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Category Archives: Books I’m Reading

Epic Fantasy review: King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

King of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #2)King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brilliant.

I was twenty pages from the end when I had to stop to write this review before I forgot what I had to say. I have never done that before.

King of Thorns is better than the first book. It is brutally brilliant, gruesomely good, and amid the carnage offers slivers of a rainbow before snatching it away in a world and future as grim and real as any out there.

Amid the wickedness that is Jorg Ancrath, you will find wit and wisdom to match. Sometimes almost too much for a young man of eighteen. But then, he is not a normal young man, or else why would Lawrence tell us his story? He is special in every way and so is this book.

From characterization, to prose, to style, to setting, King of Thorns is carefully laid out in ways that capture the imagination, whether good or bad or ugly. The writing just feels so natural, so Jorg. Take the two passages below.

“It being Sunday, the cook prepared a special treat for us. Snails in garlic and wine, with saffron rice. The snails came from local cliffs. A big variety as thick as a child’s arm. But let’s face it, snails are just slugs with a hat on. The main dish looked like large lumps of snot in blood.”

“But they’ll sing songs about Quick Jorg for years to come. Fast with one sword, faster with the other,” she said.

Those two are just miniature snippets of hundreds of passages in this book that speak to the style, and in fact, are nowhere near the best there is, but are worthy examples.

Whether in act of defense, murder, or the twines of manipulation, Jorg tells his story in gripping fashion without any apology. Simply put, his will is indomitable, his hunger for revenge and power near insatiable, he’s conniving and cruel, but he is no less spellbinding to read. At times, he has the tiny touches of compassion that make you think he’s coming around, that he is human after all, before he disabuses you of the notion.

Five days it took me. This is the fastest I remember reading in a long time. I was simply transported into this boy, this tale, this world. And I want more. No. I NEED more.

There will be naysayers as there were for Prince of Thorns. To them I shrug. They simply do not understand Jorg or the condition of humanity than when driven to extreme circumstances, might surface in any one of us.

Thank you, Mr. Lawrence.

P.S I read those last twenty pages. The ending was nothing short of amazing with a great plot twist and some classic unscrupulous Jorg.

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Epic Fantasy Review: The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent Read. Right now for me, it’s a 5.

In the Black Prism, Weeks betters what he did with Night Angel.

The Prism offers a wealth of fantastic worldbuilding, good characters, action, war strategy, political intrigue, and plot twists to keep one coming back for more.

The magic system is well laid out. Simply put, a percentage of the populace known as Drafters have the ability to harness colors through light in a skill called Chromaturgy. This basically takes a force of will and belief to create Luxin which then can be used for everything from buildings to machines to weapons to fireballs. There are other subtleties. Let’s say I enjoyed it very much.

The characterization is good. The characters feel real and are engaging. You can sympathize with some and others you want to kick in the butt. At times, one of them can get annoying with his personality traits, and well almost a second personality. They more than served the story, the plot, the politics and scope of the world.

As usual from Weeks, when the action gets going, it gets going. The clash of Drafters reminds me of the Secret Wars comic books, as they do incredible things. Of course there are touches of mundane fighting, but when you have the magic embedded in this world, that takes a back seat.

The end was well worth the ride, adding another twist in a book chock full of them. Some people might carry on about tropes or cliches, but for me, it’s all about how they’re presented. After all, there’s just about nothing that can be done that is completely original. This is why I base my reviews of my enjoyment, rather than technical merits.

That is to say, I enjoyed this book immensely. Well done, Mr.Weeks.

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White Night : Urban Fantasy Review

White Night (The Dresden Files, #9)White Night by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll keep this simple. This is a great addition to the series. If you know Dresden then it continues much of the same. Great dialogue, awesome insight, witty banter and a way of writing that makes you feel a part of the man. You become attached to Harry’s plight and his issues. At times when he speaks on aspects of the human condition, I found that I could relate. Example at one point when he’s speaking about love, life and pain, I felt that pain. The plot twists and turns and is so well laid out that I kept turning page after page not wanting to put the book down. The magic was astounding and the attention to detail was there, that made me believe in the things that were being done.

If you are a fantasy fan and you have not read Dresden, pick up the series. I promise you won’t regret it.

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The Dragon’s Path : Epic Fantasy Review

The Dragon's Path (The Dagger and the Coin, #1)The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmmm. Where to start. Well let’s say the rating system here on Goodreads won’t reflect this one correctly. I consider it a 3 and a half. But I’ll have to tag it with a three. Why not at least a 4?

Well, not that it wasn’t a good book, because a 3 says it was a good book. Let’s start with what I loved.

The world and most of the characters fascinated me. The plot was well-laid out and offered some nice surprises and fit together quite well throughout.

The many races, the histories behind them and the descriptions, foreshadowing and setting kept me going and made the world so believable. I could have used some more on the religions for me to better understand them since they ended up playing a big role at the finale.

Cithrin was a wonderful, amazing character. I was hooked on watching her maneuver, grow and change. The whole aspect of banking and dealing was phenomenal. She was so well done I felt for her and in ways, the book could have been just about her, Marcus and Geder and I would have been fine with it.

Geder had his good points but in the end he just seemed the same guy oblivious to the fact he’s being used. When will he learn did I keep asking myself? For a well-educated person, he came off more than a little … dumb, may be too harsh a word.

Marcus Wester, I enjoyed seeing him play the father figure and relive that old pain.

Dawson did little for me. He was basically “This is where status x person’s should lie in society.” Not once did he waver from that. He was simply too predictable.

Here’s my issue with The Dragon’s Path. I’m a magic and action man. When you have a book with such a vivid world, created by dragons and goddesses, I expect the magic to be more upfront. In this book, it was so downplayed as to be irrelevant although it wasn’t. It is what made the difference in the end.

Lack of action. I like my sword fights. There wasn’t a single one that stuck out for me in this book. In fact, my best memory is of Marcus practicing with some others and the very brief fight to hold the gates of Camnipol. The book just seemed slow at times because of this. All the nice plots and characters should eventually culminate in some nice action is how I feel. For the most part, this didn’t.

For a lover of action and magic, this just did not bring enough especially considering the incredible potential there to do so. However, most of the main characters provide enough and the scope of the world and what is to come has made me get book 2 and I will be reading it. I’m hoping he goes more into what I enjoy in the next one.

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Shadow’s Master – Epic Fantasy Review

Shadow's Master (Shadow Saga, #3)Shadow’s Master by Jon Sprunk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this series and this final book. While the first book was my favorite, Shadow’s Master had a lot going for it. Sprunk’s action as always is top notch and so are his descriptions and setting. Caim, I got into right away and was totally engrossed, watching as he follows blindly into the teeth of danger.

This time around, I found myself less attached to Josey. Something about her felt lacking. This may have been because I was so into Caim. Then there was the questionable feats she managed considering her state. Despite this flaw, by the time I got to the meat of her situation when her major obstacle arose, her PoV made for better reading that caught me up, although I did find myself wondering “How did she do that and not …” I’ll chalk it up to what Hirsch tells her at the end.

Beyond that, the battles were thrilling and the magic at the climax was something to behold. Some may find a fault with Caim’s grasp of being able to do what he did, but the man was special in many ways. This time around there were no great plot twists, but the unfolding events were nicely put together at a pace that should keep any reader going.

I would recommend this series to any of my fantasy friends. Thank you for the good read, Mr. Sprunk. I look forward to what you write next.

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YA Fantasy Review: The Between

The BetweenThe Between by L.J. Cohen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Often, if a book doesn’t capture my interest within the first few pages, I lose interest. That wasn’t the case with the Between. It’s really my first YA book and I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

The beginning grabbed me with intrigue and action. In Lydia, I could tell there was a character for me to care about. Clive gave me that added mystery of a man battling to be more that what he appeared. Watching these two characters grow was fascinating to say the least. Their challenges, frustrations, losses, and triumphs were woven so well into the story that you could not help but feel for them.

I’m one who loves magic and a great world. Sprinkle in some mystery and a great story and I’m in. This book gave me all of that. The world created here in Faerie was one of political intrigue, darkness, all things magical, and one that was so well thought out that you will believe you are there. You will believe in the glamours you see upon the pages. You will feel the tenseness of the world, the grip of its King, the fear those of power instill upon others.

As for style. LJ has it nailed. Her prose flowed well. Not once did I get bored or wished to put the book down. Her descriptions were crisp and rich and kept you right there, living in the world of the Between.

From beginning to end, the Between makes for good reading. As I often do when I read a good book, all I can say now is: go get your copy.

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Today’s Guest: Fantasy Author, Ty Johnston

Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of RoguesBayne’s Climb and More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook  and online at Smashwords. His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.

I’m traveling from blog to blog this month to promote Ghosts of the Asylum, my new epic fantasy e-book, but instead of talking strictly about my books, I’d like to talk a little about my own road to independent publishing.

I am an indie author, or a self-published author, or an independent publisher. Whatever term you prefer, you probably get the idea. I do work with print publishers from time to time, but mostly for short stories. Over the years, I’ve had a few behind-the-scenes deals rolling for print publication of one or another of my novels, but they’ve always fallen through for various reasons.

Becoming an independent author is not an easy choice for many because they still yearn for the acceptance and recognition that comes with being published by a print publisher, especially one of the major print publishers, nearly all of which work out of New York City.

I know, because until a few years ago, I was still caught up in that game.

One thing changed my mind. No, it was not the sudden growing acceptance of self publishing brought about by today’s e-reader technology, though that helped push me along. What changed my mind was, I lost my job.

Yes, like millions across America have experienced during the last few years, in the winter of 2008, less than two weeks before Christmas, I found myself unemployed.

I had been a newspaper editor for nearly 20 years. The economy was in a funk, but my former business, newspapers, was getting hit worse than most, at least at the time.

Over the years, I had written plenty of short stories and managed to have a few of them published in one venue or another. So, when I found myself without a job, I decided it was time to change careers altogether. It was time to take my former hobby, one I had always loved, and to turn it into my career.

Unlike many who are traveling a similar road, I did not have the luxury of continuing to have regular employment while trying to build a writing career. I was thrust into it, literally in a matter of hours. Fortunately for me, I had some novels and a number of short stories and other projects available for publication.

It’s going on three years, and I’ve never looked back. Every single day I am thankful for getting the boot from a career that had eaten up my life for so many years.

No, I’m not getting rich, but the bills are getting paid and the wife is happy, which is what really matters. I have control of my own time and can work whenever and wherever I want. I can take the beagle for a walk. I can sleep in. I can stay up all night writing. Or not.

To those out there who are struggling, I offer only one piece of advice. Find what you love, find your passion, and focus upon it. It will take time and effort, but you don’t want to look back in 20 years and say, “I wish I had started back then.” Believe me, I know.

 

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