The Crippled God (Malazan Book of the Fallen #10) ★☆☆☆☆

crippledgod (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 Crippled God
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #10
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 934
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Adjunct Tavore and the Bonehunters separate from their erstwhile allies as they make a 3 pronged attack on the heart of the recently arisen Forkrul Assail empire, which holds the Crippled God’s heart. Along with gods, various elder races and even the dead, all conspire to set the Crippled God free to return him to his own world and thus begin the healing of their own world. The Perish Grey Helms turn traitor and massive amounts of people die.

At the same time an Ototaral Dragon is resurrected and set free. She is the opposite to all the other Eleint, dragons, who are at heart forces of chaos while she is a force of utter negation. The embodiment of Chaos, known as Tiam begins to manifest but the Ototarol Dragon is chained thus setting the Eleint free from their own frenzy, which dissolves Tiam’s hold over them and dissipates her own Manifesting.

Lots of other things happen.

Tavore and the Malazans and their allies are able to free the Crippled God and he returns to his own world. Shadowthrone and Cotillion hint at each other that everything has been part of an even bigger plan but mention zero details or anything concrete.

As good an ending as one can hope for with the author’s known penchant for deliberate obfuscation and outright misdirection.

 

My Thoughts:

I read over my review from 2011. Eight years later, not one single thing has changed in my mind about this book. It is remains a piece of trash where the author masterbates to his own supposed cleverness with words and is nothing but a dung heap of rubbish pseudo-philosophy.

I finished this and all I could think was “Why did Erikson even bother writing this?” The battle scenes were incredible and show that the skill in writing the first book was no fluke. Which makes my question even more pertinent, as it means he wrote such pointless reams of words on purpose. FOR NO PURPOSE.

What a killjoy way to end a series that started out so promising 2 years ago. And this re-read did not change my mind about the series overall, as I was hoping it would. Well, it does reinforce that I’ll not read another book by Erikson, no matter what. He wrote this book and ended the series this way, he doesn’t deserve any more of my money, time or attention. I almost feel like I’m doing a disservice to book bloggers everywhere by even bringing attention to his name now. Bleh.

★☆☆☆☆

 

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The Gabble and Other Stories (Polity #12) ★★★★★

gabble (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 Gabble and Other Stories
Series: Polity #12
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 384
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories ranging all throughout Asher’s Polity Universe.

 

My Thoughts:

Several stories deal with the Gabbleducks, which we know are the deliberately devolved descendants of the Atheter. We also get one story about the Csorians, the 2nd alien lifeform wiped out by the jaintech; from how the story goes it appears that they won’t be making any reappearances in Asher’s writings any time soon. Another story has Penny Royal involved. Since Penny Royal got its own trilogy, I’ve been paying a lot more attention any time it is mentioned.

In my last review, The Technician, I mistakenly claimed that this book explained how the Atheter mem-crystal was found. That is not so. Instead, a bit of the original is used as bait in one story and that is how I got things messed up. The Technician should be #11 in the Polity series and this one the 12th.

I gave this 5stars this time around because of several reasons. One, I really do enjoy the short story format when there is a bunch of them all by one author. It really works for me. Two, I enjoyed this just as much as I did back in ’12, if not more. Third, I plan on enjoying this just as much when I re-read it yet again in another decade or so. Finally, I enjoyed this a ton of a lot more than I have the previous 3 SF books I’ve posted on the previous Fridays.

★★★★★

 

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[Manga Monday] The Tortured Princess (Shaman King #14) ★★★★☆

torturedprincess (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 Tortured Princess
Series: Shaman King #14
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Joco’s back story continues. His new master, Olona, wants to make the world a better place through laughter and comedy. But Joco’s old gang doesn’t want to let him go and beats up Olona. Since Joco now controls Mic the Jaguar, Olona is defenseless. Olona tells Joco that he has an incurable disease and that he would rather die at the hands of the gang members than see Joco resort to violence and death to save him. The gang kills Olona and the story reverts back to the present.

Joco shows a new move against Tecolote and immobilizes all his bone dolls with terrible jokes. He uses up his mana but gives Ren the opening he needs to move against Tecolote. He and Bason, his spirit ally, blow Tecolote away with one smashing blow and everyone see’s that Ren’s mana has increased exponentially. Hao, who is watching, comments that maybe it will be worthwhile to recruit Ren later on.

We get a cut scene of Lyserg, now one of the X-Laws, along with Marco the nominal leader of the X-Laws, unloading an Iron Maiden encased in chains.

The next Shaman fight starts, between one of the X-Law sub-groups, X-1 and Team Nile, an Egyptian themed group. Lyserg is now part of X-1 and takes on the challenge of fighting Team Nile all by himself. Marco and the Iron Maiden step aside and leave everything to Lyserg. Ryu is crushed that Lyserg has joined the X-Laws but Our Gang is cheering him on anyway. However, Lyserg has fully drunk the X-Law kool-aid and threatens to kill Team Nile. They refuse to surrender and continue the fight. Lyserg can’t bring himself to kill them and so Marco and Jeanne, the Iron Maiden step in. Jeanne unleashes her power and eventually kills each member of Team Nile as punishment for not surrendering to her.

The volume ends with Yoh realizing that an X-Law member as the Shaman King will result in an age of tyranny and blood and he vows that he will become the Shaman King to stop such a thing from happening.

 

My Thoughts:

Yeah! I like fighting and I get it in spades here. Thankfully, the manga-ka leavens the action scenes with humor, so things haven’t descended into dark, gloomy angst. For instance, when Iron Maiden Jeanne comes out of the iron maiden, both Ryu and Yoh exclaim “she’s hot!” and the picture shows Anna putting her hand over Yoh’s eyes. I’d definitely include that scene here but the digital version I’m reading is a pdf and I don’t know how to extract a particular image from a pdf.

Between Marco and Jeanne, we get a pretty good idea of just what the X-Laws intend. A world of Law without mercy and death as the final sentence for any infraction. It is very harsh and unforgiving. Unfortunately, the manga-ka takes the cheap and easy route and portrays them as simply Hao-lite because their Justice ends in death. The thing is, Justice is about death. Only when Justice is paired with Mercy can death be avoided. There is just lots to go into with all of that and just like his handling of the “great spirit” philosophy, Takei neatly sidesteps any deeper thoughts to paint the X-Laws as no better than Hao. Sigh…

Thankfully, while talking about that took up a whole paragraph in this review, it doesn’t play nearly so big a part in this volume and now that Takei’s gotten it out of his system, I’m hoping we won’t see a repeat of this particular shallow philosophy. I do expect to get lots of philosophy-lite as each new group appears though.

This was a good ending place for the month, as a battle is concluded and no other one has started. I’m thinking I’ll try to find a good ending volume each month to conclude on, as long as it doesn’t run over 5 volumes.

★★★★☆

 

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Fool’s Run ★★★★☆

foolsrun (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: Fool’s Run
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 221
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Seven years ago Terra Viridian turned a laser array on her own location at a military base in the desert, killing 1500 people. Afterwards, she was found alive and babbling about the dark and visions. She was sentenced to life in the Underworld, a high security, solitary confinement prison on the moon.

Aaron Fisher’s pregnant wife was just about to get out of the military seven years ago. She was one of the victim’s of Terra. Aaron has been working on hunting down Terra’s twin sister Michele to find out from her why Terra suddenly snapped and destroyed Aaron’s world. So far, Aaron has had no luck.

Aaron is friends with Sidney Halleck, the owner of a bar where musicians play. One of these musicians, Roger Restak, known as The Magician, has the disturbing ability to get lost in his music and to ignore literally everything around him while playing. He and Aaron have become unlikely friends. A world weary cop and a genius musician.

A Dr. Fiore wants to study Terra and her “visions” that she has continued to talk about. He brings up a new machine to the Underworld that can visualize what Terra is thinking. What he finds is baffling and incomprehensible. He asks the Warden of the Underworld, Jason Klyos if he can bring up a band to see how music affects Terra. He hopes that by understanding how her visuals change in regards to the music that he can begin unraveling what the images of her “visions” means.

Sidney is contacted and puts The Magician up for nomination. The Magician assembles a band, only to find out that his “cuber” not only can’t stand heights, but can’t travel off the ground without becoming deathly ill. The Magician is at a loss until a former friend, the Queen of Hearts comes back into his life and she volunteers. Aaron and the Queen of Hearts strike it off immediately. Even though Aaron knows she is going to the Underworld and then a tour of the solar system, he opens his heart to her.

The Band makes it to the Underworld, where The Magician meets Terra and while everyone else is looking at the machine where her “visions” come out, The Magician is given a glimpse directly into her mind. This somehow transfers the vision to him. It is also revealed that the Queen of Hearts is Michele Viridian, Terra’s twin sister. The Warden calls up Aaron, as he’s suspicious of everything going on.

Terra breaks loose and with help from The Magician, flees the Underworld. The Magician takes his own band hostage, locks down the Underworld and begins seeing visions himself. Aaron and the Warden give chase in the only available ship, only to find that Terra has hidden away and has a laser rifle trained on them. They are in contact with the Magician and he must convince them that he and Terra are not crazy. It turns out that both The Magician and Terra were psychic and picking up the emanations of an alien being born. It is born and Terra dies. The Warden pulls his weight and convinces everyone that The Magician was not a criminal terrorist intent on breaking Terra free. The band goes free, Aaron lets go of his hate and hooks up with The Queen of Hearts.

The book ends with The Magician telling both Aaron and Sidney that the alien is now here and watching them.

 

My Thoughts:

This has got to be the weirdest book I’ve ever read. When I read it in ’07 I was pretty mesmerized by the use of poetic language that McKillip is so good with, but this time, I was just weirded out the entire time. If my time had been a Smallville episode, Allison Mack would definitely have this on her Wall of Weird.

I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 because every time that The Magician would start to explain what was going on, either Aaron Fisher or Jason Klyos the Warden would interrupt him with exclamations of usually disbelief or anger at the subject, ie, aliens. It was super frustrating to read. Magician was trying to put into words something that he had no words for and these 2 idiots just kept making it harder and harder. Thankfully, they finally did shut up and things moved forward.

My initial reaction when I finished this was to simply read it again to make sure I had read what I thought I had read. If I could have written this review and use the word “weird” and nothing but that, I think that would capture the essence.

Quite enjoyable for the trippy experience but unless you’re a hardcore McKillip fan, I wouldn’t recommend this.

★★★★☆

 

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Return of Faust (Shaman King #13) ★★★★☆ [Manga Monday]

returnoffaust (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: Return of Faust
Series: Shaman King #13
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

This volume starts out with a nearly naked Yoh drifting through a bizarre landscape and eventually entering an ocean. He then wakes up in the Patch village where Silva explains that Yoh had a vision from the Great Spirit. Yoh looks outside and sees a massive column of souls, all of which make up the great spirit. All the contestants who made it through the maze have to face the great spirit and have a vision. If they survive the vision, they move on in the competition. All of Our Gang survives but Lyserg has gone off on his own after seeing “something” that involves Yoh’s father.

Yoh runs into Anna and everyone runs into another shaman named Joco. He reveals that the next step in the competition is a tournament of 3 man teams competing against each other. With Lyserg gone, Our Gang can’t form the requisite 2 teams and Joco wants to join Our Gang.

Joco has done a ton of research and monologues to Our Gang, and us the readers. Hao’s team is being opposed by the X-Laws, but there is another group of Shamans banding together to oppose Hao, a group of Buddhist monks. Each group is being led by a Shaman in the Kami Class. Joco is a terrible punster and has named his spirit ally Mic the Jaguar, ie, Mick Jagger.

Ren takes this time to create his own team of 3 from Our Gang and Horohoro and Joco are the “lucky” ones chosen. Manta goes looking for Yoh and runs into Faust. Faust brings Manta to Yoh and asks to join Team Yoh. Ryu rejects his request out of hand but Anna, as Queen Shaman to be, makes an executive decision and puts Faust in play. Of course, Anna’s choice springs from her desire to open a hot springs in the future and having a shaman doctor indebted to her will be a great attraction for the hot springs.

2 months go by and the 3 man teams are all transported to a deserted island named Tokyo where an Arena style fighting tournament is going to take place. There are 21 teams and they must battle each other in a ladder style order. First up is Team Ren. They are fighting Team Earth, one of Hao’s sub-groups. Team Earth consists of the 2 monk team Boz along with a mysterious masked man. Ren and Horohoro leave Joco to deal with Boz and Joco shows what he’s got.

While Joco easily defeats Boz, that was Tecolote’s plan all along. He uses bones as his medium and begins using the bones of Boz to fight Joco. Joco won’t attack Boz, as another attack will kill them. We then get a flashback into Joco’s past about why he has vowed to never kill. Joco’s parents were killed and he ended up becoming the head of gang. One Christmas he tries to kill someone who turns out to be a shaman and Joco can see his spirit ally. This decides the shaman to take Joco on as his protege, even if Joco doesn’t want it.

 

My Thoughts:

Ok, this volume brought the game back. It did feel like there was a missing volume, since Yoh wakes up in the Patch Village and everyone else is there too but hey, if the manga-ka wants to mess around, that’s his business.

Lyserg’s desertion wasn’t unexpected but he sure was replaced quickly with Joco. I didn’t care for Joco upon his introduction as I hate puns, but once the fighting started, he was solid. I also liked his backstory and introduction to being a shaman.

The further along this series goes, the more and more it adapts the fighting shonen stereotypes. Tournaments inside a ring is such a staple that it is now a cliché. In the anime Yu Yu Hakusho (which I highly recommend if you want fighting shonen out the wazoo) the ring tournament takes up almost half the series and since we’re only on book 13 of 30+ here, I fancy we’ll see about that same ratio. Expect lots of shenanigans and cheating by Team Hao.

The beginning of the book, with the vision of the great spirit being nothing but a collection of the total souls ever in existence or ever to exist, was a cheap knockoff of the philosOphy of nirvana. Not a big fan of that line of thought at all. Obviously the manga-ka is enamoured of the idea though. I expect to see more buddhism-lite ideas to trickle forth over the upcoming volumes.

However, overall, this got me excited again. I’m going to go read the next volume right away!

★★★★☆

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Oliver Twist ★★★★☆

olivertwist (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: Oliver Twist
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 508
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Oliver Twist is born in a work house to a single mother who immediately expires. He grows up with other workhouse orphans and when he reaches the age of 8 or 9, is apprenticed out. The authority’s at the workhouse try to pawn him off onto a chimney cleaner, who has gone through several apprentices. Oliver is scared of the man and begs the civil magistrate to not make him go with him. This puts the workhouse Authorities in a bad light and they hold a grudge against Oliver for the rest of the book.

Eventually he is apprenticed to a coffin maker and funeral director. He is liked by the man and treated well, but the other apprentice and the wife both turn against Oliver and make his life miserable. The older apprentice makes some disparaging remarks about Oliver’s mother and Oliver attacks him. He is locked in a room and the workhouse Authorities sent for. The wife and apprentice spin a tale about Oliver trying to kill them and the coffin maker has no choice but to believe their story. Oliver is locked up for a week. This decides him on running away to London.

On his way to London he meets up with a boy named Jack Dawkins, or the Artful Dodger. Artful hooks Oliver up with food and shelter and introduces to him to Fagin, a jew of apparent ill-repute. It becomes apparent to Oliver that he has fallen in with thieves and during one caper is mistaken for a thief himself. This puts him in the way of Mr. Brownlow.

Mr Brownlow takes pity on Oliver and takes him into his house. He begins to educate him and bring him back to full health. Fagin, however, knows something about Oliver and won’t let him go. He sends his minions all over London searching for him and eventually a bullish brute named Sikes and his woman Nancy find Oliver. They kidnap him off the streets by pretending he is a runaway. Fagin begins working on corrupting Oliver so as to make him a common thief like his other kids.

Oliver is sent on a job with Bill Sikes and another man to rob a house filled with silver plate. Oliver intends to give the alarm once he is in the house but is shot by the butler instead. Sikes grabs him and all 3 make their getaway. Oliver is left to fend for himself in a ditch and returns to the house next morning seeking aid. He is presumed dead by Sikes.

Oliver tells his tale and Mrs Maylie and her adopted niece take pity on him. He has a long recovery time and once better they contact Mr Brownlow. Unfortunately, he has left for India and no one knows when he will be back.

During all of this Fagin has been in communication with a fellow named Monks and rages against Sikes losing Oliver. Lots of drama ensues and Sikes ends up killing his lover Nancy and goes on the run. Fagin and Monks are confronted by Mr Brownlow and it turns out that Monks is Oliver’s older half-brother and that Oliver is supposed to inherit everything. Oliver and Monks split the inheritance, Monks heads off to the new world and Fagin and his crew are all chased down. Sikes ends up hanging himself while attempting escape and Fagin is hung in Newgate, the Old Bailey, where ever it is that criminals are hung.

Mrs Maylie’s adopted niece turns out to be Oliver’s aunt and she marries Mrs Maylie’s only son. All the good people live happily ever after, the bad are killed and the in-between either reform or become very bad people and meet a just end.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a good Dickens book but by no means could I rank it as a favorite. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as a starting place.

For whatever reason, the “serial”ness of this story really hit me. In the books I’ve read so far I’ve not noticed that even though they too were all written serially. I can’t point to anything that caused that notice but the more I read the more irritated (not really the right word, but that’s the best approximation I can think of right now) I became. But really, that’s about the only complaint I have about the book.

Well, I have to admit I didn’t understand why Bill Sikes was so freaked out, and everybody else, by his murdering Nancy. Didn’t murder go on all the time? So why would the populace be in such an uproar about it, especially for a whore? It would be nice to know murder statistics for London at that time as say opposed to now. I don’t care enough to go do “research” though. * shivers *

Whenever Dickens uses a child as a main character, they tend to be rather passive in the story. Everybody else around them is doing everything and makes the story. Oliver was no Little Nell (from The Old Curiosity Shop) but he was not kicking ass and taking names. Pretty much he just recovered from being starved, shot, kidnapped, being sick, etc. He was the center spoke about which the whole wheel of the story revolved.

In his introduction Dickens states that he set out to show that the criminal element were not the jolly swags portrayed in some stories. He was afraid of evil being shown as wonderful and nifty and enticing the young people into a life of sordid squalor and death. Huh, evil being portrayed as good, sounds familiar doesn’t it? Some things really don’t change. Dickens does a fantastic job of showing just how vile the life of crime is. Between the cringing of Fagin to the bombastically violent Sikes, you see that crime isn’t being Robin Hood and His Merry Band, not even close.

I also simply love Dickens’ writing. You can tell he is being paid by the word, as some of his sentences, when boiled down, say something like “And the sun was shining” but he’ll end up using several comma separated thoughts with an semi-colon to string things along. Normally that kind of padding bothers me and in other books I’ll excoriate the writer to within an inch of their life, but when it comes to Dickens I’m not just ok with it, but I LIKE it. Weird, isn’t it?

Man, this review has gone on way longer than I thought. So, I really enjoyed this book with a few caveats. Start somewhere else with Dickens and work your way towards this.

★★★★☆

 

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Wrath of Angels (Shaman King #12) ★★★☆½ [Manga Monday]

wrathofangels (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: Wrath of Angels
Series: Shaman King #12
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Boris, one of Hao’s minions impersonating a vampire, begins fighting Ryu but starts monologuing about how his ancestor Vlad Tepes was actually a hero and that his reputation was ruined. Boris reveals that his family was being hunted down and it was due to Hao’s intervention that allowed them Shamanic powers. Thus why he’s loyal to Hao. Boris proceeds to kill all the innocent bystanders to pump up his powers with blood and Lyserg, still under his control, puts a sword to Yoh’s throat so he can’t interfere. To prevent the other Shamans in Yoh’s group from ganging up on him, Boris has Lyserg prepare to cut his own throat if they move against Boris.Through the Power of Friendship, Yoh convinces the ghost controlling Lyserg to simply step aside while the 3 other Shamans (Ryu, Ren and Horohoro) begin the battle against Boris.

We get a flashback to Ryu asking Yoh’s grandfather to train him as a shaman. After passing a test of endurance, Ryu is accepted for training.

The battle with Boris continues in the here and now. Ryu expends all his mana and blows Boris into a mountain. When Yoh goes to question Boris about Hao, a mechanical angel appears and stabs Boris to death. It is actually a spirit ally to a shaman who is part of a group called the X-Laws. The X-Laws are a group of Shamans dedicated to defeating Hao, not even bothering with the Shaman Fight. Their methods are brutal and concise. Hao, and anyone assisting him, must die. Each X-Law has an Angel as a spirit ally, a powerful spirit akin to a god of myth.

Two more of Hao’s minions attempt to stop Yoh’s group and the X-Laws as a diversion while a third makes an attack on them. The X-Laws wipe him off the face of the earth. Yoh steps in to prevent any killing. He directly opposes the leader of the X-Laws, who shoots Yoh’s sword and breaks it. The X-Laws walk away and warn Yoh to never go against them again.

Anna, Manta and others land in a helicopter and are immediately confronted by Hao. Hao wants them to succeed though, as that will mean that Yoh will get immeasurably stronger and hence be of greater assistance to Hao in the end.

Yoh and Co head to an underground cave and find out that only one path will lead them to the Patch Village. All other paths will lead to death. They must use their shaman powers to determine the right path.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a very dramatic volume, but I found the X-Laws to be a bit heavy handed and unintentionally hammy in their attitude. A group of adults who command Arch-Angel level spirits are going to be the disciplined kind of people who don’t fly off the handle, but that is exactly what the leader of the X-Laws does here. I mean, it is on purpose by the manga-ka but it jarred me a bit.

The “fight” with Boris was a bit anti-climactic but it helped showcase just how powerful the X-Laws are.

I think I enjoyed the flashback of Ryu beginning his training the most. For whatever reason, I definitely resonate the most with Ryu.

Overall, this was a decent read but there was no breathless thrills like in previous volumes nor was I tempted to rush right into the next volume.

★★★☆½

 

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