Book Review – Lord Foul’s Bane, Book 1 of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson

I spent the last couple of weeks trying to catch up on some of the giants of modern fantasy. I chose Lord Foul’s Bane (LFB) by Stephen Donaldson. I had heard mixed reviews on this one. Some have called Donaldson’s work dark and depressing. I don’t think that falls far from the mark.

I recently enjoyed Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. One of that book’s critics had complained of an excess of rape in Prince. I was shocked at their criticism. I remembered very little mention of rape let alone a descriptive scene of one. How could I forget something like that? The critic went on to blast Lawrence by comparing his work to LFB. They said the rape in Prince surpassed even the scene in Donaldson’s book. I suppose this forewarned me of what was to come, but it also made me less cautious about reading LFB. If they felt Prince was worse then LFB then LFB couldn’t be that bad, right?

I don’t want this whole review to center around one or two pages in the book. The rest of the book was lacking in my opinion too, but I’ll get to that soon. I understand why Donaldson did what he did, but there were other (better) ways to achieve his goals. In some cases rape can be written to portray a powerful message, but in this case it just fell flat.

There was zero logical need for Donaldson to make his ‘anti-hero’ rape a teenage girl. There were even less reasons (yes, I know I just said zero) for him to visually describe the intricacies of the rape to his readers. We knew Thomas Covenant (the anti-hero/rapist) was a messed up guy before the scene. We knew he was self loathing, fearful, and mistrusting of others. We understood his reasoning. We also understood that Covenant thought he was dreaming. The scene was awkwardly written. Donaldson seemed to struggle between connecting a very shallow compulsion within Covenant to actually becoming a rapist. All this culminated in being disgusted at the scene and confused over the character’s decision. I wasn’t very impressed.

The magic system within “The Land” was your typical fantasy magic system. That is to say there really wasn’t much of one. This is fine but if you came here for such a thing, you won’t find it. Go back to reading Sanderson – or I recommend my friend Ryan Kaelin – if that is what suits you.

The plot within LFB was your typical fantasy quest. Darkness is settling across the land. Thomas Covenant has to travel from point A to point B to meet with the lords. They all set out together to rescue an artifact that will save the world. They travel in a round about way to avoid all the hordes of bad guys descending from the mountains. Within said mountains lies the Staff of Law and of course the leader of the bad guys.

Did I mention all the traveling? Probably 85% of the book is just traveling and scenery. While I can appreciate good visual writing, enough is enough!

The characters in LFB were all the same, save for Covenant himself. Everyone comes off as selfless and in harmony with the earth. The land is a beautiful place and provides everything the people need. There is no disease and only vague memories of war. No one seems to have a care for their own well being and fear only for the children who will not be able to live full lives should Lord Foul win.

Donaldson’s style of writing is similar to Tolkien’s. There are a lot of descriptions that do a decent job at forming a scene in the readers mind. Some of the phrases in LFB are dated which is understandable as the book was written in the 70’s. We in the era of computers are spoiled with online thesauruses, and Donaldson’s creativity can be seen in the similes he draws for us.

Overall I just didn’t like Lord Foul’s Bane. The bad choice of using rape aside, the book just failed to capture me. It was very slow moving and I felt it was written for teenagers. Due to the rape scene I wouldn’t recommend it even for them. I give Lord Foul’s Bane 2 out of 5 stars. The Illearth Stone (Book 2 of the original trilogy) just moved way down on my to-read list.

You can buy it here:


Book Review – Deadhouse Gates Book 2 of the #Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

I am glad I didn’t give up on this series after my initial wave of vile feelings toward Gardens of the Moon. Wow, what a book! I’m spent! I’ve now learned that I need a few lighter reads in-between Erikson’s works. Please note that I try my hardest to write “spoiler free” reviews. I love comments on my blog – feedback is truly why I write reviews in the first place. Please make sure you don’t post spoilers in your comments or I won’t approve them.

Deadhouse Gates read slower than most fantasy books that I’ve read, but I did not find this to be a bad thing. Instead of being bored, the author enthralled me with his imagery. Erikson’s rich vocabulary coupled with excellent sentence structure produced a work that borders on a poem. It took effort to see what lay beneath the paper and ink, but under that surface I found an entire ocean.

The multiple plot-lines within Deadhouse Gates were vast and it was hard to tell which (if any) were central to the tale. That is a compliment as each of the plots were essential and they all came together neatly at various points within the story. There were several scenes that were downright genius. The one that comes immediately to my mind was a certain “promotion”. If and when you read Deadhouse Gates, you will know exactly what I am talking about.

The characters within Deadhouse Gates were portrayed so much better than in Gardens of the Moon. There were a few characters I never got a good feel for and hence had no real interest in their sub-plot. However, most of the major characters had true depth. I learned in good detail their inner desires and internal conflicts through their outwardly acts and their inwardly introspections.

I started to understand Erikson’s world better as I read Deadhouse Gates. This was something that had completely eluded me in Gardens of the Moon. The world within Deadhouse Gates was a very scary place. I would not want to live in Malaz. Battle scenes were vivid and brutal. Tortured warriors, dying men, and corpses of women and children lined roads that criss-crossed the entire map. The flies that came to feast on their blood were relentless in their pursuits.

The ideas regarding “warrens” and how they exist were totally unique (for anything I’ve read at least). How everything in the world tied to various warrens, from magic and the gods to physical locations intrigued me. The magic systems within the world were mysterious too. Hints were made about how they worked, but like the rest of Erikson’s work, it seems it takes effort (and multiple volumes) to truly understand. The world building that took place to create the Malazan Empire and beyond was truly incredible and has resulted in a work of genius!

Overall I give Deadhouse Gates 5 out of 5 stars. Much better than Gardens of the Moon at 2!

You can buy it here:

Mazarkis Williams Tower and Knife Giveaway

Welcome visitor!

This is a first for me. I’m doing a book giveaway. Why? Because I have two extra copies of two really good books (okay, I haven’t read book 2 yet, but I have no doubt it’s awesome) that aren’t doing anyone any good sitting in a cupboard. What books you ask?

The first book is the Jo Fletcher (UK) trade hardcover edition of The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams.

The second book is the Nightshade Books (US) trade hardcover edition of the sequel Knife Sworn. And it’s signed by the author!

Before everyone gets to asking, yes this contest is open to anywhere in the world.

So what do you have to do to win? I wanted the contest to be really simple, but I also wanted to have a little fun with it. I want your best sob story. It doesn’t even have to be true! I want to know why I should give you the book. 500 words or less posted in the comments below is your official entry. I will judge based on originality. First place winner chooses which book they want. Second place winner gets the other book. Simple!

Contest is open to entries until 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time on November 26th, 2012. Multiple entries ARE allowed and you could conceivably win BOTH novels. It all depends on you.

Comments on this blog are moderated, but will be posted as soon as I check my messages, so don’t fear if your post doesn’t show up right away.

Short Story Review – From Man to Man by @DEMEmrys

This is the first short story I am reviewing on zcreed. David is a fellow reviewer/blogger and I value his words.

From Man to Man is mostly cold and dark, but ends with a hint that things may be looking up for our “hero”.

Draven, our protagonist, has made a promise to his wife and child to forego his old ways. What these old ways are is a bit of a mystery to us – a mystery that seems to be locked away in a chest that never gets opened in this short story. What we do know of Draven’s past is that it involves a blade of some sort.

Draven is not the type of person you’d want to be friends with if you met him in real life. This tortured man is bitter, violent and possesses a pessimistic wit. He scares acquaintances and strangers alike – perhaps too much – and the reason for this isn’t yet revealed. How he came to buckle down with a wife and child in the first place is hard to believe. As this is only a short story of a much larger tale, I give the author his creative freedom.

In this story, our “hero” is having a hard time at keeping his word. He needs money. A lot of it (for some reason we are not yet privy to), but he just can’t hold a job long enough to carry home a decent wage of which he can be content. Every job he takes as he goes about trying to fit in as a “villager” ends in some kind of ruin. Of course this ruin is always of his own making.

Draven is confronted by the local smith who has some knowledge of his past life. The tradesman makes a job offer (one of less than reputable claim) which is immediately and resolutely denied. As we witness Draven’s inner turmoil about trying to keep his past behind him yet earn enough money for his future, Draven recounts and accepts the work being offered.

The most interesting thing about this short story to me is how I have actually grown attached to Draven in so few words – and I don’t even like the man! I am curious to see what the future holds for him and his family. I was also fascinated by some of Emrys’ imagery, especially the scene where the protagonist was struggling to stay awake in the pitch of night. I know this well from my own time spent in the infantry and David managed to capture the essence of the experience quite well.

I am pleased to give From Man to Man by David E. M. Emrys four out of five stars. I felt the pacing was a little too quick for my taste – but then again it is a short story. I also found the main character’s chilly persona, even to those who don’t know him or his past, a little too distracting. I imagine as the story grows this last issue will be explained away – and by David’s writing style most likely in a very entertaining manner. I particularly liked how our protagonist’s history reads like a puzzle being pieced back together. Of course this can only last for so long, but there are still plenty of pieces remaining to complete a decent sized book or two. Overall this is a great short story and I recommend it.

You can buy it here:

Bad Victor Gollancz Publishing!

I’m ticked. I just found out that Victor Gollancz Publishing (@gollancz on twitter) has cancelled the hardback edition of the last book of a series I have been reading and patiently awaiting to complete my collection of. The Night of the Swarm by Robert V. S. Redick promises to be an awesome culmination to an epic fantasy series, but Gollancz/The Orion Group has decided to snub its most dedicated customers – the collectors of their authors’ fine works – by cancelling the hardcover edition.

Haven’t heard of Robert V.S. Redick? Don’t take my word on how awesome he is, go check out fantasybookcritic and read Liviu’s reviews of The Red Wolf Conspiracy, The Rats and the Ruling Sea, and The River of Shadows. Then get pissed at VG for doing this and let them know. Perhaps it’s not too late for them to change this decision…

Book Review – The Skybound Sea, 3rd book of the Aeons’ Gate Trilogy by @SamSykesSwears

In writing The Skybound Sea, Sam Sykes has skillfully closed out his carnage strewn adventure while leaving himself the option to write more in his dripping wet universe. This tome is filled with Lovecraftian stylized horrors that sulk about the deepest places urging to drown the world in mucus and blood, all for another taste of their mother’s milk. If you are in anyway squeamish of bodily fluids, the Skybound Sea will desensitize you forever. This is one wet work.

Sykes writes like a T-Rex, howling and ripping fetid entrails loose with each keystroke he mashes. In his world, magic drains its wielders of their very life force, the gods seemingly don’t give a damn for their followers, and invaders from another world are hell-bent on releasing the mother of demons all in a quest to kill her. Our mighty heroes constantly dream of each others’ demises in between epic battles where their foes are eviscerated, decapitated, and emboweled spewing forth every biological liquid known to originate in man or beast. Oh, and there are jellyfish.  You know what they say to do if one stings you, right?

The Skybound Sea is the culmination of an adventure that our heroes set off upon two books ago. Along the way they have battled countless humanoids, beasts, and demons of all shapes, sizes, and of course colors. From the green shicts to the purple netherlings, Lenk and company have perspired and persevered only to become stranded on the isle of Teji. Our adventure continues as they search for the hidden island of Jaga to stop the Abysmyth hordes from reuniting with their mother. What do they get for all their trouble? Do they all perish in a world flooded by the Skybound Sea, or do they accomplish the goals they set out toward in book 1: to retrieve the Tome of the Undergates thus keeping the kraken queen sealed away in hell? And what is their reward for success or failure? Well, that would be a spoiler and I don’t write those.

Sykes’ writing style is unique. Lenk’s internal dialog is the definition of madness while the battle cries and dying screams of our heroes’ foes reverberate in glory and pain. From the truly amazing first chapter, to the glorious final battle that spans countless pages, the action and wittiness that is Syke’s hallmark never lets up. It all works out to a captivating, fast paced read.

I am pleased to give this book five stars and I look forward to reading future works by Mr. Sykes. I also wanted to thank him for the advanced review copy he graciously provided me. I wish I had time to get this review out before the US release, but life sometimes has a way of messing up our plans. At least I beat the UK hardcover release which I pre-ordered months ago to place next to my “Tome” and “Black Halo” copies.

You can buy it here:

Book Review – Prophecy, The Children of the White Lions Vol. 2 by @AuthorRTkaelin

Okay, I am biased but I will write as much of an unbiased review that I can. In the sense of disclosure, I have been one of Ryan’s part time/freelance editors for about a year now. I loved Progeny and when I had the opportunity to help tidy up Prophecy I felt honored and excited.  I will do my best to write a spoiler free review so you need not fear reading on!

War has overtaken the Oaken duchies and it falls to our heroes to prepare defenses against the advancing horde of Sudashians. Shaped by battles and diplomacy Nik, Jak and Kenders aren’t mere children anymore. Nik has grown into his powers and Kenders has been honing her own control over magic by apprenticing under one of Terrene’s most powerful mages. Jak has been making great strides of his own while training with the Shadow Manes soldiers. In this newest book, they all face trials of the mind, heart, and arms as the tale weaves about multiple plots.

Prophecy is more complex than Progeny was in so many ways. The stage has shifted from a single duchy to all of them and more. Our heroes we fell in love with in Progeny are all back with a couple new ones thrown in for good measure. Within Prophecy, a clever reader is made more aware of what motivates the “evil” gods of the Cabal and their plans to return. We also become cognizant of the ulterior motives of the “good” and neutral gods and begin to question everyone’s goals. There are even a few new races we meet throughout the adventures within Prophecy’s pages. And for Kaelin’s biggest fans, Prophecy is loaded with references to the short stories Ryan has written and given away for free on his website.

Prophecy was a lot of fun to read and continues the epic tale set forth by Progeny. One of the things I loved about both Progeny and Prophecy was that none of the characters were predefined by the sides they belong to or their races – there were even parts in Prophecy where I came to sympathize with the ultimate bad guy. For you romantics, you will watch as a couple relationships blossom within Prophecy and a couple others come to an end. The slow buildup approach Ryan takes leaves the tale believable and the amount of backstory is enough to give any epic fantasy reader the sense that his (or her) money was well spent. But mostly it is Ryan’s characters that make both Progeny and Prophecy such great books.

For those who haven’t read Progeny, of all the fantasy series I’ve read (more than a few) Progeny and Prophecy remind me most of the Inheritance Cycle (Eragon) by Christopher Paolini. They are not the same tales, but the elegances found in those books are found in these ones too. The cleanliness of the worlds and the use of typical fantasy tropes in original ways make both worlds comfortable and fresh to any reader, new or old.

I am pleased to give this book five stars and I look forward to reading the next novel in this epic fantasy series. Ryan is destined for greatness, so do yourself a favor and pick up both Progeny and Prophecy now so you can look back one day and say “I knew him when …”.

You can buy it here (Available September 25, 2012):