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)

 

We Will Build (Kurtherian Gambit #8) ★★★☆½

wewillbuild (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: We Will Build
Series: Kurtherian Gambit #8
Author: Michael Anderle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 356
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Things are REALLY starting to move. A Forsaken from Asia pops her head up to cause problems and Bethany Ann and her Chosen smack her down so hard it’s not even funny. Michael and BA hook up. The Analyst woman from the previous book realizes she is the dupe for a super black agency and asks BA and Company for help. Said Black Agency realizes something is going on at the former military base and sends in a spy. Who gets captured by some vamp guards and everything he knows is dragged out of him.

The scientists are planning for a moon base and buy some land in a South American country that never participated in any legal agreements about Space. Therefore the shell company doesn’t have to worry about any superpowers making legal claims. They send a bunch of sealed containers into space to make the first Moon base and televise it. BA’s way of letting the world know her Company exists. Also a way to draw in more manpower. BA is also thinking about making more vamps as regular humans just can’t handle everything she needs handled.

ADAM begins taking down malicious hackers and working on a way to stop the Chinese dead in the water, as they have backdoors all over the world.

 

My Thoughts:

Much better than the previous book. No crap at the end of the book.

This wasn’t so much a book as I think of it, with a beginning, middle and end like a traditional novel. This was a very long chapter in the saga of Bethany Ann. It’s what happens when writers go “serial”. Not necessarily a bad thing but something to be aware of.

Time is something that I did notice that wasn’t handled real well. A character makes a reference about something that happened early and uses the words “years ago”. While it was true, almost no thought is given to how time passes and so it becomes a non-starter for the reader. It does make it feel like everything is happening within a month, even as you know it is physically impossible.

My final complain, before I start on the positives, is how BA is gathering power to herself and the author excuses her tyranny (and trust me, it IS tyranny) is how good and wonderful she is. There are no checks and balances. BA is the ultimate Mary Sue and she’ll never have a bad day or kill people wrongly or do anything wrong, thus it is ok that she’s the End and All for any decision. I realize this is fiction, but ignoring human nature so blatantly is a bit off putting. I would certainly oppose her if she was a real person with that kind of power. Every imperfect Power needs a Check of equal power. And since she’s sexing it up with Michael, no one else is even close to being able to keep her accountable.

On to the good stuff.

I really liked the whole space/moonbase side of things. Showing the world they exist and are making a run to colonize the moon was great. It also opens up writing options for Anderle. He can now use shadow’y government agencies from the world over to be the new bad guys since BA has basically taken down every Forsaken. I hope we get some more creditable bad guys, as the Forsaken have been steamrolled in every instance.

Speaking of steamrolling, the action scenes were once again pretty good. Anderle might not write the best fighting scenes ever, but he writes what people who are reading this kind of book are looking for. I was satisfied.

After the last book where I questioned if I could continue the series this book brought me back on track and I foresee no problems as long as things stay at this level.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Rath’s Gambit (Janus Group #2) ★★★☆☆

rathsgambit (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: Rath’s Gambit
Series: Janus Group #2
Author: Piers Platt
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 210
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Rath is on the run. With other Operatives from the Janus Group tasked to hunt him down, he has to escape, disappear and then hook back up with Operative 339 so they can begin their campaign against the Group and hopefully live through it.

Things start to go off the rails when Operative 339 doesn’t show up at the rendevous point. Rath waits for quite awhile before realizing something is wrong. What he doesn’t know is that Operative 339 was caught by some civil authorities on another planet while she was free-lancing. She was sentenced to a prison term and her her plan was to serve for a year or two and then get early release for good behavior. Of course, Rath knows none of this.

Rath enlists the aid of the man who has been investigating the Group on his own. They track down O339 and Rath breaks her out of prison. Bungling up all her careful plans of staying under the radar.

The book ends with them trying to escape a whole batch of Operatives that had been following Rath, hoping he would do exactly what he did, ie, lead them to O339.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this BUT between the non-resolution ending, Rath acting like an idiot (for an Operative who made his 50 kills, he sure is incompetent and stupid) and the continued prison reform schtick, I’ve decided to not read any more by Platt.

When I finished this book and it ended with them being chased, I realized I simply didn’t care how it turned out. Rath is a bungler who can’t seem to plan out even basic strategy. I couldn’t tell if that was deliberate on the part of the author or what, but it wasn’t what I wanted to read about. I wanted a story about a highly trained Operative who kicked butt, oh you know, like say Operative 339. But nooooo, I get Rath the Bozo who can’t seem to find his own bum with both hands, a wall mirror and someone directing him.

The parts dealing with O339 were great. She kicked butt. She was smart and knew when to lay low and when to fight back. She had a plan and she knew how to adjust that plan as circumstances changed. WHY couldn’t this series have been about her?

Overall, while Platt hasn’t written any atrociously bad books, he certainly hasn’t written any very good books. I’m done sampling the Mediocre Buffet.

★★★☆☆

 

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)

 

Dark Run (Keiko #1) ★★★☆½

darkrun (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: Dark Run
Series: Keiko #1
Author: Mike Brooks
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 434
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Captain Ichabod Drift is the proud owner of the Keiko and the master of a rather disparate and ragamuffin crew. Before Drift became Drift however, he was someone else, someone who worked for the Federation and committed acts in their name that they disavowed. Having faked his death to escape that life, Drift is dragged back into it by his former boss. All Kelsier wants Drift to do is deliver a package to Amsterdam at a very specific time while avoiding all the tedious stuff like inspections, etc that Earth has setup. Kelsier is also paying quite handsomely.

With no way to say no, Drift agrees and counts on the greed of his crew to overlook any issues. They succeed in getting the package to Earth but don’t quite make it in time to Amsterdam. As they’re preparing to dump the cargo out in the middle of the city, they cut of the locks and discover a nuclear bomb. They immedately head out to sea and dump the bomb, where it explodes and starts a worldwide panic. The crew hide and shake the truth out of Drift. Nobody is happy with him, not at all. They all vow to get revenge on Kelsier.

With some help from their onboard hacker, the crew of the Keiko get GIA (Galaxy Intelligence Agency) credentials and forged letters telling any locals to help them out. They track Kelsier down to a hidden fortress and with the help of the local army, take him out.

The book ends with the crew deciding to stay on board and stay loyal to Drift, as they all have their own little secrets.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a very fun read and I’m thankful to SavageDave for bringing this to my attention.

I am having a hard time finding the words that I want to use for this review. This was a solid book, there was nothing wrong with it, I enjoyed it but at the same time nothing really got me excited about writing about it. I would definitely recommend others read it but I can’t really muster up the “oomph” to write the why’s and wherefore’s. I know, my apostrophes don’t really fit, sue me.

A captain with a past, a misfit crew, a first officer that is super competent yet has secrets all her own, the Laughing Man (the galaxies most efficient killer who has an electronic tattoo of a skull over his face to hide his identity), a nuclear bomb, cage fighting, an extremely diverse ethnic crew (not something I look for in my reading but I know a lot of shallow puss buckets do these days) and some good old fashioned fighting, well, this has it all. I’ve seen comparisons to Firefly and I think they’re pretty apt. I didn’t feel like I was reading a Firefly fanfic though. On the otherhand, I enjoyed Firefly, and Serenity, but it didn’t bother me that the show got cancelled so maybe I’m not a big enough fan to comment on whether this is Firefly fanfic or not.

If it is fanfic, well, I’m just going to kill myself then. Because I hate fanfic, I mean with a loathing and scorn that only an aristo can summon up for pathetic plebes doing really stupid and pointless things. His Grace, Lord Bookstooge, despises Indies and Fanfic. You may now bend the knee.

If you like space opera in any form, you’ll probably enjoy this. I did and I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Kneel or Die (Kurtherian Gambit #7) ★★☆☆½

kneelordie (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: Kneel or Die
Series: Kurtherian Gambit #7
Author: Michael Anderle
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 336
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

There is one son of Michael left, one final Forsaken, who is defying Bethany Anne. He begins the process of a multi-prong attack based on what he learned from the last attack in the previous book. However, BA and Michael teleport in and Michael simply kills him. Bam, Forsaken are no longer a problem.

BA has been pushing for space worthy vehicles and her crew is really pushing themselves to get this project off the ground. BA needs a moon base to get out of the control of Terrestrial Powers. The team uses the new and improved vehicles on several missions and being able to get from one point on the Earth to another in a matter of minutes makes them even more deadly.

ADAM continues to grow and confronts a group of chinese government hackers. Now some part of the world knows it exists.

At the same time, the Team begins going after some terrorists that had struck in France. They begin hooking one member after another and working their way up the food chain. BA simply disappears each victim into the Etheric. No body, no mess, no evidence. This does lead to a lowly analyst at a small government agency discovering the disappearances and she begins tracking them. She realizes that “somebody” is making raids into foreign countries and killing people. So she sets out to track down this mysterious group of blacker than black operatives.

The clock is now ticking. BA must get her defenses in order: militarily, politically and technologically, as she is about to be discovered by the world at large.

 

My Thoughts:

The profanity has reached stupid levels now. It’s not all the time. It’s almost like Anderle has a checklist and there is one scene or two exclusively written so BA or one of her teams can simply swear in the ridiculous manner that Anderle has plotted. It simply is annoying and trying to figure out how I can just skip over it in future books.

I felt like the whole Forsaken problem was wrapped up way too easily. It was like the Forsaken were setup as bowling pins and then between BA and Michael, the author knocks them all down with a spare. It was rather anti-climactic. Hard to believe the Forsaken were such a problem if they were taken care of so easily.

Unfortunately, at the end of the book the author felt the need to include pages and pages and PAGES of reviews of previous books. Even more tactless and stupid was the fact that he RESPONDED to those reviews in the book. I believe most of them came from Amazon, so I’m not sure how he legally did that(Anderle being an indie I suspect he just did whatever he felt like without giving 2 figs for anyone else). Who the feth does he think he is doing something like that? If I found out he’d done something like that with one of my reviews without permission I’d buy a plane ticket to the nearest metro area, gear up and hunt him down for being the sick son of a bitch he is. This was completely inappropriate to be included in a book, without even going into the legal side of things. I knocked off a whole star for this section. Things like this are why I detest indies in general.

Other than those 2 major items, this was fun, just like all the previous books. There are some real kick butt action scenes and the little bit we get to read about TOM and ADAM and their interactions are fun. Anderle also pulls no punches about terrorists and what religious group they mainly come from. Of course, he soft peddles it with some pretty Politically Correct appeasement language but considering how blinded the West is to Islam, that really isn’t surprising, even if just a bit disappointing.

I really liked the whole Analyst figuring stuff out. It wasn’t that she was a super character but the implications are pretty important. Of course, Anderle will probably deal with that in the same way he dealt with the Forsaken. He seems to be much better at setting up cool scenarios than in writing them out with the right balance of tension and “the good guys win”ness.

There are 15 or 18 books in this particular series. I was sure I was going to be able to work my way through them all when I started but after this one, I don’t know. Him including and responding to reviews really undermined the enjoyment I had experienced. It tainted everything.

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Rath’s Deception (Janus Group #1) ★★★☆☆

rathsdeception (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: Rath’s Deception
Series: Janus Group #1
Author: Piers Platt
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 350
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Rath grows up with very options. His older brother is in a gang but wants Rath to graduate so he can join the cops and move up to middle society. Unfortunately, said brother is caught working for the cops and his gang kills him. Rath’s parents are druggies and end up killing themselves and burning their dwelling down. Rath moves out on his own and finishes school.

He is approached by a recruiter and goes through some trials and becomes part of the Janus Group. Their motto is “50 for 50”. Make fifty successful kills and half the bounty is yours and live the high life for the rest of your life. With virtually no organized crime, the Janus Group is the only game in town if you need something impossible and illegal pulled off.

Rath becomes Operator 621. Considered a Tier 4, odds are he won’t make his 50. On one particular mission he is sent after a rogue Operator, Operator 339 and gets 2 kills from killing her. Rath goes on to slowly climb up the ladder one harrowing mission after another. He finally makes his 50th kill.

However, when he goes back to the base camp, he’s met by a welcoming committee of merc’s hired by the Janus Group who specialize in taking out Janus Operatives. See, the Janus Group makes a LOT more money if they never have to pay out. Thankfully, Rath’s encounter with Operative 339 prepared him for just this eventuality (she revealed the truth to him when he was hunting her down) and now he’s a free agent, ready to go after the Janus Group with help from Operative 339.

 

My Thoughts:

This was much better than the Falken Chronicles books by the same author. Much more action oriented.

But first, the bad and mediocre and downward trending stuff. Platt seems to be all in favor of legalized prostitution if one of the page long soliquy’s a side character goes on is anything to judge by. Prostitution is evil, period. You don’t make it better by making the conditions better or safer or anything. You make it better by stamping it out. You call it the evil it is and do your damnedest to destroy it. And you start with people calling for the legalization of it. They are the real danger.

Secondly, Platt does his “reformed” prisoner thing but goes a step further. Rath meets the boss gang member years later and he claims to be born again, “but not in a religious way”, oh no. He had his memory wiped and now he’s just a perfect Mother Teresa giving sanctuary to an old grandmother and her 2 little grand kids. I’m not sure where to even start with such stupidity. Humans are fundamentally broken, that is known as the Doctrine of Total Depravity. It states that human nature is thoroughly corrupt and sinful due to the Fall of Adam and Eve. So for a human to fundamentally change, the change must come from outside themselves because any change by themselves will be broken since it comes from a broken source. This idea by Platt also buys into the thought that you are no more than your memories. If you are a mean, selfish, murderous asshole one minute and suddenly wake up with no memories, your body remembers and you’re going to act that way. It has became your “Nature” and that is way more than just your memories.

On to the stuff I actually liked 🙂

This had some really good action scenes. Rath’s completing his training evaluation to see if he even qualified was good. I also liked when he went on missions. I do wish there had been a couple more of those instead of showing Rath being a lonely teenager. The author also did a good job of interjecting the view from the Controllers of the Operatives and this gave us our first clue that all wasn’t as it was purported to be. So when Rath and Operative 339 had their little clash, it was obvious that Rath had been turned.

I enjoyed this and I’m looking forward to the next book. However, if Platt keeps up his “all criminals are really misunderstood cuddle bears” or keeps on promoting evil as good, I’ll have to seriously evaluate if I want to keep on reading this series.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)