Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: "Assassin's Fate" by Robin Hobb

Since I suspect it will be my last trip with FitzChivalry Farseer, I put off reading Robin Hobb’s “Assassin’s Fate” ($32, Del Rey). Then, when I finally began, I took it slowly to savor this last journey.

Fitz and the Fool, masquerading in his Amber character, open the story in the Rain Wilds, on their journey to avenge the death of Fitz’s daughter Bee at the hands of the Servants of Clerres. Ravaged by grief, Fitz plans to bring the city down around its prophets and go out in a blaze of glory.

Unbeknownst to our favorite assassin, though, Bee is still alive. She’s held captive by a Servant named Dwalia and her minion Vindeliar, who can control minds. Dwalia is convinced that Fitz’s daughter is the Unexpected Son of prophecy, and she must bring her to Clerres to wring secrets from her and regain her standing among the Servants. Bee believes that her father has given up on her and put the Fool ahead of her. She’s beaten and abused, but not broken.

Meanwhile, as he usually does, the Fool is playing his own game in addition to helping Fitz seek revenge.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

My favorite reads of 2017

I had a lot going on in the latter quarter of the year that led me to slack off a bit in my reading, but it was still a pretty good year.

It was a year of discovering new voices for me. At least three quarters of the books that I read were by authors that I had not read before – some brand new, and at least one a classic author that I’d never given a shot. A few of my favorites also delivered solid additions to my library, and I took a few trips down memory lane, as well.

As I do every year, I want to make it clear that this list is in no way a “best of.” I simply don’t get to read enough books to qualify me to say what was the best of the year. These are just my favorite reads of 2017 (some of which are not from 2017). They also are in no particular order, though I’ll admit the first few are definitely my favorites.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Review: "The Overneath" by Peter S. Beagle

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise in “The Overneath” ($15.95, Tachyon Publications), Peter S. Beagle writes about a few unicorns. But there are a few other nice surprises in this short story collection, as well.

We’ll get the familiar ground out of the way first. Of the 13 stories in the book, three deal with unicorns of various stripes, and two focus on his bumbling magician Schmendrick.

First up is “The Green-Eyed Boy,” which tells the tale of how Schmendrick came to be apprenticed to the wizard Nikos prior to Beagle’s most well-known tale, “The Last Unicorn.” It’s a fun and funny story that should please fans of that book. Though less funny, the same could be said of “Schmendrick Alone,” in which we learn about the first time that the wizard summoned a demon that he couldn’t control.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Reader Picks: Your favorite posts of 2017

The list of most-viewed items this year is interesting and a bit disappointing in that it's almost chronological for the first half of the year. Usually the entries are scattered, with a few things getting big bursts of interest. Of course, that result is pretty par for the course with the way this blog went this year -- a great deal of traffic early, tapering off late. That's most likely my fault, as work consumed me much of the second half of the year, and I did much less reading and writing than usual. When you go a month between posts, things tend to die.

Still, I'll keep with tradition in hopes that things pick up in the coming year and offer the most viewed posts of 2017.

10. "Son of the Black Sword," by Larry Correia. Published May 2. A bit of a departure from what I'm used to with Correia -- more serious with less humor -- but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

9. "The Death of Dulgath," by Michael J. Sullivan. Published April 11. I waited far too long to visit with my old friends Royce and Hadrian. Not the best of Sullivan's Ryria novels, but certainly not a disappointment.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Review: "Kings of the Wyld" by Nicholas Eames

We’ve all heard the argument that there are no new ideas, and maybe that’s true. But new spins are always fun, and that’s just what Nicholas Eames delivers in “Kings of the Wyld” ($15.99, Orbit).

Eames introduces us to a world where mercenary bands are regarded as rock stars, but their day has faded. Where once-great bands ventured into the Heartwyld to fight hordes of horrible monsters, the bands of the new generation are manufactured stars. They’re all flash as they travel from arena to arena battling beasts that have been raised in captivity or captured and enslaved.

“Slowhand” Clay Cooper, former member of Saga, one of the most legendary classic bands, now lives a quiet life in the town of Coverdale with his wife and daughter. He works as a city guardsman and dreams of opening an inn where he can display his magic shield Blackheart above the hearth and tell tales of his glory days.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Review: "The Tethered Mage" by Melissa Caruso

Melissa Caruso’s “The Tethered Mage” ($15.99, Orbit) presents us with an intriguing, if slightly flawed debut novel.

Amalia Cornaro, heir to one of the most powerful positions in Raverran government, would far rather read her books on magic and artifice than play politics. She often sneaks out of her mother’s palace dressed in plain clothes to go in search of rare books in seedy areas of the city. On one such adventure, a chance encounter gives her no choice, but to enter the political arena.

When Amalia sees a group of ruffians accosting a girl, she jumps to try to help. As it turns out, the girl needs no help, unleashing powerful magic, balefire, on her assailants. But she can’t control the magic, and it threatens to burn the city. A young lieutenant in the Falconers, a group that controls all magical individuals in Raverra, convinces Amalia, unaware of her identity, to slap a bracelet on the girl that will stop her magic. Thus, Amalia becomes the only noble Falconer. Her new Falcon, Zaira, proves to be willful, independent and uncooperative, but is also the most powerful weapon the Serene Empire has against the rebelling city of Ardence.

This newfound power thrusts Amalia into the politics she’s avoided. Somehow she must form a bond with Zaira to save her Falcon’s life and the lives of everyone in Ardence.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: "Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers" by Joe R. Lansdale

For some reason, total absurdity piques my interest almost every time, so I couldn’t resist Joe R. Lansdale’s “Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers” ($40, Subterranean Press). I was, of course, familiar with Lansdale’s other tale of monster hunter Elvis, “Bubba Ho-Tep,” from the movie starring Bruce Campbell. Even if I hadn’t been, though, there would have been no way I could pass up the title or description of this book.

“Bubba and the Cosmic Blood Suckers” is a prequel to “Bubba Ho-Tep,” with an aging early 1970s Elvis beginning to lament his choices to make cheesy films instead of focusing more on his music. Part of the reason for that choice, though, is his other occupation as a monster hunter for a secret government organization.

Elvis has been coerced into the role by Colonel Parker, his ruthless manager in more than one business for the purpose of this story. The Colonel holds Elvis’ mother’s soul in a gris-gris bag, keeping her from passing over to the other side and using her to blackmail The King into killing monsters.