Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lando (Sacketts #7) ★★★★☆


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: Lando
 Series: Sacketts #7
 Author: Louis L'Amour
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Western
 Pages: 176
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Lando Sackett was given into the care of a neighbor when his mother died and his father just took off. Lando ended up taking off and living off the land and eventually calls out the man who stole his inheritance.

He heads out West with a tinker Gypsy, finds out his uncles are on the trail to kill him (for the sin of his father daring to marry their sister), comes across the fact that his father knew where a sunken treasure ship is and finds out that his dad isn't dead and always meant to return but couldn't, due to being in a mexican prison.

Lando saves the town from the gambler and is headed out West again.

The End (sunset and all)


My Thoughts:

L'Amour definitely has a thing for skipping huge chunks of time. Lando spends 6 years in the mexican prison and that time and his rescue take about 3 pages. He is skipping from peak to peak in the story and only gives us details when it suits the story he wants to tell. A very different style than what I'm used to in SFF.

I had read this in highschool but the only thing I remembered was the prizefight at the end. But my goodness, it was worth remembering. A boxing fight where the crowd is under the control of the gambler and using dirty tricks against Lando. A rifleman trying to shoot him from a window. His Ranger friends showing up and making things even. The joy, sweat, blood and tears of one man fighting another. This fight is why I gave this book 4 stars instead of 3.5.

The rest of the book was pretty good too. Showed how greed and pride could destroy men from the inside and how obsession could take over and ruin a man from living a quiet, satisfying life. A great Western that shows Rugged American Individualism at its best.

To close, the cover. While this edition does a decent job of showing the prizefight at the end, the guy just doesn't look like Lando. THIS cover does a much better job:


Now that's a MUSTACHE!








★★★★☆







  1. Sackett’s Land (Book 1)
  2. To the Far Blue Mountains (Book 2)
  3. The Warrior’s Path (Book 3)
  4. Jubal Sackett (Book 4)
  5. Ride the River (Book 5)
  6. The Daybreakers (Book 6)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Kantovan Vault (The Spiral Wars #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: Kantovan Vault
 Series: The Spiral Wars #3
 Author: Joel Shepherd
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SF
 Pages: 545
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Captain Erik is in the middle of Tavali space, under the protection of a special branch of the Tavali armed forces. They are searching for a data core of an old Drysine Queen so that the queen on board, Styx, can become fully functional and help in the fight against the Alo, who seem to have been suborned by the Deepynines, another supposedly extinct machine race.

The Tavali are even crazier in their politics than humanity and some of their sub-allies are just plain nuts. The long and short is that Erik's sister is kidnapped, which forces him to mastermind a break-in of the Tavali's most secret treasure cave, the Kantovan Vault. Within said vault is a journal that will help Styx find the data core and the Tavali military gain the upper hand against their civilian counter parts.

Of course, the Tavali military doesn't know that Erik has the help of Styx, a Drysine. The Tavali have specially trained units to deal with remnants of Drysine machinery and if they know that Erik has an active Queen, well, he and his crew have as much chance of surviving as I do if I pissed straight into the sun.

Yeah, no chance.


My Thoughts:

This was just as good as the previous two books. I hadn't realized it had been just over a year since I read book 2 though. Which leads me into my first issue.

Names. There was not a glossary or character list at the beginning of the book. Usually I don't care about that, but when single names get tossed about, with a military designation, it would be nice to know WHO that person is. It wouldn't be an issue if this was a completed series and I was reading them every month or two, but with a year between reads, it would have been nice to have a character list. And a sum-up of the previous book, even 2-3 paragraphs to remind me what has gone on.

Second, and final issue, was that things seemed a bit dragged out. I found myself skipping descriptions of “whatever” and sometimes even conversations if they didn't seem 100% on point to the plot. I suspect Shepherd would have gotten a “what a simplistic book” if he HADN'T added all those extra bits, so maybe he just can't win? But drag is something to be aware of.

The battles, once again, were the high point. All ground force fights, ranging everywhere from remote mountain tops to a subway system with mecha. The Tavali military calls up some of its retirees to help out Erik and Co on a planet and man, that was awesome. Pitched battles in slum'y areas. Buildings toppling, explosions, etc, etc. It was glorious.

While I know that the Drysines are needed in the fight against the Deepynines, I'm still rooting for someone on board Erik's ship to blow Styx to kingdom come and back. It feels like having Skynet on board; it's just waiting to turn on you and kill you. Brrrrrr. I don't care if Styx becomes a hero, I'll think of it as a badguy to the bitter end of the series.

Another thing I liked was that no one came across as stupid. Sometimes you'll get a lazy author who makes the characters act in such a way, to propel the story onward, that you wonder if the character is an idiot. None of that here. Professionals all around and acting like the adults they are written as. Bravo to Shepherd for that!

★★★★☆





Sunday, August 13, 2017

Red Magic (Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #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: Red Magic
 Series: Forgotten Realms: The Harpers #3
 Author: Jean Rabe
 Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 320
 Format: Digital Scan





Synopsis:

Maligor, a Red Wizard of Thay, has plans, big plans. He's built himself up an army of gnolls and has let it be known that a newly established young red wizard has built his tower on some land that Maligor wants. In secret, Maligor has been building an army of darkenbeasts out of cute wittle woodland animals and is planning on taking over the gold mines for his own personal enrichment.

The city of Aglarond, which is close to Thay, is worried about all the activity going on and they hire some Harpers to investigate. Galvin the druid and his friend Wynter the pacifist minotaur. Aglarond sends it own representative in the form of Brenna Greycloak, a small time politician and enchantress.

In the process of infiltrating Thay, the Harpers are captured by Szass Tam, lich wizard and main character in other future books. Szass Tam has them lead an attack on the mine to stop Maligor. They succeed, skedaddle out of Thay and go their separate ways.



My Thoughts:

I enjoy stories about the Red Wizards of Thay and about Szass Tam, so I was hoping this book was going to hit the spot, kind of like a good chili dog. Sadly, this chili dog had been left on the counter for a week then overcooked in the microwave for 10minutes.

The interactions between ANY of the characters, whether with other main characters or side characters, was complete cardboard. Galvin and Brenna fall in love for the adventure but then realize their separate life goals aren't compatible at the end, so they amicably go their separate ways. Wynter the minotaur. THAT should have been awesome. But partway through he gets “magic'd” and acts like a child for some time. And don't get me started on Maligor and his assistant Asp. I got whiplash from how they interacted.

Then all the harping (hahahaha) about what a great strategic genius Maligor is because he's using a public gnoll army to distract everyone while doing his real business with the darkenbeasts? It was bogus. I'm no military genius and even I would have been smarter than Maligor. I would have gathered in some other Red Wizards as "allies" and then betrayed them all like a Good Red Wizard is supposed to. Use their forces for my ends, weaken them and my other enemies and then crush them all in the end, using yet another set of "allies". Szass Tam did this, Maligor, not so much.

Honestly, this whole book felt like the author hadn't written any fantasy before, didn't know how to make use of her characters, hadn't ever watched one war movie and had no idea how to write a battle scene. “Meh” probably accurately sums up this whole book.

And this is what I got to read last week when I was super busy and doing lots of stuff outside of work as well. Not that I'm bitter or anything.


★★☆☆☆ 




Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Polity Agent (Polity: Agent Cormac #4) ★★★★☆


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: Polity Agent
 Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #4
 Author: Neal Asher
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SF
 Pages: 580
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Another jain node is experimented upon, this time by a haiman. But she's a bit smarter than Skellor and doesn't allow it access to her, thus putting off its growth and takeover.

At the same time, it turns out that the Maker civilization, which created the Dragon, was also using jain tech and planned on seeding the Polity with the nodes and thus allowing the Polity to destroy itself. Well, the Makers ended up destroying themselves first, but Cormac must track down the remaining nodes that they sent with the Dragon.

And if that wasn't enough, it appears that a rogue AI, that left the Polity after the Prador Wars, has succumbed to jain tech and is actively trying to destroy the Polity as well.

Bloody jain tech, it just wants to kill everything...


My Thoughts:

This was the first book in the Agent Cormac series where things weren't wrapped up by the end. The Haiman's [a human who is aug'ing themselves until they can handle AI level of data] storyline was the slowest and the least completed. In many ways her plot line almost felt unnecessary except for when she propelled the other plot lines forward. I can't remember enough about the next book to know if she plays a big part or not. I guess I'll just have to wait and find out.

Cormac tracking down the other nodes and the Rogue AI lines were pretty closely intertwined. The rogue AI, named Cerberus, kept laying traps for Polity ships and they kept falling for it. Not sure if that was deliberate or if the Polity AI's really were that stupid? Considering how long range Earth Central plans, I'm betting on “deliberate”.

I had forgotten how many people died. Almost everyone we've met so far, except for Cormac [of course!], the biologist Mika, the Dracoman Scar and AI's, die. Subsumed by jain tech, destroyed in battles, tortured and killed by bad guys, etc. Even the revelations about Horace Blegg means he is out of the picture, his usefulness at an end. By his own side too, ouch!

This is fun to read and I enjoy the violence and blazing guns and super weapons and smarty pants AI's. I don't feel that this book lost anything upon re-read. Things might not be as “new”, but it was just as exciting as before. If you're looking for some bloody good science fiction, try this sub-series of Asher's Polity Universe.

★★★★☆



  1. Polity Agent (2010 Review)
  2. Brass Man (Book 3)
  3. Line of Polity (Book 2)
  4. Gridlinked (Book 1)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The Christmas Bowl (Eyeshield 21 #32) ★★★★☆


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 Christmas Bowl
 Series: Eyeshield 21 #32
 Author: Riichiro Inagaki 
 Artist: Yusuke Murata
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Sports Manga
 Pages: 192
 Format: Digital Scan





Synopsis:

The special training happens and all the other top players from the defeated team help the Devil Bats train so they can beat the Alexandres, who have won the Christmas Bowl ever since it started. Of course, Agon, that paragon of evil who I'd throw under a bus, doesn't honor his agreement and goes to the Alexandres. What a bastard.

Then, the Christmas Bowl. The Devil Bats take the immediate offensive and begin a huge drive. Only to have the Alexandres stop them cold, stone cold! Everything the Devil Bats try fails. Monta realizes that he is simply out-talented by Taka Honjou, son of his baseball idol and that Honjou has been training his own son for years as a catcher.. It almost breaks Monta. Then it's the Alexandre's ball. Their quarterback is a girl named Karin.

The volume ends with Karin throwing a perfect pass to Yamato, the Alexandres running back. Sena catches him, is blown off, catches him again and is blown off again.


My Thoughts:

So, this game is going to be 5 volumes long, or maybe just 4 if they do the last volume as a wrapup, but I doubt that.

I have to admit, I was feeling a bit bored. It was still good football, but still, you can only draw things out so much. How many times have the Devil Bats been immediately shut down? How many times have they been outclassed? How many times has Hiruma played mind games and Sena run faster than anybody else? I really hope the rest of the game doesn't bore me.

Now, Karin. I'm sorry, and I've mentioned this before, but a girl playing American Football? No. She's obviously going to be a big part of this game, as she's the quarterback for goodness sake. But it is so inconceivable that the whole idea throws me out of the game. It would be like Arnold Schwarzenegger, back in his Terminator days, entering a Miss Busty Bikini Contest and be given real thought to by the judges and the crowd. It would be ludicrous. So I'm just switching off my brain for this and hope it doesn't get too much more unbelievable.

A Real Tom Brady  /sarcasm


★★★★☆








Friday, August 04, 2017

Sword of Caledor (Warhammer: Tyrion & Teclis #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: Sword of Caledor
 Series: Tyrion & Teclis #2
 Author: William King
 Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 268
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

It has been 100 years since the previous book. Tyrion and Teclis are both becoming more adept at their roles and how they fit into Elven Society.

The book starts out with them and a bunch of humans on a quest to find the Sword of Caledor. Going through jungles, swamps and eventually ending up at a dead city, they find the Sword.

Once back home, Tyrion is called upon to take part in a tournament to decide the champion of the new Everqueen, as the previous one suddenly died, all because of Malekith's long term plans. Teclis must decode a bunch of scrolls he took from the dead city that seem to describe the end of the world.

Meanwhile, Malekith has bound the demon from the previous book and is invading the Light Elves/Asur's homeland. He uses the demon's ability to use portals to spread his army across the land and plans on destroying city after city in one fell swoop. He also sends an elite contingent to the Tournament to capture the new Everqueen. With her bound to Malekith, the Asur will have to follow him.E

Tyrion foils said capture, but the book ends with him and the Everqueen on the run and the land about to be overrun by dark elves.


My Thoughts:

My initial thought when we meet the twins and their human entourage in a jungle searching for the sword, was that these elves were not Tolkien's elves but that they seemed familiar. Further on, I realized that they reminded me of the Melnibonéans from Michael Moorcock's Elric Saga. Decadent, superior and on the decline without even realizing it.

My second thought, when Malekith invaded with a whole boatload of boats [sorry for that, but couldn't really think of another turn of phrase], was “Where are the watchers, the scouts, Joelendil Farmer?” Why didn't SOMEBODY see a whole bloody army invading? I don't get the impression that the Asur homeland was a vast, unpopulated realm. Maybe it is, but if so, me having no knowledge of the land denied me knowing that. It just came across as authorial “Because I said so!”

My third, and final negative thought, was, “this is depressing as all get out”. The Asur were ennui laden jerks, the Druuchi [the elves in thrall to Malekith, the other son of Aenarion] were all spies, tattletales and backstabbers and the humans were greedy pigs hardly even worth looking at.

Action-wise, this had some good stuff! The battles to find the sword of Caledor, in the jungle, in the dead city, were pretty good. Had a good mix of dinoaurs, ghosts and undead [sadly, no undead dinosaurs]. The slaughter at the Tournament was a bit “meh”, as none of the super-duper warriors, besides Tyrion, seemed to fight back and even Tyrion had to pull a rescue and run mission.


★★★☆☆ 




Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Secret of the Phoenix (Omega Force #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: Secret of the Phoenix
 Series: Omega Force #6
 Author: Joshua Dalzelle
 Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: SF
 Pages: 295
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Jason Burke and the crew of the Serenity, dang it, the Phoenix, are hired by an archeologist to transport her to her former dig site and provide protection. She seems very familiar with the team and ship, provides very little concrete information about herself and at every stop Jason and Crew stumble onto other beings trying to kill them.

Turns out the archeologist's father Indiana [ha, just kidding] was the former captain of the Phoenix and he knew it's secret: that it was carrying 1 of the keys for a gigantic star destroying weapon. Now Omega Force has all 3 keys. They decide to go to the Death St.....errr, Super Weapon and destroy it.

The problem with that plan is two-fold. One, the ConFed want the key and the weapon and are chasing after Omega Force with a whole bloody fleet. The second problem is that the Super Weapon is actually a sentient AI and it doesn't WANT to be destroyed.

But the A-Team, no, no, no, OMEGA FORCE is nothing if not resourceful and it'll take more than Skynet...errr, the Sentient AI and a war fleet to prevent them from carrying out their mission.

As you can tell, I got this mixed up with a LOT of other stories.


My Thoughts:

For all of my snide asides above, I still enjoyed this quite a bit. Probably the most of the series so far in fact.

I did have a big issue though, so lets get that out of the way. If you have a key that is split into 3 parts and only those 3 parts can give access to a Super Weapon, WHY THE PHRACK DO YOU BRING ALL THREE KEYS TOGETHER? I would think that destroying the key/s you have would do the job of keeping the Super Weapon out of everyone's hands? Why risk someone recovering the most valuable resource in the quadrant/sector/galaxy/universe/whatever or stealing it from you? It just made zero sense to me.

Now, it did make for a great story. So I give Dalzelle that. This was thoroughly fun with plenty of space fighting as well as individuals on the ground. I prefer a good ground pounder battle myself to space ships zipping around going “pew, pew, pew”, so the Galvetic Marine battles were nice.

This was definitely the ending of one chapter for Omega Force. With Book 9, Revolution, having come out recently, I know that there will be at least a second chapter to this series. While not original or mind blowing, it is good escapist fun in space.

On an unrelated note, I know that Crusher and the other Galvetic warriors don't look like this, but this is what I always picture them as:




★★★☆ ½






Sunday, July 30, 2017

Monster Hunter Siege (MHI #6) (ARC) ★★★★☆


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: Monster Hunter Siege
 Series: Monster Hunters International #6
 Author: Larry Correia
 Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Urban Fantasy
 Pages: 399
 Format: Digital Advanced Reading Copy





Synopsis: Super Spoilers!

MHI finds out that a group of Hunters is still alive in the Nightmare Zone, after being sucked in there from the story in Legion. Owen has the prophecy talk with his Dad, finds out he has been chosen to fight a World Ending Being that can hold its own against the Old Ones.

Coincidentally enough, the rescue mission that Own wants to run to get the survivors will take them right to the Big Bad Guy. So there is a lot of getting ready, figuring out how they're going to survive the Zone and how their going to get back to the portal.

The push to get to the portal is pretty intense. Multiple Hunter Companies are taking part and it is on a Russian island. They bring a tank. Only Owen gets through the portal, as his Chosen One status is a bit better than Anakin's and he rescues his comrades. Only to be captured and frozen in the ground for 6 months.

He escapes back to our world only to find that the Big Baddie has escaped and is on the loose. And his newborn son is missing.


My Thoughts: Spoilers x5

This was an e-arc, so any errors in words, grammar, etc in the book were ignored. But by gum, reading this early was worth it.

The previous book in the series, Nemesis, really blew me away, So my expectations were pretty high. I KNEW my expectations were high and looked over my previous MHI reviews to help ground me. It was good that I did. I ended up enjoying this quite a bit and I wasn't disappointed because it wasn't Nemesis 2.0.

There was a lot of setup to this story. There had to be. It was 6months to a year I think? Lots of logistics, training Hunters to work together who just 3 months ago were competitors, at best, and enemies, at worst. Throw in the multiple languages, the fact that the portal to the Nightmare Zone is on a Russian island and the Russkies don't want to admit that the island even exists and you'd better have some solid planning under your belt.

I like reading about Owen. He's not a slimeball like the guy in Monster Hunter Memoirs and he's someone I like reading about. One of the reasons I like him is because he's everything I am not. He's big, he's tall, he's emotionally stable and doesn't go into a tailspin if his wife doesn't text him, he's a leader and he's wicked good with guns. Reading these books, for a couple of hours I can be somebody who I want to be.

The invasion of the island was tops. Skippy the orc flying a helicopter is always amusing to read about. A tank versus a giant was wicked cool and 100+ hunters in armoured jeeps versus a whole island of monsters, well, that is just what I want to read about.

When Owen goes into the Nightmare Zone by himself, the action didn't slow down very much. He's on the run from the Big Baddies' lackeys the whole time and it turns out that the guys he needs to rescue have been taken by a High Hunt of Fey. He singlehandedly invades their castle, frees his men and then stays back to fight the leader of the Hunt so his men can escape. A 6'5”, 300 pound man versus a 7ft tall nigh indestructible warrior? Yes please! And it is a fantastic one on one fight.

Only to be interrupted by the Big Baddie. Who has been using Owen the whole time for his own ends. So the book ends with the Big Baddie out in the world and Owen's wife and son unreachable. That kind of catch fits exactly with the previous MHI books. The main story wraps up and then Correia throws out a hook so you'll read the next book. It's worked well enough on me that I don't even mind anymore. But it is something to be aware of.

Another solid entry into the Monster Hunters International series. Good stuff.

However, that cover. I am not a fan of sexual fan service. That cover is nothing but sexual fan service. Ignore the cover, seriously.

The links below, to previous books, are probably just as spoiler'y as this. Just so you know.

★★★★☆




Friday, July 28, 2017

The Hermit of Eyton Forest (Brother Cadfael #14) ★★★☆☆


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 Hermit of Eyton Forest
 Series: Brother Cadfael #14
 Author: Ellis Peters
 Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Mystery
 Pages: 240
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

A young novitiate's father dies. His grandmother wants him to come home so he can marry a neighbor's daughter so the grandmother can rule all. However, the father's wishes were for him to stay at the Abbey and learn until he reached his majority.

At the same time, a saintly hermit and his young assistant move into an abandoned hermitage. A landowner comes looking for his runaway serf and is murdered. The young heir also goes missing. All of this is happening while the war between Stephen and Maude continues apace.

Cadfael must put the pieces of this puzzle together while making sure that justice is served and mercy has its place.


My Thoughts:

Cadfael was almost a background character here. It was more about the hermit's assistant than anything else. And his story was all about “young love” conquering all. It kind of made me roll my eyes. I guess I'm getting too old and cynical.

I still enjoyed the overall story but I'm not sure that Cadfael tagging along while everyone else does the actual work makes this a Brother Cadfael Mystery. However nothing here is going to stop anyone from continuing this series. If you've stuck around this long, you'll keep on sticking around. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to complain like a son of a monkey about the tenuous link.

★★★☆☆





Thursday, July 27, 2017

All Darkness Met (The Dread Empire: A Cruel Wind #3) ★★★☆ 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: All Darkness Met
 Series: The Dread Empire: A Cruel Wind #3
 Author: Glen Cook
 Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 341
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

The Star Rider is not some half witted old kindly wizard who pats people on the head. It turns out he is a master manipulator in thrall to some unknown forces. HE is the agent behind the wars down through the years and it is time for war between the Dread Empire and the Western Nations.

The barbarian war general from the previous book, Ragnarson, ends up being the regent when his wife dies and the queen, who he has been shagging on the side, dies in childbirth. He must fight overwhelming odds, traitors, unstable magic and his own friends trying to kill him.

We also get a brief history of O-Shin, the super powerful magician who is currently “ruling” the Dread Empire. He manages to stay alive and prevent total war until he is killed by accident by someone who is looking for their missing friend.

A running battle is fought, both magical and mundane, and millions of people die. The Dread Empire is pushed back, not defeated and the Star Rider continues his game of war for his unknown reasons.


My Thoughts:

Ragnarson was the main character and he's just a jerk. Cheating on his wife just doesn't work for me.

One thing that dragged this down for me was Mocker's kidnapping, torture, brain washing and eventual death. He was a character that I actually liked and it felt so wrong for him to go down the path he did. It also made me realize just how nasty magic is. Mocker was compelled to try to kill Ragnarson, his best friend. His free will was negated and he had no choice. I can't stand that. Even with being a Christian and acknowledging God's Sovereign Will, I still am a champion of Free Will. That's why I like Neal Asher as an author, because he and I have extremely different ideas on what Free Will actually is. But anyway. Mocker is killed by Ragnarson when Mocker tries to assassinate him. It was just so wrong.

The battles were fantastic. Bloody, tense, uncertain. No side had all the dibs on getting things right. Somebody always messed up and cost countless lives each time. There was no Chosen One, there was no Victory except complete and utter annihilation of the other side and that didn't happen because of that wretched Star Rider.

The revelations that he is being punished, in thrall or something to higher powers opens up whole new potential vistas for plot lines. Or it might just be a line that Cook threw in and never visits again. If Mocker can die, then I'm convinced that ANYTHING can happen, however bad, good or stupid it may be.

The confusion I felt in the second book was gone. Lots of references to the previous books helped ground me and kept me from being swept out to sea. I think that fact alone is what raised this up half star, even with Mocker's demise. I liked Mocker, which is why I keep going on about him.Not sure who I can like in any future books. Of course, Cook might skip a generation or 10 and bring up a whole new cast. I guess I'll find out when I read the next book in a month or two.

★★★☆ ½





Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Shadow Roads (Swan's War #3) ★★★★ 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 Shadow Roads
 Series: Swan's War #3
 Author: Sean Russell
 Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 464
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Hafyyd, having made his deal with Death, now faces Alaan and Elise and unleashes his fury. He wants to deliver his father, Wyrr, who is sleeping in the river, into Death's hands. The other two thwart him in that and so Hafyyd returns to the normal land and begins his conquest.

Tam is given an arrow with a magical jeweled head and instructed to shoot Hafyyd in the eye and that that will kill him. This is accomplished and the Rennes and the Wills start trying to figure out a way to have peace between their families. The most promising way looks to be through intermarriage of Lord Caral and Lady Lynn.

It turns out that everything was precipitated by a magical Black Swan who fell in love with Tusival, Hafyyd, Sainth and Sianon's grandfather. She had 3 children by Tusival, 2 sons (Wyrr and Aillyn) and one daughter. The daughter was taken by Death in a bid to to gain the Swan's Love. That lead to Wyrr and Aillyn walling Death up which further led to the Swan trying to gain her daughter back by any means necessary, including selling out Tusival, her sons and her grandchildren.

With Hafyyd dead, Alaan begins researching the spell to wall Death in and to strengthen it. Elise retires to a small island on the river to watch over 2 children who have been possessed by Wyrr and the Swan's dead daughter but who now are their own. Tam, Baore and Fynnol return north.


My Thoughts:

A lot gets packed into this book. First book deals with the Rennes and the Wills and the introduction of the Children of Wyrr. Second book introduces Wyrr and Aillyn and now in this book we deal with Death incarnate and everybody's magical Grandmother. It went wicked deep into Fairytale territory.

Russell's style of writing took some mental adjustment on my part. I couldn't race through. I had to read at the pace he set. It was this way with each book and yet each time it came as a surprise.

I think my only gripe is that the 3 young men from the North, Tam, Baore and Fynnol, were not main characters. They were important secondary characters, but the story had moved beyond them and I missed having the bulk of the story from their view. They were the Everyman of the story. The Rennes and the Wills were nobility. Hafyyd, Alaan and Elise were all possessed by magicians. It was hard to relate to any of those, whereas Tam was just a young man suddenly thrust into an adventure far beyond his imagining.

I would sum up this trilogy with the word “Melancholy”. It wasn't depressing, it wasn't necessarily sad but everything was tinged with Melancholy. The pacing of the story definitely added to that feeling. To finish, I thoroughly enjoyed this re-read as much as the first time and suspect I'll enjoy it as much again in another decade or so. Definitely worth owning the hardcovers.

★★★★ ½



Monday, July 24, 2017

The Winner Is... (Eyeshield 21 #31) ★★★★ 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 Winner Is...
 Series: Eyeshield 21 #31
 Author: Riichiro Inagaki 
 Artist: Yusuke Murata
 Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Sports Manga
 Pages: 192
 Format: Digital Scan





Synopsis:

The final 5 minutes between the Devil Bats and the Dinosaurs. The Dinosaurs make a touchdown and kick the ball for a 7point lead. Now there is only 2 minutes on the clock. Kurita MUST face, and overcome, Gaou if he is going to open a path for Sena to run through. Sena makes the touchdown and so the Devil Bats are only 1 point behind.

Their choice is to kick the ball for 1 point and go into overtime or to try for a 2 point conversion by running the ball and winning the game. With Hiruma's fractured arm, Sena's worn out body and the rest of the team utterly exhausted, the Devil Bats don't have a hope in hell [ha, “Devil” bats & “Hell”, get it?] of winning in overtime. So a 2 point run it is. Hiruma does his tricky stuff and Kurita and Gaou faceoff for the final showdown and the Devilbats win.

The rest of the volume is Sena and Monta and Suzuna scouting out the competition for the Christmas Bowl. And what they find is an All Star Team with a female quarterback [at least, I think she's the quarterback, it was hard to tell if that was what was said]. And not only that, their running back receiver is the son of the man who inspired Monta. Fighting against his idol's son might more than Monta can bear.

Hiruma is aware of ALL the dynamics and has asked various members of the defeated teams to help train the Devil Bats.


My Thoughts:


Excellent. A fantastic volume.

Kurita's battle against Gaou was great. It was everything he'd fought for and cried for and trained for and in the end it was Kurita's experience AND strength that overcame Gaou. That was a pleasure to see.

The end of the volume with the 3 characters scouting out the opposition was kind of weird. The opposition was so confident that they gave them their play book of 1000 plays. I'm still a bit confused if the girl who carried luggage around was the quarterback or not. Sadly, reading this on an 8in tablet made some of the text rather small and hard to read. I'm getting older and diabetes sure isn't doing my eyes any favors. After this series, if I read any more manga or comics on a tablet, I'm going to have to buy myself a 10-11in tablet. So part of me is hoping that she is, because that'll add a really weird mix into the game. But on the other hand I don't want that to happen. No woman should be placed in that situation, period.

I don't know if the emotional punch I experience from this series is deep enough to stand up to a re-read. Honestly, I'd rather not find out. I think that I'll read this, enjoy it immensely and move on. But my goodness, this initial read is SO GOOD!

★★★★ ½ 

 





Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Destiny of the Sword (The Seventh Sword #3) ★★☆☆ 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 Destiny of the Sword
 Series: The Seventh Sword #3
 Author: Dave Duncan
 Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
 Genre: Fantasy
 Pages: 370
 Format: Digital Edition





Synopsis:

Wally unites the swordsmen, captures a top wizard and realizes that The World needs both of them. So he hammers out a peace deal between them. In the process though his protege Nnanji rockets up through the ranks and by the end of the book is a Seventh Level Swordsman himself.

Nnanji is charismatic, is willing to kill, can delegate, has a brother who can scheme like nobody else, a wife that is ambitious and an unshakeable belief in Wally. So of course, he is on the road to becoming the first Emperor of The World.

And Wally gets all butthurt and starts whining about democracy and slinging terms like psychopath and fascist and dictator. Thankfully the little god has a talk with him and Wally accepts that he'll have to play second fiddle to Nnanji from now on.


My Thoughts:

This was a decent story right up until Wally starts whining about Nnanji supplanting him. He was all 21st century ideals in the first book but had gotten over that in the second and in this book. Up until that point. Then it was a one chapter tsunami of weak willed bs.

It ruined everything up to that point for me.

The story is wrapped up satisfactorily thankfully. This was originally a trilogy and then years later he wrote a 4th book, The Death of Nnanji. I will not be reading that.

★★☆☆ ½