Look what I’m reading! Lord of terror himself, H.P. #Lovecraft.

I bought the beautiful B&N version of the complete fiction. Gilded edges, leather binding, fancy cover.

But what’s inside? Dare I open these pages? The Tomb, Cthulhu, oh the horror…

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Book Review – Black Sun Rising, Book 1 #Coldfire Trilogy by C. S. Friedman

I saw this book on the shelves years ago but I was a starving student at the time and passed up the opportunity to read it then. I won’t lie, the gorgeous cover art dragged me in, but as I read the flap errata in the Waldenbooks, I found myself very intrigued by the premise. The fae are alien, vampiric creatures that feed off of humanity… hmmm. I put the book down and walked out of the store, but that flap’s contents have haunted and influenced my own notions of the “fae” ever since. To that I thank the author, Celia. Recently, I decided to track down that book and thanks to my Google-Fu I found it! This is one of those times where I chastise myself for not buying this gem back when I first saw it on the shelves.

Black Sun Rising is a cross between fantasy and sci-fi (more on the fantasy side) with many dark undertones to it. The main characters are a priest, a human who has traded his soul for eternal unlife, and a sorceress.

Before humans arrived on the alien planet, the world was in perfect balance. If there was a great period of flooding, the creatures would quickly evolve to breathe in and out of water. If one species became too prolific, something would evolve to take it down a notch. Think of Darwin, but on steroids, not directed by random changes in DNA but DNA is changed to fit the new environment. An interesting concept and well portrayed in the story.

In this world, magic is accomplished by the fae who can almost be thought of as a flow of invisible spirits manipulating the world around them. Sorcerers(esses) manipulate the fae to do their bidding while the fae feed on their emotions. Some fae feed on dark emotions such as rage, pain and despair while others feed on joy, love, and faith. Over time demons were “born” out of the humans’ imaginings and took the forms of earthly monsters such as vampires, succubi, and even pagan gods.

The writing has a dark tone to it – scenes of torture and gruesome death are scattered throughout – I had eerie feelings as I read a few certain sections. Mankind fears true night for that is when the most devious fae (and in rare cases men) come out to feast on the humans inhabiting their world. Mankind has somehow learned to survive in this harsh world through the use of suppressing their own emotions, arming themselves with light, and manipulating the fae to protect them from the demons of the night.

The characters in the book are well defined. The priest is kind of a rebel in his own faith, but faith he does have. The undead has a weird sense of honor that makes sense, and the sorceress is an adventurous sort who is not afraid to risk her soul in search of knowledge. I read one review talking about how the characters were flat. I didn’t see this at all.

The story takes you through some twists and turns, but mostly I felt it was pretty straight forward, but not to the point where I ever really knew what was coming next. I really enjoyed this story, but more over I absolutely loved the original ideas behind it and for that reason I am pleased to give this sci-fi crossover fantasy novel 5 out of 5 stars.

You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Rising-Coldfire-Trilogy-Book/dp/0886775272

Book Review – The Red Wolf Conspiracy, Book 1 of the #Chathrand Voyage by Robert V. S. Redick

Another one of my favorites, Robert V. S. Redick spins a splendid tale on the high seas about the voyage of the Chathrand, the last remaining great ship which can sail across the Ruling Sea, and it’s assumed demise.

The Red Wolf Conspiracy is a book that had been on my radar for some time. I decided to finally give it a go this fall, and it quickly became one of the few novels I truly could not put down. I found myself sneaking around the house to get in another chapter – or even a page – when I was supposed to be doing something else (like tending to my four year old daughter or cleaning the dishes).

What was it about Red Wolf that I loved so much? First, I loved the writing. Robert V. S. Redick’s language brings you square into a fantasy pirate setting where you can taste the ocean spray on your lips, feel the sting of its salt in your eyes, and hear the tolling of the harbor bells as you drift past them on your loosely lashed together raft. The story is written so teens can enjoy it and adults can love it. No foul language fills these pages, just a lot of dreamy adventure. I haven’t read any of the Redwall series, but from what I do know of those beloved books I imagine this novel is similar in a lot of ways yet at a more advanced level appealing to both younger and older crowds.

The characters were defined quite well, and the fact that the main protagonist’s only magical power is the ability to understand other languages is quite unique. A talking animal (a mink I think) plays the part of a powerful sorcerer from another world on a mission to save both worlds from an evil wizard. Some may think talking animals amount to a childish story and not want to read it. Okay. Well you can feel that way, but you’ll be missing out on a great, great book!

The story line itself is linear, very orderly and filled with excellent scenes. One scene in particular (an underwater scene for those who have read it – but I won’t go further for fear of spoiling) left me stunned at the visualization and originality the author employs. Red Wolf Conspiracy is actually only the first part of a longer story, so you are left hanging a little – but in a place where you don’t feel you have missed out on anything. I can’t wait to read the next book – I just need to find the time now… maybe a babysitter or a house cleaner.

Due to the gorgeous writing style, in depth characterization, and unique magic powers, I am very pleased to give The Red Wolf Conspiracy 5 out of 5 stars.

You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Red-Wolf-Conspiracy-Robert-Redick/dp/034550884X/

Book Review – The Lies of Locke #Lamora, Book 1 Gentleman Bastard Series by @scottlynch78

Now to review one of my favorite books! Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora is perhaps the best book I have read, EVER! Whether you are into fantasy fiction, action packed adventures, or mysteries this book will please. I have heard it referred to as Oceans Eleven – this is not far from the mark in a lot of respects. Let the heaping of praise begin…

Take the age old tale of Oliver Twist. Now instead of finding Oliver a home, let’s turn him into a con-man. Not JUST a con-man, a con-artist! A con-artist with a tight knit family who all surprisingly have each others’ backs. Why would a con have another con’s back? Because they are family! Lynch does a fantastic job building the relationships between all the characters. His style of doing this is a clever back and forth between the present and the past, explaining myriad relationships and actions taken in the present with events from the past.

The language, Brilliant! On the verge of offensive, but not crossing the line, Lynch knows exactly what his reader wants. F-bombs are dropped in clusters – not to shock the reader but because that is actually how these characters speak! I was cracking up to the dialogue. Picture some young inner city kids – no respect for the law, fearful of those bigger than them but witty enough to worm their way out of almost anything. And if words fail, they have no qualms with (actually, they’ll enjoy it and brag about it later) kicking their oppressor in the sack and running down an alley as fast as possible to escape.

The story… wow! Tons of twists, gotchas, lots of tragedy, and even a small heart warming feeling at the end. Revenge, murder, honor, loyalty, a crimson tinge around your vision as you read on – I couldn’t put the book down.

I give this book a glowing 5 out of 5 stars without any reserve. I have read a lot of fantasy books, but this one seriously has been my favorite to date. Whenever anyone I meet asks me about a book to read, Lies is the first one I always recommend. I’m very glad I finally read it this past summer, and angry at myself for not reading it sooner.

You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Lies-Locke-Lamora-Scott-Lynch/dp/055358894X/

Book Review – Gardens of the Moon, Book 1 of the #Malazan Book of the Fallen

Okay, so it’s about time I reviewed a book I read a couple of months ago. Prior to reading it, I had read a lot of reviews and did see some warning signs that book one might be hard to digest for some readers. I also saw that the series had a huge fan-base devoted to the Malazan empire – this devotion is what prompted me to invest my time in the first place. Not wanting to get involved with another long (TEN epic Volumes) series just yet, Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson had been sitting on my shelf for almost a year as I read other books. In August I finally took the plunge out of pure curiosity.

First I will go over what I liked in this novel – the writing. Steven Erikson has a way with words. I had read a couple of reviews saying the opposite – harping on Erikson for using the same few uncommon words over and over. I simply found this to be untrue. His language use was beautifully dark and sinister. At times I felt I was reading an epic poem instead of a novel. His style of writing is not something you can learn so much as it is part of his nature. I envy writer’s with this gift.

What some people may not like, but I can appreciate is the twisting maze full of dead ends, shifting corridors, and nasty traps Erikson guides his readers through. Some folks like this style of writing as it challenges them to stay on their game as they turn each page. Other people tend to want an easy to follow story where they can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. Erikson has given us a glossary at the back of the novel which will come in very handy to those falling in the first category. If you fall in the latter, I would not recommend this book.

Now on to what I did not care for in the story – the characters. Erikson’s large list of main characters was quickly introduced to us and all of them (save for one who talked in the third person) appeared exactly the same to me. By this I mean their mannerisms were identical, their language was too similar. Even their thought processes were unoriginal, focused solely around their own survival in a world out to destroy each of them in a very personal way – all the while they were indiscriminately killing other poor souls who crossed their paths. There was no real buildup – fast or slow – explaining what defined the characters and the actions they took throughout the book. I was simply thrust into the middle of the story and expected to pick favorites based on what I still am not sure.

As an aspiring writer myself, reading Gardens has taught me that a great book is nothing without its characters. Prior to reading Gardens, I had been focusing too much of my own plot-lines around the story I want to tell, rather than character development and getting my readers invested which is the real reason they keep turning the pages.

The question now is: “will I continue on with this series?” I believe I will as I have read reviews saying book two is much better than its predecessor. If you have read it, what do you think (see Poll)?

Overall I give Gardens of the Moon 2 out of 5 stars, but who am I to say you won’t love it?

You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Gardens-Moon-Malazan-Book-Fallen/dp/0765322889/

Book Review – Progeny, The Children of the White Lions, First novel in the world of #Terrene

Progeny is the first chapter in what could easily become one of the great high fantasy stories of our time. Plainly said, Progeny is just a lot of fun! This novel sets up a backdrop for a much greater tale than is portrayed in the book – this is not to say the picture painted by this book is not great in and of itself! I can easily see this series becoming a trilogy, tetralogy or more.

Terrene, the world in which this story takes place, is rife with elves, men, halflings, giants, orcs, demons, etc. – all the goodies and baddies that make up high fantasy. They all have their own racial tendencies already familiar to the reader, but the author has not locked his individual characters into these pre-established racial roles. For instance, one of the main bad guys is what I would equate to a “high elf” – a race almost always portrayed as the embodiment of goodness – and he is a real baddie!

The world that has been created by Kaelin feels very “clean” to me. There is a highly ordered calendar complete with evenly spaced lunar cycles and seasons. An established pantheon of gods and goddesses walks the world it shares with its followers – remaining withdrawn from society for the most part, but acting in ways unseen until after the effects of its transgressions have passed. Add to this, a logical and beautiful magic system based off of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series and made original by the author, you have a clean canvas for great works of art to be produced.

The story itself is written very well – especially considering this is the author’s own first novel. Sure there are some minor grammatical errors not caught before publishing, however these are few and he does not even have an established publishing house proofing his work before it goes to release. Kaelin is a self published, Indie author! Considering this I give the author a lot of credit for doing such a good job with both the writing and editing before it got to my hands!

Multiple plotlines intertwine to develop a rich story that is both enjoyable and quick reading. It was fun to see how the different characters came together and I appreciated the lack of “soap opera tactics” I find in so many books (i.e. characters somehow neglecting to share crucial details with their companions to further a specific bizarre story line that otherwise would have fallen apart before progressing far enough to matter). Instead, Kaelin builds the story in a manner with which real people might react if they were put in a similar situation.

All of the characters have their own unique personalities that you will fall in love with and they remain true to their idiosyncrasies throughout the book. You really get a feeling you know a character soon after he or she is introduced to you. You will find yourself associating with their different aspects as the plots develop and come to a harmonious conclusion.

I am pleased to give this book five stars and I look forward to the next novel in what I anticipate will be a series on the same level as the Wheel of Time series, The Inheritance Cycle, and the Shannara series.

You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Progeny-Children-White-Lions-Kaelin/dp/0615421032/