It’s Hell to Choose (Kurtherian Gambit #9) ★☆☆☆☆

itshelltochoose (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: It’s Hell to Choose
Series: Kurtherian Gambit #9
Author: Michael Anderle
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 313
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

TQB Enterprises is going semi-public. Not only have they revealed their space capabilities but also that they have other tech that is very advanced. Tech that companies and countries want, now, for free. A group of highly skilled mercenaries are hired to infiltrate the American base that is the current headquarters for TQB and to data mine it and then destroy it, with a nuke. This is sanctioned by a US government Senator.

At the same time TQB advances its space plans to create a space station in months, instead of years. Bethany Ann wants off the Earth so she’s not entangled in the politics. She also begins the process of integrating the Vamps and Weres into a single fighting unit instead of splitting them up, as has historically happened.

Most of the TQB tech is moved into space and given protection by the new fighter units. They outmatch some French fighter jets and put one of them on the Eiffel Tower. They also move everything from the United States base into storage or prep it for space. They fight off the mercenary attack but Michael sacrifices himself to get rid of the nuke.

The book ends with Bethany Ann being all broken up about Michael’s death, since she confessed that “she loved him”. She begins to focus that fury into accomplishing her goal of protecting the Earth against whatever maybe coming.

 

My Thoughts:

So this is where the Kurtherian Gambit and I part ways. First, there are the token homosexuals that Anderle throws in, for wokeness points, then there is the unspoken deification of Bethany Ann and finally the “character growth” that was meant to happen by Michael’s supposed demise.

Obviously, the first issue is one that I’ve made my stance on very clear. No need to talk about it yet again.

The second issue is one that has been building for me for the last couple of books. Bethany Ann is growing so powerful, with no checks upon her and we as readers have no idea what sets her moral compass. Anderle throws in some stuff about “loyalty” and general goodness and crap, but when a character is the most powerful entity on a planet, and pretty much is going to run things how they see fit, as an author you’d better make sure that you’re not creating a tinpot tyrant. I don’t see that happening with Anderle. Bethany Ann is a tyrant with unfettered power and an attitude of “my way or the highway, bub”. While Anderle writes her as protecting humanity, there is no real reason given. She’s just “good”. I know I’m using a lot of quotation words here, but this issue really bothers me. What makes her so good, what sets her apart from all the other humans on the planet (those same humans who show their worst at a moments notice by the way), etc. Being Good by authorial fiat works in a shorter storyline, but we’re up to book 9 here.

I took a step back from this issue to make sure it wasn’t a gender thing. I have some strong opinions on that issue that are about as popular as my stance on the whole homosexuality thing so I sat back and thought. Would I have these same issues if this series had been about Michael? And the answer is a resounding “Yes!”, if he’d been Bethany Ann’ized into Good Incarnate. Bethany Ann is just inherently good and every decision she makes, while not necessarily the best one, is always the right one. I am obviously over-thinking that aspect, but it has cropped up enough for me to realize it would have bugged me for the rest of the series.

Finally, the character development, or lack thereof. I was perfectly fine with these books being action packed, wham bam books. Introduce the characters, give them a hint of a personality and then just go from there. But don’t try to make your characters “real” if you don’t have the writing chops to do it. We’re led to believe that Bethany Ann and Michael have this deep soul connection, because they go out on a couple of dates and sleep together and Bethany Ann confesses she loves Michael? Come on, even I can write that! So don’t do it. Telling me something, as a reader,  is very different from showing it. And it is hard to show character development in a 300 page book with so many characters and so much going on.

So that is why I’m done with the Kurtherian Gambit series. Anderle does have another series, the Amazing Mr Brownstone, that I’m hoping to start sometime next year. It is another long running series that I hope doesn’t have the same issues as this series. With my drop in reading, I certainly won’t be waiting until book 9 to make a final decision about it.

★☆☆☆☆

 

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The Ragged Man (Twilight Reign #4) ★★★★☆

raggedman (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Ragged Man
Series: Twilight Reign #4
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 612
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

At the end of the previous book Isak killed the son of Lord Styrax, the most powerful man in the world. In his rage, Styrax did not just kill Isak, but sent him directly to Ghenna (hell) to be tortured forever. Isak had dreamed about this scenario and he and his friend Mihn, the failed Harlequin, had set in motion a plan. Mihn had covered himself in magical tattoos of invisibility to both physical and spiritual entities. With the help of a witch, Mihn travels to Ghenna and recovers Isak. Upon their return though, Isak is a thoroughly broken man and it is up to Mihn to nurse him back to some normalcy.

Styrax is a broken man by the death of his son and heir and it takes the child Azeur to snap him out of his funk and to begin leading his Menin army again. Azeur posits a passive coalition with Styrax without revealing it’s actual goal and Styrax agrees. Styrax forces a non-aggression pact with the Farlan since Lord Isak is dead and half their army destroyed. They accept since if they refuse they’ll face civil war. This allows Styrax to concentrate on the one man who might be able to stop him, King Emin.

Azeur has set in motion its plans for the Harlequin nation and has recruited them to act as preachers and messengers for it. They begin by slightly changing their stories to make the gods appear more buffoonish or tyrannical or any extreme than originally intended. The Harlequins also begin preaching about a child savior that will lead the entire land without any interference from the gods. King Emin sees the danger of this and hires men and women to kill these preachers. Many Harlequins are killed but almost nobody understands what is going on, as Harlequins have always been neutral parties before this.

Styrax and his army marches on the kingdom of Narkang and begins razing it to the ground. Isak and Emin concoct a plan, one throw of the dice, where all will be won or lost. Emin confronts Styrax and his army at a castle and a huge battle ensues. Isak catches Styrax in a trap because he doesn’t try to kill him. Isak forces the gods to help him and they strip all memories of Styrax from the land and take Styrax’s identity from him. Styrax is now the Ragged Man, a legend of a man who lost his soul and now kills in the shadows to try to get it back. The Menin army falls apart without any memory of Styrax but Emin and the kingdom of Narkang have paid for this victory in more blood than they can truly afford.

Azeur can begin its plans in earnest now that Styrax isn’t around to keep it in check.

 

My Thoughts:

You know, I’ve said it before, but I am watching Lloyd’s writing skill increase right before my eyes with this series. The first 2 books were pretty rough but now, things are flowing smoothly. His skill in handling multiple points of view no longer leaves me stumbling about and the awkwardness from before is almost gone. It’s not perfect, but it is noticeably different. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever noticed such a skill increase from an author before? Maybe I never started with one that was so amateurish though. But whatever, this was good!

Mihn’s journey to hell and back was a bit slow and not very action oriented. It had me worried that the entire book was going to be like that. Thankfully, once the main story switched back to Styrax and King Emin, things got moving. The battle at the end of the book was massive. It was enjoyable. It was everything I wanted from a big epic fantasy book.

While I had serious reservations about recommending this series based on the previous books, I’d now recommend this series as long as you’re willing to deal with Lloyd’s lack of skill in the first couple of books. I realize that is a back-handed compliment, but it’s the truth. But even with that, I’d still recommend starting with Lloyd’s God Fragments series. It starts off, skill-wise, where Twilight Reign ends.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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

wewillbuild (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: We Will Build
Series: Kurtherian Gambit #8
Author: Michael Anderle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 356
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

On to the good stuff.

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

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

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

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Grave Thief (Twilight Reign #3) ★★★☆½

gravethief (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Grave Thief
Series: Twilight Reign #3
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 548
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

With the fall of Scree, the gods have been enraged at what the Shadow has done. Unfortunately, all this has accomplished is to make the priest of various gods more warlike and to incite them against their own citizenry. This in turn places a huge strain on the Kingdoms that are trying to oppose Styrax and his Menin, who are taking city after city.

Styrax’s goal is to take all of the crystal skulls and to become a god himself. He is studying a puzzle at one of the conquered cities and unearth’s another skull. He also happens to set free its guardian, a very big and very cranky dragon.

While this has been going on, Isak has been trying to keep his kingdom from tearing itself apart. The priests are out of control and have hired their own mercenaries to act as their law. Eventually Isak declares a Crusade against Styrax and his godless Menin. This accomplishes getting all the nutjob priests out of the way and allows Isak to oppose Styrax and hopefully slow him down before he reaches Farlan.

At the same time, Azeur the Shadow has been born in human flesh. He attaches himself to a duchess of one of the soon to be conquered cities so as to remain under the radar from King Emin and Isak. He sets priest and citizen against the other so that at the right time they will look to him as a savior. He is growing at a rate of years in months time and at the time Styrax takes his city is about 5 years old.

Some of the gods, the lower hierarchy, realize that this time is an opportunity for them to rise. As such, they begin bonding with mortal humans and creating a new level of human power structure. Duke Vesna, one of Isak’s closest allies, is one such human. How it all plays out and what the final cost will be is yet to be seen.

The book ends with a battle between Farlan and Menin. Isak knows he can’t best Styrax so he follows a plan (that is unknown to us the readers) hatched by his Secretary of Everything. Isak kills a huge amount of the Menin with magic and then kills Styrax’s only son. Styrax kills Isak and sends him to hell using the power of his crystal skulls.

 

My Thoughts:

Much better. Now that I’m not floundering around trying to get adjusted to Isak as a character, I could concentrate a bit more on Azeur and Styrax. Of course, with Lloyd killing Isak right at the end, I’m not sure WHAT the next 2 books hold. I highly doubt Isak is “really” dead though. If he is, then I’ll be wicked pissed off in the later books.

I still have issues with Lloyd starting a chapter and not naming the character we follow until several pages in. It is annoying. Plus the character point of view shifts with only an extra line break still gets me. I’m getting better at picking up on those though, even if only subconsciously. I guess Lloyd is training all his readers to be his own personal cadre of Manchurian Candidates.

I didn’t like that some of the characters we’d really been invested in in previous books, King Emin, etc, were sidelined. I almost feel like I need to re-read the first 2 books just to place the new’ish characters like Styrax and his son into better context. I know I read about them in earlier books with all of my attention on the main character, what they did has slid right out of my mind. I think that comes down to the author not handling multiple characters and locations as well as he needs to.

There were also a couple of places where the words that were written weren’t the words meant. I can’t bring any specifics to mind but it is the kind of thing that needs a copy editor to look over and find.

On the positive side, what I am reading is reminding me and more of what I read, and liked, in the God Fragments series. The similarities in authorial voice are much more noticeable. Whereas the first book of this Twilight Reign series had me scratching my head over the fact that the same author wrote them, now I can see it. And I’m liking what I’m seeing.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

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

kneelordie (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Kneel or Die
Series: Kurtherian Gambit #7
Author: Michael Anderle
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 336
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

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

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

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

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

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

 

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Twilight Herald (Twilight Reign #2) ★★★☆☆

twilightherald (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: Twilight Herald
Series: Twilight Reign #2
Author: Tom Lloyd
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 564
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Some city is a convergence point. Fell powers are gathering, whether crystal skulls or beings of power. It is all being orchestrated by some non-god, non-demon entity who hates the gods and wants to show mankind how powerless the gods are. It does this by enspelling an entire city to go mad and to kill as many people as possible.

Lord Isaak is there to gather up a spare crystal skull, or two, if he can manage it. Various characters from the previous book are also there on different pretexts, but it all comes down to everyone being manipulated by this being.

Where Lord Isaak was supposed to be the Savior of Prophecy but isn’t due to him breaking the chains of Fate in the first book, a new white eye is claiming the title. The same white eye that killed Lord Baal, Isaak’s mentor.

All the main characters survive the city’s destruction but alliances aren’t as strong and it looks like the New Savior is a protege of this Entity, the Shadow.

 

My Thoughts:

Enjoyed this but still had some serious issues.

The style choice for paragraphs. In a chapter there might be several changes between characters or location and this change is only shown as a new paragraph. The problem is that it is exactly the same paragraph style as when you stay with one character and you have multiple paragraphs. It is very disconcerting to be reading along and then realize that you’ve changed character, time or place with NO warning. There are multiple ways to accomplish, most of them quite easy, so I’m guessing Lloyd didn’t read his own book after he wrote it.

My other main issue is how big, epic AND mysterious this is trying to be. A lot of things are thrown at the reader with no explanation and where this worked for me in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (due to excellent writing and just enough hints to keep you from falling on your face) here it feels like the author has just left crucial information out of the readers grasp. I was really struggling to figure out just what was going on. It doesn’t help that half the time I’m re-reading a paragraph or two to readjust my thinking about WHO I’m reading about now.

What I did enjoy about this book? Let me tell you.

A whole city going mad due to a malevolent spelled carved into the walls of a theatre and in the flesh of the playwright. Near the end Isaak ends up calling 5 aspects of Death to protect him and his allies and ends up having to face down several of the Aspects. The whole idea of a shadow entity working against EVERYONE for goals only it knows. A white eye that can kill legendary vampires and not blink twice about it.

This time attention is scattered around more and I wish things had focused more on Isaak. He’s definitely growing on me as a character and I’d like to see some real character growth, as he’s at the age where that happens quickly and shows quickly as well.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Under My Heel (Kurtherian Gambit #6) ★★★☆½

undermyheel (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: Under My Heel
Series: Kurtherian Gambit #6
Author: Michael Anderle
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 306
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

BA and Michael and the rest of the Queen Bitch’s Guard must take down the Forsaken so that they can begin dealing with the potential threat from space. At the same time the military has begun sniffing around the AI project. BA is going to have to accelerate her plans in acquiring a secure military base where she can move the AI and begin producing prototype starships.

The remaining son of Michael, the most powerful of the Forsaken, sets a trap for the Guard and eventually BA herself. BA and her crew get to test themselves against a whole host of nosferatu and have a test run of their new attack ships.

Of course BA and Co are successful, in just about all their endeavors. The ambush is unsuccessful, the military base is procured, the prototype ships a success and the AI is moved into the Ether and begins learning with TOM as a (rather unsuccessful) gatekeeper.

 

My Thoughts:

The profanity is just stupid. It’s not amusing, it’s not actually profane, it’s just an ignorant stringing together of as many curse words as possible. It felt like a teenager trying to show how tough he was by saying everything he knows he’s not supposed to.

I had fun reading this even while knowing the outcome. BA is just so powerful. But that is ok because I’m not reading these for dramatic tension but for butt kicking action, which is delivered in spades.

Sorry, I just don’t feel like writing and I really don’t have anything else to say. These are popcorn books. So if you like that, great. If you want epic fantasy or {L}iterature, then this won’t do it for you. It really is that simple.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)