Spoils of War (Tales of the Apt #1) ★★★★☆

spoilsofwar (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: Spoils of War
Series: Tales of the Apt #1
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 278
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of 8 (I believe, I didn’t keep track) short stories taking place in the world of the Shadows of the Apt. However, these stories all take place before the first book, Empire in Black and Gold begins. Definitely meant for fans who have already read the entire decalogy and want more.

 

My Thoughts:

I am a fan of collections of short stories by a single author. You get lots of ideas and little bits and bobs without having to commit a huge amount of time. This book was under 300 pages, so each story was something I could sit down with and read in a sitting and not feel like I had started something that I needed a week to commit to. It was perfect for lunch breaks and an hour or whatever in the evening.

The stories themselves I enjoyed but none of them really stood out to me. However, that is how I usually am with collections like this so it isn’t a slur on the book, but a reflection on me. While I do review every book I read, I have never felt like I needed to review every story in a collection like this. I don’t like writing THAT much 🙂

Tchaikovsky also gave a little note after each story with an anecdote of how it came to be or how a character tied into the Shadows series. It was enjoyable but also made me realize that even side characters who I’d completely forgotten about played a big part in the author’s mind when he was writing. Good for him, I guess?

Most of the stories dealt with the 12 Year War between the Empire and the entity ruled by the dragonfly, the Commonweal perhaps? I can’t remember. Thoroughly enjoyable but I’m not sure I’d recommend this for someone who hasn’t read the Shadows series first. A lot is assumed here in terms of understanding the Kinden. That kind of thing is explained in the Shadows series so it’s not a stumbling block coming into this, but if you were just starting out with this, I can see it being very confusing.

Final verdict is that I enjoyed the bejabs out of this and highly recommend it for anyone who has read and enjoyed the main Shadows series.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings #1) ★★★★☆

fellowshipofthering (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: Fellowship of the Ring
Series: Lord of the Rings #1
Author: John Tolkien
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Bilbo, after the events from The Hobbit, has settled down to a nice slightly eccentric life. He adopts one of his nephews, Frodo, as his heir and begins to write his memoirs. On his One Hundred and Eleventieth birthday, Bilbo disappears and leaves everything to Frodo. Only Gandalf knows that Bilbo has gone to Rivendell.

Several decades later Gandalf visits Frodo and reveals that the little gold ring that allowed Bilbo to turn invisible, and that he left to Frodo, is actually a ring of great power, possibly The One Ring that was made by Sauron to control all the other rings of power. Gandalf tells Frodo he needs to go to Rivendell to take counsel and that he, Gandalf, will return in a year to help guide him there.

A year passes and no word of Gandalf. Frodo has been preparing and his cover story is that he is moving to Buckland, another settlement of hobbits. Two of his cousins, Merry and Pippin, along with Frodo’s gardener Sam, have all been helping him move. On the way to Buckland, Frodo runs into a black rider that inspires complete unreasoning terror in his heart. No longer knowing who to trust, Frodo and his companions begin their trek to Rivendell.

Having several adventures, the hobbits meet up with Strider, a human ranger who Gandalf trusted. They all head for Rivendell, doing their best to avoid the attention of the Black Riders, who Strider reveals are Ringwraiths, Sauron’s powerful underlings. The Group makes it to Rivendell and Gandalf shows up. He tells them that the head of the Wizard’s Council, Saruman the White, has been corrupted by a lust for power. Now the world must deal with Sauron and Sarumon, both who want the One Ring for the power it contains. Elrond, the elven lord of Rivendell, tells that the Ring will corrupt any being who uses it and that it must be destroyed. The only way to destroy it is to cast it back into the fiery Mount Doom from which it was created.

A Company is gathered. They set out. Hindered in many ways, they must eventually decide what they are going to do with the Ring. Gandalf perishes defending them from a Balrog, a being almost equal in power to Sauron himself. Eventually, one of the Companions, a human named Boromir, falls under the influence of the Ring and tries to take it from Frodo.

Frodo flees, along with Sam and heads off on his own towards Mt Doom. The book ends with the Fellowship breaking apart and heading their own ways.

 

My Thoughts:

This is going to be a lot shorter of a review than my 2012 one.

I enjoyed this but was not raving about it. A thoroughly good story that is at once personal and cozy and yet epic in scope all at the same time. It is no wonder that this trilogy ended up spawning the Fantasy Genre as we know it today.

The reason this doesn’t get more than 4stars from, and never will, is all the blasted songs and poetry. Sometimes they contained pertinent information to the current story and other times they were simply a history lesson and at others they were just an expression by the character. You never knew which. I ended up just skipping them, plot points be forsaken.

Anyone who reads Fantasy should read this trilogy. Period.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Od Magic ★★★★★

odmagic (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: Od Magic
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 328
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Brenden Vetch saved most of his village from the plague but he couldn’t save his parents. He learned the magic of plants all on his own and now he wanders, listening to what the plants tell him. One day a woman named Od appears before him and tells him to go to her school in the big city, as she needs a gardener. He’ll know the entrance by the sign with the boot on it. Sick at heart and ready for a change, Brenden goes and finds the door. He enters, meets a wizard and finds out that only very special people ever find the door with the boot on it. All the other students enter through the front gate.

The King of the city, and his ancestors, started the school in honor of Od when she saved the kingdom hundreds of years ago. Slowly they have usurped its powers and decreed that only magic they control is allowed.

A wandering magician enters the city, only to entertain. But circumstances set the king off so he sets his own wizards on the trail of the magician to either control him or remove him and his troupe (said magician performs magics of illusions for the crowds) from the city.

At the same time the princess is to be married off to the head wizard, a man who is controlled completely by the rules of magic that the kings have set up. When she realizes this wizard will never allow her her own small magics taught her by her grandmother, she runs away to find the wandering magician to learn outside magic and to gain her freedom. This sets the King off even more.

At the same time Brenden accidentally shows what he is capable of to the head wizard. Realizing what he has done, Brenden runs away. The Head Wizard chases after him.

Everybody ends up in the North Country where there are 8 Stumps, which are beings of immeasurable power but who are afraid of humanity. Turns out Od is their representative to Humanity so they can all co-exist. Brenden must help the human magicians look beyond the limits they’ve set for themselves so that they won’t be afraid of unknown magic.

 

My Thoughts:

This hit the spot. I really needed a good book after the stinkers I had last week. I slid right into the rhythm of the story like sliding into silk pajamas. My mind and senses felt caressed by the writing. It was just plain soothing.

There was a LOT going on. Brenden’s story, the wandering Magician, the Princess, the Stumps, Od herself, and all of the side characters swept along by each of the main characters. In a good way, it was easy to lose myself in the story. But I never felt like McKillip lost a thread or made a mistep there. Each character was balanced within the overarching plot and at no time did I ever feel like a particular point of view was too long or too short. It just flowed together perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, every sentence of it. I had no issues with anything, well except maybe for wishing it was slightly longer, but I feel that way about every McKillip book. Of course, she writes just the right amount for the story she is telling.

If you haven’t started to read McKillip’s body of work by now, then nothing I can say will galvanize you. You won’t get any contempt from me, just pity. And trust me, getting pitied by me means you’re pretty low on the totem pole…

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Dance of the Dead (Ravenloft #3) ★☆☆☆½

danceofthedead (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: Dance of the Dead
Series: Ravenloft #3
Author: Christie Golden
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Franchise Fiction
Pages: 310
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Raoul Dumont, captain of a paddle boat, steams up and down the rivers of Ravenloft bringing cheer and entertainment to all the small towns he visits. His troupe of actors regular perform a play he has written and Dumont’s young ward, Larissa Snowmane, is growing into her role as the villain of the piece.

However, while staying at an elven town, the main starlet of the show turns up dead and Dumont suspects the Elven Lord. He and the Crew make a run for it and pass through the mists. They come to a small town that Larissa recognizes as the one she grew up in many years ago before her father abandoned her to Dumont’s care.

Dumont begins to show his true colors and tries to take advantage of Larissa. She escapes, meets a young man named Willen and finds out that Dumont has a group of magical creatures as slaves in the hold of his boat. Dumont’s goal is to find a magical creature in this small town and in this he is aided by a Necromancer named Lond. Lond begins turning the crew into zombies that are directly controlled by Dumont. Lond wants out of the town, as he has made an enemy of the Lord of the Manor, a vampiric necromancer of immense power.

Larissa escapes into the swamp, finds out her white hair (hence the name Snowmane) gives her a special connection and is taught by the Swamp Witch. However, before they can attack Dumont or Lond, they must get permission from the Lord of the Manor, as nothing occurs without his personal approval. He teaches Larissa the Dance of the Dead and sends her on her way.

A battle ensues between the gang on the boat and denizens of the swamp. Things aren’t looking good for Larissa’s friends as Lond is just resurrecting them and using them for his side. Larissa dances the Dance of the Dead (which she was told would allow her to control all zombies) only to find out that not only can she control all zombies but she makes zombies of anyone who watches the dance. Willen gets zombified and Lond kills Dumont to try to escape. Lond ends up dying in a contest of wills and Larissa’s group wins.

The book ends with the remaining non-zombies asking Larissa to be the Captain of the Boat and she begins making eyes at one of the men.

 

My Thoughts:

What an utter piece of tripe. This had every cliché and trope possible for “Young Heroine Comes Into Her Own”.

Also, nothing about this seems to actually be in the Realm of Ravenloft. If Dumont could travel willy-nilly through the mists, he could have made himself king. This was just a Grl Power fantasy book with the name “Ravenloft” stamped on it.

A stinker of a book. If the next Ravenloft book is anything close to this I’m done with the series. I always knew this would happen but I have to admit I was hoping it wouldn’t happen until later in the series.

C’est la Vie!

★☆☆☆½

 

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Dread Brass Shadows (Garrett, PI #5) ★★★☆½

dreadbrassshadows (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: Dread Brass Shadows
Series: Garrett, PI #5
Author: Glen Cook
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Garrett walks out his front door one day and sees his sex buddy, Tinny Tate, stabbed in front of his eyes. He and one of his buddies chase the perp down but the guy knows nothing, almost like whoever sent him knew the Dead Man lived at Garrett’s house. Garrett tells Tinny’s uncle and he has her taken home where she receives the best medical care money can buy. Uncle Tate also tells Garrett to find whoever sent the perp and that he, Uncle Tate, wants a piece of them.

The next day a nude, wounded redhead who looks remarkably like Tinny collapses on Garrett’s front step. He brings her in to recover. The Dead Man tells Garrett to go visit the local head of the Dwarves. After the interview in which Garrett learns that a “Book of Shadows” is somehow involved, he is attacked by an out of town gang of dwarves. He is saved by two of the guys who work for the local Crime Lord. When Garrett gets home the redhead has disappeared.

The next day yet ANOTHER redhead shows up, wanting to hire Garrett to find this book of Shadows. It was created by a witch and can allow anyone who reads it to turn into other people. Garrett can only imagine what could be done with that and sets out to find it just so he can destroy it.

The Crime Lord gets involved as he knows he can almost live forever with a book like that under his control. He knows Garrett will get in his way and so he tries to kill him. The 2 henchman, who are the Crime Lord’s Right and Left Hand, abandon him when they realize they’ll never be able to replace him, as he will never die. They contact Garrett and ask for help in assassinating the Crime Lord.

Everybody, Tates, Dwarves, the Witch who created the Book, Garrett and Henchman, and Others, all converge on the Crime Lord’s estate. A huge blood bath ensues but nobody knows where the book is. Garrett eventually remembers that the Nude Redhead had a parcel with her and finds it at his house, under the bed. Voila, the book. He destroys it.

Life settles down back to normal, as normal as life in TunFaire can be anyway.

 

My Thoughts:

Cook did a very good job of keeping me as mystified as Garrett. I hadn’t a clue what was going on and while a sharper minded person might have remembered the package and deduced everything, I’d completely forgotten about it and so was completely at sea.

A simple mystery for a simple man. I was happy, for the most part, with what I read. Each book I have to wrestle with Garrett being a womanizing, immoral pig. It’s the main reason these will never get a real high rating from me, no matter how much I might enjoy them. But once I deal with that, then I enjoy the rest of the book. It has been that way for every book and I suspect it will be that way for each future book as well.

I did like the shakeup of the Crime Lord getting whacked and his two subordinates taking over. That should help make any future storylines a tad bit different, even if only superficially. But considering these are superficial stories, that should be enough.

More of the same, more of the same.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane ★★★☆☆

savagetalesofsolomonkane (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 Savage Tales of Solomon Kane
Series: ———-
Author: Robert Howard
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The collected works following the adventures of the Puritan Swordsman, Solomon Kane. From the deepest depths of Africa to the windswept shores of England, Solomon Kane follows wither the spirit leads. Avenging wrongs, rescuing maidens, defeating evil incarnate, Solomon Kane knows no fear, for he is God’s Avenging Sword against Evil.

 

My Thoughts:

Not as enjoyable as the Essential Conan collection I read last year. Part of that was that there just wasn’t nearly as much material for Solomon Kane as there was for Conan. Almost 1/3 of the stories in this book were fragments that Howard had started and then either set aside or just never finished. Thankfully each story that was a fragment had the word (fragment), like that, next to the story name. There were also 2 or 3 poems and I’m just not a poetry buff of any sort.

My biggest problem however, was that Kane was supposed to be a Puritan. While he dresses like one, not once does he act in any way that I recognized as a Godly man. He consorts with sorcerers, uses gifts of magic from a devil worshipper, thinks that men are nothing but higher animals and generally displays no reverence for God. He occasionally mouths a platitude or two about “faith” but what he said could just as easily have come from a Hindu, a Muslim or a Buddhist.

Now with all of that out of the way…

There were some fine pulp stories here. Encountering lost civilizations in the heart of Africa, fighting off a tribe of flying cannibal creatures, torching a city of zombie vampires, fighting a whole crew of pirates, Solomon Kane has the chops to keep you entertained. Everydayshouldbetuesday talked about Solomon Kane back in May and that peaked my interest.

I would recommend this if you enjoyed Howard’s Conan stories and wanted to try something different. However, if you haven’t read any Howard, don’t start with this.

★★★☆☆

 

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Grave Thief (Twilight Reign #3) ★★★☆½

gravethief (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: Grave Thief
Series: Twilight Reign #3
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 548
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

With the fall of Scree, the gods have been enraged at what the Shadow has done. Unfortunately, all this has accomplished is to make the priest of various gods more warlike and to incite them against their own citizenry. This in turn places a huge strain on the Kingdoms that are trying to oppose Styrax and his Menin, who are taking city after city.

Styrax’s goal is to take all of the crystal skulls and to become a god himself. He is studying a puzzle at one of the conquered cities and unearth’s another skull. He also happens to set free its guardian, a very big and very cranky dragon.

While this has been going on, Isak has been trying to keep his kingdom from tearing itself apart. The priests are out of control and have hired their own mercenaries to act as their law. Eventually Isak declares a Crusade against Styrax and his godless Menin. This accomplishes getting all the nutjob priests out of the way and allows Isak to oppose Styrax and hopefully slow him down before he reaches Farlan.

At the same time, Azeur the Shadow has been born in human flesh. He attaches himself to a duchess of one of the soon to be conquered cities so as to remain under the radar from King Emin and Isak. He sets priest and citizen against the other so that at the right time they will look to him as a savior. He is growing at a rate of years in months time and at the time Styrax takes his city is about 5 years old.

Some of the gods, the lower hierarchy, realize that this time is an opportunity for them to rise. As such, they begin bonding with mortal humans and creating a new level of human power structure. Duke Vesna, one of Isak’s closest allies, is one such human. How it all plays out and what the final cost will be is yet to be seen.

The book ends with a battle between Farlan and Menin. Isak knows he can’t best Styrax so he follows a plan (that is unknown to us the readers) hatched by his Secretary of Everything. Isak kills a huge amount of the Menin with magic and then kills Styrax’s only son. Styrax kills Isak and sends him to hell using the power of his crystal skulls.

 

My Thoughts:

Much better. Now that I’m not floundering around trying to get adjusted to Isak as a character, I could concentrate a bit more on Azeur and Styrax. Of course, with Lloyd killing Isak right at the end, I’m not sure WHAT the next 2 books hold. I highly doubt Isak is “really” dead though. If he is, then I’ll be wicked pissed off in the later books.

I still have issues with Lloyd starting a chapter and not naming the character we follow until several pages in. It is annoying. Plus the character point of view shifts with only an extra line break still gets me. I’m getting better at picking up on those though, even if only subconsciously. I guess Lloyd is training all his readers to be his own personal cadre of Manchurian Candidates.

I didn’t like that some of the characters we’d really been invested in in previous books, King Emin, etc, were sidelined. I almost feel like I need to re-read the first 2 books just to place the new’ish characters like Styrax and his son into better context. I know I read about them in earlier books with all of my attention on the main character, what they did has slid right out of my mind. I think that comes down to the author not handling multiple characters and locations as well as he needs to.

There were also a couple of places where the words that were written weren’t the words meant. I can’t bring any specifics to mind but it is the kind of thing that needs a copy editor to look over and find.

On the positive side, what I am reading is reminding me and more of what I read, and liked, in the God Fragments series. The similarities in authorial voice are much more noticeable. Whereas the first book of this Twilight Reign series had me scratching my head over the fact that the same author wrote them, now I can see it. And I’m liking what I’m seeing.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)