The Man with One Name (The God Fragments 2.5) ★★★★☆

manwithonename (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 Man with One Name
Series: The God Fragments 2.5
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 68
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lynx is wandering and comes into a small town. He accidentally kills an employee of the local warlord. He is then made Reeve by an enterprising old woman and has to survive the wrath of Therien, the man he has bucked.

After killing half of Therien’s crew, Lynx proposes a duel of mage pistols at dawn and Therien agrees, knowing that if he kills Lynx, he will then be the legitimate authority in the town. Lynx simply snipes him and heads out of town.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a story of Lynx before he joined up with the Cards. Honestly, I was expecting a prequel novella to book 3, much like Honour Under Moonlight leads up to Princess of Blood. Seeing what Lynx dealt with as an ex-Hanese soldier wandering around was enlightening and it definitely made him a slighter fuller figure (ha, yes, that is a pun on him being fat).

Knowing Lynx from the previous books and novella, I suspected that the ending would go the way it did. Lynx is pragmatic until it runs counter to his set of morals. Sniping a warlord who had used his underlings to try to kill him presented no moral qualms for Lynx.

★★★★☆

 

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Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) ★★★☆½

beastlybonesThis 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: Beastly Bones
Series: Jackaby #2
Author: William Ritter
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 305
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Jackaby solves a case of a shapeshifting creature and when that creature’s owner is killed, ostensibly by a vampire, Jackaby and Abigal Rook are on it. When another victim turns up in Gads Valley, where Charlie Cane is now living and with the promise of dinosaur bones, both of our main characters are anxious to be off.

Once in Gads Valley, along with 2 competing archeologists and a strong willed journalist, Jackaby reveals that the bones belong to a dragon, not a dinosaur and there appears to be a live dragon as well. Carnage and mayhem ensue as the dragon, really a shapeshifter from the litter that Jackaby solved right at the beginning of the book, runs rampant. It violently explodes when Abigal throws a lit torch down its throat.

Jackaby and Abigal realize everything has been a distraction to keep them from the mastermind of it all. Abigal kisses Charlie at the train station and once back in New Fiddleham, both protagonists come to the conclusion that the death of their ghost Jenny is tied to everything. Solve her case and the mastermind of supernatural evil will be revealed.

 

My Thoughts:

A cracking fun read. Everything was a slow build up and I have to admit, I did not see the whole changling thing coming at all. That completely surprised me, in a good way.

Jenny the ghost does some poltergeist’y stuff near the beginning so I did know that her story was going to be important and sure enough, by the end of the book, her case is going to be the case that reveals who this supernatural meddler is.

The 2 archeologists and the journalist, along with a hunter who is a friend of Jackaby all provide nice background noise and are pretty much perfect side characters who are good for one book. Charlie and Abigal and their whole romance thing played a bigger part in this book, but more for various characters to tell Abigal what she should do or feel and for Abigal to finally decide on her own. Very modern young lady * eye roll * It was laid on a little thick, but considering this is YA bordering on middle grade, that is kind of to be expected.

Abigal is a great narrator and I’m glad the author didn’t try to change things from the first book and make somebody else do that. She’s feisty and smart and yet at the same time can be very human with being clumsy or not understanding something blindingly obvious to everyone else.

In many ways these remind me of Patricia Wrede’s Frontier Magic trilogy. The tone is very similar and while Abigal is a little bit older than Eff, Eff had to grow up fast while Abigal had the protection of money. But after this second Jackaby book, I suspect if you like one, you’ll like the other. I sure know I do.

And I have to end this review talking about the cover. I’ve included a large version if you click the pix by the info block. I’m not sure if it is the colors or the simplicity of it or what, but this is just as gorgeous as the first book.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Red Nails (The Essential Conan #3) ★★★★☆

rednails (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 Nails
Series: The Essential Conan #3
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 295
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another collection of stories about Conan with the final part of the book being a “history” of the Pre-Cataclysmic world and the post-Cataclysmic world leading up to our own known history.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book the most of all 3 of these Essential Conan books and I think it was a combination of slightly longer stories coupled with not having as many. The final part of the book, the “History” part was boring as all get out but I expected that as History and me are acquaintances by circumstances instead of friends by choice.

The History definitely showed up Howard’s racial bias more than anything in the stories. Purity of blood and the continual references to racial superiority or inferiority really began to grate.

The titular story, Red Nails, was probably the best Conan story of all I’ve read with these. From the killing of a monstrous lizard to an enclosed city with near insane inhabitants to a sorceress who feasts on live sacrifices, it just had it all. You could probably read that story alone and get enough of everything to decide if more Conan was for you or not.

I’m pretty pleased with this Essential omnibus that I read. I felt like I got a real taste of who and what Conan is about, what kind of author Howard was and it was just the right size so I’ve had enough without having too much. There are more Conan stories by Howard, and tons by other authors, but this has sated me so I feel no need to seek out more. I’d highly recommend this if you wanted to try out Conan or even simply wanted a better understanding of Fantasy from the early 1900’s. You are never going to go wrong by reading works that are foundational to the genres we have today.

★★★★☆

 

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The Air War (Shadows of the Apt #8) ★★★★☆

airwar (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 Air War
Series: Shadows of the Apt #8
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 672
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Empire has begun its expansion once again. Under the guise of defending themselves, they begin taking back the Low Land cities that escaped them the last time.

The war has moved into the air and airplanes and pilots are the new masters. Even the Air War evolves as it progresses, moving from one on one duels to a new way of communication among the wasps to fly kinden and wasp women being in the airforce.

The Empire, with the help of the Iron Glove Cartel, are now using Greatshotters to make walled cities pointless. They move on Collegium and it is only because the Empress has discovered a new source of power that the Imperial Army is pulled back, once again.

Empress Seda tidies up the Empire and allows plotters to gather so she can use her magic to wrap them all up.She continues to search for pockets of old power but all the old secrets have either already been used or decayed. There are less than vague hints about the Seal of the Worm but none of the Inapt slaves are willing to tell Seda about it. This only fuels Seda’s curiosity and she begins to dig.

 

My Thoughts:

When I read this for the first time back in 2014, I gave it 3 Stars. Storywise, I still stand by that. This was depressing, as the colossus that is the Empire just rolls over almost everything in this book. Collegium is the only city that successfully fights back and even that was not a “win” but more of a stay of execution. Almost 700 pages of the good guys staving off complete disaster and calling regular disaster a win. How are you supposed to get excited about that?

This time around, since I knew that was coming, I was able to focus more on the writing itself and I must say, this deserves that 4stars completely. Tchaikovsky is a Wordsmith and even when he was going on about air fighting stuff, which I didn’t care 2 whits for, I was able to focus on the words themselves and what they were trying to convey. It was worth it.

What I don’t understand and I can’t remember if this is EVER addressed in this series, is why the whole “kinden” gifts aren’t considered magic? Why doesn’t Seda try to tap into that as a source? I mean, she’d have the whole worlds population to exploit. Because of the lack of magic in this book and the focus on airplanes and how they change the war, I had to find something magical to think about for goodness sake! If a wasp can make some sort of energy appear and shoot from his hand, if a fly can make “wings” appear from her back and fly through the air, etc, etc, then what is the force behind that? It is presented as something that “just is” and with so much going on, it is easy to sit back and let it slide. But I had to pick at something since I don’t care for WWI style of fighting and this idea was it. If the Darakyon, a whole magical forest, can be put into the Shadow Box, why can’t Seda begin draining the magical force of the kinden gifts into her own container? See, I’d much rather read about something like that than flipping airplanes and coils and springs and crap that has no place in fantasy.

Ok, it’s not completely magicless, as anything to do with Empress Seda revolves around magic, but it is such a SMALL part that I wept for its short stature.

The characters were top notch. We get a lot of small characters from previous books playing bigger roles and some new characters and a very few of the old. Taki is one of the pilots and it is through her that we see the majority of the air war. You can feel how the war changes the one on one aerial duels to mass bombings and how it affects the pilots. It is almost the same change going from warriors like Tisamon, who were exquisite artists of death, to the massed clumps of beetle soldiers armed with snapbows who are able to deal out so much more death than Tisamon ever could. War has gone from a hobby for the rich individual to something of mass death waged by cities. And Taki lets us feel that change every step of the way. She is heroic, she is brave and she is talented and in the end, it’s not enough and she knows it. And we the readers know it as well.

I am also adding the “Favorite” tag because even though I didn’t particularly care for the planes (have I mentioned that enough yet do you think?), this series as a whole is even better this second time around. I can take the time to examine the underpinnings and they are as solid and artful as the building as a whole. I continue to be thoroughly impressed.

★★★★☆

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Princess of Blood (The God Fragments #2) ★★★★☆

princess of blood (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: Princess of Blood
Series: The God Fragments #2
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 545
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Cards head to another independent city state ostensibly as bodyguards for the Ambassador, but with Toil telling them to “be prepared”.

Some fool scholar has opened a mystery in the city of Jarrazir that leads down into a duegar maze of mythic proportions. Legends hint of a stash of god fragments, but that is odd as the duegar pre-date the fall of the gods.

Sotorian Bade, working for the Knight Charnel in his role as relic hunter, leads a force of knights underground to recover the fragments. General Faril is leading a very visible attack against the city to distract everyone from Bade.

But Toil isn’t distracted. She has a vendetta against Bade since he left her to die in the Underdark all those years ago. With the very reluctant blessing of the Nobility of Jarrazir, Toil and some of the Cards head underground, along with the surviving student of the aforementioned fool scholar. Now in a race with Bade, both groups will be tested to the utmost in all areas: magic, brains and brawn.

Bade successfully carries off the god fragments but Toil realizes there is a greater treasure and the 7 survivors are imbued with some sort of magic that ties them together. Once upon the surface, they must work together, with the remaining Cards and other mercenary groups to throw back the Knights Charnel. This they successfully do.

Now Anatim must figure out just what his Cards are becoming and if it’s something he still wants to be in charge of.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this as much as the first book. On the plus, there were no “slow” times like I experienced previously. On the minus side, Lloyd goes into perverse immorality here. Sadly, I am letting my enjoyment dictate the outcome instead of dnf’ing this like I’ve done other books with such content. I’m sure it will happen again so I’m already preparing myself for stopping this series at the next such instance.

Lloyd likes to write a lot of setup. While the Maze opens in the first pages, neither the Cards or Bade actually go underground until after the 50% mark. It worked this time but there were times I felt like telling him to “get on with the story”. The maze reminded me of the movie Cube, just not quite so spectacularly violent and grotesque. I’m ok with that though. Sadly, the whole time in the maze felt a bit rushed. I do wish there had been more fighting or traps or monsters or something. Less backstory for that wretched Toil and more Maze death.

Lynx didn’t feel nearly as much the main character as he did in the first book. It seemed like Toil kind of bulled her way in and tried to take over. I don’t mind her as Lynx’s love interest or as a side character, but I don’t care for her as a main character. She’s simply “too much”. Lynx is a bit more believable. In a world where pieces of gods are used to make bullets I mean * rolls eyes at self *

We do find out a little bit of the history of this world and the fact that the gods might have been duegar. My initial thought on learning this was “what is this going to do to the psyche of the people if they learn their gods were nothing but jumped up dwarves?”. I have a feeling Lloyd is simply going to ignore that aspect of things. Just like he’s pretty much not written how the gods being dead and their carcasses being used affects people.

This does continue to get the profanity tag as well. F-bombs are used like mage bullets it seems.

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The People of the Black Circle (The Essential Conan #2) ★★★☆½

peopleoftheblackcircle (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 People of the Black Circle
Series: The Essential Conan #2
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 220
Format: Hardcover

 

Synopsis:

4 stories involving Conan. While not exact, they do seem to move backwards in time, so while he’s king of the Hetman in the first story, by the time we get to the final story he’s a Sword for Hire.

Conan fights something, whether wizards, peoples or monsters, rescues nearly naked women and usually makes off with a boatload of treasure.

 

My Thoughts:

I wasn’t sure how this Conan read would go so soon after the first instalment. Thankfully, moving away from a full novel to shorter, more serialized stories worked rather well.

The first thing I noticed is just how well Howard can write. While the Conan stories are not in any way deep character sketches, Howards writes him in such a way that while sparse doesn’t feel flat. Conan was a real barbarian and Howard brings that to light with a deft touch. He also describes things in such a way as to evoke whatever emotion he is going for in the scene. He knows how to describe things precisely so as to guide you yet it never fell into purple prose territory either. It was a delicate tightrope and I thought he did a fantastic job.

However, the short story format fails us the readers. While all varying enough that they aren’t identical, in either scene or foe, the overall plotlines run almost along identical tracks. That wouldn’t be a problem if you read one story every other month or so. But reading 4 in a matter of weeks, well, it becames a little difficult to ignore.

Overall, I am pretty pleased with Conan and how this Essential Series is working out. I’ve got one more to go and then I think I’ll be satisfied with having tried this particular Hero out.

★★★☆½

 

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Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen #8) ★☆☆☆☆

tollthehounds (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: Toll the Hounds
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #8
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1299
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

I’m really struggling with this.

The Tiste Andii have a big part. Nimander and the young Andii, led by Clip, are on a journey to Black Pearl to pledge allegiance to Anomander Rake. During this journey Clip is possessed by the Fallen god and it is up to Nimander to stop him. Rake himself leaves Black Coral and faces down Hood himself and kills Hood with Dragnipur, thus bringing Hood into the realm of Dragnipur. This allows Hood to bring his armies of the dead against the forces of Chaos within that realm. Rake then faces Traveller, who is revealed as Dassem Ultor, First Sword of the Empire and not only dies in a battle with him, but is killed by Dragnipur as well. This places him in Dragnipur’s realm as well and somehow makes it possible for him to confront Mother Dark and convince her to take her children back.

Karsa Orlong and Samar Dev had been travelling with Traveller and are witnesses.

There is a lot going on in Darujhistan itself. Cutter and others have returned. The remaining Bridge Burners who run a bar, have a contract taken out on them by the Assassins guild. Rallick Nom and Vorcan both recover in the Azath House and get back into the thick of things. Gruntle ends up working for the Trygalle Guild and Mappo takes their services to try to get back to Icarium. Only Mappo and Gruntle get called into the Realm of Dragnipur to help lead the forces of the Dead against Chaos.

The Broken god is also making a play outside of Black Coral to subsume the newly ascended Itkovian, now known as the Redeemer. Using his own corrupted blood, a black addictive druglike sludge, he enslaves the high priestess of the Redeemer and it is up to a former Pannion Domin of all people to defend the Redeemer, who has chosen not to defend himself.

After the battle between Rake and Traveller, and the battle that ensued for control of Dragnipur, Caladan Brood emerged in control of the sword. With the help of the remaining Torrud Cabal, he destroys the sword with Burn’s Hammer, thus releasing all the souls still in existence within the sword.

 

My Thoughts:

Last time I read this, I called this a bloated piece of crap (to summarize). This time around, I have much more to say.

It IS a bloated piece of crap. At 1300 pages, this easily could have been pared down to 800 or 900 pages simply by removing the monologuing by every character about despair, hopelessness, the pointlessness of existence, etc, etc. I found myself skimming pages at a time and not missing any actual plot points. Erikson becomes as bad as Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged with the monologue by John Gault. Erikson gives full vent to his existential beliefs and in all honesty, it is horrible.

Lots of Christian theology and personal philosophy coming up, so be warned.

Sometimes, books can affect us in deep and profound ways. We always hope that it is for the better but sometimes it isn’t. This time around, it wasn’t for the better. Over the last 10 years I have learned that I am particularly susceptible to the weakness of hopelessness and despair. Whether in a sermon or in a book, if the negative is at the forefront, it will bring my spirit down and affect me physically. I can not live without Hope. That is part of why I am a Christian.

Erikson puts forth that Oblivion is the end of everything. Good, bad, right, wrong, all will end in nothingness. You can only witness existence and hope someone else will witness you as well. This directly cuts across the fact that God Himself is our witness. He has always been and He will always be. Oblivion is not the end of God, even though it is the end of humanity who are not saved by Jesus Christ. Our lives are being watched and recorded by God and we are not alone.

Erikson also writes how everything good is essentially pointless since it is tainted in one way or another. God is not tainted. God is Good. Everything good flows from a Perfect God and it IS good because it aligns with His character. Erikson takes everything that is written on our very hearts as good and drags it through a shit hole and stabs it with a rusty butter knife all in an effort to show how it really isn’t good.

Sadly, it wasn’t until I was at the 80% mark that I realized how this was affecting me. My attitude was horrible about pretty much everything and the world seemed grey and blah even while I was objectively having a good time. I could have taken steps to counteract this much earlier if I had realized what was going on. I do plan on reading either Mark of a Man by Elizabeth Elliot or one of C.S. Lewis’s books immediately after this.

In the future, I will never read this book again. I also plan on waiting an extra cycle before attempting the next Malazan Book of the Fallen. I’m giving this book the “Worst Book of the Year” tag as well to help remind my future self to never even look at this thing again.

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge (Custom)