Heir of Sea and Fire (Riddlemaster #2) ★★★★☆

heirofseaandfire (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: Heir of Sea and Fire
Series: Riddlemaster #2
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 215
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Raederle, the woman betrothed to Morgan, sets out to find him as he has gone missing. She hooks up with some others, one of them being Morgan’s younger sister and sails all over. Morgan has thoroughly disappeared though and the landheir power has been passed on to his brother. This usually means the original holder of said power is dead and almost everyone but Raederle believes Morgan to be dead.

Part way through Morgan is revealed to be alive and chasing after the Bard who betrayed him AND that the wizard Ohm has been masquerading as The One (the magical master of the whole land). Raederle must convince Morgan to not take his vengeance against the Bard as it will destroy who Morgan is.

Raederle also comes into powers of her own. She finds out that one of her ancestors was a shapeshifter from the sea and this blood has bestowed peculiar power to her. Considering that the shapeshifters were doing their best to kill Morgan in the previous book, Raederle isn’t sure how Morgan is going to act when he finds out his betrothed belongs to those who wanted him dead.

The book ends with a showdown between the dead of Hel, controlled by Raederle and the Bard and Morgan. Morgan is convinced to show mercy and then he and Raederle set out to track down Ohm and get some answers for all the mysteries going on.

 

My Thoughts:

While I am giving this 4stars this time, I completely understand myself for giving it 2 stars back in ’07. This was trying to tell a fantasy story that needed a trilogy and McKillip kept going between fantasy writerstyle of the day and her own style of lyrical prose. It makes for an unsettling read as at one point you’ll have everything spelled out for you and then 10 pages later some monumental revelation is made as an aside in some oblique reference to some myth.

That was the weakness of this book and I am not sure that it can truly overcome that weakness. It’s the same problem I had with Riddlemaster of Hed and the main reason I wouldn’t recommend these as starter books for someone looking to get into McKillip.

Now that being said, since I have already read almost everything of McKillip’s and am currently re-reading everything, I can appreciate this book for its strengths.

This borrows heavily from Welsh/Welch (love that grapejuice by the way!) myth with the lands of Hel, Awn, etc and the unsettled dead and magic held by the lands rulers. If you’ve ever read The Prydain Chronicles by Llloyd Alexander, you’ll recognize a lot of the places and situations McKillip uses in this book. I think having that pre-existing knowledge will help a lot in understanding just what is going on, since there is so much happening without being spelled out. McKillip was writing for a well-read audience and I think a more modern audience will miss out on a lot of references, references that make this a much fuller, richer story.

Raederle was a great character. She wasn’t pie in the eye in love with Morgan, since she had only known him as a friend growing up. But since he was her betrothed, she was going to find out what happened to him. It showed a core of steel in her character. That showed her as strong but not some kickass heroine where her femininity was completely overshadowed by her being a man with breasts. She wasn’t a warrior, she couldn’t sail the ship she was on but there was NEVER any doubt that it was Raederle driving and leading everyone else on. When she confronts Morgon about his quest for vengeance, she doesn’t kick his legs out from under him and pin him down until he submits. She supports the parts of him that she does admire and lets him see that and lets that support decide him.

The supporting characters, from Morgon’s younger sister to the ghost of the King of Hel (that is him on the cover, lusting after his skull, which had been nailed to a midden pile and that Raederle used as a bargaining chip in obtaining his help) to Morgon himself were just as good.

To end, I once again thoroughly enjoyed another McKillip story while definitely not recommending this as a starting place for anyone thinking about a McKillip journey. Get some “experience” with her as an author and then come back to this.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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Nicholas Nickleby ★★★★★

nicholasnickleby (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: Nicholas Nickleby
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1029
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Nicholas Nickleby dies of a broken heart after speculating all his families money and losing it. He dies and leaves behind a wife and his young son Nicholas and a younger daugher Kate. He leaves them to the tender mercies of his brother Ralph, a rich money lender.

Ralph sends Nicholas to a school master as an aide with the promise that Ralph will take care of Mrs Nickleby and Kate as long as Nicholas stays the course. Said schoolmaster, one Wackford Squeers, is in cahoots with Ralph on various usurous objectives that Ralph has in mind. Squeers uses and abuses his charges and also gets free labor from a simple minded orphan named Smikes. When Squeers begin to beat Smikes almost to death, Nicholas intervenes even though he knows it means his Uncle Ralph will kick his Mother and sister out onto the streets.

Nicholas and Smikes join an actors troupe to earn a living. Nicholas receives a letter from an employee of his Uncle begging him to come back to London.

During this time, Ralph had used his niece Kate as bate to entice a young lord to get money from him. Kate begs her Uncle to spare her the shame of such a thing but Ralph will not relent. Money is his god.

Nicholas returns to London, defies his Uncle, starts a new job with the Cheeryble brothers. He comes across a beautiful young woman and has to contend with his Uncle and Wackford Squeers trying to kidnap Smikes. Many schemes of Ralph all come together around Nicholas and with the help of various friends, Nicholas overcomes all and sees Ralph ruined.

Nicholas marries the beautiful young lady, Kate marries Frank Cheeryble, the nephew of the Cheeryble brothers and everything works out well for the good guys and the bad guys all get their just desserts, whether prison, murder or exile.

 

My Thoughts:

First, let’s deal with something here. Wackford Squeers. I have been saying that name in dulcet tones for the last 2 weeks. I mean, how PERFECT is that name for a villain? Wackford Squeers, Wackford Squeers, Wackford Squeers. This could probably have been a 5star book just on the strength of that name alone. Thankfully, the rest of the book carries its weight as well.

The characters, all of them, are fantastic. From youthful, hotheaded and sometimes silly Nicholas to grasping, hate filled Uncle Ralph to poor, pathetic, heart breaking and sympathy inducing Smikes to cruel, petty and cowardly Wackford Squeers. Dickens doesn’t just write ABOUT these characters, he brings them to life, in all their glorious ups and downs. I know that Dickens is shamelessly manipulating me with how he describes poor Smikes but I don’t care because he does it so well. My heart broke for the poor wretch even while I KNEW that Dickens was doing this cold heartedly to bring about just such a reaction from me. And Wackford Squeers, my goodness, such a vile pot of avarice, cowardice and bulliness that I loved to hate him. Plus, singing his name to the tune of ♪Davey,♪ Davey Crockett,♪King of the Wild Frontier♪ fit perfectly and almost had me dancing with glee.

The trials and tribulations of Nicholas, Kate, various other side characters, all tie into a wondrous tapestry that simply enchanted me. Now, this being Dickens, and originally serialized, and Dickens being paid by the word, there were times that I was tempted to skim or let my mind wonder during some of the more descriptive pages or while Mrs Nickleby would wax eloquent about something that nobody cared about, but I overcame and read every word and I must say, I am richer for it. While Dickens isn’t by any means a sparse writer, neither is he a wasteful writer. His descriptions bring the people walking the street alive. His words make the characters as real as real can be. When I was tempted to simply skip anything involving Mrs Nickleby and her pointless reminisces and get annoyed by her, it was what Dickens was aiming for. He wanted a character just like that and he created her from thin air.

While I gave this 5stars back in ’07 and 5 stars again, I don’t know if I’d recommend anyone starting their exploration of Dickens with this or not. First off, it is over 1000pages for the entire novel. Even the broken up edition I read back in ’07 was almost 600 pages for each volume. However, thanks to the likes of Sanderson, Martin and Co, the Mega-Novel (trademark pending) is becoming main stream and the mere size of Dickens might not be quite the impediment it would have been even 20 years ago. The other thing would be this showcases the Victorian ideals to a T(ea) (haha!!!!) and that might be off putting those of modern culture. Nicholas not pursuing Madeline Bray because it wouldn’t be proper as he wasn’t of the same class anymore (she was monied while the Nickleby’s weren’t anymore) and Nicholas persuading his sister Kate to not accept Frank Cheeryble’s proposal (at first) because it wouldn’t look right since Nicholas worked for the Cheeryble Uncles. It is very much outside the egalitarian ideas we carry around today that I can see it turning people away. Now, that being said, anyone who IS turned off from Dickens because of something like that doesn’t deserve to read the Master anyway. So no great loss.

After arguing with myself in the above paragraph, I have realized this book not only gets my unadulterated acclamation, but my highest recommendation AND the first of the year Best Book of the Year tag. I wish I could praise this book more, I really do but this will have to do.

Sincerely,

Bookstooge

 

★★★★★

 

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Prador Moon (Polity #9) ★★★★☆

pradormoon (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: Prador Moon
Series: Polity #9
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 353
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Chronicling the beginning of the war between the Polity and the Prador Second Kingdom. We see how the Prador exotic metal ships are so incredibly tough and how the war factories of the Polity came into being.

A renegade scientist, on the run from the Polity for experimenting with humans and augs, manages to sneak past the Polity’s oversight and installs a bunch of new augs on several people. One of them is a Separatist and one of them is a scientist working on the Runcible project. The separatist uses his to coordinate an attack on a Polity world to destroy the AI and to open it up to the Prador. The scientist is using her expanded sensory apparatus, under the watchful eye of an AI, to begin using the Runcible system for ships in space and not just planet bound travellers.

We also follow Jebel “Ucap” (Up close and personal) Krong, one of the few survivors of the initial contact with the Prador. They killed his woman, so now he leads the survivors of the world of Avalon in fighting the Prador on the ground. By planting mines on their shells. It doesn’t get much more Up Close And Personal than that!

One of the Prador has been tasked with capturing the Space Runcible and we get a real look at the Prador and their culture. Everything comes together when the Prador tries to capture the runcible and the scientist uses it to send a small moon through to destroy the Prador ship.

 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoy the stories about the Prador, mainly because Asher can go full bore violent without offending my sensibilities. I mean, how can I be turned off when he’s writing about giant crabs eating each other and experimenting on humans and whatnot? They’re the perfect villains.

When I read this back in ’11 I noted that it was only 173 pages. This time around the page count was listed as 353. The only difference immediately noticeable was the 173page version was from TOR back in ’08 and this version was from Nightshade Books in ’13. But even then, there are various publications from both companies with wildly varying counts. Whatever, I do wish it had been longer, as it really worked for me.

The thing that kept this from getting bumped up a half star (most times when I re-read something and enjoy it just as much as last time I bump it up) was the lack of a single focused main character. The focus was split between the Separatist, the Scientist, Jebel Krong and the Prador Captain. It was fine, as their stories all were converging stories but I have to admit, I do really prefer a single character that ties it all together.

I’m listing this as Number 9 in the Polity universe just because I feel anyone reading Asher’s Polity books would be best served to have read the Agent Cormac quintet and the Spatterjay trilogy. I believe this is Number 1 chronologically but a lot of what you’ll read here won’t be explained here and is explained in the aforementioned series.

If worlds getting nuked and tech and awesome fighting and giant sentient man-eating space faring crabs are your thing, this book gives it in spades.

★★★★☆

 

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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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Honour Under Moonlight (The God Fragments 1.5) ★★★★☆

honourundermoonlight (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: Honour Under Moonlight
Series: The God Fragments 1.5
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 79
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lynx and the Cards are taking the winter off, thanks to the money they earned in Stranger of Tempest. However, Lynx gets shanghai’ed into attending a Costume Ball with Toil. When he goes to pick her up at her place, he finds 2 dead assassins, one live assassin and no Toil. Thus begins Lynx’s night.

He tracks down Toil using clues she has left behind. Unfortunately for Lynx, Toil is using him to draw out the leader of the assassin group Lynx found in her home. After some good old fashioned torture, there is a showdown in a graveyard and Lynx, Toil and a mysterious stranger in a gold mask take down the assassins.

Lynx is left wondering just what the Cards have signed up for in working for Toil.

 

My Thoughts:

I’m usually not a fan of short stories taking place between books but I wanted to stretch this series out, as book 2 was only released in March. I’ll have to wait at least a year before book 3, so lets make the fun last, you know?

Also, my last 2 High Priority reads were real downers. Algorithm of Power and Gods of the Mountain both left me holding an empty dried out husk when I really wanted a juicy watermelon. Thankfully, Honour Under Moonlight gave me a splatterific watermelon of a time!

Encompassing 8hrs or less, Lloyd packs a lot of goings-ons into one story. This relies upon the reader knowing what happened in Stranger of Tempest, so this would not be a good starting place. But as an appetizer between main courses, it is delightful. Lynx is as brave, snarky, pragmatic and relatable as ever. It really helps that he’s getting older and fatter. Both of those things I can totally relate too, sadly.

I gave the first book the “profanity” tag, as most of the mercs swore like sailors. This time around, only Sitain, who was drunk for most of the story, was the mouthy one. It wasn’t enough to warrant that tag. I have a feeling the next book will return to form though.

The action is intense and since this is less than 80 pages, the non-action scenes don’t last very long before we’re up and running again. Or fighting or being tortured. I’d call it High Octane. I have the next book, Princess of Blood, already in the next High Priority slot and I’m hoping to get to it by the end of this month or the beginning of next.

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964 ★★★★★

sfhalloffame (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 Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol. 1: 1929-1964
Series: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame #1
Editor: Robert Silverberg
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 576
Format: Trade paperback

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories voted by members of the Science Fiction Authors Guild (or something or other like that) as the best of. A popularity contest of stories from the 30’s to the 60’s. No author had more than one story and the book was presented chronologically, so we as the readers could see how things progressed storywise in 30 years.

 

My Thoughts:

Danielle from Books, Vertigo and Tea reviewed this recently and brought it to my attention. What a fantastic read.

First off, this was originally published back in 1970, I believe. It was released again in 2005 and then just released digitally in 2018. Obviously not a new book. I read this at lunch beginning sometime in March and just finished it this past week. Short stories really lend themselves to no pressure reading and going at a slow pace. Sometimes you need that in a busy, hectic book life like mine.

I had read over ½ of these 26 stories, as growing up in the 80’s and addicted to SF meant I was familiar with almost all of these authors, even if just by name. This was good stuff! If you’ve never read Vintage SF, this is a good place to start. Even if you don’t like every story (and I didn’t like every one either), you’ll get the flavor of what those years produced and if an author strikes your fancy, you can then go on and investigate on your own.

In many ways, I think that Science Fiction shines through the short story medium. Ideas are presented and there is no extraneous fluff or junk to ruin it. And if your imagination isn’t up to snuff to get you excited about ideas, then you probably shouldn’t be reading SF in the first place.

I bought this used in trade paperback through Amazon but I think the stories are good enough that I’m going to have to put the hardcover on my wishlist. In terms of Short Story Collections, this falls squarely between Asimov’s Complete Stories Vol 1 and Asimov’s Complete Stories Vol 2. I do plan on buying, in used trade paperback again, Volumes 2 & 3, which are the best novella’s of that time period. Hopefully they are as good as these stories.

★★★★★

 

 

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No Thoroughfare ★★★★☆

nothoroughfare (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: No Thoroughfare
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens & Wilkie Collins
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 256
Format: Digital Edition

 

The synopsis will have some real spoilers, so if you think you might ever read this book and don’t want it spoiled, just read the “My Thoughts” portion.

Synopsis: Spoilers

A baby boy is given to an Foundling and in his teen years is adopted by an older lady. She educates him and reveals that she is his birth mother. She sets him on the path of success in the Wine Business and promptly passes away.

Said young man, Walter Wilding, is in poor health and so takes on a partner to help with the business, one George Vendale. Walter also hires a new housekeeper and in the process it is revealed that she was a former nurse at the Foundling. It is also revealed that there were several “Walter Wilding”s and the lady got the wrong one. This distresses young Wilding to no end and he begins to seek out the rightful heir. It also places an incredible stress upon his already weak constitution and he soon passes away. He leaves it to his partner George to find the heir and if he can’t, to take Wilding’s share of the company.

At the same time, George is woo’ing Margeurite Obenreizer, a young swiss woman who is under the guardianship of her half-uncle. During this whole thing, it is revealed by an inquiry of George’s that someone in a high position of trust, has been stealing money from the company that Obenreizer works for.

George ends up taking a hike over the Alps to give his evidence and of course it is Obenreizer, who goes along to try to either steal the evidence or kill George. Margeurite senses something is wrong, follows with the help of faithful retainer of George’s and saves George only to apparently have him die in her arms.

Several months elapse and Obenreizer, now let go from his previous job, is working for a lawyer with the aim of stealing his secrets and using them for personal gain. He learns something about Vendale, who he thinks is dead. Then Margeurite and George spring forth, alive and whole and reveal the treachery of Obenreizer in full. Obenreizer, thinking he is getting revenge, reveals that George Vendale is actually adopted by the Vendales and that he was a foundling. Of course, it turns out that George Vendale was the heir that Walter Wilding was looking for the entire time.

The book ends with Obenreizer dying in an avalanche and George and Margeurite getting married.

 

My Thoughts:

I remembered a few things from my initial read in ’03, but in so many ways it was like reading it for the first time. I enjoyed this a lot.

This was drama of the finest vintage. Orphans and searches for lost heirs and love and evil villains and love triumphant and just desserts. This has it all in spades. And it is short, so anyone who might be intimidated by Dicken’s rather lengthy style won’t be put off. I don’t have anything else to say. I’m tired and worded out.

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)