Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3)The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world is dying and everyone is looking for "The Hero of Ages" to save it and them in the conclusion of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy.  As Vin and Elend attempt to save as many people as possible, they also are racing to find answers left behind by Rashek, the Lord Ruler, to battle the god Ruin and preserve their world as best they can, the rest of the survivors of Kelsier's crew do their best to help throughout the Final Empire.

A year after Vin released Ruin from the Well of Ascension, Elend and she race around the Empire in search of cache's left by the Lord Ruler in the event of his failure to keep Ruin imprisoned.  While besieging Fadrex City, Vin gets captured by it's obligator-king only to find herself also confronting Ruin himself and learning her place in his 'plans'.  Meanwhile Spook, Breeze, and Sazed attempt to gain control of another cache in Urteau ruled by a Church of the Survivor zealot as both Spook and Sazed deal with major psychological conflicts that has a profound impact on the world itself.  And interweaving is the struggle of Kelsier's brother turned Inquistor Marsh, the chief pawn of the god Ruin who alternatively desires the destruction of the world and himself.

"The Hero of Ages" successes in getting all the interwoven story arcs, of both the book itself and the trilogy as a whole, to a successful conclusion at the end of the book unlike it's predecessor "The Well of Ascension" which struggled with it's internal story arcs at the end.  The complexity and brilliance of the system-of-magic created by Sanderson is in full display as well as the fantastic battle scenes using it.  Sanderson also successes in writing a classic misdirection of prophetic fulfillment that doesn't taking away from the whole of the trilogy, but fits perfectly together at the end when looking back over everything in hindsight.  If there is one flaw, it is the unfortunate rehashing of events numerous times usually in internal monologue.  While a certain character's internal monologue of rehashing events or things, it was unnecessary to be done by others on a repeated basis.

While some of the internal monologues are drag in the middle of the book, it can not take too much away from a fantastically written conclusion to the Mistborn trilogy.  "The Hero of Ages" brings culmination to a series of events to the Mistborn world not just over a five year period, but of a thousand and of an infinity of length.  This book and the series as a whole is highly recommended.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: Confirming Justice by Diane & David Munson

Confirming Justice (Justice Series #2)Confirming Justice by Diane Munson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In "Confirming Justice" by wife-husband authors Diane & David Munson, who use their professional law enforcement and legal experience, create realistic crime fiction.  Just like in the their first book a significant Christian imprint appears throughout the book in numerous character's story arcs.

Unlike the author's first book, there is no central plot in "Confirming Justice" instead they intermingle two strong story arcs that from time-to-time merged briefly before once again separating before coming together to achieve a climax.  The two main characters in the book were both secondary characters introduced in the previous book, Judge Dwight Pendergast and FBI agent Griff Topping.  Pendergast's arc shows a fair minded jurist not allowing his thoughts for a particular defendant influence the handling of a trial, then dealing with health and family concerns before and during the announcement that he is a nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Topping's arc begins with him attempting to find a fellow agent who is testifying in jury presided by Judge Pendergast then being asking by the judge afterwards to work on a private matter to find his long-lost older brother and while doing so stumbles upon a major drug case that partners him with former colleague.

Both main story arcs are well written and are the main reason why I gave this book the rating it has, but unfortunately other elements are also why I gave this book the rating I did.  The secondary characters in "Confirming Justice" fall into either one of two categories, well-rounded and flat, and are evenly divided between both which hurts the narrative.  The nefarious behind-the-scenes political intrigue subplot is unfortunately more a hindrance to the book's quality than a benefit.  And like "Facing Justice" this book has Christian faith, or lack of it in most cases, prominent throughout numerous character's lives, while this is not a negative in and of itself, the heavy-handed nature of it even made a Christian like myself think it was too much.

After finishing "Confirming Justice", I thought it was a nice second effort by the authors especially in terms of the main story arcs however it faulted in other areas which has made me decided not to continue the series.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Book Review: Legends edited by Robert Silverberg

LegendsLegends by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The eleven stories with in this first "Legends" anthology are by some of the best writers of fantasy and science fiction, both in prose and sales.  Edited by Robert Silverberg, who also contributed as well, the stories range within their established fictional worlds from stand alone either connect with the main series or in-between main series books or prequels with mixed results.

The best stories whether, stand alone or prequel, had the same things in common.  First the reader did not need to know anything about the fictional setting from any previous location as the authors used the stories to introduce the audience to their written creations.  Second, the story usually followed just one character, at most two if change of perspective was easily denoted, allowing the narrative to be tight given average 65 pages each story took.  Those that were on the bottom end of the scale were the exact opposite as they relied too much on the reader already knowing the story's universe and too many characters or point-of-view changes to keep track of (or both!).

Unfortunately two of the weakest stories are at the very beginning and the end of the anthology, however of the nine stories in the middle of the anthology seven were at the least very good and make this fantastic purchase for anyone who gets it.

Individual Story Ratings
The Dark Tower: The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King (3.5/5)
Discworld: The Sea and Little Fishes by Terry Pratchett (4.5/5)
The Sword of Truth: Debt of Bones by Terry Goodkind (3.5/5)
Tales of Alvin Maker: Grinning Man by Orson Scott Card (4/5)
Majipoor: The Seventh Shrine by Robert Silverberg (3.5/5)
Earthsea: Dragonfly by Ursula K. Le Guin (4/5)
Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn: The Burning Man by Tad Williams (5/5)
A Song of Ice and Fire: The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin (5/5)
Pern: Runner of Pern by Anne McCaffrey (4.5/5)
The Riftwar Saga: Wood Boy by Raymond E. Feist (5/5)
The Wheel of Time: New Spring by Robert Jordan (2.5/5)

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Review: New Spring by Robert Jordan

New Spring by Robert Jordan
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I finished reading the expanded novella version of New Spring three years ago today, but the intervening years haven't taken away my recollection of the novella and after finishing the short story I can say that even with it's faults the novella was better.

The action follows fan favorites Lan and Moiraine surrounding tragic events in the Kandori royal palace which leads to them becoming Bonded and searching for the Dragon Reborn. However each opens up in what seems to be halfway through their narrative and that automatically hurts the overall effort. There were numerous secondary and tertiary characters that were a detriment of the whole piece because space had to be made to make them relevant which took away from the main plot thread. I was finding myself filling in the "holes" with memories from the novella.

Unlike Debt of Bones and The Burning Man, which were prequels as well this prequel relied heavily on the established series and as a result was probably the "worst" story of the anthology.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review: Wood Boy by Raymond E. Feist

Wood Boy by Raymond E. Feist
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The spring after the outbreak of the Riftwar, the Tsurani arrive at Lord Paul of White Hill's estate and occupy it along with the nearby town of Walinor. Dirk, the titular Wood Boy, is the youngest servant on the estate and describes the next year and how it was to live under the occupation of the Tsurani and how he ends up walking into the camp of Duke Borric of Crydee's pulling a sled with two dead bodies on it.

The story is very tightly written, the majority is from Dirk's point-of-view with Duke Borric's POV at the beginning and end of the story. Feist doesn't try to give an overview of his entire world, but instead focuses on one small locale and how it deals with an inter-dimensional invasion especially in relation to an almost teenager who was trying to find his place in his old society and doesn't know what to do except live day-to-day. It all adds up to a great short story.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Book Review: The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin

The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel (The Hedge Knight Graphic Novels, #1)The Hedge Knight: The Graphic Novel by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The graphic novel adaptation of the first of George R.R. Martin's Dunk & Egg novellas, not only stays true to the originally written story but gives it life with fantastic renderings of all the characters, the locales, and the action.  Drawn by artist Mike S. Miller and livened by colorist Mike Crowell, "The Hedge Knight" gives both "Game of Thrones" book and show fans a great look into the history of the Seven Kingdoms by seeing the beginnings of two individuals, Ser Duncan (Dunk) the Tall and the future King Aegon (Egg) V, who impact the series even a century later.

The story begins with Dunk burying his mentor Ser Arlan Pennytree before taking his arms and horses to the Tourney at Ashford Meadow in an attempt to win a place in a lord's house by winning a tilt and becoming a champion if only for a little while.  Unfortunately Dunk finds himself broiled in a family feud, but this family happens to be the dynasty of the dragonkings--the Targaryens.  Not only does Dunk find his temporary squire to be a Prince, but he punches and kicks Egg's older (cruel) brother Aerion which could either leave him dead or maimed.  Dunk's fate comes down to a unique form of trial by combat, which has ramifications not only for him but knightly families and the realm itself.

Of the work surrounding the graphic novel itself, I can only praise the work of Miller and Crowell who not only brought into visual life Dunk and Egg but so many other historically important characters in very consistent way throughout the entire book.  It is hard to find fault with the work of these two men save with pointing out a few continuity errors, which unfortunately happen in every graphic novel.  If anything after viewing their work I'm tempted to find more graphic novel either man has worked on given the good quality of work each put in this book.

If you're a fan of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" world and haven't gotten this book yet I recommend you get it; if you're a television fan of "Game of Thrones" I highly recommend you get this book to see how the ancestors of some of your favorite and least favorite characters interacted while also seeing the Targaryens on the throne.

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Review: Runner of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

Runner of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Although the Dragonriders are the most famous segment of Pern society, my first introduction of Anne McCaffrey's writing. The narrative follows Tenna, an apprentice runner, who is making her way through her first "Cross". However, her first journey to Fort Hold becomes eventful when a runnerbeast trespasses over the grass-like Traces that were developed by and for runners only. The bruised and wounded runner arrives at her destination and finds herself given quality care, something she had been use to giving to runners when serving with her mother before her apprenticeship.

The story itself helps give an overall cultural sense of Pern while not dealing with the famous dragonriders, except as additional details that don't effect the story. Tenna is fully fleshed out for such a young person, though on Pern you have to grow up fast, but still has foibles like all young people including making mistakes and thinking they have it all figured out. Overall a very good story and makes me interested in looking more into Pern in the future.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Review: The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin

The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The first in a series of novellas set almost a century before the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Martin introduces the readers to two individuals, the titular hedge knight Ser Duncan "Dunk" the Tall and his squire Prince Aegon "Egg" Targaryan. The story begins with Dunk burying his mentor Ser Arlen Pennytree before taking his arms and horses to the Tourney at Ashford Meadow in an attempt to win a place in a lord's house by winning a tilt and becoming a champion if only for a little while.

Unfortunately Dunk finds himself broiled in a family feud, but this family happens to be the dynasty of the dragonkings--the Targaryans. Not only does Dunk find his temporary squire to be a Prince, but he punches and kicks Egg's older (cruel) brother Aerion which could either leave him dead or maimed. Dunk's fate comes down to a unique form of trial by combat, which has ramifications not only for him but knightly families and the realm itself.

Martin writes a tight story in which the reader doesn't need to have read any books of the A Song of Ice and Fire series to enjoy, while also giving tidbits of family histories to fans of his main series. Written at around the same time of A Clash of Kings and published a month before, The Hedge Knight starts giving a background to the series and introducing two seemingly unimportant individuals who'll cast long important shadows on events many years later.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: The Burning Man by Tad Williams

The Burning Man by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The castle of Hayholt in the middle of Osten Ard is once again the location of a Tad Williams story. Set a few hundred years before the time of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy this story adds to the overall history of the Hayholt by describing the time of 'King' Sulis the Apostate, the 4th mortal to reign over the former Sithi capital of Asu'a, as told by his step-daughter Breda.

Breda recalls how Sulis was considered an Apostate by the Church in Nabban and how he pursued an intellectual question to the detriment to his own health, all the while Breda remembers her first love which at first seems trivial but later has important ramifications at the end of the story. The titular 'Burning Man' makes readers of the trilogy think of someone else, but is in fact a slight of hand by the author to MST fans while also intriguing to first time Osten Ard readers. The tight, interconnected plot threads and the nice swerve as to who the Burning Man is makes this prequel great both for MST readers and those that have never stepped foot in Osten Ard.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Review: Dragonfly by Ursula K. Le Guin

Dragonfly by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The world of Earthsea is full of wizards, sorcerers, sorceresses, and witches but magic seems to be unbalanced due to the actions of the archmage and the new king. However the main character and focus of the plot is the titular Dragonfly, true name Irian, with major secondary characters being two wizards that interact with her. Dragonfly/Irian goes to the Isle of Roke to the school of the wizards to learn what she needs to learn, even though she's a woman (a major taboo). She arrives at both an uncertain time for the wizards and causes both division and introspection among the Council of Nine.

Although Robert Silverberg's overview of the series is the basis' of the stories introduction, the major fault of the story is that the individual reader needs to have read the series or at least the last Earthsea book published before this short story to know some the backgrounds of the wizards Dragonfly/Irian interact with. However, despite that Le Guin's writing helps compensate for that one difficulty for a very good read.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Review: The Seventh Shrine by Robert Silverberg

The Seventh Shrine by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The world of Majipoor colonized by humans who conquered the native population is currently governed by an eccentric, by cultural standards, emperor who is attempting to reconcile with the native species, Metamorphs. One of projects is an archaeological study of the ancient abandoned capital of the native Metamorphs, which is considered accursed by both races. The project goes well until the lead-Metamorph scientists is ritualistically murdered. The emperor Valentine, comes the ancient capital to investigate the crime during which he confronts prejudiced, secrets, and cultural mistaken memories.

Overall the story is fine, though for some one having never read any Majipoor works before things are hard to figure out sometimes especially in understanding the ending which requires knowledge of a previous book. However this fact also undermines the story because instead of Valentine remembering the knowledge he has of the "defilement" of the ancient capital when he first arrives it only because relevant near the climax with the solving of the mystery.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review: Grinning Man by Orson Scott Card

Grinning Man by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The alternate history/fantasy version of our world in which the Alvin Maker tale takes place results in meeting historical characters, who are the same and different at the same time. In the frontier of Kenituck, Alvin and his apprentice, the half-Black, Arthur Stuart come across the titular "Grinning Man" Davy Crockett who is grinning down a grizzly bear. After watching the confrontation, Alvin and Davy don't get off on the right foot as the later accuses the former of being a thief.

After the two parties go their separate ways, Alvin and Arthur arrive in Westville to find Crockett has been there falsely warning the town about the two "thieves". The town's miller, Rack Miller, however is inclined to believe Alvin protestations of innocence and welcomes them to his home. Alvin then finds out that Rack is crooked and sets about to ruin him while positioning for a chastened Crockett to take over as the "miller". All round a very enjoyable story.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review: Debt of Bones by Terry Goodkind

Debt of Bones by Terry Goodkind
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Set in the Sword of Truth universe, Debt of Bones follows Abigail a skip from the village of Coney Crossing who has come to the Wizard's Castle to demand a debt from the First Wizard himself. Throughout the entire story, Goodkind sets ups numerous twists throughout the entire story but while most of them work because of good foreshadowing the reasons I rated this story down was because the ones not foreshadowed and completely out of the blue really hurt the overall work.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Review: The Sea and Little Fishes by Terry Pratchett

The Sea and Little Fishes by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The annual Witch Trials come to Lancre, not that kind but there is a bonfire at the end, and a "committee" of witches don't want Granny Weatherwax to compete (because she always wins!). Through the eyes of mostly Nanny Ogg, Pratchett shows off another side of one of Discworld's greatest legends, "Granny" Esme Weatherwax being nice.

At only 40+ pages, this Discworld short story is caulk full of humor with a tight plot line and great writing that is a good introduction to anyone who hasn't read a Discworld book before.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Review: The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King

The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Roland of Gilead enters the town of Eluria to find it a little ghost town until he finds a limping dog eating a corpse before being set upon by green men in which he is knocked unconscious. He wakes up in fits in a "hospital" of sorts, run by the titular sisters of which there are six--five old and one young. However, Roland already suspicious of how he even got there soon discovers the sisters aren't what they appear and with the help of one escapes with his life to continue his pursuit of the Dark Man towards the Dark Tower.

Having never read The Dark Tower series, nor Stephen King, before it took me some time to get into the overall story. However, King does a remarkably good job in giving first time readers of the series a way to get to know the main character and the world he is living with in quickly while not making series' fans feel like he thinks they're dumb. Overall a pretty good story.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Men at Arms (Discworld, #15; City Watch #2)Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Night Watch is an organization that see's all men as equals whether they be human, dwarf (both actual and adopted), troll, or werewolves of the female gender.  In "Men at Arms" Terry Pratchett allows the male chauvinist speciesist Sam Vines to retire upon his marriage to Lady Sybil Ramkin instead of lead this new Watch, or at least that was the plan until someone decides to make Ankh-Morpork a monarchical city-state once again which upsets Vimes more than equal opportunity.

Captain Vimes' last week in charge of the Night Watch finds himself embroiled in a plot to restore the monarchy in Ankh-Morpork which is leaving a trail of bodies across the city with a new type of weapon, the gonne, and causing tensions to rise as well as anarchy (even more than usual).  In addition, the Watch has new recruits from different ethnicities, which on the Disc means species sense racism doesn't exist.  After the Patrician overdoes his criticism, as a form of reverse psychology, Vimes loses his motivation and prepares to join the aristocracy with his impending wedding.  Stepping into the void comes Corporal Carrot Ironfoundersson who takes charge not only of the Watch but of the investigation into a string of crimes related to one another while also being the focal point of the plot to return the monarchy, which he doesn't know about.

Pratchett weaves together a magnificently written and humorous main story arc with several subplots that cross paths in hilarious ways before all coming together in the end to form a perfect ending, well except for one little thing which I'll get to later.  The interactions between the new dwarf and troll Watch recruits Cuddy and Detritus, who come from species that really dislike one another, produces some of the best scenes in the book.  Character growth of Carrot and Vimes personal crisis throughout the book are equally hilarious as well as mirroring one another, only adding to the overall quality of the book.  The canine relationship of Watch recruit Angua, a werewolf, and Gaspode the talking dog is a good subplot that has a few elements that seem a bit off (Big Fido the Psycho Poodle and Gaspode scene at the very end of the book) and ruin a perfectly written ending.

The second entry of the Discworld's Night Watch series, following "Guards! Guards!" is simply hilarious and a joy to read for anyone who enjoys fantasy or humor or both.  I can't recommend this book more.

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