Friday, February 9, 2018

The Shadow of What Was Lost

 The cover says "If you like Robert Jordan.. You'll like this"  and they aren't wrong.  In fact, at times I felt like I was reading Robert Jordan's story from the Wheel of Time.  However, it was still an enjoyable tale with interesting characters and plot twists.

The book flew by.  It's exceptionally easy to read.  I have some "niggles" about the book where things are too easy and too clean - but it was still a decent story and I'll certainly read the remainder of the series to see how it concludes.  I'm particularly glad it promises to be a Trilogy and not an epic saga.  I don't know if I would be as interested in 14 volumes.

Even though the basic story seems to be "a group of teen-aged friends, are, coincidentally really special and are set on a task to save the world from an ancient evil that is trying to escape a magical trap" the story is unique enough that you should enjoy it.

The three primary characters, Davian, Ashe, and Wirr, are all well written, interesting, and likable.  The "2nd billing" characters are also interesting though, for the most part, Islington doesn't seem to be really interested in making any character super "unlikable".  Even when he starts out with a petty brat the petty brat fairly quickly evolves into a decent guy.  Other attempts at caustic characters are also resolved a bit too quickly for my liking.

The mysterious Caeden promises to be the most interesting story-line in the book as bits and pieces of who he is get slowly revealed throughout the story.  The foreshadowing is often pretty obvious but it doesn't really detract from the story.

I'd probably really rate this at 3.75 instead of 4 stars but don't want to punish it with a 3.

I think to really improve the series Islington needs to make it feel like the characters really "feel" their hardships.  So far even horrific things just seem to be emotionally easy for each to deal with and extraordinary challenges are resolved a bit too simply and conveniently.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Half a War

Well it's been a long time since I posted a book review here.  However, I received an advanced review copy (ARC) of "Half a War" by Joe Abercrombie in late June so I figured I should both read it and review it.

I'm still not sure why I was selected to receive the ARC but I'm glad I was.  I had already read the first two books in the series, "Half a King" and "Half the World" and I had fully planned on reading this one anyway so it was kind of nice to get it for free.  So there is your disclaimer; I was compensated a copy of this book before I ever wrote this review.

As with each of the prior books in the series the primary characters are young, about 17, and the story is told from from their perspective.  In "Half a King" the primary protagonist was Yarvi.  Yarvi continues to play a prominent role in "Half the World" but the focus moves to two other young characters in Brand and Thorn.

The same pattern holds true with "Half a War."  Yarvi and Thorn are both featured in this book (and Brand in passing) but two new young leads appear to take us through this final tale in the triology - Princesss Scara of Throvenland and Raith - a berserker warrior from Vansterland who has sworn fealty to Grom Gil Gorm.   In addition two these two a younger character from "Half the World", Koll, plays a more prominent role as he has reached the correct age (around 17) to be one of the protagonists.

"Half a War" is the conclusion to the story that started in "Half a King" and as such it continues to be focused around the slowly building war between the Grandmother Wexen and her puppet the High King and the nations of the north; Vansterland, Throvenland, and Gettland.

Abercrombie does a nice job, as usual.  I really enjoyed the pacing of the book and his harried descriptions of battle from the berserker perspective of Raith is really good; in fact he does one of the best jobs I've seen of capturing the breathless feeling of blood raged battle.

Skara is a little dull at times and, while she is described as having deep cunning I felt like her character was a little flat and uninspired through most of the book.   She improves some as the tale progresses - but overall I felt like Abercrombie missed a chance to develop a really interesting character.

I thought it was interesting how Raith is shown to evolve over the course of the book but much of his evolution seemed rushed and unlikely considering his nature at the start of the tale.  I appreciate that Abercrombie doesn't drag the book out forever but Raith's growth seemed unrealistic considering the apparent time frame of the book.

Overall I enjoyed the book quite a bit even though I think, perhaps, it was the weakest of the three.  I probably liked them in descending order as a series even though I liked Thorn and Brand more than Yarvi, Yarvi's story in book one was probably the most interesting.

Overall I'd give this book a 3/5 stars.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Matarese Countdown

This is the first Robert Ludlum book I've read and I went into it with somewhat high expectations considering how well known he is. My expectations were not met. The story is okay but his writing style; particularly his dialog, really just didn't feel right to me. None of the dialog between any of the main characters seemed believable. For example, at times one character would say something and the initial response would be heated and angry but then, almost immediately, the angry character would cool off and realize they were being ridiculous. I could understand if one of the characters had that pronounced of mood swings in a conversation but it seemed like every character went through the same rapid shifts.

The interpersonal dynamics of the "couples" was really odd too. People who seemed, through the course of the book, to not interact that much, shouldn't suddenly be calling each other "My Darling". It just seemed like Ludlum really wanted to force a romantic element into the story so he did even though the female half of the couple was very remote until the spark flew and the male half even admitted he had never had interest in having a real relationship. Their sudden pairing just felt contrived and didn't really add anything useful to the story.

Some of the elements in the story - the actual Matarese conspiracy - were pretty interesting and they seemed to be pulled right from our current geo-political environment. The conspiracy itself seemed believable and the "villains" while not particularly nefarious were generally believable even if they were very shallowly drawn.

Overall The Matarese Countdown just seemed to skim over the actual plot and the conclusion seemed a bit too forced and clean for what is a tale about a worldwide financial conspiracy.  I rate this a 2/5.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Will Power

Much like the previous book in the Hawthorne Saga, Act of Will, Will Power is a light and fun read. It continues to follow the adventures of William Hawthorne. By the time you pick up this second book you've decided you like Will otherwise you probably wouldn't have grabbed this book. Will is an unusual and reluctant hero - more reluctant that most reluctant hero's really. However, he is also oddly brave for someone who claims to only be interested in keeping himself alive.

This episode of the saga has Will and his adventuring friends entering a different nation filled with bear riding Goblins that are at war with a majestic and beautiful city full of majestic and beautiful people. Almost immediately Will and his friends get split up so that Orgros and Mithos, the two main warriors of the party are lost, and Garnet and the Party leader are also missing which just leaves Will and Renthrette to navigate the war and to figure out a way to survive and return home to Stavis.

Nothing about the book is particularly suprising as you read it but Heartley spins a fun tale and Will manages to do some amazing things in spite of himself. If you're looking for a quick and fun fantasy novel or series then this book, and the Will Hawthorne Series should be right up your alley.

I actually liked this book a little better than the previous even though there are some scnees where I think Will's friends are unreasonably hard on him that annoyed me. I give this book a 3.5 out of 5 rating.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Act of Will

Act of Will is a fun book. Will is as unlikely of a hero as you'll find in the fantasy genre. The book starts with him hoping to become a full actor in his company because it is his eighteenth birthday but things quickly fall apart for Will and he finds himself on the run and in the company of some true adventurers.

Will has a lot to learn on the road not only about adventuring but about the world, women, and himself.

Honestly there is nothing particularly unique or original in the overall story or the tropes used however it's still enjoyable. Will is an oddly likable character and his companions are all sort of interesting though A.J. Hartley could have developed them all quite a bit more.

If you're looking for an enjoyable and light read then this is a great book to go with.  I give it a 3/5 rating.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stonewielder: A Novel of the Malazan Empire

I have enjoyed all of my forays into the world of Malazan and this trip, with Stoneweilder, is no different. Sure, the timespan being covered is much smaller than in some books and some of the main characters are new to me, but I still felt comfortable delving into the isles of Fist and learning about the battle with "The Lady" and the eternal battle with the Riders along the storm wall.

I don't really have a favorite author between Esslemont and Erikson but I do like when either of them touches about the Crimson Guard and Esslemont seems more likely to do so and this book carried on that tradition. Sadly, however, there wasn't enough Crimson Guard action in the book for me - though you do get a very graphic idea of just how bad-ass Iron Bars is. Let's just say it is gripping.

A few characters we have been previously introduced are key protagonists in this book as well but some of the story lines aren't resolved at all by the time the book ends so it felt weird following them for so much of the book only to discover they didn't really tie into the main story arch of the novel at all. Also, because of the way Malazan books are written you may already know the end to at least one arc before you read this book.

My only other gripe about the book is that it seems to change perspective too often. In fact had he just left one of the unresolved story arches out of the book I feel like the entire thing would have been cleaner and more focused.

Regardless of my issues with changing point of view the book was a fun read and I recommend it to anyone that enjoys the genre.

The Grim Company

In my "in progress" review of The Grim Company that I wrote on Goodreads I said:

"It's pretty fast paced and has some fun and interesting characters; though I honestly have trouble caring about one of the main characters; he's too shallow to be believable.

I like the magic system and am curious about the history of the world that the magelords don't want to think about."

My opinion really didn't change as I finished the book.  The style of the book is very similar to an Abercrombie tale; fun, violent, fast paced, and containing a tough grizzled veteran.  In fact one of the primary characters reminds me quite a bit of Logan Ninefingers from Abercrombie's works - except this guy has all of his fingers.

This was one of the fastest reading books I've picked up in a while.  The language is all pretty concise and it was satisfying to hit such major plot points all within one novel as opposed to the trend of most modern fantasy to wind out of control into seven or eight volumes.   In fact, so much happens in this book I imagine the next two in the trilogy will be incredibly exciting.  I look forward to more of Scull's work.