Seal of the Worm (Shadows of the Apt #10) ★★★★½

sealoftheworm (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: Seal of the Worm
Series: Shadows of the Apt #10
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 641
Format: Digital Edition

Synopsis:

Che and her compatriots are stuck in the kingdom of the worm. They find out that the worm kinden found an alternate source of power to magic or aptness in the form of a giant centipede that they worship as a god. This god wipes out all thought of magic and aptness from the minds of those in its vicinity. Che tries to raise the populace to revolt but it ends up turning into a run for survival as the Worm begins to devour all of its underground slaves in preparation for breaking forth upon the surface.

Empress Seda figures out a ritual to re-seal the seal of the worm but she needs so much power to do so. To obtain this power, she will use the death of the thousands of Inapt subjects of the Wasp Empire. She begins a progrom using the Slave Corp and once the camps are established, uses the Red Watch to oversea the setting up of machinery to distribute the bee-killer gas in the camps.

General Tynan, now governor of Collegium is torn between his duty to the Empire and plain old common sense. The Empress has him rounding up Inapt instead of fighting the Empire’s enemies. He is eventually driven out of Collegium by Stenwold Maker and his sea-kinden allies. Tynan retrenches in the Wasp capital and prepares to face multiple armies that are all taking advantage of Seda’s preoccupation with the ritual instead of running her Empire.

The Worm begins breaking out all over the world and destroys half of Capitas (wasp capital). When Seda begins her ritual, a lot of the guards at various camps rebel and do not use the bee-killer on the prisoners. Seda reaches out to Che, as her sister in magic and Che drags Seda to the underworld. They duel and Che wins. Totho, rogue artificer and rejected lover of Che, is also in the underground kingdom. He is captured and taken to be fed to the worm but has a belt of grenades. He is able to use the grenades and destroys the giant centipede. This destroys all the worm segments attacking the surface world and fighting grinds to an immediate stop.

General Tynan, now in charge, makes treaties with the various armies and their cities. Stenwold dies in a worm attack. Tisamon is finally set free from Seda’s magical imprisonment as her bodyguard. Che and Thalric make their way to the surface.

 

My Thoughts:

I did not race through this book. I would read 20-30 pages here and there and it took me almost 2 weeks to finish this off. Yet at the same time it was not because I wasn’t enjoying it. I immensely enjoyed this re-read. It just felt like a big steak that I simply couldn’t gulp down. I had to take the time to cut it up into small pieces and then chew each of those pieces thoroughly.

My only real complaint was how the worm god died. As I was reading it, it struck me how exactly the same it was as the movie Edge of Tomorrow. Both this book and that movie came out in 2014. They were released within months of each other so I find it hard to believe that one influenced the other. At the same time, the whole idea of a belt of grenades killing the big baddie almost at the end of the story seems too similar to ignore.

I had forgotten that Stenwold dies. I was under the impression that he went back under the sea with his lady friend. It was rather fitting though, since the group that started the book are now all dead. Very “circle of life” and all that.

In that vein, I thought Tchaikovsky did a good job of wrapping up all the various characters and their storylines. Very few have a happy ending but those who live have a decent ending and a chance to go on. After 10 books of almost continual warfare, you really can’t ask for much more than that.

The series overall upon this re-read came out even better. Tchaikovsky can write and each book told a good story while advancing the series narrative. The quality of his writing was top notch and shows that he has mastered the art of writing entertainment. I bought this decalogy when it came out and this re-read has shown me that that was money well spent. I started this re-read back in February of 2017 and am finishing it now, so its been 1 ¾ years of making my way through this. I have enjoyed my time and don’t begrudge it in any way.

I realize that Tchaikovsky isn’t going to be for everyone, but he is one of those authors that I think everyone SHOULD try at least once. Highly recommended.

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Advertisements

Voyage of the Shaman (Shaman King #9) ★★★☆½ (Manga Monday)

voyageoftheshaman (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: Voyage of the Shaman
Series: Shaman King #9
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 208
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh has broken Ren and Jun out from the dungeon their father has imprisoned them in. Ren insists he’s going to confront Yuan again and Yoh decides to go along. They make it back to the hall where they see both Horohoro and Ryu being defeated by one of Yuan’s super corpses. It is revealed to be Sha-wen, the old Master we met in an early volume. Jun appears with a fixed up Bai-Long and Bai-Long takes out his old master Sha-Wen quite easily.

Yuan comes crashing down on his throne and begins lecturing Ren and Jun and attacking everyone. Ryu and Horohoro cut his arms off but it has no effect on Yuan and he puts them back on and proceeds to demolish everybody. Ren finally has enough and everyone starts fighting with their “serious” faces on. Yuan reveals he’s been pulling a Wizard of Oz for years and then Ren’s mother and Grandfather show up. Everyone sits down for a merry family feast. For real. Ren is confirmed as the Tao heir and Yuan gives him some special family sword heirloom. Then everybody high tails it back to Tokyo for the next Shaman Fight.

All the Shamans assemble at an old Military base in Tokyo. Everyone is all chummy when some chump walks up and punches Horohoro through the porch. He introduces himself as Hao and says with absolute confidence that he is the future Shaman King. Hao reveals all the other shamans he’s already subverted and tells Yoh to survive so he can be a good servant once Hao is Shaman King.

The Patch reveals a jumbo jet will be taking everyone to the Patch Village “In America” (say that in your BEST Bandit Keith voice). Hao and his confederates begin talking amongst themselves and it becomes obvious that they have inside information about what is going to happen. Turns out that the “jumbo jet” is just an oversoul of the Patch officiants and they dematerialize at 40,000 ft and 700 miles from the Patch village. The test is to survive the fall and find the Patch village in 3 months.

Our group combines their oversouls to create a last second cushion that allows them to survive the fall. The volume ends with Our Gang now in American but clueless as to where to go.

 

My Thoughts:

The fight with Yuan and everyone else was pretty good. It quickly resolved into the ridiculous and the denouement was Yuan’s wife and father-in-law showing up with a table full of food for everyone. I was grinning like an idiot, because it fit, it really did. Unfortunately, the grandfather then goes on some philosophical spiel about good and evil being the same thing and all that mystical baloney. Have to admit, I wanted to shoot him for that. Let’s see him talk about good and evil while his guts are coming out of his back!

That Hao. Ugh, what a complete creep! He’s so obviously the bad guy that I hate him already. And the fact that he’s got an entourage and knows what is going to happen means underhanded skullduggery. Finally, we get a real badguy we can root against!

I was pretty happy with this volume. A good solid fight and the reveal of the slimey badguy. Oh, Dr Faust the 8th and his spirit Eliza show up at the end of volume falling through the air. A guy in a wheelchair cackling like mad at Our Gang (which is what I’m now going to use for the group we’ve come to know as the good guys) as they flail around at 40,000 ft. How perfect does THAT ridiculous image fit in this manga? It fits just right 😀

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Alphabet of Thorn ★★★★½

alphabetofthorn (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: Alphabet of Thorn
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 300
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A foundling, named Nepenthe, is working at the royal library. She has a talent for interpreting odd languages. She meets a young mage-in-training named Bourne and gets a book written in an Alphabet of Thorns. She begins to translate the book and it appears to be the story of Axis and Kane, a king and wizard from so long ago that they are only myth.

The more Nepenthe translates, the more confused she becomes. Kane records Axis conquering kingdoms that don’t exist, yet. Nepenthe and Bourne figure out that Kane has figured out how to move through time. And next on the agenda, is the Kingdom that Nepenthe lives in.

During all of this, Bourne’s uncle has risn in insurrection against the new Queen. The Queen, a mousy recluse, must master her own unknown powers while the old Magician who runs the school that Bourne attends, must keep the kingdom from falling apart.

In the end, it is revealed that Nepenthe is the daughter of Axis and Kane but she forces her mother Kane to choose between her and Axis. A life of conquering all in her path or a life of peace. Kane chooses her daughter.

 

My Thoughts:

This was one of those tough reads. I wanted to shake Nepenthe so much, even knowing she was under the spell of the Alphabet. It was rough watching her keep secrets knowing that if she could only tell someone things would be better.

But other than that, this was another fantastic book. It had the taste of a fairytale with the story of Axis and Kane but it was the old school kind of fairytale, the one with that darker edge. It was mysterious as we the reader didn’t know what was going on or how everything was going to tie together.

Some books you can just rush through and let the story kind of overwhelm you, like eating 5 hamburgers at a picnic. This was not that kind of book. None of McKillips’ books are though.This was a smooth vanilla icecream with a peanutbutter ribbon running through the whole thing. The sweet smoothness of the icecream is offset by the rough saltiness of the peanutbutter. It just doesn’t get any better! Well, chocolate icecream makes it better.

alphabetofthorn

 

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Road to the Tao Stronghold (Shaman King #8) ★★★☆½

roadtothetaostronghold (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 Road to the Tao Stronghold
Series: Shaman King #8
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh and Ren conclude their fight to a draw. The Great Spirit declares they both get to advance and Tao joins the group that has coalesced around Yoh. Now that the prelims are over, the real tournament will begin in a month.

Yoh is confronted by BoZ the Rocking Monks, who are acting as lackeys for someone named Hao. Ryu appears and saves Yoh and cuts their hearse in half. Ryu is also a contestant in the Shaman Fight and now a shaman in his own right.

Ren heads home to confront his father. Jun had already done so during Ren’s fight with Yoh and the father Yuan, put her into his dungeons. Ren cuts through his father’s forces only to be crushed by one blow by Yuan and put into the same place as his sister.

Bason, Ren’s spirit cohort, escapes and begs Yoh and Co to come rescue Ren and Jun. Manta arranges transport and the gang all head to the ancestral home of the Tao’s. Horohoro and Ryu tell the others to go on while they take care of Yuan Tao’s special goon squad, a set of 5 suped up dead bodies, each a fusion of human and something else.

 

My Thoughts:

Ok, I felt cheated. While I figured out that Ren and Yoh would end up as friends, the “Great Spirit” declaring the draw as a win for both of them just felt like the manga-ka was taking the easy way out since he couldn’t figure out a way to reconcile Ren’s animosity with the need to make Ren and Yoh friends. Eh, whatever.

I find all the setup in this book pretty impressive. Yuan Tao is dang impressive, both physically (he “accidentally” crushes a panda bear he is petting) and psychically (not even Ren could have created the special hybrid creatures). Of course, it’s all overshadowed by this “Hao” character, whoever he is.

I like the group dynamic. Horoho with his enthusiasm coupled with Ryu’s humorous machismo works perfectly. I am really looking forward to their battle in the next book. Ren is going to make a great backbone to Yoh’s laidback stoner approach to life.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Old Curiosity Shop ★★★★☆

oldcuriosityshop (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 Old Curiosity Shop
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 632
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Little Nell’s Grandfather runs a Curiosity Shop and everyone, including her older brother and a money lending dwarf, think he is rich as Croessus. Unfortunately, he’s also a secret gambler and ends up spending every penny they have on gaming, trying to win big so Nell can live in luxury for the rest of her life.

The help, a young man by the name of Kit, is dismissed, the brother plots to marry Nell to his friend because he is still convinced the Grandfather is rich (just miserly) and the dwarf causes trouble because of his evil nature.

Nell and Grandfather take to the road and meet various characters, some good, some bad and are saved from privation and death by working at a little church in some tiny town. The Grandfather’s younger brother returns from faraway parts, very well off and begins searching for his brother and Grand-niece.

The dwarf plots rot and ruin for everyone and Kit finds a kindly couple to work for and settles down pretty well. Everyone caroms off of each other and does the thing called life and at the end Nell dies, Kit marries happily, Nell’s brother is killed in France by bad company and the dwarf drowns and his poor wife finally marries happily.

 

My Thoughts:

This felt like Dickens used Nell as the white ball in a game of billiards. It is the focus of each player but what it does is defined by how it interacts with all the other billiards. Nobody cares about the white ball very much. In the same way Nell ‘s importance to this story was more how she drove interactions with the other characters.

I liked all the various stories. They were great Dickens’ stories but the ties that bound everything together felt a bit weak. I almost wished that there had been more of the Marchioness (another young girl who ends up marrying and helping reform another side character) and not so much Nell. Nell was not a strong person and as such didn’t have the personality to drive this story forward.

Don’t get me wrong, this was still a good, fun, interesting story. But it didn’t have quite that “pop” that I found in some of my other reads by Dickens. Could also be that coming after the Pickwick Papers didn’t do this any favors for me either.

Overall, I enjoyed this but didn’t find much to say about it and nothing made me sit up and go “Awesomesauce”. Definitely on the lower end of the Dickens Ladder.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Clash at Mata Cemetery (Shaman King #7) ★★★☆½

clashatmatacemetery (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: Clash at Mata Cemetery
Series: Shaman King #7
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh and Ren begin their fight and Ren comes out very strong. Yoh evades but eventually Ren gets serious and pulls out a second ghost that integrates with Bason. Yoh learns a couple of things as Ren rants and rants and the book ends with Ren about to unleash everything he has onto Yoh.

A couple of side vignettes break up the fight,thankfully. Ren’s older sister Jun is talking to their father and begs him to release Ren from the course of becoming Shaman King. The Tao’s have a history of violent bloodshed and it is killing Ren inside to particpate in such a family tradition. He is coming to hate all Life and should he become Shaman King, he plans on wiping out humanity in a global apocalypse.

 

My Thoughts:

We now fully move on to the Super Special Named Power Moves!!!! Oh my goodness. Eye rolling. Its fun as long as you read through it fast enough. One page spreads of physical manifestations of powering up don’t quite have the same affect on me as they might on a teenage boy.

The one thing I really did enjoy about this volume was the almost continual references to Ren’s pointy hair. During one of the powerup times I think Manta makes a comment like “Look! He’s gotten even pointy’er!” It was a good light moment. I missed having Ryu involved, as he really brings the comedy.

Since this fight ends right in the middle, I’m diving into volume 8 right away. Hopefully that review goes up this week too.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

The Technician (Polity #12) ★★★★☆

technician (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 Technician
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 512
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

We the readers are returned to the world of Masada, introduced in the Agent Cormac books. Now that the Polity has “been invited in”, things are changing. One of the few surviving Proctors from the old regime was attacked by a hooder but not killed. This Hooder, known as the Technician, left something in the proctors head and the Polity wants to know what. The proctor goes on a crazy trip for about 20 years where he just sits as an invalid on a prison island until an AI decides that it has had enough. Things are orchestrated to start a chain of events to give the proctor back his memories and for the Polity to find out what was in his head.

The gabbleducks, the native life of Masada, are shown to be the devolved descendants of the space faring race the Atheter that went extinct millions of years ago. They commited race extinction after being exposed to Jain tech and left behind a machine whose sole job was to prevent them from ever regaining sapience again.

Now that the Polity has an Atheter AI, the gabbleducks and some unknown something inside the proctors head, all on the same planet, this machine awakens. There is a climactic showdown between it and the Technician and some top of the line Polity vessels. The proctor transfers his memories (or, the last living Atheter’s) memories to a gabbleduck and the AI wakes up. The Atheter appear to be on the rise.

We are also introduced to Penny Royal, a black AI. It was split into 8 parts and the 8th was excised, as it contained the psychotic bits. However, the AI Amistad kept that 8th part for study and during all of this Penny Royal gets its hands on the 8th part. It apparently destroys it.

 

My Thoughts:

I somehow messed up and read this before reading The Gabble and Other Stories, which introduces how the Polity found the Atheter AI and does a bit of setup for this book. However, Asher does enough fill in for the reader that it isn’t strictly necessary to have read that book first. It just would have been nicer.

Ok, first. Asher is in fine form with his bashing of religion and returning to the world of Masada allows him free reign to setup strawmen that he not only knocks down, but pretty much uses a flamethrower on. I’ve stated it before, but Asher’s god is Scyenze and he’s as vitriolic and mocking as any old high priest you could think of. That was pretty much why this stayed at a 4star rating like the last time I read it. If it wasn’t for that, this would have been approaching 5star easily.

This was AWESOME. Splatterpunk space opera at its finest. The proctor gets his face eaten off by the Technician and then gets a prosthetic from the Polity medical team later. On his journey he CUTS HIS OWN FACE OFF AGAIN because he hates the Polity so much. I’m sorry, but how can you not love that?!?

The introduction of Penny Royal was good on this re-read. It is a side character and so when I read this the first time it didn’t even register when Asher ended up writing a whole trilogy about it. Now that I’ve read that trilogy, seeing its introduction is pretty cool.

The human side was done just as well. The proctor, with his mix of literary attendants both for and against, makes for a great survival story. Between the planet and the wildlife and the Tidy Squad (a group that hunts down the former regime) and then the Polity forces, you get a full range of interaction.

Asher does good work on single novels. I won’t call this a standalone because knowledge of the Polity and Masada is pretty vital to really understand it but I think someone “could” read this and figure out what they needed. I’m pretty pleased with this read through.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)