Deadhouse Landing (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #2) ★★★★ ½

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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: Deadhouse Landing
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #2
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover edition

 

Synopsis:


This time Wu, who takes on the moniker Kellenved part way through the story, and Dancer, set their sights on the Island of Malaz. Their eventual goal is to take over the island proper, but for now they’re settling for taking over and running the black market. They buy a rundown inn as their headquarters and keep the staff on, a group of Napan renegades headed by one woman named Surly. Kellenved is continually exploring shadow and drags Dancer along with him. They tame the Hounds of Shadow, look for the Throne of Shadow and generally cause trouble and action wherever they go.

In the tradition of previous Malazan books, we also follow quite a few other characters and storylines.

Tayschrenn. He is an outstanding priest of D’rek but when his mentor dies, Tay’s lack of political and human interaction dooms him when a corrupt Invigilator takes over. Ends with him fighting ALL the priests of D’rek and taking refuge in the Deadhouse on Malaz Isle under Kellenved’s protection.

Tattersail is the lover of Mock, self-proclaimed Duke of Malaz. But while Mock is quite content with doing a little raiding here and there, or none at all if he can get away with it, Tattersail wants more. So when an alliance with the new King of Napan, Surly’s brother, is proposed and a joint attack against a mainland town is the clincher, it comes as a surprise to all when Mock is gung-ho and Tattersail has deep reservations. And Tattersail is right, of course. It’s a trap. She also finds out that Mock has been sleeping with the help over the years and so she leaves him to go to a battlemage school somewhere.

Surly and Company. They are tied tightly to Kell and Dancer’s storyline but also have their own, as Surly still isn’t convinced that she can’t take the fight for the Kingdom to her brother and prevail. Mainly about them realizing they need to throw in fully with Kellenved and let their own imperial dreams either die or hybernate.

In a surprise to me, we also get a short little arc dealing with the rise of Kallor. That guy is one evil son of a gun!

 

My Thoughts:

Two or three issues I had with this book.

One, I tried to start this just reading it at my lunchbreaks at work. I was hoping to draw out how long I could read it so as to lengthen my enjoyment of it. That just wasn’t working as winter is here and I’m not always at the van for lunch.

Two, I ended up binging on this yesterday on Thanksgiving, but even then it was interrupted by cooking and eating and walks and whatnot. So my brain felt as full as my stomach, which let me tell you, was VERY full.

Third, I had read some reviews at various places and they were nothing but fanboys squealing like little girls about how wonderful this book was. My instinctive reaction to that is to hate the item in review even while knowing nothing about it. It’s the “It is popular so I hate it” reaction. Said instinct usually serves me well but sometimes it does lead me astray.

Other than that? SQUEEEAAAAAAALLLL!

Yeah, I’m fanboying with those other losers. Well, except for Powder&Page. She’s not a loser 🙂

This was just awesome. Tons of action, lots of characters who we know from later books are introduced. Almost too many for my taste, but since this is just a trilogy and Esslemont had 10+ books worth of characters to shove in, I’m surprised there weren’t more.

Dancer and Kell weren’t nearly so big a part of this story like they were in Dancer’s Lament. But when we did spend time with them, it was almost ALL shadow related or dealing with the hounds. I am not a dog person, at all. But I’ve always liked the Hounds of Shadow and seeing more of them here was great. We’re also introduced to ototoral and moranth munitions.

In some ways I felt like I was drowning in the non-stop action and go,go,go’ness of it all. Which was a good problem to have. I said it in my review of Dancer’s Lament but I feel that Esslemont has really come into his own with this trilogy. These are different even from his Novels of the Malazan Empire in tone and style and it’s for the better. Erikson might excel at writing lush, super-cryptic and despair filled books, but Esslemont is writing some fantastic action here.

I bought this on release day  and have no regrets whatsoever about it. It was that good! Also another contender for Best Book of the Year.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

 

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The Scarab Path (Shadows of the Apt #5) ★★★★ ½

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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 & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Scarab Path
Series: Shadows of the Apt #5
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 721
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Lowlands are not at war but Stenwold knows that won’t last. In an effort to help Che get over the death of her lover Acheaos and to fulfill his mission of finding new allies, Cheerwell is sent as an ambassador to the near mythical city of Khanaphes, where a small Collegium delegation has been studying their history. When Che finds out that the whole city is supposedly Inapt, she jumps at the chance, figuring she can find a way to fix her own Inaptness.

Thalric, now Regent and forced lover of Seda the Wasp Empress, finds himself the target of high level assassination attempts. He is also being drawn deeper and deeper into the Empress’s bloody magical rituals and it is destroying his soul. The Empire is trying to co-opt the natural enemies of Knanaphes and Thalric jumps at the chance to get away from the Empress and figures he’ll be safe from assassins as well. Thalric is given the ambassadorship and he believes he is trying to find allies in Khanaphes, not knowing that the Rekef are working with the Many of Nem, scorpion kinden, to destroy Khanaphes.

Totho the halfbreed, after rebelling from the Empire and running off with Drephos, has started his own Arms Dealer company called the Iron Glove. He is in Khanaphes to expand his market but everything takes a back seat when he finds out Che AND Thalric are in the city. He ends up fighting for the city and eventually realizes that Che will just never be his.

Everyone meets up in Khanaphes and nothing goes according to anybody’s plans. The beetles are not Inapt, the Collegium delegation from before is either dead or mad, Thalric is still being hunted and no one can believe that the Scorpion horde attack will be any different from all the previous times.

Che and Thalric hook up for mutual survival, awake the Masters of Khanaphes (the Slug kinden, the original masters of magic), save Khanaphes, find out that Che is being haunted by Tisamon’s ghost and then they both go chasing after said ghost when it is freed from its ties to Che and begins to hunt for its daughter Tynisia.

 

My Thoughts:

Every time I go into this Shadows of the Apt re-read, I wonder if the book will be as good as I remember from my previous read. So far, every book has been as good, if not better, than the original read. This was one of the better times.

My only complaint was Che. She can be a real Debby Downer and at times is just frozen with self-doubt, recriminations and fear. It is awkward to read about and rather embarrasing actually. But she’s not that way ALL the time and most of the time I liked reading about her. But that is the only reason I knocked a halfstar off, other than that, this would have been a 5star read.

Tchaikovsky can write! I know I say that in these reviews, but I just sat back half way through this book and thought about it. He has talent and it’s obvious he’s worked hard as well. The combination of hardwork, practice and talent make for a fantastic book, or series in this case. It isn’t just that he can follow the rules of grammar, etc, but he knows how to use his words outside of the written rules. It is kind of like watching a true martial artist. They can take any formalized move in their art and turn it into a thing of beauty just by executing it.

I liked the story this time around, a lot. It is really interesting how the Apt races want to not only turn their backs on magic but pretend it never existed. With Che being Inapt now, she must learn to do away with that attitude. It separates her from so many people, because they don’t believe it and she can’t explain it. The Battle for Khanaphes was awesome! The Khanaphir were just not ready for modern warfare and it was only thanks to Totho and his Iron Glove associates that the city even stood a chance. But even that wasn’t enough and it was only through the magic of the Slug Kinden that Khanaphes survived. But even then, they aren’t a very nice Kinden, very much an old Master Race of Inapt magicians. But no worries, they just go back to sleep, like the sluggards they are.

Finally, I enjoyed how Tisamon has gone from a hero, albeit, a somewhat broken one, to a ghost who will do anything and use anyone to further its aims. I know he plays more of a part in later books, but right now, I can’t really remember how and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all works out.

Completely recommended, but definitely part of a series. Start at the beginning and enjoy!

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

 

Dancer’s Lament (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1) ★★★★ ½

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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 & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Dancer’s Lament
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #1
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 418
Format: Hardcover

 

 

Synopsis:

Before there was Cotillion and Kellanved, there was Dorin Rav and Wu. Taking place in the city of Li Heng, this is the story of how they became partners.

The plot of the book, however, is how the city of Li Heng survived a besiegement by a jumped up king who thought he was somebody. The 4 mages of the city, under the direction of the Protectress (a tiste liosan) end up confining Ryllandaras, the man-jackal in a magical prison. The Itko Kan’ians, the besiegers, have the help of a Jaghut and it takes the Protectress unleasing the full might of her Warren of Light to drive back the besiegers.

Wu, and Dorin, have plans to take over the city during the turmoil but they simply aren’t strong enough and end up being exiled from the city. But now they are partners and can begin working together.

 

My Thoughts:

Finally. A Malazan book that I can simply sit down and read straight through and enjoy fully without feeling like I’m juggling 3 different 5000 piece puzzles all mixed together. You have no idea how much that upped my enjoyment of this book.

I think Esslemont showed his true colors with this book. He is a good standard fantasy writing kind of guy. His Malazan Empire novels felt very much like he was trying to copy Steven Erikson’s style and it just didn’t work for me. But this? Besides Gardens of the Moon, this was the most enjoyable Malazan book that I’ve read. Now I am really looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

In the Malazan books, Cotillion/Dancer and Kellanved were shadow’y characters doing things behind the scenes and never being fully fleshed out. Even when they were supposed to be main characters, they were actually hiding and felt like side characters. This time, they were simply people. It was refreshing.

There were lots of hints and little asides from other Malazan characters, so if you’re one of the Book of the Fallen fanboys who who loves unlocking a ton of meaning from 2 sentence fragments, you’ll still have something to chew on with this book. The rest of us can simply sit back and enjoy the story.

In Esslemont’s The Return of the Crimson Guard the malazan army unleashed Ryllandaras and in this book we see how, and why, he was confined. It was nice to make a clear cut connection between one book and the other instead of having to guess and speculate and turn my brain into 77 pretzels to make my pet theory fit.

Another aspect of this that I enjoyed was the lack of Existential Despair philosophy. Everybody was NOT whining about how meaningless their lives were. In fact, they acted like real people and didn’t even think about that. Dorin and Wu had to survive, plan how to take over a newly discovered Warren of Shadow and see if they could take over the city. Not much time to sit on their fat asses and complain about how hard they have it (unlike almost every Steven Erikson character. Man, that guy has his characters doing more talking than doing, in the middle of freaking battles for goodness sake!!!).

To end, I really enjoyed this book. A lot. In fact, I plan on buying it in hardcover, I enjoyed it so much. How don’t know how much more of an endorsement I can give a book. * grin *

★★★★ ½

 

bookstooge

The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition ★★★★★

phantomtollbooth (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 & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Phantom Tollbooth 50th Anniversary Edition
Series: ——
Author: Norton Juster
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover

 

 

Synopsis:

Milo is a discontented, bored little boy. Until one day he gets a tollbooth and goes on an adventure to rescue the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. With his friends Tock the Watch-Dog and the Humbug, Milo will learn the importance of words and numbers and just how they can affect everything.

Milo completes his adventure and once back home realizes just how big of a place our world is and how much there is to do. No more boring days for Milo!

 

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books I read as a kid and that has stuck with me ever since. I couldn’t remember every detail, but the clever word plays and number games always stuck in my head. So when I saw this 50th Anniversary Edition a couple of years ago I had to pick it up. Of course, it’s taken me several years to actually get around to reading it.

It is a children’s book so some things are childish. But even now, I never felt like Juster was trying to talk down to his audience or dumb things down. I enjoyed the heck out of this. I had forgotten just how quickly everything happens. Bam, Bam, Bam.

If you’ve never read this book, I highly recommend you do. It is good even for adults. If you happen to know some kids, I’d even higherly recommend this to them.

This 50th Anniversary Edition had a forward from Maurice Sendak [which was actually from the 35th Anniversary Edition] and several “How the Phantom Tollbooth Affected Me” stories from various people at the end of the book. I wasn’t impressed with Sendak’s blabbing and will definitely be skipping that if I read this again. I WAS looking forward to the various stories at the end, but sadly, I only recognized 1 or 2 names and nobody told a good story. It was all the same “I love it, my children loved it, the dog loved it.” blah, blah, blah. It did make me wonder who all those people were whose names I didn’t recognize. Maybe someday I’ll care enough to look them up, but not now.

To end. The story was fantastic, the addons, ie the forward and the stories at the end, not so much. Ignore those, read the story and have a wonderful time! I’m giving it my “best book of the year” tag as well.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge

Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen #2) ★★★★☆

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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:  Deadhouse Gates
Series:  Malazan Book of the Fallen #2
Author:  Steven Erikson
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Genre:  Fantasy
Pages:  868
Format:  Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

I am trying to do this from memory, without looking at all my update posts. Ha.

A rebellion is brewing on a continent and is led by Sha’ik. It is foretold she will be reborn and lead the rebellion against the Malazans and blood will flow like an ocean. She dies.

A bunch of Malazans are running for their lives to make it to the city of Aren, a port city that is still under Malazan control. This group is led by Coltaine, a Fist and former rebel himself. He must lead 40,000 civilians and thousands of soldiers across a continent where everybody wants to kill them all. And the High Fist in Aren? Does nothing. A renegade Fist is chasing them with multiple armies. Coltaine gets the civvies to Aren, then dies with his whole army due to treachery by the High Fist. Who in turn is betrayed and destroyed, along with HIS army of Malazans. Not a good time to be a Malazan soldier.

A noble Malazan girl is imprisoned in a pogrom and sent to the mines along with some others. They escape, make their way through the desert, and the noble, Felisin, becomes Sha’ik Reborn. She also happens to be the sister of the Empresses’ right hand woman, Adjunct Tavore.

A group of characters from the first book come across 2 powerful beings, one of who is almost 100,000 years old but has memory problems. They follow a path to a Gate in an Azath House [hence the name of the book] which promises a path to ascendancy [godhood] for shapechangers. Turns out it is a trap for all the shapechangers to imprison them in the Azath House. The group gets lots of clues about lots of things and then goes their separate ways at the end.

An assassin is out to kill the Empress for outlawing his friends and their army from the first book. His adventures as he travels and then the stunning revelation that it is all a hoax and a plan to unite everybody against an even greater threat. He chooses to not kill her and goes his merry way.

Various characters are introduced and either die, have their storyline cut or just fade away. Or, they might be a major character in future books. You can’t tell.

That is it. All from memory. I’d like to see you do so well. If you want to check, feel free to click on these old Readalong Posts from Bookstooge and Dragons&Zombies.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a readalong with Dragons&Zombies. I enjoyed the process and having someone else reading the same stuff helped motivate me to pay attention and ask questions. That being said, I took more notes reading this than I have for any other book in years. Normally, I read a book and then write stuff up after. If I had tried to do that with Deadhouse Gates, I would have missed out on so much that I would have wondered what I had actually read. The problem is, once I started taking notes, it became obvious just how dense this book is. My usual review style can be likened to looking at some architectural plans for a skyscraper. This time, I wandered the building with DeeZee from basement to attic and explored all the nooks and crannies. I came away with 2 thoughts which left me with opposing feelings.

First, this was some spectacular writing. It is a tapestry of such fine story threads that it can be hard to keep them separate. In many cases, they aren’t separate, but interweaving in and out and around and Erikson keeps it all in the air and going well. You can almost feel the care and effort expended in the story.

Second, Erikson is a dickhead. There is no other explanation for it. In Gardens of the Moon we get dropped into a story without a lot of info, but that can be sussed out. Here in Deadhouse Gates, Erikson deliberately writes to confuse. What else can it be when you have anywhere from 2-6 points of view in EACH CHAPTER and almost no clue that you are switching pov’s except for a double paragraph break? It didn’t feel like he was out to tell a story and didn’t care if his readers didn’t quite get it all. It felt like he was gleefully obfuscating and confusing information just because he could. That doesn’t mean it is impossible or that you can’t figure stuff out, but taking a page of notes for each chapter is not what I want when reading Escapist Literature. So that pissed me off.

This book tired me out and took every word I had. In the next book, Memories of Ice, I am going to have to find a way to deal with it differently, as I can’t write this much again for one book.

To end, I recommend this book if you want some complexity beyond imagining and don’t mind heavy doses of Existentialism. But for goodness sake, have some lighter reads lined up either during it or right after, you’re going to need them.

PS,

This was my 3rd time reading this and it still felt like my first. I am also adding the “Best Book of the Year” tag. It really is that excellent even with my complaining and bellyaching.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. Gardens of the Moon
  2. Deadhouse Gates from 2008 & 2009

Heirs of Empire (The Scourwind Legacy #1)

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This review is written with a GPL 3.0 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, Booklikes(maybe) & Librarything by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.
Title: Heirs of Empire
Series: The Scourwind Legacy #1
Author: Evan Currie
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 352
Format: Kindle digital edition

 

Synopsis:

The leading general of the Special Forces of the Empire commits a coup. The only survivors of the Scourwinds are the 2 youngest. With help from another rogue Special Forces agent and remnants of those loyal to the Scourwind name, the Scourwind youngsters must go from children to a man and woman in charge.

The general’s reasons for the coup are only hinted at and much greater threats seem to be looming in the wings. This world is enclosed by the God Walls. But that only means that there are things OUTSIDE the walls that those within should be afraid of.

 

My Thoughts:

For whatever reason, this just hit ALL the right buttons for me. It is one of Currie’s better books, as he seems to be getting better with more experience.  This wasn’t deep, it wasn’t emotionally moving, it isn’t something that I plan on re-reading multiple times, if even once.  But as I was reading along, I just had a blast!

If you’ve read Card’s Pathfinder trilogy, the whole God Wall thing is pretty transparent. However, since I loved that trilogy, that just boosted it up in my eyes. It was only mentioned in this book along with some vague mutterings about “threats” but it is patently obvious that things are just ramping up.

The special forces agents are pretty cool. Half jedi, half super-soldier, half wild cards. That is a lot of halfs 🙂 The rogue Agent that helps the Scourwind kids is a cliche for Currie, ie, a strong woman that takes no prisoners and gets the job done.  Several ideas from previous series are used as well but it didn’t come as recycled, but just little pointings back. Kind of like how an artist will use the same color palette for certain subjects.

While this novel tells a particular story, ie,the Fall and Return of the Scourwinds and only takes a couple of months, it is still very much a setup book. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series.

star45full-custom

Intimidation (Eyeshield 21 #4) (Manga Monday)

 f06b99a62772a41a24dfeebcbf1210a2This review is written with a GPL 3.0 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 Bookstooge.booklikes. blogspot.wordpress.com by  Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission.

Title: Intimidation

Series: Eyeshield 21

Author: Riichiro Inagaki

Artist: Yusuke Murata

Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

Genre: Manga

Pages: 200

Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

The Devil Bats have a Pride Game against another highschool, which is known for it’s delinquents and quarterback with arms like rubber bands. The Chamelion’s are prepared for Eyeshield 21, but with Monta now on the team, the Devil Bats can run the ball or pass it. A good battle ensues and the Chamelions obviously lose and end up as Harima’s slaves.

With the very public victory, the Devil Bats have tryouts and gain enough new members to have an actual team without Harima resorting to terror/blackmail tactics to force people to play. The Devil Bat’s are on their way.

 

My Thoughts:

I always feel iffy about giving manga 5 stars. However, this volume had more humor than the first volume AND gives us a good football game and a tryout from hell. For a light sports manga I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect volume.

Sena in playing the Chamelion’s realizes that, since he has faced Shin and the Whiteknights, nobody else can really intimidate him. In the end it is Eyeshield 21 doing the intimidating. Monta has found his home as a receiver. He is good at it, gains encouragement from his team mates and provides the fans with all the funny monkey action they want. We also see just a little bit into some of the player’s family lives and while not groundbreaking, it does create a depth that separates them from some of the more 2d characters.

I settled in to read this prepared to slog. Instead, I laughed my head off and tore through it like I was running a sprint. I am also adding it to my best book of the year list. Sometimes something light & fluffy is what I need and this really fulfilled that need today.