Ares: Bringer of War by George O'Connor
Ares: Bringer of War is George O'Connor's sixth title in his OLYMPIANS series of graphic retellings of Greek myths for younger readers. Short take? I'm wondering why the Hades I don't own the first five, an oversight I will quickly rectify. Long take below . . .
I absolutely loved this book. Beginning with its opening segment on the distinction to be made between the two gods of War in the Greek pantheon: Athena and Ares. O'Connor begins with Athena, whom he calls the "the goddess of martial skill. Of formations, of strategy. Of training realized and wisdom applied." And the art presents just such a calculating image of war, with its highly symmetrical depiction of Greek soldiers, their feet, spears, bodies, and shields precisely aligned, all against a cool blue background. But war isn't always so neatly organized; it is often "chaotic, unpr... Read More
Bill CapossereOn FanLit’s staff since June 2007
BILL CAPOSSERE teaches writing and literature part-time at several local colleges and, thanks to his incredibly supportive wife, uses the rest of his time to write (and read of course). He just completed a Masters in Fine Arts at the Mt. Rainier Workshop under the direction of Judith Kitchen and Stan Rubin. His essays and short stories have appeared in various magazines, journals, and anthologies, been recognized in Best American Essays (in the “notable essay” section), and have also been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes.
Bill has been reading fantasy and science fiction ever since he was old enough to steal his father’s books the second the poor man put them down. His tastes run toward the epic, though he often wonders why when he is in the middle of rereading six books so as to better follow the about-to-be-published-two-years-late seventh book in a series of ten (would a “previously-on-Lost” sort of prelude really kill these guys?). But then he runs into something like Erikson’s MALAZAN series, which he loved so much he ordered them from England, and is reminded of what he enjoys so much about the genre (and about free shipping from Amazon in America — England — ouch!).
Bill lives in Rochester, New York with his wife and son whom he’s recently enjoyed introducing to dragons.
Ares: Bringer of War by George O'Connor
The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price
Daniel Price’s The Flight of the Silvers is a 600-page story about a half-dozen people who are pulled from the end of the world into an alternate Earth, where they become the subjects of scientific scrutiny, partially for their origin stories and partially because each evinces a “weirdness” — some sort of power involving the manipulation of time. When their laboratory residence is attacked by a group who fear these “breachers” will cause the end of their own world, the “Silvers” take off on a cross-country trek seeking answers in a possible sanctuary, a refuge they heard of via the future self of one of them.
The premise is an interesting one and certainly beginning with the literal end of a world is a pretty wild opening. But then, to be honest, once the pace goes downhill a bit (it is understandably hard to maintain apocalyptic l... Read More
Inked by Eric Smith
Inked, by Eric Smith, was a solid if uninspiring YA book for much of the first half, albeit with some grating issues, but a downturn in the latter part of the book greatly lowered its entertainment value, leading to a "not recommended" judgment. As usual in these cases, this will be a relatively short review, as I prefer not to pile on an author whom I’m sure put a lot of hard work and love into their work.
The story centers on 18-year-old Caenum and his best friend Dreya, who is slightly older. Their ages are important because in this world, people are “inked” at age eighteen — given magical tattoos that determine their role in society for the rest of their lives, whether it be farmer (one such has an apple tree tattoo on their back), a florist (ivies vining up one’s arm), goldsmith, or assassin. When Caenum’s turn arises though, the arrival of an apprentice scribe named Kenzi thro... Read More
The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley
I have to admit, I groaned a little bit upon opening the envelope with my ARC of Brian Staveley's The Providence of Fire. "Six hundred pages? Really, man?" might have slipped out as well. I liked the first in the series (The Emperor's Blades) though I thought it had some flaws, giving it a solid three-star rating. But I had some serious doubts about a six-hundred page follow-up. Well, apologies to Mr. Staveley. The Providence of Fire earned every one of its six hundred pages and then some, showing itself in all ways an improvement on book one. After The Emperor's Blades, I was interested in what followed but after The Providence of Fire I'm excited and impatiently awaiting book three.... Read More
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
Blood Will Follow by Snorri Kristjansson
In my review of Snorri Kristjansson’s first Viking book, Swords of Good Men, I pointed to how the action was generally a positive but issues of pace, POV, and characterization made the book fall somewhat short (I gave it three stars). Now his follow-up, Blood Will Follow is out, and while it improves in some areas, some flaws still carry over while the action has become, I thought, less compelling. I’m still giving this one three stars, but it’s a bit more shaky. Warning: spoilers for book one to follow.
Swords of Good Men introduced a Scandinavian setting set during a time of upheaval. Young King Olav is sweeping through spreading Christianity via the sword and trying to wipe out the old gods, who understandably don’t take kindly to the attempt and find themselves some proxy humans. The town of Stenvik be... Read More
The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian
The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian is the first in a new mystery series; unfortunately, it didn’t leave me much interested in reading the next two. Pandian has some decent ideas to work with, but issues with plausibility, pacing, choice of detail, and style had me thinking about giving up from about the halfway point on. To be honest, had it not been a review book, I almost certainly would have, making this one a “not recommended” from me.
Zoe Faust, a centuries-old alchemist who specializes in plants, has just relocated from France to Portland, seeking, she says, a more normal life. Normal, however, is not in the cards, something she quickly realizes when out of her just-uncrated belongings hops a living gargoyle, one who tells her he is slowly dying and she — thanks to her alchemical knowledge — is his only hope. The gargoyle (Dor... Read More
The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham
Note: We're re-running this review as a way to highlight the audio version which was recently released by Tantor Audio. Kat listened to that audio version and completely agrees with everything Bill says here in his review. So, she'll just add a few comments at the end:
I’ve been a big fan of Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet and The Price of Spring, its concluding volume, confirms my view that it is one of the more original and best-written fantasy epics in recent years.
If you haven’t read the third volume, An Autumn War, stop reading here as you’ll run into spoilers for that book.
As has been the pattern in the series, the story picks up years after the events of An Autumn War. Otah and Maati r... Read More
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
Golden Son by Pierce Brown
There’s not a lot to say about the plot of Pierce Brown’s Golden Son, the sequel to the fantastic Red Rising, because outside of the density and complexity of the story, which would necessitate a lot of summary space, Brown fills the novel with so many twists, turns, backstabs and back-back stabs that it would be difficult to offer up a synopsis that both gives a true sense of what happens and does not at the same time give spoiler after spoiler. So let’s just say the plot is, well, dense and complex, is filled with twists and turns, and is almost entirely (but not quite entirely) a strength in the book. And we’ll move on to why it is an excellent follow-up that suffers not in the least from the dreaded second-book-of-a-trilogy syndrome.
The plot picks up two years after the close of Red Rising (btw, r... Read More
Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell
In a recent review, I described how often times an author will win me over from the start with an unusual structure, and how this can make me more lenient toward any flaws I might encounter. The same is true for another aspect of writing — voice. Give me a character with a strong, distinctive, winning voice, and usually (though not always), I’ll happily follow said character through a minefield of potential pitfalls. Well, I fell in love pretty immediately with the voice of one Falcio val Mond, the first-person narrator of Sebastien de Castell’s Traitor’s Blade, and though the book had a few problems with regard to plot and pace, I cheerily disregarded them, fully won over by Falcio’s character and storytelling persona, which was full of wit and charm and a healthy dollop of heavy emotionality. Read More
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
The City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison, Scot and David Tipton, illustrated by J.K. Woodward
“The City on the Edge of Forever” is almost universally considered one of the best, if not the best, Star Trek episodes. Famously penned by Harlan Ellison, and nearly as famously changed quite a bit, IDW Comics has come out with a comic of Ellison’s original Hugo-winning teleplay. Done in five installments via collaboration between Ellison and Scot and David Tipton, and illustrated by J.K. Woodward, the end result makes for a fascinating read that stands on its own with the eventually produced episode.
The general plot is of course similar to the TV episode (warning, spoilers to follow, if one can spoiler a 40-year-old story). A crewmember from the Enterprise beams down to the planet below, travels through a time portal to 1930s America, and changes histo... Read More
Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson
Swords of Good Men by Snorri Kristjansson has a sharply focused premise and an action-oriented narrative, but issues of pace and point of view lessen the short novel’s impact.
The Viking town of Stenvik is the crossroads of events. Heading toward them from the north is a massive army led by King Olav, who is determined to unify the Scandinavian people under the White Christ, even if he has to kill a lot of them in order to do so. Defending the Old Gods against this upstart religion is an All-Star team of Viking raiders, ostensibly led by their general, Skargrim, but really under the control of a mysterious woman named Skuld, who says she is one of the three weavers of fate. Olav wants Stenvik as his winter base, while Skuld and Skargrim seek to deny its strategic p... Read More
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