Review: The Last Witness by K. J. Parker
Reviews / October 7, 2015

The Last Witness by K. J. Parker is dark and deceitful, yet addictive novella. These two aspects are spun together for a truly fascinating story and one hell of a protagonist that you might not like, but you can’t help but want to know more about. It’s a book that doesn’t shy away from the darker side of humanity, it actually relishes in it. I’ve only read one other book by Parker, but I feel this story was every bit as intriguing as The Folding Knife and has reinforced my need to read more by the author. The narrator has the unique ability to enter someone’s mind and remove their memories.  This can be to relieve a person of unbearable memories, or perhaps to clear a witness of potentially damaging knowledge. The catch here though, is that these memories then become his own. Since it is usually not happy, loving memories that people have removed, he is left with countless disturbing, graphic memories that can be haunting. And while the narrator never forgets a detail, he can sometimes lose track of which memories are his own versus which are memories he has taken from others. This provides an interesting perspective for the…

Review: Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight
Reviews / October 6, 2015

Julia Knight is also Francis Knight, an author whose name has been on my radar since her Rojan Dizon trilogy, though this is the first time I’ve read her work. As soon as I found out about Swords and Scoundrels I knew it was going to be just right for me. As it happens, I’m a super mega fan of anything to do with swashbuckling duelists, and I could always use more scoundrels in my life. That and the cover is stunning too, not to mention the tagline made me chuckle. Plus, a brother-sister team? Count me in. Older sister Kacha has devoted a lifetime to the training and mastery of sword fighting while growing up in the Duelist’s Guild, but she’s not content with being just good – she wants to be the best. Problem is, so does Vocho, whose whole life spent in his big sister’s shadow grates on him something fierce. Neither skill nor reputation would come to much use though, when both of them get thrown out of the guild for an infraction, and the siblings are forced to turn to banditry in order to make a living. One day, a routine stick-up of a carriage…

Review: Owl and the City of Angels by Kristi Charish
Reviews / October 5, 2015

Last year’s Owl and the Japanese Circus was a solid 3-star read for me, an entertaining urban fantasy that managed to reignite my excitement for a genre that I felt had become tiresome and repetitive. Granted, the whole “Indiana Jane” aspect was a big part of that – I’m a sucker for any sort of archaeological, tomb-raiding adventure – but Kristi Charish really impressed me. I went into Owl and the City of Angels hoping for more of the same, but not really knowing where she’d take the story next. The simple answer to that? To a whole other level. This is one of those sophomore efforts that manages to top the book before it in every way. It’s a bigger, bolder story, and one that really does an exceptional job of building upon all the elements of the first. Owl is, as everybody around her likes to remind us, an absolute train wreck. She’s neither the smartest nor wisest of young women, her choices are often suspect, and her selective morality is . . . well, just about perfect for a professional antiquities thief. Owl is defined by her contrasts and her contradictions, and what makes her exasperating for some readers is what makes her fascinating for others. Personally, I…

Review: The Bloodforged by Erin Lindsey
Reviews / October 4, 2015

  The Bloodforged carries The Bloodhound series further into conflict and gives the reader another fun and exciting adventure as this series continues to be a captivating and fun page turner that flies by. There are challenges that are physical, political and strategic. There are moments of romance and heartbreak. The whole book almost seems to be an emotional rollercoaster as the characters are desperate and driven to extremes to try and survive and stop this war. This book does have a decidedly darker tone to it than the first. It also does not have quite as strong of a romance aspect. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there is still some romance and a couple of heated moments between characters, but it takes more of a side seat in this compared with the strong love triangle that was in the first book. This allows the book to get more into the war, it also makes room for a few new characters. While I really enjoyed the romance in the first book, I will admit I also enjoyed it not being as prominent in this book.  The story in The Bloodforged challenges many characters to step out of their comfort zones and to step up their…

Review: The Flux by Ferret Steinmetz
Reviews / October 2, 2015

The Flux is a great second book I really enjoyed it and so was even more pleased to find that a third book is planned. Just a quick warning. This review may contain spoilers for Flex so if you’re intending to read that, which I wholeheartedly feel you should, then you should stop reading about now. The Flux starts a short while after the conclusion of book No.2. Aliyah is now 8 years old and her mancy powers make her something of a handful to manage. Forget the terrible twos. Try denying anything to a child who can simply create a portal of her own and waltz straight out of her bedroom whenever she likes. Grounded? I think not. Aliyah’s parents have divorced and Imani is now married to David. He’s a bit of a cold fish and not content with taking Paul’s wife seems hellbent on taking much more. Paul, following his heroics at the conclusion of Flex where he brought Anathema’s grand plans to a dramatic halt (albeit with the help of his daughter who’s own magic remains a secret to everyone else except Valentine), now heads up the task force who track mancers. Of course, being a mancer,…

Review: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Reviews / October 1, 2015

A lot of the books that I’m excited for in 2015 are actually releasing quite late this year, so as we sauntered into fall and said good bye to summer, I was getting ready to say hello to a couple of my most anticipated titles. Shadows of Self was most definitely near the top of that list. I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson, and I absolutely loved The Alloy of Law – probably more than all three books of the original Mistborn trilogy put together, so small wonder that I was really looking forward to this follow-up. If there’s one thing I can never resist, it’s a good Fantasy meets Western setting. Three centuries after the events at the end of The Hero of Ages, the world of Mistborn has transformed into something altogether different. We’re on the cusp of an era similar to the industrial revolution, and all around are new inventions giving rise to mild hints of steampunk. On the outskirts of the built-up city of Elendel is a dusty, lawless territory known as the Roughs, where our protagonist Lord Waxillium Ladrian made his name as a lawman-for-hire. Magic, however, is alive and well. Allomancy and Feruchemy…

Review: Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley
Reviews / September 30, 2015

Last year’s The Mirror Empire was one of the most exciting (and sometimes divisive) entries in an already stellar year of fantasy fiction. Kameron Hurley crafted a book that was daring, original, and even challenging. While putting her own spin on the idea of parallel worlds in a post-apocalyptic sort of portal fantasy, she turned gender roles and relationships on their head. It was the most brutally violent female-led fantasy I had ever encountered. It was ambitious, awesome, imaginative, and exhausting in equal measure . . . and I had serious concerns as to how a sequel would fare. Fortunately, the depth she established there proves to have even more layers than we thought, making Empire Ascendant a more than worthy follow-up. Having brought the two pivotal universes together at the end of the first book, Hurley continues to develop her worlds here. We already had a pretty good idea of the geographies and societies, but this time around we get a much deeper understanding of the politics involved. What impressed me most was the fact that she let both sides have their moments in the spotlight, questioning the means and motives of each. Conflicts both personal and political are dealt with here, and they are as complicated and confusing as…

Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
Reviews / September 29, 2015

The Heart Goes Last is a dark and yet humorous vision of a dystopian future where the world has lost social order. Life is hard, money and resources are incredibly scarce and people fear for their safety as there is no longer police or social justice to keep people in line. Charmaine and Stan, a young married couple, are lucky, for while they have lost their home and have little to their name, they have managed to hold on to their car, a safe haven from the streets. As they put it, their car is “the barrier between them and gang rape**“. Pretty much, this world is frightening and shows no mercy. To be fair, there are areas further west where things have not become quite so desperate. But without the means to pay for gas for such a journey or any other way to get across the country, this haven is just mere fancy, a nice hypothetical “what if we could get out there”. In reality, it is nothing in the realm of possibilities, as the west may as well be located on the moon for all the good it does them. But, a ray of hope opens near…

Review: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Reviews / September 28, 2015

The nitty-gritty: A sprawling adventure story filled with airships, magic crystals, military maneuvers and talking cats. Yes, I said talking cats! Despite the fact that it took me two weeks to read The Aeronaut’s Windlass, I had so much fun. This was my first Jim Butcher book, and I can see why he’s so popular. His storytelling is exciting and his characters practically jump off the page. No doubt my rating would be higher had the book been shorter, simply because there was just too much of it. But despite some slow spots and a few personal issues I had with Butcher’s writing (which I’ll get to later), I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Readers who love military proceedings and battles at sea are going to love this book. And although the story doesn’t take place at sea, but in the air, it still had the feeling of a rollicking sea adventure. The story revolves around several groups of main characters. Captain Grimm is the commander of the merchant ship Predator and reports to the Spirearch of Albion. Spire Albion and Spire Aurora are at war, and after Grimm’s airship sustains major damage in an attack, Grimm reluctantly agrees to head up a…