The Book of Atrix Wolfe ★★★★ 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: 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) ★★★★★

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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: 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)

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

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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: 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)

Sword of Caledor (Warhammer: Tyrion & Teclis #2) ★★★☆☆

caledor (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: Sword of Caledor
Series: Tyrion & Teclis #2
Author: William King
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 268
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

It has been 100 years since the previous book. Tyrion and Teclis are both becoming more adept at their roles and how they fit into Elven Society.

The book starts out with them and a bunch of humans on a quest to find the Sword of Caledor. Going through jungles, swamps and eventually ending up at a dead city, they find the Sword.

Once back home, Tyrion is called upon to take part in a tournament to decide the champion of the new Everqueen, as the previous one suddenly died, all because of Malekith’s long term plans. Teclis must decode a bunch of scrolls he took from the dead city that seem to describe the end of the world.

Meanwhile, Malekith has bound the demon from the previous book and is invading the Light Elves/Asur’s homeland. He uses the demon’s ability to use portals to spread his army across the land and plans on destroying city after city in one fell swoop. He also sends an elite contingent to the Tournament to capture the new Everqueen. With her bound to Malekith, the Asur will have to follow him.E

Tyrion foils said capture, but the book ends with him and the Everqueen on the run and the land about to be overrun by dark elves.

 

My Thoughts:

My initial thought when we meet the twins and their human entourage in a jungle searching for the sword, was that these elves were not Tolkien’s elves but that they seemed familiar. Further on, I realized that they reminded me of the Melnibonéans from Michael Moorcock’s Elric Saga. Decadent, superior and on the decline without even realizing it.

My second thought, when Malekith invaded with a whole boatload of boats [sorry for that, but couldn’t really think of another turn of phrase], was “Where are the watchers, the scouts, Joelendil Farmer?” Why didn’t SOMEBODY see a whole bloody army invading? I don’t get the impression that the Asur homeland was a vast, unpopulated realm. Maybe it is, but if so, me having no knowledge of the land denied me knowing that. It just came across as authorial “Because I said so!”

My third, and final negative thought, was, “this is depressing as all get out”. The Asur were ennui laden jerks, the Druuchi [the elves in thrall to Malekith, the other son of Aenarion] were all spies, tattletales and backstabbers and the humans were greedy pigs hardly even worth looking at.

Action-wise, this had some good stuff! The battles to find the sword of Caledor, in the jungle, in the dead city, were pretty good. Had a good mix of dinoaurs, ghosts and undead [sadly, no undead dinosaurs]. The slaughter at the Tournament was a bit “meh”, as none of the super-duper warriors, besides Tyrion, seemed to fight back and even Tyrion had to pull a rescue and run mission.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Blood of Aenarion (Book 1)

All Darkness Met (The Dread Empire: A Cruel Wind #3) ★★★☆ 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: All Darkness Met
Series: The Dread Empire: A Cruel Wind #3
Author: Glen Cook
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 341
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Star Rider is not some half witted old kindly wizard who pats people on the head. It turns out he is a master manipulator in thrall to some unknown forces. HE is the agent behind the wars down through the years and it is time for war between the Dread Empire and the Western Nations.

The barbarian war general from the previous book, Ragnarson, ends up being the regent when his wife dies and the queen, who he has been shagging on the side, dies in childbirth. He must fight overwhelming odds, traitors, unstable magic and his own friends trying to kill him.

We also get a brief history of O-Shin, the super powerful magician who is currently “ruling” the Dread Empire. He manages to stay alive and prevent total war until he is killed by accident by someone who is looking for their missing friend.

A running battle is fought, both magical and mundane, and millions of people die. The Dread Empire is pushed back, not defeated and the Star Rider continues his game of war for his unknown reasons.

 

My Thoughts:

Ragnarson was the main character and he’s just a jerk. Cheating on his wife just doesn’t work for me.

One thing that dragged this down for me was Mocker’s kidnapping, torture, brain washing and eventual death. He was a character that I actually liked and it felt so wrong for him to go down the path he did. It also made me realize just how nasty magic is. Mocker was compelled to try to kill Ragnarson, his best friend. His free will was negated and he had no choice. I can’t stand that. Even with being a Christian and acknowledging God’s Sovereign Will, I still am a champion of Free Will. That’s why I like Neal Asher as an author, because he and I have extremely different ideas on what Free Will actually is. But anyway. Mocker is killed by Ragnarson when Mocker tries to assassinate him. It was just so wrong.

The battles were fantastic. Bloody, tense, uncertain. No side had all the dibs on getting things right. Somebody always messed up and cost countless lives each time. There was no Chosen One, there was no Victory except complete and utter annihilation of the other side and that didn’t happen because of that wretched Star Rider.

The revelations that he is being punished, in thrall or something to higher powers opens up whole new potential vistas for plot lines. Or it might just be a line that Cook threw in and never visits again. If Mocker can die, then I’m convinced that ANYTHING can happen, however bad, good or stupid it may be.

The confusion I felt in the second book was gone. Lots of references to the previous books helped ground me and kept me from being swept out to sea. I think that fact alone is what raised this up half star, even with Mocker’s demise. I liked Mocker, which is why I keep going on about him.Not sure who I can like in any future books. Of course, Cook might skip a generation or 10 and bring up a whole new cast. I guess I’ll find out when I read the next book in a month or two.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. A Shadow of All Night Falling (Book 1)
  2. October’s Baby (Book 2)

The Shadow Roads (Swan’s War #3) ★★★★ 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: The Shadow Roads
Series: Swan’s War #3
Author: Sean Russell
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Hafyyd, having made his deal with Death, now faces Alaan and Elise and unleashes his fury. He wants to deliver his father, Wyrr, who is sleeping in the river, into Death’s hands. The other two thwart him in that and so Hafyyd returns to the normal land and begins his conquest.

Tam is given an arrow with a magical jeweled head and instructed to shoot Hafyyd in the eye and that that will kill him. This is accomplished and the Rennes and the Wills start trying to figure out a way to have peace between their families. The most promising way looks to be through intermarriage of Lord Caral and Lady Lynn.

It turns out that everything was precipitated by a magical Black Swan who fell in love with Tusival, Hafyyd, Sainth and Sianon’s grandfather. She had 3 children by Tusival, 2 sons (Wyrr and Aillyn) and one daughter. The daughter was taken by Death in a bid to to gain the Swan’s Love. That lead to Wyrr and Aillyn walling Death up which further led to the Swan trying to gain her daughter back by any means necessary, including selling out Tusival, her sons and her grandchildren.

With Hafyyd dead, Alaan begins researching the spell to wall Death in and to strengthen it. Elise retires to a small island on the river to watch over 2 children who have been possessed by Wyrr and the Swan’s dead daughter but who now are their own. Tam, Baore and Fynnol return north.

 

My Thoughts:

A lot gets packed into this book. First book deals with the Rennes and the Wills and the introduction of the Children of Wyrr. Second book introduces Wyrr and Aillyn and now in this book we deal with Death incarnate and everybody’s magical Grandmother. It went wicked deep into Fairytale territory.

Russell’s style of writing took some mental adjustment on my part. I couldn’t race through. I had to read at the pace he set. It was this way with each book and yet each time it came as a surprise.

I think my only gripe is that the 3 young men from the North, Tam, Baore and Fynnol, were not main characters. They were important secondary characters, but the story had moved beyond them and I missed having the bulk of the story from their view. They were the Everyman of the story. The Rennes and the Wills were nobility. Hafyyd, Alaan and Elise were all possessed by magicians. It was hard to relate to any of those, whereas Tam was just a young man suddenly thrust into an adventure far beyond his imagining.

I would sum up this trilogy with the word “Melancholy”. It wasn’t depressing, it wasn’t necessarily sad but everything was tinged with Melancholy. The pacing of the story definitely added to that feeling. To finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this re-read as much as the first time and suspect I’ll enjoy it as much again in another decade or so. Definitely worth owning the hardcovers.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

  1. The Shadow Roads (2009 Review)
  2. The One Kingdom (Book 1)
  3. The Isle of Battle (Book 2)

The Destiny of the Sword (The Seventh Sword #3) ★★☆☆ 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: The Destiny of the Sword
Series: The Seventh Sword #3
Author: Dave Duncan
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 370
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Wally unites the swordsmen, captures a top wizard and realizes that The World needs both of them. So he hammers out a peace deal between them. In the process though his protege Nnanji rockets up through the ranks and by the end of the book is a Seventh Level Swordsman himself.

Nnanji is charismatic, is willing to kill, can delegate, has a brother who can scheme like nobody else, a wife that is ambitious and an unshakeable belief in Wally. So of course, he is on the road to becoming the first Emperor of The World.

And Wally gets all butthurt and starts whining about democracy and slinging terms like psychopath and fascist and dictator. Thankfully the little god has a talk with him and Wally accepts that he’ll have to play second fiddle to Nnanji from now on.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a decent story right up until Wally starts whining about Nnanji supplanting him. He was all 21st century ideals in the first book but had gotten over that in the second and in this book. Up until that point. Then it was a one chapter tsunami of weak willed bs.

It ruined everything up to that point for me.

The story is wrapped up satisfactorily thankfully. This was originally a trilogy and then years later he wrote a 4th book, The Death of Nnanji. I will not be reading that.

★★☆☆ ½

bookstooge

  1. The Reluctant Swordsman (Book 1)
  2. The Coming of Wisdom (Book 2)