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: 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: 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.

Book Review: God of Broken Things by Cameron Johnston

Publishing Date: June 2018

Publisher: Angry Robot

ISBN: 9780857668097

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.8/5

Publisher’s Description: An outcast magician must risk his body and mind to save the world from horrifying demons, in the heart-pounding epic fantasy sequel to The Traitor God.

Review: The only downer about this novel is that it ended….or it feels like Edrin, Eva and all the rest of the players have walked into the sunset.

Edrin continues to develop into a more complex (and entertaining) character with Eva and Layla providing supportive positions to Edrin’s development. Layla is still a static player while Eva begins an individual transcendence as Edrin plies her inner sanctity. There is always this hope, that the author plays upon throughout the novel, that somehow, Eva will experience physical wellness in the form of magical transformation. The transformation expected never occurs, only to be replaced by something eminently more viable. This drives the story line in a way that completes the novel so much better than expedient artifice.

I was hoping for a quest or some adventure out of Setharis and you won’t go wanting in that department. The Clanholds saga jumps right off the page starting with Edrin’s creepy Grandma to the war that rages in the valley. A very diverse and compelling array of scenarios unfolds as you ride the rampant beast of movement.

A great escape for the reader, that sadly, ends too soon.

Book Review: Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

Publishing Date: July 2018

Publisher: Angry Robot

ISBN: 9780857667793

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.6/5

Publisher’s Description: After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magician Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the sorcerers who rule the city. He failed. Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer.

Review: I am really surprised that there are not more reviews on this work. As the author was kind enough to send me a copy, I thought a considered review in return was the least I could do.

One reviewer thought that the action was favored in lieu of character development.  Following the story line, the author did a very fine job infusing the characters’ growth with the movement. Although Edrin is set in his ways (as he is a grown-ass man) he continues to surprise and morph into someone that elevates others above self.  He begins to look at the grande picture rather than opt for myopic inversion, as evidenced by his internal struggles.

As Lynas bears his conscience, so does Charra help guide his life choices. They are fairly static in representation yet help build Edrin’s character without the overbearing cost. I like the author’s intent to replace these two with Layla in subsequent novels. A blending of both by dint of birth.

“The Broken God” already beckons me on, so get this for the creativeness of the story line and the vibrant characterization.

Book Review: David Mogo: Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Publishing Date: July 2019

Publisher: Rebellion

ISBN:9781781086490

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.3/5

Publisher’s Description: The Gods have fallen to earth, and chaos reigns.Though broken and flooded, Lagos endures. David Mogo, demigod and godhunter, has one task:  capture twin gods and deliver them to the city’s most notorious wizard. No problem…right?

Review: So here’s the deal. I like movement that builds the characters that play in the story line sand box, especially in SciFi/Fantasy novels. Things like; lengthy internal dialogue that covers anything from scene descriptions to backstory tend to halt the movement. This stuttering really lends itself to non-fiction novels. I get that author’s are trying to enrich the pages with humanistic blather but you can only take so much angst ridden, soul searching hero-rhetoric. And boy howdy this has it in spades. Where you expect to jump into the action from a pre-determined point, soon becomes pages and pages of internal dialogue and ruminatory drivel that interest is quickly lost to pervasive narcolepsy.

Although the characters never develop in a way that captures their “being”, they do jump off the page from the get-go. David Mogo is interesting in magical heritage as well as his applied avocation of God Hunter. Papa Udi brings this ancient and caring demeanor that grounds the plot while adding dimension in the form of wizardry. The Gods and Godlings are fairly one dimensional as I guess all Gods are that view humanity as cockroaches.

The plot is not complex at all, and follows the hero fantasy formula where you have reluctant involvement warring with righteousness and God like potentiality. It is not hard to guess what David Mogo will become as it is inferred from the beginning.

While the writing is technically good, the compilation didn’t work for me.