Tag Archives: adventure

Book Review: Cormorant Run (working for the devil)

Alright, long way around on this one. Here’s what happened:

9780316003131_p0_v1_s550x406I was in the middle of rereading some of my favorite series, and the library suggested I might like Working for the Devil by Liliath Saintcrow. So I borrowed it, read it, and felt disappointed.

I gave it two stars, and I don’t typically publish reviews on books I give two stars to.

Summary: Danny Valentine is hired by the devil to kill an escaped demon who has stole the Egg. She is given a demon sidekick. She forms a time, hunts the bad guy, falls in love with her demon sidekick, and gets gyped by the devil who really wanted to retreive a kid in escapee’s possession.

I thought this would book would be awesome. Strong woman. Kick ass adventure. Demons and the devil. Necromancers. Plant mages. A side romance. Hits all my boxes, usually. However, I didn’t connect with Danny as a character. She was whiny and pushed everything away too much. She showed little true interest in her demon sidekick yet stated she loved him. His reason for loving her . . . wait for it . . . she treated him better than anyone else ever had. She ditched him, insulted him, told him she hated him and his kind, and freaked out everytime he touched her. Yet, she treated him better than anyone else and therefore he loved her? No. Just, no. Danny and I were not destined to be best buds.

So why is this a book review of Cormorant Run by Liliathsaintcrow? Because there was something in Working for the Devil that caught my interest. The writing felt like a new writer hitting their stride, and by the end, I felt bad for Danny’s friend who was shot. I kinda liked Jace, the ex-love. So, I thought I’d give the writer another try, but without Danny. Enter Cormorant Run. Why this one? It isn’t a part of a series, as far as I can tell. It was published 10 years after Working for the Devil, so I figured the writer would have matured. Oh, and it features a kick ass female who assembles a crew and goes on a adventure to a wild and dangerous new place. Again, it ticked most of the boxes for a story I would like.

So. Cormorant Run by Liliath Saintcrow

51rq5nozlyl._sx332_bo1204203200_ Summary:

Deep in QR-715, an epically large rift, is a mysterious and precious object called the Cormorant. After the infamous rifter Asche the Rat dies failing to retrieve the item, Kope pulls Svinga from prison and promises her freedom in exchange for the Cormorant. Svinga leads a team of scientists and military men with no training into the rift, a dangerous area full of electrified snakes, man-eating trees, and unseen predators.

My Rating: 4 stars

My thoughts:

Svinga is a much better character than Danny Valentine. Despite being ugly and malnurished, she fights like a cornered rat, ripping a man’s eye out to prove her point. Yet she cares enough to yank scientists out of danger and lead the rift-crazy away from the vulnerable. She thinks ahead, working to figure out who wants what and how to best use the situation to protect herself. She’s smart enough to not run when given a little freedom but wise enough to know they mean to kill her instead of release her.

The world is also cool. This is a gritty world where it would be just a plausible for some to take their pants down and piss in the middle of the road as to have a character fall in love and dance through town. It just feels like anything could happen from the horrific to the good. The world is divided between the normal, if run down and dusty, and the rift, a dangerous set of bubbles that cover large cities and random other places. Man-eating beasts and toxic sludge inhabit the rifts and attack any humans much like the human white blood cells would attack an invading virus.

There is no safety in this land. Don’t get attached to the characters. There is no guarantee of survival. Some of the deaths surprised me, but most of them felt like they were a part of the world, natural.

Cormorant Run left me ready to read other Saintcrow novels. This was so much better than Working for the Devil.

Book Review: Kings of the Wyld

51rhtjxnhtl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Summary:

Golden Gabe’s daughter has run int battle and is trapped in a besieged city. His only hope to save her, is getting his band (read group of mercenaries) back together.

Clay “Slow Hand” Cooper leaves his family and home to help his friend out. Together, they must steal back the magical sword Velacor, kidnap a cuckolded king, and turn a stone statue back into a man. All the while, a horde of demons threaten Gabe’s daughter, a manhunter is on the trail of the kidnapped king, denizens of the Heartwyld forest want to kill them, and their old glory days have brought out old enemies.

My rating: 5 stars

My thoughts:

Ever seen the movie Red? Old assassins come out of retirement for a final gig that only they can pull off? Yeah, well, this is the fantasy version, and I love it. Clay, Gabe and the boys hit their prime, raised hell, and got out of the game. They settled down with women and homes of their own. Clay is a city guard, avoiding the bars to avoid tales of the old days. Yet, when they need to, each one of the old men comes together and charges into battle.

The story has a lot of humor to it. This isn’t a fancy polished tale full of the pure glory of these men. Instead, it is full of dark humor like the band’s horrible misfortune with bards and gritty details like the putrid smells of piss puddles outside the tavern. I’m not going to lie, there were times when references to wenching or phalic phylactories made me roll my eyes and want to skip a few words, but I never wanted to skip more than a few words or I might miss something important.

As far as characters go, there wasn’t much of the standard character arcs. No one grew tons wiser during the journey. Clay did not magically find a new goal because we knew from the second chapter that his only goal was to get back home to his wife and that Gabe’s only goal was to find his daughter. There was more typical character development in the side characters than the main ones, yet Clay is my favorite. It is his story after all.

I enjoyed most of the world building as well. There is lots of lawless mercenary camps and men voluntarily throwing themselves into the gladiator pits. The men travel through the typical fantasy environs of forests, cities, and mountain passes. The swords, armor, and other sundries are magical. The standard monsters like trolls, mermen, cyclopes, and wayverns are there, but so are new and interesting beasts. Of course, there are air ships to battle the flying monsters.

Then there is the mixture of fighting mercenaries and bands. They are getting the band together and going on their final tour. They run into their own booker, who gets a cut of band business. Bands have screaming fans and act as headliners in arenas. There is definitely a cheeky feel to some of the comparisons, but I didn’t mind.

I really liked this one. It was a good mix of funny and fun. The characters were wild but believable. The world gave me the old standards I am used to but expanded into new territory. I definitely recommend this one.

Book Review: The Blade Itself

51gnkl2b-o2l-_sx319_bo1204203200_
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Summary:

This is a multi-POV novel following various characters.

Bayas, First among the Magi, is a wizard from story books, the ancient kind. He also happens to be a baker, living in his northern library. Political forces are moving, and Bayas leaves his sanctuary on an adventure.

Logan Ninefingers, the Bloody Nine, is a northman and prior champion of Bethod, the king. When Bethod unsuccessfully kills Logan, Logan is collected into Bayas’s group of adventurers.

Jezal van Luthar trains for his chance to be the city champion at fencing. A title once held by Sand dan Glokta and Collen West. In the interim, he falls in love with a commoner and is recruited into Bayas’s adventure.

Ferro Maljinn is a slave on the run from the Empire. She feels no pain and is driven by the need for vengence. She’s exactly what Bayas needs for his adventure.

Sand dan Glokta, a POW surviver and cripple, is an inquisitor of some skill. Under the command of Arch Lectur Sult, Glokta tears apart the mercer guild, opening trade routes in the south, and begins his own investigation into the corruption of the government.

Collem West worked for years to win his fencing championship and became one of the few commoners to be given rank  in the Union army. Skill and strategy leads him into the high chain of command, and his next big assignment is to win a war against the north.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My thoughts:

I knew this was the first novel in a trilogy, but I heard it was a stand-alone novel. It is not. If you plan to read it, plan to read the remaining books. This book starts with a couple big plots. First character on scene is Logan Ninefingers after being nearly killed by Bethod. Classic novel structure suggests that this would be the event which should close the novel, making it a stand alone. Nope. Logan finds Bayas early in the book and becomes his traveling companion. He has a few early chances to face Bethod, but he does not. That chance doesn’t come around again in this novel. Actually, at the end, Logan chooses to sail to the End of the World with Bayas when full ships of armed men are going north to fight Bethod, thus losing him the “”opportunity” to directly fight his foe.

There is a major trend of plots not ending or ending very early in the story, leading to this novel feeling like it does not stand alone. Examples other than Logan Ninefingers: Sand dan Glokta, who never finds what he is looking for and cannot answer the question of why he still struggles even though pain and his crippled status leave him wanting to give up; Bayas, who sets out to collect a group of men for an adventure to collect the seed (in defense of the book, Bayas is able to collect his group, only to be left with the big open story issue of the entire adventure he gathered the group for); Collem West and his sister, who appear throughout the book and advance in character while never having a clear goal and resolution; Ferro, who wants revenge but is steadily carried away from it then redirected without the chance to get her revenge; and the fencer Luthar, who wins the contest that he never really cared about and is subsequently drug into Bayas’ adventures.

Worse than not being a stand alone novel, it started to become predictable. What! The dashing swords man who disdains anyone of a station lower than himself will fall for the common girl? What! Logan Ninefingers, who is constantly called the Bloody Nine, a figure so scary the northmen, Anglanders and even people in the center of the Union tell horror stories about him, has an internal blood-loving beast that is ready to kill but must be suppressed by Logan’s human side? What! The cripple is being used by the Arch Lektor? What! The closed council is corrupt? What! The wizard has been helping the Union in disguise for years? What! Their future mission (should they choose to accept it) is to finish the adventure from centuries before that was never achieved? I had heard so much before reading this book about how unique it was and the interesting twists. I was disappointed.

These two issues were enough for me to make this 3.5 stars.

However, the story is well written, and I enjoyed some of the characters.  Sand dan Glokta is, by far, my favorite character. He has hit his low point (years of torture which has lost him half his teeth and the use of his leg). He’s scary looking, has come to accept that, and uses it as a weapon. He laments his lost life, is bitter about to the point of being incensed when one of his prisoners does not recognize him, yet still steps in to encourage Jezal to continue fencing, agrees to watch over West’s sister, and is honestly interested in fighting corruption. More than any of the other characters, his action show a sense of hope and stubborn defiance. I finished the book, hoping West’s sister would give up the idea of Jezal and fall in love with Glokta.

Yulwei is another character I grew to enjoy. Yulwei is the magus who finds Ferro. He is wise, kind, and makes an excellent cat burglar. If he wants to be unseen, he is. If he wants a band of traveling slavers to think his traveling companion is a boy, they do. If he wants to walk through enemy lines, he does. He does not choose violence, yet when faced with flesh eaters (breakers of the second law), he destroys one with water and the other with fire. Very practical. He made me smile.

I’m unsure at this point if I will read book two. I’m curious about what will happen with Glokta, but I don’t foresee anything amazingly exciting happening with the plot. If I read book two, I assume it will also not be a stand-alone, so if I read book 2 I need to be in it for book 3. Honestly, I’m not sure if the characters alone are enough to keep me reading the next two novels. I’ll give it some time before I decide.

Book Review: An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors

51dimrpqvpl-_sx328_bo1204203200_An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors by Curtis Craddock

Summary:

Princess Isabelle is misshappened, cursed, and discarded by her own family, yet she is the precious culmination of centuries long planning and the lynch pin of a breeding program.

When she is forced into a political alliance with a neighboring country, she must carve out her place among warring princes, a greedy queen, and the church.

 

Rating 4.5 stars

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book; however, it has one issue that drove me nuts. In this world, women have no identity outside their husband or father. Blah. In one country, that ownership is used to degrade the women, and the next the men dote on their wives, but either way, women gain their identity through the men they are attached to and their ability to have children. That’s the big negative. It’s a big enough negative that at one point I considered putting the book down.

Why did I give it 4.5 stars then? Because once the issue of women is put aside, this is a fun adventure. I initially picked it up because the first chapter is set on an air ship (think masts and sails). I want a sky-faring adventure of exploration and intrigue. I was sorely mistaken, as most of the story happens on land, but I definitely got intrigue. There is no limits on what might be set on fire, exploded, stabbed, shot, or manipulated. There are crown politics, tavern dealings, and mistaken identities. Princess Isabelle’s chief protector is a scoundrel who is not a scoundrel. Her best friend is a lifeless corpse, kind of. Her future husband has been broken, remade, and replaced, and he may or may not be trying to kill her. Some buildings are destroyed, some carriages exploded, and the church has underground labyrinthine catacombs.

This was a fun adventure.

Book Review: The Dwarves

The Dwarves by Markus HeitzThe Dwarves, by Marcus Heitz

Summary:

This novel follows three-ish groups who all end up fighting an epic battle.

Tungdil is a dwarf living with a mage. In all his hoping and errands, he has never come across another dwarf. Instead, he has learned to read, speak multiple languages, and be a smith. The mage writes to the dwarves, informing them of Tungdil’s existence. While waiting for an answer, the mage tasks Tngdil to deliver some items to the mage’s former apprentice in Black Saddle. So Tungdil sets off on a long journey.

In the dwarven kingdom, the high king has grown old. Preparing for his death, he has asked the king of the fourthlings, Gandogar, (fourthlings are one of five kingdom of dwarves) to present himself as a potential to be high king. At the presentation, Gandogar reveals his intention to lead the dwarves against the elves in war. The old high king, distraught by the prospect, seeks to delay making Gandogar high king until the council can be persuaded to avoid war. To delay the crowning, the high king states there is a second challenger to the throne, Tungdil.

In a third front, the mages meet. The Perished Land, a dead place full of orcs and revenants where the dead come back to life, presses against a barrier, which the mages maintain. The barrier has started to fail. The mages, including Tungdil’s master, meet to reinforce the barrier. During the spell, Nudin the Knowledge-Lusty betrays the mages stealing their power. He then kills the other mages. He then calls together the mage apprentices and steals their power as well. This leaves the Perished Lands to invade the realm and the orcs to plunder towns at will.

Tungdil meets up with the guards sent by the high king, learns of Nudin’s treachery, and agrees to challenge for the throne. In the challenge, each challenger picks tasks that both must complete. Tungdil challenges Gandogar to a journey that includes reuniting the dwarven kingdoms, killing a dragon, and forging a legendary weapon. On the way, his group is threatened by orc, evil elves, treacherous dwarves, and fate which sometimes guides and other times ignores them.

Having forged the mighty weapon, Tungdil, Gandrogar, the elves, the humans, and the last surviving magus meet on the battlefield to fight Nodin.

My Goodreads rating: 4 of 5 stars

My thoughts:

This was a good adventure. If you are looking for a coming of age adventure with an epic grand battle, this is a solid choice, but it has some pitfalls.

Names and titles. This book, especially at the beginning, is overrun by names and titles. A dwarf cannot introduce himself without giving his name, nickname, and clan. I give you: Boïndil Doubleblade and Boëndal Hookhand of the Swinging Axe clan and warriors of the secondlings; Gandogar Silverbeard of the Silverbeards, king of the fourthliings; Goingar Shimmerbeard of the clan of the Shimmerbeards, Lot-Ionin the Forebearing ruler of the Enchanted Realm of Ionanda; etc. All the names bogged me down and almost convinced me to stop, but I soon stopped paying attention to all the names.

There is a sense of things happening too easily. For instance, with all the names floating around, the evil elves, enslaved to Nou’donn the Doublefold, announce their master to the orcs, while Tungdil eaves drops from a tree. Thereby relieving poor Tungdil of any investigation to determine who his enemy is. At another point, Tungdil is faced with his first orc battle. He is untrained and knocked down, but he is saved by the appearance of the high king’s escorts. Plausible, but then when the group of three dwarves come across Nou’donn, one of the previously dead magus reappears and saves them. At another point, Tungdil’s group is searching for a dragon so they can steal its fire, only to get to the exact cave where it is at and find it already dead. Never fear, however, because the dragon lit the lake on fire, leaving what they needed within their reach without the dragon battle. But fire is tricky and in the final battle before reaching the forge, it is extinguished. Again, never fear because the Perished Lands does not let anyone die, and 11 century old dwarves who have battled their internal anger and evil regained their sanity and have been protecting the forge still lit with dragon fire since their downfall. 11 centuries ago. There are many other instances in the story.

This is a Tolkien realm adventure. Sure the names of the individual players are different, but there are no substantial differences that ever lead me away from thinking of Tolkien. Wizards are magi, but the other races have the same names. The races are described the same down to the bearded dwarven women and the leaf-shaped elf ears. Sure the wizards have to recharge their magic, which is not something Tolkien used, but that alone wasn’t enough to drag me away from the Tolkien realm.

Women have no individuality. Sure there are women in the story. Yes, the women do some cool things. The last remaining magus is a woman. She heals people, balances good and evil, throws lightening, and does some other cool stuff, but she is a woman. So she is hit on and seen as a love interest by one of the males. Her male travelling companion is for a brief mentioned suggested to possibly be something more than just her body guard. The female dwarf the joins Tungdil becomes his love interest. The woman Tungdil is friends with at the start of the novel is fairly consistently referred to in connection with her children. The human actress who joins the party is the lover of one of the other actors, and in the indexes at the end is not noted for her battle bravery or her own actions but rather as the actor’s lover. The female queen of the firstling dwarves has her own independence, but of course it takes Tungdil showing up and suggesting she go north before she breaks the long silence between her clan and the others. (This part was probably more annoying because Tungdil literally only had to tell her to go north, she mentioned she had already considered breaking the silence, and the assumption was that she needed to go to the male kings versus them coming to her.)

All that being said, I still gave the book 4 stars. When I want to read an adventure book, I’m not worried about the role of women and weak plot choices. I’m reading for battles and intrigues and action. This book had a lot of those moments. Once the naming settled down, the story smoothed out, and it was a fairly quick read. I still recommend reading, but go into the book knowing its a Tolkien-esque fantasy adventure. Enjoy it for what it does well.