the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘military fantasy

The Guns Above, by Robyn Bennis

published  in 2017

where i got it: borrowed from a friend

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Action packed, cinematic, and full of snarky dialog that is hella fun, this steampunk flintlock fantasy book would make an excellent movie!

 

The book starts out with a rather straight forward plot: Captain Josette Dupre is the first female airship captain. A foppish spy, Bernat,  is put aboard her ship to report back and prove she (and thus all women in the military) is incompetent. She turns out to be ridiculously competent, and the spy realized he doesn’t want to be  a dick. When the enemy attacks Dupre’s hometown, epic air battles commence! The story might sound straight forward, but this book has plenty of surprises in store.

 

I appreciated that the book starts when the story starts.  There is no prologue, no infodumping right out of the gate, the reader is just thrown into an action scene.  This is the author asking you to trust her that she will explain everything later, and in the meantime, why don’t you just enjoy the ride and the fantastic dialog?   Fear not, because Bennis does explain everything in time. Things like that this country is obsessed with warfare, that this is a society where women are usually at home raising families but that has changed since the government is so desperate for anyone who can join up and fight, and that the farmers in the border villages haven’t moved their farms but have changed what country they live in countless times.

 

As Captain Dupre is given her own command and lauded as the first female airship captain, others take this as an opportunity to smear her.   She, and (most of) her crew know their business – Bennis has either spent ton of time onboard sailing ships, or she did a ton of research – they know about shifting weight, how to handle tight quarters, what to do (and never do!) with weapons on board, how to test the airship’s limits, and harmless ways to haze the younger crewmembers.   The attention to detail was absolutely fantastic.

 

Bernat is a spoiled wealthy fop, and when his uncle gets sick of supporting his drinking and womanizing ways, he kills two birds with one stone – he assigns Bernat to Dupre’s ship as an “observer”, and by observer, I mean spy.  Maybe the ship will go down in battle, and Bernat’s uncle can be rid of two annoyances. And those airships sure are flammable, don’t you know?

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american craftsmen coverAmerican Craftsmen, by Tom Doyle

published in 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (Thanks Tom!)

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Is it possible to really enjoy a book, but to at the same time be incredibly frustrated with it? It’s completely possible, and doesn’t stop you from enjoying the hell out of something. And it’s the experience I had with Tom Doyle’s debut novel, American Craftsmen.

 

The book starts with a bang, and gets off to a fantastic start. US Army Captain Dale Morton has his mission switched at the last minute, and something goes terribly wrong, pushing him to contemplate leaving the military. But, he’s a Morton. He *can’t* leave the military. This is where I fell in love with the premise of the novel. Morton is a Craftsman. Passed down through the generations, his family has held magical powers since the creation of the United States. Through agreements with the government, the Craft families have always protected the land and the country.  Along with the other Craftsman families, Morton is part of a secret unit in the US Military.  Unlike other Craft families, Dale can never escape his own family’s past.

 

Dale was a great point of view character, he’s brave but vulnerable, someone willing take risks and bend the rules when circumstances allow.  And oh, didn’t I mention? He has daily chats with his late grandfather’s ghost, and the house they live in has a personality all it’s own. I loved house!

 

House protects the Mortons, and keeps the older ghosts trapped in the basement. A few generations ago, a branch of the family, known as the Left Hand branch, went bad. They allowed their magic to be corrupted by greed. Dale knows their power surges through him. He just has to keep it at bay and not fall into the trap of their promises.

 

You’re gonna love House. You’re also gonna love the Sanctuary and The Gideons.

 

Ok, that’s most of what I liked. Let me tell you what frustrated me.

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scourgeScourge of the Betrayer, by Jeff Salyards

published in 2012

where I got it: received review copy via the author (Thanks Jeff!)

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I read plenty of fantasy, but not much in the way of military fantasy, so Scourge of the Betrayer was more than a few steps outside of my comfort zone.    Young Arkamondos (he goes by Arki) is a trained scribe. Used to living in the city and recording the daily activities of bored merchants, Arki thinks he wants a more interesting gig. The Emperor has decreed that travelling bands of Syldoon Warriors must have a scribe, and our story begins when Arki finds himself hired by Captain Braylar Killcoin.

The rest of the troop make it no secret they don’t want Arki around, that they think he’s a worthless city boy, and a liability to their missions. The only member of the group who shows Arki any friendship is Lloi, a fingerless hedge-witch. She’s an outcast of her tribe, so she knows exactly what it’s like to be seen as an outsider.  Braylar might not come right out and say it, but he desperately needs someone to observe and witness what happens, just not for the reasons the Emperor thinks.

For a skinny little book, Scourge of the Betrayer touches on a ton of cool worldbuilding ideas.  Soul devouring weapons, the Godveil, Memory witches, Salyards has built himself a well populated playground to play in for future books in this series.  For this volume, he’s kept the worldbuilding very light, perhaps as a tease for the reader, and perhaps simply as a requirement of an action heavy novel that’s less than 300 pages long.

I was about out of my comfort zone as Arki was out of his.  The members of Braylar’s troop are very, very good at what they do. Highly trained, they know how to take orders with out question, set up weapons and ambushes, and generally kick tons of ass. Arki mentions on more than one occasion that it would take him years to learn all this. No wonder they see him as a liability.  Even if he manages not get himself killed in an ambush,  if he asks too many questions or connects too many dots, that might get him killed quicker. Braylar has found reason to kill more than one scribe these last few years – they observe too much, they ask too many questions.

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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.
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