Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pierced by the Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns
Mark Lawrence
Ace,  324 p., hardcover $25.95, Kindle, Nook $12.99

Prince of Thorns is the first novel by Mark Lawrence and the first in a projected trilogy.  If you like your fantasy dark and brutal, but with a sympathetic antihero, it's definitely a book for you. 

This is the story of Prince Honorious Jorg Ancrath.  When he was 10, he saw his brother brutally killed by the men of Duke Renar, along with his mother, who was raped first.  Jorg himself had been thrown into a patch of hook thorns, where he remained unnoticed (it was dark) until some of his father's men found him the next day. Jorg, however, was aware of everything that went on around him.

The hook thorns latched into his flesh and held on.  This book has a similar effect.  It gets inside your head and doesn't let go easily. 

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Severence by Tom Doolan

Tom Doolan
Kindle, 0.99

Tom Doolan is a busy man.  In addition to working full time, taking classes, maintaining a family life, and playing a weekly game of D&D, he also finds time to write.  I get tired just thinking about it.  Maybe he's younger than I am, I dunno.

What I do know is that I like his work.  This is the third story he's published himself (reviews of the other two here and here). Each of them is well-written, exciting, and a lot of fun.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Look at Rick Hautala's Four Octobers

Four Octobers
Rick Hautala
Cemetery Dance
various ebook editions, $4.99
(print edition is out of print)

Cemetery Dance had a special earlier in the year in which, for a fee, you could get any (or all) ebooks in print or any forthcoming this year.  I decided to take advantage of the offer; this is one of the books I've gotten so far.  It's a collection of four novellettes and novellas.  I've been reading them one at a time between novels.  Now that I've finished it, I thought I'd pass on my thoughts.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Long Looks at Short Fiction: "Maze of Shadows" by Fred Chappell

"Maze of Shadows"
Fred Chappell
Fantasy and Science Fiction, May/June 2012
258 pgs., $7.50

This story got the cover of the current issue of F&SF, which gives the impression that it's a sword and sorcery tale.  Turns out it's a high fantasy set in a Renaissance style world much like Italy.  It's also part of a series.  I've not read the other installments, but since I have a complete run of the magazine going back to the early 70s, I'll look them up.  Time constraints have kept me from reading every story in every issue for the last few years, something I'm trying to correct.

But I digress.  "Maze of Shadows" was not quite what I thought it was, but it was still an enjoyable tale, a complex mystery that should not be read near bedtime or when you're tired.  You'll need to be alert for this one.  That's a good thing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Brief Look at the May Issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine

A couple of months ago, I looked at the March issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine, a new online magazine  that so far has succeeded in publishing two stories a month every month.  That's better than some semi-pro zines do.  Hopefully, this will continue.

I thought I would revisit the publication this month.  Both stories are well-done, although the execution of one is superior to the other.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Echo City Reverberates Through the Mind Long After It's Finished

A slightly different version of this review appeared on at David Gemmell Awards.  Since this novel didn't make the final ballot, and my review at the DGA has been up for about two months, I'm going to post a modified version of it here.

Spectra, mmpb, ebook, $7.99

Tim Lebbon’s Echo City is a dark, dense novel full of wonders and terrors and many things made up of both.  The novel starts out, not really slow, but at a more restrained pace.  Lebbon has a number of characters in different locations he needs to bring together, and once they start to join up, the pace is relentless and the suspense nerve-wracking.

One of the main characters is the city itself.

Echo City is ancient city.  No one is sure of its age, but the city is thousands of years old.  Over time the city has been built up atop the previous cities, and the lower levels are called echoes, giving the city its name.  Whole buildings still exist in the echoes, along with ghosts and other more unpleasant denizens. 

Echo City is quite large, with walls separating the different districts of the city known as Cantons.  I seem to remember Lebbon mentioning the city was either thirty square miles or thirty miles across.  I don’t recall which and can’t find the reference.  Anyway, the city is large enough that portions of it have been parceled off as parks and others as farmland to feed the population. 

This is important because Echo City sits in the middle of a vast, toxic desert.  No one has ever crossed the desert, although many have died trying, their bones littering the landscape.  That changes when the book opens. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More Wit, More Charm, More Snark, More Theft, and a Lot More Fun

False Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
Hardcover, $16.95, release date June 2012

I think I'm a little in love with Widdershins.  It's perfectly understandable really.  She's beautiful and clever, with a sharp blade and a sharper tongue.  And I'm not the only one in love with her.  There's...come to think of it, much of my competition is significantly better with a blade than I am.  Perhaps I should forget about her.

Besides, she's a fictional character.

Why are you people looking at me that way?

In the Merry Month of May

Finals are now over, and with a handful of exceptions, I've got my grades in.  That means I can get back to doing what's important, as opposed to what's necessary. I'll be posting more updates, starting later tonight, with a review of Ari Marmell's YA novel False Covenant, one of the best books I've read this year.

Some of those updates will be over at Futures Past and Present.  It's been about six weeks since I posted anything there, and I'd like to make the site more active. I've got novels by Trent Jamieson, Mary Sisson, and a space opera by Eric Brown I've had on  the shelf for over a year that should be reviewed within the next three or four weeks.

I'm needing to take a break from several things for a few weeks, work being one of them and fantasy being another.  There are novels by David A. Hardy, Anthea Sharp, and Keith Baker that are in the queue.  I'm going to bump those back a bit.  I'll be reading mostly the above mentioned science fiction for the rest of the month.  The fantasy I'll read will be a couple of nominees for the Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best debut Fantasy.

I'll also be reading short fiction across a variety of genres and posting reviews where and when appropriate.  I haven't abandoned the Conan series and will try to post at least once in that series.  I've got a number of commitments to review books, and I want to finish most of them up by the end of June.  I'm thankful for all the review requests I've gotten, and I'll continue to accept them.  Probably just not many over the summer.  They're starting to feel like work, and reading fantasy, science fiction, historical adventure, horror, and detective/crime novels should be fun.

Summer should be a lighter schedule than spring was, for one because I'm not teaching, and two because soccer will be over after this week. There are some things I've not gotten to that I want to fit in, both in the fantasy and historical adventure fields.

Anyway, those are my plans for the next few months as far as reading and blogging are concerned.  Thanks to everyone who follows either of my blogs or just checks in from time to time.  April had the most traffic ever, and I appreciate all the page views and comments.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole Defies Expectations

Shadow Ops:  Control Point
Myke Cole
Ace, 389 p. mmp $7.99 US, $8.99 Can
ebook $7.99  Kindle Nook

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a publicist at Ace Books asking me to review Myke Cole's debut novel, Shadow Ops:  Control Point.  I'd seen the book on the shelf in the bookstore and thought it looked interesting, so I agreed.

I'm glad I did.  It's a military fantasy, but it's not your typical military fantasy.  It's got a good blend of superheroes thrown into the mix.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

RIP, Maurice Sendak

I just learned that Maurice Sendak, best known as the author/illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are, has died of complications from a stroke.  That was my son's favorite book when he was four, and we read it together so often that I could quote almost the whole thing.  I'll not write a lengthy obituary because I never met the man, and anything I say will pale besides the tributes that will be written over the next few days.  I always enjoyed his work.  He will be missed, but that work will live on.  And really, isn't that what any artist in any field would want?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers

I just saw The Avengers with my son as part of his birthday present.  It was fantastic!  I'm not going to do a full review because of time and I wouldn't know where to start.  This one pretty much got it right.  It's clever, fun, contains no major gaping plot holes that I could see, has characters that aren't interchangeable, and respects the source material.  That last part is key and what separates this movie from, say, last year's fiasco named after a certain famous Cimmerian.  It's worth going to see, even if you have to wait a few days to get tickets.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rise and Fall Heralds the Rise of a Great New Fantasy Trilogy

Rise and Fall:  Book One of the Blood and Tears Trilogy
Joshua P. Simon
Paperback $14.95  
various ebook formats $2.99: Amazon  B&N Smashwords

Seeing as how he's only published one novel and a few pieces of short fiction, it would be understandable if the name "Joshua P. Simon" were unfamiliar to you.  But if you're smart, you'll make note of it and remember it.  If you're smarter, you'll buy and read Rise and Fall.  

In his author bio, Mr. Simon includes among his influences Robert E. Howard and Glen Cook's Black Company.  Howard is one of my favorite authors, and the Black Company one of my favorite series.  By divulging this information, Mr. Simon set the bar of my expectations high.  Very high.  The question is, did he meet them?