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Category Archives: Books

“Retribution Falls” – C. Wooding

This is a review of “Retribution Falls“, the first book in Chris Wooding’s series about the Tales of the Ketty Jay.

Darian Frey is the roguish captain of the Ketty Jay, and leader of a small and highly dysfunctional group of layabouts. They are small-time smugglers and pirates, making a nuisance of themselves while avoiding the Coalition Navy frigates. When a hot tip on a cargo freighter seems too good to be true, Frey should have known something was dreadfully wrong. The freighter explodes, Frey is suddenly public enemy number one with both the navy and bounty hunters after his head. But Frey knows something they don’t: the freighter was rigged to explode, and Frey isn’t about to take this lying down.

The world is excellently built. It is interesting and fascinating to read about, and the technology is grounded and explained enough to make sense to the reader. It is nice to know how things work, and it is realistic how the desire for aerium would have started more than one war. Although it is clear that airships are quicker, it is still unclear to me why no other mode of transport was really mentioned – nor was it explained why these potential modes of transport would or wouldn’t work.

The action is rapid and imaginative, and the book itself is a quick read. The chapters pass by quickly as the ships fly through the skies in dogfights, or enchanted swords help their owners in swordfights.

As a character, Frey was easy to both like and dislike. It was refreshing to meet a character who doubts themselves, doubts their plans working, and then being quite surprised when they do end up working. Or when they end up actually shooting someone, the confusion as to why that person didn’t simply pull back from the gun like they were supposed to. But he is also a coward and a shameless womaniser, and he is terrified of being tied down. All of it makes him human.

Trinica Dracken was a truly fascinating female character. She is smart, strong, vicious, powerful, and incredibly dangerous – and not only because of the large amount of men loyal to her. The relationship between Trinica and Frey that was revealed almost at the end of the book, was excellent. It was good to read a romance story that went wrong and where both parties agree that they are both at fault. It is far more realistic than most romance that shows up in fiction, and though it was the main reason for the antagonism between Trinica and Frey, it wasn’t allowed to overwhelm the plot.

I do have some complaints about this book.

The story was very formulaic. There were little to no surprises along the way. A happens and then B and then C. Not once did Frey and his crew actually have real trouble with what they were trying to do. There were no real setbacks. Everything goes smoothly for them even when they are afraid that it won’t. There is action and danger, but the characters never feel like they are, in fact, in danger. Or running around trying to avoid the enemy.

Pinn, Malvery, Silo and Harkins were quite flat. An omniscient author explained more or less everything about Pinn and Harkins whenever they had screen time, and Malvery wasn’t that interesting to begin with. And though Silo’s story was good, it was barely a footnote and he barely showed up as a footnote in some scenes. Crake’s story, though tragic, came far too late – and the same with Jez. All in all it was quite difficult to actually care about the crew, even Frey despite him being one of the more developed ones.

With the way the story was written and the characters, it was difficult to force myself to finish reading, and I ended up skimming for the past 130 pages. I just didn’t care about the crew or the plot. Either one got far too much information about someone which made one wonder why one should care for him or her, or one got far too little information far too late and one had simply stopped caring.

Considering all the action and the world it was set in, this would have made a good movie with a delightful Pirates of the Caribbean feel to it. As a book it simply falls short.

I will not be continuing with the series.

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Posted by on June 28, 2019 in Books, Fantasy

 

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“Vampire Hunter D: Raiser of Gales” – H. Kikuchi

This is a review of “Raiser of Gales” the second book in the Vampire Hunter D series by Hideyuki Kikuchi.

The review of the first book can be found here.

The village of Tepes lies in the shadow of a Nobility castle, but the Nobility is long gone. Or so it appears until four children disappear, only for three to return with no memory of what happened. Ten years later vampires who can walk in daylight have appeared, and are terrorising the villagers. Only the vampire hunter known as D can solve the mystery… but the answer may be more horrible than anyone can imagine.

Learning more about this weird wild west sci-fi world was fascinating. The plot was good, and though it was a bit obvious what had to have happened to the one child that never returned, it was less clear what had happened to the three that did. Not to mention that their final fate – though a bit disappointing after the build-up – was a complete surprise. There was also a tiny epilogue with a very nice touch about one of the minor characters, Marco.

It was excellent to find it out more about D and his ancestry, and also for hints as to why he does what he does. Only hints were revealed in the story, leaving a lot of mystery surrounding D, and that is an excellent reason to continue reading the other books. The author is very good at scattering hints and information about his main character.

The cruelty of the Nobility gains a deeper level other than just keeping humans as food or slaves. The sheer callousness of the experiments performed on countless children and grown humans, and then the failsafe that activated ten years after the experiment was over and it was obvious that it had failed, was chilling. It makes the Nobility more horrifying, and it’s more understandable why humans are so terrified of them beyond even the possibility of being turned into a vampire.

The writing is better all over, and there are far fewer mistakes in this story. It could be because the author has learned in the two years between the first (1983) and second book (1985). Or it could be because the translator is getting better – or it could be (and most likely is) both of those at the same time.

There are no more info-dump paragraphs of world history like in the first book. Now everything is vital to the story, and the paragraphs of information are shorter and more concise. However, Kikuchi hasn’t suddenly become perfect at his craft, and there are still some bad things about this book.

It was not fun to learn that Lina wasn’t being smart on her own merits, but made smart by whatever it was that the Nobility did to her years before. She was a strong female character, but this revelation kind of ruined her entire character. The same with her sudden change into someone willing too have sex with the other three people who had been kidnapped – although that could have been due to the Nobility’s tampering.

There is a sudden change in the personality of one of the characters. The Mayor suddenly being all obsessive about Lina, and forcing himself on her. When did that start? There were no hints of it up until it happened, and that was a bit too much. The author also has a tendency to make most of his male characters rough and very eager for sex. Yes, they live in a difficult world and the Nobility has managed to eradicate all possible disease brought on by inbreeding or STDs, but not everyone who is shown needs to be a sex obsessed and disgusting bad guy.

In general the fact that most characters who are turned into vampires suddenly become very promiscuous is a bit weird. The change is very abrupt and it happens right after the bite/the character being turned into a vampire. No grace period whatsoever. Very few humans who get changed aren’t suddenly focused on sex, and neither are (most) born Nobility and D himself. At least both men and women go a bit crazy when they get turned, so it’s an equal opportunity thing.

Despite this, the story was very good and fascinating, and I am eager to begin the next book in the series.

I recommend this book!

 
 

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“Sea of Ghosts” – A. Campbell

This is a review of “Sea of Ghosts” which is the first book in Alan Campbell’s Gravedigger Chronicles.

When the last of the Gravediggers – an elite force within the army – are disbanded and hunted down, Colonel Thomas Granger takes refuge in the unlikeliest of places: he becomes a jailer in the flooding prison-city Ethugra. Ianthe is a young girl with an extraordinary psychic talent in a world where the psychic Haurstaf sisterhood is the only thing between humanity and the Unmer – powerful sorcerers and dragon-mounted warriors who once enslaved humanity. As factions race to get their hands on Ianthe and Granger struggles to protect her, there is another enemy rising who, if not stopped, will drown the world and all of life with it…

The world in this book was beyond fascinating. It gripped tight and refused to let go. Technology and ships and clothing point to the setting being akin to 1900 – give or take a few years. Seas that are literally poisonous and acidic eroding away at what land there is, form a backdrop of a constant, terrifying threat. In a world where even a drop of seawater burns and turns your skin to stone, and where water has to be purified before it can be drank or used in any way, humans have to struggle to build their homes ever higher and boil all sealife at least three times before eating it. The deadships and the Drowned are a fascinating mystery, and the race of the elf-like Unmer and their powers only add to the fascination. There ought to have been more of them, and of Conquillas considering he is the only Unmer still running free.

Thomas Granger was utterly ruthless and a delight to read about when he was allowed to be the soldier that he clearly is. Stealing the emperor’s ship, sinking two Haurstaf vessels, outwitting enemies, he is clearly very good at it and it provided some of the most amazing sequences of the book. And though she was an angry teenager, Ianthe was a joy to read about. Her odd skill, the way she kept it hidden and her obviously teenage reactions to finding out Granger was her father, were realistic.

Ethan Maskelyne is a frightening sociopath. He and Briana are the only of the characters who stays fully in character throughout the entire story, and the mask of politeness that he constantly wears so very perfectly only make it more shocking whenever it does drop. There is one moment when he believes his wife is defying him in order to help him keep control over a frightened crew, and the way he is so utterly convinced of it, as if there is no chance of anything else being possible, is terrifying.

Briana Marks makes for a singularly ruthless leader of the Haurstaf, who looks down on everyone. Hana was a strong woman as Ianthe’s mother, she definitely deserved a much better fate and her demise is the most touching one of all the book. Granger’s former soldiers were all a joy to read even if they were there very shortly, and their demise wasn’t as shocking nor as touching as it could have been had they been utilized more. Creedy was a good character when he wasn’t being too telling in his greed – at which point Granger himself became an idiot for not acting on the painfully obvious signs.

And there is a lot of that going on in this book: characters acting painfully out of character.

The second time we meet Emperor Hu he acts as a moron. Maskelyne’s wife – Lucille – wanting to protect a young woman from her husband’s ire makes absolutely no sense especially since that young woman tried several times over to kill her child. Thomas Granger and Ianthe both do several utterly stupid things that go so much against their personalities that the only reason it could have happened was if they were influenced by Unmer artifacts. Otherwise it is simply extremely bad writing on the author’s part.

Granger himself drops into out of character quite often. First when he sasses an emperor he knows won’t react well, then when he meets the woman who he once had an affair with during a campaign – which, apparently, resulted in a child. If said woman had been mentioned before, fondly remembered, or just even mentioned, then his reaction to seeing her might have been more understandable. The same with the way he takes to being a father for a rather rude girl he has never even met let alone known about before. There was absolutely no foundation for any of this except for the plot needing to move along.

Ianthe Knows the situation she is in, and still walks out on deck with a pair of Unmer seeing glasses on, in full view of Maskelyne and his men. She knows what the glasses do, she watched Maskelyne theorise about them, and still she does it. Of course they will catch her at it. When she does arrive at Awl and the Haurstaf palace, there is not a single thought of escaping or plans or her hate and fear for the Haurstaf. It is as if she never had it, as if she is a completely different person. Why should she suddenly care for what the other trainees think of her if she doesn’t want to be there in the first place as she professed at the start of the book? Her reactions to the torture the Haurstaf subject the captured Unmer to, is beyond lacking. Why does she accept it so readily, and why would she feel any sort of sympathy for an Unmer prince if she hasn’t gotten to know him except for to spy on him for a few minutes twice?

There are also instances of things happening just when Granger or Ianthe enter a room. There is no obvious way the two of them influence the things happening, and yet it happens just at that moment. That begets the question as to why these things didn’t happen earlier if they can happen so easily? Not only that but the ending of the book was… lacking to say the least. One expects more considering the time the book took to build up to it.

Also, it must be mentioned, there were at least three different instances of writing mistakes that I came across.

Despite the obvious, painful faults in the characters, the world that has been built up is by far the best I have come across in a long time. It easily overshadows the characters living in it, and it is the only reason that I will continue on to read the second book.

I recommend this book for the fascinating world in it, but that is all.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in Books, Fantasy

 

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“The Traitor God” – C. Johnston

This is a review of “The Traitor God” by Cameron Johnston.

After ten years on the run 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, but he failed. Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut, and nothing will stop him from finding the murderer. Magi, mortals, daemons, and even the gods – Edrin Walker will burn them all if he has to. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time he has killed a god…

That the gods were ancient magi that grew powerful beyond their wildest dreams, and the way of keeping them in check was to guard a monstrous beast hidden deep under Setharis, was a master stroke. It added so much more depth to the characters, and most importantly to the entire world. Which it needed because we never got to see much of it. What we did see, though, was very solid stuff.

All the female characters introduced – from Charra and Layla, to Eva and Shadea, and even the few short meetings with the female street gang – were strong. They were tough and practically every time they were better than Edrin himself. There are definitely no weak or swooning women in this book, and it was a joy to read about them.

There is a lot of action and adventure in the book. The entire thing takes place in about a week if not less, and the pacing is quick and yet not too quick. The story doesn’t sacrifice information or character evolution for speed, and that is a rare skill. The fight scenes are excellent, especially with the way magic can be used during a fight. The Magash Mora and its creation was monstrous, but it made it painfully clear how it could have almost wiped a civilization off the face of the earth. It was easy to understand why they were so scared of what in essence amounted to a giant blob.

What was also great was that Edrin Walker was not an all-powerful mage, excellent fighter, or even in peak physical condition. He wasn’t automatically liked by everyone, he made mistakes several times – serious mistakes at that – and he was as terrified of his magic gift as everyone else around him. He struggled to not give in to it, nor to let the magic seduce him, and that made it very easy to like him as a character.

There is very little bad to say about this book.

There is quite a lot of info-dumping, but it is in short paragraphs and easy to get used to. It isn’t as much of an annoyance as it sounds. There are also a few times where the main character says he can’t use magic in a situation but still uses magic, and once att he start where he said that he had “killed a god” but then later on he doesn’t know if he did or didn’t – though this bit can easily be attributed to what was done to him. All of these are minor faults and easy to ignore. The only other thing that was a bit of a peeve was Harailt and Byzants and their roles in the story, but this is hardly worth mentioning because the rest of it was so overwhelmingly good.

There was so much left unsaid, hinted at and unexplored, and I cannot wait for the second book to be published.

I really recommend this book. It has been a long time since I found a book that I couldn’t put down until it was done!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Books, Fantasy

 

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“Vampire Hunter D” – H. Kikuchi

This is a review of “Vampire Hunter D” which is the first book of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series about the dhampir D.

It is the year 12,090 A.D. The world has ended, ravaged in a firestorm of man’s wars and madness. Humanity managed to survive the calamity… but they are not alone. Doris Lang knew what her fate was the second the vampire Count Magnus Lee bit her – an agonizing transformation into one of the undead, to be hunted by her fellow villagers, or cursed to become the Count’s eternal bride and thirsting for human blood. There was only one chance, one hope for her: hiring a vampire hunter named D.

The world that is created in this book, is vast. It is complicated and has a lot of history, and there is a need for a good deal of infodumping in order to actually understand what is going on. There is not a single bit of infodumping that isn’t needed or tied to what will happen next, or later on in the book.

The characters in the book can surprise you. Doris and Larmica aren’t weak at all, and Dan is tough. The sheriff and the old doctor and all the people of the little town just do their best to survive in a rather hostile environment. Greco is a force of chaotic neutral who is allowed to be as bad as he wants to be, Rei-Ginsei is someone I would have loved to return in another book. The Count is a bit of a stereotype, but the sci-fi elements of the story help to lessen that considerably.

And as for D himself, he is made to be what we consider today as a Gary Stue, but he is so quiet in action and in speech that this isn’t as painfully obvious as one would think. Even if both Larmica and Doris fall for him instantly, he doesn’t pay either of them any attention, and he is even killed by Rei-Ginsei at one point. There is enough mystery around D to keep reading.

This was a book written all the way back in 1983, and storytelling was different then. This sort of omniscient author wasn’t rare, but at least Kikuchi actually gives us breaks in the infodumping and omniscience with sharp episodes of action and fun. The action scenes are very good, and one can see them happen like in a movie.

The storytelling was, well, not perfect at all. This could be either because the author wasn’t actually all that good, or the translator wasn’t quite up to the task, or a mix of both. Japanese can be a difficult language to translate if one isn’t used to it, so some turns of phrases didn’t quite work out. The author is also an omniscient storyteller with more telling than showing, and that can get a bit annoying.

While not perfect writing, the setting and the mystery surrounding D are very good. The book is also very short, so it doesn’t take long to read. I already have the next four books on order, eagerly waiting to get my hands on them.

I do recommend this!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2019 in Action Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

 

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“Jurassic Park” – M. Crichton

This is a review of the book “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton.

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now mankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them – for a price. Until something goes wrong….

Let’s admit right away: it is impossible to avoid comparing this book to the movie.

The book offers far more backstory than the movie ever did, which does explain some of the things that might have seemed less logical in the movie. The movie has a more neat storyline, merging some characters and dropping a lot of them to tighten the story and fit it within a 90 minute timeframe, but both book and movie tell the story fully.

Already this early in the franchise Henry Wu was eager to improve on dinosaurs, arguing that the dinosaurs they have made aren’t real and to change them some more wouldn’t matter because no modern human would know. This is an attitude that the character didn’t express until the two Jurassic World movies – probably because he didn’t really have the time in the first movie – and he is given much more to do and more to say in the book.

Gennero is more likable in the book than in the movie. In fact, Gennaro is one of the best people there. Grant likes kids in the book, but not in the movie, which was a bit odd, but generally speaking he is the same as he was in the movie. The progress of the book better described where he learned that a T-rex’s sight is based on movement, which was good. Ian Malcom was more or less the only person who was completely the same in book and in movie, closely followed by John Arnold and Robert Muldoon.

The book is better at building up suspense and thrill and anticipation with small remarks or thoughts, or quick, rapid scene changes that don’t quite give you the full picture. It is all just enough to tease you along and build a sense of growing danger, especially at the start of the story. It is also amusing to recognise dialogue from the book that is used in the movies.

Unfortunately there are some bad things about this book, and they have nothing to do with outdated information about dinosaurs.

Henry Wu’s lack of knowledge about what DNA he has used to compelte the dinosaur DNA, is ridiculous and down right impossible considering his position. John Hammond comes off as quite a stupidly-ignorant man in the book compared to the willfully-ignorant one in the movie. Quite frankly, it’s unlcear how the book-Hammond managed to gather enough money for his project. His grand-dauger, Lex, is younger in the book than in the film, and she acts like a total idiot. Yes, a seven- or eight-year-old will bounce between emotions even in dangerous situations, but not as extremely as Lex does in the book.

Though Ellie Sattler was given her moment to shine towards the end, it wasn’t quite enough to cover that she was largely ignored throughout most of the story. Even in the scenes she was in, she said very little. Gennaro was also inconsistent in his character at the end of the story, being set up as one thing and then suddenly apparently being the total opposite.

A few of the relevations in the book weren’t as surprising or as shocking as they were probably meant to be. Not only because the information was revealed in the movie, but because of the writing in the book itself. The characters’s reactions to the revelations were muted and therefore greatly underwhelmed the surprises.

I am a big fan of the franchise and of dinosaurs in general, so the book was definitely worth the read for me. That means that I will definitely read the second book in the future, no question about that.

I recommend this book!

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2019 in Action Adventure, Books

 

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“Master Assassins” – R. V. S. Redick

This is a review of “Master Assassins” by Robert V. S. Redick, the first book of the Fire Sacraments.

Kandri and Mektu are the closest of brothers. Village boys drafted into the army of a madwoman-Prophet, facing war and death, they struggle to hide their crumbling faith. Mektu is at the breaking point, convinced that a murderous spirit is stalking the camp, and that he may be its next target. But a night of violence leaves the brothers with holy blood on their hands. Mistaken for professional killers, they have just one path of escape: into a sprawling desert where the landscape is as deadly as the men and monsters it contains. On their heads is an irresistible bounty. Hot on their heels are the Prophet’s death squads, and a terrible servant in the form of a demonic child. And ahead lies a reckoning with their own family’s darkest secret – a secret that tears their world apart.

The world of this book is fascinating, deep and well-built. It is especially interesting since it has a very Middle-Eastern feel when it comes to culture and traditions, with a hint of Indian thrown in for flavour. With war and magic, betrayal and desert thieves it is an incredible place to read about. And the characters that inhabit this world are varied.

Kandri is the main character of them all, and it is his point of view we follow. His struggle with losing his faith and trying to keep his brother from saying something that will get them both killed, is well described. Mektu – said crazy brother – is fascinating to read about since it is unclear exactly what is wrong with him, and Uncle Chindilan is a loving, protective man. Eschett and Talupéké are incredibly strong women who whip them all along when needed.

The Prophet is, perhaps, the most fascinating of them all. She is a strong, terrifying woman. As a character she is very well-developed. It is clear that she fought her way to the top in a world where women are supposed to be submissive, and she is delightfully mad and crazy. It makes her stand out, makes her fascinating. Her special guard force ride enormous sabre-toothed cats and wield magical gloves, and her White Child is a horror all on its own.

The most incredible part of the story was the flight across the Stolen Sea. The description of the salt-encrusted landscape was fascinating. The same with the giant vultures, and they were cleverly used in the plot. The thieves and nomads making the Stolen Sea their home were also very well imagined and adapted to their surroundings.

Unfortunately the good stuff is overwhelmed by the bad.

Kandri and Mektu aren’t very likeable as characters. Kandri especially is far too wishy-washy, going back and forth about a various amount of things. It could be because he is struggling with his changing world view, but it was far too much and boggled the story down. The first 150 pages or so were full of this, and that nearly made me stop reading. And Mektu himself is just annoying and sometimes impossible to understand. Even if one accepts the fact that he might be possessed by a demon or just struggling with a mental disability of some sort, the rest of the writing doesn’t support it so he ends up being kind of just annoying.

There are constant flashbacks to help understand the choices of the various characters, how things evolved into what they are, but it just drags the story on. Some of the flashbacks don’t seem to be important to the tale at all, and could have been omitted or just summarised into a single paragraph.

Kandri’s constant moaning and mooning over Ariqina just made her seem annoying, because he was so annoying about it. And the mystery surrounding the brother’s father wasn’t enough to keep the interest up. Especially since the mystery was waylaid by everything else, and when some revelations came along, it was far too late to salvage it all. I simply didn’t care about it.

The biggest problem is that when the story reaches a moment where things happen rapidly – for example a battle – the writing becomes choppy and the sentences short. It is probably to show the speed and the confusion of battle, but it simply ends up being too much and makes the story itself confusing.

Overall the book isn’t outright bad, but I will not be continuing with the second one.

I don’t really recommend this book.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2018 in Books, Fantasy

 

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