Madame Xanadu (Vol. 2): Exodus Noir by Matt Wagner
Exodus Noir, the second volume of Matt Wagner’s Madame Xanadu series, is an impressive follow-up to the first collection, even though there is a new artist on board. However, there’s no loss in artistic quality. If I prefer the first volume to the second, it’s primarily because I love an origin story. So, my preference is less a fault of the second volume than it is the inherent focus of the first.
This second volume is similar to the first in that it shifts from the present to the past. However, Exodus Noir Read More
Madame Xanadu (Vol. 2): Exodus Noir by Matt Wagner
Sinbad the Sailor by Phil Masters
I’ve read a good numbers of titles in Osprey Publishing’s MYTHS AND LEGENDS series and while the individual books vary in quality, that variation runs between good and excellent, making the series as a whole top notch. My latest read, Sinbad the Sailor, by Phil Masters, continues the positive run, falling somewhere in the middle of its predecessors.
The bulk of the book is a retelling of Sinbad’s seven voyages (including an alternate seventh voyage), keeping the original frame of Sinbad the Sailor telling the story to Sinbad the Porter, his poorer namesake. The retellings are solid, if not particularly enthralling. I would have liked more of a sense of voice for Sinbad, but they move quickly and fluidly. You can’t fault Masters for some of the repetition in the tales; the... Read More
Hyperion by Dan Simmons
There is space opera, and then there is Space Opera. Dan Simmon’s 1989 Hyperion is S.P.A.C.E. O.P.E.R.A. From grand schemes to the most minute of details, vivid character portrayal to imaginative and original future technology, gorgeous scenery to a multi-dimensional, motivated plot, everything works. Weaving his tale, Simmons proves a master storyteller, each of the seven tableaus presented begging to be devoured. As a result, it is virtually impossible to read Hyperion and not want to follow up with the sequel, The Fall of Hyperion. Thus, potential buyers be warned: this is only the first half of a highly engaging story.
Hyperion’s success begins with world building. Simmons put hours and hours of thought and planning into the background details of his universe and how these elements work together. ... Read More
A Betrayal in Winter by Daniel Abraham
“Constant struggle is the price of power.”
A Betrayal in Winter, the second book in Daniel Abraham’s LONG PRICE QUARTET begins about 15 years after the events of A Shadow in Summer (which you probably should read before beginning A Betrayal Winter or before reading this review).
Maati, the poet of Saraykeht, was disgraced by the disappearance of the andat Seedless and the subsequent downfall of the cotton trade in Saraykeht. He and Liat had a baby boy, but Liat left Maati years ago because he seemed to be going nowhere and didn’t seem wholly committed to his family. Maati hasn’t seen them in years, and he has also not seen his former friend Otah since that fateful night when Seedless disappeared. Maati’s life is dull and somewhat meaningless.
Things... Read More
Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli
Bianca Bagnarelli is an Italian artist who was born in Milan. Recipient of multiple awards, she founded a small independent label that publishes short comic stories by Italian and foreign artists. I’m pleased that I’ve discovered her work through Nobrow Press. Unfortunately, many of these works — such as Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli — are easily overlooked because they are short, quiet graphic novels that touch on the small, but significant, moments of life. In fact, Fish is only about thirty pages long, so it would be better described as a graphic short story than as a graphic novel.
Fish tells the s... Read More
Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson
“I’m not crazy. I’m compartmentalized.”
Legion: Skin Deep is the second novella in Brandon Sanderson’s series about Stephen Leeds, a man whose psyche has spawned a “legion” of extra personalities that he thinks of as “aspects.” Stephen is the only person who can see his aspects — each is a separate personality who lives with him and can follow him around and help him solve problems. Everyone else thinks Stephen has schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder, but it’s not the same thing. Stephen doesn’t know why he has all these aspects or why he creates new ones when he learns something new. There’s one woman (Sandra) who can help him understand, but she has disappeared.
When we met Stephen in the first LEGION story (simply called Legion), he was helping a client find a c... Read More
The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
Lina and Doon have led their people out from the subterranean city of Ember. Now, they encounter a world full of dazzling new things like birds, sunlight, and trees. For all its wonder, Lina and Doon have not entered a world of plenty. The humans before largely destroyed the world with their weapons and their insatiable need for revenge. Doon and Lina lead the wandering Emberites in search of a new home.
Instead of a home, however, they find Sparks, a town that has finally begun to realize tentative prosperity after years of struggle. Reluctantly, Mary, Ben, and Wilbur, Sparks’ leaders, agree to provide shelter, food and training to the people of Ember. They do not want to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors that led them to destroy the world. Unfortunately, Sparks does not enjoy a large surplus of f... Read More
Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix
It's been over ten years since Garth Nix released a book set in the world of the Old Kingdom, where an ancestral line produces individuals who take on the mantle of the Abhorsen, the necromancer responsible for keeping the dead beyond the Gates where they belong.
Set six hundred years before the events of Sabriel, Clariel is a young woman with dreams of becoming a forester, preferring solitude to anything the city can offer. Unfortunately her mother is one of the most sought after goldsmiths in the world, and the family's move to the royal city of Belisaere provides her with more materials for her craft. Clariel hates it, and in the dinner parties and formal lessons that follow, she quietly plots her escape.
An opportunity arises from unexpected quarters. After an "attack" that's so clumsily staged even Clariel realizes it's just for ... Read More
Harbinger (Vol. 1): Omega Rising by Joshua Dysart (writer) and Lewis LarRosa (artist) and Khari Evans (artist) and other various artists
Until recently, I’d read only a few various issues from Valiant, a publisher that is still relatively unknown to me; however, based on a recommendation of a friend with good taste in comics and an excellent weekend sale at Comixology, I decided to give the Valiant Universe a try. I started with the first issue of Harbinger, and before I knew it, I’d read the first two collected volumes of Harbinger, as well as the first collected volume of Valiant’s Read More
Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger
“It’s most annoying of you to order me to do something I’m going to do anyway. Now it’ll look like I’m obeying you.” ~Miss Sophronia Temminnick
I absolutely adore Gail Carriger’s FINISHING SCHOOL series in which spunky Miss Sophronia Temminnick and her friends are being finished while they learn to finish others. For Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not your usual Victorian boarding school. Unbeknownst to its headmistress, those Young Ladies of Quality are being trained to be assassins who will one day serve and protect their queen (or at least Sophronia assumes this — she’s not actually sure yet).
In Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third installment, the young “ladies” are still in their second year of school. While the academy drifts through the ether in a ... Read More
Arcanum by Simon Morden
Alternative history stories usually either thrive or fail for me depending on plausibility. The writer can’t just tell me a good yarn, (s)he also needs to be able to fit this yarn into a world I recognize, and make me buy the history. That’s not an easy thing to do. When you take a well-known, often romanticized period of time, and infuse it with magic, that task is even harder.
Thankfully, that’s not a problem that Morden has. I often face the issue of the Middle Ages being a bit too romanticized. There is no mention in many books of people with no teeth, dead teeth, dying teeth (sorry for my tooth obsession), body odor (seriously, can you imagine how bad people must have smelled back then?), horrible illnesses, and limbs being cut off from infection. These are details that many authors leave out. The brutal truth is, this period of time is dirty, dusty, infected and disgusting. People lived short li... Read More
A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
I’ve been meaning to read Daniel Abraham’s THE LONG PRICE QUARTET for years, because that’s how long Bill and Rob have been talking about it. Since it has just been released in audio format by Tantor Audio, I decided now is the time. I really enjoyed the first book, A Shadow in Summer, which didn’t surprise me at all, and I look forward to reading the next book, A Betrayal in Winter, this week.
In A Shadow in Summer, we’re introduced to a small cast of main characters who live in Saraykeht, an Eastern-inspired land where magic is created and controlled by poets who, through some inborn potential and some training, manage to figure out how to understand and poetically describe some force of nature which is then under... Read More
Charlemagne & the Paladins by Julia Cresswell
Charlemagne & the Paladins is another in the generally excellent MYTHS AND LEGENDS series from Osprey Publishing, this one written by Julia Cresswell and illustrated by Miguel Coimbra. Charlemagne & the Paladins displays the usual strengths of the series: a nicely condensed version of the story, informative sidebars, an easy to read style, and a good collection of complementary artwork.
The introduction begins by describing the wide geographic and cultural reach of stories about Charlemagne and his paladins, gives a bit of historical detail about the real-life emperor and his heirs, describes the process of “mythistory,” “where fact and fiction feed into each other,” and finally explains how most of the text will be made up of the French tales.
More detail on both t... Read More
The Doctor and the Kid by Mike Resnick
The Doctor and the Kid is the second novel in Mike Resnick’s WEIRD WEST TALES. I haven’t read the first book, The Buntline Special, but I could follow the events and characters just fine. The Doctor and the Kid works well as a stand-alone, though I probably would have had more attachment to the characters and the events if I had read The Buntline Special first. The only place where my lack of background was evident was with descriptions of the Buntline itself. I could never quite picture what exactly it was and I’m sure I wouldn’t have had that problem if I’d read The Buntline Special first.
The Doctor and the Kid is filled with characte... Read More
To Live Again by Robert Silverberg
By the time Robert Silverberg released To Live Again in 1969, he had already come out with no less than three dozen science-fiction novels and several hundred short stories, all in a period of only 15 years! The amazingly prolific author had entered a more mature and literate phase in his writing career in 1967, starting with his remarkable novel Thorns, and by 1969 was on some kind of a genuine roll. Just one of six sci-fi novels that Silverberg came out with that year (including the Nebula-winning Nightwings and my personal favorite of this author so far, Downward to the Earth), To Live Again initially appeared as a Doubleday hardcover and, surprisingly, was NOT nominated for a Hugo or Nebula award. To t... Read More