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Collection of Short Reviews from Early 2012

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Collection of Short Reviews from Early 2012

I tend to write long reviews for everything I read, but I've found that increasingly difficult as I read more. It's particularly difficult with second and third books in a series. From time to time I'm going to do posts like this one where I bundle a bunch of reviews together. Most of them will be second and third volumes in a series, but occasionally I'll throw a standalone in as well. I'll also write up novels here that I didn't finish (very rare) and I'll try to explain why without actually reviewing it. Enjoy!


Shadow Master by Jon Sprunk

I finished Shadow's Master last night, concluding Jon Sprunk's trilogy that began a few years ago with Shadow's Son. I'm keeping this review short because I've said almost everything about the series and Sprunk's style that needs to be said in my reviews of Shadow's Son and Shadow's Lure. For those who've been awaiting this final installment I can confidently say it's a fitting end to Caim, Josey, and Kit's stories. The novel is also a bit of a return capturing the kinetic violence and unrelenting pace of the first volume.

If I have one complaint about the series, and it's a relatively big one, it's that Sprunk doesn't do a very good job of giving his world and magic system the depth that could have taken the series to another level. There are times when the magic becomes deus ex machina almost entirely due to the fact that it's just unexplained. None of that really detracted from my enjoyment, but it is something I'd like to see Sprunk do better in his next series.

The Ruined City by Paula Brandon

Last year I wrote a review for The Traitor's Daughter, the first book in Paula Brandon's The Veiled Isles Trilogy. I found it wildly entertaining, but lamented the book's marketing strategy that pushed it more toward romantic fantasy readers. The romance comes across as a secondary story line to the true conflict in the series which revolves around the corruption of the Source, a magical energy that's in danger of reversing course and altering the world. Brandon shines in this space, utilizing interesting, flawed, and wholly believable characters with goals that are equal parts right and wrong.

Book two, The Ruined City, picks right up where Traitor's Daughter left off. Admittedly, Brandon does open up the throttle on the romance, taking Jianna and Rione's relationship to the next level. It's handled well, and never descends into the sugary annoyance the novel's cover might suggest. Unfortunately, it occasionally portrays Jianna as a girl waiting around for men to solve her problems. The novel's conclusion gives me hope that will change in the final volume, due out this summer.

Jane Carver of Waar by Nathan R. Long

Being Long's first original novel, I would typically write a long form review about Jane Carver of Waar. Except as much as I enjoyed the read, I don't have a whole lot to say. Long takes Edgar Rice Burrough's classic John Carter stories and gives them a modern bent with a strong, female protagonist. The novel reads like a pulp lover's fantasy with over the top action, humor, and a good amount of sex.

It's not just cheap thrills. Long embeds a good amount of commentary on racial and gender equality, class warfare, and biker chicks. As I've never read Burrough's original series, I suspect there was a lot of nuance I missed that fans will pick up on.  Either way, it was a ton of fun to read and I highly recommend it.

The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron

Ok, I'm totally cheating because I haven't read the entire Legend of Eli Monpress. It's an omnibus of three novels -- Spirit Thief, Spirit Rebellion, and Spirit Eater. Orbit has released them in this format, I presume, to get some new readers involved in time for the fourth installment, The Spirit War, due out this summer. Personally, I'd never heard of the series before despite the fact that it's part of one of the most popular sub-genres in fantasy (thief/assassin). I can't help but wonder if the original covers had something to do with it (very urban fantasy don't you think?).

I did finish the first of the original three novels and I'm glad to report it was a fun read. Shallow, overly light on the world and character building, but also possessing a great voice with a fast paced adventure plot. I think the target demographic is younger readers, but there's plenty here to enjoy for everyone. I don't hesitate to recommend the omnibus. I mean it's three books for $10, how can you beat that? I plan to finish it before the fourth book is released.

Giant Thief by David Tallerman

I'm kind of cheating here too. I didn't finish Giant Thief. I didn't even get very far -- around 90 pages. It's not a bad book. It's well written and the plot wasn't unworthy, but the narrator didn't do it for me at all. I found his voice bland and completely uninteresting. A first person novel pins everything on the reader's ability to connect to the narrator, and I just didn't. I can't recommend or not recommend it and I hate that. I try to finish everything I start, even bad books, but this was a rare case where I just didn't dislike or like it enough to continue. Most of the reviews out there, from people I trust (Far Beyond Reality), have been good so maybe I just caught it on a bad week.

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At February 23, 2012 at 9:16 AM , Blogger Stefan Fergus said...

The Legend of Eli Monpress is a strange one - I've read (and enjoyed) the first novel, but I never saw it in a bookstore in the UK. I spoke to Rachel about it, and one reason it's come out as an omnibus was to do a proper re-branding of it. It seems some people weren't sure what to make of it - couldn't say for sure, but it may have been bookstore employees who were confused that a female-written fantasy novel didn't belong in the UF/PR section... It's good fun & I wish I had time to read the rest of the series.

I seem to have struggled with the same problem with "Giant Thief" - I'm about a third of the way into it, but can't seem to rustle up the enthusiasm to go on. I thought it was a good premise, with some very good quips and one-liners, but... I can't seem to get beyond a feeling of "meh". Which is bugging me. Not really sure if I should do a DNF review or not.

At February 23, 2012 at 9:19 AM , Anonymous Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) said...

The Eli Monpress books change a lot as the series progresses. The world acquires some depth and there's an edge of darkness that gets more and more pronounced. The first book is almost deceptive in how light it is. I reviewed all three for Fantasy Literature when they originally came out a few years ago, and will have a recap review up next week for the omnibus - plus a giveaway.

(And thanks for the shoutout - much appreciated.)

At February 23, 2012 at 4:23 PM , Blogger Elfy said...

I had a similar experience as Stefan (the first commenter) with Eli Monpress. The books were released originally one at a time over a period of 3 months (btw I liked the original covers and don't like the omnibus one), and I thoroughly enjoyed them and was even hoping for a 2011 release for the final 2 books in the series, then the publisher decided to rerelease in the omnibus format and hold the release of the last 2 books until 2012. There was some confusion about exactly what it was, and I remember Rachel doing a post on her blog trying to explain it. It made it's way into the fantasy/sci-fi section of the bookstores down here in Australia, but they regularly get things wrong in regards to where they put books. I've seen straight fantasy and sci-fi wind up in the UF/PR section and vice versa. The series does start out very light and fluffy, but it darkens up and the world and the characters gain some depth as it proceeds.
Nice idea about gathering the smallish posts together. I often feel pressured myself to do a 'long' post for books, but seem to manage it, then again I can talk for a page about a single chapter of a book if I like it enough.

At February 23, 2012 at 6:29 PM , Blogger SkynJay said...

I had never heard of Eli Monpress until a month ago either. But I will be grabbing it as soon as it hits Kindle(what, two days or so?). Figure for 3.33 a book, cant really go wrong.

At February 23, 2012 at 6:48 PM , Blogger Ken Wong said...

I finished the Giant Thief, it was an enjoyable book but it didn't excite me either. The lovable rogue didn't work for me. Easie just smooth talks his way out of all the troubles and I never once felt he was in any real danger.


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