The Book of Atrix Wolfe ★★★★ ½

atrix (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Book of Atrix Wolfe
Series: ——
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 254
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Atrix Wolfe, a powerful mage, is drawn into a conflict between 2 Kingdoms. One fateful night he uses his magic to put an end to the conflict and things go horribly wrong. He conjures The Hunter, a living nightmare of pain, terror and death. One king dies, the other flees, broken completely.

Many years later, the 2nd son of the dead king, is attending the Wizards School. He is recalled home and takes a book with him. His elder brother, unable to have heirs, makes him the heir and wants him to settle down and begin stabilizing the royal line, ie, get married and start making babies. Prince Talus agrees but still wants to study the magic book he brought home, little realizing it is the Book of Atrix Wolfe and the words contained are twisted by Wolfe’s despair at what he had done all those years ago.

In his mucking about, Talus calls the attention of the Hunter again, gets kidnapped by the Queen of the Faeries and is the fulcrum upon which turns the fates of many. The Hunter’s nightmare must end, the Faerie Queen’s daughter returned, Atrix Wolfe atoning for his misdeeds and Talus saving his brother’s life.

Just like a fairytale, there is a satisfying ending, even if not a happy ending, for everyone’s storyline.

 

My Thoughts:

The Book of Atrix Wolfe was my first McKillip book. I read it back in ’05 and over the next 2 years gobbled up her back list of books. I had never come across an author who wrote like this and it blew my mind. I became a fan of hers with this book and it holds one of those special places in my mind.

So it was with trepidation that I began my re-read. Things change in 12 years. My “little cousin” was in first grade and a bossy little boy when I first read this. Now he’s 6’4” and graduated highschool. I am now married, bald [well, shaved. Receding hairline isn’t fun for anyone] and about 25lbs more muscular [hahaha]. Of course, most of the changes are inside and not always easy to see or for me to even know. * insert Zen aphorism about mirrors and the back of one’s head *

My concerns were well founded, unfortunately. The story was just as good, the writing even better. But I could not accept the lack of communication between the various characters. The Faerie Queen’s lover and her daughter have disappeared on the fateful night and she has been looking for them ever since. She knows that Atrix Wolfe is responsible, but instead of asking for his help, she kidnaps Talus, uses him as a go between and even then STILL doesn’t actually tell him what is wrong. Atrix Wolfe won’t tell anyone about the Hunter, even while it is active again. Talus won’t tell his brother about the Faerie Queen and just goes off and does his own thing.

It was all extremely fairy tale like, so that type of thing is expected. But it really bothered me this time around and I couldn’t get past it. I knocked off half a star for that. It didn’t help that I’d been dealing with a sore back, lack of work and issues at church. I didn’t have the patience or reserves to accept the foibles of fictional characters.

Other than that issue, this WAS just as good as before. McKillip is a master wordsmith and her use of the english language is enchanting. She doesn’t just use words and sentences “correctly”, she knows them and the rules well enough so that she can “weave” them. It is the difference between a paint by numbers picture of the Mona Lisa and the actual Mona Lisa.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. The Book of Atrix Wolfe (2005 Review)

Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt #4) ★★★★★

salutethedark (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Salute the Dark
Series: Shadows of the Apt #4
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 326
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Empire is spread thin. Stenwold Maker knows this and sends out various people to other cities to stir up rebellion. If enough cities can rebel at the same time, the Wasp Empire’s grasp might be broken.

Stenwold goes to the Commonwealth. Salme continues the fight for the Ant Cities with his Irregulars. Che sneaks off to yet another city while Acheaos, only partly recovered, takes part in a Moth Ritual that kills him. Thalric ends up coming back to the Empire, killing one of the three Rekef Generals and goes back to Capitas in chains.

Tisamon, twisted by his Mantis honor, leaves Felise and heads to Capitas, drawn by the power of the Darakyon Box. Said Box is firmly under the control of Uctebri, a Mosquito kinden. Uctebri is plotting against Emperor Alvdan II with plans to replace him with his sister, who will be Uctebri’s puppet.

Totho and Drephos, tasked with making an example of the Bee City, set up the first chemical warfare test. The creators of the gas kill themselves in remorse and Totho ends up gassing the Wasp soldiers instead and running off with a damaged Drephos.

Tisamon and Felise meet as Gladiators in Capitas and attempt to assassinate the Emperor. Unbeknownst to them, they were only a distraction for Uctebri and Seda to kill Alvdan and use the Blood of an Emperor to gain access to the Darakyon Box. Nothing goes according to plan though. Tisamon and Felise kill Uctebri, destroy the Box and are killed in turn. Seda must convince the Wasp populace to accept a Wasp Empress and recalls all the armies to consolidate her power. This recall, along with the various rebellions, allow many city states to survive as Free Cities.

Of the 4 Conspirators we are introduced to in Book 1, Stenwold the beetle, Tisamon the mantis, Atrissa the spider and Nero the fly, only Stenwold is still alive. And of his apprentices, Che, Tynisia and Totho are the only ones still alive by the end of the book. Many of his apprentices die heroic, noble deaths, but die they do.

War grinds bones and hearts alike.

 

My Thoughts:

This was an excellent book. In the previous book I was saying how I wasn’t enjoying this series as much upon this re-read. Well, this book definitely put paid to that idea.

The odd thing, this book is about death. So many characters die. If you just told me the synopsis, I’d probably roll over in despair. But HOW they die, the writing itself, redeems their deaths from a hopeless struggle into something greater. Tchaikovsky manages to show how horrible death is, how inevitable and yet have his characters overcome it by their selflessness. Prince Salme, leader of the Irregulars, is the prime example of this. I can’t put into words, but Tchaikovsky makes him a Hero, even while killing him off.

The other wonderful thing is the character development. Being a sensitive kind of fellow [he says while being reminded that morning by a coworker about the time he chased down and stomped a mouse to death with his combat boots, IN CHURCH], character development has to be done just right. Not enough and I complain about cardboard. Too much and I complain about estrogen and make fun of “feelingz” and talk macho for a couple of sentences. I’m pretty much the Goldilocks of the Male Book Reviewer. It has to be Just Right or I piss and moan like a man baby. In this regards, it is like Tchaikovsky had me as a model for creating and growing his characters. It is Done Right. People change. People question themselves. People don’t change. People don’t question themselves. Sometimes people are stupid and other people are genius.

My only complaint for the book is “Why hasn’t Stenwold Maker groomed another Spymaster to either take his place or at least take some of the burden?” And yet that oversight on Stenwold’s part is what makes him, him. So even my complaint is rooted in one of the best things of this series, the characters.

Last time I read this, I gave it 4 Stars. This time around, I appreciated the writing more and the whole tone. I enjoyed it just as much and found it to hold up to a re-read with no problems. There were a couple of instances when I was reading that I thought to myself “This is astonishing”. I don’t think that about many books I read, not even the ones I really enjoy.

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

  1. Salute the Dark (2011 Review)
  2. Blood of the Mantis (Book 3)
  3. Dragonfly Falling (Book 2)
  4. Empire in Black and Gold (Book 1)

Lando (Sacketts #7) ★★★★☆

lando

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Lando
Series: Sacketts #7
Author: Louis L’Amour
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 176
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lando Sackett was given into the care of a neighbor when his mother died and his father just took off. Lando ended up taking off and living off the land and eventually calls out the man who stole his inheritance.

He heads out West with a tinker Gypsy, finds out his uncles are on the trail to kill him (for the sin of his father daring to marry their sister), comes across the fact that his father knew where a sunken treasure ship is and finds out that his dad isn’t dead and always meant to return but couldn’t, due to being in a mexican prison.

Lando saves the town from the gambler and is headed out West again.

The End (sunset and all)

 

My Thoughts:

L’Amour definitely has a thing for skipping huge chunks of time. Lando spends 6 years in the mexican prison and that time and his rescue take about 3 pages. He is skipping from peak to peak in the story and only gives us details when it suits the story he wants to tell. A very different style than what I’m used to in SFF.

I had read this in highschool but the only thing I remembered was the prizefight at the end. But my goodness, it was worth remembering. A boxing fight where the crowd is under the control of the gambler and using dirty tricks against Lando. A rifleman trying to shoot him from a window. His Ranger friends showing up and making things even. The joy, sweat, blood and tears of one man fighting another. This fight is why I gave this book 4 stars instead of 3.5.

The rest of the book was pretty good too. Showed how greed and pride could destroy men from the inside and how obsession could take over and ruin a man from living a quiet, satisfying life. A great Western that shows Rugged American Individualism at its best.

To close, the cover. While this edition does a decent job of showing the prizefight at the end, the guy just doesn’t look like Lando. THIS cover does a much better job:

lando2Now that is a MUSTACHE!

 

 

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Sackett’s Land (Book 1)
  2. To the Far Blue Mountains (Book 2)
  3. The Warrior’s Path (Book 3)
  4. Jubal Sackett (Book 4)
  5. Ride the River (Book 5)
  6. The Daybreakers (Book 6)

 

Kantovan Vault (The Spiral Wars #3) ★★★★☆

kantovanvault (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Kantovan Vault
Series: The Spiral Wars #3
Author: Joel Shepherd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 545
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Captain Erik is in the middle of Tavali space, under the protection of a special branch of the Tavali armed forces. They are searching for a data core of an old Drysine Queen so that the queen on board, Styx, can become fully functional and help in the fight against the Alo, who seem to have been suborned by the Deepynines, another supposedly extinct machine race.

The Tavali are even crazier in their politics than humanity and some of their sub-allies are just plain nuts. The long and short is that Erik’s sister is kidnapped, which forces him to mastermind a break-in of the Tavali’s most secret treasure cave, the Kantovan Vault. Within said vault is a journal that will help Styx find the data core and the Tavali military gain the upper hand against their civilian counter parts.

Of course, the Tavali military doesn’t know that Erik has the help of Styx, a Drysine. The Tavali have specially trained units to deal with remnants of Drysine machinery and if they know that Erik has an active Queen, well, he and his crew have as much chance of surviving as I do if I pissed straight into the sun.

Yeah, no chance.

 

My Thoughts:

This was almost as good as the previous two books. I hadn’t realized it had been just over a year since I read book 2 though. Which leads me into my first issue.

Names. There was not a glossary or character list at the beginning of the book. Usually I don’t care about that, but when single names get tossed about, with a military designation, it would be nice to know WHO that person is. It wouldn’t be an issue if this was a completed series and I was reading them every month or two, but with a year between reads, it would have been nice to have a character list. And a sum-up of the previous book, even 2-3 paragraphs to remind me what has gone on.

Second, and final issue, was that things seemed a bit dragged out. I found myself skipping descriptions of “whatever” and sometimes even conversations if they didn’t seem 100% on point to the plot. I suspect Shepherd would have gotten a “what a simplistic book” if he HADN’T added all those extra bits, so maybe he just can’t win? But drag is something to be aware of.

The battles, once again, were the high point. All ground force fights, ranging everywhere from remote mountain tops to a subway system with mecha. The Tavali military calls up some of its retirees to help out Erik and Co on a planet and man, that was awesome. Pitched battles in slum’y areas. Buildings toppling, explosions, etc, etc. It was glorious.

While I know that the Drysines are needed in the fight against the Deepynines, I’m still rooting for someone on board Erik’s ship to blow Styx to kingdom come and back. It feels like having Skynet on board; it’s just waiting to turn on you and kill you. Brrrrrr. I don’t care if Styx becomes a hero, I’ll think of it as a badguy to the bitter end of the series.

Another thing I liked was that no one came across as stupid. Sometimes you’ll get a lazy author who makes the characters act in such a way, to propel the story onward, that you wonder if the character is an idiot. None of that here. Professionals all around and acting like the adults they are written as. Bravo to Shepherd for that!

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Drysine Legacy (Book 2)
  2. Renegade (Book 1)

Red Magic (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #3) ★★☆☆☆

redmagic (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Red Magic
Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #3
Author: Jean Rabe
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

Maligor, a Red Wizard of Thay, has plans, big plans. He’s built himself up an army of gnolls and has let it be known that a newly established young red wizard has built his tower on some land that Maligor wants. In secret, Maligor has been building an army of darkenbeasts out of cute wittle woodland animals and is planning on taking over the gold mines for his own personal enrichment.

The city of Aglarond, which is close to Thay, is worried about all the activity going on and they hire some Harpers to investigate. Galvin the druid and his friend Wynter the pacifist minotaur. Aglarond sends it own representative in the form of Brenna Greycloak, a small time politician and enchantress.

In the process of infiltrating Thay, the Harpers are captured by Szass Tam, lich wizard and main character in other future books. Szass Tam has them lead an attack on the mine to stop Maligor. They succeed, skedaddle out of Thay and go their separate ways.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoy stories about the Red Wizards of Thay and about Szass Tam, so I was hoping this book was going to hit the spot, kind of like a good chili dog. Sadly, this chili dog had been left on the counter for a week then overcooked in the microwave for 10minutes.

The interactions between ANY of the characters, whether with other main characters or side characters, was complete cardboard. Galvin and Brenna fall in love for the adventure but then realize their separate life goals aren’t compatible at the end, so they amicably go their separate ways. Wynter the minotaur. THAT should have been awesome. But partway through he gets “magic’d” and acts like a child for some time. And don’t get me started on Maligor and his assistant Asp. I got whiplash from how they interacted. It was completely dictated by the plot instead of the other way around.

Then all the harping (hahahaha) about what a great strategic genius Maligor is because he’s using a public gnoll army to distract everyone while doing his real business with the darkenbeasts? It was bogus. I’m no military genius and even I would have been smarter than Maligor. I would have gathered in some other Red Wizards as “allies” and then betrayed them all like a Good Red Wizard is supposed to. Use their forces for my ends, weaken them and my other enemies and then crush them all in the end, using yet another set of “allies”. Szass Tam did this, Maligor, not so much.

Honestly, this whole book felt like the author hadn’t written any fantasy before, didn’t know how to make use of her characters, hadn’t ever watched one war movie and had no idea how to write a battle scene. “Meh” probably accurately sums up this whole book.

And this is what I got to read last week when I was super busy and doing lots of stuff outside of work as well. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

★★☆☆☆

bookstooge

  1. The Parched Sea (Book 1)
  2. Elfshadow (Book 2)

Bookstooge’s Most Read Authors

The Little Book Owl recently did a post where she listed her top 5 most read authors. I like lists, so that post really hit the spot and considering how dry this week has been, in terms of posting [it’s been a busy week with much smaller amounts of time for reading or posting], I decided I’d take a turn at doing this.

I’m going to list a few more than 5. Also, I’m not going to be listing a lot of manga-ka, as they dominate the numbers with some huge series [Bleach, One Piece, Case Closed, etc].  This list also includes re-reads, so some of my top read authors might not have so many books.

I could add about 10 more authors if I went down to 10 reads, but 12 seemed like the cusp of “Ok, I’ve read a bunch by this author”.  Not much to say about each, not with so many but if you have questions, ask away and I’ll answer as best I can.

 

 

Timothy Zahn – 63

Patricia Wrede – 17

Tad Williams – 20

Adrian Tchaikovsky – 16

Rumiko Takahashi – 67 (probably my most read manga-ka and yet I don’t care for her stories. Funny that)

Kazuki Takahashi – 38 (wrote the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. Love that series)

Michael Sullivan – 12

Michael Stackpole – 33

Lemony Snicket – 13

Darren Shan – 12

Brandon Sanderson – 25 [including the final WoT books]

Mike Resnick – 12

Terry Pratchett – 44

Ellis Peters – 14 (Brother Cadfael Mysteries)

Don Pendleton – 37 (Mack Bolan/The Executioner series)

Andre Norton (and loser collaborators) – 18

Michael Moorcock – 16

L.E. Modesitt, Jr – 28

Jack McKinney – 12 (Robotech)

Patricia McKillip – 27

Anne McCaffrey – 21

C.S. Lewis – 16

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller – 15

Stephen Lawhead – 22

Paul Kemp – 12 (mainly Forgotten Realms with a dash of Star Wars)

Robert Jordan – 26 (multiple reads of the first several WoT books)

Riichiro Inagaki – 48 and counting (Eyeshield 21 manga w/ rereads of the first 16)

Frank Herbert – 13

Robert Heinlein – 18

Terry Goodkind – 13

Alan Dean Foster – 48

John Flanagan – 15

Steven Erikson – 19 (multiple Malazan re-reads]

David Eddings – 18

Dave Duncan – 15

Charles Dickens – 33

d005d9ce1a9bd4fb3e9a8c15416402d2f558fb7226073fa0d6c58d60f47e9bb4

 

Troy Denning – 16 (forgotten realms and star wars and he sucks whatever I read]

Roald Dahl – 14

Evan Currie – 13

Larry Correia &/or Collaborators – 16

Glen Cook – 13

CLAMP – 65 (a varying group of 5 female manga-ka)

Agatha Christie – 19

Orson Scott Card – 13

Jack Campbell – 22

Jim Butcher – 22

Terry Brooks – 20

Robert Asprin – 17

Isaac Asimov – 12

Neal Asher – 26 (re-reads)

“Alex Archer” – 14 (ghost written series of Rogue Angel)

Aaron Allston – 16 all Star Wars all good

 

 

 

 

Polity Agent (Polity: Agent Cormac #4) ★★★★☆

polityagent (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Polity Agent
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #4
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 580
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another jain node is experimented upon, this time by a haiman. But she’s a bit smarter than Skellor and doesn’t allow it access to her, thus putting off its growth and takeover.

At the same time, it turns out that the Maker civilization, which created the Dragon, was also using jain tech and planned on seeding the Polity with the nodes and thus allowing the Polity to destroy itself. Well, the Makers ended up destroying themselves first, but Cormac must track down the remaining nodes that they sent with the Dragon.

And if that wasn’t enough, it appears that a rogue AI, that left the Polity after the Prador Wars, has succumbed to jain tech and is actively trying to destroy the Polity as well.

Bloody jain tech, it just wants to kill everything…

 

My Thoughts:

This was the first book in the Agent Cormac series where things weren’t wrapped up by the end. The Haiman’s [a human who is aug’ing themselves until they can handle AI level of data] storyline was the slowest and the least completed. In many ways her plot line almost felt unnecessary except for when she propelled the other plot lines forward. I can’t remember enough about the next book to know if she plays a big part or not. I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.

Cormac tracking down the other nodes and the Rogue AI lines were pretty closely intertwined. The rogue AI, named Cerberus, kept laying traps for Polity ships and they kept falling for it. Not sure if that was deliberate or if the Polity AI’s really were that stupid? Considering how long range Earth Central plans, I’m betting on “deliberate”.

I had forgotten how many people died. Almost everyone we’ve met so far, except for Cormac [of course!], the biologist Mika, the Dracoman Scar and AI’s, die. Subsumed by jain tech, destroyed in battles, tortured and killed by bad guys, etc. Even the revelations about Horace Blegg means he is out of the picture, his usefulness at an end. By his own side too, ouch!

This is fun to read and I enjoy the violence and blazing guns and super weapons and smarty pants AI’s. I don’t feel that this book lost anything upon re-read. Things might not be as “new”, but it was just as exciting as before. If you’re looking for some bloody good science fiction, try this sub-series of Asher’s Polity Universe.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Polity Agent (2010 Review)
  2. Brass Man (Book 3)
  3. Line of Polity (Book 2)
  4. Gridlinked (Book 1)