Rook by JC Andrijeski

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Publisher: White Sun
Publishing Date: November 2013
ISBN:
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 1.0/5.0

Publisher Description: Like most humans Allie’s spent her life distancing herself from Seers, a race of human-like beings discovered on Earth in the early 1900s. That changes after catching her boyfriend in the arms of a hot band groupie, and Allie goes from San Francisco artist slacker to the girl wearing the GPS anklet in about sixteen seconds. That’s the least of her problems, though, compared to the shock of discovering who—and what—she really is.

Review: zzzzzzzz…whah? Oh, yeah review time. Cover art not gritty like character depicted blah blah.

Fug, this was a snoozer. Sick of authors embellishing story-lines with their own sense of ego and nary a thought to the reader that is suffering under it.

The endless dialogue is endless less less less (cool echo eh?). Even when there is high paced action, the author takes the characters into alternative space where they see shjt they shouldn’t and see shjt that might hurt them, or won’t, but could, but might, but, nooooo you didn’t go there did you?? Oh and the romance…..”His light was searching for mine etc. etc.” OVER AND OVER AND OVER. Fug.

Really confusing novel if you give a shjt after getting halfway through it, not confusing at all if you don’t.

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Cauldron of Ghosts by David Weber

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Publisher: Baen
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781476736334
Genre: SciFi
Rating: zero

Publisher Description: The Mesan Alignment: a centuries-old cabal that seeks to impose its vision of a society dominated by genetic rank onto the human race. Now the conspiracy stands exposed by spies Anton Zilwicki and Victor Cachat—one an agent of Honor Harrington’s Star Kingdom of Manticore, the other a Havenite operative. The outing of the Alignment has turned the galaxy’s political framework topsy-turvy. Old coalitions have disintegrated. New alliances have been born.
For starters, the long and hard-fought war between the Republic of Haven and the Star Empire of Manticore is not only over, but these bitter enemies have formed a new pact. Their common foe: the Mesan Alignment itself.
But more information is needed to bring the Alignment out of the shadows. Now, defying the odds and relying on genetic wizardry themselves for a disguise, Zilwicki and Cachat return to Mesa—only to discover that even they have underestimated the Alignment’s ruthlessness and savagery.
Soon they are on the run in Mesa’s underworld, not only hunted by the Alignment but threatened by the exploding conflict on the planet between Mesa’s overlords and the brutalized slaves and descendants of slaves who have suffered under their rule for so long. But if Zilwicki and Cachat succeed in rooting out the ancient conspiracy, a great evil may be finally removed from the galaxy—and on a long-oppressed planet, freedom may finally dawn.

Review: Did you get all that? Even the publishers description is confusing. The cover art….is that Han D-bag drawing a blaster? Kind of like crossing the crew from Doc Savage with the fantastic 4. Baen Books? Really?

Fug this was bad. Is it ok that I didn’t get through it? Will you respect me in the morning by making some coffee before you bolt out the door with your undies in your back pocket?

All I can say is that the dialogue was so stilted and tedious that it sounded like a script reading for a 70’s porno. Mustache guy: “Hey, I am Mr. Rockhard, here to see Mr. Brown”. Secretary chick glancing down at Rockhards crotch and chewing on pencil: “I bet you are…..Rock-Hard”. Cue music: “OOOOOM-CHIKA-MOW-MOW…”

Fug

Shanghai Sparrow by Gaie Sebold

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Publisher: Rebellion
Publishing Date: April 2014
ISBN: 9781781081853
Genre: Fantasy Steampunk
Rating: 2.6/5.0

Publisher Description: Eveline Duchen is a thief and con-artist, surviving day by day on the streets of London, where the glittering spires of progress rise on the straining backs of the poor and disenfranchised. Where the Folk, the otherworldly children of fairy tales and legends, have all but withdrawn from the smoke of the furnaces and the clamour of iron. Caught in an act of deception by the implacable Mr Holmforth, Evvie is offered a stark choice: transportation to the colonies, or an education – and utter commitment to Her Majesty’s Service – at Miss Cairngrim’s harsh school for female spies.

Review: Not a big fan of the cover art on this one. Doesn’t really evoke the image and feeling of steampunk.

This was a pretty good story-line except for some hiccups throughout the novel. I agree with another reviewer in that the author spent an inordinate amount of time casting back in time to explain Eveline’s past before her life of crime. In this case it did nothing to develop Eveline’s character. More like a boo-hoo fest of her family’s bad luck and her rotten Uncle. I like novels with movement. Cast backs should be sporadic or limited in scope, but poignant and hard hitting.

I initially liked Eveline as the wiseass gutter snipe. Then as we move along the story-line her character development becomes confused. She has no morals with regards to stealing (its ok as she is surviving) then she cries over her lost family or a poor street urchin and hates with vigor those she mistrusts. She is supposedly a very talented and smart thief yet as her life moves from the streets to the girls school (for spies) her character devolves to unwarranted disbelief at the actions of others around her. Conflicted? Not so much. Bi-polar, maybe.

On her friend Liu (who is half “Folk”) not enough is revealed about the character that gets you any nearer to liking him. By intent I am sure. One reviewer stated “Mysterious Liu is mysterious”. That sums it up nicely. He is helping to prevent the annihilation of the human species by the Folk, but we are no closer to knowing what Folk are, what they do, what interests them and why they would give enough of a shjt to waste their time annihilating humans.

Dues Ex Machina rears its gears when out of nowhere, Eveline’s dead mom and dead sister are…..ALIVE! And here we had all those wasted years of self-recrimination iterated in the telling of Eveline’s exhausting backstory.

This novel has no real descriptive elements that enable visualization of the genre. Some dirigible traveling and some machines that they doohookie with, but nothing that evokes Steampunk. The only standout in this novel is Beth, a geeky steampunker sidekick to Eveline.

This alternative world of England and China are thinly built and I still don’t know what etherics is. The Folk are nebulous other than one that’s finds Eveline and her sister interesting. The spygurl school is never developed into a useful tool to the story, although half the novel is spent there. Buy or don’t kinda thing.

The Polaris Whisper by Kenneth Gregory

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Publisher: Blackstaff Press
Publishing Date: September 2013
ISBN: 9780856409127
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.8/5.0

Publisher Description: It is a dark time. For decades Hakon the Black, the most feared Norse Lord of the ninth century, has conducted bloody and gruesome raids throughout Europe, and laid his claim upon the seas. But it is also a time of hope. In the frozen wastelands of the north, Vidar searches for the Vestibule of Light. Alone, freezing and exhausted, he pushes on through the endless winter in the belief that once his quest is complete, he may return to the life he has left behind, and to Niclaus, the son he was forced to abandon. For Niclaus has a greater destiny – one foretold by Cado, the enigmatic Small Walker – and Vidar is but one player in the boy’s life. Cado has enlisted the help of protectors from all corners of the Earth to shield Niclaus: men whose worlds are connected by only the loosest of threads. But as Niclaus becomes older, and the various worlds begin to converge, will Vidar and Cado have to make sacrifices beyond imagining to protect those they love.

Review: The cover art is very, very good. Admittedly I have a thing for wildlife art.

This was an incredibly engaging novel. The characters were beautifully crafted as was the story-line. The novel jumps between two eras in time, about 30-40 years apart. It follows Vidar and his son Niclaus in the present and Cado the dwarf with Tomas the monk in the past.

This novel is epic in scale and seeks to fill in a history of the Norse and I am guessing, 9th century England and areas of Ireland. Are the internal politics and hierarchy of the 9th century accurate? Who knows, but I find it entirely plausible. The author builds a story of adventure around a cultures internal traditions and interactions that creates a broad tapestry of life that folds you in bit by bit.

There is a hint at continuance of this story at the end. I look forward to reading some more of this author with cigar in hand.