Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

Amara is a young woman training to become a Cursori, messenger/spy, for the first lord of Alera Gaius. As part of her graduation tests she is sent with her mentor Fidelias to infiltrate a mercenary camp. Betrayed by her mentor what she discovers instead is a plot to overthrow the first lord and after a narrow escape Gaius sends her to the borderlands where he believes his enemies will enact their plan. Tavi is an unusual boy, he is furyless, lacking access to the magic that everyone else has. He lives on a steadholt controlled by his widowed uncle Bernard and his aunt Isana. When Tavi goes in search of a group of missing sheep he is swept up in much larger events than he could have ever imagined.

Unlike The Dresden Files Butcher is writing in the third-person and has no problems making this adjustment. The magic system is interesting and well thought out. People have access to elemental furies that grant them powers based on that element. For example Isana is a watercrafter and can control water and can heal grievous wounds. However each element has a drawback, using the same example watercrafters are sensitive to other people's emotions and can be influenced and even overwhelmed by them.

The characters are all well realised and I loved the way Butcher contrasted their strengths and frailties. Isana is an exceptionally powerful woman but her society values women as wives and mothers which is something she isn't and she is very self-conscious of this. Tavi is unusually clever but lacks even the most basic fury crafting. The villains are also multi-layered. Fidelias may be betraying his lord but believes it was the good of the land and will sacrifice anything for this. The action is for the most part limited to the steadlands but there are glimpses that the world may be influenced by Roman history and there will be lots of opportunities to explore this in future volumes.

It is obvious that Butcher is highly influenced by traditional epic fantasies, such as Tolkein or Eddings so there isn't anything genre changing here but there is no doubt he makes this story his own. Butcher’s pacing is exceptional and he has a talent for writing large scale battles is something we haven't been able to see in the Dresden books.

Overall Butcher's attempt at epic fantasy while not genre changing is an exceptionally good one. 8.5/10.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

News: Update on Russell Kirkpatrick's Silent Sorrow

Russell Kirkpatrick recently gave an update on the progress of his latest novel. You can see it here . The interesting thing for me is that his two novels that I enjoyed the most are also the two that he did the most edits on. I think that is a very real trap for authors to get subsequent books in a series out without nearly enough revision and I imagine Brent Weeks would also be guilty of this. The great thing is that it sounds like Kirkpatrick is really putting in the hard yards for this one and I for one am looking forward to it.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: The Minority Council by Kate Griffin

After a chance encounter with a stranger the Midnight Mayor Matthew Swift learns about a new drug on the black market in some very tragic circumstances. Fairy dust enhances the magical abilities of the users but ultimately reduces them to fairy dust themselves after prolonged use. Matthew wants to shut the powerful fairy godmother down but the Alderman have an understanding with him that makes things difficult. Matthew also learns that the Alderman may not be as united as he once believed when he learns about a splinter group, who surprisingly offer Matthew their aid.

Griffin continues to do the things that have made this such an interesting series. London is again so well described that it becomes a character in itself, pacing is spot on and the banter is interesting while not being distracting. The major difference in this volume is Griffin starts to consider some big issues involving morality. Matthew and Templeman's differing stances on approaching issues is very well portrayed it is hard to say who is ultimately right.

Overall Griffin's writing keeps on going from strength to strength. 8.5/10.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Review: On Dark Shores 2: The Other Nereia by JA Clement

While Nereria is unconscious, recuperating from the life-threatening wounds inflicted upon her by Copeland her mind it taken elsewhere where she meets a being bearing her face. This other Nereia wants her help in restoring this bizarre world but can only do so by taking control of Nereia’s body. Nereria is rightly sceptical but as a show of good faith the other Nereria heals the worst of her wounds. Copeland meanwhile is growing more unstable, a strange voice keeps telling him to do terrible things. The inhabitants of Scarlock are fearful, things have always been bad but before if they obeyed Copeland's laws they would be largely safe. Madam realizes that she is now in a position to oppose Copeland and starts to prepare for this confrontation. Meanwhile Copeland has put Blakey in charge of processing the angel's tears hoping that his dependence on the drug will be the death of him.

Many of the things Clement did well in the first novel are very evident here. The setting of Scarlock is certainly well realised and she can still create believable characters that grip the reader all in a minimal amount of words. However I would have liked to see some of these characters develop more, Blakey and Mary have so much potential but did not seem to develop to any degree.

The main problem is that the plot barely advances at all. Yes Nereria and Copeland have been cleverly manoeuvred into opposing positions by some outside forces but the rest of the characters felt like background information and their stories didn't move much. In that way the second book reads too much like a chapter in a larger work than a story in itself.

Overall Clement continues to create interesting settings and characters. However some of these characters feel grossly underutilized and the plot moved too little for my tastes. 6.25/10.

Review: Touchstone by Melanie Rawn

Cayden Silversun is a young man determined to make sure his life runs to his own design. Cade is the unattractive son of aristocratic parents who either wanted him to join the royal court or at least find an acceptable profession that won't reflect badly on them. Cade also gets glimpses of possible futures that he has the power to change though with often unforeseen results. Cade is part of a theatre group, each contributing some element to a magical performance, but although they are highly talented, they lack a glisker who can match their skill. That is until they meet Mieka. Mieka though complicates Cade's life greatly, although Cade is fond of the young man nobody can make him angrier and Cade fears the darkness in his own heart and some of the futures with Mieka are less than pleasant.

I found Rawn's latest novel to be a breath of fresh air in almost every respect. The setting is indeed an intriguing one, a world where fairy, wizard, human, troll and a host of other races have interbred to the point where everyone is a mixed breed of some sort. The character development is strongly focussed on Cade and Mieka which works well. As the main plot line deals with their relationship this made sure things ticked along nicely and there was just enough fleshing out of the support characters to keep them interesting.

In most of Rawn's novels the story follows characters over good chucks of time often decades. She tried a different approach in Fire raiser by working with a much shorter stretch of time. Rawn does it again here and works out just as well in my opinion. The only minor criticism I have is the conclusion felt slightly anti-climactic. Yes it is an obvious turning point but I was hoping for something a bit more substantial.

Overall Rawn's latest effort is a breath of fresh hair that combines an interesting setting with some very good character development. 8.5/10.