Brian's Book Blog

Mostly sci-fi & fantasy books, with an ecclectic mix of others thrown in.

Shadow King

Shadow King - Gav Thorpe 3.5 stars

Good Warhammer fantasy novel looking at the events that split the Elves into Dark and Light factions.
The writing style is a bit stilted in places, and it's slow to get going, but once the action starts then it improves.

Follows on/runs concurrently with events in Malekith, which I've read but can't find on my shelves any more. You don't need to have read that book to get into this one.

The characters are generally well written, and it's interesting to see events leading up to the more well known Warhammer setting.

113 Minutes

113 Minutes - James Patterson, Max DiLallo An apt title, as 113 minutes is about the time it took to read this book from start to finish.
The "BookShots" series are short, inexpensive reads, good for a commute or a time filler.
This one deals with the death of a young boy and what his family goes through to come to grips with it.

Gets straight into the action and doesn't let up.
There's a few twists that you don't see coming, which is an advantage with this books short size.
Longer books would foreshadow major events with character development or behaviour, here it slots in nicely to the overall story and is more of a surprise for it.

I won't be rushing to re-read this, and not sure if the twists will be as potent next time around, but will definitely keep it on the shelf to come back to in time.

The Earthsea Quartet

The Earthsea Quartet - Ursula K. Le Guin Contains the four books of the Earthsea cycle.
A Wizard of Earthsea / The Tombs of Atuan / The Farthest Shore / Tehanu

I've got a soft spot for the first book. We were made to read it at high school, and compared to everything else we'd read that year, it was a breath of fresh air. I'd read it at home on my own time, really getting into it.

Duny, also called Sparrowhawk, shows some aptitude with magic and is taken on as an apprentice to one of the greats. Wanting to know more, he heads to the wizard's school on Roke Island.
His pride and anger get the better of him, as he releases a shadow into the world.
His quest to rectify this leads to him becoming more patient, wiser and a dragonlord.

The other books follow on from this, introducing new characters and evolving as the story progresses through them.
The second book is well enough done, but not as good as the first and third.
The final story is the weakest one, written 20 years later according to the copyrights at the start, and seems to be a way of wrapping things up.

Worth getting to have all four books together.

Darkwalker on Moonshae

Darkwalker on Moonshae  - Douglas Niles 3.5 stars
Prince Tristan is seen as frivolous by his father, spending his time hanging out with friends and hunting.
As an ancient evil starts to terrorise the Moonshae Isles, Tristan starts to prove his worth.

Standard D&D fare, with the various races all turning up to aid in the upcoming war.
The villains are well written, and suitably vicious. The main characters fill their roles in the story quite well, and although Tristan does improve over the course of it, he never quite clicks as a hero in my opinion. A lot of the plot involves things falling into their laps just in time to move on to the next part of the quest.

A well told story, especially as it's the first Forgotten Realms novel and the author didn't have as much background to work from as later ones.

King of Ithaca

King of Ithaca - Glyn Iliffe Eperitus finds himself exiled from his home country, stumbles across Odysseus and then follows him around like a puppy, turning up just when he's needed and helping to save the day.

The story is well enough told, but there's never any sense of danger to the main characters. Eperitus is handy as a means of explaining things to the outsider/reader, but everything seems a bit too convenient.

He is quickly taken into Odysseus' confidence, eavesdrops on a private conversation with a goddess, and constantly turns up just in time to save the day.

Could have done with more of a sense of suspense or danger.

The Dark Path

The Dark Path - Walter H. Hunt 3.5 stars

Humans and Zor had been at war, and now find themselves allied. The Zor are a mystical race, taking their guide from the dreams of their ruler.
A human naval officer finds herself drawn into events as a Zor prophecy comes to pass, but is there free will or is she just following a script laid down centuries ago?

This is the second book of a trilogy, I haven't read the first one but the plot can be worked out without knowledge of that. The characters are well written and the menace is done in a suspenseful way.
The Zor mindset is shown without overpowering the whole story.

Ends at an in-between point, otherwise would have been 4 stars.

The Complete Hammer's Slammers: Volume 2

The Complete Hammer's Slammers: Volume 2 - David Drake, David G. Hartwell Collection of longer stories/novellas than in Volume 1.
Each one focuses more on a few individuals within the Slammers rather than trying to cover a whole army. This means the characters really come through in each story.

There's a lot of combat, Drake describes the action well. There's some explanation of why they've been hired for each particular battle, but sometimes it's just the bare bones as the main character understands it.

The Knighthood (Atlantis Wars Book 1)

The Knighthood (Atlantis Wars Book 1) - Evan Currie Humanity is fighting a losing struggle against demonic forces, and the few survivors have lost all of the technology they once had.
A young girl brought up in isolation sees her parents killed by them and is saved by a mysterious wanderer.

A well told story, if not gripping. The girl needs a lot of things explaining to her (which may be a way for the author to explain things to the reader), but it starts to grate after a while.

For some odd reason the author gives up on chapters after a bit, and the last half of the book is one big chunk of writing.

Firelord

Firelord - Parke Godwin The King Arthur tale but one that shows him and the people swept up into his wake as humans, with all the good and bad that entails.

The story flows as it unfolds, the writing having a certain rhythm to it.

Characters are believable, and their failures as much as successes, griefs as much as joys are what binds them together.

The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle

The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle - Robert E. Howard A good selection of Conan stories put into chronological order to show him maturing.
Contains 18 stories, plus Howard's essay regarding the Hyborian Age.

After a few stories, it's a bit of a blur as to which wench he's "saving" or which tribe/group he's becoming the leader of.

Possibly fewer stories in this collection would have made it less noticeable and pushed it up to 4 stars.
Also, there are a lot of typos or misprints in this book which become slightly annoying.

The Vanishing Tower (Elric Series)

The Vanishing Tower (Elric Series) - Michael Moorcock Elric, accompanied by Moonglum, heads off on a mission of revenge against Thelb K'aarna.
Along the way he fights denizens of Chaos, a god and beings from another plane of existence that are immune to his magic.

There's an appearance by other aspects of the Eternal Champion and the usual questioning of fate preventing Elric from living as he chooses.

Good, old school swords and sorcery featuring everyone's favourite albino champion of Chaos and his soul stealing sword Stormbringer.

The Black River Chronicles: Level One (Black River Academy Book 1)

The Black River Chronicles: Level One (Black River Academy Book 1) - David Tallerman, Michael Wills, Ed Greenwood Take a standard adventuring party of a rogue, warrior, mage and ranger. Then take a look at how they just happen to be travelling together and what led them to those career choices.

This book does just that - a school for adventurers, introducing the four character classes and the people who enter each academy. It concentrates on one group, all with their own secrets and reasons for joining.

As they are put together they need to work on becoming a team rather than four individuals hoping to make it to Level Two.

The characters are done well, and the story is told in an engaging manner. Slightly predictable in places, but that doesn't detract from a good read that moves along at a solid pace.

H.P. Lovecraft Omnibus 3: The Haunter Of The Dark

H.P. Lovecraft Omnibus 3: The Haunter Of The Dark - H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth A good selection of Lovecraft's stories.
Most of these have links to his Cthulhu mythos, and feature sanity clawing horrors from beyond space and time.

Some of them seem overly verbose, but if you're getting paid by the word then it's not surprising when an author crams in long descriptions. It's also the downfall of many stories as you can see the twists coming from a mile away.

A good book for anyone who likes pulp-style horror.

Interesting Times (Discworld, #17)

Interesting Times (Discworld, #17) - Terry Pratchett Rincewind gets an invitation to go and visit an old friend. As is usual for him, this involves people mistaking him for an actual wizard and trying to kill him.

Plenty of humour, ranging from the politest revolutionaries you're going to meet, to a geriatric barbarian horde.

The Wars of Atlantis (Dark Osprey)

The Wars of Atlantis (Dark Osprey) - Phil Masters, Jose Pena, Rocio Espin Pinar Part of Osprey Publishing's "Adventures" series, presenting fiction in a factual manner.
Looks at the creation of Atlantis, the structure of its rulers and armies and compares with other races of the same time.

You don't actually get to any war description until just over halfway through the book, at which point it becomes a bit more interesting.

Overall, it's quite a "dry" read, considering the subject matter. Well illustrated.

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman The Norse myths told in an engaging and easy to read manner.

Most of the stories will be familiar if you've read any other Norse myths book, if not then this would be a good place to start to find out about the major gods and what made them tick.

There's nothing that necessarily makes it a stand-out Neil Gaiman book if you're expecting a clever and twisted fantasy incorporating gods and mortals, but the blurb makes that obvious.


Currently reading

Ghost King (Sipstrassi: Stones of Power)
David Gemmell
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Astronomy
Christopher Gordon De Pree, Alan Axelrod