Book Review: Crowfall by Ed McDonald

Publishing Date: July 2019

Publisher: Berkely

ISBN:9780399587856

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.7/5

Publisher’s Description: A sorcerous cataclysm has hit the Range, the final defensive line between the republic and the immortal Deep Kings. Tormenting red rains sweep the land, new monstrosities feed on fear in the darkness, and the power of the Nameless, the gods who protect the republic, lies broken. The Blackwing captains who serve them are being picked off one by one, and even immortals have learned what it means to die. Meanwhile, the Deep Kings have only grown stronger, and they are poised to deliver a blow that will finally end the war. Ryhalt Galharrow stands apart from it all.

Review: Wow, what awesome cover art.

The world building is what sets this novel apart from others in the genre. It is built around the characters in order to influence the direction of the story line. Very clever writing, as it also develops the characters in various ways as to be mesmerizing at times. This novel does not lack in creativity or poignancy. The distressed often have personal insights that are not only deeply appropriate for the scene but might churn the thoughts of the reader to consternation, bereft of the classic comfortable read of the detached.

The plot device(s) were consistent with the theme of the novel where Ryhalt is the primal focus and pivotal player in everything that occurs. For example, as Ryhalt is infused with power from the Misery the dire situations should pose no threat. Yet, somehow he is physically limited or constrained in some way that enables the scene to move and develop to an emotional state.  The opposite of the former is used often as well, where he is diminished beyond comprehension but somehow becomes super human as the situation demands to further the development towards the grande finale.  These instances drive much of the scene and story lines throughout the novel.

One reviewer thought the ending was “too pat”, whatever the fuk that means. I thought it was in direct opposition to what came before and diminished Ryhalt’s character to a marked degree. But that is creative license and in no way takes away from the novel entire. Let’s just say that my preference was not fulfilled.

A very good read that leaves room for more.

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Book Review: Sio by C.A. Blocke

 

Publishing Date: April 2019

Publisher: Ninestar

ISBN: 9781950412488

Genre: SciFi

Rating: DNF

Publisher’s Description: James Marks and his crew of scav trash operate their ship, SIO, on a mission to obtain a mysterious piece of new tech. It changes everything and leaves him stranded somewhere he doesn’t recognize with a cute, if not a bit annoying, tech scientist. James doesn’t know, when he first meets Michael, but his life is about to change in a very surprising way.

Review: Not too many reviews out there to gauge whether or not my opinion is consistent with what others are finding. As time time goes on, I am guessing this will reside in average-land. Here’s why.

Pretty dam good writing marred by inexplicable insertions of filler romance crap. It is not that romance can sometimes build characters and enhance the story line, but driven to excess can almost always confuse the story line while diminishing the characters. Love born in a few days is what pushes this novel to stall interest while relieving the reader of a cogent and logical plot.

The supporting cast is never adequately developed as the there is no room to do so. What you get is hastily built personas that are over-the-top in order to compensate for their lack of depth. James Marks lacks depth as a main character, as he is driven by greed and libido, which leaves no room for giving two shits about him. Michael is a mewling, whimpering, addled douche bag that just happens to be a genius when the crew needs it the most. These plot devices a scattered throughout the novel where no effort is expended to enhance the novel with intricate and compelling scenes.

If I were given two choices: 1) Read this to completion or, 2) blow myself out the nearest airlock, I would be pressed in choosing.

Book Review: Emporer of Mu by Jason Beveridge

 

Publishing Date: June 2017

Publisher: Booksgosocial

ISBN: 9780648508205

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.4/5

Publisher’s Description: Doomed to die at the hand of a hidden foe, the Emperor prepares to meet his fate. On the eve of war, Emperor Constantine discovers a hidden foe; one that has manipulated from behind the scenes for centuries. In secrecy, the emperor dispatches a letter to the Sorceress of the Powers, but the news arrives too late. Constantine is murdered, and Mu is thrown into turmoil as the rulers of the six realms decide who is to become the next emperor.

Review: This was a looooong novel. Not long in a bad way, where the characters are thinly painted and the story line contrived, but where the world building is so expansive that it boggles.

As a preface I would normally lightly outline the main characters and the plot and then go to town on it. With Mu it is impossible to grasp any one thing. There are multiple story line threads, weaved by characters that stand alone in their own right while merging with the principle- Empire ending threat. Every story is lent it’s fair share of depth in order to build something cogent, especially where the characters are concerned. There is constant movement that builds visualization to a marked degree.

The not-so-good aspects of this novel were some of the characters and the plethora of Kings, Dukes, Princes, Princesses, Chancellors, Mages, Demons, Elves, Dwarves and Dragons all exhibiting enormous amounts of high brow rhetoric (buffoonery).  I mean you really need 7 realms with their own rulers to stir the confusion pot? Just keeping the names and stories of the three Guild Masters was hard enough.

What really sucked parts of this novel down the shjtter was Delseer. A guild/mage/farseer/hottie that can do no wrong. She does all the right things while fighting demon thingies while loving her man hunky guy. Everyone defers to her in matters of importance with no basis in fact to support that trust.  And wow, wouldn’t you know, she can talk to dragons. She really should have been consumed by a ravenous giant condor at the get-go so save us from her righteous mewlings and smug delivery.

All told I had a good time with this. A very ambitious attempt at creating expansive fantasy that to me, was entirely successful. (Except Delseer……bad accident next novel. Hint, hint.)

Book Review: Like Lions by Brian Panowich

 

Publishing Date: April 2019

Publisher: St. Martins

ISBN: 9781250206947

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 2.4/5

Publisher’s Description: Clayton Burroughs is a small-town Georgia sheriff, a new father, and, improbably, the heir apparent of Bull Mountain’s most notorious criminal family. As he tries to juggle fatherhood, his job and his recovery from being shot in the confrontation that killed his two criminally-inclined brothers last year, he’s doing all he can just to survive. Yet after years of carefully toeing the line between his life in law enforcement and his family, he finally has to make a choice.

Review: This was a conflicted read for me. As the novel came to an end, there were no exclamations of wonder as to the profound impact the story line had on my being. More like air escaping a slowly flattening tire. Here’s why.

Sheriff Dingus…..er, Clayton roams around in a world of constant inner negativity. This condition is bludgeoned into the reader page after page between trysts of drugs and alcohol abuse. The trope of “Down and out lawman solving a problem bigger than himself” is often used by writers to manufacture an easy story line in hopes of a movie deal.  Although Clayton is written very well, there is nothing really different about him. He is basically a negative asshole for most of the novel, and this is somehow supposed to make us sympathetic to his plight. His wife on the other hand, is an interesting piece of work and should have been expanded upon to widen her more visceral side.

The bad guys are typically Deliverance style bad in both demeanor and countenance with the usual acts of casual killing littered throughout the novel. The instances are not real believable and tend to be artificially expanded to include any Film Producers that are lurking in wait. All the women are hillbilly hot and the men, repugnant or ruggedly handsome.  The idea that in the modern age, one family controls everyone and everything through fear, is Hollywood genuflecting, at it’s best.

To me fiction is best served skittering along the fringes of reality and this did not take me anywhere near it.

 

Book Review: Astro-Nuts by Logan J. Hunder

 

Publishing Date: April 2019

Publisher: Skyhorse

ISBN: 9781597809221

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.8/5

Publisher’s Description: The year is: The Future. Mars and Earth are like that divorced couple who don’t exactly like each other but have at least stopped fighting in public. Floating somewhere in between them, amid all the garbage and Gene Roddenberry’s ashes, a transport vessel called the SS Jefferson is homeward bound. Its crew might have even made it on time for once, too…

Review: As the sub-title suggests, “SciFi with zero gravitas”, this is a space farce along the lines of Hitchhiker’s Guide. The first half of this novel could have been a real funny space opera with added seriousness to draw you into the characters. What eventually becomes a part of the embedded story line is flimsy personas, glib rhetoric and anecdotal situations.

The author is clearly a student of pop culture and adds a heaping dose to Astro-Nuts, even though it is set far in the future. He does a great job of marrying what is current into a futuristic assemblage of wry wit and humor.

I am slightly ashamed to admit that I really enjoyed reading this novel. Note to author: Glock’s don’t have hammers that “cock” and triggers that go “click, click, click”, when empty.

Book Review: Hearthfire by Emmie Mears

Publishing Date: July 2018

Publisher: BHC

ISBN: 9781947727519

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.4/5

Publisher’s Description: Carin has never known hunger. Born into the Hearthland, a lush world of fertile fields and abundant resources, her biggest worry is whether she and her three friends will find their true names on their Journeying. But when one of them is murdered on the morning of their departure, Carin’s peaceful world is stained with blood. Forced to confront the truth, Carin must decide her own fate. Remain silent and allow the murder of the earth itself—or risk her own life in exile and break the spell.

Review: Well , this was quite the world spanning saga. Multiple quests, following a multitude of characters of the YA bent. Inter-leaved within is this broad acceptance possible love interests in the form of flirting that is expected of most authors covering their base(s). The author does a good job of minimizing the interactions so that it doesn’t feel forced, but it is so noted for the time spent on building the scenes. The characters are built wonderfully and continue to change with the added burden of time spent in in-hospitable surroundings. The creatures uncovered are surprising in the creative way they are built. The bats are certainly alien in presentation while retaining a kindness that exceeds that of their charges.

What I really liked about this novel was the author’s voice. It rings loud and true throughout the novel as something that is tangibly different than other’s in the genre. She takes character development in a different direction than expected. The outcomes to interactions with strangers are as unexpected as the exchanges between known comrades. This gives the world and the cultures residing within, their own unique flavor while retaining an understood medium of exchange. I don’t know if this was the author’s intent, but whether intended or not, it worked beautifully.

This novel is at once visceral and compelling. The quests are rife with confrontations and grisly exchanges. The Magic is subtle and hard to reach thereby rendering it a rare and valuable commodity. The only downer, and it is a big one, was the use of this weird pro-noun/noun gender-less naming convention that did more to distract than enhance the story line. It is never adequately explained and is used in concert with normal naming conventions. The author needed to stick to one or the other, or at the minimum, abandon it’s use when the Nameless go overland. It really buggered up the whole novel.

From great heights this novel fell but was still supported on the strength of the characters.

 

Book Review: The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup

Publishing Date: November 2019

Publisher: North Star Editions

ISBN: 9781631633775

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.3/5

Publisher’s Description: Tessa has heard her grandfather’s stories about the fabled barbegazi since she was little. Now, after his death, she’s determined to see the gnome-like creatures for herself and prove her grandfather wasn’t just a confused old man.

Review: Initially, I was surprised at how good this novel was. Despite the YA intent, this author puts everything together in seamless fashion. Tessa’s emotive internalization’s drive the novel in directions that are unexpected in outcome. Scenes that you expect to play out in a certain way, end up delightfully itinerant.

About midway through, the story line started to languish under Tessa’s constant inner dithering. So much so, that I started flipping pages to find some action in the form of movement. Tessa is an uncomplicated kid and spending an inordinate amount of time in her head makes for a pretty boring time. I am not sure that middle grade children (intended audience) would think Tessa’s mental processes are sophisticated enough.

I really liked the interactions between Gawion and Brownie while Bahne brings up the rear in “Snidley Whiplash” fashion.  A solid read for the YA crowd that teeters on greatness.