The Ragged Man (Twilight Reign #4) ★★★★☆

raggedman (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 Ragged Man
Series: Twilight Reign #4
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 612
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

At the end of the previous book Isak killed the son of Lord Styrax, the most powerful man in the world. In his rage, Styrax did not just kill Isak, but sent him directly to Ghenna (hell) to be tortured forever. Isak had dreamed about this scenario and he and his friend Mihn, the failed Harlequin, had set in motion a plan. Mihn had covered himself in magical tattoos of invisibility to both physical and spiritual entities. With the help of a witch, Mihn travels to Ghenna and recovers Isak. Upon their return though, Isak is a thoroughly broken man and it is up to Mihn to nurse him back to some normalcy.

Styrax is a broken man by the death of his son and heir and it takes the child Azeur to snap him out of his funk and to begin leading his Menin army again. Azeur posits a passive coalition with Styrax without revealing it’s actual goal and Styrax agrees. Styrax forces a non-aggression pact with the Farlan since Lord Isak is dead and half their army destroyed. They accept since if they refuse they’ll face civil war. This allows Styrax to concentrate on the one man who might be able to stop him, King Emin.

Azeur has set in motion its plans for the Harlequin nation and has recruited them to act as preachers and messengers for it. They begin by slightly changing their stories to make the gods appear more buffoonish or tyrannical or any extreme than originally intended. The Harlequins also begin preaching about a child savior that will lead the entire land without any interference from the gods. King Emin sees the danger of this and hires men and women to kill these preachers. Many Harlequins are killed but almost nobody understands what is going on, as Harlequins have always been neutral parties before this.

Styrax and his army marches on the kingdom of Narkang and begins razing it to the ground. Isak and Emin concoct a plan, one throw of the dice, where all will be won or lost. Emin confronts Styrax and his army at a castle and a huge battle ensues. Isak catches Styrax in a trap because he doesn’t try to kill him. Isak forces the gods to help him and they strip all memories of Styrax from the land and take Styrax’s identity from him. Styrax is now the Ragged Man, a legend of a man who lost his soul and now kills in the shadows to try to get it back. The Menin army falls apart without any memory of Styrax but Emin and the kingdom of Narkang have paid for this victory in more blood than they can truly afford.

Azeur can begin its plans in earnest now that Styrax isn’t around to keep it in check.

 

My Thoughts:

You know, I’ve said it before, but I am watching Lloyd’s writing skill increase right before my eyes with this series. The first 2 books were pretty rough but now, things are flowing smoothly. His skill in handling multiple points of view no longer leaves me stumbling about and the awkwardness from before is almost gone. It’s not perfect, but it is noticeably different. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever noticed such a skill increase from an author before? Maybe I never started with one that was so amateurish though. But whatever, this was good!

Mihn’s journey to hell and back was a bit slow and not very action oriented. It had me worried that the entire book was going to be like that. Thankfully, once the main story switched back to Styrax and King Emin, things got moving. The battle at the end of the book was massive. It was enjoyable. It was everything I wanted from a big epic fantasy book.

While I had serious reservations about recommending this series based on the previous books, I’d now recommend this series as long as you’re willing to deal with Lloyd’s lack of skill in the first couple of books. I realize that is a back-handed compliment, but it’s the truth. But even with that, I’d still recommend starting with Lloyd’s God Fragments series. It starts off, skill-wise, where Twilight Reign ends.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Necropolis (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #3) ★★★☆½

necropolis (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:
Necropolis
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #3
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The world of Verghast is comprised of Hive cities, which are great manufactoring cities that enable the Empire to continue its war against Chaos. Rivalries exist however and war between cities is not unknown. One such war breaks out and the city we read about call on the Empire for help, as their capture will severely curtail the current Crusade in space.

Gaunt, his Ghosts and several other Imperial forces descend to put an end to the spat. However, things are not at all what they seem. The head of the city is insane and tries to open it up to the enemies. The enemies are revealed to be the entire population of the opposing Hive city, all chaos tainted into fanatical death troopers. It is also revealed that some higher Chaos lord, Asphodel, is behind it all.

Gaunt and Co destroy the enemy but effectively lose the city in the process. The book ends with the surviving population heading off to start 2 new smaller Hive cities and most of the militia and those who fought with Gaunt becoming part of the Ghosts, as they too lost their home.

 

My Thoughts:

I think this was the darkest Gaunt’s Ghost book yet. The Ghost’s rival, the Bluebloods, led by some Captain or General, pretty much loses it and the general tries to run away. Gaunt, as a Commisar, sentences him on the spot and gives him his gun to kill himself. The coward turns it on Gaunt and Gaunt has to kill him. About time as far as I was concerned. Those bluebloods were bad news for everybody.

The body count was in the millions. People die in such large numbers that it was almost incomprehensible. I also didn’t even bother to keep track of peoples’ names because chances were greater that they would be dead in the next chapter than not. The focus was more on the politics dividing the city and on the workers who were fighting in the trenches.

In many ways this felt like a campaign scenario from the game Warhammer40K. I could almost hear the dungeonmaster (or whatever the controller in a game of WH40K is called) telling the facts of what the players were facing and the dice rolling. Scent of a Gamer is a blogger I follow who does miniatures and I kept picturing posts from his blog about various projects he’s done.

I have been wondering how 30,000 Ghosts were going to last 10+ books when we lose so many each book. Well this book answered that in spades. Take on survivors from other lost worlds. Now we’ll have to see if what makes the Ghosts the Ghosts morphs into something else with the influx of new blood.

Overall I enjoyed this and while it threatened to get a little too dark for me it never crossed that threshhold.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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)

 

Ghostmaker (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #2) ★★★☆½

ghostmaker (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: Ghostmaker
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #2
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Imperials are on the world of Mothraxx trying to prevent the forces of Chaos from taking it. On the morning of the final assault Gaunt walks among his troops and talks to various ones. Each time he talks with a trooper we get a story flashback from that soldier about a previous battle. We get 5-10 of these and then move on to the battle.

Mothraxx was home to a Lord of Nature (I don’t know the proper term in WH40K vernacular) and there is a gateway to a Homeworld that Chaos wants to invade. Humanity has been drawn there by the will of the Nature Lord even while thinking they’re doing it for themselves. A huge battle ensues, the Nature Lord gives his life to hold off the Chaos Forces and one of the Psykers, an Inquisitor goes to the Homeworld to close the gate.

Humanity destroys the forces of Chaos and everyone is less sad.

 

My Thoughts:

Having a bunch of short stories to fill in past battles worked really well. Considering how many troopers die, getting some backstory before they die feels more satisfying. At the same time, you don’t get invested enough in somebody that you’re emotionally scarred when they get their head ripped off by some Chaos warrior or their guts torn out and eaten or something like that.

The psyker who gave her life was introduced with just a hint of possible romance for Gaunt, so I knew she had to disappear. Can’t have attachments in this universe! Outside of Gaunt, his cabin boy and some of the ranking officers, anybody is liable to be killed off. I’ve adjusted my thinking for these books so it doesn’t bother me.

What does bother me though, still, is the very nature of this universe. If Chaos is bad, and the Inquisitors hunt down any human with psychic powers, using psychic powers, how does that work? And the Emperor. I’m going to have problems with him just existing, so get used to me complaining about him. He is as Chaos’y as Chaos so why does Humanity worship him? Grrr, I just don’t understand.

As Ground Pounder SF goes though, this is pretty enjoyable. Gaunt’s Ghosts are scouts and fighters so no spaceship to spaceship battles. I’m all for that!

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)