Review: Sunstone by Freya Robertson

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Publisher: Angry Robot
Publishing Date: March 2014
ISBN: 9780857663900
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2.0/5.0

Publisher Description: The sequel to Heartwood is here!

The Incendi elementals that dwell beneath the mountains have found a way to tap into the Arbor’s roots, which stretch not only across the land but also through time, and King Pyra is determined to crush the ancient tree. Twenty-two years after the defeat of the Darkwater Lords, Chonrad’s widow Procella and their three children are drawn back to Heartwood to investigate the rumour of strange fires springing up across the land. Across three separate timelines, the heroes must battle to join together their ancient sunstones, to overcome the Incendi threat, and to protect the Arbor and make earth victorious once more.

Review: Cover art is pretty good this time. Heartwood was good too, just not accurate.

This novel takes place down the road a bit from the first installment. Another threat to the Arbor, One Tree, whatever, is mounting with time-skipping fire elementals and the various timelines colliding at an “Apex”.

I feel like Procella does about the Arbor Tree. Its a big life sucking fuckwit. It needs a human sacrifice (chosen one) to consume on an annual basis, which is kind of sicko. Why not just feed it a fresh corpse once in a while. Why sacrifice good or still contributing people? Or feed it a goat maybe. Not only is the Arbor kind of a reverse cannibalistic vegetarian, it calls whomever it needs in order to continually suck the life-force out of them, like Procella’s husband whom dies living that association. I would like to see the Arbor burn except that the planet might cease to exist without its presence. Its like an alien player in a reciprocal altruistic relationship (the benefit to the receiver would have to be larger than the cost to the donor). And well the cost to the donor is death.

The depth of the story line was more involved with this iteration, yet failed to take your imagination to an interesting place. More of the same world building ideas but mired in “feelings” and “inner questions” and rampant dialogue. I kind of miss the first novel, where you had “celibate” knights of the Arbor prancing around and screwing everything that wasn’t nailed down.

My main issue with this particular installment resides in the author finding her voice. It is almost like a different person crafted this novel. Not a bad thing really, but I think she went in a different direction to the detriment of the world she previously built. There are WAY more pages of filler with regard to individual scenes where the characters ruminate internally about every possible angle or instance that lead up to their current position. What that does is stall the movement as it is rendered in such a way that it does not build character depth but rather creates whiney interludes.

Especially Sarra. Fug. A real first class whiner. Real snoozer of a character too. See, she is preggers by some high ranking dead dude, and still lives in utter squalor, BUT…….the Chief Select (Comminor) of the underground (Embers) and every hot guy within firing range wants her. Because she has this “hidden depth” about her, that she herself fails to see (which only makes her more alluring). So the Ember-dude gets to bang her, well because he can, and she lets him. Her excuse is that if she didn’t he would know her band of peeps were escaping to the surface. But Sarra is conflicted about Comminor because how could a heartless leader make love/rape so tender? Double fug. Again with Sarra and a few others we start to run into the NRSOW (Nora Roberts School of Writing), where human desires supersede rational thinking. Comminor is constantly internalizing his love/anger for Sarra and his “special connection” to her. Ummm, yeah. You and every other guy out there.

The fight scenes continue in their usual tradition of being absurd. Procella is the former Dux of Badassland, and takes out a bunch of guards, and the big-bad guy, Hunfrith. All in a few minutes, inside a tavern. There is this garish descriptive quality to the fight scenes that makes you feel like you’re in a Robin Hood movie. “HAHA! No one will be allowed to best me, the greatest knight ever!!! HA HA!! Why I have had more battles than you have teeth in your head…HAHA!!! I will allow no Wolfian scum to soil my good crotch…HAHA!!” Or Hunfrith and his guards talking about raping her repeatedly, and how much fun they are going to have passing her around. It is like talking to Dr. Evil.

My last issue is more with the overuse of phrases and certain words that tend to expedite the scene development rather than building scenes that are robust. I lost count of the phrase (and similar phrases) that utilized “wryly”. He smiled wryly…she grinned wryly etc. etc. Also the phrase “He moved his thumb over her cheek”, or “moved his thumb across her lips”, or what I dreaded most and lost count of was “cupped his/her cheek”. You might have been able to hear my moans of despair every time that phrase was used. At one point the author uses “cupped cheek” and “thumb brushed” in the same sentences. Triple fug. This is usually evidence of an indie author, or an author in the early stages of a writing career. It is akin to a downspout dripping water. If you focus on it, it will drive you crazy.

I really want to like this series. I think it is a great story line with an inventive world in which to create within. The characters are not rendered favorably enough to exist in this world in a believable manner. Dunno why Angry Robot books keeps publishing this particular author. I usually associate their publishing house with quality cutting edge scifi/fantasy. They might want to invest in a good editor or a few beta readers to refine their selection process.

Review: Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn

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Publisher: Amazon
Publishing Date: October 2013
ISBN: 9781477848166
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.2/5.0

Publisher Description: It’s Halloween, and life is grim for twenty-three-year-old Dimitri Petrov. It’s the one-year anniversary of his parents’ deaths, he’s stuck on page one thousand of his Rasputin zombie novel, and he makes his living writing obituaries. But things turn from bleak to terrifying when Dimitri gets a last-minute assignment to cover a séance at the reputedly haunted Aspinwall Mansion.

Review: Cover art is way weak. Who wants to look at the backside of a dude.

This was a really good novel. Glib, funny, witty with a dash of rhetorical cynicism in the face of supernatural events. While some reviewers stated that this was a horror novel I thought the hubris of Dimitri pulled it out of that genre. Mainly because the characters are fairly innocent and have this self-deprecating quality in the face of hideous events.

I really liked the character development of Lisa. She has an outward toughness balanced by an inner fragility due to her brothers violent act. There is this cautious awareness that draws you to her personality. The newspaper editors son, Nate, is truly a funny jackass. Too bad the writer kills him off. The writer did a wonderful job in presentation. Even the mundane characters have some form of development based on funny instances.

The novel doesn’t conclude in a formative manner as the author has more to say about Dimitri, what with questions about his familial ties left to discover and a demon on the loose. While this would usually pale for me, I find the possibility of a sequel something to look forward to. Get it and have some fun.

Last God Standing by Michael Boatman

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Publisher: Angry Robot
Publishing Date: February 2014
ISBN: 9780857663962
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Publisher Description: When God decides to quit and join the human race to see what all the fuss is about, all Hell breaks loose.

Sensing his abdication, the other defunct gods of Earth’s vanquished pantheons want a piece of the action He abandoned.

Review: The cover art is hideous. No really, its bad. Shame on Angry Robot.

At the resistance of the author, I am changing my review. Mainly because I violated my own rules with respect to writing 3 drafts prior to publishing. I do this mainly to carefully consider what I am writing and it’s impact on people looking to purchase and respecting the author’s time and involvement in crafting a creative piece. Another reason is that I am painfully aware that I am hyper reactive and intensely emotional and find it difficult to constrain those feelings for the sake of a cogent and fair review. I was not fair to the author for a divergent method.

So on with the new review.

Despite my shortcomings as a reviewer, I really could not put this novel down. Not for the internal questions that arise out of religious processes or the characters or the story line but it was just plane funny. I love sarcastic wit and Lando does a great job delivering. Lando’s acerbic and glib view on people and life’s processes is something I looked forward to. There is this poignancy to his thoughts that evokes an inward look at belief systems as the author does a great job in making it palatable to consider. It doesn’t offend, unless you allow your own identity to muster umbrage at anything that may oppose your personal positions.

The author has a flexible dichotomy of thought in that he identifies the internal (I AM) while acknowledging that religious processes are sometimes focused on the external without personal accountability. What may be lacking is the author furthering the idea of why “we” are the answer and not the Gods as there is vague intent presented.

The character development was really good with regards to Lando yet scant with others within the story-line. The Gods were great as they displayed an intense petty approach in all things (power grabbing, love interests etc.) I thought it was an interesting twist that the pantheon of Gods were integrated into society. Zeus was hilarious. I wish that the author could have kept him around for a few chapters. The story-line was really good, as it flowed and integrated well with the character development. The author takes some left-hand turns for awhile in Africa yet brings it back to the main story line. I think that is more a structural issue where pairing down tangents is sometimes better for the entirety of the novel.

I look forward to more from this author and perhaps more challenging discussions.

Review: The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron

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Publisher: orbit
Publishing Date: March 2014
ISBN:9780316212335
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2.0/5.0

Publisher Description: Loyalty costs money. Betrayal, on the other hand, is free.
When the Emperor is taken hostage, the Red Knight and his men find their services in high demand — and themselves surrounded by enemies. The country is in revolt, the capital city is besieged and any victory will be hard won. But the Red Knight has a plan. The question is, can he negotiate the political, magical, real and romantic battlefields at the same time — especially when he intends to be victorious on them all?

Review: I like the cover art. Quite medieval.

I don’t think I am qualified to give this an adequate review as a stand alone novel, as reviewers stated they loved the first novel in the series while this one fell flat.

This started out as a really good read. Defined characters, great scene building and a story-line you might begin to care about. Then things go awry. The story-line is so schizophrenic that it doesn’t wait for new chapters, it just changes as it pleases. Every chapter begins this new character and scene building, then goes back to prior chapters that are somehow supposed to coalesce at some point.

To say this novel was disjointed and confusing gives it too much credit. You start getting into certain characters only to have the author abandon them and never build upon them again. This would have been a first class read but the author tried to put too much into building a world of epic proportions.

Review: The Bitch by Les Edgerton

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Publisher: New Pulp
Publishing Date: January 2014
ISBN: 9780989932301
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 2.0/5.0

Publisher Description: Ex-con Jake Bishop is several years past his second stint in prison and has completely reformed. He’s married, expecting a child, and preparing to open his own hair salon. But then an old cellmate re-enters his life begging for a favor: to help him with a burglary. Forced by his code of ethics to perform the crime, Jake’s once idyllic life quickly plunges into an abyss. Jake soon realizes that there is only one way out of this purgatory . . . and it may rupture his soul beyond repair.

Review: What an awesome cover! Frikin’ water colored dude spear fishing or digging a grave…..kewl.

This novel was a split decision in that a tie is like kissing your sister (I wouldn’t know as I have 8 brothers). I just couldn’t get over the hump of endless internal dialogue that separates the story-line from the movement (action) of the novel. They just never quite inter-twine into a composite whole. The author chooses to build characters with back-story intermissions throughout the novel, rather than lead you down a path of discovery. Yeah it is harder to write and makes for complex scene development but it can draw you in like a gopher to a hole.

The premise of the novel which essentially involves Spencer (a turd) and Walker his cellie from prison, have a past crime that he committed that they hang over his head in order to get his cooperation in a burglary. Essentially blackmail. So……the question I have is what would you do? Me? Since my life is so great now with a hot chick wife and a loser little brother, I would let the dice fall, as the alternative is getting thrown back in jail for life if you get caught. You have a better chance of lawyering up or denying the charge when the victim is practically a vegetable. The evidence is zero, only hearsay.

This novel kind of barfed the characters and the subsequent development down your shirt front. There was no intrigue that helped develop the depth of the character. Just because you have vignettes of Jake as a youth swallowing coins and getting beaten with a strap does not make you empathize with him. Mainly because there is no real emotional content in the scene that evokes a visceral response from me, the reader. Your mom’s quiet tears coupled with defiant actions just doesn’t create a pull. Remove mom and her tears, and perhaps dad and set the kid in a lonely place dealing with the hurt and pain. This makes for a good opportunity to internalize emotion and develop the character. Children’s thoughts can go in various paths when processing hurtful events.

There is quite a bit of graphic violence that involves man rape and killing women etc. I think the author’s insertion of these events into the story-line was an attempt to create a hard-boiled or noir crime fiction novel. What it really does is replicate a bad memory from a host of bad instances. Again there is no pull and no sympathizing with a character who has made successively degrading life choices. I thought the ending was too simplistic and flirted with the ol’ deus ex. Why not have his wife be the mastermind behind the whole shebang or better yet have turned on him when she knew he participated in killing her mom. This story-line could have taken a myriad of turns and twists to make it interesting but decided to divest itself of any creative inclination. It’s a less than 50 % but better than 30% that you might like it.

Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

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Publisher: Tor
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9780765326997
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5.0

Publisher Description: The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.

Review: The cover art is really pretty cool. Has this hint of playfulness that is not found in the story-line.

Katherine Addison is a pen name for Sarah Monette. This was a truly engrossing novel that captured not only my imagination but my emotions as well. This was a fantastic read. From the characters to the scene development. The story line is epic and involves “Michael Sullivan class” world building.

Briefly, Maia is a half breed cast away prince living in a remote area with his cruel and sycophantic cousin. His cousin is supposed to be his teacher yet has no desire to teach him his heritage. When the royal court that includes Maia’s’ father, the Emperor and all his lineal heirs, die in a dirigible accident, Maia suddenly finds himself the Emperor. What follows is Maia’s journey from pauper prince to Emperor in the midst of tragic succession. There is this underlying tension as Maia is half goblin and half elf while most of the court is elfish. His father married a goblin princess to secure peace between the nations and gain concessions.

This is a complex novel. There is politicking, court intrigue with inter-play amongst the courtiers and familial houses. The naming conventions were a bit hard to keep track of as they were numerous and differed minutely in spelling. The novel does have a glossary of terms that is lengthy in and of itself.

I found myself always rooting for Maia, especially in exerting his newfound power over his rivals. Maia is built a little more humanistic than I would prefer, but still an interesting character. Hopefully he finds love and learns to sword fight, as he is a big puss. This novel is hopefully the first of many that involve the half goblin king.

Review: The Genesis Project by Tigris Eden

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Publisher: Kats Kreative Ideas
Publishing Date: February 2014
ISBN: 9781625173010
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 1.0/5.0

Publisher Description: Biologically engineered in a lab, Genesis Blackmore has always been different. Her father has told her it’s due to her enhancements, the Federated Council sees her as a genetic mutation; and her fellow peers see her as the shiny new toy. Gen has had better days.

Review: Cover art is not that bad. You can see this faint network of blue veins.

Gen was born and raised in a laboratory. She is an amalgam of genetic parts that make up a perfect whole. She can heal herself and has augmented senses and physicality. She is sent to the academy in order to avoid any discernment about her origins that would lead to her death. She goes from daddy’s lab specimen/daughter straight into the academy and that’s where most of the story takes place.

Right out of the gate the author plays the race card. …”Vyrkolakas had been shunned for their darker skin tone…” yada , yada. This has no relevance to the story-line whatsoever. All the dracs in the northern hemisphere (Pars) are “milky white with platinum hair”. We have the constant use of word crutches in the form of “growled” that seems to rear its head with indie authors.

I really had a hard time getting through this novel. Every other page is Gen with an erotic reaction to her male surroundings or inadvertent contact sends her into paroxysm’s of physical arousal. Her thighs are either clenching or flooding with wetness. Her breasts tingle or the heat from his skin sears her flesh. Or “her body is melting evidence of the moisture leaking between her legs”. And “the inside of her thighs slick with moisture”. Her “flooding wetness” or some derivative is described over and over and over until you just give up giving a shjt. Absurdity reaches new heights when “her thoughts lead south and rested right between her legs. Moisture pooled in her undergarment. Saturated the cloth until she could feel a slight chill.” Fug.

The story-line is rushed, and because it is rushed, becomes stilted in its presentation. The characters are poorly developed. The only thing we know about Xander is that he is a pussy hound who walks around, literally, with an erection for Gen. Gen doesn’t give a crap about all the societal interactions going on around her, but spends page upon page of internal dialogue trying to sort out her feelings that run a fleeting second to the wetness in her thighs. Everyone at this academy walks around with this myopic view of themselves, with no sense of the life that surrounds them. Its all ” She was a different spice everyone wanted to taste…a bold flavor spilling onto his tongue that drove him mad…..rotate his hips in such a way they’d both moan in pleasure…..there were few galaxies his cock hadn’t conquered…sunk his balls deep into her waiting heat.. it was time to teach her a lesson….I must have her”. Double fug.

So Gen is human and Par?? She was made to help the Par survive…what exactly? Is she sending out pheromones that signal mating readiness???. The novel could have followed a story line where Gen is a genetic construct that can utilize these innate gifts against the Par and re-creating humanity that was lost. Build interesting characters that display intelligence, veracity and cunning….not sex addled idiots. You can have that sexual tension as a tool without demeaning them in the process. Sometimes subtle inter-play is more effective than overt desire. This over the top Nora Roberts School of Writing (NRSOW) novella is an epic fail. It is basically poorly crafted porn.