Book Review: A Hero Born by Jin Yong

Publishing Date: September 2019

Publisher: St. Martins Press

ISBN: 9781250220608

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5

Publisher’s Description: After his father, a Song patriot, was murdered, Guo Jing and his mother fled to the plains and joined Ghengis Khan and his people. Loyal, humble and driven, he learned all he could from the warlord and his army in hopes of one day joining them in their cause. But what Guo Jing doesn’t know is that he’s destined to battle an opponent that will challenge him in every way imaginable and with a connection to his past that no one envisioned.

With the help and guidance of his shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing returns to China to face his foe and carry out his destiny. But in a land divided by treachery and war, betrayal and ambition, he’ll have to put his courage and knowledge to the test to survive.

Review: Don’t be dismayed by the prologue of this novel, what with the characters defined in exhaustive fashion. Not to worry, you will be able to keep up as the novel progresses even with the impaired translation.

This was a really good novel, and I can understand why over a ka-zillion copies have been sold world wide. In short, it is an epic fantasy grounded in historical fact. The martial arts, if put to the screen, would arouse such visuals as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and the awkward scenes with bad acting reminiscent of “The Man with the Iron Fists”. The honor code is always in evidence and is either transcendent (innate) or ignored, which creates the drama and social interplay throughout much of the novel.

I am sure a lot was lost in the translation but the message is clear enough to be entertained. Get it!

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Book Review: The Legend of Diablo by V.S. McGrath

 

Publishing Date: September 2019

Publisher: Brain Mill Press

ISBN:  9781948559362

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.7/5

Publisher’s Description: Hell’s not so scary when you’ve been there twice already…It’s been three years since she lost her sister, Abby, to the Division, and Hettie Alabama has gone rogue. Roaming the West with an outlaw posse, robbing banks and stealing magic, she’s broken every rule she once believed in. Nothing matters anymore but finding Abby. Meanwhile, the world is on fire. Hungry for power, the Division leaches magic from the vulnerable, with dire consequences that set Hettie’s pursuit of her sister on a collision course with dangerous monsters and even more dangerous men. It’s up to Hettie and her cursed revolver, Diablo, to find a way to save the world—or end it.

Review: Yowsa, that cover art………….

Vicki So, an asian writing western fantasy. Whoda thunk it? And good fantasy too. She even got her shjt together on the firearms end of things this go around. I notice she did not thank me for pointing out all the gun fails in her prior work i.e. no check was sent.  She does keep it simpler in terms of the “bang-bang!” aspects of this novel to reduce unintended mistakes.

Hettie is back, more ornery and older than ever with a musky man-hunk trailing after her grim visage. I like that she can kick him to the curb in favor of higher interests which releases the story line a bit from the usual romantic tropes. But don’t hold your breath that romance is a fleeting thing in this novel.

The supporting characters, as usual, are built better than Anne Margret. The only down side was that the story line tended to wander a bit due to the world building growing a bit out of control. This “ballooning” of worlds was not expected and did not fit the theme of the series. Still, high stars for a work built from a romance writers perspective.

 

Book Review: The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man by D. Hutchinson

 

Publishing Date: September 2019

Publisher: Solaris

ISBN: 9781781085844

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.1/5

Publisher’s Description: When journalist Alex Dolan is hired by multibillionaire Stanislaw Clayton to write a book about the Sioux Crossing Supercollider, the world’s first privately funded high-energy physics facility, this is a dream job. Then something goes wrong at the site. Very wrong. After the accident, Dolan finds himself changed, and the only one who can stop the disaster from destroying us all.

Review: What draws you into this novel is Dolan’s- sometimes rhetorical- but often acerbic perspective on his current circumstances and interactions. This drives the novel, along with the eccentric writer and his farting dog.

I can’t say why (spoilers and all that) but the story line descends into a disappointing melange of time scripted events that leaves the once bold characters behind. What could have been a somewhat whimsical and endearing story that brings a bit of fullness to the characters (i.e. Still Life with Woodpecker), ends rather abruptly and without regard.  So a star for each character and a bit for the dog.

Fu book.

Book Review: The True Bastards by Jonathan French

Publishing Date: October 2019

Publisher: Crown

ISBN: 9780525572473

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.3/5

Publisher’s Description: Fetching was once the only female rider in the Lot Lands. Now she is the leader of her own hoof, a band of loyal half orcs sworn to her command. But in the year since she took power, the True Bastards have struggled to survive. Tested to the breaking point by the burdens of leadership, Fetching battles desperately to stave off famine, desertion, and the scorn of the other half-orc chieftains, even as orcs and humans alike threaten the Lots’ very existence. Then an old enemy finds a way to strike at her from beyond the grave–and suddenly only one, faint hope for salvation remains.

Review: The story limps in with the rape-spawn of orcs living in squalor with barely enough resources to live.  Throw in a lot (A LOT) of crude language and interactions and you have the basis of half-Orc existence. Or is it?

From the first page, this novel never slows down and characters are built swiftly and efficiently. Fetching (Lot Chief) is immediately imbued with character that runs up and down the personality scale. The world building is expansive and embraces a variety of beings and their unique cultures. The supporting characters are built very well to the point that they are missed when removed. The only issues I had were the hasty story line inclusions of Fetching’s birth and the constant deus ex scenarios in every impossible circumstance.

A very long novel that captures the imagination while relegating the minor inconsistencies to the background.

 

Book Review: Shaker by C.C. Prestel

 

Publishing Date:  January 2019

Publisher: Books Go Social

ISBN: 9781733666305

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 2.5/5

Publisher’s Description: Michael Taylor is an ordinary man with an ordinary life. One day, he wakes up to find himself a prisoner on a mysterious ship with more than forty strangers, and none of them have any recollection of how they got there. Those who survive the voyage soon learn that their lives will be forever changed. Taylor struggles to endure against lethal enemies and his own internal conflicts in a distant, alien world that has been ravaged by decades of warfare. This story chronicles the odyssey that transforms an unassuming English teacher into the legendary warrior known as SHAKER.

Review: The beginning is completely compelling due to the movement that is wrapped around an abduction and tucked inside an alien intervention. What quickly becomes apparent is that the first person narrative is never going to go away like a bad case of monkey butt.

I had a hard time swallowing this story line as the plot is fairly weak in construction. Why would technically advanced aliens go, presumably, across the galaxy to gather other aliens to fight against each other in a genocidal war on their home planet? Well I am glad you asked because it seems that they ran out of their own kind and decided alien slaves in another part of the galaxy (universe?) would be better at fighting their planetary bid for complete control. Really not buying the whole idea, especially a species that may have FTL travel wasting their time and resources on stupid shjt.

So what else is amiss in all this war like splendor? The home planet as built by the writer is not supportable. You really can’t have a moon orbiting a gas giant that has a breathable atmosphere, oceans and a complex ecosystem without an in depth explanation as to HOW. One of the big issues not discussed or developed is the issue of tidal locking. This would have been a real believable novel if the author had embraced a plausible world built on tidal locking with regard to gas giant satellites and the life they may harbor. Additionally a tidally locked satellite or moon in this case would have no day/night cycle.

I thought the writing was pretty good but the story line languished in trenchant narrative as did life as an alien conscripted slave warrior. Michael comes off as a know-it-all douche bag and suddenly becomes this legend known as “Shaker”. Riiiight. I really thought the Shaker was going to be someone that overcomes his oppressors and unites an alien habitable moon. Nope. This just spent too much time in the daily life of one abductee never embracing the alien-ess that was apparent.

Towards the end of the novel I was waiting to give a shjt what happened to any character and found that Malcom and Swag were the only ones worth the emotion. I think the narrative put a great deal of distance between the reader and the main character that could never be bridged with any tribulation.

Book Review: The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Date:  September 2019

Publisher: Ace

ISBN: 9780451492784

Genre: SciFi

Rating: 3.6/5

Publisher’s Description: Eighteen-year-old Liobhan is a powerful singer and an expert whistle player. Her brother has a voice to melt the hardest heart, and is a rare talent on the harp. But Liobhan’s burning ambition is to join the elite warrior band on Swan Island. She and her brother train there to compete for places, and find themselves joining a mission while still candidates. Their unusual blend of skills makes them ideal for this particular job, which requires going undercover as traveling minstrels. For Swan Island trains both warriors and spies.

Besides the ghastly cover art, this was a novel rich in movement and varied in approach. Liobahn as a believable character, is not. I know, the author wants a strong female lead that carries all the tropes in one package…. “Red hair that is a match to her fiery heart and determined nature….blah, blah, blah. tougher than all the dudes except one that is obviously going to be her boner. Oh but she hates him, right? All the boys are interested in her, she loves little children, is a warrior, a healer (oxymoron?) an expert thatcher, cattleman (person?), farmer, spy and musician.” Whats not to love?
Brocc really carries the novel and would have been just fine on his own without dummay, er Liobahn flouncing around in all her perfection. Dau is intentionally myopic with regards to life and this gives him all the breadth to grow into a solid character. The trek through the countryside is too short and truncates the movement that would have built Dau to a greater degree. The good news is that Dau is built from the ground up while embracing constant movement.
This novel and the style of writing will grow on you. I think I re-wrote this review a few times as I was developing it throughout the read. It went from disappointment through to “meh” and finished at “wow”.
I want more of this world without Liobahn as she is a patterned character with all the commonalities. Make her a short, scarred up, feisty lesbian with a penchant for mushrooms and perhaps I will tune back in.

Book Review: Cinders On The Wind by Louis Emery

Publishing Date: May 2019

Publisher: Unfurled Scrolls

ISBN:9781070243566

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.5/5

Publisher’s Description: A strong-willed young woman prophesizes the future, triggers fiery telekinetic abilities, and discovers she holds immense power. A Kingsguard with past demons must protect this young Seer on a perilous journey, difficult for him to accept, but soon he risks everything for this woman who resembles the sister he lost. The Royal Asker for King Greenvale uses her sorcery investigating the murders of island lords. Can she find the perpetrator before she or the king is the next victim? A Cylarnti warrior leads soldiers on a volcanic island in the midst of rebellion. A conspiracy is taking place and the clock is ticking for him to unmask it. Who these four trust and who they fear are as unknown as the outcome of war. They must fight to vanquish the enemy in the shadows and on the wind.

Review: There were quite a few story lines that were carried by various characters, showcasing their unique perspectives in a world filled with medieval war. Throw in a speshul seer, a couple of dragons, a handful of wizards and some giant bears and the stage is set for a fantasy ride that is grounded in the arcane.

To say there was war is understating the approach. The kingdom of Greenvale is beset by war on multiple fronts and within the rebellious in-holdings lies another kingdom seeking to destabilize the regime, prior to invasion. There are savages in the woods that would sooner kill you than make you a slave with scrofulous indigents to ply their sickly mores upon your wasted frame. Hey, that was pretty good.

The only problem(s) I had with this novel was the use of descriptors that did not fit the period.  For instance, Malcom gazes up at the night sky, describing or rather internalizing what he sees in emotive vein. As he looks upon the stars he reflects…“Others, distant galaxies emanating from afar.” Now how does a knight that lives in a world that parallels our development in and around the 1100’s know anything about galaxies? The misplacement of verbiage, mainly descriptors used by the characters is scattered about the novel. “Evolution, Testosterone, Psychic, Graffiti and Anthropomorphic:” round out the list of “Not to use”.

I think there is more to come and would like to see where this all goes.