The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen #6) ★★★★☆

bonehunters (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 Bonehunters
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #6
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 804
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Adjunct Tavore Paran continues her pursuit of Leoman of the Flails and the rebels of the Shai’k rebellion. Leoman makes a last stand at Yghatan and in the process of burning the city down as a trap also unleases a Fire Elemental, which kills all of his followers and about 1/3 of the Malazan army. The survivors march for the coast where they are picked up by Admiral Nok and begin making the journey back to Malaz City. They meet up with the Grey Shields who wield incredible magic and have huge boats. They have a run-in with the newly expanding Letheri/Edur empire and scare the crap out of them with a show of magic. Once back at Malaz it is evident that Mallick Rell and Korbolo Dom have been plotting, as they are now heroes and Coltaine’s memory is that of a traitor. All Wickans are now under threat of pogrom. The Adjunct is told by the Empress to hand over the Wickans and control of the Bonehunters (the malazan army) and the Grey Shields. The citizens of Malaz attack the Bonehunters and the Greyshields, stirred up by agents of Mallick Rell. The Adjunct returns to her ship with the help of Kalam and her lover but wades through a veritable sea of blood to do so.

Karsa Orlong is captured by the Edur as a “Champion” so that he may face Rulad Sengir, the Edur emperor.

Icarium is separated from Mappo Trell and a new companion is given him. It turns out all the companions are part of the Nameless, a group that wants to use Icarium’s rages as a weapon. Mappo betrayed the Nameless by being Icarium’s friend instead of pointing him in the direction the Nameless wanted him to go. Icarium and his new companion are also captured by the Edur. They are used in a skirmish against Shadowthrone and it ends with Icarium, unconscious, going through a portal to the Lether/Edur empire.

Ganos Paran, as Master of the Deck, faces down Poliel and chooses sides in the war of the gods. He ends up becoming High Fist of another Malazan army after all its officers are struck down by plague, including Dujek Onearm.

And there are at least 5-10 other smaller plot threads running through out as well.

 

My Thoughts:

There is a lot going on in this book. And to be honest, that is the only thing that stopped me from dropping this a 1/2star. Because here is where the Existential Moralizing really begins. There were a couple of places where characters would talk back and forth for pages and the problem is that I couldn’t skip any of it because Erikson will throw in a line or two about some revelation or other plotline that is really nice to know. You know those Christian books where you get preached at instead of being told a story? Well, Erikson does that here with his own brand of suicide inducing despair filled philosophy. It’s done in really bad taste, as I felt like I was having a razorblade shoved down my throat.

I feel like I used up half my words for this review just typing out the synopsis. Also, for all my complaining about the philosphizing, there is a really good story packed between it all.

I always wondered why Surly/Laseen/Empress let things go downhill so fast and after reading the two Path to Ascendacy books, it’s very obvious that she is afraid of “Hero’s” capturing the people’s attention. To the point that she allows someone like Mallick Rell and Korbolo Dom to advise her, as they are despised by the people. She was skilled enough to run things for awhile but in this book we see her pretty much throwing it all away and no real explanation is given. It is intriguing.

I think that is all I have to say really. You can’t jump into the series with this book and it doesn’t wrap anything up and it is so big, that I feel like throwing up my hands and saying “read it yourself, if you dare” to get all the plot threads. Heck, we’re teased with a possible invasion of short-tailed K’Chain Che’malle and 12!!!! moonspawns. Look how powerfully Anomander Rake used just one, I can only imagine the chaos and destruction 12 might cause. That is just one of a myriad of topics I didn’t even bother to really think about for this review. Trying to cover everything is impossible and it leaves huge amounts of room for re-reading, as your focus will be different each time.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

 

 

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Chapterhouse: Dune (Dune Chronicles #6) ★★★★☆

chapterhousedune (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: Chapterhouse: Dune
Series: Dune Chronicles #6
Author: Frank Herbert
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 452
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Honored Matres are wiping out Bene Gesserit worlds while on their search for Chapterhouse, the nerve center of Bene Gesserit’ness.

Duncan Idaho and Murbella are on Chapterhouse and Murbella is being trained as a BG Sister to see if Honored Matres CAN make that transition. Duncan is just doing his thing and staying in the no-ship so nobody can find him. He becomes the Teg ghola’s weapon master [as he has visions of face dancers and somehow steals info about super advanced weapons from their minds] and in the end takes off in the no-ship with Sheena, Scytale and others.

Scytale continues his bargaining with the Sisterhood but is pretty much stymied.

Darwi Odrade is now Mother Superior and has plans to tame the Honored Matres by melding them with the BG. But to do this she must kill the High Honored Matre and convince the rest of the BG to accept Murbella as a synthesis of the two sisterhoods. She succeeds and dies and Murbella is confirmed as leader of both groups.

It is revealed that the Honored Matres have been fleeing something even more powerful than them and it is now up to Murbella to guide humanity to survival against whatever this “other” threat is while combining the best of the Bene Gesserit with the best of the Honored Matres.

And some Jews. I don’t even know why Herbert put them in, but they are shoehorned into this story like nobody’s business.

 

My Thoughts:

This really felt like 2 books. One of those books I liked, the other I thought was a steaming pile of poo poo. And I mean really stinky poo poo.

One book was about sexual obsession (by the author) and child rape and pages and pages of philosophical gobbledy gook that was batted back and forth by cardboard characters like a badminton birdie.

The other book was filled with planets being wiped out by super weapons and the discovery of eternal life through ghola memory being awakened and threats so large that they might be the end of all humanity all across the universe.

I enjoyed the first 10% of this book, then went out of my mind for the next 45% and finally enjoyed the last bit, thankfully. All of that is just to show that I don’t hold it against anyone who hates this book, doesn’t like it or just think it stinks (like really really really stinky poo). But being the man I am, I was able to go beyond Frank’s weaknesses and still enjoy the strengths this book has to offer.

But I had the mantra “why Frank, why?!?” running through my head the entire time. He has huge awesome plot material and tons of cool action stuff and he focuses on conversations about power and sex and religion? For phracks sake man, let it go and just tell a great story like you did with Dune. I think that is what each book after Dune lost out on, telling a good story. Each sequel became the vehicle with which Herbert drove us around his little personal psychology museum and bored us to tears with his ramblings.

One thing about this re-read that I enjoyed, or at least noticed without feeling like I needed to pass judgement, were terms and conditions that ended up being used in the Dune 7 duology by Baby Herbert and KJ Anderson. Noticing those things made me a little more forgiving of them and made me wonder if perhaps they weren’t the total wankers I think them to be. Yeah, that’ll last until I start reading the Dune 7 duology. Don’t worry, there will be no good feelings of comraderie and brotherly love then. Nothing but cold scorn and derision for ruining such an epic as the Dune Chronicles.

So why the 4stars? I’m beginning to wonder myself!

  1. The Action. When it happened, it happened fast and furious and there was NO messing about. Death and carnage and billions snuffed out in a heart beat.
  2. The Ideas. Once you got past Herbert’s obsession with power and the really weird ways he expressed that obsession, some of the points on humanity and how humanity acts and interacts were quite intriguing. I suspect they’re not very original, but in SF, it really works.
  3. The Direction. This series had moved beyond the Atreides family directly and towards the Gene Gesserit as a whole being a shepherd to humanity. Humanity had gotten larger and so the need for some guidance had gotten larger. Where this was leading was great.

Of course, it ends on a cliffhanger with Duncan and the No-ship in unknown space just hanging out. Like, duuude, where’s my spaceship? If you read my initial review from ’12 you’ll see how I reacted to that. This time around, knowing I had the completed story, no matter from who, that made a difference.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld ★★★★☆

forgottenbeasts (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 Forgotten Beasts of Eld
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 242
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Sybel is the grand-daughter or great grand-daughter of a nameless mage. She has inherited the power to control things by naming them. She has no bigger ambition than to call the Lyralen.

Until one day a knight drops off a baby boy in her lap and rides away. As the boy grows, Sybel’s heart grows and she comes to love Tamlorn as her own. But Tamlorn is the son of a king and the king, one Drede, comes looking for him. Tamlorn was given to Sybel by Drede’s enemies, the house of Sirle. Once Tam realizes he has a father, he goes to live with him and Sybel tells Drede that she has no interest in the war between him and Sirle.

Then the knight comes back, one Coren. He wins Sybel’s heart and manages to give up his hate of Drede and all that he has done. Drede, afraid of Sybel’s power and not believing she won’t use it against him, buys the service of another wizard who will take Sybel’s name, break her will and make her a willing, loving puppet for Drede to marry. Sybel escapes and tells Coren’s brothers that she will use her power for them against Drede, wthout telling Coren what happened to her or why she is suddenly fighting against Drede.

In a fit of remorse, Sybel frees all her magical animals who were to lead the attack against Drede and she flees back to her home in the mountains, convinced that Coren can no longer love her and that Tam can no longer love her since she orchestrated the attack on his father Drede.

It ends with things not turning out at all like Sybel imagined, as her animals do their thing and Tamlorn becomes king without bloodshed. She and Corin are re-united and he teaches her the lesson of love.

 

My Thoughts:

This was the first McKillip book that I would say had a real edge to it, some bite. It takes some uncomfortable subject matters and deals with them specifically but non-graphically.

Sybel’s forebearers all took their mates by force. They used the power of naming to call and control them. Sybel gets a taste of this very thing when the wizard takes control of her. It wasn’t just attempted, or in the case of her ancestors, actual, rape, but also the complete loss of self within the mind. It was the rape of body AND mind and McKillip doesn’t shy away from showing how it affects people.

She then goes on to show how Sybel reacts in some really bad ways, such as erasing her husband Corin’s memories of what he sees when he catches her plotting with his brothers for war. She violates him just like she was violated and it destroys her inside. So much that she tries to lose herself at the end of the book by calling the Lyralen.

And yet, at the very end when Corin AND Tam come to her and show her the power of real love, it redeems it all. I think that was what this book was all about. Just how strong love is and just what it can conquer.

I love a Love Conquers All story and this was that in spades.

When I read this back in ’07, looking at my rating and review, I can tell I wasn’t really impressed back then. But a decade more of life experience, being married and some down and dirty church politics has shown me that yes, Love is the be all and end all. Being a Christian helps narrow down what Love actually is and I’m even more convinced today than I was 10 years ago of just how much God loves His creation.

I’ll end this like I began it. This has an edge and a bite that most of McKillip’s other books don’t. If it bothers you, try some of her others. If you like it, don’t expect it to be there.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

The Sea Watch (Shadows of the Apt #6) ★★★★★

seawatch (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 Sea Watch
Series: Shadows of the Apt #6
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 720
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The city of Collegium is trying to catch it’s collective breath since the cease-fire agreement with the Wasp Empire has gone into affect. Stenwold Maker continues his job as an embassador and is trying to get 2 more Ant Cities to at least become trading partners with Collegium.

Of course, the Wasp Empire has it’s own agents in the city and they are doing what they can to undermine Collegium for when the Empire resumes it war footing.

At the same time, it is revealed that the Spider Family Aldenrael, which pretty much rescued Collegium during the last war with Vek, has been preying on Collegium ships and playing pirate. When one of those “pirates” is killed and turns out to be a minor Aldenrael member, the entire Spider Nation goes on the warpath and prepares an armada to take over Collegium.

Since that’s obviously not enough, it turns out that there is an entire underwater culture of Kinden, which wants to invade and take over Collegium as well. Stenwold is kidnapped by these kinden while dealing with the other 2 issues (Wasps and Spiders) and gets sucked into another whole world. He must survive, escape and somehow broker a peace deal with these Sea Kinden. To seal the deal, he must find the lost ruler who is now a young man.

Neither the Empire nor the Spiders want peace, so treachery continues to abound and things look really bad for Collegium. Until Stenwold finds the heir, brokers a deal with the Sea Kinden, sinks a whole bunch of Spider ships and wipes out a nest of Rekef Inlanders (Wasp agents) in Collegium.

Now it’s back to business as usual with the Wasp Empire being the main threat.

 

My Thoughts:

My Review for This from back in 2011 still stands true as all get out.

This was the perfect way to end my reading year, on a very good note. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end and since it’s been 6 years, enough things were dulled that it wasn’t a slog. In many ways, this re-read made me appreciate Tchaikovsky’s writing skills even more. I liked this book. I begrudged my time away from it and made the most of when I was reading it. I read the final 30% this afternoon in one sitting.

To see Stenwold having almost everything taken from him (Che’s not returning from Khanaphes, Arianna’s demise, Teornis’s betrayal, Sten’s capture and imprisonment under the sea) and not have it break him? I thought Tchaikovsky did a fantastic job of creating Sten and turning him into someone I want to cheer on and hope that things work out for. He was a true Hero, even if deliberately not cast into the Warrior Knight mold.

It was also nice to simply have the focus be on one character. Stenwold is our point of view for the whole book and everything is through him and revolves around him. It made for a nice linear read. It also wasn’t a puzzle with trying to fit 5 different storylines together. Sometimes I like complexity but other times I just want something straight forward. Tchaikovsky gave me that in spades with this.

When I bought this series in trade paperback (I’m going to try to do a shelfie of just these 10 books for the last book) I almost immediately had buyers regret as I wasn’t sure I was going to like them enough to read them again. Well, this re-read has grabbed those regrets and tossed them into the Marianna Trench. These have been BETTER this second time around and I’m already looking forward to another go in 10 years or so even while I’m not finished this first Re-read!

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

The Skinner (Polity: Spatterjay #1) ★★★★★

skinner (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 Skinner
Series: Polity: Spatterjay #1
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 433
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Sable Keech, a dead ECS agent, is a member of the Anubis cult. When he died 700 years ago tracking down infamous slavers who sold their product to the Prador during the Prador War, he was reified and continued his hunt for the Eight most prominent members. Jay Hoop was their leader and Sable has accounted for the other seven members. Rumors bring Sable to the world of Spatterjay, named after Jay Hoop. A world where a peculiar virus gives immortality but with the risk of becoming inhuman.

Janer, a human who was indentured and now works for, a Wasp Hivemind, is on Spatterjay on orders from the Hive. He doesn’t know why and in all honesty, he doesn’t want to know why. But the Hive wants to expand and a world outside of the Polity would suit it perfectly. Janers is along for the ride and the promise of ten million new carth shillings, enough to allow him to be free of the Hive forever.

Erlan. Young hooper. A hooper is someone with the virus. A young hooper is anyone infected for less than 200 years. She was infected and then left Spatterjay to explore the galaxies. But now she’s back and she’s not sure she wants to keep on living. Her mission is to find Captain Ambel and either have him kill her or show her how to live, as all the Captains of Spatterjay are over 700 years old.

Throw in a Prador trying to clean up its trail from the Prador War 1000 years ago, one of the Eight who isn’t dead, Jay Hooper who is now a 12foot tall monstrosity that is practically unkillable, some mercenaries and a couple of AI’s and you’ve got yourself quite a story!

Oh, I forgot to mention the sentient Sails, which might just try to take the planet for themselves.

 

My Thoughts:

This was the best Polity book by Asher so far. It had super bloody ultra violent action. It had dead people, it had the Skinner. That thing is surviving even after having its head cut off and kept in a box by Captain Ambel. Hiveminds and Prador and the list goes on and on and on.

While the Prador War was mentioned in passing in the Agent Cormac books, it was more of a blip than anything. Here, while it was 1000 years ago, we get a lot of information about it that helps develop the Polity into a more realistic society. It isn’t all knowing and all powerful and the Prador War showed that. That is a good balance to some of the power we saw in Agent Cormac where it appeared the Polity just rolled over everything.

If I had to recommend a place to start the Polity books, this would be it. It is filled with awesome new ideas and the action and thrillaminute ride never stops. The other thing is that while this is part of a trilogy, it tells a complete story. The Skinner is brought to justice, each of the characters finds closure in one way or another and there are no dangling threads “forcing” you to read the next 2 books. You could read this and see if Asher’s style is for you and if it isn’t, you don’t have that “incomplete” feeling that a lot of series rely on these days.

This is a good sized book. This edition is only 400+ pages, but when I read it back in 2010, it was over 700 I think? Probably those larger numbers were based on a paperback edition. Either way, this is not something you skim through in an afternoon. I spent a day and a half devouring this and “devour” is a good word. Everything on Spatterjay is trying to eat something else, all the time.

I also liked the introduction of the Hive Mind. Sadly, beyond a couple of short stories in some of his later collections, Asher never really delves into this aspect of the Polity. So don’t get too excited about it as it never pans out.

As a re-read, this almost came across as a new book. I remembered the basic details of Spatterjay being a world where everything was eat or be eaten and that there was stuff to do with the Prador and that a dead guy was involved. But honestly, this book and my review from 2010 are part of why I now review the way I do. That review did nothing to help me remember what I had read, while I’m hoping this one does when I decide to re-read it again in another decade or so.

Last time I rated this 4 stars. This time around, with it still being so enjoyable and such a fun read, I’m slamming that up to 5 stars.

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

 

Orb Sceptre Throne (Malazan Empire #4) ★★★★½

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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: Orb Sceptre Throne
Series: Malazan Empire #4
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 850
Format: Digital edition

 

Synopsis:

A golden mask is uncovered in the plains outside of Darujhistan. It belongs to the spirit that raises Tyrants up again and again. This time it calls the Segulah into its service. They and the Moranth, ancient enemies, duke it out until the Segulah are freed from the Golden Mask’s domination, then they go back to their little Island Nation.

Kiska and Leoman of the Flails are in limbo, looking for Tayschrenn. They find him, restore his memories to him and they all return to do whatever hidden thingamajig Tayschrenn wants to do.

Also deals with various characters attempting to loot the fallen Moonspawn, all hoping to find the Throne of Night.

Plus about 6 other smaller threads dealing with such characters as Coll, Kalam, Baruk, Kruppe and others that we were introduced to way back in Gardens of the Moon.

 

My Thoughts:

When I initially read this back in 2012, I was not impressed at all. I still hadn’t gotten that Erikson and Esslemont created bigger than life mythos for their characters, whether individuals or as a people, just so they could tear them down. So my thoughts regarding the Segulah were that they were the Pristine Warrior Culture; those thoughts were not only dashed, they were trampled into the dust on my first read and my rating and review reflected that.

This time around, what a difference. I didn’t have those misconceptions about the Segulah and so their story didn’t bother me. The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that there were just so many story threads going on. Some of those threads had nothing whatsoever to do with this book, ie, Kiska, Leoman and Tayschrenn but simply pushed an overarching story forward. I don’t care for that. Other than that, I was pleased as punch.

It was sad to see characters from Gardens of the Moon becoming old or giving up in spirit. Coll turning into an old, wine addicted, fat counselor was especially sad. Baruk’s subsumption by a demon seemed very cruel, considering how much he’d sacrificed for his city. And yet that is what happens to old heroes. They fail and a new generation must step up.

While I complained about the multiplicity of threads, they were tightly woven together and even the thread about Tayschrenn didn’t detract from overall affect. It really was one story being told even if it took awhile for them all to get tied together.

This book is why I like to re-read things. My mind was completely changed from last time and I went from almost hating this book to really loving it. Most of that change was on my end and my perspective and expectations. 17 years of reviewing and I still marvel at how our expectations can shape how we react to a book. I was semi-dreading this re-read but it turned into a jewel instead.

Pretty satisfied this time around.

★★★★½

bookstooge

 

Midnight Tides (Malazan Book of the Fallen #5) ★★★☆☆

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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: Midnight Tides
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #5
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 684
Format: Digital edition

 

Synopsis:

We follow the Tisti Edur [grayskinned Tisti] as they come into the world of Malaz. Fast forward several thousand years later and they have dwindled. They attempt to gain back their pre-eminence by declaring Empire and going against the only other Empire in the region. The main Edur stories center around the Sengar family. One of whom becomes the Emperor and the pawn of the Broken god.

We follow the human Letheri Empire as they attempt to subjugate the last remaining pocket of resistance to their Empire and way of life, the Tisti Edur. The main Letheri storylines follow the Beddict brothers. One is the King’s Champion, one is a dissolute genius who can manipulate money with barely thinking about it and the final Beddict was a former envoy whose knowledge was used for conquest and not peace.

Lots of little stories interweave between them all and a little more is revealed about the Broken god.

The conflict between Edur and Lether is the framework of the whole story.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a 4star story that was dragged down with the chains of Erikson’s pointless soapbox philosophizing hijacking his characters and turning them all into despair filled, spineless, wusses.

Why can’t the man just shut the phrack up and tell the story?!?!?

Gardens of the Moon was a fantastic story and there was very little pontificating. Maybe a small dab in the corner. This book, Erikson took a 5foot roller and bloody whitewashed the story with the crap. Every time you turned around another character was whining about their forsaken feelings and how they weren’t even worthy of having such degrading feelings because they were such infinitely unworthy motes in an infinite universe. It was pathetic and ruined the book for me.

The story, the clash between Edur and Letheri was great. A couple of magic battles, some mundane battles and then a showdown in the palace itself. All the while the Broken god is laughing to himself and furthering his own plans.

★★★☆☆

bookstooge