the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘swords

Sharps, by K.J. Parker

published July 2012, from Orbit Books

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

In the border country of Scheria, four talented fencers have been convinced (in many cases  blackmailed) into joining a new national fencing team. The team will travel into war-torn neighboring Permia on a mission of goodwill. it’s been years since the war, and perhaps now is the time to start a discussion between the two countries. If they can’t agree on trade policies or politics, perhaps they can agree to watch the sport everyone in Permia has been going crazy for – fencing.

The story focuses intimately around our four fencers: Suidas, the champion who drank his winnings away; Giraut, who is running from a date with the gallows; Addo, the useless youngest son of Scheria’s military hero; and Isuetz, the lone woman trying to escape an arranged marriage. And travelling with them are their fencing coach Phrantzes and Tzimisces, who is a fixer/political officer.  We know very little about everyone when the story starts, and by the time it ends, well, lets just say that everyone has secrets.

Ahh, the word fencing. It can mean so many things.  Parrying with swords. Selling stolen items. Foils and thefts aside, one can fence with words es well, luring someone into a false sense of security and then causing lethal pain without even drawing a blade.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner

published in 2003

where I got it: library

.

.

.

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Quite often I’ll run into a review where someone finds a book “effortless”.  I never really knew what that meant, until now. Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint, a story that is both a typical fantasy and as far from typical as one can get is a book that doesn’t feel like a book. I don’t know how else to explain it.  I would pick Swordspoint up planning to only read for a half hour or so, the next thing I knew two hours had gone by and I was half finished with it, to my dismay leaving less and less of it remaining for me to enjoy. Even in the scenes where death is quite completely on the line, where Richard is fighting for his life or for Alec’s, when Alec is desperately trying to slowly kill himself through drink, drugs or stupidity, the story feels light, readable, addictive: absolutely effortless.  With a plotline that’s easy to get into, and brimming with all my favorite guilty pleasures: swordplay, banter, revenge, and sensuality, Swordspoint is truly unforgettable.

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 »

The super quick version of this review is  “last 100 pages more than makes up for first 100 pages”.

the beginning of Blood of Ambrose didn’t do a damn thing for me, but the end knocked my socks off in a most supercalifragalistic away.  

We start off with young King Lathmar, who at age eleven has already been orphaned and thus inherited a small kingdom and a regent known as The Protector. Raised to be a figurehead and nothing more,  Lathmar  is naive, sheltered, and rather whiny and annoying.  The Protector, Urdhven, has more ambitions than brains and figures taking the kingdom from Lathmar will be like taking candy from a baby. Urdhven’s got some special help, as well.  Luckily, Lathmar’s true protector is his great so many times grandmother (who he just calls Grandmother), Ambrosia Viviana.  In their time of need, Ambrosia tasks the frightened Lathmar with calling to her brother, knowing he will come and save them.   

Enge flounders with worldbuilding and characterization at the beginning, and this will be a turn off to a lot of readers. Unless you’ve already read Enge’s short fiction, you don’t know who any of these people are, you don’t know why you should care, and worst of all  you have no idea where any of this is heading.  But trust me, you need to keep reading, because it  gets better. much better.

Ambrosia Viviana’s brother is Morlock Ambrose, sorcerer, master maker, drunkard, child of Merlin.   Morlock the exile, the Crooked Man whose magic has destroyed cities and empires.  One must truly be in dire straights to call on his twisted help.  There’s a reason he’s  the  star attraction  stories parents tell to frighten their children.

Read the rest of this entry »

Published in 1996, The Lions of Al-Rassan is not a new book, but it is easily the most moving book I have read this year. If the end of this book doesn’t bring you to tears or compel you to find your loved ones and hold them close, there may be something very wrong with you. That’s a fuzzy photo of my copy. See the bent cover? The stressed spine? I felt it was important to show the how loved this little book has been in my household.

The Peninsula of Al-Rassan isn’t that unusual. In every square, tavern and temple the poets, singers, and clerics tell anyone who will listen of the romance of the battlefield. Of how the gods smile on warriors, of the honor, glory, and spoils of war. But the two most famous warriors of Al-Rassan know better. They know that war provides none of these things. All war does is take.

I better say it early on, this is not a book about war. This is not an action story, it is not epic fight scene after epic fight scene. This is a book about what strained loyalties can force men and women to do. The war is just the backdrop, The Lions of Al-Rassan is a love story. Read the rest of this entry »


When I first read Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. Successfully passed off as historical fiction, my brain kept telling me I was reading a sword and sorcery fantasy, just with chemisty substituted for sorcery. The illustrations featuring the tall slender Zelikman dressed all in black with long white hair and the plot lines focusing on revenge and violence put me in the mind of an Elric story. After letting the book percolate through my brain for a week or so, I’m concluding the weaknesses in the story can mostly be blamed on my slightly off interpretation.

In Chabon’s afterward, he says the working title of the book was “Jews with Swords”, which is pretty much what this book was, and the prime reason why I had to keep reminding myself it really is loose historical fiction. Taking place in and around the Khazar empire (think modern day Azerbaijan), and for about 100 years around 1000 AD the state religion of the Empire was Judaism. And just like other empires of the day, they were constantly fighting off invaders and neighbors. Put simply, the story follows two Jewish friends, Zelikman and Amram who are soldiers for hire, scholars by choice, and con men for fun and money.
Read the rest of this entry »

This review originally appeared on Worm’s Sci Fi Haven. It’s a book I read and reviewed a few years ago, see the bottom of the entry for some later notes on this series.

This book was supposed to be an escape. It was supposed to have nothing to do with science fiction, or fantasy, and I wasn’t planning to write a review of it. But before I knew it, I was sucked into the story, impatiently trying to get to the next page, hoping no harm would come to anyone I cared about. This isn’t science fiction, and if you think fantasy has to involve magic or elves, then this wouldn’t qualify as fantasy either.

From reading Byzantium, and the Pendragon Cycle (King Authur & Merlin), I know Lawhead to be a superb history fiction/mythic fantasy writer. He leaves no stone unturned in his quest to bring the myths of human history to life. The Paradise War is no different.

The story starts in a most unexpected way – with two graduate students at Oxford. Lewis, an American, is thankful for every pound of grant and scholarship money he can get to keep himself in his studies, and Simon, who is at Oxford because that’s what rich British boys do before living off their families fortunes. Through an odd course of events, Lewis and Simon find themselves at a gateway during the times inbetween times. Falling through the gateway, they end up in the archetypal Celtic mythic world: Albion.

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

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

Join 2,391 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

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.
Advertisements