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Saturday, April 4, 2020

A Story Epitomizing
the Union of Joffrey Baratheon and Harley Quinn 

Last Argument of Kings
In this, the third installment of “The First Law” series, Joe Abercrombie brings his trilogy to an end. And I have to say, I thought it was cleverly done.
Logan has business – bloody business – to attend to in the north. Bethod has had his rampaging way for far too long, and it looks as if it’s up to the Bloody-Nine to sort things out!
Sand dan Glokta faces an equally tricky – and just as gory – situation in the capital, where political intrigue, treasonous jockeying, and assassination attempts by friend, foe, and demon alike come thick and fast, forcing him to take extreme measures in order to survive.
The Gurkish Empire, not content with annexing Dagoska, the Union’s southernmost province, continue their assault and bring the war to the heart of the Union.
And Jezal dan Luthar, having made it safely back from the edge of the known world, wants nothing more than a quiet life. To settle down with the woman he loves to raise a family. But the king is dying. Added to all the turmoil festering in one place after another, it’s no wonder the common folk are terrified and start revolting. And guess who the powers-that-be task to deal with it?
A veritable cauldron of strife and torment, if ever there was one. To help heat things toward boiling point, we have all the usual accelerants: Narcissistic wizards; incompetent rulers; revolting peasants – and lords too, come to that – restless, warriors itching for a fight; and devious, flesh-eating ghouls, all crowing for the world’s end.
And the thing is, though Joe Abercrombie builds the series to a climactic conclusion, he doesn’t just end it after an epic battle. Oh no. He adds a cunning touch of realism to the mix that helps us appreciate that, at the end of every epic – when the fabled deeds are done and our heroes and heroines come to rest from their labors – picking up the pieces is never easy. Life goes on. But for the survivors, that life might be so drastically changed, that they’ll never be the same.
Kudos to Joe Abercrombie. He leaves us with a bittersweet taste of a world where the lovechild of Joffrey Baratheon and Harley Quinn is allowed to take the reins of a shattered kingdom, only to steer it in a Pulp Fiction direction.
Ultima Ratio Regum.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Grim, Dark and Glorious

Before They Are Hanged
This is the second Joe Abercrombie novel I’ve had the pleasure of delving into – the second of “The First Law” series, come to that – and I have to say, it’s one of the best continuation books I’ve read. THIS is the way to write heroic fantasy. And how could he possibly fail when all the ingredients are there: ancient secrets waiting to be unearthed; barbarian hordes creating havoc; ghoulish demons raising hell; traitorous scoundrels and incompetent, over-privileged fops making things worse –compellingly complex characters you can’t help but love or hate, contending as much against impossible odds as their own shortcomings. . .
Like I say, all the ingredients for an adrenaline-laced, epic high adventure are there, just waiting to unfold. And unfold they will, with all the panache of a berserker on amphetamine-laced steroids taking a fight-club vacation in the boldest, brashest, bloodiest landscape imaginable.
It's grim, dark and glorious. And by the end, you’ll be inclined to forgive your enemies . . . But not before they are hanged!
What’s not to like?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Have You Ever Wondered 
What a Mix between "Conan the Barbarian” & “Game of Thrones” Might Look Like In a Gloriously Epic Production Directed by Quentin Tarantino?

Look No Further!

The Blade Itself
It’s not often I pick up a book and start reading, only to catch myself on repeated occasions grinning – in a deliciously evil way – from ear to ear. That’s exactly what happened when I delved into my first ever Joe Abercrombie novel: The Blade Itself.
And why?
Because it has perfect balance. THAT’s why. Think “Conan the Barbarian” meets “Game of Thrones” in a gloriously epic production directed by Quentin Tarantino, and you’ll get an idea of what’s in store. It’s bloody; it’s brutal; it’s breathtaking and brilliant. Cutting-edge stuff, quite literally, with thoroughly engaging characters, (I just loved Inquisitor Glokta. He’s the favorite uncle I never had), vivid imagery, and an action-packed plot, you’ll be “incited to deeds of violence” and swept away in a world of adventure you won’t want to end.
I took to this story of an empire – swollen by its own grandeur; overconfident in its own invincibility; and ignorant of its imminent collapse – as naturally as a Tasmanian Devil does to throwing tantrums. It still calls to me in my sleep!
Dare I say, the second book in this series won't be far behind?

See my Amazon Review - Here

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

The Last Sun
Rune St John is the sole surviving heir to a former great house of New Atlantis. But he’s also a man hiding a secret shame that can never become public knowledge. Because of this, he’s also something of a maverick. A loner, who – along with his bodyguard and companion, Brand – now makes ends meet by working as a freelance private eye in a city full of scions and unimaginably powerful deities.
When Rune is hired to search for Lady Judgment’s missing son, Addam, he assumes he’s been given just another ordinary assignment. But as he begins to question Addam’s relatives and business associates, any semblance of normalcy soon disappears. Even worse, it seems Rune is too good at his job, because his investigation attracts the unwanted attention of creatures that shouldn’t exist. Creatures who would see him dead, and aren’t in the least bit fussy as to how they go about trying to achieve that end.
The problem is, he can’t give up! Some of the clues he unearths hearken back to the fall of the Sun Court, and the skeletons in the closet from his own past that he is only too willing to kill to keep.
It’s inevitable that things quickly go from bad – to weird, to macabre – to worse, leading Rune to question what the hell is really going on, because there’s no way this is a simple abduction.
I’ve got to say, K. D. Edwards has done a marvelous job. Employing an innovate – and I must stress, rather cool magical system – The Last Sun is set in an alternative world where the legend of the lost city now lives on in modern-day New Atlantis. Clever. It’s familiar enough that you immediately connect to the environment, yet so unusual, you can’t help but be spellbound by the mystical elements. Just the ingredients you’d expect in a quality fantasy romp. An engaging narrative; down-to-earth – and often cynical – humor; and a pleasing interplay of characters, help the story fly past. And it does!
You don’t need a full deck of Arcana to know what the future holds. Trust my Judgment. I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Sun, and I’m sure you will too. So, the Devil with Temperance! Jump in your Chariot or shuffle down to your nearest bookstore or online retailer and deal yourself a Sun, Moon and Star of a treat.
You’d be a Fool to miss it!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

2019 Nebula Award Finalists Announced

Serendipity Strikes!

As followers of my blog will have noticed, I only completed my review of Marque of Caine by Charles E. Gannon last week. And guess what? Marque of Caine has been nominated for the Nebulas!

. . . (A little bit of a trend where this series is concerned, as Charles Gannon’s books are extremely popular and always end up doing rather well). And this year’s awards are no exception.

Well done to Charles Gannon, especially, along with all the other nominees.

And tooting my own horn for a moment . . .
You will see from the list that I’ve read quite a few of those who have been nominated, highlighting what fine taste I have when it comes to my own personal library.

In a nutshell, that should prompt YOU to keep tuning in, as you’ll always find my latest reviews of the finest speculative fiction right here . . .

Thursday, February 20, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

(Nebula Finalist)

Marque of Caine
Set two years after Caine Riordan was relieved of his command – for doing the right thing – our longsuffering protagonist finally receives the message he’s been waiting for: a summons to visit the Dornaani on their home world.
It seems Caine’s hopes of discovering the current location and welfare of his long-lost love, Elena Corcoran, (mother to his seventeen year old son, Connor), has taken a positive step forward at last.
However, there’s no silver lining to the clouds waiting on the horizon. As Caine discovers, time may have passed, but his principles and loyalty ensure he remains a political radioactive hot potato. Bureaucratically instigated obstacles ensure he remains stymied by a frustrating conveyor belt of one step forward, and two steps back red tape. It’s not until Caine takes matters into his own hands that he makes progress . . . if being impeded at every turn and led down countless dead ends can be construed as progress.
And why might this be the case?
The Dornaani culture is crumbling. They may come from a super-sophisticated civilization where technology is so advanced that it makes what human’s possess seem like a primitive sticks & stones society, but they’ve lost the will to create anything new. A malady that has grown steadily more insidious with each passing century. Instead of reaching out to explore and extend their understanding of the universe, the Dornaani are now more content to evade the pressures of real life and immerse themselves within VR sims where their every whim is catered to. Yes, their existence is slowly festering from within.
The thing is, both the planting of the seeds and subsequent cultivation of this spreading rot appears deliberate. Does that mean stagnation is a prelude to something more sinister? And how does that tie in to Caine and Elena?
We find out, in an epically complex tale, where plots within plots weave a textured web of prejudice, racial avarice and duplicity. Little wonder, then, that Caine ends up despairing. Will he ever actually make it home?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

My Rave Review Of. . .

Gideon the Ninth
Born into servitude in the dreariest, most dismal of the great necromantic houses; raised by a coven of wizened old nuns possessing all the warmth of a frozen graves; surrounded by decrepit, unfeeling retainers; harangued by countless skeletons (Don’t forget the skeletons!); and shunned by just about everyone she knows, Gideon Nav hates her life.
The only thing going in her favor is the fact that she’s an accomplished swordswoman. Not that anybody cares. So, she risks everything by launching the latest in a string of daring escape attempts with the aim of running away and joining the military.
Of course, things don’t go as planned, and she is foiled at the last second by her greatest rival, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, and bone witch extraordinaire, who demands Gideon stay and do the Ninth House one last service – a service that will guarantee Gideon the freedom to pursue her dreams.
The catch? (Because you know, there’s just gotta be one)
A call has been issued by none other than the Emperor – Necrolord Prime and King of the Nine Renewals – for new postulants willing to submit themselves for the position of Lyctor, (all-powerful immortal servants of the everlasting resurrection), to help him fight against the empire’s greatest foes.
Okay . . . but what’s the actual catch?
Well, no necromancer can ascend to lyctorhood without their cavalier – a sword-wielding champion – by their side. For the trials require them to act as one, brain and brawn together, to stand a chance of succeeding. And the Ninth’s cavalier is not only unwilling to accept the challenge, he’s next to useless anyway. Thus Harrowhark’s ultimatum. If Gideon is willing to serve as her sword-hand throughout the trials, she’ll be released from servitude forevermore, with full honors.
You KNOW there’s still a catch, don’t you?
And it’s rather delicious . . . (Don’t worry – NO SPOILERS).
Gideon and Harrowhark end up on a decaying world in a mazelike facility run by ancient wardens. Once there, they are required to complete a baffling series of complex, mind-bending, life-threatening tests, while fending off the murderous shenanigans of the representatives of the other houses. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Gideon also has to contend with her hate/hate relationship with Harrowhark, one based on manipulation and betrayal which has come to blows in the past.
Oh the joy of skeletons in the closet making things more complicated.
And they do – because those skeletons I mentioned are everywhere, and neither woman can hope to survive unless they trust one another enough to cooperate fully.
Do they?
You’ll find out, it what I can honestly say is one of the most subtly appealing stories I’ve read in a long time. That it’s moody, macabre and gothic goes without saying. You only have to get a look at the cover to receive a hint of what’s coming. But it’s what’s inside those dark uncomfortable pages that will haunt you. For it whispers in your ear, enticing you; it spellbinds you to accept the unbalanced and the bizarre as normal; it keeps you on a knife-edge and at a distance, so that when the hooks do eventually sink in, you’ll willingly let yourself be drawn to the other side and immersed in a miscreation of woe.
It’s a grim world the author, Tamsyn Muir has painted. As psychologically draining as it is harsh; as unforgiving as it is hostile. But gritty humor and incisor-sharp dialogue help the narrative along at a bone-jarring pace. And therein lies its balance and appeal.
And the weird thing is, it’s not until the end – during the emotionally charged, action packed, blood & guts climax – that the full power of this story truly hits you.
Wow! I loved it. A movie in the making if ever there was one.

Friday, January 17, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

Under the Pendulum Sun
They say, “A picture paints a thousand words.”
Well, the imagery incorporated within Jeannette Ng’s outstanding masterpiece, “Under the Pendulum Sun”, creates an infinite landscape, delightful to behold:
Catherine Helstone’s brother disappeared while on a missionary expedition to Arcadia, the fabled land of the magical fae. Concerned for his welfare, she sets out on a hazardous journey, determined to uncover the truth.
But some truths are best left hidden.
And the fae themselves might not lead the fairytale existence that everyone imagines they do.
Arcadia is an ever evolving conjugation of breathtaking confusion and mind-warping wonder, you see. Its very existence is a constant flux, where breath-on-the-back-of-the-neck, glimpsed-out-of-the-corner-of-one-eye occurrences fill your every waking moment, just as often as taking a walk, or getting dressed. The people and creatures that inhabit this realm are the stuff of both dream and nightmare. Nothing is as it appears to be.
That’s what our heroine has to contend with.
And it’s not until Catherine appreciates that she has to let go of her preconceived notions and beliefs that she’ll be able to grasp the significance of what she needs to do to solve the mystery or her brother’s disappearance, and that of Arcadia itself. But doing so will change her life forever.
Bravo to Jeannette Ng. Under the Pendulum Sun, is an evocative fusion of hedonistic repression encompassed within the closeted strictures of the Victorian era. It's also a powerfully intimate story about the dangers of forbidden fruit, and how easily such things might entangle you if you but dare to take a bite.

Friday, January 3, 2020

My End of Year/New Year Thoughts on. . .

The Dragon Engine
Five war heroes and longtime friends set out on a quest to the Karamakkos Mountains in search of the Five Havens, long-abandoned dwarf cities of yesteryear that fables say still contain untold wealth, and treasures possessing uncanny powers.

The thing is, old wives tales change with the telling, and you can’t put faith in outdated stories that might be founded, more on wishful thinking than on a modicum of truth.

Shaky foundations don’t stop our intrepid five, though, who learn to their cost how quickly drunken promises and fiery resolve can turn to ash. Not long after they set out, their quest turns into a litany of anguish and misadventure, and their lives are changes forever.

Do they live to tell the tale?

This is the first Andy Remic book I’ve read . . . and it won’t be the last!
Filled with lusty deeds; heroic drinking and feasting; villainous scumbags you’ll want to throttle the life from; bone crunching, bloodthirsty battles; adult humor; and language ripe enough to make a drill sergeant blush, it’s like a night out in the filthiest dive on the wrong side of town with your Viking and Klingon buddies.

A frothing tankard of mead, and a well-worn battleaxe of a tale that will give you a definite hankering for carnage on a truly epic scale.