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Storm Front: Things can only get better…

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Despite having missed the bandwagon by more than a decade, I am finally reviewing the opening novel of THE DRESDEN FILES: Storm Front. And not without a little caution, for the series has a hardcore fan following and is now a benchmark in urban fantasy with almost cult status. In an interview, Butcher said he was trying to write the perfect story, the one that makes you laugh and cry, and end the book with a glowy satisfied feeling. I was not left feeling glowy or satisfied, but hey — Butcher did say he’s still searching for that perfect story. Maybe it’ll crop up somewhere along the next fifteen novels in the series…

Harry Dresden is a professional wizard, as it says in his ad in the yellow pages. He finds lost items and carries out paranormal investigations, and, for more vanilla requests, consults and advises, too. Read More

Her Fearful Symmetry: Needed more substance than the ghosts

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Two sets of twins, a disillusioned husband, a grieving boyfriend, one ghost. The lives of Her Fearful Symmetry’s characters are as tangled as they sound, in a drama that will play out amongst the tombstones of Highgate Cemetery. A sticker on the front reminds potential readers that Niffenegger is the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Yet let that be the first and last time Niffenegger’s debut novel is mentioned. Her Fearful Symmetry is described as a ‘delicious and deadly ghost story,’ and should be judged in and of itself.

We open with the death of Elspeth Noblin. She and her (substantially younger) boyfriend, Robert, had, until her death, lived in two separate flats next to Highgate cemetery. Shortly before her death, Elspeth wrote to her twin sister Edie, who lives in America,... Read More

The Immortals of Meluha: The best part is the unusual setting

The Immortals of Meluha by Amish Tripathi

The Immortals of Meluha, by Amish Tripathi, is the first of a trilogy set in ancient (about 1900 B.C.) India detailing the conflict between the Meluha empire (the Suryavanshi) and their sworn enemies , the Chandravanshis, who seem to have allied themselves with the horrid demon-like Nagas. What gives the hugely outnumbered Meluha hope is their vastly superior technology (including a special cocktail that greatly extends life) and the arrival of the prophesied “Neelkanth,” in the form of a young man named Shiva.

That last name should indicate to you that we’re working in the milieu of myth here, and demons and gods make some brief appearances throughout. The focus is on Shiva becoming acclimated to the idea that he is “the one” once he’s found and brought back (the Meluhas have been searching for the prophesied one systematically, knowing he would come from an o... Read More

Dracula adapted and illustrated by John Green

Dracula adapted and illustrated by John Green

Dracula is not a easy novel to abridge, especially when one is trying to compact it to the size of a graphic novel and at the same time aiming it at a middle-grade audience, and to be honest, I can't say this version, adapted and illustrated by John Green, succeeds all that well.

One problem is that transitions are often awkward and abrupt. For instance, we cut from a panel telling us that Jonathan realizes “his only chance of escape was to scale the castle wall,” which sets the reader up for several expectations of what’s to follow: we expect to see Jonathan still in the castle trying to get out and we expect to see him climbing u... Read More

Royal Airs: Not as good as Troubled Waters

Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn

Royal Airs is the second book in Sharon Shinn’s ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS series. I loved the first book, Troubled Waters, which was a light romantic fantasy that told the story of Zoe Ardelay, a young woman who was brought to the royal court of Welce to be the fifth wife of its king. She discovered that she had power over the element of water and, using the personality traits that her water spirit gave her, she successfully navigated the dangers of the court and found true love. I’ll be reading that book again someday.

Royal Airs takes place after the events of Troubled Waters, but it can stand alone. Many of the characters overlap, but this is a separate story, not a direct sequel. In Royal Airs we become acquainted with more of the princesses of the five fami... Read More

The Three-Body Problem: Interesting, but not often enjoyable

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three-Body Problem
, by Chinese author Cixin Liu, has some wonderfully evocative images and ideas and as well offers up a rare look inside his home country for many of us. It is often, therefore, an interesting book. From my experience though, “interesting” did not translate often enough into “enjoyable,” and the novel ended up being a bit of a slog for me to finish.

The book opens up with a powerfully vivid scene set during the Cultural Revolution as we watch a weary physics professor, Ye Zhetai, being battered by the Red Guards during yet another “Struggle Session”:
Other victims wore tall hats made from bamboo frames, but his was welded from thick steel bars. And the plaque he wore around his neck wasn’t wooden, like the others, but an iron door taken from a laboratory oven. His name was written on the door in striking black l... Read More

Vacant: My least favorite book in my current favorite urban fantasy series

Vacant by Alex Hughes

Vacant is the fourth book in Alex Hughes’ MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS. I absolutely loved the first three books, Clean, Sharp, and Marked (read my reviews) and this has been my favorite series for the past couple of years. Marked was my favorite book of 2013. However, I didn’t like Vacant as well and I hope (and expect) that this is just a minor setback in the series.

The most compelling element of the MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS series for me is all about the main character, Adam, and his fight with addiction. It is visceral and written so well that I can almost feel Adam’s pain as he craves something he knows will destroy him.

Adam ... Read More

The Paper Magician: Mildly entertaining

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician
, by Charlie N. Holmberg, has a nicely original premise and a unique heroic quest, but the overall impact is marred by a trite romance, a somewhat flat main character, and a sense that it all goes on a bit long.

In this world, magic users “bond” to a particular material — rubber, metal, plastic — and work with that material (and only that material) the rest of their lives. Ceony Twill has just graduated from magic college (thanks to an anonymous sponsor) and been assigned, much to her dismay, to become a “Folder” — one who specializes in paper magic. Apprenticed to full magician Emery Thane, she is just starting to learn that maybe paper magic isn’t as dull/bad as she feared, when Thane is suddenly attacked and left for dead, his heart stolen from him by an Excisioner — a blood magician. Ceony finds herself having to journey thr... Read More

Reserved for the Cat: A Puss in Boots story

Reserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey

Reserved for the Cat is the sixth stand-alone novel in Mercedes Lackey’s ELEMENTAL MASTERS series of fairytale retellings. As the title might suggest, Reserved for the Cat is a “Puss in Boots” story and it’s actually recognizable as such (unlike some of Lackey’s other retellings that go too far afield from their sources).

Ninette, our heroine, is an orphaned ballet dancer who has lots of talent but is fired from her gig with a famous Parisian ballet company after inadvertently evoking the jealousy of the company’s reigning diva. Unable to get more work in Paris, she is about to prostitute herself when a talking cat appears and promises to make her a superstar. The cat leads her to a seaside town in England where she impersonates a famous Russian dancer and joins a local troupe of entertainers. Things go well unt... Read More

The Stress of Her Regard: The minority report; I just didn’t like this book.

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers

Tim Powers published The Stress of her Regard in 1989. It was nominated for a world Fantasy Award in 1990. It did not win, but it won a Mythopoeic Award that same year. For many people, this is their favorite Tim Powers novel, and they describe it with words like “seductive” and “immersive.”

I fully understand that I am in the minority here, but I didn’t like it.

There are several things to admire about this book. There are some things I liked. Then there are things I disliked, and finally, there is one thing I hated. I will try to cover my points in that order.

What I admired:  The creation of the mysterious, attractive and deadly creatures who have fed on us throughout history is brilliant. If Powers gives them too many names; the lamia, “Lilith’s children,” succubae, muse, nephalim, a... Read More

Orca: Brust is still playing around with voice and structure

Orca by Steven Brust

Orca is the seventh book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. It’d be best to stop here if you haven’t read the previous books. We don’t want to spoil anything, do we?

Okay, so you should recall that Vlad Taltos, everyone’s favorite Jhereg assassin, is wanted by his organization because he betrayed them in order to save his wife from the executioner’s ax (or whatever implement the executioners in Dragaera use). Vlad has given up his territory and is on the run. In the last book, Athyra, he met a boy named Savn who helped him defeat a necromancer. Because Savn used a Morganti weapon to kill the bad guy, Savn is now witless, and he’s been that way for a year. Feeling responsible for Savn’s condition, Vlad finds a woman who may be able to heal him. In return, Vlad will try to find and stop the person who is trying to get the wom... Read More

Athyra: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Athyra by Steven Brust

Athyra is the sixth book in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series. If you haven’t read the previous books, you should probably skip this review until you’ve read Phoenix so that I don’t spoil its plot for you. I’m listening to Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration of the audio versions (Audible Studios) of VLAD TALTOS. Athyra is 8.5 hours long on audio, though I increased the playback speed, as I always do, so it was shorter than that for me. Bernard Setaro Clark’s narration continues to be excellent and I recommend the audio format for this series.

I mentioned in my review of Phoenix that Vlad had come to a turning place in his life. Because of what he did in that story, Vlad has left Adrilankha and is n... Read More

The Iron Trial: A mixed bag, but entertaining enough

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

I listened to The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare on audiobook, narrated by Paul Boehmer. It tells the story of Callum Hunt, or Cal, a boy who enrolls in a magical boarding school, makes friends, irritates teachers, and finds out he's been marked from birth by the greatest enemy the magical world knows. Sounds familiar, right?

I read a lot of complaining reviews about this Middle Grade book, all accusing The Iron Trial of being a Harry Potter rip-off. Cassandra Clare is, after all, the woman who got her start by writing Harry Potter fan-fic. This is not Harry Potter fan-fic, though, any more than Star Wars is Joseph Campbell fan-fic.

Th... Read More

Poison Promise: Ready to give up on this series

Poison Promise by Jennifer Estep

I’m not sure that I should continue reviewing Jennifer Estep’s ELEMENTAL ASSASSIN series. My goal has been to get the entire series reviewed for this website because that’s one of our visions for Fantasy Literature, (get everything reviewed), but it occurs to me that it might be pointless. This series gets high marks at GoodReads and Amazon, so why would anyone who’s interested in Poison Promise, book 11, be reading my reviews when I’ve been kind of down on these books for quite a while now? Fans of the series — those who are considering reading Poison Promise — are probably not coming here to get information. They’re probably reading reviews by other fans. Right? (Please correct me if I’m wrong by leaving a comment.)

So, I’ll just post some random thoughts here beca... Read More

Captain Flandry: Defender of the Terran Empire

Captain Flandry by Poul Anderson

Captain Flandry: Defender of the Terran Empire is the fifth part in Baen's project to collect all the stories in Anderson's Technic Civilization and publish them by internal chronology. Three of the previous four books centred on the characters of Nicolas van Rijn and David Falkayn. In book four, aptly named Young Flandry, a new hero takes over. It is graced by one of the most horrific covers I've come across although Captain Flandry is giving it a run for its money. This cover even got the attention of the bad cover art blog Good Show Sir! I suppose it is the content that counts however, so let's have a look at that.

Captain Flandry contains six stories — one full novel and five shorter works, including the first Flandry story ever p... Read More

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