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Saturday, December 26, 2020

 See Why I Immersed Myself So Deeply In. . .



The Lady of the Lake

Well, this is one for – excuse the pun – the books. What a story. And what a way Andrzej Sapkowski has of presenting it:

Sir Galahad, a knight of King Arthur, stumbles upon a maiden bathing in an enchanted lake. He suspects she may be of the faërie, and in that assumption, he’s not far wrong. Although this lady’s countenance is marred by a hideous scar, she has travelled through time and space to be in this particular place at this particular time. Yes, Sir Galahad has happened upon the legendary Child of Prophecy, Ciri, though she is a child no more.

Their exchange sets the basis for a detailed recapitulation of the events surrounding Ciri’s arrival at the lake, and as we see, the Lake itself plays a pivotal role in the unfolding of prophecy, one that touches multiple perspectives as the ages pass.

For example, we are introduced to the fabled Lady of the Lake, Nimue, who delves into the truth of things, no matter how veiled they are by the passage of time; we look in of Geralt’s adventures, and join him and his companions – Regis, Milva, Angoulême and Cahir – as they charged from adventure to adventure in their haste to track Ciri down; we see how Yennefer fares during her imprisonment at Vilgefortz’s hands; are peeved to find enemies of old – Stefan Skellen & Bonhart in particular – are still alive, kicking, and itching to wreak mayhem; and mystified by Ciri’s time among the elves, where she struggles to comprehend the sylvan realm and the future they have planned for her.

We even get to look in on an old friend from long, long ago. Do you remember the Urcheon Prince, Duny, who was cursed to change into a creature that looked like a cross between a hedgehog and a boar? The guy who fell in love with Princess Pavetta? Well, he makes an appearance too, and just wait until you find out the role he’s been playing all along.

Yes, the Lady of the Lake is a marvelous coming together of pieces first places out decades ago, and which now find their place in a complex puzzle for a grand revelation, helping explain why Ciri is hunted by so many factions, who all want to influence the Witcher girl in any way they can.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Lady of the Lake is an incredibly complex and compelling revelation that draws you in, hangs on tight, and never let’s go. A page turner, if ever there was one, because you “just have to find out what happens next!”

But what I liked about it is Geralt & Yennefer’s obvious influence on Ciri. They may have been parted for long periods, but they managed to make a great impression upon her. And no matter how many trials she faces, no matter what torture she endures, she remains her own woman. She never accepts the course any of the manipulators try to steer her along, and chooses her own destiny for herself. A destiny strengthened by Geralt and Yennefer’s loyal love.

Obviously, there are consequences to Ciri’s actions. But isn’t that what makes fairytales so fascinating? The bittersweet seduction that keeps you chomping at the bit until the end?

An excellent story, and one that won’t disappoint. 



Saturday, December 19, 2020

 See why I'm Beside Myself With Joy 

After Reading. . .



Supersymmetry

Just when you think you can’t get enough of a good thing, the expanding universe that is David Walton’s mind comes along with another quantum serving of something special: Supersymmetry, the follow-up novel to Superposition, which I reviewed a few weeks ago. Here’s the blurb:

*****

Ryan Oronzi is a paranoid, neurotic, and brilliant physicist who has developed a quantum military technology that could make soldiers nearly invincible in the field. The technology, however, gives power to the quantum creature known as the varcolac, which slowly begins to manipulate Dr. Oronzi and take over his mind. Oronzi eventually becomes the unwilling pawn of the varcolac in its bid to control the world. The creature immediately starts attacking those responsible for defeating it fifteen years earlier, including Sandra and Alex Kelley—the two versions of Alessandra Kelley who are still living as separate people. The two young women must fight the varcolac, despite the fact that defeating it may mean resolving once again into a single person. 

*****

Get the gist?

Good, because this time out, Walton spins the realms of possibility by using a slightly different style to that of the preceding story. For one thing, it’s set fifteen years after the events of Superposition. Alex and Sandra (once Alessandra) have grown into two distinct, separate women: Alex, who follows in her father’s – Jacob’s – footsteps as a scientist; and Sandra, who serves as a rookie cop with the Philadelphia police force.

Their individuality is an integral component in the ever evolving plot – as you’ll see – because when the reality of the varcolac’s return is established, their unique perspectives play a large part in helping stymie the entity’s efforts in gaining a foothold in our world. . .

Or do they?

Yes, for a second time in a row, Walton turns probability on its head by presenting us with the enigma of enigmas: the Grandfather Paradox.

And well played, because we’re thrown into a helter-skelter ride of deliciously devilish twists and turns that spins this murder mystery into a mind warping voyage of scientific discovery. Supersymmetry is a fast-paced, immersive, and outstanding form of alternative SF that will keep you engrossed from beginning to end. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope there’ll be more to come from the Kelly’s at some point in the spacetime continuum.





Saturday, December 5, 2020

 See Why I Got Into Such a Spin About. . .



Superposition

I am, and always have been, a science fiction & fantasy buff. I love the genre, as it allows you to experience a whole lot of fun in a vast universe where anything is possible. On those rare occasions where I fancy something else to read, I tend to lean toward John Grisham and Tom Clancy.

So, imagine my delight when I realized one of my favorite authors – David Walton – had written a book incorporating all three – sci-fi action/techno-wizardry/courtroom drama – of those elements. (Eureka springs to mind.)

For those of you who might be reading this review from my blog, (and not a purchase page including the blurb), here’s a quick peek into what to expect:

******

Jacob Kelley's family is turned upside down when an old friend turns up, waving a gun and babbling about an alien quantum intelligence. The mystery deepens when the friend is found dead in an underground bunker…apparently murdered the night he appeared at Jacob's house. Jacob is arrested for the murder and put on trial.  

As the details of the crime slowly come to light, the weave of reality becomes ever more tangled, twisted by a miraculous new technology and a quantum creature unconstrained by the normal limits of space and matter. With the help of his daughter, Alessandra, Jacob must find the true murderer before the creature destroys his family and everything he loves.

******
So, having prepared yourself for what’s in store, get ready for the reality-twisting ride of your life. The story arc is delivered in a clever series of ‘hops’ between the court case, and those events leading up to/during/immediately following Kelley’s trial. But are we skipping backward and forward in time (in a before and after scenario), or has David Walton thought of an even more imaginative way to present the narrative?

Yes, there are clues about what you’re going to read in the title; the blurb; and what it says at the beginning of each chapter. It’s a great idea, and one that gives that little extra boost to an already fascinating premise. I loved it! The murder-mystery intrigue starts from the very beginning; the pieces of the puzzle are carefully laid out; and then quantum physics jumbles everything into a gripping, fast paced adventure of possibilities that maintains the suspense factor throughout. You really don’t know what might happen until the very end.

For those of you who enjoy an addictive whodunit played out in a cross-genre playground, then Superposition is the book for you.




Saturday, November 21, 2020

 Dare You Contend With This Review Of. . . 



The Hero of Ages – Mistborn Book Three


The Hero of Ages takes us into the closing chapter of the Mistborn trilogy, where we find events spiraling out of control in a headlong rush toward oblivion. Vin may have killed the Lord Ruler and gained access to the Well of Ascension, but her well-meaning choices released calamity upon humankind.

The Deepness – the all-pervasive and malignant mist that terrorizes people at night – is getting worse; as are the ash falls and ever more powerful earthquakes that wrack the land from end to end. Crops are failing. Society is crumbling. Humanity trembles on the brink of extinction.

They need the long prophesized Hero of Ages to step up and save them.

But who might that be?

A perplexing conundrum that Sanderson employs to lead you through the trials and tribulations facing Vin, Elend and their friends as they struggle to rally the remnants of their civilization into making a last stand against evil.

And what a stand it is.

Sanderson took his time in laying the foundations of this epic story. Wisely so, because its only here, at the end of a long and tumultuous journey, that all the signs, signals, references, half-truths and misdirection come together to help you solve a 1000 year old puzzle and finally discover who that hero is. And what a revelation we get, incorporating issues of faith, hope, loyalty, and sacrifice on a profound scale that reminds us of the frailty – and amazing strength during times of crisis – of the human condition.

I particularly enjoyed the slow burn of this story arc. You have to take your time in laying out the jumbled pieces of a jigsaw, and it’s only as the narrative helps you piece everything together that you begin to comprehend just how vast the bigger picture is.

An epic ending to one of the best trilogies I’ve read in a long while. Don’t miss it!





Saturday, November 7, 2020

Refresh Yourselves with a Review of. . .
The Well of Ascension



The Well of Ascension – Mistborn Book Two

The Well of Ascension takes us back to Luthadel a year after the Dark Lord has been deposed. Far from making things better, the citizens of the land discover that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

Yes, the Final Empire is no more and the Steel Inquisitors seem to have vanished. But in their wake, uncertainty follows. Citizens at both ends of the social spectrum struggle to find balance in a new regime of tolerance. Only, there are those who don’t want to change. And they are quick to take advantage.

Luthadel becomes surrounded by no less than three opposing armies, all intent on seizing the one thing that means anything: the former Emperor’s atium reserves. But those reserves can’t be found, and no amount of pledging or promises can make the invading commanders change their minds.

In addition, we find our heroes facing their own personal crossroads. Elend is an honorable and well-meaning young man, but his naivety of the real world places everyone in danger. Vin is feared for her power. She did destroy the former emperor after all. But she is beset by doubts about her own motivations and ability to make lasting changes. And of course, she can’t really believe that a man like Elend would truly love someone like her. Sazed is a man caught between two worlds. That of a Keeper, and remaining a firm friend and confident to the people he has come to know and respect.

And Kelsier’s former crew? For the most part, they take a back seat during this adventure, making way for several new characters who add a little spice to the mix. (I shan’t say more, as I’m always keen NEVER to give anything of the plot away.)

This book is longer than the last one, (over 760 pages), and Sanderson lights a fuse at the beginning that burns slowly but surely toward a climactic finish. Very clever, as there’s a lot of ground to cover. But it’s done well. And what I particularly enjoyed was the time Sanderson took to reveal more about the Final Empire’s history, and the origins and interspecies relationships of some of its more mysterious races. (You’ll see).

And the delicious twist at the end?

The Well of Ascension is a most satisfying read, and I can’t wait to see how things are brought to a conclusion in the final book.


Amazon Review

 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

 An Epic Review Of. . . 



The Final Empire – Mistborn Book One


The premise for this book is as follows:

For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison. Kelsier "snapped" and found in himself the powers of a Mistborn. A brilliant thief and natural leader, he turned his talents to the ultimate caper, with the Lord Ruler himself as the mark.

Kelsier recruited the underworld's elite, the smartest and most trustworthy allomancers, each of whom shares one of his many powers, and all of whom relish a high-stakes challenge. Only then does he reveal his ultimate dream, not just the greatest heist in history, but the downfall of the divine despot.

But even with the best criminal crew ever assembled, Kel's plan looks more like the ultimate long shot, until luck brings a ragged girl named Vin into his life. Like him, she's a half-Skaa orphan, but she's lived a much harsher life. Vin has learned to expect betrayal from everyone she meets, and gotten it. She will have to learn to trust, if Kel is to help her master powers of which she never dreamed.

This saga dares to ask a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails?

*******

This is the first Brandon Sanderson novel I’ve read. And it certainly won’t be the last.

I found The Final Empire to be a fascinating and thoroughly absorbing tale, combining ancient prophecy, devilish conspiracies, social injustice, political intrigue and Hail-Mary heroics in a cauldron of suspense and high adventure.

The world he has built is eerily provocative, and though ruined by ecological disaster in the far distant past, still exerts a hypnotic beauty that pulls the reader in and gets you caring about what happens. The characters (both main and secondary) are engaging and relatable. The magic system is a joy to behold. And before you know it, you’ve read over 600 pages without feeling drained.

I'd love to say more, but hate to give anything away. 

Needless to say, this is an excellent story, and I look forward to more.


Amazon Review




Friday, October 9, 2020

 A Review Of. . .




Waveoff

The ghosts of nightmares past are a theme that flow in spectral currents through our latest offering from the Caine Riordan universe. In particular, we’re introduced to Lieutenant Kevin Bowden, a fast jet pilot haunted by the last combat mission he ever flew.

And with good reason.

Bad intel led to him raining down death and destruction on innocent civilians, and the sight of a little girl tumbling through the air to meet a grizzly and gruesome end is something he’ll never forget. That image becomes so indelibly burned into his memories and conscience that he vows never to fly in combat again.

All well and good, perhaps, if he’d stayed on Earth. But fate dealt him a cruel hand, and he was snatched away through time and space to another world where a desperate struggle for survival draws him ever closer to the possibility that he will have to get involved.

It has become known that J’Sull satraps have gained access to an inter-system transmitter. Though the worse for wear, they’re busily doing all they can to repair that transmitter, so that they can call for backup.

And backup will spell disaster for the Lost Soldiers, for the indigenous communities of R’bak, and everything they’ve tried to achieve, unless. . .

The SpinDogs have access to several decrepit aircraft, and Major R.Y. Murphy turns to Bowden for help, for only Bowden has the tactical aviation skills needed to turn several heaps of junk into serviceable aircraft that might – just might – serve as missile platforms, capable of destroying the transmitter before the enemy calls for reinforcements.

But there’s a problem. That transmitter is protected on three sides by mountains, and the only approach lies just beyond a large town inhabited by innocent folk. And he’s got very little time in which to train the SpinDog pilots on the tactics needed to drop bombs accurately.

A nightmare scenario? Oh yes. War is never fair. Anything that can go wrong probably will. A maxim that rings ever more loudly as the mission progresses, placing Bowden in a position he dreads.

How does he fare?

Ah, you’ll have to find out for yourself. Just let me say, Waveoff, by Chris Kennedy is a fast-paced and engaging tale that deals with the very real issues faced by combat veterans the world over. They don’t have the option of burying their heads in the sand or quitting. It’s very often a case of having to get back on the horse and steeling yourself to face the next round of missions, and doing so in a way that sees the men and women under your command safely through to the other side.

A great story, and one of my personal favorites.


Amazon Review


Saturday, October 3, 2020

 A Gem of a Review Regarding. . .


Pearl

In this latest Lost Soldiers adventure, we’re introduced to a former military officer, Victor Allan Thomas – Vat – to his small circle of friends – a man with an ignominious past. Nobody really knows the events behind his discharge from the army. Whatever the reason, Vat went on to become something of an international arms dealer. A vocation no doubt assisted by his uncanny knack for understanding different cultures, and the languages & the sub-dialects they employ to stay one step ahead of the authorities.

Sadly, Vat himself wasn’t able to stay ahead of the authorities. That’s how he found himself aboard a helicopter that went down over Somalia, only to be snatched away from everything he knew by the mysterious Ktor. Fortunately for him, he wakes some 130 years later, to find his skills are very much in demand.

How so?

Major Murphy knows how vital it is to form a sound relationship with the people of R’Bak if he’s to stand any chance of fighting off enemy satraps before the next Searing arrives. The trouble is, those satraps have weapons and vehicle caches at a number of unknown locations. If they’re left in play, they will destroy any chance he has of showing the local population the Lost Soldiers can be trusted, or have the ability to establish a working base from which they can expand their operation.

As such, Murphy has no choice but to rely on Vat to build a bridge between the Sarmatchani populace and its elders, while at the same time searching for opportunities to get his hands on some of those vehicle caches.

Despite his expertise, however, Vat finds it difficult to form relationships. The ghost from his past that led to his discharge from the army continues to haunt him. He’s suspicious of everyone and their motives. Yet he’s going to have to overcome that tendency if he’s going to make Murphy’s plan work.

I thoroughly enjoyed this outing with the Lost Soldiers. It contained a touch of realism in its style and ‘attitude’ that added a down-to-earth grittiness to the overall flavor of the story arc. A good reminder too, that you can’t always choose your comrades in war. But if you accept them for who they are and build on what they can do well? Ah, then you’ll have an effective, efficient fighting force, capable of getting the job done.

Kudos to Mark Wandrey for handling a sensitive & timely subject with skillful aplomb.

A great story!


Amazon Review




Saturday, September 26, 2020

 A Review of. . .


Promises

Captain Mara – Bruce – Lee is a natural pilot, skilled and experienced enough to teach others how to handle one of the most finickity aircraft there is; the Huey helicopter. The mere fact that she finds herself more than a century into the future and in an entirely different star system hasn’t altered her vocation one bit. Except that now, instead of foreign students, she’s required to teach SpinDogs how to fly, thereby building a bridge between the two communities that will contribute to the success of future Lost Soldier missions on R’Bak.

Something essential to everyone’s continued survival.

However, Mara is riddled with guilt at being wrenched away from her husband and son. And though they are now long dead, she still harbors a deep and aching bitterness toward her circumstances. That bitterness results in her cutting off her feelings, so that she is no longer able to form attachments that others take for granted.

Until her latest student, that is.

For though Ozendi is from an alien community, he reminds her enough of her husband that she’s overwhelmed by long-suppressed emotions, and struggles to know how to respond . . . if at all. With good reason! There’s one hell of a lot at stake. If she breaks the trust of her superiors and puts the finely-balanced relationship with the SpinDogs in jeopardy, it could spell disaster for everyone.

So what to do?

Promises is a superb reminder that, it’s not only men who march off to war. And though they may be feminine in nature, women also struggle with the very real crutch that can bring anyone to their knees. That of fomenting grief and anger. Yes, mental and emotional scars can be just as debilitating as bullet wounds. And this story balances that lesson quite nicely.

See my Amazon Review Here:

Amazon



Saturday, September 19, 2020

This week's review of. . .


Diablo – The Veiled Prophet

The demon-backed Triune has been vanquished. Now, all that stands between Uldyssian, his edyrem, and outright victory over evil is the Cathedral of Light and its charismatic leader – the fallen angel Inarius – who hides in plain sight, using the guise of a youthful Prophet.

However, Uldyssian is unaware of the aid bestowed upon him and his followers by the angel in his quest so far. As such, they have grown overconfident in their invulnerability, and are blind to the fact that they are being manipulated. Something has to give. But what?

The edyrem are oblivious to the consequences of submitting to their unrestrained passions in battle. Inarius is intent on retaining power, and would willingly allow Sanctuary to be destroyed rather than lose face. Ever ready to seize the advantage, the demon lords bide their time, just waiting for the scales to tip in their favor. Worse still, the heavenly host has discovered the location of Sanctuary and one of the Angiris Council is, even now, confirming his worst suspicions before calling in the High Heavens to act.

As I said: Something’s got to give.

What that is, exactly, you can discover for yourself in a helter-skelter ride of an adventure that is as action-packed as it is riddled with subterfuge and subtext. Even better, it’s also a story of personal growth, acceptance, and sacrifice.

No, you can’t always have a happy ending. But then again, don’t the best stories always end with a little dash of poignant self-discovery?

A thoroughly enjoyable conclusion to the Sin War. (Now – play the game!)




Sunday, September 6, 2020

My Review of. . .



Diablo – Scales of the Serpent
In the “Scales of the Serpent”, the second of the Sin War trilogy, we find our protagonist, Uldyssian – reluctant hero of the people – hell-bent on destroying the cult of the Triune, a religious movement that has been skillfully subverted to the demoness, Lilith’s, cause.
And with good reason.
The world in which our story is set, Sanctuary, is the conjugation of rebel demons and angels alike. And Lilith was one of those who championed its creation. She, along with her lover and co-conspirator, the angel Inarius, have fought for millennium to keep the existence of Sanctuary a secret from the Burning Hell and the High Heavens, who would destroy it in an instant if they realized the power some of the mortals like Uldyssian – known as naphalem – possess.
The thing is, Lilith is out to upset the balance, and not only seeks to preserve Sanctuary’s integrity, but is determined to establish herself as the Supreme Being of a new order.
But at what cost?
Hundreds of the naphalem have fallen. Mendeln, Uldyssian’s brother, becomes ever more entwined by the necromantic powers that have been offered him by the first of the naphalem, Rathma. And Achilos is dead, though bound to act as champion and defender to Serenthia and Uldyssian against his wishes. How will anything ever be the same again?
Here’s a clue . . . it won’t!
As before, Uldyssian’s habit of self-doubt – despite the miracles he’s responsible for – and disbelieving the obvious become rather irksome as the story progresses. However, that doesn’t detract from the action – and there’s plenty of it – when the Triune, and Lilith, realize what he’s up to.
Overall, “Scales of the Serpent” is a pleasing journey through the world of Sanctuary, and has me hooked enough to want to know how the story ends.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

A Review of. . .



Diablo – Birthright
I’ve never played the games on which the Sin War trilogy is based, but I do enjoy a good story. And where Richard A. Knaak is concerned, THAT’s what you know you’re gonna get.
Uldyssian Ul-Diomed is just a normal guy. A farmer, living with his brother in the village of Seram. Life is hard, but he’s quite content with his lot and is good at what he does. Those who know Uldyssian view him as a no-nonsense individual who can be trusted to deal fairly with those he encounters. Because of this, he’s well respected by his peers . . . until the fateful day religious zealots come to town.
Uldyssian can’t stand the hypocrisy that seems to surround anyone who pushes their beliefs in his face. So, when members of the two main faiths wind up dead, suspicion turns his way. He flees his homeland, determined to prove his innocence, one way or the other. The only problem with that is he seems to be developing strange new powers. Powers that no normal man should possess.
These events combine, slowly peeling away the façade that has been put in place to keep the populace fooled. Yes, there’s much more to the land in which they live than people realize. And finding out about it can prove deadly . . . as Uldyssian finds out to his cost.
This was my introduction to the world of Sanctuary, and I have to say, I was thoroughly absorbed from the outset. Diablo – Birthright, is an engaging, fast-paced tale that will appeal to a wide audience, and draw you in to Uldyssian’s plight as if he was your best friend gone awry. (Despite his penchant for procrastinating). Nonetheless, it’s a great start. I look forward to more.

Review also at:
Amazon

Friday, August 7, 2020

My latest Review Of. . .

 

The Star Seeds of Earth

Alibi Jones is something of a maverick.

Son of the infamous Vatican Assassin, Bernard Campion, and a mother from whom he is estranged, Alibi likes to keep to himself, running an isolated outpost in a remote part of space away from the regimented regulations imposed by the Solar Alliance, and the draconian orderliness of the Greater Tah.

Unfortunately, Alibi gets restless. A lot. And that restlessness leads him into all sorts of trouble.

Take this latest escapade, for example. Alibi is tasked to find a Star Seed on behalf of an “interested party.” The trouble is, Star Seeds aren’t just harmless curios that happen to demand a high price. Oh no. They’re primeval artifacts containing the scientific and biological repository of the Ancient Enemy; a civilization that once used their superior technology and mental powers to dominate all other life in the cosmos until one day, millions of years ago, those races rose up to defy their masters and wipe them out.

Foreseeing such an outcome, the Ancient Enemy scattered their potential throughout the universe. And in the countless millennia since then, the most advanced of those liberated alien cultures used their arts and fortitude to hunt down and eradicate every Star Seed they could find; for once opened, they would be capable of altering the biota of an entire planet to resurrect the Ancients once more.

And Alibi’s been asked to use his skills to find one. The thing is, why? Who on Earth would dare such a thing? What would be the implications of such a device being activated, even if it ended up in the hands of scientists with altruistic intent, let alone those with ulterior motives?

Well, we certainly find out in a complex and intricately interwoven tale of high adventure, personal discovery and betrayal, political intrigue, and narcissistic ambition that will keep you engaged and entertained from beginning to end. And what I particularly enjoyed about the Star Seeds of Earth was that fact that, not only was it easy to read, but it was downright fun! What more could you ask for?


Friday, July 24, 2020

A Review Of. . .


The Dragon Republic
Fang – Rin – Runin has unleashed the beast within and can’t put it back, for the Phoenix god is an uncontrollable force of nature that can never be subdued by force of will alone. Because of this, Rin becomes an opium addict, haunted by the terrible atrocities committed in her god’s name. Unfortunately, that also means she’s a renegade too, on the run from her own people, the authorities, and those who would experiment on her to find out the secrets of her power.
She wants revenge. Revenge on those who would use her to their own ends; those who would see her dead; and especially on the Empress who sold out her homeland.
Fortune seems to shine on her, for the powerful dragon warlord seeks to overthrow the empire and replace it with a republic. He seeks Rin’s aid, promising her power and influence if they are successful, and most of all, freedom for her kind.
But things are not what they seem, and Rin is betrayed at every turn, forcing her to realize that perhaps the Phoenix god has been right all along?
The Dragon Republic is another powerful story from R.F. Kuang. And while I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as The Poppy Wars, it nevertheless managed to encapsulate the futility of war, and her frustrations at being so easily duped. She also learns a most valuable lesson: that no matter how powerful we become, we’re still pawns in someone else’s game.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

This Week's reView from the Top of . . .


The White Towers
In “The White Towers” – book 2 of The Rage of kings Series – we find the Iron Wolves in desperate need of someone to throw them a bone!
It transpires King Yoon isn’t the drooling lunatic everyone thought he was. Well, he is, BUT, there’s an insidious lucidity to his insanity that borders on delirium. His past actions have all been part of a master plan, one that fell to ruin when the Iron Wolves destroyed Orlana the Changer.
But, there’s no denying the fact that Orlana’s rabid host was on the verge of decimating Vagandrak’s armies. So, who would dare deny the Iron Wolves acted in the nation’s best interests? Well, King Yoon would. And he rewards their valorous acts by sentencing them to death, forcing the gang to go on the run.
Bad timing, really, seeing as how the elf rats – twisted deviants living in the poisoned realm beyond the White Lion mountains – capitalize on Vagandrak’s vulnerability by invading! And the elf rats are out for payback. Their land was cursed by Yoon’s forefathers, thousands of years ago, and they’ve been forced to eke out a living, just this side of extinction, ever since. But they’ve had thousands of years to prepare. And that preparation shows, in a devastating series of strikes that brings Vagandrak to its knees.
They need the Iron Wolves. But will they be enough?
Again, I would invite you to discover the answer for yourselves in a wonderfully crafted tale of violent delights and visceral vengeance that is as unforgiving as it is relentless. The pace is fast, furious, and frantic; the characters as humanly flawed as they are eloquently filthy; the action, as addictive as it is barking, brutally mad; and the land in which it is set, as starkly beautiful as it is savagely toxic. In a nutshell? Heaven!
If you can’t get away on holiday this year for fear of clampdowns, then get yourself a one-way ticket to Vagandrak. You won’t EVER want to come back.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

This Week's Rumpus of a Review


The Iron Wolves
General Dalgoran desperately needs help. Orlana the Changer – a primal wielder of Equiem magick – has escaped the Chaos Halls, and seeks to satisfy her lusts by inflicting carnage of the world of men. To advance her schemes, she builds an army of hideously warped, superhuman creatures, and supplements them by summoning thousands of mud-orcs from ancient breeding pits to her side.
Only one thing stands in the way of total annihilation. The Iron Wolves. Heroes of old who once turned back an overwhelming tide of evil at The Pass of Splintered Bone when they slew the dark sorcerer, Morkagoth.
But twenty years have passed since the Iron Wolves last stood together with General Dalgoran, and the world is not the same.
For one thing, King Yoon has fallen to madness, and is more intent on indulging in acts of depravity and debauchery than protecting his kingdom. People have become complacent, and refuse to acknowledge any possibility that mud-orcs could ever return.
And the Iron Wolves?
The passage of time hasn’t treated them kindly, and they have become just as scarred by life as the battles they’ve fought. Some have lost themselves. Others, have given in to despair. A few have resorted to committing crimes of a heinous nature, just to get by. They’re mavericks, each with their own agenda. How could individuals so dysfunctional be anyone’s last line of defense?
Ah, I’d invite you to find out, in a helter-skelter ride of a story that is, quite simply, a breathtaking ensemble of riotous fun, bone-crunching combat, and a finger-on-the-pulse tribute, reminding us how Murphy’s Law will stab you in the back when you least expect it.
I connected to the mood from the outset. The Iron Wolves (Book 1 of The Rage of Kings) is down and dirty, dark and gritty, and brays its barrack room humor without mercy. It will appeal to those who have endured the heat of battle and come away scarred, as it makes you feel as if you’re back among comrades again.
And the ending?
Life isn’t always happy, and I found the conclusion of this story rather satisfying. And isn’t that how it’s meant to be?
Try it; it’s a tale that calls to the berserker in all of us.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

This Week's Double Bill. . .


Obligations
This latest outing into the Caine Riordan universe – written by Kevin Ikenberry – focuses on the experiences of Captain Hubert –Bo– Moorefield and his taskforce, who have set up shop at Camp Stark, a Forward Operating Base on the border of the Haman desert region of R’bak, in anticipation of the arrival of Lieutenant Harold Tapper and his Sarmatchani strike force. Tapper and his team had previously liberated a considerable vehicle cache and other operational supplies from their J’strull enemies, and are being pursued. It’s Moorefield’s job to make sure the strike force and their contraband are taken in to safe custody.
There you have the premise of a gritty little tale that’s bound to please, especially as Murphy’s Law runs rampant, and things don’t go to plan.
I won’t say anything further about the story ark, as – for me at any rate – that’s not what this visit to R’bak is really about. No, what I particularly liked about Ikenberry’s approach was its emphasis on the psychological cost facing those soldiers who serve their country and/or end up having to go to war.
Yes, there’s action aplenty. (This is a story within the Caine Riordan universe after all.) And its well written. But as a veteran who has seen action in a number of different theaters around the world, I really appreciated the subtle reminder we get of the other, often hidden war that goes on inside the minds of those who give their all to keep us safe. That war can make you bleed. It hurts. It inflicts injuries just as real, just as debilitating as the ‘real thing.’ And the emotional impact on those you’ve left behind?
In Bo Moorefield’s case, he was abducted from earth and put into cryogenic sleep in 1992, on the very day he received a ‘Dear John’ letter from his wife, Sharon. We explore his feelings about that. After all, he wakes up one hundred and thirty years later on a very different world, countless millions of miles away, and is completely helpless to do anything about it. He can’t call. He can’t write. He can’t offer to sit down and talk things through to see if there’s any chance of a reconciliation. No, it’s a past event; long-gone history by the time he realizes what’s happened, and he has to carry that burden into battle.
But how does it affect him? His outlook? His capacity to relate to others effectively? His ability to take command and make effective, objective decisions? Is he still capable of inspiring those he leads? Because don’t forget, he’s not the only one dealing with ghosts of the past, and the J’strull aren’t going to give up their assets without one hell of a fight!
Yes, there’s a witch’s brew of trouble fomenting, and its up to Bo Moorefield to prioritize his obligations and find a solution before it’s too late.
A thoughtful and evocative tale about what soldiers on the frontline have to contend with.


Man-Eater

When it comes to the Lost Soldiers of the Caine Riordan universe, you’re guaranteed to meet a wide variety of individuals. Technical and combat specialists. Heroes. Professionals in their fields. People who were no doubt greatly missed when tragedy struck, snatching them away from their loved ones and through time and space, only for them to end up fighting someone else’s war. And this latest adventure – Man-Eater, by Griffin Barber – is no different. . .
Except that it IS.
How?
Warrant Officer Chalmers is something of a maverick, a former criminal investigation specialist gone bad. He crossed one too many lines and was being shipped back home to face the consequences of his crimes. But he never does, at least, not on Earth, for he wakes up 130 years later where everything has changed. His world. His situation. His prospects.
And THAT forms the crux of our story.
Have the sins of Chalmers’ past followed him into the future? Can he be trusted? Does he deserve a second chance? A chance to do better? To become a different person?
We find out, for Chalmers has been tasked to investigate a suspected crime ring operating among the local J’strull satraps of R’bak. Their activities not only threaten the Lost Soldiers’ overall objectives on the planet, but the lives of their allies too. In particular, Chalmers is expected to identify the leaders, root out their strongholds among the local communities, and locate contraband tech they might tip the balance of power throughout the region.
How does this shamed soldier fare?
You’ll find Man-Eater a rather cautionary tale, as Chalmers ends up fighting as much against his ingrained behavioral patterns as he does the alien expectations, language and customs he’s been thrown in amongst. It makes for inciteful, painful reading, because even when a person wants to change; indeed, is genuinely determined to change, old habit die hard. And as the story arc so poignantly expresses, Chalmers is his own worst enemy.
A thoroughly absorbing story that adds a greater depth to an ever-growing universe.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

My Review of . . .


The Tower of the Swallow
Were back to the main story arc in this installment of the Witcher series, and although this one is a little difficult to follow – Sapkowski has a tendency to skip backward and forward through time, changing POV as he does so – it’s worth sticking with it, as essential plot points come to the fore.

War grips the land. Everyone is searching for Ciri, the foretold child of prophecy, who is forced into hiding after suffering a terrible disfigurement. Geralt can’t protect her, for he lies gravely wounded in Brokilon Forest and hankers to leave before he’s recovered from his injuries. Yennefer has disappeared, and according to gossip, lies dead at the hands of enemies.

Full-on action. Plots and intrigue. A wonderful blend of fairytale and folk law. And at last, we begin to see the depth of treachery that has plagued Ciri since her birth, and who it is fomenting it. It’s great fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the story progresses from here.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

My Hot Off The Press Review Of. . .


Baptism of Fire
War ravages the land. The world is changing. Lines have been drawn, and nothing will ever be the same again. Even the wizard’s guild couldn’t endure the calamity intact, and now lies shattered, its reputation in ruins and its sorcerers in hiding.
With nothing but their own wits and skills to protect them Geralt and Ciri battle their own demons – and more – trying to survive in the aftermath. But how on earth will they manage to find each other when they’re being hunted? Geralt as a fugitive, Ciri as the prize that everyone wants.
Baptism of Fire is a superb example of why the Witcher series is so compelling. It’s dark. Brooding. Brutal and complex. Just the ticket, for sheer escapism.
Indulge yourself, and become part of a runaway magical journey through a land where anything can happen.