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“The Lascar’s Dagger” – G. Larke

TLD

This is a review of “The Lascar’s Dagger” by Glenda Larke.

Saker looks like a simple priest but in truth he’s a spy for the head of his faith. It’s a dangerous job, and more lives than merely his own depend on his secrecy. When Saker is wounded by a lascar sailor’s blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, or the sense of responsibility that comes with it, Saker can only follow its lead. It will put him on a journey to strange shores, on a path that will reveal terrible secrets about the empire, about the people he serves, and likely lead to his own destruction. The lascar’s dagger demands a price, and that price will be paid in blood.

This story takes place in a vast world that is well thought out. Political and religious borders are well defined, and easy to understand. There is obviously a large history behind this world. The author has taken some pains in making a believable religion that spans the globe. It is understandable and even comparable to the religions of the real world that we live in.

Excellent secondary characters. Princess Mathilda had such vast potential and I really enjoyed reading her machinations of the people around her. Lord Juster was a wonderfully sassy sailor reminiscent of Jack Sparrow and that, coupled with the fact that he has smarts, made him a joy to read. Ahdri was always someone I wished to know more about, especially about the situation that led to him being on this journey of his in the first place. And Sorrel was a strong, loyal, powerful woman who rose far above her circumstances.

There are, however, some bad things about this book.

For all the hype about Saker’s spying, he hardly does any of it. He could have been any witan priest (or baker, or tanner, or whatever other occupation you want) in the world who was given the information before being sent out on a mission for all the spying that he does. Not only that but for being a spy he’s a complete and utter gullible, naïve idiot. Not only does he not know his own religion and the possibilities therein, but when he does have his sudden epiphanies he totally ignores them.

He is also warned about Matilda several times, and still he fell for her painfully obvious plots. The stupidity continues when he makes a decision that he shouldn’t even think about making in the first place. For page after page we get to read about this and it completely kills the story or any desire to know more about him even though he is the main character. And all these supposedly special Va-given witcheries suddenly started popping out all over the place.

There was also the horribly stereotypical Valerian Fox who was painfully obvious as the bad guy long before it was actually confirmed. Matilda also managed to lose my respect when her manipulations stopped being political, and instead she was turned into a whiny brat. Not to mention that the magical dagger that forces Saker on adventure, isn’t very forceful at all and simply seems to stalk him more than actually forcing him to do anything. Despite the title and the description on the back of the book, the dagger doesn’t actually need to be there at all. The story could have easily progressed without it. The agents of A’Va, though interesting, are far too late to actually save or even doom the book. The last 150 pages of almost-a-litte-bit-of-action came too late, my interest was long since lost and nothing could truly regain it again.

Generally speaking the story is good, the pacing, however, killed it stone dead.

Okay-ish book, but I will not read the sequel.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2016 in Books

 

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“Ranger’s Apprentice book 5: The Sorcerer of the North” – J. Flanagan

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This is a review of “Ranger’s Apprentice book 5: The Sorcerer of the North” by John Flanagan.

This is a continuation of the previous books. You can find book one and book two and book three and book four here.

Will is finally a full-fledged Ranger with his own fief to look after. The fief seems sleepy – boring even – until Lord Syron, master of a castle far in the north, is struck down by a mysterious illness. Joined by his friend Alyss, Will is suddenly thrown headfirst into an extraordinary adventure, investigating fears of sorcery and trying to determine who is loyal to Lord Syron. As Will battles growing hysteria, traitors, and, most of all, time, Alyss is taken hostage, and Will is forced to make a desperate choice between his mission and his friend.

It is always interesting to see more of Araluen and the way the various fiefs are governed. Even the various

This book is set after a timeskip of about three to four years. Will now has his silver oakleaf and he is no longer an apprentice, but Alyss still is. She has grown up and has more responsibilities than before though, so she seems to be on the cusp of becoming a proper diplomat. There are tiny hints of the romance between Will and Alyss and how it has developed so far, and the slowness is good. They aren’t jumping into things.

Becoming a Ranger in his own fief and then being sent on a special mission to another, Will shows that he has grown from boyhood to adulthood since the past book. He is more mature than before, but he is still quick to laugh. He also does occasionally wish to or does ask for help from people who know things better than him, and it’s good to know that he isn’t an all-knowing superhero now.

The book is a little bit slow and maybe not quite as full of action as the previous books. There is a lot of time spent on what seems to be nothings where Will plays at inns and other places to entertain common people. However, it is building up to something big and it is obvious that it is part of an arc with the sixth book of the series.

Other than the slight slowness, there is nothing bad to actually say about the book.

Definitely recommended as usual!

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2016 in Books

 

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“The Legend of Nightfall” – M. Z. Reichert

nightfall

This is a review of “The Legend of Nightfall” by Mickey Zucker Reichert.

He has been known by countless names and terrifying deeds throughout the lands, yet though Nightfall has always escaped his pursuers even the cleverest of beings must occasionally slip. And when this master of the night falls prey to a royal trap, he finds the consequences beyond even his ability to evade. Bound by magic Nightfall will need all his talents to keep himself and his new charge alive and avoid the hands of unknown betrayers.

Good world-building and a vast world to explore. The focus of the book is more lighthearted even though it deals with the potentially heavy themes of slavery, free will and greed. The only way the sorcerers of the world can gain powers is incredible, and it is incredibly fun to read Nightfall’s sarcastic thoughts about his charge and the way his life is currently going.

Nightfall is an amusing character to follow as he scrambles around trying to keep them all alive and get rid of a spade, while Edward is utterly set on his grand mission and totally misled by his faithful servant. Being hounded by both evil sorcerer and binding magics, the story that follows is a delightful romp of misadventures and frantic plotting.

But for being such a completely feared thief and assassin Nightfall is incredibly stupid at times. At the start this could be attributed to such a large and sudden change in occupation, but it simply persists throughout the book. And for all his many fears and amusing thoughts about all the trouble the prince will get them into, it is in fact Nightfall himself who creates the most trouble for them.

Prince Edward was, at the very start of the story, a bit too stupidly naïve to be believable even with his sheltered life. Then there is Keryn. I had sincerely and fervently hoped that she would be what Nightfall thinks her to be initially, and that she was no tortured damsel in distress.

The last thing I have to complain about is that in a book of almost 500 pages, 350 of said pages are spent on nothings. Amusing as they are, those 350 pages have very little to no actual bearing on the rest of the plot, and there is only so many times one can read a funny anecdote or Nightfall’s sarcastic thoughts without starting to wonder when we will get back to the plot. And as for the plot, well, 150 pages are hardly enough to deal properly with the problems and enemies built up throughout the rest of the story.

All in all, though this is most definitely an amusing book to read, it isn’t anything really special.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in Books

 

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“The Last Wish” – A. Sapkowski

the witcher

This is a review of “The Last Wish” by Andrzej Sapkowski.

Geralt would always stand out, either for his appearance, his personality or his job as a witcher and the powers that it grants in the fight against the vile fiends that ravage the lands. As guardian of the innocent, Geralt meets incestuous kings with undead daughters, vengeful djinns, shrieking harpies, lovelorn vampires and despondent ghouls, and none of them are exactly what they appear to be.

This is a large, medieval world that doesn’t shy away from the uglier or more difficult side of living in such a time. It is brutal, it is scary, it is ever-changing and the humans are just trying to get by no matter if they live in small villages or in big castles protected by thick walls.

The author obviously drew heavily from folklore for the various creatures, and familiar, old fairytale show up during some of the stories, changed to fit the grim world of Geralt of Rivia but still recognisable in the end. There is also a slew of strong, independent female characters who aren’t afraid of or brought down by their sexuality and, in fact, use it to get what they want.

The short stories didn’t exactly provide lots of opportunities to get to know the various characters well. While even a good deal of the secondary characters were well-rounded, it was much easier to get to know the characters that showed up more than once. Dandelion and Nenneke are well written and interesting enough to want to know more about them.

Geralt is rough and ready for fighting – or something more pleasurable – but he also has a brain and knows how to use it. He knows that sometimes it is simply better to retreat or not react, and I like that about him. Yennefer is still a bit of a mystery though.

There are few things about the stories that bother me. First there is the amazing amount of knowledge about the body, its organs and functions. This is supposed to be a medieval world after all. The relationship between Yennefer and Geralt was a bit too sudden and forced considering how important it is, and some of the characters seem to suddenly change their opinions at the end of the story for no real reason. This could, however, simply be a drawback of the short-story format since the author avoids this in the other stories about Geralt.

All in all this is an interesting world and with interesting stories.

I recommend this.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Books

 

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“The Chronicles of Siala” – A. Pehov

sp-ap shadow-chaser shadow-blizzard

This is a review of “Shadow Prowler“, “Shadow Chaser” and “Shadow Blizzard” by Alexey Pehov.

The Nameless One is gathering an army in the Desolate Lands, intent on attacking Avendoom. One last attempt is made to retrieve the magical artifact that has so far kept the Nameless One in check, and to get this artifact they employ the services of Shadow Harold the master thief. Having the armies of the Nameless One after you isn’t made easier by the appearance of the evil Master – whoever or whatever he or she might be…

A vast world with history and places and, not to mention, species! There are a whole lot of different species here in this book and none are quite what one would expect. Elves with fangs, beardless dwarves, goblins, orcs, ogres and shamans and wizards and who knows what else that has been mentioned only in passing. With mysterious cursed spots and demons the city of Avendoom itself offers more than enough adventure for probably more than one book on its own!

The characters, so far, are well-written and interesting. The elves especially differ from everyone else. The company of ten Wild Heart warriors all have their own personalities. Kli-Kli the goblin jester is crazy with occasional hints of something more, and Harold himself is a fun and amusing character to follow. His reactions and comments to everything make this a delightful romp of sarcasm, mysterious dreams and enemies, going from one adventure to another. Harold isn’t a typical hero, he isn’t even going to try something heroic, and that makes him believable.

The books read a bit as if Harold wrote it as his memoirs after everything was over and done with. It isn’t too bad, but some of the descriptions occasionally do get in the way of the storytelling, slowing the story slightly. Especially at the very start of the first book. Harold’s own opinions of things do colour our perceptions slightly, and Harold himself is also more reactive than proactive, but it only really becomes visible and annoying when Kli-Kli is around. However this might also be because the point where Harold’s skills will be fully needed hasn’t arrived yet.

I do like the fact that Harold feels attracted to Miralissa, but that even he admits that it’s impossible and that it won’t work out. And he is content with that. Even when someone else remarks about the impossibility of it, Harold agrees with it. That was wonderful to read about, and lessened the usual annoyance of romantic entanglement.

Because of the way the books are written, with little interaction with some of the characters, then sometimes when that character died or betrayed the group the impact was thoroughly lessened. In fact, once I had to stop up and wonder just who this character was before I got it. There were also a few mistakes in the writing, some grammatical and one mix-up of names, but those were minor and not disruptive to the story.

The language is easy and light and the books are a joy to read, and the best part were definitely when Harold was traveling alone through the Forbidden Territory and through Hrad Spein. Out of all the books, the second book did lag a bit and a lot that happened in the book didn’t really seem to have any bearing on the story itself. The second book could have been a lot shorter or simply incorporated into book one and three instead.

All in all this is an excellent trilogy and I really do recommend this!

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Books

 

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“The Vagrant” – P. Newman

The Vagrant eBook US

This is a review of “The Vagrant” by Peter Newman.

The Vagrant is his name. Friendless, voiceless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape, carrying nothing but a kit-bag, a legendary sword and a baby. His purpose is to reach the Shining City, last bastion of the human race, and deliver the sword, the only weapon that may make a difference in the ongoing war. But the Shining City is far away and the world is a very dangerous place.

This book has extremely good world-building. The magic of the world is subtle, and even the things from the Breach aren’t all-powerful. The eight years under the rule of the infernal forces from the Breach are visible everywhere and in everyone, but it hasn’t been so long that everything has fallen into true depravity. The occasional glimpse of goodness is what keeps this book from being a depressing mess, but it also touches on some darker aspects of humanity and that cannot be ignored. It is good to read a book about the first few years after what could be equated to the Apocalypse happens.

It is also incredibly fascinating to read a book where the main character doesn’t say a single thing throughout the book – except in one instant. In that instant the tiny two-letter word of ‘no’ resonates and practically echoes just because he doesn’t speak otherwise. I thought that this would annoy me while reading, but it didn’t. It just made me more curious. Harm was also a character one could sympathize with, and little Vesper is cute and not at all annoying despite being a baby. But I have to admit that my very favourite character other than the Vagrant, was the goat.

Not bogged down with long descriptions, it gives the reader just enough of a picture of what the world is like and what is going on while still giving lots of room for our own additions and interpretations. The sentences are short and concise, and together with the story they create an excellent mood for all the situations. The flashback chapters weren’t too long or even annoying, and it was fascinating to see how things had developed and how the Vagrant became who he is in the book.

The only thing I found bad about this book is the ending. Not the ambiguity or the openness of it, but the way Gamma’s sword reacted when it finally met up with the remaining six of the The Seven, and the Vagrant’s following the sword’s decisions. I can understand why a little bit, but it seems a bit too much considering how things were built up throughout the rest of the book. The sword, in essence, didn’t seem to matter in the end. This, however, is just my opinion and it isn’t a very strong one either.

All in all, I truly loved this book and I’ll be keeping an eye on Peter Newman from now on!

Go and read it! Right now people!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

“The Free” – B. Ruckley

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This is a review of “The Free” by Brian Ruckley.

They are the most feared mercenary company the kingdom has ever known. Led by Yulan, the Free have spent years selling their martial and magical skills to the highest bidder, but now they finally plan to lay down their swords. When Yulan is offered a final contract, he cannot refuse – for the mission offers him the chance to erase the memories of the Free’s darkest hour. As the Free embark on their last mission, a potent mix of loyalty and vengeance is building to a storm. Freedom, it seems, carries a deadly price.

The world-building is really good up to a certain point – i.e. the past 50 years. The rest seems not to exist at all, but that might be because the story has a very narrow view on characters to whom ancient history doesn’t matter. It still feels a little bit odd. But it is a well-built world despite this. And when it comes to characters it is easy to get to know and like Drann, Yulan, Hamdan and even Akrana. The others just kind of fade into the background, and Sullen is a bit of a disappointment, though Wren’s ultimate fate was a pleasant surprise. It is, in fact, the best part of the book!

Those characters that practice magic have a very definite price to pay for every single little thing they do. For every magic trick an equal amount of their life is pulled out of them as payment so they really have to be careful, and it is a consistent thing throughout the book with no suddenly powerful people able to bypass this. The subject of the Permanence(s) is vague and in the end a bit disappointing with how much they build them up and how little they are actually used.

Lots of time is spent travel and talk, and very little on action. Over 300 pages in fact. What action there is to be found is either interrupted by annoying switches in POV or we get the start of it and then said POV switch happens, and we are told of what happened when it is already over and we know what the outcome was. This detracts heavily from the suspense of the book.

Because of this it is also difficult to get to know the characters enough to actually care about them or be shocked or feel anything but blandness when something happens to them. Or they do something meant to be epic. It doesn’t help that a few of the characters seem forced and only do a few of the things they do in order to give Drann, and us as readers, a view of what’s what. It isn’t endearing at all.

The language itself is sometimes oddly, weirdly poetic and almost Yoda-like in its buildup of sentences. This throws off the reading pace and stops up the flow which can get annoying. As well as the small infection of tell-don’t-show at the start of the book when the various characters are introduced. But other than that it is a good, if rather bland story of action and adventure. Good for a rainy afternoon when you have absolutely nothing else to do or read.

It is actually a good story, an interesting story, but the way that it was written kills the suspense and enjoyment of reading it.

It is an okay book. That is all.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2015 in Books

 

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