Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Way of Kings, Runestaff, and Dresden

I’m highlighting three reviews in this, my first review post in a few weeks. Considering the length of the (1,000+) book for which I posted the review, the continuing time (and fun time at that) of raising/training a puppy, and how busy work has been for me, I hope my millions and millions of fans will give me a slide. How about a new picture of said puppy?

Back to the business of book reviews – first up is my review of one of the most hyped novels of the yearThe Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I’ve been a fan of Sanderson ever since reading Mistborn: The Final Empire so I’ve really been looking forward to this one.

Sanderson’s tale focuses this epic tale on three primary characters – Shallan, a young woman apprenticed to a heretical scholar; Dalinar, an old revered soldier in the army of Alethi also known as the Blackthorn who is either going crazy or having prophetic visions; and Kaladin, a former soldier turned slave laborer who is a Bridgeman-one of an expendable crew of men who move bridges for the armies of Roshar to march over the chasms on the Shattered Plain. Through the eyes and actions of these three people, Sanderson reveals a world with incredible depth on the brink of a major paradigm shift.

The physical book is just as impressive as the story told between its covers. Those cover are adorned with a beautiful and instant classic Michael Whelan painting. Icons emblazon each chapter, ‘historical’ illustrations are provided at intervals, while some of Shallan’s illustrations are used to illustrate other pages. The endpapers utilize a powerful color palette with superbly rendered maps. In short, the physical book itself is just as stunning as the story Sanderson tells.

Art has continued his read through of Michael Moorcock’s History of the Runestaff (aka Hawkmoon) with the third book, The Sword of Dawn.

Like the first two books in the series, The Sword of the Dawn is classic sword and sorcery, filled with weird magics and technologies, nonstop action, almost superhuman feats of bravery, and a sizeable body count. Hawkmoon and D'Averc are a dynamic duo with a repartee reminiscent of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and like the golden age of pulp magazine adventures, the heroes' exploits are episodic in form, as each time they escape or overcome one strange and terrible peril they find themselves face to face with a new one. Yet as the Warrior in Jet and Gold so often reminds him, Hawkmoon serves the Runestaff, even though in the thick of adventure he may not realize it – and even though he may not want to serve it. Thus beneath the surface of a rollicking adventure is a narrative epic in scope.

Mark reviewed another installment of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files Turn Coat

As events unfold, the circle broadens in this one. We start to see things from a more global perspective as Harry goes to the scene of a murdered Warden at the White Council’s headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland. There we get some idea of how the headquarters works, as well as more of an impression that magic is not just centered in Chicago or the US but as a global magic network.

This is also shown by the brief mention of the Paranet, which maintains a global network between wizards and witches. (As an aside, it is odd to think how little the Internet was available to the general public when the series started in 2000.)

We also have unlikely allies who end up fighting together in order to deal with a problem that could affect them all.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 08/21/2010)

Noise by Darin Bradley; The Cardinal's Blades by Pierre Pevel; Cold Magic by Kate Elliott (I read most of her Crown of Stars series and really enjoyed it, and this looks very interesting, too); Stars and Gods by Larry Niven; The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, (which I'm reading right now and really enjoying even if it has been taking me a while); in the background is Game of Cages by Harry Connolly and Hunt for Voldorius by Andy Hoare.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 08/14/2010)

Fear the Alien edited by Christian Dunn; Temple of the Serpent by C.L. Werner; Elfsorrow and Shadowheart by James Barclay (I was chuffed to see my name in the acknowledgments!); Factotum by D.M. Cornish (I read the first, have the the third, need the second but I'd like to revisit the books), Sailing to Sarantium (re-issue) by Guy Gavriel Kay, The Last Page by Anthony Huso (I'm really looking forward to this one); and Prospero in Hell by L. Jagi Lamplighter.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 08/07/2010)

Sully, my three-and-a-half month old Great Pyrenees and the-rescue-organization-says-Lab-but-we-think-Pointer/Hunting-Dog puppy, asleep after helping with yard work, with this week's arrivals:

The Evolutionary Void by Peter F. Hamilton (I received the ARC back in May), which I'll likely get to this month; Atlantis and Other Stories by Harry Turtledove; The Ragged Man by Tom Lloyd; and The Law of Nines by Terry Goodkind, in one of those awkward and annoying 'tall' paperbacks.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Weekly Rob & Mark Review Post

Another week, another batch of reviews at SFFWorld. Mark has been picking up the slack big time and posted two reviews since last week, while I posted one.

First up is Mark’s review of Wolf’s Cross by S. Andrew Swann. This book is a follow up to one of my surprise books from last year Wolfbreed. Here’s a snippet from my review of Wolf’s Cross:

Werewolves and Teutonic Knights make for an interesting combination in Wolf’s Cross, S.A. Swann’s commendable follow-up to Wolfbreed. In the 14th Century, a band of Holy Men are hunting a monster, a demon who walks like man and beast when their trail leads them to a small Polish village. The P.O.V. character on the Church’s side is a young man named Joseph, who is just an initiate and not a full member of the order. In the village, we are introduced to Maria, a young girl living with her sick father, stepbrother and stepmother as she is tasked with helping the wounded Knights upon their arrival. Sparks fly between Joseph and Maria immediately, but their stations in life prevent them from acting on their impulses.

Mark posted his review is of Blackout by Connie Willis, who happens to be a favorite author of the man also known as Hobbit.

To the tale this time then we have four historians and four basic plotlines that diverge and converge. Michael/Mike Davies is set up as an American war correspondent sent to Dover to look at Dunkirk. Meriope Ward is given the name of Eileen O’Grady, and a position as a maid in a country house in Warwickshire in order to examine the effect of the War on evacuated children from London. Thirdly, Polly Churchill is given the role of Polly Sebastian, a shop-worker in one of the large department stores in London in order to help her investigation of life in London in the Blitz. Lastly, in 1944 Gerald Phipps is sent to investigate British intelligence and ends up displaying mock inflatable tanks in order to confuse the enemy.
There are characters and links here to previous tales, should you wish to connect them. However it’s not overt and not essential in order to follow what’s going on here.

Mark also reviewed the latest Ketty Jay novel by Chris Wooding, The Black Lung Captain. I was pleased to see these books will be coming to the States next year through Bantam Spectra.

This one’s a humdinger. Great pace, teeth-rattling battle scenes, terrific characters, lovely world-building slyly dropped throughout. As you would want, we learn more about our crew and their past as things go horribly wrong. Chris’s action scenes are wonderful, as is his dialogue between a pretty dysfunctional crew. There’s a nice sense of fun and some humorous touches that also works well – Harkins’s ongoing feud with Slag, the ship’s cat, is a delight - and these are combined effectively with some nicely creepy components (here mainly involving group minds and Daemonism) and even pathos. Scenes with Bess, the childlike golem, still steal the show for me.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Books in the Mail (W/E 07/31/2010)

A decent sized haul this week: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks - his first hardcover after what I thought was a very enjoyable debut trilogy: The Night Angel Trilogy; Sympathy for the Devil edited by Tim Pratt; How to Make Friends with Demons by Graham Joyce; Yarn by Jon Armstrong; Black Swan Rising by Lee Carrol; The Sword of Dawn (Hawkmoon/Runestaff #3) by Michael Moorcock; Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal; The Bloodstained Man: Netherworld Book Two by Christopher Rowley; Jump Gate Twist (Omnibus of the first two Jon and Lobo novels) by Mark L. Van Name - I'm reading this right now for the San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review and really enjoying it; All Clear by Connie Willis; The House on Durrow Street by Galen Beckett