Kellanved’s Reach (Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3) ★★★★☆

kellanvedsreach (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: Kellanved’s Reach
Series: Malaz: Path to Ascendancy #3
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 340
Format: Hardcover Edition

 

Synopsis:

Not much of a single plot running through this book. More like the many, diverse threads like you see at the beginning of a very large and complicated weaving process.

Kellanved finds the Throne of Bone and is allowed by the T’lan Imass to “rule” over them. Kellanved and Dancer meet the Crippled God for the first time and it doesn’t go well.

Surly continues to do all the hard work of creating an empire. She also successfully pulls of a coup on her brother, who ousted her in the first place. She is the de facto leader even while making Napan part of the “Malazan Empire”. Her discontent with Kellanved and his methods continue to grow.

The blind girl who can communicate with birds has her journey and she is called to the Northern Wastes to become some people’s shaman (the Jheck perhaps?)

We also follow 2 new characters who long to join the Crimson Guard. One is a mage and the other a battle mage that doesn’t know it. They do a lot of fighting and we get to see how the rift between K’azz and Skinner starts.

Finally, we follow a mercenary general who saves his troops despite their contract holder selling them out. He leads the opposing forces a merry chase and after killing a K’chain Ch’malle (or however it is spelled) is rescued by the Malazans and is introduced as Grey Mane.

 

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this with just a few caveats that kept it from being a 4 1/2star read or higher. First, the lack of a plot running through the book was distracting. The previous 2 books had their own little in book plots and this one should have too. Second, Kellanved finding and using the Throne of Bone was very underwhelming. It was rushed through to make room for everything else. Thirdly, too many various things were happening for such a short book. Finally, this felt “simple” in comparison to Esslemont’s Empire of Malaz series and almost childish in comparison to Erikson’s Book of the Fallen. Mind you, I didn’t want reams of empty philosophy but the dexterous storytelling I am used to from both authors just wasn’t there. This was like Glen Cook in one of his better Black Company books.

I realize that sounds like a lot, but while I complain a lot about Erikson and by extension Esslemont, I still expect some seriously well written stuff from them.

What I liked the best was how Esslemont shows just how humorous Kellanved really is, in a young/old way that just made me grin. The insecurity of youth coupled with youth’s propensity for brashness allied with an old man’s crotchedyness. It was perfect. Dancer very much played the Straight Man in this comedy duo and I could totally see them going up on stage during an Improv Night and doing horrible amateur comedy. And then killing the entire audience for not laughing loud enough!

While I felt there were too many threads being started here, I did really appreciate just how even a glimpse or two of a character was enough to fill in a ton of back story for them form the Fallen series. I knew Skinner, from the Crimson Guard was a real bastard but here we see how he got his name and how much he relished violence and why that would lead him into eventual conflict with K’azz.

Technically this is a prequel trilogy but I would not recommend reading this at all before the Book of the Fallen or Empire of Malaz series. Too much of the revelations in those series would be spoiled and half the fun would simply disappear. I do highly recommend this trilogy though if you made it through the entire set of series and came out alive.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Saints (Monster Hunter Memoirs #3) ★★★★☆

saints (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: Saints
Series: Monster Hunter Memoirs #3
Author: John Ringo, Larry Correia
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 288
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Chad blows up at MCB after the experience in New Orleans. This puts him on their Super Shit List and one of the agents starts making things personal. A bad scrying shows Chad is involved with a black magic group kidnapping virgins to raise an Old One. Turns out it is Chad’s brother but that makes Chad involved anyway. Chad takes down his brother and stops the ring. That’s enough proof for the agent AND Agent Franks. Franks beats Chad almost to death and hospitalizes him. Chad then sues MCB and while things are in full swing heads over to England to do some research at the Van Helsing Institute.

There he investigates why some of the occurrences are happening in New Orleans. Turns out, his brother has slightly awakened an Old One’s cocoon. The Agent in charge of MCB in New Orleans has taken MCB being sued by Chad extremely personal so he does nothing when even Earl Harbinger tells him there is a baby Old One about to wake up and eat the world. That means its up to MHI to toe the line again and stand between the Earth and total destruction. MHI wins. Was there any ever doubt? Of course, they get a little help from the Fey and a High Hunt.

The books ends with Earl taking over and describing the events at the Christmas Party where Ray Shackleford IV almost destroys MHI. Turns out it is Earl and Chad who close the Portal to the Old One and Chad gives his life to allow Earl to do so.

My Thoughts:

This was a great wrapup to the trilogy. A nascent Old One growing under New Orleans? Man, how much more of a threat can you get than that? Everything leads up to that though, so the story goes from threat to threat to threat.

Everything isn’t directly connected, so things feel a little discombobulated sometimes. The whole thing with his brother ends so quickly that there was no tension and besides it leading into Chad getting the snot beat out of him, was rather anti-climactic.

Chad’s time in England was boring. It didn’t help that the story about the ghost and the super special metal was included in the Monster Hunter Files anthology so I kind of felt cheated. Him teaching was just as boring.

The final battle was EVERYTHING I want out of a Monster Hunter International fight. Guns, bombs, flamethrowers, Holy Water, and so many monsters. So many, many monsters. Ringo and Correia did a fantastic job of making this a pulse pounding fight!

The ending, with Chad’s sacrifice, was how this trilogy needed to end. Chad’s story had a beginning and this was his end. For all his philandering, dickheaded braggodocio and general arrogance, Chad goes out like a hero.

Overall, this was a worthwhile read in the MHI universe, even if a little bit off from Correia’s style.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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)

 

 

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)

 

 

Gods of the Mountain (Cycle of Blades #1) ★☆☆☆½

godsofthemountain (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:
Gods of the Mountain
Series: Cycle of Blades #1
Author: Christopher Keene
Rating: 1.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 307
Format: Digital Edition

 

Background Info:

The author of this indie book convinced me to review it with a rather humorous comment on my “Review Policy” page. Asking for a bad review, that I can handle. He seemed like a nice enough guy when we emailed, so I thought “Sure, why not take a chance.” And if you read the reviews over on GR, it DOES sound like a bunch of paid shills. And he has a BA in English Lit (I believe), so it couldn’t be THAT bad, right?

First hiccup was him emailing me a second version. This was supposedly released in 2017, so I was expecting a finished product. When an author keeps tweaking a book, well, that doesn’t bode well in my eyes.

Second hiccup was him letting me know, in Mid-April, that it was going into audio production and had I had a chance to “look it over” yet . I only got the book in the beginning of March and needed to work it into my rotation.

So, legal schmegal crap: The author gave me a copy of this book for an honest review and boy howdy, is that what he’s going to get. Remember, he ASKED for this.

 

Synopsis:

The Kingdom of Tyrania was conquered by the Kingdom of Aavaria because the Aavarians wanted control of the only supply of a special kind of wood that could be turned into swords that would suck the life out of anyone receiving even a small wound.

Faulk watched as his Commander died in a duel to the Aavarian General and as his homeland fell. Now, 3 years later, he’s a mercenary for hire, drowning his despair with drink. He meets up with a former fellow soldier who specialized in assassination. This Kessler shows Faulk some magic that only a specific tribe in the mountains are supposed to be able to use. This tribe, the Lunarians, are dedicated to pacifism. Kessler was taught by an exiled Lunarian and he begins passing on his knowledge.

3 Lunarians are sent to Tyrania to stop outsiders from using the symbol magic. This will involve taking one of the users before the Lunarian’s gods and those gods severing all connections which will stop that user and all users associated with the initial user.

Faulk goes with them to ostensibly learn more magic, as he’s unaware of the gods true purpose. He ends up being stripped by the gods and then someone reconnecting back to the magic using another form.

While this is happening to Faulk, the Lunarian Exile has set in motion a chain of events that leads to his ascension as Ruler of Tyrania. He makes one of the magic trees grow using all of the stolen life force from the magic blades.

The book ends with Faulk and his Lunarian girlfriend, along with her ex, heading out to explore Aavaria and the Lunarian Exile planning on worldwide conquest.

 

My Thoughts:

First off, the writing. In my recent “Quote” post, I posted just a tiny bit of the book. There were a handful of instances of like awkwardness that had me guessing just what the author meant. I’m not talking about story plots, but plain old grammar use. You can find Editors who will look for and show you how to fix those type of things. Sure, they cost money, but do you want your book to be good? I talked to someone I know, who also has a BA in English Lit, and she said the instances I showed her were what she experiences when reading chinese novels translated by highschool students.Dinged off a ½ star for those instances.

Second, the magic system. The way it was really introduced had me going “That’s a Brandon Sanderson Mistborn knockoff!” Pushing and pulling against magic swords and daggers to move objects or yourself? Vin!checkbox

Thankfully, it does go on to be a “little” more original, but the way it was introduced really wasn’t handled well. Problem is, later things get messy again when Faulk gets cut off from the magic but “magically” is able to reconnect using some other way. Terms are thrown around but it made no sense to me. This happened near the end of the book though so I was pretty much past caring if I had missed something. Ding. There goes another ½ star.

The characters. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be rooting for anyone, or just against the Aavarian overlords and then the Exiled Lunarian. Faulk was this uber-sceptic with the philosophy of a 2nd grader. The love interest, Yuweh, was this magical powerhouse but then would turn around and be this incredibly naive and simple “girl”. Purposeful or not, I didn’t like either of them. At the end, there is this semi-sex scene between them. Up to that point Keene had kept things clean. But they are at a pool bathing together and he describes their foreplay like an awkward 14 year old and then ends with something like “and they laid down and made love”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT to read erotica, or even semi-graphic sex scenes. But it offends my completist sensibilities that you’d clumsily yet graphically describe their foreplay but not the actual act? Considering that nothing like this is described earlier, its obviously put in to titillate the reader. But the only people going to be titillated by such amateur descriptions are 14 year old boys. The rest of us are just going to roll our eyes. Ding, another ½ star.

There is a bunch of other stuff too, but really, isn’t that enough? I’m not getting paid as an Editor here.

So lets do the math, because nothing is sexier than a man in suspenders and a flannel shirt doing “math”.

3 Stars is my starting point.

Add 1 for getting me to read the book in the first place.

Subtract ½ for mucking around it with it AFTER it is already published.

Subtract ½ for acting like an anxious man whose wife is pregnant with their first child.

Subtract ½ for Awkwardness.

Subtract ½ for the magic system and Sandersonitis.

Subtract ½ for the terrible and just plain embarrassing foreplay scene.

The grand total should be…..* calculator noises *

0.5!!!! Oh wait, no. Hold on. Carry the five, divide the 2, add the 1/2’s. Dang this “new math”.

1.5 STARS FOR THE WIN!!! (Where is Vanna when you really need her?)

All kidding aside, this wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read, not even close. But it was barely adequate with enough issues that I certainly won’t be reading any more by Keene. Between this and Algorithm of Power, I have also reaffirmed my decision about indies in general.

★☆☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

The Algorithm of Power ★☆☆☆☆

algorithmofpower (Custom).jpgThis 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 Algorithm of Power
Author: Pedro Barrento
Translator: Craig Patterson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 701
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

In 2061, the world decides to be run by a computer program instead of governments and to divide the world up into 100 regions where various ideologies, religions, philosophies and whatever can have their own little place without needing to elect anyone or be in contact with anyone who disagrees with them.

One storyline, in 2300, follows a young woman who leaves her region after her sister’s death and in the new region comes across a young man who has unfettered access to the network. She falls in love with another man and through machinations, ends up on a boat with both men heading for this Control Center.

The second storyline is about the rise of the Network and how the world we are introduced to in the beginning of the book came about.

 

My Thoughts:

Pig Ignorant Eurosnobbery.

North Korea, China, the US Army, they’re not all going to just sit back and let something like this happen. A lot of individuals wouldn’t just sit back and let this happen either.

And the passive energy field that separate the regions? Beyond handwavium, their application is completely ignored. That kind of tech would have gone into somebody’s military and then gone to the world’s militaries. World War III was much more likely of an outcome than what is shown.

Don’t even get me started on the lack of Religious intelligence here. This author obviously doesn’t understand ANY religion. I know that Christians wouldn’t accept being corraled into one little part of the planet. The whole point of Christianity isn’t to live with people you agree with, but to spread what you believe to others. You can’t do that, there is no point in being a Christian. Then the muslims and their jihads? You think they’re just going to lie down? Ahhh, the lack of understanding in this book was appalling.

I also didn’t like a single character.

The writing. I’ve got conflicting data here. Antao, in his review, states that this was originally in English. The kindle edition I got states:

Translation: Craig Patterson

So, was that translation of certain phrases in the book, translation from English to Portuguese or from Portuguese to English. Mr Barrento lives in Portugal, so I wouldn’t think he would need help translating his book to that language? I couldn’t find which language this was written in first, nor did I look that hard. Not worth it.

Either way, no matter, the writing was choppy, didn’t flow and kept me at arms length. I always felt narrated AT while reading this book and that was off putting.

I doubt I’ll ever come across another book by this author, but if I some how do, I certainly won’t be reading it.

★☆☆☆☆

bookstooge

 

 

Stranger of Tempest (The God Fragments #1) ★★★★☆

stranger-of-tempest-finalThis 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: Stranger of Tempest
Series: The God Fragments #1
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 481
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Lynx fought in the war. But when his leader’s charisma wasn’t enough to overcome his children’s greed, the war machine imploded and now any soldier who fought on the leader’s side is looked down upon and distrusted by all the surrounding countries. Lynx just wants to retire but without money, he can’t do that.

So he hires on with a mercenary group, the Cards. In the process of going to an assignment, Lynx rescues a fellow countryman, a young girl who is a mage, from the clutches of one of the religious orders. The current assignment puts them into direct conflict with said religious order, so the Cards are doubly screwed.

Then their contact publicly kills their mark and forces the group to use their most powerful mage bullets to escape the city. The whole Militia of the Order is now after them and the only way to escape is to go underground through Duegar ruins, which are filled with traps and other such creepy crawlies as has driven men mad. Quadruply screwed.

In the process of fleeing through the underground ruins, they run into the local scary things, then they run into the Order and then everbody runs into The Big Bad Thing. Yeah, that thing on the cover. It eats magic. 7 times screwed over.

The Cards barely survive, make it out and deliver their contact to an out of the way town. She is involved in some nasty politics and after having seen how they conduct themselves, wants to hire the Cards on her master’s behalf without them knowing it. Welcome to the new war boys and girls!

Totally Screwed.

 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this. The thing I enjoyed most was the magical bullets that the specially built mage-guns could shoot. With names like “icers”, “sparkers”, “burners”, “earthers”, it reminded me exactly of the Moranth munitions from the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I love those munitions and the kinds of guys who use them, These god fragment bullets (hence the name of the series) had the same vibe as the moranth and I loved every second of it.

The second thing I really enjoyed was the balance of worldbuilding and character information with the action. I found that tightrope walked perfectly. I was fed just enough info to keep me satisfied without feeling like Lloyd was info-dumping on me. The action was pretty good too. Mages, magic, mercenaries and whole lot of super creepy, underground, scary creatures that want to, and can, eat you whole. That balrog looking thing on the cover (I’ve included a larger picture you can click if you so desire) is the main “boss” creature but there are plenty of other things too. It’s all good.

Thirdly, I liked the characters. Lynx is a great main character. The older I get, the more life experience I have, the more I want the characters I read about to keep pace with me. Lynx is a scarred and broken man and seeing him struggle is encouraging. He can keep on and he hasn’t given up hope. He’s not expecting rainbows and unicorns, but just waking up in the morning to some hot coffee is an anchor point. The rest of the Cards have real potential. One or two of them are already traitors and I suspect their storyline will end in the next book. Hopefully with some appropriately vicious and brutal ending.

Finally, the Cards. This whole card scheme once again reminded me of the Malazan Master of the Deck and the Houses and Aspects. You have your suites and then your cards within the suite. So you have the Stranger card. It is in the Tempest suite. Hence the title of the book. In many ways Lloyd got some really cool things without all the existential drama so prevalent in the Malazan books. I LIKE that.

The reason I gave this 4 Stars instead of 5 Stars is because of the following two things. First, the profanity. These guys are hardened mercenaries and talk as such. It’s not something I want to overlook though and anyone going into it should be aware. It crossed my radar enough that it became an issue. Second, for whatever reason, when the whole group moved from the town to the underground scene (roughly 40’sh percent of the book), I just didn’t feel the tension the same way. The circumstances were worse, but I never felt like the group as whole was in danger like I did when they were escaping the town and the Religious Order earlier. I can’t put my finger on why exactly and it really makes no sense, but I was able to pin it down to that point.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this read. It gave me all the magical fantasy adventure I wanted and was a good standalone story but with the rest of the series taking shape in the background. A lot of potential without overwhelming me with details I didn’t need for this story. Added my “Favorite” tag to this one!

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

P.S.

This review is just over 900 words. So you know I liked this book  *smile*