanical men, a pinnacle of the society’s technological achievement. In Lamentation, we see some of these mechanical men, who have been constructed using the knowledge of old, as well as a few other technological innovations that survived the devastation not typically seen in the fantasy genre.

Knowledge is a central theme to the novel. Like deleting a civilization’s existence in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, one of the hubs of knowledge in Lamentation, a city named Windwir, is destroyed in the opening pages of Lamentation. The ensuing four hundred pages deal with how to save what little is left of the knowledge that was destroyed, and how to go about building a new center for that knowledge. Like any literary commentator, I thoroughly enjoyed this theme.

The characters that go about deciding how to manage this tragedy and attain retribution for the destruction of the death of thousands of people and knowledge are in a word, fantastic. Scholes immediately gives you something to care about in Lamentation, and then brilliantly brings in characters you can not only relate to, but genuinely get behind and root for. From the free-spirited gypsy king Rudolfo to the ex-Pope-in-hiding Petronus, to the father and daughter team of Vlad and Jin Li Tam, and a host of others, these are well fleshed out characters and they truly make Lamentation come to life.

Scholes has a familiar writing style, that is both comfortable and vibrant. He writes with a clarity and succinctness lacking in modern epic fantasy; there are no needless words in this novel. His ability to make an ordinary situation exciting is quickly apparent, as displayed in this example where he describes the look on a merchant’s face when Rudolfo offers the service of his squad of gypsy scouts free of charge:

He watched at least three emotions wash over the arch-scholar’s face. At first, surprise. Then anger. Then weariness. These are the only currencies our hearts can spend now, Rudolfo thought.

Lamentation is a novel that flies by, first because its just plain good. Second, because of the author’s ability to communicate an emotionally-charged story in a minimal amount of words, this paperback weights in at around 400 pages, with many other epic fantasy novels coming closer to the 700 page mark. The chapters are in smaller chunks, making it very easy to consume quickly; whether you can sit down and read five or six, or only have time for a quick one or two chapters. The viewpoints shift perspective per chapter, each being from the point of view of a different character. This is a style I enjoyed originally in George R.R. Martin’ s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and completely enjoyed visiting again in Lamentation.

Overall Lamentation is a fantastic debut in the fantasy genre for Ken Scholes, and I’m extremely excited for the second installment, Canticle. The first novel does a great job of building up to what you believe is going to be a complete resolution of the issues presented (which it does do to some degree), but does open the door to a whole set of new problems, on a much larger scale than you could have imagined having read the first novel. All I can say is bravo, Mr. Scholes, and keep up the good work.

You can purchase Lamentation over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 8 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Ken Scholes, Reviews, The Psalms of Isaak | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Review: Dragons of a Lost Star by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

Book review of Weis & Hickman’s Dragons of a Lost Star

Dragons of a Lost Star

I picked up Dragons of a Lost Star out of sheer desperation. I had just concluded Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson, and was sorely in need of some familiar characters. Gardens of the Moon presented me with an overwhelming cast of characters, and not enough time to get to know any of them, which is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. What better way to get back to my roots than to throw in a Dragonlance book? And off I was.

Dragons of a Lost Star picks up where Dragons of a Fallen Sun left off, and all the familiar faces are here. To my delight, much of the story follows Tasslehoff, who I’m sure Weis & Hickman have as much fun writing as I have reading. Weis & Hickman combine classic Dragonlance characters, like Tas and Goldmoon, with some of the transitional characters like Palin Majere and Dalamar, along with fairly new characters like Mina and the idea of the One God. It is this blend of old familiar characters and fresh new faces that makes Dragons of a Lost Star such a pleasure to read.

And an easy read it is. The pages of Weis & Hickman’s Dragonlance books have always been easy to turn, and Dragons of a Lost Star is no different. This is a very easy plot to follow, without all the layers of intrigue that weigh down many current fantasy novels. I’m not saying that multi-textured novels are of a lower calibre; not at all. I absolutely love a story with overlapping plot lines and complexity. What I am saying is that Dragons of a Lost Star accomplishes my main goal of reading fantasy novels: to transport me to another world and distract me from the real world for a short time. Dragons of a Lost Star accomplishes this goal, without any additional padding.

Dragons of a Lost Star is a medium to fast-paced novel. While not completely action-packed, there was no point where I felt as if I was trudging through unnecessary background material. Here you’ll find war, love and best of all dragons. So many dragons.

This is a good novel, plain and simple. For fans of the Dragonlance series, this novel is a delight. For newcomers, I’d recommend reading Dragons of a Fallen Sun first, since Dragons of a Lost Star directly continues multiple plot lines from the first novel in this trilogy. But for first-timers, you definitely don’t need to read any of the earlier Weis & Hickman Dragonlance novels to fully enjoy this series.

I would strongly recommend Dragons of a Lost Star to anyone looking for a quick escape. It is easy to read, and Weis & Hickman have certainly still got their touch.

You can purchase Dragons of a Lost Star over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 6 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Dragonlance, Reviews, Weis & Hickman | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Book review of Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon

I picked up Gardens of the Moon because of the buzz and success of Steven Erikson’s more recent novels in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. His ninth novel in the ten book series, Dust of Dreams, is the first to chart on the New York Times bestseller list. Erikson’s work is much more popular across the pond with UK audiences, where he lived while writing the series. My expectations coming into this novel were fairly high: it has been compared to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. After consuming the first novel in the series, I can say that it definitely draws comparison with Martin’s series in scope, but unfortunately that is also its downfall.

A novel that is truly breathtaking in its ambition is tragically underscored by a simple issue of mechanics. Reading Gardens of the Moon is a bit like driving a car without brakes. At points you feel as if you’re hurling through chunks of story and trying to slow down to get to know the characters, but when you hit the brakes nothing happens, and you eventually drive right by or in some cases plow over characters you wish you had more time to spend with. The true flaw of Gardens of the Moon is its lack of characterization. Characters are frequently thrown at the reader, with absolutely no introduction, and we’re expected to understand the situation in which they’re participating and even identify with them. Add to this the sheer quantity of characters in Gardens of the Moon and even main ones quickly become flat, unidentifiable, and bland. On the upside, I’m glad I now have a better basis for comparison, and can appreciate novels in which I had previously taken for granted quality characterization.

Character flaws aside, Gardens of the Moon delivers some stunning descriptive passages. Its not clear who is participating, or why the reader should care for them, but Steven Erikson can definitely drive those characters in a passionate and engaging fashion. I desired deeply to identify with the characters and situations unveiling before me in the vast world that Erikson paints, because some of the scenes and events taking place in Gardens of the Moon are very entertaining. Erikson definitely has a gift with description.

Another area where Gardens of the Moon is definitely not lacking is the author’s obvious preparation and world-building skills. This is a highly layered, multi-faceted world where the characters are neither “good” nor “evil”, but real people. You don’t know who they are, what they’re doing, or why you should care, but the time spent developing the world and the hierarchy of characters is evident.

The magic system in Gardens of the Moon is extremely unimpressive. After reading Mistborn, its going to take a lot to impress me. I think the magic system suffers from the same non-explanation syndrome as the characters. What I liked about the magic system in Mistborn was that I understood every inner working of the system, it was all explained to the reader, and above all it was believable. When magic just “works because its magic”, I quickly lose interest.

Mechanical issues aside, I may be back for future novels in this series. I believe that mechanical issues are there to be fixed, and fixing them is something that comes with practice. The subsequent novels in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series are rumored to increase in quality with each edition. I just wish I didn’t have to sludge through almost 700 pages of what seems to be background material in Gardens of the Moon to get there.

You can purchase Gardens of the Moon over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 4 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Malazan Book of the Fallen, Reviews, Steven Erikson | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Review: Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

Book review of Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint

swordspoint

Reaching back into my “books recommended by GRRM to enjoy while he finishes writing book 5 of ASOIAF” grab-bag, this time I pulled out Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. Its a novel originally published in paperback in 1989, and the paperback version I found in my hands has a quote from the Wonder of Winterfell himself, which is placed higher on the cover and is actually larger than the book title. I can tell you that I’m glad that when Swordspoint was republished in 2003, it was done so with a recommendation from the then and still reigning king of fantasy epics, which resulted in Martin suggesting it on his personal blog. Also making me smile was the discovery that Kushner penned many of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I read as a child, so I had a feeling I was in for a real treat.

Martin is absolutely correct when he says “Swordspoint has an unforgettable opening…and just gets better from there”. The novel is a prime example of dialog for aspiring writers, as I cover in my guest post over at Drying Ink. Kushner has a natural talent for dialog, and here she turns the dialog dial to full tilt. The conversation is masterful, branding Swordspoint as an instant fantasy classic. While the paperback edition comes in at 286 pages, which is rather light these days, you can be guaranteed that it is no less of a novel than some 7- and 800 pagers. Suffice to say that Kushner has a knack of not rambling, and the written word in Swordspoint is as succinct as the dance of the swordsmen themselves.

A delicate dance it is indeed. Richard St Vier is a swordsman for hire, doing jobs for the wealthy in the unnamed city where the novel takes place. The nobles of the city settle their disputes with arms for hire, and Richard is one of the premier swordsman in the city, if not the best. While Richard does not have a flair for the aristocratic lifestyle, his companion Alec does. This creates a wonderful balance as they find themselves in many a precarious situation.

Some of the action scenes in this novel are unforgettable, but it really is the world that stays with you. The combination of Kushner’s flawless ability with dialog and the story of living by the sword just to get by in an urban landscape is what quickly picks you up and places you firmly in your place, right alongside Richard and Alec as they make their way through every day life.

I should mention that this novel does contain some fairly graphic sex scenes, which may not be of taste for some readers, so parents, you’ve been warned. The version I’ve got contains three additional short stories involving both Richard and Alec, written before and after Swordspoint.

This is a fantasy classic, and a world I’m sure to continue exploring with the subsequent novels in the series. You can pick up the highly recommended Swordspoint over at Amazon.com.

Fantasy Book News Ratings

  • Overall: 8 out of 10
  • Plot Originality
  • Setting Development
  • Characterization
  • Dialog
  • Pace

Fan Ratings

Categories: Ellen Kushner, Reviews | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment