the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence

Published August 2011

Where I got it: rec’d review copy from Harper Collins/Voyager

.

.

.

.

.

.

With an epic, empire-shattering sprawl that brings George R R Martin to mind,  and a quick and snarky narrative style reminiscent of Scott Lynch, yet with a twist unlike anything I’vecome across, Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns is easily the most incredible epic fantasy I have ever read. To drop yet another name,  this is a novel that practically vibrates with deliberateness, making me think of Patrick Rothfuss at times.

Showing a true mastery of foreshadowing, Lawrence drops hints both overt and subtle that creep up on the reader like a path of breadcrumbs that twists and turns through the forest.  I don’t care if this path leads to a witch’s house, Lawrence has completely seduced me to the point where I can do naught but follow. I knew from the first chapter this was a book I’d be devouring.  The plot set-up is fast and clean,  the prose and dialog alive with “show me”, and long before the first twist hits you’ll realize this is nothing at all like your typical epic fantasy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Forest Mage (Soldier Son Trilogy: book 2), by Robin Hobb

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: enjoyed the first book, Shaman’s Crossing

.

.

.

.

.

Picking up shortly after the end of the first book in the trilogy, Shaman’s Crossing,  Forest Mage was mostly what I’ve come to expect from Robin Hobb – a powerful character driven fantasy that starts out “traditional”, and then, quite suddenly, most certainly isn’t.

As the military academy recovers from the Plague, life slowly goes back to normal. Noble families are coming to grips with the fact that their third son (destined for the priesthood) may now be their second son (destined for the military) and so forth.  Nevare is readying to head home to his brother’s wedding and to see Carsina, his betrothed. While most people who survive the plague become weakened and skeletal, Nevare is having the opposite reaction to his brush with death: he can’t stop gaining weight.  He becomes heavy.  Then fat.  Then obese.  Hobb takes every possible opportunity to remind us that Nevare is supposed to be a fit, trim soldier, and “letting yourself go” simply isn’t accepted in this society (I’ll just assume that every woman in this world always loses the baby fat, and thyroid problems are nonexistent). Due only to his size, Nevare is in turn spurned by his father, his siblings, his friends and his betrothed. And then he is given a medical discharge from the academy. Everything he was destined to be, the military life his father trained him for, is over.

Humiliated and disowned by his father, Nevare sets out for the eastern frontier determined to join up with a military post far from home. Everywhere he stops it seems, people don’t want anything to do with him because of his girth. People assume he is homeless, or a thief, or a murderer, or all of the above, and only because he’s fat. Hobb belabors this point, often.

Along the King’s Road, Nevare learns first hand the folly of building a road with chain gangs, of building frontier towns just to abandon them when the road passes through and the guards leave.  Puts me in the mood to track down some American history about the transcontinental railroads and the natives who were “in the way”.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Orphans Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

published in 2006

where I got it: library

why I read it: have really, really enjoyed other novels by this author

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

A cross between a book of Grimm’s fairy tales and 1001 Arabian Nights, The Orphans Tales: In the Night Garden, winner of the 2006 Tiptree Award, is unlike anything you have ever read.

At the very beginning, a unnamed girl who lives in a garden tells a boy she must tell her stories backwards, and that was always in the back of my mind as I read.  Not only did everything come together at the end, but so did the magical sentence “Stories are like prayers. It does not matter when you begin, or when you end. . . “   Have truer words every been spoken? Does it matter where you crack open your book of fairy tales? the witch  always shows up eventually, right?

And this book does have a witch, and a wizard, and pirates and monsters and griffins and eggs and firebirds and a tree-woman and a ship-tree and Stars that are Gods. Nested tale by nested tale, the mythology of the world grows and breathes to the point where you don’t know where reality ends, nor does it matter. This is a book that should be hoarded, should be meted out slowly, like Chocolate during a time of rationing.  I read this as fast as I could (which wasn’t very), treating it like a plot based story. Too much chocolate on an empty stomach makes anyone feel yucky.  Learn from my mistake: don’t read this book fast. Savor it.

Read the rest of this entry »

.

Midnight at the Well of Souls, by Jack Chalker

published in 1977

where I got it: husband’s collection

why I read it: cuz it’s damn fun!

.

.

.

.

.

The far flung future of humanity isn’t a pretty place.  Having colonized over 500 planets, many governments have turned to utopian totalitarianism, extreme forms of socialism, cloning, and forced equality through genetic engineering.  Nathan Brazil isn’t the only freighter pilot who’d rather live alone on his ship than ever settle on one of those hellholes, where everyone is exactly the same.  Wonderfully antisocial, Nathan happily goes decades without speaking to another human.  Old enough to remember the good old days before the stagnation of humanity, these days it’s just freight, freight, more freight, and the occasional passenger run.

While ferrying a few passengers, he makes an unplanned detour, and hears a distress call from the non-inhabited planet of Dalgonia. One of the original planets of the Markovian race, Dalgonia is nothing but ruins these days, a favorite dig spot  for archaeologists. The Markovians, an ancient race, possible the first race to populate our universe, left no writings behind, no artwork, nothing to identify what they might have looked like. The planets they colonized spanned the universe and all had massive, planet-wide computers living just under the surface. Nathan and his passengers investigate the impossible distress signal, only to fall through a gateway that shouldn’t exist.

No one will be reaching their destination.  except for Nathan, who might just finally be at the right place.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Cardinal’s Blades, by Pierre Pevel

Published in 2010

Where I got it: library

Why I read it: I like historical fantasy, and how can you say no to that beautiful cover art?

.

.

.

Over the last few days, Pierre Pevel’s The Cardinal’s Blades has proven very difficult to review.  I think I will make my life a lot easier if I divide The Cardinal’s Blades in half:  beginning, and end.  To be succinct, the beginning was a mess that suffered from severe putdownability and lack of focus. And the end? well, the end more than made up for the problem-addled start to the point where I am actually quite excited to read Pevel’s recently released The Alchemist in the Shadows  which I’m assuming is the 2nd book in this series.

The premise of the story is as other reviewers have been saying:  Three Musketeers (swashbuckling, duels, blackmail, intrigue, secret societies, and more duels and blackmail) plus dragons (humanoid dragons, half breeds and their not as bright cousins used as pets and messengers)  More alt history than historical fantasy, I wish Pevel had done more with the dragon aspects, and I hope he does in future books.

Paris, 1633 and Cardinal Richelieu has called back his favorite dirty jobber – Captain LaFargue, the leader of an elite group of swordsmen (and women!) known as  The Cardinal’s Blades. A man of unshakeable honor, LaFargue will do any task to protect the French crown, even those unsavory kinds of tasks that caused The Blades to be dishonorably disbanded five years ago. Tasked with “getting the band back together”, so to speak, LaFargue must find his Blades, and convince them by force, if necessary, to join him in doing Richelieu’s bidding once more.  He may be a man of honor, but his blades are a different story. They have their own demons and debts to pay.

Read the rest of this entry »

 Twelve, by Jasper Kent

Published in 2010

Where did I get it: Library, but plan to purchase a copy

I’ve been waiting a long time to read a book like this.  A book that puts the horror back in supernatural myths. Although it’s somewhat spoiled on the back of the book, I won’t even tell you which supernatural myth I’m talking about, just know that it’s one you are supposed to be afraid of.

To risk sounding cliche, Jasper Kent’s writing is just damn good.  Every sentence, every word moves the plot forward. There isn’t a slow moment in this book. Kent brings us to early 19th century Moscow, where the people are proud yet afraid of invasion.  Talk of republic is in the air, along with the early snows of autumn.

Don’t know anything about Russia, 1812 or Napoleon? Don’t worry,  the main character, Aleksei will walk you through everything you need to know.  My historical education is so lacking as to be embarassing, and not once did I feel lost. Twelve takes place during a war, and Aleksei and his friends are soldiers, but this is not a war book.  

As Napoleon’s Grande Armee marches towards Moscow, Dmitry offers to bring in some mercenaries to help with the effort. Aleksei, Dmitry, Maksim and their commanding officer Vadim aren’t on the front lines, per say, they are beyond the front lines.  Their mission is to cross enemy lines and cause disruptions and problems for the invaders. In modern jargon I’m sure the French would call them terrorists.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Habitation of the Blessed, by Catherynne Valente

Published:Nov 2010

where I got it: library, but I’ll be purchasing a copy shortly

why I read it: heard it was very good, although I admit, at first I was apprehensive.

Two Vignettes, to set the scene.

* * *

During mystical conversations with friends and lovers, I used to quip that I’d like, one day, to be reincarnated as a tree. To me, a tree has always been a thing of beauty. Home and resource to birds and animals, immortal via its seeds that are carried far and wide. After reading Catherynne M. Valente’s The Habitation of the Blessed, I will still joke around that I’d very much like to one day be reincarnated as a tree, but to me the punchline will taste heavier with meaning.

Everyone knows the story of the Garden of Eden. but do you remember the end? where Adam and Eve are told if they leave the garden “they shall surely die”? Would they have been immortal, had they stayed?

* * *

I don’t feel qualified to review this book. I don’t have the education, the experience with religious history, or the vocabulary. I come at The Habitation of the Blessed as an innocent. In the words of a shy emo pop singer who has gone on to better things – “these words are all I have so I write them, so you need them just to get by. . . “ No words I say can do this book justice, but I’ll do the best I can.

Catherynne Valente’s The Habitation of the Blessed is in a word, sublime. I have never read anything like this before. Intimate and evocative and powerful, the price paid to experience it is that one can never again come to it with innocence, never again read it for the first time.

Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,118 other followers

subscribe in a reader

Vintage SF

Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along

Local Friends

Categories

FTC Stuff

some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.