A Time of Courage

(Of Blood and Bone #3)

by John Gwynne

Publishing Date: 2020

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Rating: 2.3/5

Review: There were far more errors (grammatical and such) in this installment that sadly, detracted from the story line flow. I usually give bad editing a pass but when you make the mistake of transposing characters (Bleda/Drem), that is not so goody.

There were a plethora of phrases that were overused and diminished the narrative to the pedantic. These phrases were descriptive and usually graphic in nature. . “Blood sheeting down foreheads”, “pulped lips/broken teeth” etc. This technique is an easy way to render the finite without expanding the story line. The story line is expedited without a deeper framework to support it. The author uses “deel” to describe clothing worn by the Horse people. A deel is “A part or portion”. So what portion or part of the clothing is the author seeking to describe? The use is constant and consistent with no regard for explanation.

The YA characters are much the same as in the previous novels, Very Stupid. The only change in the Very Stupid is a smiling Riv, as she is getting boned by Bleda every time the wind blows. Anthropomorphism is at an all time high where Battle bears are now presumed sentient and wolven hounds show trusting human-like behaviors. Just add in a questing whine and there you go.

This series was a bit of a letdown. What started as a visceral and aching scratch for survival turned into a playground for love addled stupidity. It just grinds me that good authors with big talent sell their souls to publishers that demand twisting a specific genre into YA (I presume). While I am all for young people doing their thing, they lack the experience to make long-range cogent decisions, especially where warfare strategy is concerned. There has to be a level of believability to draw you into the narrative and this rose and fell beneath a susurration of hard edged reality and the whimsical.

I liked that the the protagonists were either mindlessly evil or mostly evil. You get glimpses of the Very Stupid YA contingent in the Mostly Evil camp with hints of emotion beyond revenge. Jin is a fine example of the Very Stupid driven by revenge and blind rage yet tempered by continued experience. The Kinda Good camp had well grounded leadership yet defer to a whiney, petulant, vengeful 19 YO Riv. There was not enough built into Riv’s character to allow for a Joan of Arc persona.

I am on the fence with this author. He has the capacity to construct an amazing world with a depth of characterization not seen in awhile. What we have now is a rushed story line that failed to build characters even with the intense movement. While most readers are drawn to the constant “CRASH, BOOM, BANG!” Batman style of scene development, greater impact can be found when the build takes longer to culminate thereby enhancing the cast to a greater depth.

A Time of Blood

(Of Blood and Bone #2)

by John Gwynne

Publishing Date: 2019

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.2/5

Review: First, what I did not like as it is easier to be a shjtpicker.

Most scenes were a setup for an inevitable and drawn out clash between Kinda Good and Mostly Evil. The constant state of the Kinda Good being shackled to overwhelming odds in every instance was not believable. Walking lockstep with a pale story line were the YA leaders central to the theme. Riv was written, perhaps intentionally, to be an idiot while reaching lofty heights where everyone listens to her. Again, not so believable. When not suckling Bleda’s face she is having a tantrum. This theme of the Very Stupid carrying the torch in hopeful triumph wears thinner than Oprah’s underwear.

What seems like an incredible oversight, is. Fritha, one of the Very Stupid and Mostly Evil, in the first novel is found skirting around the story line as a trained white wing warrior. Then off she goes and suddenly appears as the head Mostly Evil High Priestess mucky muck whom chants unintelligible flotsam at various evil thingies while chopping them up to create greater Mostly Evil beings. The only backstory you get is that once she left Drassil she had a baby and the Ben-elim killed it. So in roughly 2 years she learned black witchcraft that is able to forge magical weapons and create a Mostly Evil army of thousands. Hmmm. No. I refuse to accept this massive hole in the story line.

Drem still holds his own as an accepted continuation as he is built with reserve. Byrne should have been central to the theme yet Kol fills that gap with treachery, guile, pettiness and manipulative behavior. Yah, you can see it coming. He gets what he gives. Again, not believable. Keld is whacked because you have to have righteous fervor in the form of revenge to create movement, right? No. What makes a disappointed reader is killing off a loved and well built character used as a tool to drive the story line where intricacy was called for. Keld was perfect for a quest running parallel to garner or gain something for Kinda Good. Makes sense since Mostly Evil has all the easy to come by cool evilly-toys.

What I did like were a few of the characters including the Crows and Battle bears. The giants are always fun because they never complicate a scene with hormones. The creatures are inventive and the fights scenes, well constructed.

This is nowhere as good as A Time of Dread. Think of it as more of a consolidation novel before the finale’.

A Time of Dread

(Of Blood and Bone #1)

by John Gwynne

Publishing Date: 2018

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Rating: 4.2/5

Review: This was a fantastic read. I really enjoyed the different POV’s as each character were interesting in their approach.

Drem the son of a warrior turned trapper is without guile having lived in the mountains for so long. As his travails increase so does his development. An artful progression that leaves you wanting more.

The supporting cast is good yet some of the main characters were too “YA”, meaning that their emotions/actions are splayed for all to see (*cough* Riv..). I get that emotion drives many novels, yet the overuse in characterization can minimize the believability and subsequently leaves you not caring too much about them.

Keld and Cullen should of had their own POV’s but we were stuck with the YA crew, yearning to caress, kiss and marvel at unruly hair that needs tucking. Fug. And that is why this novel did not make it to 5 stars.

Battle Ground (The Dresden Files #17) by Jim Butcher


Publishing Date: 2020

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Rating: 3.4/5

Review: This is the battle royale’ between the opposing forces in the magical realms. Harry is central to the theme and delivers in spades. So why not a higher review score, you ask? Not much new under the sun in what should be a progressive series. The deaths of characters are not a surprise and the story line unfolds in predictable fashion.  I get what the author is trying to accomplish with those deaths yet the end result is contrivance.

I will still buy the next and the next and the next cause I’m a sucker fish.

Peace Talks (The Dresden Files #16) by Jim Butcher

Publishing Date: 2020

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Rating: 2.6/5

Harry is back, with a hat. Again.

Ah backstory, where is thy sting? Once again we go wading through all the story lines that came before to catch up latent readers to the show (insert me screaming). Short of calling up the author and telling him to go f**k himself for implementing the pedantic extreme, I must flippy do dah until I see the quotations that signal dialogue. Feels like a rip-off when you pay for pages that you have read in 16 prior novels.

Negative points for calling an AR and assault rifle (Armalite Rifle Co.) and predicating the physical size of a gun with power (Desert Eagle) as caliber matters.

Mostly a filler novel that sets up the next.

Skin Game (The Dresden Files #15) by Jim Butcher

Publishing Date: 2014

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Rating: 3.2/5

Review: Finally a decent cover with the hat that doesn’t exist.

Why is the better than most that have come before? It’s not. About the same with some interesting new characters that fail to be. No depth makes Jack a dull boy.

This excels in the “weird creature/being” department what with a menacing bigfoot and the Fomor’s creations. As usual the story line zips along so you never reside in dullsville.

Cold Days (The Dresden Files #14) by Jim Butcher

Publishing Date: 2012

Genre: Dark Fantasy

Rating: 3.0/5

Review: Dresden is back…sort of. All the women are still hot, objectified and willing. Alfred Demonreach might have been expanded upon if even in subjective format. I liked the Outsiders and Mab’s ever critical eye. Everything within is easy to figure you just have to turn a blind eye for a fun ride.