Category Archives: Books

“Vampire Hunter D: Demon Deathchase” – H. Kikuchi

“Demon Deathchase” is a review of the third book of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s series Vampire Hunter D.

The review of the first book can be found here.

The review of the second book can be found here.

When a desperate village elder learns that his daughter has been abducted by a Noble, he turns to D to save her. He also employs the Marcus clan, a dangerous and renegade family of Hunters as infamous for killing their competition as they are for getting their man. D’s task becomes ever-more daunting when the fleeing Noble enlists a horrific cadre of human/monster half-breeds. Can D prevail against the force of sheer numbers of his advesaries – both human and not?

Excellent adventure as usual. It is undeniable, Hideyuki Kikuchi writes very good adventure stories.

Fascinating to learn more of the world it is set in, and just how much of the old folklore about vampires that the author has incorporated. Like being unable to cross running water unless there is a bridge, how earth actually enhances their regenerative abilities giving them an interesting reason to carry earth with them.

Again there are small hints about D’s parentage that are doled out. And though it is quite obvious who his father is, the way the hints are scattered about and never actually come out to say it, still make it more interesting. The sunlight syndrome is a curious but welcome weakness when it comes to D, and even if he does get over it remarkably quickly it will be interesting to see if it does show up again in later books.

Leila Marcus is a strong female character, who fights and isn’t a fraid to come face to face with monsters. Although she does wobble a bit when it comes to D and a female dhampir, she still comes up on top at the very end, which is truly enjoyable. Leila’s waning interest in monster/vampire hunting is also a good – though very subtle – touch to her character. Charlotte, the girl who ran off with a Noble, is strong but in a more quiet way, and her bravery doesn’t show much until the very end.

The writing is a bit annoying with the omniscient author who keeps asking questions as if he were a storyteller with an audience rather than a book. It breaks the flow of the story, stopping it up and throwing the reader out of it. The author seems to be getting into a rut with these questions since there were fewer of them in the first book.

Also, the fact that there have been people who suddenly change into rapists without logic or hints of it earlier in the book, bring the quality of the book down. The Mayor in book two, Kyle in this book (although all of the Marcus brothers are revealed to be rapists in the end). The story would have been a lot better without this, and especially if the insta-love/lust people feel around vampires and D had been just a tiny bit less emphasised.

The movie “Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust” has to be mentioned since it was based on this book. Apart from the general changes in the story to make it simpler and more concise, the movie actually manages to follow the book very closely. The movie does away with the insta-love Leila feels for D and the Marcus-brothers being rapists, which is good. But Mayerling has no trouble going through quite a deep, fast flowing river in order to cross to the other side, and that was an annoyance.

They also use a lot of Christian symbolisms in the movie which never appear in the books – most notably the cross. In the first book it is noted that the Nobility made humanity forget about crosses and how much they affect vampires, and they keep maintaining this ignorance even now – whether by a world-covering spell that is tied to the symbol of the cross, or by enchanting humans who try to use the cross against them whenever they actually come across one such person. D has also used a drawing of a cross to check if someone is a vampire, and no one reacts to it as if they recognise it.

Several things that happened in the book never happened in the movie, and some characters exist only in the movie world – most notably Countess Carmilla Elizabeth Bathory. The ending of the movie differed with the ending of the book, both being perfect in their own way, and the movie presents a good story that is more concise and at times more logical than the book is.

All in all, this third book was definitely not my favourite of the stories so far, but I will continue reading a few books more if nothing else.

I still recommend this series!

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Posted by on August 31, 2019 in Action Adventure, Books, Fantasy, Sci-Fi


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“Jim Henson’s Labyrinth” – A. C. H. Smith

This is a review of the novelisation of the Jim Henson movie “The Labyrinth“.

Sarah has thirteen hours to save her brother from a land where everything seems possible, and nothing is what it seems.

That is the blurb on the back. And if you have seen the movie, then you know what happens. This is a retelling of the movie in book form. Every scene, every line, everything is the same. The author sat there and literally wrote down what they saw on the screen.

So how the hell could they manage to fuck that up?

Yes, you read that right.

The author (needlessly) tried to add depth to the characters, and they fucked it up.

Sarah was turned from an understandably frustrated teenager, into a selfish, bullying bitch who admits to wanting to hurt her little brother. The more I read about her, the more I wonder why in heaven’s name she would ever go after Toby considering her attitude towards him, and also exactly why in the name of all that is holy should I care about her as the main character?

Jareth is no longer the suave, charmingly dangerous Goblin King. Gone is the bad guy we all loved, with his songs and mysteries. Instead he seems more like a paedophile who is terrified of growing older. Like a bad knock-off version of a drag queen Voldemort.

And that isn’t even mentioning the weird wording that sometimes crops up. Like Jareth’s boots being “shod on”, or Hoggle having a “twinkling scowl” or a “smirking little blush” or his “eyebrows beetled” or he is “hoggling around”. I can understand what the author wanted to say, but I doubt that they truly understood the meaning of even half of the words they tried to use.

Perhaps the worst thing that was done to the story, was to turn it from a coming-of-age story into a sexualised mess full of victim blaming.

I do my best to find something positive about each book I read, even the ones that I don’t like, but there is really nothing good here. I am amazed that Jim Henson let this drivel be published, or that a single editor gave this the go-ahead.

Don’t touch this book unless you want a good movie to be ruined by horrible writing.

I really don’t recommend this book at all. Stay far away!

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Posted by on July 28, 2019 in Books, Fantasy


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“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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