0
8/10
Review: The End of the Day by Claire North
Reviews / May 31, 2017

Claire North writes high concept fantastical thrillers and her latest The End of the Day is no different. This is a story about death. And Death. And the Harbinger of Death. For it is he, the latter, we follow on this adventure. Charlie is the latest Harbinger and this is his understanding of life and death and the world. In North’s universe, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse are very real, as are their Harbingers. People know and accept this. When Charlie introduces himself to the characters he meets, they ask him what the job’s like, in a very matter of fact way in some cases. People know but not all understand. We pick the story up not long after Charlie has been trained by the previous Harbinger. The whole operation is run out of an office in Milton Keynes – a functional town perfect for this kind of administration. Charlie, as he tells people throughout the novel, is sent before Death, sometimes as a warning, sometimes a courtesy. He visits an old woman who is the last to speak her language. He has a gift for her. He is then sent to find a professor on the Greenland ice…

0
7/10
Review: Bloodbound by F. Wesley Schneider
Reviews / June 14, 2016

I must admit, I cracked the spine on Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound with no little trepidation. It was to be my first exposure to the Pathfinder universe, and I had no idea what to expect. While I have fond memories of cutting my genre teeth on the old TSR novels, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms haven’t stood up well over time. That said, I find I actually appreciate their Ravenloft horror/fantasy world more now than I did back then, so entering into the Pathfinder world with vampires and clerics seemed like a good choice. Having closed the book on my first Pathfinder journey, I’m pleased to say F. Wesley Schneider put together a pretty solid novel that incorporates some of the universe’s overall world-building, but which is still accessible to a new reader. I feel like I came out of it understanding at least one corner of the world, and definitely curious to know more. As for the story itself, this is largely a gothic horror story, within the setting and time period of a pseudo-medieval fantasy. There are so many little elements here that make it all work. The settings include including drafty old castles, sprawling places of worship, and an…

0
10/10
Review: The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence
Reviews / May 30, 2016

Like any great story, The Wheel of Osheim is a book of lies . . . a story of lies . . . a very mythology of lies. Names, people, places, memories, histories – all damned lies. I’m treading on the edge of spoiler territory here (I can see the gaping chasm to my left) but, as we come to discover late in the tale, the entire story of Jalan Kendeth actually hinges on a single lie that’s too painful to even contemplate here. In wrapping up his third and final chapter of The Red Queen’s War, Mark Lawrence has truly outdone himself. I would actually go so far as to say that this is his best book, hands down, and that is no lie. While he’s used a number of different framing devices in spinning his tales of Jorg and Jalan, Lawrence’s approach here is perfectly suited to the shaping of lies. The book opens with Jalan’s comic escape from the bowels of Hell, seemingly robbing us of a resolution to the cliffhanger that ended The Liar’s Key. It’s several chapters later before we get the first fragment of Jalan’s journey through (and escape from) Hell. As for Snorri’s…

0
10/10
Review: Saint’s Blood by Sebastien de Castell
Reviews / April 25, 2016

  Talk about your emotional roller coasters. I started out clutching the side of my e-reader with anticipatory glee, loving the sheer excitement of each new development . . .  until I hit the point where I wanted to hurl it across the room as I cursed the name Sebastien de Castell . . . before I found myself holding it in shaky hands as I bravely tried to deny that a book was on the verge of making a grown man cry.   “Time to stick the pointy end through the bad man’s heart.”   If you thought the first two books were great (and Knight’s Shadow was one of my favorite books last year) then be prepared to have the bar raised impossibly high with Saint’s Blood. Falcio suffers more here than any other hero in recent memory – and that’s saying something, considering what he endured with the Greatcoat’s Lament last time around. He’s still suffering from that torture as the book begins, haunted day and night by his seemingly endless torment . . . and his anguish just gets deeper. He’s a man both physically exhausted and emotionally broken, kept alive by nothing more than the slender threads of love and devotion. Even that’s not enough,…

2
6/10
Review: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
Reviews / March 10, 2016

As much as I wanted to love The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, I have to be honest in that I only thought it was okay. I mean, I can see how these stories established a reputation for Ken Liu, and there’s no doubt that some of them are indeed award worthy, but I didn’t connect with nearly as many as I would have liked. Before you start getting disappointed, however, let me say that I blame the format, not necessarily the content. I’ve always been drawn to doorstopper fantasy novels like The Grace of Kings, where we have six or seven hundred pages to immerse ourselves in the world, so it’s not a surprise that many of these stories fell flat or felt a little shallow. Having said all that, I’d be remiss if I didn’t heap some praise on those stories that did work for me. “State Change” hooked me from the start, with a young woman’s strange obsession with freezers, glaciers, and ice cubes. Rina lives in a world where our souls physically manifest as small items that we must keep close at all times, which is easy enough if your soul is a rock or a…

0
9/10
Review: The Last Days of Magic by Mark Tompkins
Reviews / March 7, 2016

Diving into a debut novel is always a bit of a gamble, but it can also prove exciting and extremely rewarding—especially when a book ends up surprising me or blowing away all my expectations. These are the moments I live for and this is exactly what I felt with Mark Tompkin’s The Last Days of Magic, a breathtaking historical fantasy saga about mysticism and mythology through the ages. I am absolutely in love with this novel and its premise, which posits that magic is real but merely forgotten, suppressed and denied. Today we dismiss the tales of the Sidhe as nothing but folklore and legend, but just a few centuries ago humans co-existed with all kinds of supernatural creatures, and in no other place was that bond stronger than in Ireland, the last bastion of magic against the encroaching powers of the Vatican Church. Much of island’s strength comes from the protection of its patron deity the Morrígna, a goddess whose three aspects come together to rule over the Celts and the Sidhe. One of Her aspects resides in the Otherworld as a source of power, while the other two—known as Aisling and Anya—are always reborn in the mortal realm…

1
8/10
Review: The Devil You Know by K. J. Parker
Reviews / February 18, 2016

So, what happens when the greatest philosopher of all time and a representative (a demon) who works for the Devil strike a deal. Who do you think manages to get the better end of that deal? That is essentially what The Devil You Know explores. The philosopher, Saloninus, is quite well versed at finding loopholes and using manipulation as a means to an end. He can find power in words (as well as power in the words that are missing) and he is not above deception. And by the nature of working for the devil, you assume that deceit is also a strength of the demon. So when the philosopher signs away his eternal soul in exchange for the demon granting his every whim for the remainder of his life, restoring his youth and guaranteeing he will live a couple more decades, the demon is a bit perplexed at the philosophers satisfaction with the contract. Surely his eternal soul is worth more than some gold and revived youth that will eventually be lost. In the timeframe of eternity, this deal seems incredibly short sighted and offers the philosopher too little. This is the crux of the book. Trying to figure out who really got the better deal. Saloninus seems awfully…

0
7/10
Review: The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Reviews / February 16, 2016

Having just read Adrian Tchaikovsky’s contribution to the Monstrous Little Voices book (which I loved) I was very keen to pick this book up, plus, who am I kidding, the whole idea of shapeshifting tribes combined with the beautiful cover, I was simply hooked.   The story is really a coming of age tale set in the bleak North where life is harsh, temperatures are harsher and war seems to be imminent.  The world here is one of clans who can shift into the form of an animal depending on the tribe’s totem and in this respect the book includes many different forms of animal, even fantastical creatures such as dragons.   At the start of the story we are introduced to Maniye.  Maniye’s father, Akrit, is the chief of the Wolf clan.  He’s an ambitious man who keeps a harsh rule over his tribe.  Akrit now looks to expand his realm and his eye is fixed on that of the Tiger clan.  The two have warred in the past and the peace between them is very fragile.  Using his daughter Akrit would seek to make the tiger clan bow to his rule and in doing so hopes to become…

0
8/10
Review: Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner
Reviews / February 9, 2016

If you were a fan of When the Heavens Fall, then be prepared for an abrupt change with Dragon Hunters.  For the second book of The Chronicle of the Exile, Marc Turner shifts location, characters, and story line. It’s still the same recognizable narrative voice, and the mythology ties the two books together, but it makes for a very different read . . . one that takes on a entirely new flavor. Having said that, if you’ve yet to encounter Turner’s work, then that same shift means this second book is just as accessible to new readers as the first. Personally, I found this second volume a little more difficult to get into than the first. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my darkened alleys, haunted forests, and subterranean lairs. It’s classic (perhaps even clichéd) epic fantasy, but those elements were largely responsible for me celebrating the first as something of a throwback fantasy. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with this second volume, or that it doesn’t grow on you, it just the sunny seaside setting didn’t have the same initial impact. Senar Sol, Guardian, is our first real POV character in the novel. He’s as much a challenge as he is a mystery,…

2
9/10
Review: This Census-Taker by China Miéville
Reviews / February 4, 2016

This Census-Taker, in its novella length, provides the reader with a glorious and powerful enigma of a story. It is haunting, chilling, disturbing and touching and mesmerizing and absolutely beautiful. I could not stop reading this as I just craved to understand what was going on. It starts with a young boy running faster than he has ever run. Running from some unimaginable horror, and then we find out it involves his parents. The boy has trouble keeping his story straight as he is scared to death, but between this and a lack of evidence, the town dismisses his story and he is sent back to live with a parent that, at least from his perspective, is violent and deranged. Perhaps psychopathic. First, I will be very straight forward, I have only read one other book by Miéville and that was his first novel, King Rat, which I have heard is not indicative of the works he is best known for.  So, for this reason I can offer no comparison between this and a typical Miéville book (if there can be a typical, from what I hear unpredictable is a signature). What I can tell you is that this book is not at all…