Review: A dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish



Publisher: Orbit
Publishing Date: October 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 /5.0

Publisher Description: The Underworld rules the city of Veldaren. Thieves, smugglers, assassins… they fear only one man.
Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. All the thieves’ guilds of the city are under his unflinching control. If he has his way, death will soon spill out from the shadows and into the streets.
Aaron is Thren’s son, trained to be heir to his father’s criminal empire. He’s cold, ruthless – everything an assassin should be. But when Aaron risks his life to protect a priest’s daughter from his own guild, he glimpses a world beyond piston, daggers, and the iron rule of his father.
Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.

Review: As you can see, two covers were developed for this novel. I think the Faceless woman is the best. Approaches the surreal when juxtaposed to imagination. This was a re-write by the author as he had some unfinished business with the original development as there were plot elements that didn’t make sense or were loosely tied together.

The beginning of the book had some laughable dialogue. For instance, they are in a room full of cutthroats and rogues that would sooner slit your throat than talk to you and the author describes Aaron as “His features were soft and curved, and he would no doubt grow up to be a comely man…..soft blond hair, ..deep blue eyes” etc. etc. I really thought this novel was written by a woman, as the character dialogue was just not how a man thinks. Sometimes this read more like a pirate musical where after a bout of prolonged dialogue you expected the chorus to shout “Arrgh” or “HA-HA!”. The joining of diatribe with story-line explanation tends to wear a bit on the senses. Why not let the story unfold and all will be revealed or perhaps surmised? Subsequent novels (as planned) will fill in the gaps.

There are some odd instances in the novel that don’t make sense like how Kayla secrets dozens of daggers about her person. So lets say that “dozens” means conservatively, 36 slender knives. That’s quite a bit of weight and coverage area on a small woman. I could go on with the discrepancies in the story-line but don’t have the energy to really nitpick.

This was a weird jumble of characters with no one character getting sufficient development to interest you in them. The author had many chances to really develop the characters and fell flat with Thren and Aaron, the main characters. I really liked Kayla, but the author kills her off. I like the Faceless as well, but the author kills 2 of the 3 off. I didn’t like Alyssa, as she was whiney most of the time but the author invests quite a bit of the story line into her character. Thren is a one-dimensional sociopath that must be developed a little better to be believable. You can’t ascribe emotional outbursts or feelings to a character that reside in the dialogue without further development. Yeah we get he was a cruel sociopath, yet sociopaths rarely show emotion like Thren does. So what makes this psycho complex? Aaron’s development is just strange. Here we have a kid of eight, that kills his brother and becomes number one son to rule the Guild when Thren moves on. Aaron develops into a kid with a conscience, that can no longer kill at others discretion but still kills by his own?? A hooker with a heart of gold story. Aaron should have been one messed up kid, and the author sells us short by not entering a truly tortured mind/soul and his subsequent rise out of the hellish mires. The coverage and development is passable but not believable.

This was an entertaining novel and if you have the time and are not inclined to nitpick, you may enjoy yourself. I did.

Review: Snake Agent by Liz Williams


Publisher: Open Road
Publishing Date: September 2013
ISBN: 9781480437982
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.3/5.0

Publisher Description: When the fourteen-year-old daughter of Singapore Three’s most prominent industrialist dies of anorexia, her parents assume that Pearl’s suffering has come to an end. But somewhere along the way to the Celestial Shores, Pearl’s soul is waylaid, lured by an unknown force to the gates of Hell. To save their daughter from eternal banishment, they come to Detective Inspector Wei Chen, whose jurisdiction lies between this world and the next.

Review: Some reviewers had some rather pointed comments on this work, that had nothing to do with the writing ability of the author and the novels story-line. The comments were mostly on how they would have written the story and developed the characters. Give me a frickin’ break. Then write a story all you would be novelists. Some reviewers jumped on the old tried and true “Women Power” is lacking with the females characters weak and vapid. ITS A FRICKIN STORY YOU IDIOT, not a commentary on your life. Only when characters that are weak and don’t fit the story line or detract from it does it become an issue. Anything else is your own projected bullshjt.

This novel was really well written, with a great story-line, fast action and characters that were very well developed based on the multitude presented. There is a lack of back-story on Chen, but I think this is intentional, as it leaves an air of mystery about him as well as leaving room for further development in subsequent novels.

The cover art that is currently floating around is not very good. This one (see below) is a lot better.


(I think that is Chen with a rosary and his demon love, Inari.)

I like a novel that has constant scene changes within a developed complex story-line. You get some holes in the plot or unexplained instances that get lost in the shuffle, but overall the ride is fun. This novel is hard to put down once you start and that is a good sign that the novels logical progression is working.

I am really looking forward to the next in the series.

Review: Fiendish Schemes by K.W. Jeter


Publisher: Tor
Publishing Date: October 2013
ISBN: 9780765330949
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
Rating: 2.5/5.0

Publisher Description: After accepting congratulations for his late father’s grandest invention—a walking, steam-powered lighthouse—Dower is enticed by the prospect of financial gain into a web of intrigue with ominously mysterious players who have nefarious plans of which he can only guess.

If he can locate and make his father’s Vox Universalis work as it was intended, his future, he is promised, is assured.

Review: This started off at a really good pace, with some internal commentary by Dower that, while acerbic, is funny none the less. As you move through the novel, this internal dialogue is lengthy and flowery, and his conversations with others gets very long and maudlin.

So here is the son of a great inventor, that has lost everything and finds himself in a rundown hotel on the coast, contemplating suicide to the point where he actually attempts it. As the novel launches into full scale mode, he is constantly threatened with violence/death and quails at the prospect. The only thing that keeps him in this earthly realm is the chance at riches. Dower is continually surprised at everything in London and has a real Victorian perspective where matters “steam” are concerned. Pretty weak story line/premise to base a novel upon. The cover art is really good. I like the gun and the depiction of the Iron Maiden.

I only laughed once or twice. The author got a little too verbose with long-drawn out scenes based on conflicted diatribe between Dower and Stonebrake, Dower and Dower (internal) and Dower and everyone else. This verbal fencing, while inventive, tends to pale after awhile. The schemes he finds himself in by the creation of others is a weak manufacture. Walking lighthouses, ocean currents, trade route betting, talking with whales, steam overthrow and back to coal. And in the midst of this, a raping steam powered orangutan robot. How about no.

Review: Chasing the Lost by Bob Mayer


Publisher: Jen Talty
Publishing Date: August 2013
ISBN: 9781621250685
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 1.2/5

Publisher Description: Horace Chase arrives on Hilton Head Island to pay his last respects at the Intracoastal Waterway where his late mother’s ashes were spread and to inspect the home his mother left him in her will. He’s been recently forced into retirement, his divorce is officially final, and now he’s standing in the middle of the front yard of his ‘new’ house where a tree has crashed right through the center of it.

What could possibly go wrong?

Review: “A pulsing technothriller. A nailbiter in the best tradition of adventure fiction.” Publishers Weekly ref Bob Mayer. Wow, BAAZING! Who paid who for that review?

Right at the start of this novel we have errors in basic firearm function descriptors. After a brief tussle with an obnoxious neighbor, Chase relieves him of his revolver. Then, when questioned by a passerby as to how he knew the guy was not going to shoot he says; “Most importantly he never cocked the hammer, and it was still on SAFETY”. And she says, “You know guns.” and he says “Yes.” Well, actually you don’t know guns. There are no internal or external safeties on a revolver. Just because the hammer is down does not mean that the gun is “safe”. On a revolver, all the operator has to do is pull the trigger for the gun to go off. So you run at a guy with a gun in his hand, and because you have magical special forces sense, you intrinsically know that there is no way he could shoot you as the hammer was down. (sigh) . Lets move on shall we?

Again we find Chase in a shootout scenario that involves a damsel and thuggies. Using a tree trunk as cover he hears something moving and aims “…finger resting lightly on the trigger, the only safety a true shooter used, as he’d been taught in the killing house at Fort Bragg.” What exactly is a “True Shooter?” So your in a combat situation, with movement, and they teach you at Fort Bragg to rest your finger lightly on the trigger at all times. I don’t know what they teach at Bragg, but hopefully no one is drinking that Kool-Aid. In high speed movement shooting your finger is off the trigger until you are ready to shoot or engage the target. That way you don’t shoot yourself or others around you.

Another glaring error is when Gator, the huge black man/special ops guy, (insert action hero novel side-kick template here) is defending Erin from the Russian mob. He disarms them of their Glock pistols and says “You boys don’t even carry a round in the chamber, and you left the safeties on. What kind of wusses are you?” This novel’s accuracy by a Green Beret author is really fucking poor. Glock pistols do not have an external safety. They have what is called an integrated trigger safety, and two internal safeties. Basically when the gun has a round in the chamber, it is considered hot and can be fired by depressing the trigger which activates the trigger bar. I am surprised that the author did not have them “cocking the hammer” on the Glock. I still can’t believe the author used the name Gator. Really?

I don’t know what happened to this novel. Is a ghost writer developing these novels for Mayer, or is he so disconnected from writing, he just does it for the money without giving a shit about the content/details? Usually when a novels accuracy fails it is the editor that usually takes the blame. In this case, I don’t think so. Anyone with a common operating knowledge of firearms and their function would never make huge errors like this. How do you begin to take an action novel seriously when the author can’t seem to make viable connections? It is almost like he sketched a rough idea/draft and had someone else write it. Then he reviewed it and said “This is exactly what I wanted, fast paced, full of action, lots of bang bang and sex on an inflatable boat. Print it.”

When they attack the Russian mob on a small island in the channels, they dump Riley in the ocean for a beach approach and the boat with Erin, Susan, Gator etc. head to the other side of the Island. Riley is doing recon etc. and Gator is setup to snipe. Where is Chase? He is in a fucking plane, 10k feet up preforming a High altitude (technically not) Low Opening (HALO) to the Island. Why? There is no need to have someone in a plane, dropping on a little island with 7 armed bad guys. But no, our super-hero has to jump, at fucking night, because??????? HALO openings are generally designed to avoid surface to air missiles, exposure to flak and defeat radar. It’s uses for stealth insertion into foreign countries is evident. But on a US island off the Gulf Coast? Really? Who the fuck is really writing this?

This novel fails at so many levels I don’t know where to start. It has, at times, a jumbled story-line. It has limited character development. It has non-existent technical accuracy, especially where firearms are concerned. It has this weird ego-infused action character template that insults your intelligence. There is nothing down to earth or gritty about this novel. The cover art is neither inventive or eye-catching. The ending is plain unbelievable crap. (Take a deep breath) Deus Ex Machina in the form of a deep black ops friend that drains bank account from the psychopath bad girl, his long lost son discovery (seed for next novel) and death of psycho mother of son whom colluded with psycho bad girl to get money so she could have revenge on him years ago for when he left her at 17 years of age when they had a fling and he never helped her, but she didn’t really ask or really didn’t want to know the answer and she was sent to Oklahoma by her father who wanted to get rid of her and now she wants to shoot him so she pulls a gun out of the back of her bathing suit even though she walked by him and he didn’t see it and his son’s name is Horace too and now he has something to live for and this is just the beginning and …and ……and …….. AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!! I shit you not, this all takes place in the last few pages, and I was generous with the editing. Do yourself a big favor. Avoid this crappy ass novel or you can just throw your money into a fire. Either his wife or his business partner/editor/publisher, Jen Talty wrote this. Mayer is probably buried in a bayou somewhere while Talty and his wife live the high life. Oh shit, that’s what this novel was about. Life imitating poor fiction?

Review: Heartwood by Freya Robertson


Publisher: Angry Robot
Publishing Date: October 2013
ISBN: 9780857663863
Genre: Fantasy
Rating 2.8/5.0

Publisher Description: Chonrad, Lord of Barle, comes to the fortified temple of Heartwood for the Congressus peace talks, which Heartwood’s holy knights have called in an attempt to stave off war in Anguis. But the Arbor, Heartwood’s holy tree, is failing, and because the land and its people are one, it is imperative the nations try to make peace.

After the Veriditas, or annual Greening Ceremony, the Congressus takes place. The talks do not go well and tempers are rising when an army of warriors emerges from the river. After a fierce battle, the Heartwood knights discover that the water warriors have stolen the Arbor’s heart. For the first time in history, its leaves begin to fall…

The knights divide into seven groups and begin an epic quest to retrieve the Arbor, and save the land.

Review: This novel had many issues but had characters that were well developed and the flow from chapter to chapter was pretty good. The author’s knowledge of sword fighting and the fight scene positioning was off by quite a bit. In one scene she has Chonrad running to a felled warriors assistance and dropping to cradle their head, then killing the Dark Water element while it trips over the body of said felled warrior. So you’re fighting for your life but have time to kneel and coddle, then kill the bad guy. What is the bad guy doing during all this? Taking a smoke break? And since Chonrad and the baddie did not reverse positions, how does the bad guy trip over the felled warrior, backwards, into the water? If he emerged from the water, then the felled warrior should be in front of him, not behind him. In another “fight” scene, the Heartwood Knights react to an insult tendered by Wulfian guards in an Inn. So everyone draws swords, the fight ensues and all of the Wulfian guards are disarmed and everyone goes to sleep. Huh? So the Wulfians, notorious for being aggressive, blood thirsty women haters, decide to stand down to women knights?? If your going to have a fight scene, develop it, don’t just have an “all of a sudden we win” resolution. There is a lack of fight scene development throughout the novel.

I was a bit put off by the whole concept that the Heartwood Knights and the Exercitus, having been groomed since children to defend the Arbor and extremely skilled in the fighting arts, constantly cry and moan about this or that. Whenever they are on the road, there is some knight that has tears in their eyes or is hiding their emotional reactions to: leaving Heartwood, someone dying, self doubt or past guilt. Shouldn’t knights brought up in a martial society be a little more accepting of death as it is an integral part of their chosen path? You also have this constant “I am a Knight of Heartwood” shtick and “My oath and vows can never be broken” that the women Knights iterate at every turn. Then the minute they get on the road, they are attracted to this or that guy and start sleeping around. So much for a life time of vows to the Arbor and Heartwood, eh?

As the Knights travel across the land, it is funny how they always seem to find a fine meal and a hot bath and plenty of sex. They whine about the hardships of the quest that they are only a week into, but find a place for relaxation at the end of the day. Why is there so much food to be had, when the initial premise was that the land is failing and starvation is rampant? Hence the quest to fix the Arbor Nodes, right?

There has to be a bit of the ole’ “suspension of disbelief” where Nitesco the librarian finds a secret passage, during a water element attack, in which resides an ancient library. This library not only holds the answers to their current woes (land dying, Dark Water elements, magic node fix etc.) but the real intent and principles that formed the basis of their animus religion. Well just up and fuck me, we got a story-line folks! Seems like the author is starting to flirt with Deus X machina. But will she go all the way? I mean we are almost to first base.

The cover art is pretty good. Not surprising as Angry Robot usually has some of the best in the business. Although the Knights wear chain mail armor, not plate armor as depicted on the cover.

This novel had a lot of issues. From story-line progression (logic) to some fairly lengthy internal-dialogue. Did I like it? Yes. When all is said and done, I ask myself “did I enjoy the story while I was reading it?”. The character development was very good and that kind of swung my opinion in a favorable direction. The scene descriptions were also very well done. The ease of visualization is key in an adventure epic novel. In the end there were just too many screw ups in this novel to give it a real high score. With a little effort at cleaning up the story-line and some logic failures this could be a really great epic series.

Review: A Study in Ashes by Jane Holloway


Publisher: Del Rey
Publishing Date: December 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3.0

Publisher Description: If being the niece of the master detective Sherlock Holmes affords Evelina Cooper any special privileges in Victorian London, she has yet to encounter them. In the final chapter of this terrific new trilogy, she must navigate a world of paranormal fantasy, romance, and mystery all on her own.

Review: This was a solid, albeit lengthy novel. Yet, even with the lengthy scene development the writer managed to keep you interested for the first half, sort of. This does not quite measure up to the seminal work of Pauline Creeden whom wrote the steampunk themed novel Armored Hearts . Evelina, Tobias and Niccolo are well developed characters moving through a well crafted story line. Bit players are also well developed within the context of short forays. The Steam Barons are appropriately nasty and manipulative which helps you root for the underdog throughout. The cover art is a little too clean for my taste and the verbage too busy. Evelina should have had some silver bangles on her wrists, aether pistols on her hips and some steampunk brass/steel accoutrements.

Reading this novel was like trying to kick start an old motorcycle. You kick and kick and kick and each time the engine almost starts. The scenes were just too lengthy leading up to the resolutions. There are finite descriptions and emotional interactions for pages and pages, then all of a sudden…BANG! Resolution. That process just slows the whole novel down. We spent chapters with Imogen inside a clock for fucks sake. I still am scratching my head as to the relevance of the Imogen/clock/crazy sister side story to the novel as a whole. The author did a great job with the destruction of the labs and some of the air battles but wasted a lot of time on filler leading up to sudden closure.

I originally gave this novel a rating of 4.5/5.0 when I was about halfway through it. I figured that it would continue along in the same vein (action, magic, nasty peeps etc.). Hopefully my favorite reviewer Khahn Tran will get the revision prior to any purchase.

Review: Warbound by Larry Correia


Publisher: Baen
Publishing Date: July 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Rating 4.0/5

Publisher Description: Only a handful of people in the world know that mankind’s magic comes from a living creature, and it is a refugee from another universe. The Power showed up here in the 1850s because it was running from something. Now it is 1933, and the Power’s hiding place has been discovered by a killer. It is a predator that eats magic and leaves destroyed worlds in its wake. Earth is next.

Review: I liked this novel, even though I was resistant to the notion through most of it. At points the author scene-jumps, so your left with wondering if they are reliving a past or embracing the moment. The novel should have a glossary at the beginning that describes each of the Actives and their abilities and not the end. Heavies, Brutes, Fades, Beasties etc. should all be described prior to reading the novel. The glossary is well done but some of the avatars look like a 2 year old drew on an ink blot.

The feeling you get (I know I am antiquating myself here) from reading Warbound is of the Doc Savage novellas written by Lester Dent. His Novellas spanned the era from 1933-1979. Doc Savage is a super intelligent bronze skinned dude that has an assembled team of specifically gifted personalities (Monk, Ham, Renny, Long-Tom, Patricia Savage, Littlejohn etc.). I would not be surprised if the author was a big fan of Doc Savage. The similarities are many.

This novel has great action and even better character development. Yet, for some reason, it just didn’t capture and rivet you to the pages. Although I consider this a solid piece of work, it just didn’t give me a review-boner. The story-line fell flat in places due to action letdowns where the spaces between the action sequences are filled with internal/external dialogue that is rather flat and lengthy. The cover art is interesting, but not very well crafted. Should have had some type of steampunk theme to reflect current norms while harkening back to an era the novel was written in. This novel could have used a dose of sex/passion as well. Stir up the pot as well as the loins.

I liked Toru, as he seemed the most conflicted character. Sullivan/Doc Savage just didn’t hit the right chord with me as the leader of Active Magic users heading into the Imperium to stop the Pathfinder. More swagger/arrogance was needed. Dr. Wells (sp?) was serial killer creepy.

I gave this a solid rating of 4.0. Great entertainment value coupled with good length makes for a solid purchase with many hours of enjoyable reading. Keep you up until 3am turning pages feverishly??? Negative.

Review: Data Runner by Sam A. Patel


Publisher: Diversion Books
Publishing Date: May 2013
ISBN: 9781626810600
Genre: SciFi
Rating: 3.8

Publisher Description: Now even the internet is owned, and the only way to transmit sensitive information is by a network of highly skilled couriers called “data runners” who run it over the sneakernet. It is a dangerous gig in a dirty world, but Jack Nill doesn’t have much choice in the matter.

Review: Although the verbal interaction between the characters is sometimes stilted and lacking depth, this novel delivers action from start to finish. The inner monologue in the form of narrative usually bugs the crap out of me, but in this case it worked very well. Character development was pretty good for the main players, and undervalued for the fillers. You had no sense of loss when they died, as they never really contributed to the story-line in a meaningful way.

Reviewers were a pretty mixed bag on this one. One reviewer said that it was “shallow and gratuitous” as well as racist. Huh? So, because part of the story involves a Japanese man lopping of arms of data runners with a Katana, the author is racist?? What the fuck? This crap is a juvenile attempt at playing the race card in order to garner a sense of self-righteous indignation. Another reviewer/inverted misogynist stated there was no care given to the complexity of the issues presented. Really. Then write a book on “complex issues” that are near and dear to your shriveled heart and develop your own story-line.

The cover art is ok. Would have liked to have seen real parkour rather than some guy falling through space.

This is a “Have Fun and who cares about the details”, kind of novel. It is a short read and should be enjoyed in it’s sole ability to transport you to another time and place. I am sure the author will only get better at developing characters and storyline with a prose to do it justice.

Review: Skulk by Rosie Best


Publisher: Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry/Osprey
Publishing Date: September 2013
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.0/5

Publisher Description: While out tagging one night, Meg witnesses the dying moments of a fox… a fox that shapeshifts into a man. As he dies, he gives Meg a beautiful and mysterious gemstone. It isn’t long before Meg realises that she’s also inherited his power to shift and finds an incredible new freedom in fox form.


I really liked this novel. Great character development, solid story line and inventive prose. You really feel for Meg in all her chubby angst. Her mom embodies the ire of a wicked step mother along with an invisible father and back stabbing house maid. Reviewers complained that the character development was weak, but I attribute that to the novels length vs. the developing subject matter that was a bit compressed. I really like how the thoughts of a human inside an animal translated into expression. The foxes head butting each other etc. was inventive. There were some subject flaws. Foxes do not have retractable claws that they hide in sheaths. Only cats do. There were repeated referents to unsheathing or sheathing claws. Minor, but there.

Due to the shorter length of the novel in which to purvey the story line, the author sets up a sequel. I think this would have been a good stand alone novel with some story line changes and a well developed culmination. As it is, another novel to complete the saga may have to be stretched and edited with filler (internal dialogue). Hopefully the author keeps the action and adventure persistent.

The author loves the cover art symbol. The cover art was weak whereas the 6 people walking in a tunnel ruins the symbols effectiveness. Just keep the Skulk logo, emboss it and your done. Any subsequent novels get the same treatment but in a different color and slight change to the design to include the other shifter groups since Meg is the metashifter.

I gave this a solid 4.0. I had originally made a scathing review on the publisher, mainly due to their lack of following through on free source material for established reviewers that meet their criteria. My bitching must have paid off, as the novel(s) I had previously requested, arrived. Perhaps they are so inundated with requests, that it is hard to keep track of it all.

Buy this novel with confidence in hopes that the sequels deliver in good measure.