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The Foundry’s Edge: A nice set up with potential

The Foundry’s Edge by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz

The Foundry’s Edge, by Cam Baity and Benny Zelkowicz, is a solid MG/YA entry that, I’d say, had more potential than was met. In failing to fully take advantage of its possibilities, it never falls so far as to be a “bad” read, but it also rarely inspires or enthralls, though it picks up in the latter quarter of the novel, both in terms of action and emotion.

The story is set at first in the city of Meridian, a technologically advanced (well past any other regions) city thanks to being the home of the Foundry, a corporation that has been spitting out all sort of marvelous inventions/gadgets. Meridian is threatened, though, by surrounding regions, who are both jealous and leery of Meridian’s technical and scientific prowess. Years ago war raged between the two groups, and since that time, the Foundry has been keeping Meridian’s enemies at bay by giving them more and... Read More

Horrible Monday: Dark Screams, Volume One, by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar

Dark Screams: Volume One edited by Brian Freeman and Richard T. Chizmar

Dark Screams: Volume One is the first of at least four volumes of short horror anthologies that are projected for publication through August 2015. The books are being published as ebooks only through Random House’s digital-only genre imprint, Hydra, for a bargain price of $2.99.

Volume One starts out with one of the most popular horror writers ever: Stephen King. “Weeds” was originally published in Cavalier, a “men’s magazine,” in 1976, and has never been reprinted until now — though it did become a part of the movie “Creepshow,” with King himself playing the role of Jordy Verrill.  Jordy is the protagonist of “Weeds,” a not particularly intelligent man who farms a spread situated ... Read More

Issola: Vlad is back!

Issola by Steven Brust

I miss the days when I used to be nostalgic.” ~Vlad Taltos

I’ve been slightly disappointed with the last few novels in Steven Brust’s VLAD TALTOS series, but with Issola, book 9, Brust returns to what I liked about the earlier books. While I admired Brust’s willingness to experiment with his world, his characters, and especially the narrative structure of his novels, I think he’s best when the overall plot is moving forward and Vlad is using his assassin skills to solve mysteries and help his powerful Dragonlord friends.

In Issola, we’re back to a present timeline. Vlad and Cawti are separated but Vlad is starting to recover from the funk he’s been in for quite a while now. He’s been run out of his organization and is hiding from them in the woods. Then Lady Teldra (an Issola who is servant to the ... Read More

Inside Straight: A WILD CARDS reboot

Inside Straight by George R.R. Martin (editor)

The year 2008 saw the (second?) rebirth of the WILD CARDS series edited and co-written by George R.R. Martin. These are ‘mosaic’ novels — stories written by several authors and set in a shared universe. The first book, Wild Cards, appeared in 1987. Inside Straight (2008) is book 18. To make this 18th book a good entry point, Martin and his companions created something of a Wild Cards: the Next Generation to reboot the series.

What do you need to know about the back story of the Wild Cards? Not a lot really. In 1946 an alien virus hit earth. It killed ninety percent of those infected, disfigured nine percent and left a lucky one percent with superhuman powers. The unlucky nine percent are referred to as Jokers ... Read More

The King’s Deryni: A masterful conveyance of a medieval world

The King's Deryni by Katherine Kurtz

I first encountered Katherine Kurtz’s DERYNI series back in high school with Deryni Rising, the first of her more than dozen novels in the long-running series. The newest entry, The King’s Deryni, is the third in the CHILDE MORGAN sub-series, and it brings her original readers full circle, since it ends just a few years before Deryni Rising begins. As with any series of this length, the quality of each book, and the degree to which it engages/compels varies, and honestly, this sub-series is not as strong as several of the others. In fact, I had a lot of mixed feelings about The King’s Deryni, but despite the novel’s weaknesses, Kurtz’s smooth writing style and masterful conveyance of a medieval world of ritual remains a reliable constant.

Before I g... Read More

Deryni Checkmate: Church vs. State

Deryni Checkmate by Katherine Kurtz

Deryni Checkmate, first published in 1972, is the second novel in Katherine Kurtz’s epic fantasy series that’s set in a world called Gwynedd (loosely based our own medieval UK)  where some people have inherited magic from a race called the Deryni which has interbred with normal humans. The church of Gwynedd considers magic anathema and is using its wealth, power, and influence to rid the world of Deryni magic. Thus, Kurtz’s story is clearly inspired by our own middle ages when the Roman Catholic Church dominated Western religious and political systems and, having strayed from its Biblical roots, lorded it over the political leaders and the rest of the citizenry.

In the previous novel, Deryni Rising (1970), we met young King Kelson who ascended the throne after his fath... Read More

The Yellow God: An African adventure

The Yellow God: An Idol of Africa by H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard's 33rd work of fiction out of an eventual 58, The Yellow God was first published in the U.S. in November 1908, and in Britain several months later. In this one, Haggard deals with one of his favorite subjects -- African adventure -- but puts a fresh spin on things. Thus, instead of Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal and Egypt, where the bulk of his African tales take place, The Yellow God transpires, for the most part, in what I gather is now northern Nigeria. And instead of big-game hunter Allan Quatermain (the protagonist of no less than 14 Haggard novels), here we are given Alan Vernon, an ex-Army colonel who, with his steadfast servant Jeekie, goes on a quest to find the legendary gold hordes of the undiscovered Asiki people. And, after braving a ha... Read More

Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations

Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations edited by Sam Weller

Ray Bradbury: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, edited by Sam Weller, is actually several interviews, conducted over the last two years of Bradbury’s life, plus a handful of rough essays dictated by Bradbury to Weller, his long-time biographer. Despite this, the book is relatively slim, coming in at about 90 pages, with a lot of white space. This is not meant, though, to be an in-depth look at (or listen to) Bradbury; for that you’ll want to turn to other sources, including Weller’s The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury and Read More

The Queen of the Tearling: Weaves its own original and compulsive plot

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The FanLit team welcomes the newest member of our motley crew: Rachael McKenzie!

Before The Queen of the Tearling had even been published, movie rights had been sold and Emma Watson was set to take the lead role (which has now been confirmed, with David Heyman -- of Harry Potter fame -- as producer). The buzz around this book was hard to ignore, but I was surprised to discover that many of the early reviews had been pretty scathing. Loopholes in the plot was a common complaint, as well as a dislike for the book’s protagonist, Kelsea Glynn. Now, I’m all one for franchise-bashing, and this planned trilogy definitely looks set to become the next Twi-Games, Diver-light, Hunger-Whatever (and comparison to the oth... Read More

The Belly of the Wolf: A slow, deliberate, contemplative work

The Belly of the Wolf  by R.A. MacAvoy

The Belly of the Wolf is the third book in R.A. MacAvoy’s LENS OF THE WORLD trilogy. My review will spoil some of the events from the first two novels, Lens of the World and King of the Dead, so you might not want to read it before reading those books. If you have already read and enjoyed those two previous novels, I feel certain that you’ll like The Belly of the Wolf, too. It’s similar in style and tone and there’s a little bit more action in this one.

It’s been many years since the events of King of the Dead, in which Nazhuret and Arlin (again) saved their country from tragedy. Now Nazhuret is 55 years old, Arlin is dead, and their daughter Nahvah is a grown woman with a fascination for pistols. Father and daughter are living a quiet l... Read More

Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon: Still solidly entertaining

Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon by David Barnett

Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon is David Barnett’s steampunk follow-up to Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, and continues that first book’s solidly entertaining plot, even as it shares a few of the same missteps. As this is a direct sequel, there will be spoilers for the first book, so readers beware.

In book one, Gideon is proclaimed the Hero of the Empire for his part in saving London and Queen Victoria from an attack using a magical/technological marvel shaped like a dragon (it also flies and belches fire). His companions included:

Maria, a mechanical girl with a human brain
Bent, a cynical journalist with a love for alcohol and spiced sausage
Rowena Fanshawe, the “Belle of the Airways” airship pilot
Cockayn... Read More

King of the Dead: It’s more about the journey than the destination

King of the Dead by R.A. MacAvoy

This review will contain a few spoilers for R.A. MacAvoy’s previous book, Lens of the World. You’ll want to read that book before beginning King of the Dead.

King of the Dead is the second story in R.A. MacAvoy’s LENS OF THE WORLD trilogy about Nazhuret, a man who is writing his life story for his friend, the king. When we met Nazhuret at the beginning of Lens of the World, he was an ugly orphan who had been raised in a government military academy. Upon reaching his majority, he left and became an apprentice to Powl, a man who is much more than the lens grinder he pretends to be. Powl thoroughly educated Nazhuret in a multitude of subjects and disciplines. Only toward the end of that first book do we realize why Powl took an interest in an ugly orphan — he recognized Nazh... Read More

Veniss Underground: Jeff VanderMeer’s debut novel

Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer

Avoiding the trappings of fragile motifs, Jeff VanderMeer’s debut novella — err, novel — Veniss Underground shows every sign of a writer who is confident in his ability to put a fresh perspective on well-worn tropes. The framework of Veniss Underground is based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but the setting and imagery remain wholly original. Scenery twisted like cyberpunk on acid, its details macabre to the bone — a surreal dream — VanderMeer seems poised to make a place for himself in fantasy of the 21st century.

Veniss Underground is a window of time in the lives of three characters: the twins Nicholas and Nicola, and Nicola’s ex-boyfriend, Shadrach. A far-future, unnamed city — called Veniss by Nicholas — is the setting, and technology, including genetic and biological engineering, have perm... Read More

Exit Kingdom: More of Alden Bell’s zombie apocalypse

Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell

Ok, first of all, what the hell is up with that cover? In what world is Moses Todd supposed to look like a refugee from a paranormal romance series airing on the CW? Not in mine, that’s for sure.

Alright, now that that’s off my chest we can continue. What we have here is the sequel/prequel to Alden Bell’s initial foray into the zombie apocalypse, The Reapers Are the Angels. This time around we follow former secondary characters Moses Todd and his brother in their rambles across a ravaged America prior to their meeting with Temple from the first book. Moses was really more of an antagonist to Temple than a villain, so seeing him fleshed out further here didn’t come across as either: a) a betrayal of the character’s nature or b) a picture of a completely unsympathetic anti-hero. Bell was even able to make Moses’ brothe... Read More

Flandry’s Legacy: Finishes the Technic Civilization stories

Flandry's Legacy by Poul Anderson

Flandry's Legacy is the conclusion to Baen's project to publish all Anderson's works in the Technic Civilization in chronological order. In total the series covers seven volumes and over 3,000 pages, all published between 1951 and 1985. This last volume contains two novels and four shorter pieces that cover almost four millennia in Anderson's future history. I must admit that after reading the previous volume, Sir Dominic Flandry: The Last Kinight of Terra, I suffered from a bit of a Flandry overdose. I'm not a huge fan of this character, it turns out. In this volume, Flandry makes his final appearance before Anderson takes us into the Long Night and out the other end. I had high hopes for this last part in the sage and indeed, I enjoyed the last stories in the collection a lot.

The collection opens with the last novel in which Flandry is the mai... Read More

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