Tuesday, December 28, 2021

 See How Harry Digs a Hole for Himself In. . .

Grave Peril

Okay then. Here we go on Harry Dresden’s third outing, Grave Peril. And this one sounds as if it might be his best – and most difficult – caper yet.

Let’s take a peek at the Blurb:

Harry Dresden’s faced some pretty terrifying foes during his career. Giant scorpions. Oversexed vampires. Psychotic werewolves. It comes with the territory, when you’re the only professional wizard in the Chicago area phone book.

But in all Harry’s years of supernatural sleuthing, he’s never faced anything like this: the spirit world’s gone postal. All over Chicago, ghosts are causing trouble—and not just of the door-slamming, boo-shouting variety. These ghosts are tormented, violent, and deadly. Someone—or something—is purposely stirring them up to wreak unearthly havoc. But why? And why do so many of the victims have ties to Harry? If Harry doesn’t figure it out soon, he could wind up a ghost himself...


So what do we get?

A story of – what I like to call – “start/stop/starts.” That’s what.

What do I mean?

Let me explain. It starts off well: this adventure takes place about twelve months after his previous one, and Harry has made some new friends. In particular, Michael. A holy knight with a blessed sword. Just the thing Harry needs when dealing with all things fiendish and foul. Which is exactly what you get from page 1. Harry and Michael are speeding toward a local hospital where a crèche full of infants are in danger from the specter of a dead nurse. She’s powerful. She’s nasty. And before her death, was desperately unhinged. You get an idea from the blurb that she’s also hyped up on some form of ghostly steroids.

So, we’re straight into a bout of magical mayhem and fisticuffs. Action that hooks you into the storyline and gets you invested almost from the moment you turn that first page . . . (That’s the great start I mentioned).
Then things grind to a near-stop when Harry is presented with the perfect opportunity to end the situation early on, only to do what I complained about in the previous novel. His Mr. Nice Guy/goody-two-shoes syndrome kicks in, and spoils what is a great opening action scene.

I mean, think about it. A nursery full of newborns is in peril. The ghost is killing them, draining their little souls away. One baby in particular has been singled out, and has already stopped breathing. Harry Dresden is gifted with an opening that would unbind the phantom and send her back where she belongs. What would any sane person in their right mind do?
Yup . . . ZAP! Goodbye spook. You’re already dead, so get yourself back into the spirit realm and stay there where you can’t harm anyone else.
Except, Harry doesn’t do that. Just as he’s about to dispatch the infant-murdering ghoul, he feels a pang of sympathy for what she went through in life and holds back. Not only does that turn everything upside down, increasing the danger for everyone present, but for me, (and this is only my personal opinion, mind you), it arrested the connection I’d made with the story. I just can’t imagine anyone in a position to save so many children acting so irresponsibly . . . and all because he didn’t want to hurt a poor ghost’s feelings?

Anyway, I stuck with it and soldiered on.

Thankfully, the story picked up again sufficiently to recapture my interest. But it was trying, as there were several more instances where Dresden acted like a wet-wipe in a way nobody in their right mind would do, which dragged the tempo right down.

And yes. I know we’re talking about a work of fiction here. Something designed to titillate and entertain. Yet, works of fantasy also need to carry a solid element of reality. Something the reader can anchor themselves to, thereby allowing them to stretch the realms of ‘what might be’ into the fringes of the ‘might be plausible’ or ‘yeah, I can see that happening.’ And I don’t know. Perhaps it’s my background. But when I see a character gain control of a situation, or gain the upper hand, only to choose – time and time again, and quite deliberately – to put other decent, innocent, law-abiding (you get the picture) characters in danger at the expense of a bunch of supernatural murdering scumbags? No. It grates on my nerves and spoils my enjoyment of what would otherwise be a great story.

Like I said at the beginning, it’s a start/stop/start kinda tale. It begins like a blazing comet; sputters badly, due to the main character’s unbelievable choices; stokes up the heat for a second time; cools again; recovers well; only to fizzle toward a finishing line that thankfully raises the bar to pyrotechnic glory with its dying breath.

A shame. I really, really want to like this series. But I think it might give me hives if I try any more.

Amazon Review

Friday, December 17, 2021

 All The Right Ingredients Are There

In . . .

Dead Wrong

Here we are, back in the blood-n’-guts Nomfest that is Greg Stumbo’s Generation Zed series. And if you’re hoping for a lucky break, here’s NOT the place to be.
As the blurb so clearly intimates:



You’d think there’d be a Third time's a charm – right? Okay, so attempts one and two were a bust, and if you haven't learned anything from the first two, hopefully this one will help. It’s not like there’s a rulebook for staying alive during an apocalypse.

Spoiler alert – this is the third book, so if it's the first one you found, you might want to hunt the first two down to get caught up. If you can't find them right now, I guess you can start here, and play catch up


And that’s a rather poignant indicator: “Playing catch up.”

Because that’s all our dungeon masters of disaster seem to do. Don’t get me wrong, they come up with a pretty good scheme. But executing it? Let’s just say, it dies a death before they even get started. Yes, how to focus people’s attention when priority number one is looking out for yourself. (Something our ineptitude bunch is still trying to fathom).

It’s as if the guys have gathered all the ingredients for the world’s best cocktail, yet all they manage to do is mix a rather weak cordial . . . or should that be uncordial. Because what follows is an uncivil, disorganized, hit-and-miss rout of a tale that leaves our would-be entrepreneurs feeling both shaken and stirred. In fact, were I to take the cocktail analogy a step further, you could say the gang are so unorganized, they’re like an eight-fingered ‘flair’ barman trying to juggle mixers. And all they actually to do is beat themselves about the head and body with a Clover Club riddled in Rusty Nails until their Gimlets fall out. (Get it?)

Nobody’s interested in what they’re doing. Each little community is either too suspicious or too wrapped up in their own personal struggle for survival to care about bartering. Unless the goodies are left out for the taking. . .

And as the guys find out to their cost, there are plenty of ‘patrons’ out there who are willing to do just that. And tips are not included.

Yes, it would seem the initial fizz of survival is falling flat, and no amount of umbrellas will deflect the flack, proving there’s nothing really Cosmopolitan at all about this Zombie-town. A Dark & Stormy night is coming. Will the guys live to see another Tequila Sunrise?

You’ll see, in a Bloody Mary of a story that doesn’t leave a bitter aftertaste. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

 There Are Lunatics Galore in This Weeks Review Of. . .

Fool Moon

Harry Dresden likes to advertise his services. Lost items found. Paranormal investigations. Consulting advice. Reasonable Rates . . . No love potions, endless purses or ‘other’ entertainment.

In a place like Chicago, you’d thing that would attract some form of attention, even from weirdos and crackpots. Yet, the blurb for his latest adventure puts the record straight:



You’d think there’d be a little more action for the only professional wizard listed in the Chicago phone book. But lately, Harry Dresden hasn’t been able to dredge up any kind of work: magical, mundane, or menial.
Just when it looks like he can’t afford his next meal, a murder comes along that requires his particular brand of supernatural expertise. There’s a brutally mutilated corpse, and monstrous animal markings at the scene. Not to mention that the killing took place on the night of a full moon. Harry knows exactly where this case is headed. Take three guesses—and the first two don’t count...


As I intimated at the outset; business is sluggish. So sluggish, that it’s in danger of dying a slow and tragic death. . .

Unlike the first of many bodies that start turning up in alarming volumes and equally disturbing, grizzly circumstances. As you can guess, the Chicago P.D. quickly turn to Harry for help. The trouble is, no sooner have they done so than the death count rises exponentially. And it all seems to happen when Harry’s around, leading to him – you’ve guessed it – becoming the chief suspect.

Not the kind of attention he wants to attract when obvious clues that rampaging werewolves are to blame need to be followed up. Like yesterday! Yet, how can he balance the investigative side of things, while preventing his law enforcement buddies from learning too much about the supernatural world? A world that isn’t supposed to exist, let alone announce itself in a fanfare of fangs, blood and gore?

Sound rather juicy, doesn’t it? And to a large extent, Fool Moon is. There’s breathless chaos. Lots of fast-paced action. A touch of romance under a full moon. Damsels in distress. Idiots who get in the way and who soon pay for it. But for me, one thing did put the proverbial spanner in the works. THIS story reveals how powerful Harry Dresden can be when the mood takes him. Yet his insistence on going out of his way to always do the right thing – on this outing – proved rather irritating. Yes, we all want to be honorable and noble. But sometimes, the occasion calls for a cold heart and a firm hand. And boy, do the baddies in this adventure need just that.

(Apologies, I can’t clarify too much as it would lead to spoilers, and I hate doing that). But suffice to say,  Dresden’s penchant for being a bit of a ‘goody-two-shoes’ turned a spicy, involved bit of super-sleuthing into an unnecessarily overcomplicated grind that took some of the magic away from an otherwise great story.

But I’m not going to give up. I love the mood Jim Butcher manages to invoke throughout the chase; the self-depreciating humor his main character uses as a shield; the balancing act that Detective Murphy brings to the story. Overall, it’s an entertaining little romp through the underbelly of Chicago, and I’m still involved enough to want to see how it develops.

Amazon Review

Monday, December 6, 2021

 Breaking News

On the 6th Day of Christmas, My True Love Sent to me. . .

Six fiends a slaying!

Yes - SIX
Relating to a new six-book dark fantasy series to be published through:

Details of what the new series is called and the titles of each book will be released soon.

In the meantime, here's my author entry:
Raven Tale Authors

Stay tuned for more details, over at:
Raven Tale

Friday, December 3, 2021

 This Past Week, I Was Caught. . .

Dead to Rights

My readers and blog followers will be aware of the fact that I have something of a weak spot for the different. The zany and unusual. I like things that stand out from the mundane. Things that make the tired and staid special. The humdrum enjoyable.
That’s probably why I was drawn to Greg Stumbo’s Generation Zed series.

As you know, I dipped into the first story, Dead Serious, the other week, and was delighted to find a fresh approach to the zombie apocalypse. One where the surviving band of misfits isn’t made up from ex army rangers, cops, Special Forces, or geeky know-it-alls with PhDs yelling, “Bazinga!” and  dropping knowledgeable expressions into every longwinded sentence. No, our – and I use this term loosely – ‘heroes’ are a bunch of nerdy friends and newly-met acquaintances with the combined skill level of a lobotomized walnut. Excellent stuff, as it made following their dodgem ride of misadventure through a not so funfair of chomping death rather fun to follow.

And that mayhem continues in – Dead to Rights. You get just a hint of that from the blurb.



So, that didn't work. You know what's worse than dead people getting in the way? Not yet dead people getting in the way. This whole end of the world thing is starting to seem like an awful lot of work. Who signed me up for this anyway? The pay is worse than a cheap neighbor when they ask you to mow their lawn. I’m starting to think the undead are safer than the not yet dead!


Okay then. What total disasters – and yes, that IS meant to be plural – befall our hapless protagonists this time?

Well, here’s the thing. Despite being shockingly inept at most everything they do, the gang has been relatively lucky. The zombie apocalypse hasn’t been in full chomp-mode for too long, so they haven’t come across anyone particularly nasty. In fact, everyone they’ve met has been the exact opposite. Downright friendly! Not the thing you want when you’ve got a bunch of incompetents planning an ill-advised rescue mission of the friend they left behind in the Wal-Mart.

As it turns out, that rescue mission is something of a stroll in the park – or should that be, stroll through a fenced-in compound – populated by incredibly polite survivors, whose idea of a disagreement is to sit around a camp fire singing ‘Kumbaya’ while the grown-ups ‘talk about it’. Still all awfully nice and pleasant . . . and an absolute recipe for disaster for the gang, who start getting crazy ideas about how to improve their lot in a world turned upside down.

What do I mean?

Let’s just reiterate that up until now, they’ve met some very nice people. (Pains in the collective butt, most certainly - but nice nonetheless). And of course, that makes the gang somewhat complacent, especially when they start branching out into the wider community with grandiose ideas of becoming ‘fixers’ for those people still in hiding.

Think about it. In their area alone there’s an armory manned by jumpy national guards. Several larger groups who imagine that being isolated will protect them. Oh yes, and there’s a prison full of community minded citizens who are undoubtedly shocked of the events that have led to their early paroles, and who are now eager to show repentance for the misdeeds that led to their incarceration in the first place.

What could possible go wrong?

I mean, the gang possesses all the savvy of a drunken dungeon master breaking in a new game, where the instructions are written in Braille. Klingon Braille. What’s worse is that they can’t even make the simplest of decisions without arguing. So you just know what’s gonna happen.
Not so much, “why didn’t I take the blue pill,” as, sneaking into a firework factory, lighting as many blue touch papers as you can, and sticking your fingers in your ears . . . and hoping there won’t be the inevitable boom!

As before, this neat misadventure is tied together by the glaring ineptitude of the main characters, who haven’t yet begun to appreciate the reality of the nightmare they’ve woken up in. And until they do, they continue to stumble, fumble and grumble from one rose-tinted disaster to another in a wonderfully entertaining way. You just want to slap them! And when you realize that, you begin to appreciate how adroitly Greg Stumbo has drawn you into their apocalypse, and how invested you’ve become in what happens.

But of course, to find out the answer to that little conundrum, you’ll have to read the book.
And boy, will you be glad you did.

Goodreads Review

Saturday, November 27, 2021

 The Sun Is Rather Shiny In My Review Of. . .

Storm Front

Although I’m an avid sci-fi/fantasy reader, this is my introduction to the Dresden Files. (I know, what HAVE I been doing with my life?) And I’ve got to say, it was a rather good – tongue-in-cheek/rabbit-out-of-the-hat – escapade!

Here’s the blurb to set the scene.


As a professional wizard, Harry Dresden knows firsthand that the “everyday” world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don’t play well with humans. And those that do enjoy playing with humans far too much. He also knows he’s the best at what he does. Technically, he’s the only at what he does. But even though Harry is the only game in town, business—to put it mildly—stinks.

So when the Chicago P.D. bring him in to consult on a double homicide committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name...


So, what do you get and why did I enjoy it?

First off, you have to understand something about Harry himself. He walks a narrow line between two worlds. On one side, he’s a natural wizard. He’s powerful too . . . if you pick up on the hints we’re given as the story unfolds. But we only ever get to see glimpses of his potential. No doubt because he has to tread very carefully indeed.

There’s a cloud – or in his case, the Sword of Damocles (a commuted death sentence) – hanging over him because of an incident in his early life, during a phase when his gifts were emerging. That incident led to the death of someone, breaking one of the seven laws of magic: Thou shall not use magic to kill. . .

As such, he’s watched closely. Monitored – in a restrictive and often very invasive way. A great hindrance indeed, especially as he tries to make a living as a Private Eye. And one of his biggest customers is the Chicago PD who get to call him in on a regular basis when those cases ‘hard to explain’ come their way. And in Storm Front, the case involves people dying when their hearts burst out through their chests for no reason!

Glorious and blood-festy stuff.

But who could be behind such atrocious acts? And why are the victims being targeted? Yes, this opening case introduces us to some very nasty individuals – both earthly and otherwise – out to cause harm and cover their tracks by any means . . . though as you will see, they prefer the ‘mostly foul’ option.

Harry is a self-depreciating, heart of gold kinda guy who genuinely wants to do right. His police liaison, Lt Karrin Murphy, is blunt as they come, and their relationship is built on patient sufferance and an almost siblinglike friction that’s fun to look in on. (Think X-Files combined with Lucifer and you’ll be on the right track).

The thing is, Dresden is a damned good investigator. But how can he share some of the information he comes across when mere knowledge of it might put the mortal in question in danger? That leads to a bumpy ride with Murphy, who is also as sharp as the proverbial button. She knows Dresden hides things, but can be persuaded to bite her lip IF he comes up with the goods.

Along with those characters necessary to the story arc, we also meet people who are obviously going to be with us in the future. Morgan, for one. A wizardly internal-affairs agent who will also act as Dresden’s executioner if our hero slips up . . . (And boy, does Morgan ache for Dresden to slip). We also meet Bianca, an influential and deadly business woman/madam, who also just happens to be a vampire. (I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of them).

But, as Harry investigates all the comings and goings/all the false leads and dead-ends of this murder case, we also get a glimpse of what’s to come. Jim Butcher has very wisely adopted a course that will gradually develop our wizardly sleuth, and help us pick through all the trials and tribulations he has to endure as a wizardly P.I. walking in a human’s world.

There’s an old adage that rings true here. “Don’t run before you can walk.”

I’m glad to say that Butcher has avoided the temptation to give us an ‘all guns blazing’ superhero, and acquainted us instead to a down to earth guy trying to do his best in a dog eat dog world. Oh, and he just so happens to be a genuine wizard as well.

I enjoyed this opening adventure of the Dresden Files. Dresden’s character is engaging. His manner appealing. The supporting cast looks like they’re going to be annoying, complicated, and fun. And the action is gumshoe/urban/noir fantasy at its best. (Some aspects reminded me of J.R. Rain’s Samantha Moon meets Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series).

As for Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden?

Apart from a tendency to be overly virtuous – even when the circumstances call for a coldhearted response – I’ve no doubt he’s far more powerful and complex than we’ve been led to believe. I look forward to how he evolves as the cases roll in.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

 This is No Joke - See My Review Of. . .

Dead Serious

Dead Serious (Generation Zed Book 1) is the introductory adventure to the 'Undead Apocalypse Horror Series' by Greg Stumbo.

Here’s the blurb to the first story.


When the zombies showed up, the world changed quickly, as you can imagine. You want to know what doesn’t change quickly? People. My friends and I, unfortunately, are people. People who are now considered food.

How exactly does a group of friends survive when they have the combined life experience of a fifteen-year-old on the opening day of a sci-fi convention? Well, not by being the tough guys in an apocalypse movie. I mean, yeah, that's how we all see ourselves – right up until the dead start walking and you realize that you don't even know how a shotgun works.

Now, I don’t know about you, but having had my fill of zombies on TV, I’m looking for something a little bit different. Something a bit quirky to put the spice back into a genre that’s become somewhat bland lately. You may know what mean. Something like the zany, oddball fun of I Zombie, or the surprisingly entertaining fight-N-bitefest that is Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead.

And basically, THAT’s what you get with Dead Serious. It does what it says on the label, and oh-so-cleverly steers away from ‘a bunch of instant survival experts come to grips with an end of the world scenario.’ As the blurb tells us: “How exactly does a group of friends survive when they have the combined life experience of a fifteen-year-old on the opening day of a sci-fi convention?”

Barely - That’s how. And only then by sheer fluke!

What I particularly liked about this story is the dynamic that builds between the main characters. They don’t have a clue what they’re doing, and argue among themselves as much as hiding/running/frenziedly fighting off infected neighbors who don’t have the decency to stay down when they’re shot/stabbed/bludgeoned, etc. (You get the picture) Yeah, these guys make staying alive an uphill struggle. But it’s great fun and it works!

I was reminded somewhat of the haplessly incompetent husband, Joel Hammond, in the Santa Clarita Diet, (Another superb twist on the genre), who stumbles from disaster to disaster by going with the flow and not really knowing what the hell is going on. Because - in a nutshell - this is how the zombie apocalypse would most likely turn out. And Greg Stumbo manages to encapsulate that atmosphere in a cracking little intro to his world gone cray-Z. (Did you see what I did there?) 

Witty dialogue. Disarming self-depreciation. Incompetence galore. Blind luck. All tied together with a cracking pace that engrosses you from beginning to end. I liked it, and look forward to more.

Stay chewned – my sides . . . get it? There are more great storylines and awful puns on the way.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

 There's Something Brewing

The Trouble With Peace

In The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie, we continue the events of The Age of Madness saga, which are set thirty years after the events of the First Law Trilogy.

Here’s a little taster of what’s in store for you:

Unrest worms into every layer of society.

The Breakers lurk in the shadows, plotting to free the common man from his shackles, while yesterday's heroes nurse grievances and noblemen bicker for their own advantage.

The King of the Union struggles to find a safe path through the maze of knives that is politics, only to see his enemies, and his debts, multiply.

The old ways are being swept aside, but those who would seize the reins of power will find no alliance, no friendship, and no peace, lasts forever

Yes, the Union is decaying under the weight of corruption, greed, neglect, and good old-fashioned ambition. In fact, it’s on the verge of collapse, and it seems there’s nothing a court full of bickering lords or last-minute marriage alliances can do about it. Even Bayaz, First Mage and founder of the Union doesn’t seem all that bothered, choosing now – of all times – to set off on another adventure to goodness knows where, leaving a floundering King Orso at the mercy of his own shortcomings, and of course, those who would take advantage.

And take they do!

Now, I’m not going to reveal anything about the plot. I’ll let you find out all about that yourselves. Believe me; you’ll be glad I did, because what we have – as always – is an immensely entertaining adventure that truly portrays the cutthroat nature of civil war. Manipulators and deceivers abound. Friends turn on their closest allies. Personal convictions and hard won principles evaporate like a wet fart in the wind.

And THAT’s what’s so appealing about Joe Abercrombie’s efforts.

This novel is cinematic in scope, covering a lot of ground from different points of view. But it never feels rushed. You don’t get lost in a cast of villains and heroes and heroines who each thread their unique perspective into the overall tapestry of the story arc. What I particularly enjoyed was the way Abercrombie keeps it real.

Yes, real life fantasy played out on a field of blood!

It’s all about the people. There’s a realistic grittiness to the characters. Their hopes and dreams. Their frailties, shortcomings and moral ambiguity. You can relate to their individual dilemmas as if they’re your neighbors. A feat that injects fresh intensity – an energy, if you like – into the storyline, and keeps you involved down to the very end.

And what an ending it is.

Talk about saving the very best twists for last. I don’t often get caught by the ‘unexpected’ so when I do, I’m totally delighted. (You’ll see)
The Trouble With Peace, a superb way to lose yourself for a few days, while Abercrombie sets things up very nicely for the final book in this series.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

 Muse-Pie Press

Some of you may not be aware of the fact that, as well as being the author of several successful science fiction and fantasy series, I'm also a published poet. Indeed, my work has appeared in the likes of such notable publications as, Penny Ante Feud, The Screech Owl, Leaves of Ink, Pixies of Eglantine, Poetry Pacific, The Shot Glass Journal, The Fib Review, and Danse Macabre, to name a few.

A little while ago, I submitted a single line of prose for consideration, hoping it would be included in a worldwide community poem to be published by Muse-Pie Press - (Publishers of high-quality poetry for over forty years) - and who were intending to express the emotions and thoughts of people from around the world as they cope with the current pandemic.

I'm delighted to say my submission was selected as the opening line of that poem, which you can read in its entirety here:

If you would like to find out more about the Muse-Pie Press community, just follow the links inside. And most of all, enjoy.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

 My Review of. . .

A Desolation Called Peace

This is the second book in the ‘Teixcalaan’ series by Arkady Martine, and it rounds off the story in a profoundly satisfying way. Here’s a taster from the back cover blurb.

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.

In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.

Their failure will guarantee millions of deaths in an endless war. Their success might prevent Teixcalaan’s destruction—and allow the empire to continue its rapacious expansion.

Or it might create something far stranger . . .


Our story continues several months after the events in A Memory Called Empire. Nineteen Adze is now emperor, acting as regent until Eight Antidote comes of age. Three Seagrass has received a promotion of sorts, and now works within the Ministry of Information under the 3rd Secretary. And Mahit Dzmare has returned home to Lsel Station to take a break from state affairs for a while so she can recharge her batteries before returning to the fray.

All nice and cozy. . .

If only life was that easy.

This is the Teixcalaanli Empire, don’t forget, and cutthroat politics is always eager to peek out from beneath the thin veneer of high society sophistication. And it soon does.

As the blurb highlighted, an alien armada is making its presence felt along the far reaches of Teixcalaanli space. They are strange and mysterious. Unfamiliar in their practices and customs. And definitely creatures who cannot be classed as ‘people.’

One of the Empires most highly decorated and proficient fleet captains – Nine Hibiscus, recently promoted to Yaotlek for outstanding service – is sent to determine the danger, and act accordingly. A mammoth, complicated task, for tens of thousands of lives are under her immediate care, as are the billions more throughout the empire if she fails. And the aliens possess physics-defying technology, and an almost preternatural ability to know what’s happening everywhere at once, allowing them to anticipate her every move.

She needs help. And that help arrives in the form of Three Seagrass and Mahit Dzmare, who, it transpires, are having to deal with conflicts of their own. (This IS the empire, don’t forget, and everyone is out to get you, no matter how high your station or who you work for.)

A predicament Nine Hibiscus soon comes to appreciate. The situation demands she tread carefully, Very carefully. This is a first contact scenario with a species who appears to be outwardly aggressive. But is that really the case? Or is it merely because they can’t establish an effective way to communicate? Yes, Nine Hibiscus is tiptoeing on thin ice, and she finds it difficult to maintain her balance with rivals out to upstage her at every turn, and spies from the various government departments concealed within the fleet itself. You’d think everyone would be on the same side? But no, those spies serve masters with their own agendas, and it makes a volatile situation almost incendiary.

Excellent stuff!

It really is. I found A Desolation Called Peace to be an intelligent, thoughtful and refreshingly different take of the usual ‘Space Opera’ slant. And to my mind, it highlights the dangers of assuming ‘humanity’ can’t possibly belong to those whose culture and appearance are so far removed from what YOU think is normal, that you come to look on them as extermination fodder. Oh, how karma can bite!

A promising debut series. I’m keen for more.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

 My Recollections Of. . .

A Memory Called Empire

Leading a solitary, somewhat reclusive existence as I do, I nevertheless keep an eye out for something good to read. This is another of those authors who were mentioned within the expansive, Arcadian entity that is Black Gate. And as I’ve come to appreciate, if they make a recommendation, then I’d be silly not to listen.

A Memory Called Empire is well worth a read. Here’s the back cover blurb.


Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn't an accident―or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan's unceasing expansion―all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret―one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life―or rescue it from annihilation.


So, what do we get?

Mahit Dzmare is from a small, self-contained colony out of the edges of the vast Teixcalaanli Empire called Lsel. The colonists are a rather proud society who extend the depth of their cultural heritage  by the use of IMAGO implants; tiny, sub dermal devices that allow the personality, skills and memories of important people to be ‘recorded’ and passed on to a suitably matched host.

That’s how we’re introduced to Mahit Dzmare. She is selected to replace the former ambassador to the Teixcalaanli court – Aghavn Yskandr – whose death, along with the circumstances surrounding it, is suspiciously devoid of detail. (And this from a society where every aspect of life is recorded, analyzed, and used to update an almost omniscient planet-wide AI that serves the goals of the emperor). Or does it?

Another hurdle is presented in that the imago devices should contain the very latest memories of the former recipient, but in Dzmare’s case, Yskandr hasn’t been home in fifteen years. So, not only is she unprepared to walk the tightrope that awaits her, but she obviously wants to know what happened to the former ambassador. And THIS shortfall lays the basis of our story. One where Dzmare’s rose-tinted view of an idealistic, wonderfully balanced and cultured civilization is brought crashing down amid a cauldron of political ambition, imperialistic ideals, and outright xenophobia toward anyone who isn’t pure Teixcaannli. Yes, intrigue abounds in a nicely crafted little whodunit investigation that, while uncomplicated, remains intriguing enough for you to want to keep reading to get to the bottom of the mystery.

I will admit that it took me a little while to get comfortable with Arkaday Martine’s writing style. But once I had, I found the story to be a pleasing balance of ‘space-opera scope meets small-town girl’ trying to keep her head above water in a place that will chew you up and spit you out if you let it. And Martine does that rather well, as you get the clear impression that while Dzmare almost drowns in an oceanlike society filled with legends, history, partisan propaganda, and the very latest hi-tech wizardry, she’s never been more alone in her life. A nice touch that keeps things real.

I look forward to seeing how the story progresses in, A Desolation Called Peace.

Amazon Review