Friday, June 23, 2017

Song for the Basilisk ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Song for the Basilisk 
 Series: ------
 Author: Patricia McKillip
 Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 318
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

The city of Berylon was ruled by 4 Great Houses, which in turn were led by House Tourmalyne. 30 some years ago House Griffin [Tourmalyne] was overthrown by House Basilisk, led by Arioso Pellior. Pellior killed every direct member of House Griffin, or so he thinks. One young boy survives and is spirited away to the Isle of Luly to become a nameless bard.

Caladrius grows up, has a son and refuses to remember. Until he makes his trip off the island and realizes that he must revenge his family and destroy House Basilisk. He becomes a nobody musician and works his way into the palace. With a magic lute filled with killer fire, Caladrius plans on assassinating the Basilisk at his birthday celebration. What he doesn't count on is his son also coming to the city to find him.

He also doesn't count on the daughter of the Basilisk having the same powers as her father. But where the Basilisk is evil, it isn't so clear that his daughter is. Caladrius must decide if revenge for his past is the worth sacrificing the future of his son. And when it becomes apparent that the Basilisk plans to rule Berylon from beyond the grave through his daughter, she must decide if House Basilisk will stay ascendant over a dead city or bow its head to House Griffin and return things to their rightful place.



My Thoughts:


This book was about the power of magic within the guise of music. I don't know how to go about talking about this book without just fanboying. McKillip can write like no one else I've ever read. I think then next book of hers I will read selections outloud to see if there is rhythm to her sentences. Her words flow.

The story itself is good. A tale of revenge that redeems itself instead of creating more death and destruction. The use of multiple instruments to show characteristics of the various people was fun to realize. It was skillfully drawn and I couldn't remember which direction the Basilisk's daughter took, so the ending was new all over again. The benefits of waiting 11 years between re-reads I guess.

Last time I gave this 4 Stars, but this time around I'm calling this a solid 5. McKillip's writing is top notch. It is well crafted and more than that, it is artistic. It is a joy to read the story and a joy to read the wordcrafting itself.

Part of the reason I like most of McKillip's writing so much is that this is as close to poetry as I'm going to get and to enjoy. I've tried various books of poetry throughout the years and each time it has defeated me and left me bored. But I WANT to like Poetry.

I've also included a high quality picture of the full cover art.  Definitely the top contender for cover love in my June Roundup & Ramblings.

★★★★★ 







 



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt #3) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Blood of the Mantis
 Series: Shadows of the Apt #3
 Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 305
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

The Wasp Empire is taking a breather after the beating they took in the previous book. But that does not mean that they are not advancing. Two “independent” cities on the outskirts of the lowlands have come to the attention of the Empire as alternate entry points to defeating Collegium and their wrangling allies.

One of those cities happens to be the center of smuggling for vast swathes of country around. Into this city has come the Box of the Darakyon, put up for sale by Scyla. Stenwold sends a group to this city to scope out it's chances of becoming an ally and if possible to recover the Box. Led by Achaeos, Tisamon, Tynisa, Thalric and a rogue Wasp head out to recover it. Up against them are various collectors, mystics and agents of the Empire.

The other city is on the border of the Spiderlands. If the Empire can be provoked into starting their war on yet another front, it would relieve pressure on the Lowlands. Chi and Nero,the fly artist, are sent in but by the time they actually arrive, the Empire has already started moving in its troops. By making deals with the local spider lords, the Empire hopes to take the city without inciting the Spiderlands.

During all this, the Bee kinden begin a revolt and Tothos and Dr. Drephos are tasked with putting into play Drephos' new weapon against the bees. Emperor Alvdan II continues his frantic search for eternal life and the Mosquito mystic continues his game, whatever that may be.



My Thoughts:

We get a rest from the “War” but the fighting continues. Wars require allies and vassals and Stenwold is at his best as Spymaster. Dealing in the shadows, working behind the scenes, Stenwold is not at his best as the public face of Collegium as a Warmaster. But with that being his lot, he must once again send out those he loves and cares for to do the dirty work.

The 'magic' side of things really starts to become more prominent and just like the hints from before, it would seem that all magic is nasty stuff. It was used to enslave, to control and it brought out the worst in those who used it, or attracted the worst kind of character. It is dark and scary and I have to wonder how the Apt kinden ever threw off the chains of magic that the InApt used to enslave them.

This book was kind of depressing because there just doesn't seem to be any hope for stopping the Wasp Empire. Stall them, delay them, yes. But put a stop to their expansion? There does not appear to be a way. The Empire is already showing signs of moral decay. Alvdan's quest for immortality and fear of death is almost the face of what is wrong with the Wasps as a whole. Their warrior ethos is softening and decaying into mere cruelty and wantoness.

Honestly, I am not liking this series as much as I did the first time around. Every new book I was looking for Hope. I was looking for Heroes. I was looking for that Something Better to rise from the ashes of Defeat, pain and suffering writ on its body but it's spirit of grim resolve and determination to win unbroken and only strengthened by adversity. What I got was a story of what happens when ordinary people do their best against overwhelming odds. They do not always win. That is a tough nut to chew on.

★★★★☆ 





Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Showdown at Tokyo Dome (Eyeshield 21 #28) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Showdown at Tokyo Dome
 Series: Eyeshield 21 #28
 Author: Riichiro Inagaki 
 Artist: Yusuke Murata
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Sports Manga
 Pages: 200
 Format: Digital Scan





Synopsis:

The game between the Hakushuu Dinosaurs and the Seiba Wild Gunmen. This game will determine who will play the Devil Bats. On the Dinosaurs side there is Gaou, a musclebound destroyer who breaks quarterbacks, either physically or mentally. Facing him are The Quickdraw Kid and Riku, who is equal to Sena in terms of speed. Things appear to be going the Gunmen's way with the Kid's ultra fast passing, which doesn't allow Gaou time to lay a finger on him. Unfortunately, all it takes is one slow pass and the Kid is toast, with a broken arm. Riku rallies the Gunmen but it just isn't enough. They are crushed 14-72.

The rest of the book is about how Kurita, Hiruma and Musashi all meet and eventually come together to create a football team.


My Thoughts:

This started out as a 3 star volume. Gaou as a player breaker was just beyond the pale of what I could accept as “real” in this manga. In the NFL (National Football League -American pro level) there is something called “unnecessary roughness”. If it becomes obvious that a player is physically beating on another player, that can be used. Depending on what is going on, it can be a warning and I believe, eventually lead to expulsion from the game. Needless to say, any player that consistently went around breaking bones in opposing teams would be banned pronto. So that dragged my enjoyment of the game down. It was as if Sena could suddenly run 100 yards in 1 second. That is just impossible and would destroy any enjoyment.

Thankfully, things were better with the memory montage. Kurita, the big fat lineman for the Devil Bats is going to be only guy able to deal with Gaou in the next game when it comes to pure power. But he's not full of confidence so Hiruma sets up some stuff at the Tokyo Dome, a baseball game of all things and in the process Kurita remembers how they all came together and Hiruma kept his dream for an american football team alive.

For me, the most moving part was when Kurita had been told by the club directors that since he didn't have 3 members, he couldn't have a football club and that he couldn't use the grounds and that he'd have to get rid of all his equipment. He's burning it all and crying and Hiruma walks up to him and asks him if he's giving up. Kurita turns to Hiruma with tears streaming down his face and says that he's not giving up but that he doesn't know what to do. Murata, the artist for the manga, just makes Kurita's face express the palpable determination mixed with despair. If you've ever been in a like situation, you'll want to cry right along with Kurita. Thankfully, it doesn't end there but that was the high point of the book for me. It was poignant and moving.

★★★★☆ 








Monday, June 19, 2017

The Daybreakers (Sacketts #6) ★★★☆ ½


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: The Daybreakers
 Series: Sacketts #6
 Author: Louis L'Amour
 Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Western
 Pages: 224
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Tyrel and Orrin Sackett leave the hills of Kentucky/whatever after killing a nogood scum. Joining a cattle herder, both young men begin the process of growing up and becoming respectable men. After learning how to herd cows, they set out to create their own herd. During this time they come across a mexican Don and his granddaughter and a huckster and his daughter from New England. Ty and Orrin eventually become lawman and mayor. When Orrin, who is now married to the blonde new englander runs for state senate, her father hires killers to take out Orrin to put his own man in power. It is up to Ty to keep his brother's hands clean protect him and rescue the Don's granddaughter.

Just a day's work for a Sackett.



My Thoughts:

I mainly remember this from the movie, The Sacketts, starring Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot. You know what, there really is nobody who more fits the image of the rough and tough Sackett brothers than those two. Those guys are who I think of when it comes to your generic Western characters.

Anyway, this book covers a good amount of time. Enough for both boys to go from cowpunchers to established politician and lawman. Don't blink or you'll miss a couple of months. Part of the disconnect is that the cattle drives take months and months but only take a couple of paragraphs.

There is a lot of fighting, like you'd expect in a western. A couple of one on one shootouts, lots of Ty facing down various men, some killers, some just hardheads who needed a bit of fear put into their lives to give them perspective. The swell of civilization westward seems to happen quickly as well, but much like what we see happening on the internet today with torrent and sharing sites, it was inevitable. The speed at which humanity can communicate determines how fast things will change to accommodate the greatest number.

It was also very interesting to see L'Amour characterize someone from New England. And uptight scammer. It made me laugh because the kind of person from New England who couldn't stay in New England would be exactly that. Spot on.

★★★☆ ½






Saturday, June 17, 2017

Elfshadow (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #2) ★★★☆ ½


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Elfshadow
 Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #2
 Author: Elaine Cunningham
 Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 324
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Arilyn Moonblade, poor little half human and moon elf, is taken under wing by a gold elf who teaches her how to be the ultimate fighter. With her magical moonblade, she becomes an associate of the Harper organization to do the deeds they don't want to sully their hands with.

When Arilyn's acquaintances begin to die, all Harpers and all marked by a Harper symbol, she sets out to find the killer before the killer finds her. Unbeknownst to her however, her moonblade is a portal to the hidden elven realm of Evermeet and that is the true goal of the assassin.

She encounters Danilo Thann, foppish nobleman, amateur bard and in secret, the protege of Blackstaff Arunsen, major wizard in the city of Waterdeep. Danilo has been tasked with protecting Arilyn and her moonblade without revealing his true identity.

Lots of fights, flights and betrayals occur before the showdown where Arilyn learns about her family, who her secret adversary is and Danilo's true identity. Sometimes belonging to a secret organization isn't all that it's cracked up to be.



My Thoughts:

So much better than the first Harper book. The story was predictable as the sun and you know who the real badguy is by the halfway mark (at least, I did) but the interaction between Danilo and Arilyn was perfect. While Arilyn was the main character, Danilo was one of those sidecharacters who almost steals the show. He has to pretend to be a stupid fop even while being on guard against assassins both mundane and magical. The fact that he carries it off just made it all the better.

One problem I had, which is all me, is that I came across people and places whose names I recognized from other Forgotten Realms books but I couldn't remember a lot of detail. It doesn't help that I'm reading the overall Forgotten Realms books out of order. Evereska, city of Elves is mentioned as is Blackstaff Arunsen and both of those played a large part in the Return of the Archwizards trilogy.

After Denning's writing style in the first book (I don't like Denning and I'll probably never stop mentioning that, fyi), Cunningham's straightforward approach was refreshing. She can write well and while this setting doesn't allow for spectacular writing, I was pretty pleased with how she handled everything.

The story about Arilyn's moonblade, it's magical history, her family drama, etc, were all ok but really, I only liked the fighting bits. And as for the Elfshadow, that was so blatantly obvious that I don't even feel the need to comment on it beyond this.

On a kind of silly note, the cover just about makes me gag. Danilo looks like he's about to turn into a fat merchant in about 2 years while Arilyn looks like an angry hobbit with pointy ears. I also found out that the adventures of Arilyn and Danilo are not only part of the Harpers series but eventually split off to become their own little thing called Swords and Songs. I don't know if I'll pursue that at some point or not.

★★★☆ ½






Thursday, June 15, 2017

Brass Man (Polity: Agent Cormac #3) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Brass Man
 Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #3
 Author: Neal Asher
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 505
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Skellor, that lovable rapscallion who just wants to kill Ian Cormac and destroy the Polity with Jain tech, is back! His personal infestation of jain seems to be out of control, so he digs up Mr Crane (the titular Brass Man) and starts looking for another Dragon sphere. Because sure as shooting, the Dragon knows all about the Jain tech.

Obviously the Polity can't have this, so they send in Agent Cormac, again. His abilities are growing and it would appear that he's on the path to becoming Horace Blegg Jr. He tracks down Skellor to a small world that lost their Polity roots hundreds of years ago. Skellor thinks it's a great place to hide, which is what the Dragon thought too, until Skellor found it. Skellor spreads jain tech willy-nilly to take over a bunch of people and begins killing them. Cormac becomes his hostage and they all head out to space. Where they have an encounter with a brown hole and Skellor gets his and Cormac is rescued by a rogue AI. Another leg of this book is about Rogue AI's who want the jain tech for themselves and cause problems for everyone, including their daddy, who has to kill some of them. Tough love baby.

Mr Cranes segments are all mixed up memories from his inception to his present state. He was hexed with some schizo software, stolen by rebels and loaded up with a killer's memories and instincts. All served to break his ego into pieces and he's been playing at trying to put himself together again. With the help of Dragon, and an AI in the body of a vulture, he succeeds and walks off into the sunset.

Finally, there is a storyline about 2 people from the little planet. One's a knight who is on a quest to kill a dragon and the other is a young man who was going to rob him until he realized what a badass the knight actually was. A mentor storyline.



My Thoughts:

Asher likes AI's that are messed up and multiple personalities. That was the whole gist of his later Transformation trilogy that ended this year.

Anyway, this was violent. Between jain tech & Skellor invading peoples brains, Mr Crane's memories, Ian Cormac and monsters on the little world, you run the full gamut of dismemberment to “light mist” splatterification.

That Skellor was a total psyche job. He made for a great villain though, as he was just ruthlessly “bad” and there was no moral grey areas. I like my badguys to be really despicable, the kind of badguy who you can't help but root for their downfall. Skellor filled that admirably. But with his ending up in a brown hole (I kind of glossed over Asher's pseudo-science explanation of WHAT a brown hole is) I hope Asher can come up with a suitably good Bad Guy for the final 2 books of the Agent Cormac series. Jain tech and its completely destructive nature goes on, but that type of threat needs a face to make it a villain.

Mr Crane's storyline, while interesting, just didn't have the punch you'd expect from being the Title of the Book. He seemed more like the marinade of the story instead of the steak. And speaking of marinade, that knight/mentor storyline. It had nothing to do with this, except it took place on the small world (I am refusing to look up its name because it is too small for me to care about), and they overlapped with the big climactic ending with Skellor, Ian, Dragon and the various AI's. If this book was an RPG (role playing game), the knight's story would have been the backstory of a NPC (non player character) who dies 2 minutes after you meet him. It filled up space and allowed us a wider view of the little world, but it didn't advance the story any.

While I rated this the same as I did back in '10, I suspect I would have rated it 4.5 back then and dropped it to 4 this time. A lot of my attraction last time was the newness factor and with that gone, blood and guts only gets you so far. Still thoroughly enjoyed it, but I won't be raving about this book like I might have back then.

★★★★☆ 





Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Blood of Aenarion (Warhammer: Tyrion & Teclis #1) ★★★☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Blood of Aenarion
 Series: Warhammer: Tyrion & Teclis #1
 Author: William King
 Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 416
 Format: Digital Edition




Synopsis:

6000 years ago, the world was besieged by the forces of Chaos and on the edge of destruction. An elven Mage worked a great magic that drove the chaos forces away but one of the demons was caught and trapped within the spell. The mage was only able to finish the spell because Aenarion, mightiest elf warrior, threw everything he had against the forces of chaos.

Now the spell is unraveling and the demon is out for vengeance against the descendants of Aenarion. Two of those descendants, Tyrion and Teclis, are just reaching the age of being presented to the King to see if they carry the curse of Aenarion and to have their possible futures foretold. Both of the twins are possibly the mightiest of elves in their respective arts, Tyrion has the potential to be a warrior without peer and Teclis may plumb the depths of the magical arts not seen in Millenia.

Now the twins must work together to survive Elven political infighting and a demon who is out to kill them. Not much of a life.



My Thoughts:

My first impression: Bleak.

While it is very similar to Forgotten Realms in style, in tone it is so different that it is hard to even lump them together. There is no hope, there is no lasting victory and Chaos WILL destroy the world at some point.

We follow the twins as they reach the age of majority and begin to have responsibilities that their father has run away from. Having lived in the backwoods of nowhere, neither twin is prepared for what it means to live in an Elven city. The elves of Warhammer are most definitely not in the mold of Tolkien's elves. They are just prettier humans that live longer and things are just as nasty as in any political system.

With the twins exhibiting major traits of Aenarion [peerless warrior and mage extraordinaire] just as the super spell is unraveling, it is pretty easy to spot what is going to happen. But that didn't detract from the story at all. William King appears to be a decent author and his skill level brings this up a notch. The climactic battle at the end with the twins channeling the power of some other Force [are there forces of Law to counter Chaos in Warhammer?] is pretty good. Of course, the demon isn't destroyed so you know he/it will be back again to cause problems in the next 2 books.

I don't know enough about the Warhammer universe so I have questions. I suspect though that I'll have to just keep on reading to get those answers. As long as the writing quality stays at this level and not at the Blood on the Reik, I should be ok with the darker overtones.

★★★☆☆





Sunday, June 11, 2017

Return of the Archon (Omega Force #5) ★★★☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Return of the Archon
 Series: Omega Force #5
 Author: Joshua Dalzelle
 Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 325
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Crusher, the biggest, (almost) baddest member of Omega Force has a secret. And it catches up to him in this book.

He is the Archon. The military leader of his system, who was exiled to keep the peace between the warriors and the politicians. As usual, politicians have botched things up even more and a small select group has been tasked with bringing Crusher back so he can restore the balance. Crusher must rescue his mentor, figure out a way to stop this mess from getting any bigger and make the choice of whether he will be staying with Omega Force or not.

And there is a someone working behind the scenes with their own agenda.



My Thoughts:

My initial thought was that the Archon was some super villain from one of the characters' past. Return of the Archon just SOUNDS ominous. So imagine my surprise when it turns out Crusher is the Archon and the Archon is supposed to be one of the good guys keeping peace between various warrior factions and the politicians in his star system.

This was a cracking good adventure story filled with prison breaks, ship to ship battles and a whole warrior culture just about ready to boil over. We also get to see the aftermath of Lucky [the battle synth robot] sparring, friendly like, with some of the warriors. I hope that in future volumes Dalzelle has the skill to actually write a good one on one battle scene between 2 high powered beings. It would definitely increase my enjoyment of the series as a whole.

I was thinking of bumping this up to 3.5stars because I enjoyed it more than the Brother Cadfael book I had just finished, but when comparing it to the other Omega Force books, it was right in line with them, so my rating stayed at 3. Which isn't a bad thing. Bookstooge's Ratings Explained

The writing was the best so far. The verbal fighting between members of the OF, which I found off putting in a previous book, was still here but conveyed in such a way that it didn't come across as two people hating each other and being forced to get along. It came across as 2 team member with widely varying personalities being in the same small space. That in itself is reason enough for me to keep on reading this series. I feel like this book was better crafted than the previous ones but it is hard to tell objectively. I do know that with this book I would recommend the OF series to someone, whereas before I would have danced around the issue.

★★★☆☆






Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Rose Rent (Brother Cadfael #13) ★★★☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: The Rose Rent
 Series: Brother Cadfael #13
 Author: Ellis Peters
 Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Mystery
 Pages: 239
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

A young widow, the owner of a well to do business, gave a house she owned to the Abby, on the condition that they pay a “rent” of one white rose on the anniversary of her husband's death. Should the rose not be delivered or the widow not be able to take it, the Abby forfeits the house and it reverts back to the widow.

She is pressed on all sides by suitors but when a young monk is killed and the rose bush burnt, things have moved into serious territory. Then when the widow disappears and another man shows up dead, Cadfael must solve what is going on before the widow ends up dead. Things have a happy ending when Cadfael solves the mystery and the widow ends up with the local leather worker who is a widower with a young daughter.



My Thoughts:

Not really much to say about these. First off, it's a Mystery and that's not my go-to genre so I'm pretty meh about it. Second, it is a Cadfael mystery, so there's a lot of just kind of hanging around while things happen. Being a monk really cramps his style.

There is a lot of descriptive stuff that I simply blew by. I just didn't care. I'm sure it set the tone but that was lost on me.

Cadfael is a literary palate cleanser for me. It is well written, I don't expect much and it delivers just enough to keep me happy. Kind of like those baskets of bread rolls at restaurants that you munch on before your food arrives.

★★★☆☆ 





Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Shin vs Sena (Eyeshield 21 #27) ★★★★★


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Shin vs Sena
 Series: Eyeshield 21 #27
 Author: Riichiro Inagaki 
 Artist: Yusuke Murata
 Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Sports Manga
 Pages: 200
 Format: Digital Scan





Synopsis:

The conclusion to the game between the Devil Bats and the White Knights. With under 2 minutes left, the Devil Bats score a touchdown and take the lead. It would appear to be all over but the White Knights won't go down without a fight. Making an incredible comeback, Shin manages to make a touchdown with only 1 second left on the clock.

Now, the Devil Bats must catch the kick-off, run the ball down the field, avoid the whole White Knight's team and score a touch down. Can Sena overcome total exhaustion, the spectre of defeat and Shin to make the Devil Bats dream of the Christmas Bowl come true?

If you think I'm going to tell you, screw you!


My Thoughts:

Just kidding!

Of course the Devil Bats win. There wouldn't be much point to a 37 volume manga series that ends at Vol. 27 now would there?

But my goodness, even while I “knew” that the Devil Bats had to win, I wasn't sure it was going to happen right up until the last page. Now that is how you do “tension”. I would also say that this was the ultimate, so far, in showing heart and guts. If the series HAD ended here, I would be more than satisfied with the time I spent reading this.

Now that I have given a volume 5 Stars, I'm probably going to be extra tough on the next couple, so expect more “nit picky” complaints. A concern I do have is how they're going to top this. I sure hope the momentum of the series stays strong.

★★★★★ 






Tuesday, June 06, 2017

October's Baby (The Dread Empire: A Cruel Wind #2) ★★★☆☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: October's Baby
 Series: The Dread Empire: A Cruel Wind #2
 Author: Glen Cook
 Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 247
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Ragnarson, the mercenary leader from the previous book, gets pulled back into leading a campaign for
a queen who's kingdom is falling apart after her husband's death. Part of the problem is that it is suspected that her heir is actually a changeling switched at birth. Another issue is that the Dread Empire is working behind the scenes, this time with the faces of the children of the sorcerers from the first book. Nothing like daddy issues to get folks riled up.

In the end, there is huge battle, magic gets negated for the duration of the battle, both sorcerous children are either slain or depleted of power and the heirs of the kingdom under dispute are poisoned by a mysterious character. Yep, the book ends with kids dying from poison.




My Thoughts:

I was just confused for most of this book. A lot of names get thrown around, a lot of places mentioned, MANY battles are referenced and not a one could I remember from the previous book. It felt like this was referencing previous books that I had not read, but I believe I am reading these in publication order. So either Cook has the idea for prequels or he's just throwing stuff at the reader “because”.

Outside of that, I was still confused. Shifts of perspective and time, while clearly outlined at the beginning of each chapter, sometimes covered years and might only be a couple of pages. While 2 days might take up 10 pages. I just kind of held on and got the gist of the story.

Sorcerers, politics, big battle. Kids dying. That part just weirded me out. Neither of the heirs were actually the king's, but while we know about the changeling, I don't believe we ever know who fathered the heir actual. So why the heir actual had to die, I have no idea.

Not a bad read, but I felt like I was constantly in a mudhole fighting to get to firm ground and then sliding back into the pit.

★★★☆☆



Monday, June 05, 2017

Warrior King (Odyssey One #5) ★★★★ ½


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: Warrior King
 Series: Odyssey One #5
 Author: Evan Currie
 Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 334
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Humanity and the Priminae are working together and have created a new class of Interstellar Warships, the Heroics. Cpt. Eric Weston continues as the head officer upon the Flagship Odysseus. His current assignment is to backtrack the Drasin and find out who or what was controlling them.

At the same time, the aliens, simply known as The Empire, are missing a Drasin fleet. They're not to happy about that and they set out to follow the Drasin to see what happened. When the Odysseus and their carrier group, which includes the new Destroyers we are introduced to in King of Thieves, run into the Empire's Fleet, a battle ensues in which Humanity kicks butt.

Of course, now Humanity has picked a fight with an Empire that includes 149 star systems. We are in SO much trouble.




My Thoughts:

It's been a year and a half since I last read a book in the Odyssey One universe. Man, Currie is getting better. I really enjoyed Out of the Black, but when I read the first 2 Scourwind novels, I figured he couldn't top them. I was wrong. This was just as good.

There were 2 space battle scenes and they were both memorable. One was a small destroyer against an unarmed shuttle. That was more a battle of wits than anything. The Battle Group fight was just a massive brawl in space. The T-guns were useless, so that made the battle even more exciting.

We get a little bit of “universe” building going on but this was just like the previous books. Fighting, In Spaaaaace! It just doesn't get more fun than this.

★★★★ ½




Sunday, June 04, 2017

The Isle of Battle (The Swan's War #2) ★★★★☆


This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
 Title: The Isle of Battle
 Series: The Swan's War #2
 Author: Sean Russell
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SFF
 Pages: 468
 Format: Digital Scan





Synopsis:

Hafydd follows Alaan into the Stillwater, who in turn is followed by Elise. The Stillwater is a swamp that was created by their uncle when he cast a spell to sunder the lands and to prevent him from going through Death's Gate. Each of Wyrr's children bring a group of followers with them and at some point each group must decide if their leader is truly worth following.

Meanwhile, the Rennes and the Wills begin their battle out in the known world. But with various smaller players potentially playing both sides, who is to know who will win? All of this is told through the eyes [ha] of Lord Carral, who is blind and Lady Lynne, who hides in her night garden so no one will see her hideously burned face.




My Thoughts:

While the first book, The One Kingdom, was much like the river that most of the story played out on, this book was very much like the Stillwater that half the story takes place in. A lot of paddling, a lot of fighting, a lot of movement but eventually it all leads to the characters simply trying to stay alive and to get out of the swamp.

This is once again a very character driven story. Lord Caral, father of Elise, thinking she is dead makes deals with the Renne to try to bring about a peace between the 2 families. He heads off to battle, even while being blind, and it is a testament to Russell's skill that the story doesn't suffer at all when being told from a blind man's perspective. In many ways I enjoyed the story parts more from his perspective than any of the Siblings [Hafydd, Alaan or Elise].

Things escalate. Where as in the first book we are dealing with the Children of Wyrr, *powerful sorcerers* [insert your own ghost noises], suddenly we're dealing with their Uncle, who was powerful enough to sunder the lands and cheat death for Millenia. Combine that with Hafydd's desire to cheat death and suddenly you have an Uncle and a Nephew, both powerful sorcerers, who are willing to work together even while trying to control the other. It is like stepping into the shallow end of a swimming pool that turns into a pond that then turns into an ocean. Unexpected depths and currents.

When I read this back in '09, I noted how quick things moved. This time around, I didn't feel like it moved quickly at all. More things happen, yes, but much like Alice in Wonderland, they had to run as fast as they could just to stay in place. Nobody WENT anywhere. I am already interested what I'm going to think of this when I read it again in a decade or so.

The other change is that I went from 5stars to 4stars. The biggest part is because the ecopy I read was an unproofed digital scan. That has nothing to do with the book itself, but does go to show how formatting, grammar, spelling, etc really are the building block upon which a story is built. I'm definitely going to be buying an official copy for my read of the final book. At one point things were so garbled that I was tempted to pull my hardcover off the shelf and finish the book with that.

The other reason I dropped it down was because I felt overwhelmed by the introduction of Aillyn, Wyrr's brother and the sibling's Uncle. I thought that the Children of Wyrr were a big enough threat without suddenly making them small in comparison.

The good side of this book is that the writing is just as fantastic as the first. Russell writes slowly, ponderously and with the weight of his ideas pushing you on. It felt like a tsunami wave, that starts very deep in the ocean and isn't really seen until it hits the shore. The end of the book was the Shore.

In closing, I have no regrets about buying this trilogy in hardcover or in re-reading this. I recommend this trilogy by Russell unreservedly.

★★★★☆