In a perfect world reviewers would read books with no biases at all and
based the work completely on its own merits and not compare it to other books,
or other works of the same author. No prejudices would sway the reviewer
for good ill. Wake up. We don’t live in that world and perfect as
we Elitists are, we still have our biases. That being said I’m going to
give you a review of SHADOWS
IN FLIGHT the latest work in the Enderverse by Orson Scott Card.
Firstly let me lay my biases out for you so you can know understand where this
review is coming from.
1. Ender is cooler than Bean. Always has been, always will be. Any reference in any Ender book that says otherwise is blasphemy (even if Card writes it).
2. I have read all of the Ender books (ENDER'S GAME, SPEAKER FOR THE DEAD, XENOCIDE, CHILDREN OF THE MIND, and even ENDER IN EXILE), but I haven’t read the Shadow books (those focusing on Bean). I wasn’t interested in stuff happening on earth. I wanted space, aliens and ships.
3. I didn’t like ENDER IN EXILE. It felt like a shout out book where all these random character and circumstances kept popping up to remind the reader of all that cool stuff that happened in the Shadow books.
There are plenty more biases but you get the idea. We can start the review now, right? Good, on we go.
Shadow’s in Flight follows Bean, who is now a giant whose body won’t stop growing and is in fear of dying soon, out in space on a ship traveling at near light speed with his children. The plan is that while Bean and his children are traveling for a scant few years, a cure for the condition that Bean has and has passed down to his children, will be found on earth thus saving them all. Complications ensue (of course) and plots are revealed.
I was worried that this book would be similar to ENDER IN EXILE, where we spent most of the time recalling stuff that already happened in other books. I am happy to say that this wasn’t the case. This story is much more self-contained. The background information I was given was just enough to get me in on the plot.
As usual with Card’s writing, the pace was easy and quick. I think I read the whole book in about 3 days (which is slow for a Card novel, but I was busy too). I always wish for a bit more description of things, I mean it’s space ships and aliens after all, give me some details, but the reading is always enjoyable and the dialogue is fun and snappy.
The characters are always smart (very smart normally) and often reflect on how much smarter they are than anyone else. I’m OK with that most of the time, but here I found it a bit much. Three of the four main characters are 6 years old, and yet they bicker and fight like adults in Joss Whedon’s worlds. They occasionally throw tantrums and it just felt like a slap in the face at times. “I’m super smart, but I’m also 6, get it?” Then of course there are the action sequences that again, because of the age, pushed my limit of credibility. I have a few kids and even if they were super smart (they’re plenty smart, they’re my kids after all, just not SUPER GENIUSES), I still don’t think they would be coordinated enough to pull of stuff like here.
These are minor complaints. All in all, SHADOWS IN FLIGHT was fun. Right on the edge of "Mediocre" and "Like". I was worried about it, and yet it turned out to be quite enjoyable. I wouldn't pay the full price for a book that felt more like a novella (it’s quite short, a little over 200 pages, with really large type), but if you happen across it, you won’t hate yourself for picking it up. It will likely depend on how big a fan you are of Card's Enderverse.
Age Recommendation: 12+ Nothing really to complain about here
Language: Maybe a few words. Nothing harsh that I can recall
Violence: A few scenes, mostly involving aliens. Once scene of kids beating the crap out of each other.
Sex: Mentioned a few times, more from kids who think it’s gross.
Here's your link if you want to pick it up:
SHADOWS IN FLIGHT
I finished reading Daniel Abraham’s new book THE KING'S BLOOD the other day (second in his Dagger and Coin series) and my wife happened to be sitting next to me as I finished. I looked up at her and all I could say was “WOW!”
Guys, this is a great book. This is as good as it gets. There’s a quote on the cover of the book from George R. R. Martin that says “Everything I look for in a fantasy book”. The quote is talking about the first book in the series (THE DRAGON'S PATH for those of you who haven’t read it) and the second book is even better!
For those of you who haven’t read this series yet, STOP NOW! WHAT ARE YOU DOING! GO READ THESE BOOKS! You’ve been warned! For those of you who have read the first book, read on.
Once again the book follows the exploits of four main characters. Here’s the synopsis:
WAR AND MADNESS CAST SHADOWS
OVER THE LANDS DRAGONS ONCE RULED.
Geder Palliako's star is rising. He is a hero of Antea, protector to the crown prince, and darling of the court. But storms from his past are gathering, and with them, a war that will change everything.
Cithrin bel Sarcour founded a powerful bank on stolen wealth, forged papers, and ready blades. Now every move she makes is observed, recorded, and controlled. Unless Cithrin can free herself from her gilded cage, the life she made will be for naught; war may provide just the opportunity she needs.
An apostate priest sees the hidden hand behind all: a long-buried secret of the dragon empire threatens everything humanity has built. An age of madness and death is on the way, with only a few doomed heroes to stand in its way.
And guys, let me tell you, the synopsis doesn’t do the book justice.
I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about books. We talked about books that have great characters, and books that have great action, and books that have big fun great ideas. There are many examples easy available for any of the three, but we talked and wanted to know of the books that contained all three. The list was short. Very short. Books can be overcrowded with ideas and the characters in those books serve only to take us from one plot point or idea to the next. A book can focus so much on a character that the ideas are glossed over or the world isn’t explored enough. Etc…. The list of books that does all three just got one longer.
I love these characters. Which is not to say that I would want to hang out with these people. Quite the contrary. They are flawed, but remain human and are easy to relate to at the same time. These aren’t “gritty” characters in the sense I’ve seen a lot lately. “I’ll have him swear and sleep with prostitutes so that he can be 'gritty'.” These are actual people working off of their own information and biases and personalities. Horrible things happen and often they come from the protagonists of the story. Real live people who I understand. They are good and they are bad and they are struggling just to keep up. They are tough people, but I understand them.
The world is fun and amazing and only getting better. In THE DRAGON'S PATH we got a glimpse of the world, an intro into the thirteen races of humanity, a brief glimpse of the church of the spider goddess, a gleaning of the dragons who have passed a millennia ago. Here the world gets bigger and cooler and more interesting while still keeping us intimately connected with the main characters. No mean feat. I learned more and saw more and still have the sense that Abraham is keeping some stuff back from me, just waiting to blow my mind in the next book.
Then there’s the pacing itself. I read this book in a whirlwind. I would read and think, “Ah, now I see where the book is headed. We’ll be dealing with this crisis until the end of this book.” Only to be proven wrong again and again. There’s 3 or 4 books worth of stuff that happens here. There are scenes that are still buzzing around in my head. I laughed out loud in sheer enjoyment of what was happening a few times.
There’s really only one problem with THE KING'S BLOOD. And it’s that I have to wait a whole year to see what happens next.
Age Recommendation: 16+ for a variety of issues. A bit of violence a bit of language and bit of sexual stuff.
Violence: A scene or two. Not prolonged and not abundant, but it’s there.
Language: Not a lot, but again, it’s there.
Sex: One scene, not detailed, and some references.
Abraham's Dagger and Coin Series is shaping up to be one of the best out there. Here are your links so you can buy them NOW:
THE DRAGON'S PATH
THE KING'S BLOOD
NOCTURNAL by Scott Sigler is a most curious creature. In all my years of reading I can't remember coming across a book quite like it. This isn't because NOCTURNAL features some brand new theme or idea, but because it is a book that showcases Sigler's evolution as an author and still manages to be an inferior novel than its predecessors. Considered to be Sigler's most ambitious novel to date, NOCTURNAL is a supernatural police procedural with a score of highs and lows.
Monsters lurk in the ruins of San Francisco's past, striking out at night to hunt for those who won't be missed in order to sake their blood thirst. Homicide detective Bryan Clauser is drawn to this dark secret by a crop of serial murders that bear chilling resemblance to his own twisted dreams. With his partner, Pookie Chang by his side, Bryan must uncover the mystery of Marie's Children and the shadowy vigilante known as Savior who kills the killers with supernatural strength.
I was pumped to read NOCTURNAL, a whopping 500+ page urban fantasy police procedural from the notably twisted mind of Scott Sigler. Having recently read Sigler's INFECTED, I expected no small amount of depravity and gore. INFECTED was a rough novel in many regards but it showed a certain potential that I was keen to see develop. NOCTURNAL being Sigler's latest piece of fiction, displays many of the ways his writing has improved over the ensuing years. The pacing is much more steady and deliberate this time around. I wouldn't jump to call this book a slow burner but much more time is spent getting the ducks in a row. The characters, by and large, are infinitely more likable and believable as well. And yet despite this progression NOCTURNAL still seems to be the lesser novel.
The characters may be more likable but they are still flat. Bryan (aka the Terminator) is dull during the first half of the book, exhibiting all the emotion of the killer robot he got his nickname from. During the second half of the book he compensates for his lack of depth by becoming extremely expressive and a bit hormonal. Robin the obligatory love interest is no better. She is an intelligent medical examiner for the police department but her whole existence seems to revolve around Bryan for no discernible reason. Ironically, though Bryan is the intended protagonist his partner Pookie is the one who comes off as the main character. Pookie is a decent individual, showing the most depth of any member of the cast even if his jokes are hit-or-miss.
The rest of the cast is passable for the most part. John Smith (aka Black Mr Burns) turned out to be my favorite character of all and I couldn't help but feel sympathy for Rex, at least at first. Then comes a character like Mr Biz-Nass the vocally challenged fortune-teller with Tourette's. Yeah, if that seems to be reaching a bit for comedy that's because it is. I get that with these dark and serious novels a little humor is necessary to break up the morbidity but there is a line between funny and ridiculous.
I will commend Sigler for not falling back on the typical urban fantasy monsters. Marie's Children are definitely a unique creation, one that had promise. Unfortunately the gamble didn't entirely pay off as the monsters range from genuinely creepy to outright silly. That's really the largest problem NOCTURNAL faces, the constant tonal shift between horrifying and ludicrous. Early parts of the book, those that focus on the investigation, are dark and ominous but when the monsters finally reveal themselves they lose most of their potency. It's like those old horror movies when people are dying for unknown reasons and then eventually the killer turns out to be this dude sweating profusely in a really cheaply made monster costume. The two tones just don't reconcile.
NOCTURNAL isn't entirely a bad novel, the police procedural and forensics portions work much better than the supernatural parts. The nature of the monsters was even scientifically plausible (for an urban fantasy novel anyway) until the halfway mark when Sigler decided to give up trying to explain these mutant creatures. Fans of Sigler's work are bound to love this book as all the reviews until this point have been rave. I will go so far as to say that Sigler has come a long was as an author since INFECTED and I will continue to keep an eye out for his work.
Recommended Age: 18+
Language: No shortage here.
Violence: Plenty of blood and guts and carnage for all.
Sex: One very disturbing scene and lots of other disturbing mentions.
Going to risk reading this at hardback price? Get it here.
"What are you still doing at that house?" she bellowed.
"Trading Pokémon cards with the vampire hunters."
Oh, Joe Ledger, how I love you.
Ever since reading PATIENT ZERO, one of the things I've looked forward to the most every year is a new Joe Ledger novel by Jonathan Maberry. The series has tons of action, humor and monsters. Even more that that, the series is full of terrific characters that compliment Joe Ledger.
ASSASSIN'S CODE is the fourth Joe Ledger novel, and I'll admit to feeling a bit nervous when starting it. You see, when an author continually puts out fantastic novels like Maberry does...well, let's just say you start wondering if he can maintain that level of excellence. The ending to THE KING OF PLAGUES was huge, and I wondered how Ledger--and indeed the entire DMS--would be dealing with it.
After the first few chapters all my worries were gone.
ASSASSIN'S CODE is about Ledger and the DMS frantically searching for several nukes that are poised to send the world into a virtual Hell. We get the familiar PoVs from Ledger and the other DMS operatives, but we also get new PoVs from a female going by the name Violin--easily the best character introduced since the first novel. Additionally, Ledger is faced with an ancient order of killers that claim to be vampires...but vampires couldn't possibly exist in nature, right?
This novel, to put it simply, was amazing. Revelation after revelation involving Vox, vampires, The Seven Kings, Church and Joe hit you chapter after chapter. The story is absolutely relentless in its action and the mad scramble for the nukes. The fantastic part is how Maberry takes this pacing and uses it to wear down Ledger. Ledger as had a rough go of things since THE DRAGON FACTORY, and he is still reeling from it. What many people don't seem to realize is that the entire series of Joe Ledger books has only taken place over the span of about a year. It really drives home the emotional and psychological toll on the characters. You'd think that Joe couldn't get any more beat down, but ASSASSIN'S CODE shows that things can always get worse. They can always get harder.
When I read a series, one of the main things I look for is character progression. Do the characters--major and minor alike--move forward? Are they affected by the past, and do they actively try to move forward? A strength of Maberry's is his ability to show the past damage and how a character is trying to overcome it. ASSASSIN'S CODE illustrates perfectly how Ledger is still screwed up from THE DRAGON FACTORY, but how he is struggling to move on.
One of the differences between Horror and Urban Fantasy is that in Urban Fantasy, even when the characters fail, they succeed. In Horror it is the opposite. Even when you succeed, you fail. ASSASSIN'S CODE, more than any book I've read recently, really follows that observation. This is a Horror novel, and it has the darkest ending of any Ledger book to date.
And it's absolutely perfect.
ASSASSIN'S CODE isn't just the best Joe Ledger novel, it's the best novel Maberry has written so far. The ending is one of the best I've read in series fiction, and it is one that I've thought about daily since finishing the novel. I am completely blown away by the quality of this story, and how effortless Maberry makes it seem.
Thus far, ASSASSIN'S CODE is my favorite 2012 release. Easily.
Recommended Age: 18+
Violence: This one is the most violent since the first novel. Scenes are often brutal and messy.
Sex: One detailed scene, plus references to women being raped.
Do you like Horror? Urban Fantasy? Military Fiction? Thrillers? Anything? If you answered yes to any of those, then you should be reading the Joe Ledger series. Here are your links, and you should absolutely read them in order.
THE DRAGON FACTORY
THE KING OF PLAGUES
Occasionally I read the back of a book and an idea grabs
me. Honestly that’s what I love about
SFF books. There are tons of great ideas
out there and I love when an author plays with one and lets me tag along for
the ride. The idea of personal
incorporation in the Unincorporated Series was one such idea. China Miéville's works are so jam-packed with
ideas that he often tosses a few of them out on a single page just to toy with
your mind. I read the back cover of THE
NIGHT SESSIONS by Ken MacLeod and the only thing I remembered from it was “What
if robots found religion?”
Holy Crap! Wow! What an idea! What a great, big, wonderful, let’s explore this and all of its ramifications, kind of idea! I was hooked. I needed to read this book right away.
Sadly the book was not all about robots finding religion. It was a police procedural dealing with a murder of a religious leader in a future where robots are common and all is not as it seems (I’ll detail the plot a little better later on). I was kind of bummed. I was hoping for something a bit deeper that dealt with the big questions.
Happily, it was a fun police procedural book of the near future that happened to have robots finding religion in it. Let’s deal with the happily part, OK?
Here’s the plot synopsis from amazon. A bishop is dead. As Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson picks through the rubble of the tiny church, he discovers that it was deliberately bombed. That it's a terrorist act is soon beyond doubt. It's been a long time since anyone saw anything like this. Terrorism is history....After the Middle East wars and the rising sea levels—after Armageddon and the Flood—came the Great Rejection. The first Enlightenment separated church from state. The Second Enlightenment has separated religion from politics. In this enlightened age there's no persecution, but the millions who still believe and worship are a marginal and mistrusted minority. Now someone is killing them. At first, suspicion falls on atheists more militant than the secular authorities. But when the target list expands to include the godless, it becomes evident that something very old has risen from the ashes. Old and very, very dangerous...
There’s really even a lot more going on than this. Part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much was the near-future world that MacLeod paints for us here. The technology is beyond what we have, but not unbelievable. I wanted some of the high tech gizmos they have here. I enjoyed seeing the tiny changes and not so tiny as well. For me--not gonna lie to you--the fact that Detective Ferguson has a robot partner was a big reason I enjoyed the book. Just enough Science Fiction to keep me going through the detective novel.
This book is about the same size as the Restoration Game, MacLeod’s previous novel published last year. Where that book counted on the final twist at the end to really grab you by the throat, this book unravels at a much more even pace. I enjoyed reading this book straight through to the end. It may not have the punch at the end, but the overall reading experience was for me a bit better.
As for the religious aspect of the book, well, I’ve been thinking how to write that part of the review for awhile.
There are characters in the book who have strong feelings about religion, both good and bad. It’s a world where religion is generally frowned on and ignored, and it seemed to me for the most part that people who believed in religion were kind of mocked. I’m a very religious person myself and I could see how this type of thing could offend. As for me, I decided to just let it go. It’s a made up world (no matter how near future it is, there is still some leeway taken). I’ve just come to visit the world and enjoy myself. Still, I thought you might want to know.
Overall I thought it was a fun read. MacLeod seems to be churning these things out. I’m anxious to see what big idea he tackles next.
Age Recommendation: 15+ maybe. I don’t remember too much being wrong with it
Language: Again, if I remember right there was some, but not excessive
Violence: It’s about a terrorist bombing so there’s a bit, but it’s not a gory book.
Sex: Mentioned and alluded to, never shown, but strong talk about it.
Want to try this book out? Here's your link: THE NIGHT SESSIONS
I really don't know how Chris Wooding does it. I am insanely jealous. Though, I suppose this is why he is a published author while I am shopping things around. He's just so good at storytelling. So freaking good.
If you have yet to read RETRIBUTION FALLS or THE BLACK LUNG CAPTAIN, you need to to stop reading this review and go buy those two novels. They are some of the finest adventure novels I have ever read. You can get lost in these novels. Escape. Wooding's Ketty Jay novels are full of magic, machinery, rogues, pirates, love and loss.
THE IRON JACKAL is the third Ketty Jay novel, and in my opinion, the best of the bunch. The story goes like this: The crew of the Ketty Jay is doing well. Everything is roses and smiles. They are famous. They have money. Things are rolling along splendidly. Too splendidly. And then Darian Frey--our loveable Han Solo-ish rogue--and his crew of misfits (cat included) get a job. What it all boils down to is Frey's insatiable curiosity. He is warned not to mess with the item he is stealing...so of course he messes with it. This is Darian Frey. He is now in a fight for his life. Literally.
THE IRON JACKAL has everything in it. Really. Humor? Check it twice. Action? Check it three times. Romance? Check it once. Character development? Check it a bajillion times. If there is one thing to point out about Chris Wooding's skill set, it that he is incredible with character development and backstory. With each book so far we've learned a little more about each member of the crew. In THE IRON JACKAL we end up seeing just how unfulfilled everyone on the Ketty Jay really is. Jez and Crake (and pretty much everyone else) all wonder if they should be moving on from being part of Frey's crew. But really, this is Silo's story. The guy hardly speaks in the first two novels, which makes his character revelations so powerful here.
The other thing I love about Wooding's writing in the THE IRON JACKAL is the accessibility of it. Readers come in all types. Some people want mindless action. Some want deep character development. Some want politics. Romance. Whatever. THE IRON JACKAL, and indeed the prior two novels in the series, has all of these things (and more) in layers. Additionally, the pacing of the novel is just as relentless as the prior volumes. It's all meshed together so perfectly.
The one thing I will say that prevented this novel from being perfect was its transitions, specifically during big set-pieces. There were a few scenes I had to read over a few times (including the mega-awesome train-heist and the finale) because the action wasn't completely clear from one moment to the next. I had to do a lot of guessing to fill in some logic-gaps. Nothing major, but it's worth mentioning.
In many ways, THE IRON JACKAL makes things better for the crew of the Ketty Jay by making things worse. By breaking characters down, Wooding makes them stronger. It is in conflict that the characters shine. Some of the scenes where action, humor, and suspense are mixed make for some of the finest adventure scenes I've read in many years. I cannot wait to see where the story goes from here. The ending has some seriously INSANE things starting to happen.
There's simply no excuse to not be reading Wooding's work.
Recommended Age: 16+
Language: On par with the prior two novels.
Violence: Again, if you've read the prior two novels, you know what to expect here.
Sex: Some crude references, but no explicit scenes.
Here are your links to buy these books: RETRIBUTION FALLS THE BLACK LUNG CAPTAIN THE IRON JACKAL
Superheroes are extremely prevalent in pop-culture at the moment. It seems that half the books in my To-Read Pile feature some form of super human shenanigans. With all these options it takes a lot to rise above mediocrity and offer something truly gripping. Ayize Jama-Everett has written a book that does just that. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE is a supernatural crime thriller that reads like NBC's failed television drama Heroes meets the hit action film Taken starring Liam Neeson.
I make the comparison because when I'm reading a review, comparisons often catch my interest and help me form a basis on which to start considering whether or not I should fork over the cash. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE undoubtedly reflects shades of Heroes and Taken, but in the end it eclipses both.
Taggert is a member of the razor-neck gang, hired muscle for a very dangerous and mysterious master. Taggert can exert his influence over his own body's natural processes, as well as the bodies of other people. He is a healer, but the best healers are the ones who know how to hurt. Out of the blue, Taggert gets a call from his ex. In the flash of a synapse, Taggert is on his way to London to aid the only girl he ever loved in finding her missing daughter. As it turns out, the missing girl has supernatural abilities quite like his own, and there are some very powerful people who would like to use those powers for their own agenda.
Well that's as good a set-up as I've ever read. Simple enough, familiar with a nice science fiction twist. The story is told from the first person perspective of Taggert who has got to be one of the best anti-heroes I have read about in ages. The whole anti-hero concept has worn pretty thin on me as of late. A lot of authors think they can just write a no-nonsense, wisecracking, hard fighting, womanizing, profanity spewing caricature and give the character the label of "rogue" and get away with it. No. Taggert is a rare specimen, a true anti-hero full of depth and complexity. Taggert is a killer. But he is not a killer by nature. He has gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd, he is the slave of a power-hungry enigma. He is more than human and undeniably human at the same time. Taggert's history combined with his demeanor make him heart achingly sympathetic and blazing cool all at once. Authors take note: this is how you write an anti-hero.
The other characters are just as well written, though not nearly as deep. Tamara, for example, is part teenage girl, part super-powered killing machine. If you think badly written anti-heroes irk me you should hear my opinion on badly written female protagonists. Tamara dodges that bullet, demonstrating the pluck and guts of a strong and intelligent young lady while remaining realistically vulnerable. She may be only fourteen years of age but underestimating Tamara could be the last mistake you ever make.
We've got great heroes and we have also got great villains. What divides THE LIMINAL PEOPLE from the rest of the super human fiction out there is the moral ambiguity. Taggert goes toe-to-toe with some pretty nasty specimens in his journey to find his ex's daughter, but his own boss might be the most despicable villain of all. Even better than the sinister and illusive aura these baddies seem to just ooze is the fact that they are driven by some very real and human foibles. It's this gray tone that permeates the novel that sustains the gritty, colorful atmosphere.
The heroes and villains alike dance the line between humans and gods. Dubbed "liminal people" later in the novel, Taggert and those like him often live as isolated outcasts on the very edge of society. These super humans avoid conflict whenever necessary because when disagreement devolves into fighting it often gets messy and attracts far too much attention. The powers displayed in the book are nothing new in concept but the way they are applied is extremely creative. I regularly find myself wondering what super power I would want were I to be granted any. Well I have my answer: Taggert's ability to manipulate people's bodies. After reading some of the things Taggert does (including an especially brutal interrogation) you might find yourself feeling the same way.
THE LIMINAL PEOPLE is an astounding first novel. Right now it has been published by a smaller agency called Small Beer Press but I see a big future for Ayize Jama-Everett. THE LIMINAL PEOPLE is a noir juggernaut with startlingly genuine themes of salvation, emancipation, and family. As of now, this book is my favorite of the year and I desperately hope that Jama-Everett chooses to pen a sequel.
Recommended Age: 17+
Language: Strong language throughout.
Violence: Violence is a major aspect of the book, including one super awesome/sadistic interrogation scene.
Sex: Yes, but not graphic or explicit in any way.
Purchase your copy here.
I was pretty torn when I read WOLFSANGEL, the first in M. D. Lachlan's historical fantasy series about the Norse god, Odin, and his eternal battle with the wolf, Fenrir. It had a whole lot that I loved and bundle more that really bothered me. Going into this book, I considered myself to be hopefully optimistic with a couple major concerns. Now that I’ve read Lachlan’s second offering, I again find myself torn but for completely different reasons. Because of this, I am going to do my best to give you my honest opinion.
FENRIR begins a number of years after the events in WOLFSANGEL, with the sacking of Paris by the Vikings. They've come to take the maiden, Aelis, from her brother, the Count of Eudes and emperor-hopeful of the Franks. With them comes a brother-and-sister pair of Odin’s priests that have their own reasons for finding the girl. Leshii, a trader of goods and services, is also accompanying a wolf-man from the north, sent by King Helgi of the Danes, to try and take Aelis back to him. From the French side, a crippled confessor and viewer of godly visions, Jehan, ends up being taken and pulled into the fray somehow as well, and it’s a good thing too, because...well, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
It's all sounding good so far, right?
Again, for those that haven’t read the previous novel, this series is shaping up to be a continual re-telling of the eternal battle between Odin and Fenrir. Like the first novel, FENRIR is a fast-moving, action-packed story that's full of history and mythology, a plot that twists and turns, and a whole host of characters...
...characters that, for me, are one of the novel's big problems. There are so many characters in this story that I was all over the place trying to figure out what was going on for about the first half of the book. Everyone has their own reason for doing what they do, except for the main characters, who only seem to be dragged along by the rest of the pack. And nearly every single one of them are point of view characters. We get some King Helgi (though nearly all of it's flashback), Helgi’s sick/dying daughter, Svava, and the brother-priest, Hugin (which kills nearly all of the mega-evil juju the guy had going for him prior to getting PoV-time). There are also some random bits from a Danish farm boy and a healer, not to mention the fact that the head jumping is all over place.
So I kept asking myself "What is going on here?" Really the only major idea that came through for me was that all of the main characters from the first book had been reborn and I was supposed to figure out who was who. Honestly, it didn’t push my buttons, but I recognize that others may be able to really like the history and the fast-moving story.
Lachlan’s prose is really good when he sticks to a single character. I had the exact same comment in my review for WOLFSANGEL. One of the major concerns I had for this book was that if the story this time around didn’t naturally lend itself to characters being on their own a lot, then it’d get really confusing. And FENRIR does exactly that. Between the head jumping, and flashbacks within flashbacks, and vague hints as to who-is-who reincarnated, and even the main characters that suddenly make snap choices with no foreshadowing whatsoever, this book was a study in frustration for me. There didn’t seem to be any point to it besides the mystery of the character’s identities.
I would love to see this story done well. I think there’s so much potential here. Viking mythology? Uh-huh. Crazy-killer werewolves? Absolutely yes. Give it to me. FENRIR though was killed by the lack of a new story and the lack of focus to that story. And yet still, I find myself on the fence, torn.
So was this a mediocre book? Not really. I just don’t know how else to place it. Again, lots of good and lots of completely annoying. This time around, there was too much confusion and annoying for me to say that I liked it. Definitely not my cup of tea. It's all going to come down to what you thought of the first novel, and whether the stuff I mention above seems like it's going to bother you or not. You decide.
Recommended Age: 18+
Language: A handful of strong words
Violence: Sword-fighting, some deaths, cannibalism, got fairly gory
Sex: Referenced a few times but no detail
Want to read this book and series anyway? Here you go:
Over a year ago when Jayné Heller's uncle died, he left her as his heir. Little did she know at the time that she'd be inheriting the equivalent of a small nation in money and property. Then she spent the next year learning what Uncle Eric really did for a living: he hunted riders, the demons or malevolent spirits that take over human bodies and minds. As a result, not only does she take over his fortune, she takes over his job. She has no idea what she's really getting into.
After three completely amazing books detailing her adventures (see the list at the end of this post), we now come to KILLING RITES by M.L.N. Hanover (aka Daniel Abraham), and Jayné must now deal with the horrible fallout resulting from the evil defeated in book three--at great sacrifice to her relationships and her own self worth. The bummer is that I can't tell you much more than that because it would spoil the first three books in the series. The bonus is that you can read these books for yourself and experience your own joy at finding a gem in an over-populated Urban Fantasy genre.
What makes it a gem?
Well, let's start with the main PoV character herself, Jayné, who's a great female lead. In her early twenties, she still hasn't lived a "real life", but despite her big learning curve she isn't written with the overbearing emo-chatter some authors think is required when writing about women experiencing difficult circumstances. She feels a responsibility to fulfill the void left by Uncle Eric's death, and does her best to learn. She's admirable in that even though she's in over her head, she still wants to do the right thing. But she realizes she can't do it alone and finds old compatriots of Eric's to build herself a cadre to help fight the bad guys. There's parasitologist Aubrey and his ex-wife Kim, and their messed up past; there's Chogyi Jake, the guy with a zen-like attitude, who centers Jayné and gives the group focus; there's Ex, the former priest and talented exorcist; there's Midian Clark, vampire-like former rider and chef. Then there's Eric himself, who's absent, but definitely influences the stories. It's easy to love these characters in spite of (maybe because of?) their foibles, and focusing on the smaller cast gives us a better view into what makes them tick.
Hanover also develops a well-conceived world of riders. It's easy to wonder: is everything that black and white? But Jayné thinks that perhaps not all the riders are evil. Fortunately, as the rider hunter she seems more open-minded than most, including Ex, who's seen first-hand the damage that riders are capable of. All the main characters use magic to an extent (as qi from within themselves) for wards, protections, and as rites to rip rider from human. But a single human's magic isn't enough to fight the magical strength of a human with a rider. Readers will enjoy watching the team work around the problems associated with hunting and defeating a rider.
The prose hums with energy. Told from Jayné's first-person PoV, the books show how she sees the people she works with and comes to love and consider her family, how she deals with the difficulty of the situations--and all of it is realistic and easy to read. Sure she's got a sarcastic streak, but her personality isn't overdone. Even better is Hanover's superior attention to detail, which really helps readers feel in the moment, as we travel from city to city, but also the things you notice just sitting in a restaurant or talking to someone.
But best of all are the stories themselves--even the little sub-plots. KILLING RITES is the natural progression of the series, and Hanover isn't afraid to take the story in a difficult direction, and he does it with style and subtlety. The fight scenes are easy to visualize and unpredictable and fun. Each book has consistent pacing and well developed plots with mind-blowing endings.
The only thing I'm worried about? How in the world is Hanover going to keep up the rest of the series (anticipated to be a total of ten books) with more amazing novels like these? He's kept this series consistent and forward moving, building on each book, even when each would do fine as a standalone. That is some serious writing talent (can't really be surprised with the likes of Abraham). And considering the last page teaser of KILLING RITES, I can't wait to find out what's in store.
Recommended Age: 16+
Language: Strong in some places, otherwise scattered; not for the easily offended
Violence: Fighting riders is never pretty, there's details and pain, but not excessively gory
Sex: Detailed references and innuendo; previous books have a few detailed scenes, but they don't distract from the story
Check out this awesome series so far: