The Book of Atrix Wolfe ★★★★ 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: The Book of Atrix Wolfe
Series: ——
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 254
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Atrix Wolfe, a powerful mage, is drawn into a conflict between 2 Kingdoms. One fateful night he uses his magic to put an end to the conflict and things go horribly wrong. He conjures The Hunter, a living nightmare of pain, terror and death. One king dies, the other flees, broken completely.

Many years later, the 2nd son of the dead king, is attending the Wizards School. He is recalled home and takes a book with him. His elder brother, unable to have heirs, makes him the heir and wants him to settle down and begin stabilizing the royal line, ie, get married and start making babies. Prince Talus agrees but still wants to study the magic book he brought home, little realizing it is the Book of Atrix Wolfe and the words contained are twisted by Wolfe’s despair at what he had done all those years ago.

In his mucking about, Talus calls the attention of the Hunter again, gets kidnapped by the Queen of the Faeries and is the fulcrum upon which turns the fates of many. The Hunter’s nightmare must end, the Faerie Queen’s daughter returned, Atrix Wolfe atoning for his misdeeds and Talus saving his brother’s life.

Just like a fairytale, there is a satisfying ending, even if not a happy ending, for everyone’s storyline.

 

My Thoughts:

The Book of Atrix Wolfe was my first McKillip book. I read it back in ’05 and over the next 2 years gobbled up her back list of books. I had never come across an author who wrote like this and it blew my mind. I became a fan of hers with this book and it holds one of those special places in my mind.

So it was with trepidation that I began my re-read. Things change in 12 years. My “little cousin” was in first grade and a bossy little boy when I first read this. Now he’s 6’4” and graduated highschool. I am now married, bald [well, shaved. Receding hairline isn’t fun for anyone] and about 25lbs more muscular [hahaha]. Of course, most of the changes are inside and not always easy to see or for me to even know. * insert Zen aphorism about mirrors and the back of one’s head *

My concerns were well founded, unfortunately. The story was just as good, the writing even better. But I could not accept the lack of communication between the various characters. The Faerie Queen’s lover and her daughter have disappeared on the fateful night and she has been looking for them ever since. She knows that Atrix Wolfe is responsible, but instead of asking for his help, she kidnaps Talus, uses him as a go between and even then STILL doesn’t actually tell him what is wrong. Atrix Wolfe won’t tell anyone about the Hunter, even while it is active again. Talus won’t tell his brother about the Faerie Queen and just goes off and does his own thing.

It was all extremely fairy tale like, so that type of thing is expected. But it really bothered me this time around and I couldn’t get past it. I knocked off half a star for that. It didn’t help that I’d been dealing with a sore back, lack of work and issues at church. I didn’t have the patience or reserves to accept the foibles of fictional characters.

Other than that issue, this WAS just as good as before. McKillip is a master wordsmith and her use of the english language is enchanting. She doesn’t just use words and sentences “correctly”, she knows them and the rules well enough so that she can “weave” them. It is the difference between a paint by numbers picture of the Mona Lisa and the actual Mona Lisa.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. The Book of Atrix Wolfe (2005 Review)

Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt #4) ★★★★★

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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: Salute the Dark
Series: Shadows of the Apt #4
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 326
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Empire is spread thin. Stenwold Maker knows this and sends out various people to other cities to stir up rebellion. If enough cities can rebel at the same time, the Wasp Empire’s grasp might be broken.

Stenwold goes to the Commonwealth. Salme continues the fight for the Ant Cities with his Irregulars. Che sneaks off to yet another city while Acheaos, only partly recovered, takes part in a Moth Ritual that kills him. Thalric ends up coming back to the Empire, killing one of the three Rekef Generals and goes back to Capitas in chains.

Tisamon, twisted by his Mantis honor, leaves Felise and heads to Capitas, drawn by the power of the Darakyon Box. Said Box is firmly under the control of Uctebri, a Mosquito kinden. Uctebri is plotting against Emperor Alvdan II with plans to replace him with his sister, who will be Uctebri’s puppet.

Totho and Drephos, tasked with making an example of the Bee City, set up the first chemical warfare test. The creators of the gas kill themselves in remorse and Totho ends up gassing the Wasp soldiers instead and running off with a damaged Drephos.

Tisamon and Felise meet as Gladiators in Capitas and attempt to assassinate the Emperor. Unbeknownst to them, they were only a distraction for Uctebri and Seda to kill Alvdan and use the Blood of an Emperor to gain access to the Darakyon Box. Nothing goes according to plan though. Tisamon and Felise kill Uctebri, destroy the Box and are killed in turn. Seda must convince the Wasp populace to accept a Wasp Empress and recalls all the armies to consolidate her power. This recall, along with the various rebellions, allow many city states to survive as Free Cities.

Of the 4 Conspirators we are introduced to in Book 1, Stenwold the beetle, Tisamon the mantis, Atrissa the spider and Nero the fly, only Stenwold is still alive. And of his apprentices, Che, Tynisia and Totho are the only ones still alive by the end of the book. Many of his apprentices die heroic, noble deaths, but die they do.

War grinds bones and hearts alike.

 

My Thoughts:

This was an excellent book. In the previous book I was saying how I wasn’t enjoying this series as much upon this re-read. Well, this book definitely put paid to that idea.

The odd thing, this book is about death. So many characters die. If you just told me the synopsis, I’d probably roll over in despair. But HOW they die, the writing itself, redeems their deaths from a hopeless struggle into something greater. Tchaikovsky manages to show how horrible death is, how inevitable and yet have his characters overcome it by their selflessness. Prince Salme, leader of the Irregulars, is the prime example of this. I can’t put into words, but Tchaikovsky makes him a Hero, even while killing him off.

The other wonderful thing is the character development. Being a sensitive kind of fellow [he says while being reminded that morning by a coworker about the time he chased down and stomped a mouse to death with his combat boots, IN CHURCH], character development has to be done just right. Not enough and I complain about cardboard. Too much and I complain about estrogen and make fun of “feelingz” and talk macho for a couple of sentences. I’m pretty much the Goldilocks of the Male Book Reviewer. It has to be Just Right or I piss and moan like a man baby. In this regards, it is like Tchaikovsky had me as a model for creating and growing his characters. It is Done Right. People change. People question themselves. People don’t change. People don’t question themselves. Sometimes people are stupid and other people are genius.

My only complaint for the book is “Why hasn’t Stenwold Maker groomed another Spymaster to either take his place or at least take some of the burden?” And yet that oversight on Stenwold’s part is what makes him, him. So even my complaint is rooted in one of the best things of this series, the characters.

Last time I read this, I gave it 4 Stars. This time around, I appreciated the writing more and the whole tone. I enjoyed it just as much and found it to hold up to a re-read with no problems. There were a couple of instances when I was reading that I thought to myself “This is astonishing”. I don’t think that about many books I read, not even the ones I really enjoy.

★★★★★

bookstooge

 

  1. Salute the Dark (2011 Review)
  2. Blood of the Mantis (Book 3)
  3. Dragonfly Falling (Book 2)
  4. Empire in Black and Gold (Book 1)

Polity Agent (Polity: Agent Cormac #4) ★★★★☆

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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: Polity Agent
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #4
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 580
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another jain node is experimented upon, this time by a haiman. But she’s a bit smarter than Skellor and doesn’t allow it access to her, thus putting off its growth and takeover.

At the same time, it turns out that the Maker civilization, which created the Dragon, was also using jain tech and planned on seeding the Polity with the nodes and thus allowing the Polity to destroy itself. Well, the Makers ended up destroying themselves first, but Cormac must track down the remaining nodes that they sent with the Dragon.

And if that wasn’t enough, it appears that a rogue AI, that left the Polity after the Prador Wars, has succumbed to jain tech and is actively trying to destroy the Polity as well.

Bloody jain tech, it just wants to kill everything…

 

My Thoughts:

This was the first book in the Agent Cormac series where things weren’t wrapped up by the end. The Haiman’s [a human who is aug’ing themselves until they can handle AI level of data] storyline was the slowest and the least completed. In many ways her plot line almost felt unnecessary except for when she propelled the other plot lines forward. I can’t remember enough about the next book to know if she plays a big part or not. I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.

Cormac tracking down the other nodes and the Rogue AI lines were pretty closely intertwined. The rogue AI, named Cerberus, kept laying traps for Polity ships and they kept falling for it. Not sure if that was deliberate or if the Polity AI’s really were that stupid? Considering how long range Earth Central plans, I’m betting on “deliberate”.

I had forgotten how many people died. Almost everyone we’ve met so far, except for Cormac [of course!], the biologist Mika, the Dracoman Scar and AI’s, die. Subsumed by jain tech, destroyed in battles, tortured and killed by bad guys, etc. Even the revelations about Horace Blegg means he is out of the picture, his usefulness at an end. By his own side too, ouch!

This is fun to read and I enjoy the violence and blazing guns and super weapons and smarty pants AI’s. I don’t feel that this book lost anything upon re-read. Things might not be as “new”, but it was just as exciting as before. If you’re looking for some bloody good science fiction, try this sub-series of Asher’s Polity Universe.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Polity Agent (2010 Review)
  2. Brass Man (Book 3)
  3. Line of Polity (Book 2)
  4. Gridlinked (Book 1)

The Shadow Roads (Swan’s War #3) ★★★★ 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: The Shadow Roads
Series: Swan’s War #3
Author: Sean Russell
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Hafyyd, having made his deal with Death, now faces Alaan and Elise and unleashes his fury. He wants to deliver his father, Wyrr, who is sleeping in the river, into Death’s hands. The other two thwart him in that and so Hafyyd returns to the normal land and begins his conquest.

Tam is given an arrow with a magical jeweled head and instructed to shoot Hafyyd in the eye and that that will kill him. This is accomplished and the Rennes and the Wills start trying to figure out a way to have peace between their families. The most promising way looks to be through intermarriage of Lord Caral and Lady Lynn.

It turns out that everything was precipitated by a magical Black Swan who fell in love with Tusival, Hafyyd, Sainth and Sianon’s grandfather. She had 3 children by Tusival, 2 sons (Wyrr and Aillyn) and one daughter. The daughter was taken by Death in a bid to to gain the Swan’s Love. That lead to Wyrr and Aillyn walling Death up which further led to the Swan trying to gain her daughter back by any means necessary, including selling out Tusival, her sons and her grandchildren.

With Hafyyd dead, Alaan begins researching the spell to wall Death in and to strengthen it. Elise retires to a small island on the river to watch over 2 children who have been possessed by Wyrr and the Swan’s dead daughter but who now are their own. Tam, Baore and Fynnol return north.

 

My Thoughts:

A lot gets packed into this book. First book deals with the Rennes and the Wills and the introduction of the Children of Wyrr. Second book introduces Wyrr and Aillyn and now in this book we deal with Death incarnate and everybody’s magical Grandmother. It went wicked deep into Fairytale territory.

Russell’s style of writing took some mental adjustment on my part. I couldn’t race through. I had to read at the pace he set. It was this way with each book and yet each time it came as a surprise.

I think my only gripe is that the 3 young men from the North, Tam, Baore and Fynnol, were not main characters. They were important secondary characters, but the story had moved beyond them and I missed having the bulk of the story from their view. They were the Everyman of the story. The Rennes and the Wills were nobility. Hafyyd, Alaan and Elise were all possessed by magicians. It was hard to relate to any of those, whereas Tam was just a young man suddenly thrust into an adventure far beyond his imagining.

I would sum up this trilogy with the word “Melancholy”. It wasn’t depressing, it wasn’t necessarily sad but everything was tinged with Melancholy. The pacing of the story definitely added to that feeling. To finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this re-read as much as the first time and suspect I’ll enjoy it as much again in another decade or so. Definitely worth owning the hardcovers.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

  1. The Shadow Roads (2009 Review)
  2. The One Kingdom (Book 1)
  3. The Isle of Battle (Book 2)

Don Quixote (Classic) ★★★☆ ½

cfbd49198a00d27f5129a2d637e38a85

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: Don Quixote
Series: ——
Author: Miguel de Cervantes
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1120
Format: Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

Don Quixote has a lot of books on knight errantry. He has read them all and in the process gone quite mad, bonkers, round the bound, off the rails, etc, etc. He is crazy.

He is convinced that he is a Knight, that one of his tenants, Sancho Panza is his squire and that the love of his love is Dulcinea Toboso, a village woman who he has never seen, only heard her name. Quixote thus accoutres himself in knightly style and sets out on adventures.

He has many adventures, misadventures, friends and family try to bring him to his senses and in the end he gives up his knightly ways, admits he was crazy and dies in bed.

For more a more indepth look at what actually happens, ie Chapter by Chapter, please check out my various Don Quixote Update Posts.

 

My Thoughts:

There is so much I want to say about this book. So please forgive any erratic jumping around as I potentially go from random thought to random thought.

I can see why this is a Classic. Cervantes writes amusingly, wittily and tells some good stories. The interactions between Quixote and Sancho ring so true as do their interactions with the various people they meet. And therein lies my first, and biggest issue.

The side stories. This book is divided into Part I and Part II. Part I is chock full of characters that Quixote meets telling their own, long, convoluted and pointless stories. In one or two cases, those side stories end up splitting off into yet a third story. A story within a story within a story. It became frustrating to read. Someone who I can’t remember, told me that those side stories represented various forms of writing back in the 1600’s and that Cervantes included them to show that indeed, he was a master writer. It makes sense. However, as much sense as it may make, it does not make for an enjoyable read. When I am reading a book entitled Don Quixote I expect to read about the titular character. Thankfully, in Part II there are very few sidestories and the adventures of Quixote and Sancho proceed apace.

My other main issue was the continued madness and stupidity of both Quixote and Sancho. In part it is amusing, funny and chuckle worthy. But when it crashes over me the reader chapter after chapter after chapter, it becomes tragic, not comedic.

In short, while I am not a fan of abridged classics, I WOULD recommend that Don Quixote first be read that way to get the meat of the story. Then the reader can read an unabridged version to wallow in all the unnecessaryness of it all.

I was reading the Oxford World Classics edition that used the Jarvis translation and was edited and annotated by a E.C. Riley. Riley’s notes were absolutely useless to me as a casual reader. There were many instances where I would have appreciated some context about the culture that would have explained something but nope, nothing. Then there will be Greek Name Alpha and Riley will spend 3 paragraphs going off about the history of said Greek and how Cervantes saw it ONCE in Village X and that is why Greek Name Alpha was included in the story. It felt like the focus of the notes were supposed to be scholarly but came across as pretentious and pointless. It was a frustrating experience and by Part II I just ignored the annotations.

The thing is, this WAS funny. How can you not laugh when Sancho puts some curds into Quixote’s helmet [which is actually a barber’s basin] and Quixote claps the helmet on his head and thinks his brains are leaking out because of the curds? Most of the humor is of that sly kind, poking fun at Quixote, at Sancho, at the people they meet.

I would recommend this book just to see how people thought and acted 400 years ago. But get a different edition than this one, one that will explain some of the cultural things that mean nothing to us now.

I started this book in November 2016 and finished it in July 2017. That is 8 months. I could have read it a lot faster but my note taking necessitated taking it slow. I don’t in any way feel that my time was wasted or that my updates were negated. It was nice to just slowly punt down the river of this book and enjoy the scenery. Of course by page 700 I was over the scenery and ready to exit the boat.

To wrap up. I enjoyed this even while being frustrated at parts but I don’t know that I’ll ever read it again. 2000 and now 2017 just about seems enough.

★★★☆ ½

 

bookstooge

 

  1. Don Quixote (2000 Review)

Beyond the Shadows (Night Angel #3) ★★★★☆

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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: Beyond the Shadows
Series: Night Angel #3
Author: Brent Weeks
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 699
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The kingdom is safe now that the Godking is dead. Ha. The godking’s various sons are duking it out to see who will rule in his stead and once that is determined, the winner is coming back for some real vengeance. At the same time another kingdom is taking advantage of the chaos to annex a large of chunk and they’ve brought troops to back up their claims.

Logan won’t take the kingship since he pledged his oath to Terah Graesin but she is the worst possible thing to happen. Kylar must kill her to allow Logan to ascend the throne. He must do it in such a way though that it doesn’t look like Logan asked him to do it.

Kylar is still linked to Vi and both Elene and Vi are in the Sisterhood. Who want to use Kylar, somehow. Superpowerful magical swords are involved, as are near immortal creatures and a host of millions of undead. Elene gets possessed by Khali but for the purpose of containing it [as it is a fallen angel] so Kylar can kill her with the magic swords and thus truly destroy Khali.

It all comes together in one HUGE battle is so stupendous that I’m not going to even try to describe it. Kylar saves the world at great cost and everyone is sad at Elene’s sacrifice and Vi still wants to jump Kylar’s bones.

The End.

 

My Thoughts:

Good stuff!

My only complaints are as follows. The profanity still sticks out. Seeing the F word is just jarring. It doesn’t fit. Second, the amount of history we’re deluged with from Durzo Blint is a bit much for one book. I’d really liked to have seen a prequel trilogy following his adventures in his various personas.

Other than that? Rock’em Sock’em Robot success!

True love. Magic swords. Magical killer creatures that are unstoppable. Hordes of undead that aren’t all human sized shamblers. 2000 women who can control magic? Aes Sedai anyone? That really stood out to me this time. It just seemed a very blatant ripoff where as back in ’09 I didn’t even make the connection. Either way, I enjoyed it this time around.

The storyline dealing with Dorian Ursuul, the prophet and son of the Godking, was wicked hard to deal with. He sees the future, gives up his gift because of what he sees and then ends up becoming something just as bad as his father ever was. Since he was introduced as a character who wanted to only do good since the beginning, that fall from grace was just brutal! Weeks really digs into what it could cost to see the future.

The violence is not ratcheted down any either. There was one scene where I just put my kindle down and had to catch my emotional breathe. Kylar was bound on a water wheel to kill him for him killing the queen. His own friend Logan, who became king of that action, was the one who had to pass sentence. Logan also knows that Kylar heals super quick, so the water wheel will take days. He breaks a table leg off and just smashes Kylar’s arms and legs so that he’ll die. A friend having to execute his best friend, having to physically destroy him, it was intense. I had ALL the manly feelz.

While the writing definitely shows that this trilogy was Weeks’ first go, it is in no way sub-par. It just isn’t as nuanced as experience will make him. Heck, comparing this to the latest Light Bringer Novel, Blood Mirror is a good exercise in watching someone grow their literary wings.

It would be cool if at some point Weeks returned to this universe, but at the rate the Light Bringer novels are coming out, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Beyond the Shadows (2009 Review)
  2. Way of Shadows (Book 1)
  3. Shadow’s Edge (Book 2)

That Hideous Strength (The Space Trilogy #3) ★★★★☆

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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: That Hideous Strength
Series: The Space Trilogy #3
Author: C.S. Lewis
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 394
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The NICE Institute begins to take over Britain. Ostensibly a mere research company that is out to better humanity, NICE is actually controlled by the bent eldila of our own world. They have begun the conquest of Earth in earnest, which means the total destruction of everything. Just like the moon is lifeless, they desire the Earth to be so.

Opposing them, or more accurately, gathered together against them, is Ransom and a small group of nobodies. Housewives, old professors, maids, even one man who doesn’t believe in the eldila.

NICE is bent on resurrecting Merlin, the last descendant of Atlantis. With his knowledge of mystical powers and NICE’s control of technology, it looks like their plan cannot fail. What they don’t count on is that Merlin might not be the evil warlock they assume him to be or that the eldila from the unbent worlds will stand idly by.

But God works in mysterious ways and evil always destroys itself.

 

My Thoughts:

I really needed this read.

Storywise, it was just kind of ok. In all honesty, there wasn’t much going on. Most of what happens is revealed between a husband who is trying to join NICE and his wife who is drawn into Ransom’s circle. But we don’t meet Ransom until almost the end, he doesn’t play much of a part besides being a cripple and even Merlin, when he joins them, only casts a babel spell on the badguys. This is NOT an action book.

This was a book where the principals of warfare according to Christianity were in the fore. You didn’t have Ransom and Company assaulting the NICE headquarters with shotguns and shooting everything with rocksalt or dishcleaner water, ala Supernatural. What you had was people doing almost nothing except the tiny little bit they were told to. That is so contrary to common sense, and even that issue is addressed, that it was fantastic.

It is good to be reminded that I am not responsible for taking down evil, Evildead style. It doesn’t work that way. It is good to be reminded that God is in control, that He is responsible and that He has a plan already in motion and all laid out in Revelations.

While this was explicitly Christian, it wasn’t in the same vein as something by Frank Peretti. You didn’t have spirits duking it out with swords while flying around. In fact, Lewis does his best to show just how much we cannot understand about the creatures not of this world. A little confusing but like I first said, refreshing.

When you are battered and worn, sometimes you just need to cling to the truth.

On a non-review note, I FINALLY understand the old cover. It never made sense to me before. Now that I’ve read this again, it makes total sense. It isn’t necessarily the kind of thing I can just type up and explain out of the blue, but if you read the story, you’ll understand too.

That-Hideous-Strength

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. Space Trilogy (2006 Review)
  2. Out of the Silent Planet (Book 1)
  3. Perelandra (Book 2)