28 March 2013

The Blinding Knife - Brent Weeks

This is the second book in Mr. Weeks' Lightbringer series. I've read his first Trilogy, The Night Angel Trilogy as well as the first book in this series, The Black Prism. Since I read them before the blog was really up and running, I've decided not to do fuzzy reviews about half remembered facts.

This makes the review a bit tricky since I do not want to spoil the first book too much, but I'll muddle through. It's also the reason I've left the blurb out.

Mr. Weeks is damn good at worldbuilding and magical systems. This is an indisputable fact. He spends quite a bit of time on the setting and the mechanics of his world, but he does this really well and it does not feel like some huge info dump. The countries, cities and overall world is well defined so that it's quite easy to keep up with what is happening where. I feel that being good at naming the places and countries is a massive help here.

The magical system is one of the stars of this series. There are certain people who are known as Drafters that can absorb certain colours, and then manifest this colours as magic. Each colour has it's own strengths and weaknesses of course, and the colour and usage of said colour is shown in the drafter's eyes. The more they use, the more their iris' fills up with their colour. Breaking the Halo leads to some unfortunate side effects, so there's a payment to the usage of power which always seems quite fair.

Then there's the Prism. He can Draft all colours and he's responsible for the balance of magic on the earth. Enter Gavin Guile, the current badass Prism. He's powerful enough to move mountains, but all in all he's a nice guy. He's witty and powerful, but he has his own demons he's struggling with. He's an easy character to like and quite fun to read. 

The Prism has a bastard, seeing as it seems that powerful people always comes with one for some reason. Kip is a chubby smartmouth little bugger and he irritated the hell out of me in Black Prism. He's a bit better in The Blinding Knife, and I'm sure Mr. Weeks did this on purpose to show character growth and accepting of responsibility, but hell he can complain. Self doubt is all well and good, but when he starts kicking some serious ass one would expect most of it to be replaced by some confidence and bravado. Kip is still quite young in the story, about 17 I think, and at that age most guys feel indestructible. Performing some heroic feat as he did should have honestly given him a massive ego boost that just does not show up.

The supporting cast is well written and fleshed out, and some of their stories seems very interesting. There are quite a bit of spadework done for the next book which is fine and expected.

The one major issue I had with this book, except for Kip complaining about everything, was the pacing. The story would go along at a good clip and then at some points it seems to derail or wobble a bit, which made it a chore to finish. The fight scenes could have been done better, but were pretty solid throughout the novel. The evil guys are quite proper evil, so that irked me. There were some attempts at giving them redeeming characteristics, but not really enough. They are bad men doing bad things, and as such it was quite one dimensional. 

It was a fun book, but not really my cup of tea. Things just really did not gel for me. There are some quite dumb decisions made just to advance the plot that left me wondering why the smart people in the story are so thick. The world and magic is wonderful, but the characters were just too irritating for me to like this book very much.


18 March 2013

I interrupt the usual proceedings

Phew what a weekend! I attended a fun bachelors and went flying off my motorcycle. This necessitated a visit to the hospital, where I was poked and scanned for a while and then I received the news that I fractured my sternum. It hurts quite bad, but with no bruised organs or chips of bone to worry about I see myself as quite lucky. I'm also as stiff as a damn plank and starting to go blue in some places. That means I'm healing.

The motorcycle is a bit crocked, with the handlebars a mess and quite a few scrapes. Hopefully it can get fixed with the minimum of fuss and money.

This, and two weddings I have to attend this week, will lead to some quiet time on the blog. Everything should be back to normal next week if all goes well.

15 March 2013

Emperor of Thorns Map

This is the pretty colour map for the Emperor of Thorns, Mark Lawrence's third book in the Broken Empire series. If it looks familiar, it's because Mr. Lawrence uses Europe as a base map and then drowns quite a bit of it. Blame the ice caps melting. All I know is that it's pretty and done damn well. This was stolen directly from Mr. Lawrence's blog, which can be found here.

14 March 2013

Republic of Thieves publication date announced

After five long years, we finally have a publication date. Just announced on Gollianz's blog here

"The Orion Publishing Group (UK & Commonwealth) and the Random House Publishing Group (US) are thrilled to announce the publication of the third instalment in Scott Lynch’s popular fantasy series that began with The Lies of Locke LamoraTHE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES will release on October 10, 2013 in the UK and Commonwealth and October 8, 2013 in the US."

This is the best new's I've heard all year. The Gentleman Bastard series is one of the most original and well written out there. I love these books. Lynch's struggles with depression and anxiety is well documented, which explains the long wait for the third instalment of the series. I'm glad that a date has been set and that Mr. Lynch finished the final draft of what will be a damn good book. Well done and holy hell I can't wait for this!

11 March 2013

Caliban's War - James S.A. Corey

The BlurbThe alien protomolecule is clear evidence of an intelligence beyond human reckoning. No one knows what exactly is being built on Venus, but whatever it is, it is vast, powerful, and terrifying.

When a creature of unknown origin and seemingly impossible physiology attacks soldiers on Ganymede, the fragile balance of power in the Solar System shatters. Now, the race is on to discover if the protomolecule has escaped Venus, or if someone is building an army of super-soldiers.

Jim Holden is the center of it all. In spite of everything, he’s still the best man for the job to find out what happened on Ganymede. Either way, the protomolecule is loose and Holden must find a way to stop it before war engulfs the entire system.

This is the second novel in Corey's Expanse series, the first being Leviathan Wakes. James S.A. Corey is the pen name for the collaboration of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, and if they wrote this the same way they wrote Leviathan Wakes, each concentrated on the one of the main POV's, in this case Captain James Holden, Captain of the Rocinante  and Chrisjen Avasarala, a powerhouse of an UN politician. Both wants to save the universe.

The blending of two voices and styles was done much better than the first book, as it reads seamlessly between the different POV's. Chrisjen, who serves as the Undersecretary of Executive Administration, is a stand out character in this book. I feel this must have been heavily influenced by Abraham, seeing as it reminded me of his astounding Long Price Quartet with the political machinations done in an interesting way. She plays the Game brilliantly, but she has a single driving force. To keep people safe and the universe out of an all out war. 

Some new characters who also plays a huge role are also present. Gunnery Sergeant Bobbie Draper is a huge Martian Marine that lives through the slaughter of her whole platoon and has to struggle through the loss and keep her feelings of revenge in check. Praxidike Meng, a botanist from the breadbasket Ganymede, daughter gets kidnapped just before the unleashing of a new Protomolecule monster by some idiots, is the flame that lit the fuse in this novel. His single minded drive to find his daughter is done well, and I've felt his pain jumping off the page.

The depth of Corey's writing makes this book shine. There are no cardboard characters. Family ties are there and explained and the motivations are fleshed out, not just thrown in to move the story forward. I love the idea of humanity's drive to expand done in such a dirty, desperate way. It feels as if the space travel is real, and just beyond our current reach. No Warp Drives or Black Holes. Distance is a bitch in space and used as such. Oxygen and water is a problem that keeps everyone in check. Space Pirates that board ships and steal everything, including the air, makes all kinds of sense.

Now to the alien protomolecule that crashed on Venus in the previous novel. It's hinted at and talked about throughout the book, and the threat of something totally unknown a utterly alien hangs over everyone's heads. That is the crux of this novel. Humanity trying to prepare for an external threat, and loads of people with guns who are  twitchy is always bad. 

As soon as I finished this book I realised it's almost a prologue for the next one in the series.  The problems they faced here is going to be as nothing during what is to come. Important events happened and events unfolded that's going to be critical in the future. It's not a problem, but damn I can't wait for the next one.


05 March 2013

The Daylight War - Peter V Brett

The BlurbContinuing the impressive debut fantasy series from author Peter V. Brett, The DAYLIGHT WAR is book three of the Demon Cycle, pulling the reader into a world of demons, darkness and heroes.

On the night of a new moon all shadows deepen.

Humanity has thirty days to prepare for the next demon attack, but one month is scarcely enough time to train a village to defend themselves, let alone an entire continent caught in the throes of civil war.
Arlen Bales understands the coreling threat better than anyone. Born ordinary, the demon plague has shaped him into a weapon so powerful he has been given the unwanted title of saviour, and attracted the attention of deadly enemies both above and below ground.
Unlike Arlen, Ahmann Jardir embraces the title of Deliverer. His strength resides not only in the legendary relics he carries, but also in the magic wielded by his first wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose allegiance even Jardir cannot be certain of.
Once Arlen and Jardir were like brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies prepare, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all: those that lurk in the human heart.

The Daylight War is the third instalment of The Demon Cycle, Peter V Brett's current line of work. I've been awaiting this with bated breath, seeing as the first two, The Painted Man and The Desert Spear, were both damn good.

The main characters are all well represented and each given enough space to shine in this book. The Painted Man was mostly Arlen's story and The Desert Spear was Jardir's, but The Daylight war focuses a lot on the women in the story. Renna, Leesha and Inevera each shines in this book.

I like the way how Brett seamlessly goes back in time to tell the story from a different viewpoint. It fleshes out the driving force for the characters and makes the overall story well rounded and fleshed out. Since Inevera has a huge impact on Jardir, it was good to see her motivations and machinations throughout Jardir's life.

There are irritations. Leesha is one big one. She's a community leader but she can act selfishly as well. I suppose not all the characters can be nice, but I'm not the biggest fan of her. Renna is hardheaded throughout, but her motivations remain pure, and her willingness to offer herself to protect and help others are laudable. 

We do get a big serving of Jardir and Arlen, and since they are the main protagonists in the story this is well and good. Arlen is much more human thanks to Renna, even though he is halfway demonspawn himself in this book. His rallying of Cutters Hollow was brilliant and his burgeoning power was a joy to behold.

Jardir shows some softer bits of himself and he's turning into a real leader of his people. Most of his decisions are based around the safety of his people and he's not as deuchy as I first suspected of him. I quite liked him in the end.

One thing that Brett get's right is the melding of the different cultures in the book. You can feel the people gaining respect for each other, even though there are major differences in their cultures. No one people is close to evil, they are just different, and this point comes through well. It was also entertaining to learn a bit more about the demons in the book, and I'm getting a sneaky feeling about them. I could be wrong, but some dots are getting connected in my head and I love that.

When I reached the ending, I immediately thought "Damn, that was cool." Having had it stew a bit, I'm feeling it could have been done a little bit better. Brett does not write the best fight scenes in the world. Don't get me wrong, the action is all there, but I couldn't help feeling as if I was watching a show or performance in stead of feeling in the thick of it. It's still done well and entertaining, but it could be better. Might just be me. The explanations about why events unfolded as they did was also a bit murky, but I'm sure this was intentional to keep the suspense high for the next book.

All in all, a damn entertaining read. Not without fault, but the pacing is nice and the dialogue flows well.