Eoghann Irving http://www.eoghann.com Fiction, Reviews and Geekery Mon, 27 Apr 2015 22:42:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://i0.wp.com/www.eoghann.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/E-5453b048_site_icon.png?fit=32%2C32 Eoghann Irving http://www.eoghann.com 32 32 Book Review: Cursed by Benedict Jacka http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-cursed-by-benedict-jacka http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-cursed-by-benedict-jacka#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 22:42:39 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=128139 The second Alex Verus novel continues in the vein of the first. Which is to say that comparisons between this urban fantasy series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden novels are inevitable and in some cases obvious. That’s not entirely fair because Verus is a very different character to Dresden but, as my father likes to tell … Continue reading Book Review: Cursed by Benedict Jacka ]]>

The second Alex Verus novel continues in the vein of the first. Which is to say that comparisons between this urban fantasy series and Jim Butcher’s Dresden novels are inevitable and in some cases obvious. That’s not entirely fair because Verus is a very different character to Dresden but, as my father likes to tell me, life isn’t fair.

One of the challenges with reviewing series books is coming up with something new to say. Unless the author doe something radically different, the people who liked the first book will like the second, and those who didn’t, won’t. Benedict Jacka isn’t breaking new ground here, but he’s executing well.

What’s It All About?

Cursed (Alex Verus)
Having set up the basic premise in the first book and established where Verus fits in this world as well as giving him an apprentice in the form of Luna, Jacka shakes the tree a bit to see what will fall out. Luna is tempted with the possibility of an escape from her curse, something that Alex has been unable to offer, as well as a romantic entanglement while Verus finds himself and his increased notoriety attracting all sorts of attention from other mages.

There are three major strands to the plot, each of which inevitably twists and threads itself together as things progress. Luna’s new friend comes into possession of the “Monkey’s Paw”, a potent magical artifact that can grant wishes… at a price. Meanwhile Alex rescues a damsel in distress who may be a little bit more than that. And finally there’s the matter of a newly discovered ritual that can extract magic from magical creatures and give it to a mage.

More Thinking Than Doing

One of the things that distinguishes Alex Verus from similar characters is that he tends to think and plan rather than act. It’s a habit that stems directly from his powers, both their limitations and their function. At one point during the book Verus is accused of being exceptionally cold. That’s not really the case, but he’s a thinker and a planner so he may seem that way.

That same tendency exacerbates the tension between Alex and his apprentice Luna. She is frustrated by the slow and methodical approach he takes and wants quick results. But Verus has, through his powers, has seen the consequences of hasty actions frequently in the form of his own death.

When The Good Is Worse Than The Bad

Verus is an unaligned mage who was formerly apprentice to a dark mage, but now mostly sides with the light mages. Except. Turns out that a lot of light mages are kind of dark themselves. And Verus has a habit of working with other dark mages when their interests coincide.

So who exactly are the good guys here? Even Verus himself has a dark side and is prepared to take some drastic measures if he thinks he needs to . This is something that was established in the first book and it’s spelled out even more obviously this time round. Dark and Light are labels, but they aren’t synonymous with good and bad.

There are other good mages, out there, but it does seem like they’re a minority and not the real power of the council. I have a feeling that’s something that will be explored further in the rest of the series too. We’ve had several glimpses now of the power structure of mages but there are a lot of details still to be filled in.

Limiting Powers

While some of the mages have obvious physical powers like ice and fire, Verus power is more complex. His ability to see the future gives him huge potential power not to mention the ability to solve a lot of mysteries before they’ve really got going. So Benedict Jacka spends a good portion of time establishing limiting factors that stop Verus from knowing everything. And it works, there aren’t any points where I feel like the author is cheating either to give Alex information he shouldn’t have or to stop him knowing something he should know.

There are similar issues with Luna’s curse too. Since that manipulates luck its nature is particularly vague. I don’t think Jacka is quite so successful here. Luna’s protection from bad luck makes sense, but how exactly the curse distinguishes between random bad luck and deliberate attacks is something I don’t quite get.

Did You Like It?

Yes, I like the tone of the book (which is quite like Dresden though with less pop culture references) and find myself rather fond of Verus as a character. The story flowed along quickly and entertainingly, at this point I think Jacka probably has me for the whole series.

Buy, Borrow or Skip?

I’m saying buy for this one.

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Dragon Hoard Part 11: Siege http://www.eoghann.com/dragon-hoard-part-11-siege http://www.eoghann.com/dragon-hoard-part-11-siege#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2015 18:35:19 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127372 This is post #11 of 11 in the series “Dragon Hoard” Mammon stared at me from Lee Anne’s body, waiting for my answer.  Part of me wanted to leave, wanted to run from the casino. I was face to face with an aspect of what many believe to be a prince of Hell. To say … Continue reading Dragon Hoard Part 11: Siege ]]>

Mammon stared at me from Lee Anne’s body, waiting for my answer.  Part of me wanted to leave, wanted to run from the casino. I was face to face with an aspect of what many believe to be a prince of Hell. To say I was overmatched would have been overstating my abilities.

But, I couldn’t leave. I didn’t know what Mammon had planned, but the casual possession of Lee Anne made it obvious that she and the other guests at the casino would suffer. I wracked my brain for some way to fight back. And then it came to me, if I couldn’t strike a big blow, strike a small one.

Possession is actually quite difficult. As well as having enough power to possess the victim in the first place you also have to overcome any resistance from that victim. Which means that if you know that someone has been possessed and you know who or what is possessing them, it’s really easy to cut the possessor off.

I allowed myself a grim smile as I broke Mammon’s connection with Lee Anne and her body slumped to the floor. The demon was still free to attack the casino, but at least I didn’t have to listen to him any more.

Picking Lee Anne up and carrying her back to the main floor was rather more challenging.

Drago was still firmly in control when I got there. The casino was eerily quiet, even the slot machines were silent.  The guests just sort of sat or stood, gazing into space or wandering aimlessly. It was as though all of their willpower had been drained away.  But the effort he was exerting showed in the sweat that lined his brow.

“Doug.” He greeted me and it seemed like maybe his accent had slipped a bit. “Do you have the information I need?”

“Maybe.” I said as  I laid Lee Anne down on the floor. I took a moment to get my breath back before I continued. “It seems Mammon has taken an interest in your little enterprise. Why would that be?”

“Mammon.” Drago said the name like a curse, his jaw clenched. If he had heard my question, he chose to ignore it. “But how?”

“How what?” I furrowed my brow in confusion.

Dragon-Hoard-Text-11“How is a demon able to exert power in this dimension?”

“And how is he able to maintain a connection apparently indefinitely?” I nodded my understanding.

“Indeed. We are not dealing with a mere fraction of Mammon’s power. It’s as though someone has invited him into this world. Surely no one would be that stupid, would they wizard?” Suddenly I was the center of Drago’s attention. He eyes narrowed with suspicion as he stared at me.

“Oh people can be plenty stupid.” I said, trying to keep my voice light. “What are you suggesting?”

“I know about you Doug. Bad things happen around you.” Drago’s eyes burned into me, unblinking.  His resources were substantial and I wondered just how much he knew.

“I stop the bad things.” I said. The anger now obvious in my voice giving me the strength to meet his gazes without flinching. “Do you really want to test me right now?”

It was a huge gamble. Drago had already shown he had far more power than I would ever be able to muster. But he was also already fighting one battle, and you don’t get to be as old as I suspected he was without being able to think strategically.

He didn’t back down, but eventually he nodded and the expression on his face softened. I unclenched my hands, my shoulder muscles still knotted with tension.

“I agree though, that someone is helping Mammon.” I offered. “And the way he has laid siege to the building, I think it’s someone inside the casino.”

Drago nodded again, but he didn’t say anything. I could feel the energy building in the air around him, how much longer could he last without releasing some of it.

“Where’s Cassandra?” I asked, doing my best to sound no more than curious. It didn’t work, his eyes fixed on me again.

“She has work to do.” Drago said.

I considered challenging him further. It was already obvious to me that Cassandra knew a lot more than either of them were admitting to. She was also a lot more than just an assistant. What I didn’t know was if she was really working for Drago, herself or some third party.

“Perhaps,” I said, choosing my words with great care. “She could assist us here?”

Drago glared at me for a moment, unused to being told what to do, then barked a short laugh. “Perhaps she could at that. She will be here momentarily.”

I tried to hide my surprise that he could or would use a mental summons in such a casual fashion, but I don’t think I fooled Drago for a second.

“If I had the right materials, I could maybe construct a barrier.” I said.

“But you don’t, or you would have already done so. If I could locate the source of the attack, I could retaliate.”

“But you can’t, or you would have already done so.” I muttered. He glared at me.

“It pays to be humble Wizard.” His voice had the tone of a lecturing teacher. I couldn’t help but laugh. Lectured on humbleness by a dragon was something I could put on my resume.

Before the situation could deteriorate any further Cassandra arrived. She seemed as calm and polished as the first time I had met her. Which, under the circumstances, was quite impressive.

“Mr. Brodie.” She greeted me.

“You don’t happen to have any mercury on you, do you?” I asked. She gave me a quizzical look, but shook her head. “It was a long shot.”

“Well Doug, here we all are. What do you plan to do.” Drago asked, his voice held a tone of challenge. What were we going to do? I still didn’t have a clear plan?

A moan from Lee Anne dragged my attention away. She was waking up. Why was she waking up? With the demon no longer in possession of her body, my charm should keep her unconscious indefinitely.

And yet, it was unmistakable. She groaned again and stirred then opened her eyes. Someone, Mammon perhaps, was interfering with my magic.

Next: Part 12 — Going for Gold


Dragon Hoard is a weekly serial sequel to The Wolves of West Virginia, which is available on Kindle.

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Vilde and the Sword of Ice Part 3 http://www.eoghann.com/vilde-and-the-sword-of-ice-part-3 http://www.eoghann.com/vilde-and-the-sword-of-ice-part-3#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 19:39:58 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127281 This is post #3 of 3 in the series “Vilde and the Sword of Ice” This is the third part of my three part swords and sorcery story. The first of what I hope will be a series of stories. I’m releasing it early to anyone who has subscribed to my free newsletter. You can find … Continue reading Vilde and the Sword of Ice Part 3 ]]>

This is the third part of my three part swords and sorcery story. The first of what I hope will be a series of stories. I’m releasing it early to anyone who has subscribed to my free newsletter. You can find a subscription form at the bottom of this post.

Part 3

Captain Tukka let his sword dangle at his side while he waited for Vilde’s response. She already knew from his actions earlier that he had no concern about killing her or anyone else who got between him and the treasure, but how was he in a one on one fight?

Vilde stretched out a hand and grasped the Sword of Ice. The metal hilt was cold in her bare hand but not enough to make her let go. She raised it, marvelling again at how light and balanced the blade felt. The sword was bigger than she was used to and normally that would have been a problem, but not with this weapon.

“Have it your way girl.” Tukka grinned, taking some sort of pleasure in the opportunity to attack her. He ran towards her and she waited patiently, her body falling into a familiar stance. The look of surprise on Tukka’s face as she easily parried his first swing made her laugh out loud. Angered he struck again, a wild blow that she barely had to deflect.

It had been months since Vilde had been able to practice with a sword, the ship was too small a space to do that sort of thing in private, but her limbs knew what to do. She was also tired and hungry. Tukka meanwhile, once his initial careless anger had subsided, proved to be a capable swordsman. Not good enough to hurt her, but too good to easily defeat.

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Dragon Hoard Part 10: An Exercise of Will http://www.eoghann.com/dragon-hoard-part-10-an-exercise-of-will http://www.eoghann.com/dragon-hoard-part-10-an-exercise-of-will#comments Sat, 18 Apr 2015 14:16:04 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127289 This is post #10 of 11 in the series “Dragon Hoard” Unencumbered by my body at its limited senses I was better able to grasp the scale of the threat against the casino. Then tension and anger growing throughout the building felt like a headache building deep inside my skull. I still wasn’t able to … Continue reading Dragon Hoard Part 10: An Exercise of Will ]]>

Unencumbered by my body at its limited senses I was better able to grasp the scale of the threat against the casino. Then tension and anger growing throughout the building felt like a headache building deep inside my skull.

I still wasn’t able to locate a definitive source though. The power was not native to this realm, but there had to be a loci somewhere that was focussing it. I tried to apply some simple calming to the energy flow of the casino, but the torrent of negative energies simply swept what little I could muster away.

My next thought was to perhaps divert some of this energy elsewhere and disperse it through a wider population. Risky, but it would buy me some time at least. Except that I couldn’t. The casino was sealed in some way, magic was pouring in from another dimension, but within this dimension nothing was getting in or out. All my attempts to divert the greed and anger bounced off an invisible barrier and back into the seething mass off the casino guests.

The strain of trying to filter and control this much negative energy made my head pulse like it was going to explode. That sort of pain made it hard to concentrate. I clenched my fists, my nails digging into the palms of my hands in an attempt to refocus. I didn’t want my essence swept away by this torrent of hunger and greed. But I was getting desperate. I didn’t have the power to sweep aside this attack and I didn’t have the time to chip away at it. More and more fights were breaking out, everything I could see was turning red. I pushed down the panicky feeling that was building in the pit of my stomach.

And then something happened, a small area of blue forming out on the casino floor. I wondered at first how someone was managing to resist the waves of negative emotion pouring into the building, but then that blue area grew outwards widening slowly into a circle. Someone was fighting back and they were winning.

It took me a moment to realize that Sante Drago had stepped into the fray. I knew dragons were creatures of powerful magic, but I hadn’t understood what that meant. Somehow he was calming the people around him, expanding his sphere of influence ever wider as he resisted the torrent of hunger and greed.

I moved closer, making sure to stay clear of whatever Drago was doing, but close enough to observe. When I realized, I almost laughed out loud. It was simple and brilliant at the same time. Dragons are creatures of greed and lust. Right now, the casino was a feast for this dragon and he was eating it up.

As the blue sphere spread, the red subsided. For a moment, I thought Drago was going to be able to fight off this threat single handed, then I looked at him.  A proper look. Not at what he was doing, but at what it was doing to him. Even a dragon must have limits and Drago was channeling incredible amounts of power, but there was still nowhere for it to go and his body couldn’t absorb it all. It was like studying a battery that was being charged too fast. I wondered how long he would be able to keep this up.

It might not be a solution, but Drago’s intervention had bought me some time and an idea. If I could get home and get my hands on some additional supplies I might be able to set up my own barrier against this attacker. Also not a permanent solution, but a way to shield innocent people caught in the middle of what looked increasingly like turf warfare.

My mind snapped back into my body and I opened my eyes. It was disorienting to suddenly be assaulted by the every day noise  of the people the casino, not to mention the stale smell of smoke that was everywhere in the building. I stood, paused for a moment as the world swayed around me and then half ran, half staggered towards the nearest exit.

Sticking to the service tunnels I was able to avoid people and reached the exit in minutes. I wasn’t sure how long I had before Drago’s power was overloaded, but I wanted to be back here when it happened.

Dragon-Hoard-Text-10I reached out to push the door open and stopped. I could feel the barrier around the casino through my fingertips. The door would open for me of course, but once I was out, I might not be able to get back in. There was no way to know for sure without leaving. But if I did that I might be losing any chance of stopping what was happening. Of course, my plan to stop this relied on me leaving.

“Why aren’t you leaving.” I spun round in astonishment. The voice was Lee Anne’s and she ought to still be unconscious. In a way, she was.

Lee Anne was standing staring at me, but she wasn’t in control of her body right now. Whatever possessed her now  was reasoned and calculating, not just a force of greed and hunger.

“Why do you want me to leave?” I countered. Not Lee Anne gave me a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.

“If you leave, you won’t have to die.” She said. It wasn’t a threat. That’s what made it so terrifying.

“I don’t have to die anyway.” I pointed out. “Right now it seems like the dragon has you on the ropes.”

Not Lee Anne laughed and any shred of hope I had that Drago could prevail vanished. “Let the lizard use up his meager stores. Soon he will have to give me what I really want.”

“And what is that again?”

“Leave wizard.”

“I can’t do that. You’re hurting my friend.”

“I can hurt her more.” For a brief moment real anger twisted up Not Lee Anne’s face. “Choose wizard.” She stared at me and I felt myself drawn in.

I squeezed my eyes shut, shaking my head to clear my mind from the mesmeric effects. I hoped I had blocked the demon in time before he was able to get his claws into my mind, but a name echoed in my head. Now I had the answer that Sante Drago was looking for. But I wasn’t sure it would help him.

Mammon had claimed the casino for his own and I didn’t know how to stop him.

Next: Part 11 - Siege


Dragon Hoard is a weekly serial sequel to The Wolves of West Virginia, which is available on Kindle.

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TV Review: Marvel’s Daredevil S01E05 — S01E08 http://www.eoghann.com/tv-review-marvels-daredevil-s01e05-s01e08 http://www.eoghann.com/tv-review-marvels-daredevil-s01e05-s01e08#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 20:40:20 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=128106 So in my initial review of Marvel’s Daredevil (because all Marvel tv shows apparently must be called Marvel’s xxx) I think I made it pretty clear that I was really enjoying the show. If you’re looking for a synopsis of this review it would be: Still enjoying it! But the show is evolving and I … Continue reading TV Review: Marvel’s Daredevil S01E05 — S01E08 ]]>

So in my initial review of Marvel’s Daredevil (because all Marvel tv shows apparently must be called Marvel’s xxx) I think I made it pretty clear that I was really enjoying the show. If you’re looking for a synopsis of this review it would be: Still enjoying it!

But the show is evolving and I think I have some additional thoughts to offer on it, so this won’t simply be a recap of the episode nor a repeat of my last review.

What Happened to the Lawyering?

Daredevil-Episode-7In the first couple of episodes Daredevil leant on some familiar tropes to establish the setting and the type of show it was going to be. Not least of which was the fact that Matt and Foggy are lawyers so we got courtroom drama.

But in fact very little of the show is given over to the courtroom and most episodes go buy without any legal activity at all. In fact the show seems to be working hard to avoid having a “format.”  Only three characters seem to show up in every episode (Matt, Foggy and Karen), others show up when needed. The show follows these characters and their activities wherever that leads them.

I must admit that I’d actually like to see a little bit more of Matt and Foggy as lawyers and perhaps that’s something that will come back in again in the last few episodes, but I also like the fact that this is a serial, not a series and it’s more concerned about telling a story than producing any sort of stand alone episodes.

There’s no way, for example, that you could watch this show out of order. It just wouldn’t make sense. Most episodes pick up shortly after the last one ends and they usually tie in to the same plot threads.

Deepening Characters

MARVEL'S DAREDEVILWhile the plot itself is unspooling slowly, the real benefit to this storytelling method is the way the characters are being explored. Matt Murdock is repeatedly challenged about his behavior and the contradictions inherent in being a lawyer by day and vigilante by night. Again and again people like Wilson Fisk tell him that he’s not so different from them, and he has a hard time denying it.

The show is fond of flashbacks, as most modern shows seem to be. I don’t particularly care for a reliance on that technique, but Daredevil does it quite well and doesn’t let it dominate the episode (with perhaps a couple of exceptions). As the primary character Matt gets some exploration every episode, but episode 7 “Stick” is of particular note as we finally get the key back story about the way Matt develops his skills. Stick’s single minded focus on “the battle” makes a great contrast to Matt’s more connected lifestyle.

Second only to Murdock in character depth is Wilson Fisk (so brilliantly played by Vincent D’Onofrio). Still not outright called the Kingpin in the show (although he as been called the “King in his castle”), Fisk is a more vulnerable version of that villain than we see in the comics. He is brutal and prone to fits of rage but firmly believes he is doing the right thing.

D’Onofrio somehow manages to show how dangerous this man is while at the same time giving the viewer the sense that Fisk is uncertain and scared. The whole thing really comes together in episode 8 when we get flashbacks to Fisk’s childhood and we realize that part of him is still that fat, abused child. That he has never fully grown up, never escaped his abusive father.

daredevil-foggyEven Foggy Nelson gets to show a little depth. He was the character I was most concerned about when I started watching the show. In the early episodes he was a shallow and clownish stereotype, but even he has been given a chance to grow. He shows his compassion and bravery in these episodes as well as an unrequited love for Karen Page.

Speaking of Karen, she is the character who, at the moment, has grown the least in this show. She is by and large what she was in the first couple of episodes. The actress Deborah Ann Wolf does a phenomenal job capturing the mannerisms of someone who is simultaneously brave and angry and very frightened, but I don’t feel we’ve been given the same insight into her that we’ve had for the others. Not yet at least.

Do You Still Like It?

Yup, liking it even more as the episodes go past and the characters become more complex. With 5 episodes left I suppose it’s possible they could screw this up, but it seems unlikely now.

Watch it Now, Watch it Later or Skip?

Watch it now or at the earliest opportunity. Sure it’s going to be available on Netflix for a long time, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t watch this soon.

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Book Review: The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-the-hobs-bargain-by-patricia-briggs http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-the-hobs-bargain-by-patricia-briggs#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 21:13:55 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=128102 Patricia Briggs’ fourth book departs from her previous Sianim series of novels and presents a stand alone tale set in a new fantasy world. Eschewing the trappings of standard fantasy, Briggs this time presents us with a world inhabited by creatures that bear a close relation to those in many real world folk tales. The … Continue reading Book Review: The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs ]]>

Patricia Briggs’ fourth book departs from her previous Sianim series of novels and presents a stand alone tale set in a new fantasy world. Eschewing the trappings of standard fantasy, Briggs this time presents us with a world inhabited by creatures that bear a close relation to those in many real world folk tales. The result is a world that feels at once familiar and different.

When wild magic begins to re-awaken and her village is threatened both by human raiders and strange fairy creatures that the villagers don’t understand, Aren of Fallbrook asks the Hob for help. The hob, a magical humanoid creature who serves the local mountain, offers to help defend the village of Fallbrook, but there is a price and it’s a price that Aren will have to pay.

This may be the most polished of Briggs books that I’ve reviewed so far. While she has always been good about giving us central characters with depth, her secondary characters have tended to be paper thin. This time out though even the minor characters seem to have a personality and each of them has their own aims as the story progresses.

The romance here (and like her previous works this is definitely a romance book) is very subdued. While it is a central part of the plot, neither of the characters involved could be described as actively courting or flirting with each other. Instead we are presented with two people who over time come to accept and admire each other. It’s a pleasantly different approach to the usual romance plot.

The Hob's Bargain
While reading the book though, I couldn’t help but think that the story was just meandering along. The character of Aren is understandably directionless early in the book, but even after she finds her purpose and focus, she remains a very passive character.

While I can understand a person like that (I’m probably quite passive myself in many ways), it doesn’t make for a particularly compelling heroine. And that’s a real shame because the character is very likeable. But her passivity seems to infect the story and when I arrived at the conclusion of the book my reaction was surprise because it didn’t feel as though the story was quite finished.

The final confrontation seemed almost forced, coming out of nowhere and tidily wrapping up several plot elements all in one single encounter.

But once again, I am quibbling. The book was a thoroughly entertaining read and I suspect my biggest disappointment on reaching the end was simply that there’s wasn’t more to read.

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Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-ancillary-justice-by-anne-leckie http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-ancillary-justice-by-anne-leckie#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 23:47:36 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=128098 I spent most of the time reading Ancillary Justice trying to work out why I didn’t like this book more. After all if I was grading on a checklist this would score really well. But of course you can’t apply a checklist to taste. Ancillary Justice is the first of a science fiction trilogy that has … Continue reading Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie ]]>

I spent most of the time reading Ancillary Justice trying to work out why I didn’t like this book more. After all if I was grading on a checklist this would score really well. But of course you can’t apply a checklist to taste.

Ancillary Justice is the first of a science fiction trilogy that has received considerable critical acclaim and it’s not hard to see why. It has a grand space opera setting, there’s a “big science idea” at the heart of it and there’s even some rather clever sociological elements in play. But while I can objectively see all that, I never warmed to the story or the characters and it felt like a slog to read to the end.

What’s It All About?

So the viewpoint character is Breq, the last remaining Ancillary (think avatar) of a spaceship’s artificial intelligence. Breq looks human, but she isn’t. She served the Radchaai empire for many years both as a spaceship and (through multiple ancillaries) as a soldier. Now she is alone and looking for revenge.

Leckie tells the story using a combination of scenes from the present day and flashbacks to before the spaceship Justice of Toren was destroyed and in doing so sets up a mystery over what actually happened to the ship and why. We are introduced not just to Breq but also to other Radchaai including Seivarden (a former ship’s captain who has become addicted to drugs) and  Anaander Mianaai (the many bodied Lord of the Radch).

I’m not a fan of the constant flashbacks that are currently popular in fiction.  I may well be in the minority on that, but I just find them artificial and distracting. So a heavy reliance on that structure didn’t exactly endear the book to me.

What’s With All The Shes?

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch)
Anne Leckie pulls a somewhat unusual literary trick in this book. Radchaai society doesn’t have gendered pronouns and as a result Breq refers to everyone as she. It’s very cleverly done and you get some interesting situations where by default you have pictured a woman, only to discover from a casual reference that the character may actually be male.

If the aim was to portray a society that was significantly different to those around us, then Leckie succeeded admirably. If there was a deeper purpose to it, I’m afraid it went over my head. It certainly didn’t seem to serve any purpose in the plot.

The rest of the world building is more pedestrian to my eyes. As I mentioned it’s heavy going in the first half of the book with a lot of infodumps to explain why Radchaai society is the way it is and how it works. It’s all quite well thought out but at times reads like a history text.

Alienation

As I noted Breq is not human and to make matters worse for her, she is no longer the multiple that she used to be. Her understanding of humans is based largely on sensory data but combined with a rather weak grasp of psychology. Perhaps this is why she always seems so detached from the things going on around her.

At no point during the book did I get a sense of strong emotions from the character. She is not a passive observer, quite the contrary she is the catalyst for major events, I just didn’t buy into her motivations. She is so luke warm about everything , including her own impending death at one point, that I don’t find the events triggering her quest for revenge credible.

The other characters are more sketched than drawn in. I suspect this is deliberate as an illustration of Breq’s isolation from people, but the end result is that I don’t care about them any more than I do about Breq. I don’t know what they want or why they are doing what they are doing.

Really the only thing that kept my attention was the mystery of who, what and why combined with gentle curiosity about the multiple bodies of  Anaander Mianaai. There are some very interesting ideas about the effect of having multiples that are just barely touched on in this book and I think there’s an intention to parallel Breq who no longer has multiples with the Lord of the Radch, but if so it’s never made explicit.

Did You Like It?

No, I found Breq herself cold and just didn’t care what happened to her. None of the other characters really spoke to me either. The early worldbuilding segments were heavy going and while the pace picked up in the second half the writing kept me at a distance. In the end, I just didn’t care and I don’t see myself picking up the next two books.

Perhaps I’m missing some brilliant insight or maybe other people find the character of Breq more appealing. But what I got from it was some clever ideas and clever only gets you so far. The plot is fine but unexceptional and I’m just left wondering what all the fuss was about.

Buy, Borrow or Skip?

Borrow it. The book has a lot of good qualities and it is worth at least trying to see if it appeals more to you than it does to me.

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Vilde and the Sword of Ice Part 2 http://www.eoghann.com/vilde-and-the-sword-of-ice-part-2 http://www.eoghann.com/vilde-and-the-sword-of-ice-part-2#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 20:53:47 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127995 This is post #2 of 3 in the series “Vilde and the Sword of Ice” This is the second part of my three part swords and sorcery story. The first of what I hope will be a series of stories. I’m releasing it early to anyone who has subscribed to my free newsletter. You can find … Continue reading Vilde and the Sword of Ice Part 2 ]]>

This is the second part of my three part swords and sorcery story. The first of what I hope will be a series of stories. I’m releasing it early to anyone who has subscribed to my free newsletter. You can find a subscription form at the bottom of this post.

Part 2

The air in the ice caverns was cool but still. Vilde heard screams coming from outside as she hurried deeper into the tunnels. She cursed and stumbled as her foot slid on a smooth patch of ice, sending her tumbling onto her back. She landed hard and winced as the pain lanced up her back.

The screams from outside had stopped and she considered for a moment going back. Then she heard voices and footsteps. Scrambling back to her feet she headed down the tunnel again.  Protected from the wind, her body began to warm up and she wished she could take off some of the layers of fur she wore, but didn’t want to leave a trail for anyone to follow.  She settled for pulling down her hood and letting the cool air brush against her face.

The tunnel grew darker with every step she took but she resisted the temptation to pull out her glow gem to light the way. She couldn’t hear any voices now, but light would travel a long way in the dark.  She headed on down the tunnel at a more cautious pace until it split into two.

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TV Review: Daredevil S01E01 through S01E04 http://www.eoghann.com/tv-review-daredevil-s01e01-through-s01e04 http://www.eoghann.com/tv-review-daredevil-s01e01-through-s01e04#comments Sun, 12 Apr 2015 00:59:55 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=128078 My plan was to watch and review the first three episodes of Netflix’ new original show, and the first fruits of their partnership with Marvel,  Daredevil.  When I finished the third episode though I immediately started watching the fourth and that should tell you how much I’m enjoying the series. The show is very good but … Continue reading TV Review: Daredevil S01E01 through S01E04 ]]>

My plan was to watch and review the first three episodes of Netflix’ new original show, and the first fruits of their partnership with Marvel,  Daredevil.  When I finished the third episode though I immediately started watching the fourth and that should tell you how much I’m enjoying the series. The show is very good but it isn’t perfect. However, Netflix and Marvel are doing so much right here that most of my criticisms feel like nitpicks.

Daredevil isn’t nearly as well known to the general public as many other superheroes and what they do know about him is “that terrible movie with Ben Affleck” so Marvel and Netflix faced a challenge in making something that was not only interesting for people to watch, but also rehabilitated the character a bit. In this I think they have succeeded. Beyond that for the first time we are getting a very different view of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This connects both to Avengers and Agents of SHIELD but in tone it is light years away from what you’ve seen before.

So What’s It All About?

CCQzirsUEAE_DZEFrom what I’ve seen so far (and what I’ve read) Daredevil is pulling its story very heavily from the Frank Miller graphic novel The Man Without Fear which tells Daredevil’s origin and early years. This is a good thing because Miller’s take on Daredevil remains the definitive one and since the audience is much less familiar with Daredevil’s origin than say I am it will help them understand the character better.

So we start with the accident that blinded Matt Murdock, we get flashbacks to his relationship with his father Jack Murdock and we see Matt and Foggy setting up their law firm. But this series is very much grounded in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so we find out that Hell’s Kitchen was essentially destroyed during the events of The Avengers and that less that scrupulous companies are making a killing on the reconstruction.

Matt Murdock and Foggy represent Karen Page who has been framed for murder after finding out about some of the shady business dealings, meanwhile Matt as Daredevil (as yet unnamed) goes around beating up on russian gangsters. And over the course of the four episodes we find out about the shadowy figure of Wilson Fisk (AKA the Kingpin)  and his allies who seem to have organized a criminal takeover of Hells Kitchen.

Where Did the Jokes Go?

MattandFoggyIf you are used to the previous light hearted Marvel fare, this series may come as a bit of a shock to you. Daredevil is much darker and much more violent than what you are used to from Marvel Superheroes. That entirely fits the character. Daredevil has super powers, but those powers don’t make him super strong or super fast or invulnerable. Fundamentally he’s a man, and he’s a man without much backup.

So this is ground level superheroics dealing with gang violence and nasty crimes like slavery and abduction. As the show correctly identifies early on Matt Murdock’s real super power is being able to take a beating and get back up. He has skills certainly and some advantages but he wins by just outlasting the opposition. Just like his father did.

Daredevil is Marvel Noir. Where even the heroes are dressed in black. It’s not just that Matt is a vigilante, it’s that he brutalizes people and while he follows the law in the courtroom he flagrantly ignores it in his secondary identity.  And the show revels in its freedom to be much more violent than say Agents of SHIELD or even The Arrow (probably it’s most obvious comparison given the types of characters).

There was blood in the first episode but in the second and third we started seeing bones and as for the fourth, well you don’t want to make Wilson Fisk angry, that’s all I’m saying.

A Leisurely Pace

daredevil-debarque-le-10-avril-sur-netflixThat’s not the only way in which this show is enjoying its freedom. The pacing is almost slow by modern tv standards. Free from any worries about advert breaks, or whether it will have a whole season, or even how far apart people will watch the episodes, this show tells its story methodically rather than frantically.

Episode One is very much set up. We are introduced to the characters and their back stories as well as the environment they function in. Episode Two then takes a very different approach and is very character heavy taking the time to show us how Foggy, Karen and Matt think (plus introducing the Night Nurse). The episode has a plot, but it takes a back seat to the characters.

But in the third and fourth episodes it becomes increasingly clear that this is a serial not a series. Plot elements are bleeding over from episode to episode, things are introduced (Ben Ulrich and his sick wife) with no attempt at all to resolve or even fully explain them. Daredevil doesn’t have to worry whether you’ll remember this stuff for next week, if you’re hooked you’ll just watch the next one right away or the next night.

A Third of the Way Through

blf112-21559r2I could point out that the show is using some very familiar tropes or that it’s taking absurd liberties with the amount of punishment a human body could sustain. Or that the fights while beautiful are more ballet than battle.

All of this is true but from my perspective irrelevant because the show is captivating. Its characters are complex. The situation dark but tinged with just enough hope that you want to see things turn out okay.

And, perhaps most impressively of all, they have managed to show Daredevil and his power set effectively in a visual medium. Considering his primary “power” is super hearing, that’s no small feat. But they do it. The show plays with sound, alternatively muffling some things and enhancing others while the imagery changes focus to match. It’s extremely well done and gives the show a unique visual look.

A third of the way into the show, there’s no doubt I’ll be finishing the season and I’m already wondering what this means for the next Marvel TV series.

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Dragon Hoard Part 9: The Dragon’s Lair http://www.eoghann.com/dragon-hoard-part-9-the-dragons-lair http://www.eoghann.com/dragon-hoard-part-9-the-dragons-lair#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2015 14:45:55 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127287 This is post #9 of 11 in the series “Dragon Hoard” The walk to see Sante Drago was silent and uncomfortable. Cassandra lead the way and showed no interesting in speaking with me now that her goal had been achieved. One look at the besuited minions on either side of us told me that striking … Continue reading Dragon Hoard Part 9: The Dragon’s Lair ]]>

The walk to see Sante Drago was silent and uncomfortable. Cassandra lead the way and showed no interesting in speaking with me now that her goal had been achieved. One look at the besuited minions on either side of us told me that striking up a conversation with them would be a bad idea.

I wasn’t happy to be leaving Rick in the hands of more of Drago’s minions, but didn’t have much choice.  We didn’t go onto the main floor, taking a back route instead that lead directly to the private room Drago had taken residence in. The room had glass panels on two sides so that its occupants could look out on either the horses or the people inside the casino. When I arrived Drago did not seem interested in either.

He leant back  against the sofa where he was sitting, his eyes on the waitress who was serving him a fresh drink. She, like all the waitresses in the casino was young, attractive and wearing a skimpy outfit that as Wayne had once put it to me, displayed her assets.  If she was aware of the attention, she seemed unphased by it.

With a glance in my direction, Drago dismissed the waitress with a flick of his wrist. His eyes followed her as she retreated to the bar area, and there was a glint to them. I was reminded that gold is not the only thing dragons are reputed to have an appetite for.

The suit wearing goons faded into the background, taking up positions around the room. Cassandra walked me over to where Drago sat and then stepped aside. This was to be a private conversation it seemed.

“The wizard at last.” Drago didn’t stand and the words might have been greeting or reproach, or both.

“Mr. Drago.” I said, deciding that workplace formality was the way to go.

“Sit.” Drago gestured to the sofa. “I have been looking forward to meeting you.” His voice was relaxed and I couldn’t detect even a hint of an accent. It was so neutral I suspected a voice coach.  Everything about Sante Drago from his suit, to his voice, to his cologne smelled of money.  Drago didn’t flaunt his wealth, but he took advantage of it.

Dragon-Hoard-Text-9I sat down on the sofa, my body rigid with discomfort. There are few things more unnatural than “relaxing” on a sofa with your bosses, bosses, boss. I waited for him to speak again, but he seemed in no hurry, taking a sip of his drink, whisky I guessed from the smell, and savoring it.

“Strange things, don’t you think Doug?” He said, breaking the long silence. I glanced round the room, wondering how open to be. The security guards wouldn’t hear anything, or at least wouldn’t admit to hearing anything. Cassandra was another matter, but then she’d already seen a wolf transform into a man.

“Downright unnatural.”  I muttered my agreement. Drago laughed softly.

“The unnatural doesn’t scare me Doug.” He said, and I wondered if there was any way to point out that my name was Douglas. “You know that, right?” I nodded. What would scare a dragon?

“But this, I don’t like this.” Drago continued. “Something is at work in my casino. Something isn’t scared of me!” For just a moment his voice revealed a hint of the power behind the human facade. I fought the urge to cower, but then Drago smiled again.

“I need you to find out what is operating on my property Doug. Find out, tell me, and I will take care of it.”

“Yes sir.” I said, my usual insolence in the face of authority strangely muted.  I glanced over at Cassandra just in time to catch a smirk on her face. It didn’t stay long though, soon she was cool, calm and professional again.

I am rather embarrassed by just how easy it was for Drago to cow me. It’s not like I wanted to go hunting and entity powerful enough to stand up to a dragon. In fact my preference would be to go and hide under a very large mountain until the two of them had finished their little games. But Drago was right in front of me and the other thing, whatever it may be, was not. So I played the good little pawn and hoped I wasn’t about to get sacrificed.

I realized that Drago was still watching me and had most likely knew what had just gone through my head. The room suddenly felt stiflingly hot and I resisted the urge to tug at my collar, even as I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead.

As much to distract myself as to attempt to solve the mystery, I decided it was time for a scrying spell or two. It was possible that Drago might not appreciate me using sharpie on his nice floor so I took my leave to find a quieter space to work.


I was surprised, but happy, that neither Cassandra, nor her goon squad had insisted on following me. I didn’t push my luck though, ducking into the first available office and shutting the door. No doubt Drago could find me again if he wanted to. In the mean time I would have some quiet to work.

Scrying is actually a simple process, at least in theory. In essence, all your doing is reaching out to see what’s there. As with all magic though, there are risks, not least of which is that something may be there. The first thing you need to do then is set up some protections.

Pulling out my trusty sharpie I did exactly that, drawing a protection ward around myself with great care. Even the smallest flaw in a ward can be used to rip it apart. Wards are of limited use against physical attacks, but when you’re dealing in the mental realm they are a life, or is that soul, saver.

Once I’d tested my wards out just to make sure, it was time for the scrying itself. There are many different ways to do this, but since whatever was attacking the casino wasn’t trying to hide I didn’t need anything sophisticated. I simply launched my spirit into the ether.

It’s a strange feeling to be separated from your body. You still have all your mental faculties, but you lose the input of your senses. No sound, no smell, no taste and not even sight. Not proper sight at least. Your brain is receiving signals so it processes them as best it can, but the images are out of focus and the colors represent feelings and emotions, not light.

Green was the predominant color I saw. It’s to be expected that greed would be a powerful emotion in a casino, but it pulsed and glowed dominating my vision and giving everything I looked at a green tinge. More evidence of an entity at work.

Not everything was green though, there were clusters of orange around the food areas, a closer inspection showed that guests had stormed into the kitchens to get the food directly.  In another part of the casino flared bright red as two guests argued over who had one the spin at a roulette table. The whole place was a sea of greed and hunger, and just beneath the surface, flaring up in pockets, was anger.

I tried to find an origin for the malign influence, but it had spread so widely through the casino and with such strong effect it was hard to pinpoint anything. There was something about the taste of the power at work that seemed familiar to me though. It had an oily malevolence to it that I had encountered before. I really wished I had access to my books right then.

But I didn’t and this was no time for a library excursion. While my scrying hadn’t identified the agent behind this I was now certain we were dealing with something from another dimension. More important, perhaps, was that it’s effect on the casino was intensifying rapidly. The whole place was about to break down into a riot.

Next: Part 10 - An Exercise of Will


Dragon Hoard is a weekly serial sequel to The Wolves of West Virginia, which is available on Kindle.

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Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson http://www.eoghann.com/mirror-of-her-dreams-by-stephen-r-donaldson http://www.eoghann.com/mirror-of-her-dreams-by-stephen-r-donaldson#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 20:46:27 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=128062 This review was originally written in December 2005 and is being posted here as part of a project to gather all of my reviews into a single location. This was probably the third or fourth time I had read the Mordant’s Need duology which remains to date my favorite of Donaldson’s books. Mirror of Her … Continue reading Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson ]]>

This review was originally written in December 2005 and is being posted here as part of a project to gather all of my reviews into a single location. This was probably the third or fourth time I had read the Mordant’s Need duology which remains to date my favorite of Donaldson’s books.

Mirror of Her Dreams is book one of the two book Mordant’s Need sequence written by Stephen R. Donaldson. Unlike his Thomas Covenant books, this is a more traditional fantasy sequence in what is (at least on the surface) a traditional medieval type of fantasy world. As such it is probably much more accessible than Donaldson’s other work. It’s also much less harsh that much of his other writing.

Mirror of Her Dreams is a very slow paced book as the central character, Terisa Morgan, is initially very passive and slow to take any actions. As a result the convoluted plotting unfolds in a small number of locations and largely progresses through conversations between key characters.

The Mirror of Her Dreams (Mordant's Need, Book 1)

Some people may find this style of storytelling frustrating, but since I found the characters, particularly Geraden easy to relate to, this style was quite compelling. I’m not sure that all of the internal logic and plot twists entirely stand up to repeated re-readings though. Once you know what is going on Terisa starts to look at little slow.

While the world of Mordant doesn’t seem nearly as original as that of the Land, the magic presented in Mirror of Her Dreams is distinctive. Imagery, involves the translation of people, creatures or other objects from something viewed in a specially created mirror. The cleverness is in the details of this magic system. These mirrors don’t show Mordant but other worlds that may or may not really exist. Over the course of the book Donaldson explores the theories of Imagery in some detail and that only adds to the believability of the whole setting.

I’d say that Mirror of Her Dreams and its sequel, A Man Rides Through are the most approachable of any of his novels. The traditional fantasy setting and comparatively (by Donaldson’s standards anyway) simple language make it easier for most people to get into the book. This also may be the most upbeat of any of Donaldson’s novels which makes it a little easier to read for some.

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Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-a-game-of-thrones-by-george-r-r-martin http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-a-game-of-thrones-by-george-r-r-martin#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 22:50:03 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=128048 The following review was written in September 2000 and is being reposted here as part of a project to gather all my reviews into one location. George R. R. Martin is a well-established writer. He isn’t known for writing Fantasy though so I was curious about this book. Keeping with longstanding fantasy tradition it’s a … Continue reading Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin ]]>

The following review was written in September 2000 and is being reposted here as part of a project to gather all my reviews into one location.

George R. R. Martin is a well-established writer. He isn’t known for writing Fantasy though so I was curious about this book. Keeping with longstanding fantasy tradition it’s a big book and it’s the first part of a series. When I bought it I was under the impression that it was going to be a trilogy. Turns out that its actually going to be 6 books! If they’re all this big then that’s a very long story indeed.

A Game of Thrones” is set in a fairly traditional fantasy world populated by various nobles, some peculiar magic creatures and lots of history. However, it takes a very different tone to most fantasy sagas. Martin is particularly interested in the political machinations of the various noble families. His characters live in a very brutal world.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)

In a book this size there are obviously a lot of major characters, however the story largely revolves around two groups, the Stark family and the daughter of the recently overthrown (and executed) King. These two plot strands remain entirely separate for the entirety of this book, but there are strong hints that that will change in future books.

His old friend, the current King, appoints Eddard Stark as Hand. He travels down from his home in the North to the South where the Kings court is. Once there he gradually uncovers a plot against the King, but despite his best effort things continue to deteriorate.

Meanwhile in the North, beyond the wall something strange is stirring. Is it connected with the Stark words “Winter is coming”?

This book is wonderfully intricate. There is lots of foreshadowing throughout the book that on first reading doesn’t appear to be significant. Throwaway lines turn out to have considerable importance.

The characters in the book are as rich as the settings. Martin does not go in for good and evil. People are greedy, foolish, cunning, noble and many combinations of these things. He even manages to find a few nice things in the most unpleasant of characters.

Another interesting thing is that it seems to be the most noble characters, which suffer the most. Frequently as a result of their own foolishness. Flexibility is more useful than honour when it comes to surviving in this world.

There’s a lot more to this book than I’ve covered in this review. There are several other plot strands for a start, but I don’t want to go into too much detail in case I spoil the book for those who haven’t read it. There are many things alluded to in this book which I suspect will become much more significant as the series progresses.

So we have a rich detailed world, complex characterisation, intricate plotting and quality writing. What more could you possibly want in a book?

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Book Review: Origins of the Never by CJ Rutherford http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-origins-of-the-never-by-cj-rutherford http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-origins-of-the-never-by-cj-rutherford#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 23:48:51 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=128026 The latest book in my #GreatIndieReviewProject is Origins of the Nether by CJ Rutherford. I have a soft spot for epic fantasy that involves elves and dragons. Yes it’s a well worn area, but I still love it. So I went in to this novella predisposed to enjoy it even though I didn’t know much … Continue reading Book Review: Origins of the Never by CJ Rutherford ]]>

The latest book in my #GreatIndieReviewProject is Origins of the Nether by CJ Rutherford. I have a soft spot for epic fantasy that involves elves and dragons. Yes it’s a well worn area, but I still love it. So I went in to this novella predisposed to enjoy it even though I didn’t know much about it.

It’s important to know going in that this isn’t a stand alone story. It’s a prequel and while it does tell a story it also leaves a lot of things to be resolved in the main book sequence. I wouldn’t let that put you off too much. You’ll know by the time you get to the end of the story whether you want to continue or not.

What’s It All About?

Origins of the Never: A prequel to The Tales of the Neverwar series, a story of Dragons, Elves and Faeries.

Origins of the Never is the prequel to Souls of the Never and as such it sets the stage, giving us an introduction to the universe of the Never, the nature of magic in this world and also the source of evil.

The story is framed around the childhood friendship of two elves Olumé and Tenybris. But it seems that Tenybris is perpetually in Olumé’s shadow and over hundreds of years jealousy and bitterness grows.

This sets up a chain of events that threaten the peaceful world of Teralia and the rest of the Never, not to mention setting in motion a story that will play out many many years later.

Short but Sweet

At an estimated 42 pages for the Kindle version this story doesn’t take long to read and it’s told with an economical style. In fact my single biggest criticism might be the brevity.

There are a couple of points where the change in Tenybris seem a little too abrupt and some additional time spent smoothing out the transitions might help to make the transformation more convincing.

It would have been nice to get a bit more description of the world of Teralia. It is presented as this almost paradise but I don’t really have a picture of it in my head which is unfortunate because I think my reaction to the damage caused to the world would have been much stronger if I had a stronger image to go with it.

The same is true of our brief glimpse of the Never. We do get a sense of this huge universe of worlds, but no clear notion of what the different worlds might be like

Fairytale or Legend

The way the story is told is slightly unusual too and it does remind me rather of the way Tolkien wrote parts of The Silmarillion.  Big things are happening, but we are kept at a distance from most of them and the story is paced in such a way that we cover hundreds of years sometimes in only a couple of sentences.

We do get a glimpse at the larger universe of the Never though and the story achieves its primary function which is to set up the antagonist for the Neverwar series and sow the seeds for the story that is coming. It also achieves a secondary goal, at least for me, which is to make me curious about how things are going to play out.

Most of the tale is told through the point of view of Tenybris (though we get brief looks from other characters too) but I didn’t come away feeling that I knew him particularly well. In part this is because of how radically he changes over the course of the story. Both Tenybris and Olumé are effectively avatars for the Light and the Dark. People who prefer all shades of grey may not appreciate the more absolute nature of the evil on display here, but  I had no problem with it.

Did You Like It?

Yes, I love this sort of fantasy. It seems to have gone a little bit out of fashion but it’s the sort of stuff I grew up on and it’s nice submerge myself in it again. Plus there are dragons and who doesn’t like dragons?

I already have the next book loaded on my Kindle and will be reading it as soon as I can find a gap in my To Read list.

Buy, Borrow or Skip

Assuming you like epic fantasy (with dragons and elves) I think this is at least worth borrowing. If your taste runs more towards grimdark this may not be your thing. The series itself is billed as Young Adult so it’s not aiming to be too dark.

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Vilde and the Sword of Ice: Part 1 http://www.eoghann.com/vilde-and-the-sword-of-ice-part-1 http://www.eoghann.com/vilde-and-the-sword-of-ice-part-1#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 23:27:18 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127967 This is post #1 of 3 in the series “Vilde and the Sword of Ice” This is the first part of my three part swords and sorcery story. The first of what I hope will be a series of stories. I’m releasing it early to anyone who has subscribed to my free newsletter. You can … Continue reading Vilde and the Sword of Ice: Part 1 ]]>

This is the first part of my three part swords and sorcery story. The first of what I hope will be a series of stories. I’m releasing it early to anyone who has subscribed to my free newsletter. You can find a subscription form at the bottom of this post.

Part 1

Vilde had been looking forward to planting her feet on solid ground after weeks at sea. But, when the moment came, all she could think about was the intense cold. The air was so frigid it made her eyes water and breathing was almost painful. She wondered how long a person had to live in this climate before they adjusted to it. Far longer than she was prepared to certainly.

She tugged at the hood of of her animal skin jacket trying to burrow deeper into it. They had been waiting several minutes for the Wreshe tribe to show and she could see that the captain was getting impatient. Not that it took much to make Tukka impatient.

“Do they know we are here?” She asked her words evaporating in the bitter cold of the air.

“They’ll have been seeing us approach days ago.” Tukka spat the words out. “No storms to block their view, thank the Goddess.”

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Free Fiction Roundup April 4th 2015 http://www.eoghann.com/free-fiction-roundup-april-4th-2015 http://www.eoghann.com/free-fiction-roundup-april-4th-2015#comments Sun, 05 Apr 2015 13:46:02 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127953 There’s a lot of high quality fiction available on the internet these days. So much that it’s hard to keep up with it, never mind read it all. Each week I publish a roundup of science fiction, fantasy or horror stories that I’ve read and think are worth a few minutes of your time. Below … Continue reading Free Fiction Roundup April 4th 2015 ]]>

There’s a lot of high quality fiction available on the internet these days. So much that it’s hard to keep up with it, never mind read it all. Each week I publish a roundup of science fiction, fantasy or horror stories that I’ve read and think are worth a few minutes of your time.

Below and in no particular order are the stories I enjoyed this week:

The Only City Left by Andy Goldman

Genre: Science Fantasy Novel
I strode across the narrow beam, tens of stories above the ground floor of the derelict mall. Bundles of lights hung below the beam, providing dim, off-hours lighting for a workforce destined never to arrive. Above me, a geometric rat’s nest of girders criss-crossed the dome ceiling, more for decoration than support, I guessed.

The lights buzzed beneath my feet, and somewhere fans hummed as they circulated air carrying the scent of mildew. I stuck out my tongue and could almost taste it. Green. Life. I smiled. Humans hadn’t done so well with Earth, but the mold didn’t seem to mind our neglect

Read the rest of the story...

Your Daily Dose of Fiction: Ice World Truckers by MICHAEL MEDEIROS

Genre: Science Fiction

Jax sat at the controls of the Earth Cargo Union hauler, Mari Kait. “Are the docking clamps ready?” he called over his shoulder without taking his eyes from the panel displaying the ship’s position in relation to the Depot’s docking port. They appeared to be perfectly aligned, but he wasn’t going to leave it to chance.

“Standing by,” Hershey replied from behind Jax. The small but powerful craft groaned as metal pressed against metal. “Engaging clamps.” Hydraulic presses latched on to their ship and the craft squelched under the pressure. “Docking clamps secured.”
Read the rest of the story…

 

Pathfinder Tales: The Gem by Gary Kloster

Genre: Fantasy Serial

Outside, the children of Thirty Trees laughed and their parents talked, monkeys chattered in the canopy and birds sang to the morning sun. But inside the little house that Jiri shared with Oza, the only sound that mattered was the muted clicks of the clay pots her teacher was packing into his bag.

"They think I'll burn the village down." Jiri swung her feet and her hammock stirred beneath her, an unsteady motion that matched her mood.

"They don't think that." Oza, shaman of Thirty Trees, pulled the ties of his bag tight. "Well, not all of them."

"Most of them." Jiri's feet kicked too hard, and her hammock tipped. Used to its treachery, she dropped out before it could dump her. "They don't trust me. They only made me a Mosa because you wanted them to, and they love you. But I'm not you, Oza."

Read the rest of the story...

Monsters of Pittsburg by Kate Whitaker

Genre: Paranormal

Most demon hunters were morning drinkers. Alcohol washed away the terrors after a night of killing monsters. At ten o’clock on a Friday night, Rita’s bar should have been empty. Instead, the glossy, wooden chairs were filled with people who had nearly as many scars as Sam himself.

He should have been out with his werewolf, Mina, and her brother, killing reavers to keep the population down. Instead, he was here on a wild goose chase.

He ran a finger over two of the scars that crisscrossed his right cheek as he considered the crowd. The usuals were sprinkled among people he’d never seen before. He thought about pushing over to Mina’s friends to get the skinny, but the full bar was a minor mystery tonight. Something bigger had him here.

Read the rest of the story...

Voices in Solitude by A. T. Greenblatt

Genre: Fantasy

Kaylee's first act as sorceress was to bring the voices back.

The rain thrummed on the shingles of her quiet home as she lit the candles, drew the diagrams, and read out the names of each dusty ancestor, carefully laboring over the subtle inflections of the gh's and é's. One by one, she called the raspy, aged voices back from their silence.
There was a great groan from the townspeople who had got on quite well without them for generations thank-you-very-much. But their complaints were soon lost in a sonorous clamor of freed voices conversing in hallways and under streetlamps and in old Fredrick's pub where the taps still leaked and the smell of stale beer perfumed every seat cushion.

Read the rest of the story...

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Dragon Hoard Part 8: Wolf on the Prowl http://www.eoghann.com/dragon-hoard-part-8-wolf-on-the-prowl http://www.eoghann.com/dragon-hoard-part-8-wolf-on-the-prowl#comments Sat, 04 Apr 2015 14:36:40 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127284 This is post #8 of 11 in the series “Dragon Hoard” The werewolf howled again. It was coming from the back area somewhere which meant there was a reasonable chance that no one had died yet. I glanced at Cassandra, bracing myself for further argument, but there was a look of fear in her eyes, … Continue reading Dragon Hoard Part 8: Wolf on the Prowl ]]>

The werewolf howled again.

It was coming from the back area somewhere which meant there was a reasonable chance that no one had died yet. I glanced at Cassandra, bracing myself for further argument, but there was a look of fear in her eyes, as though she knew something about what was happening.

I wanted to press my sudden advantage and find out what was going on, but there wasn’t time. There was a fox in the henhouse and if I didn’t do something quickly there would soon be a lot of dead hens.

“Drago will have to wait.” I said and ran towards the sound of the wolf without giving her a chance to respond.

Running towards werewolves is borderline suicidal, but I’m a trained professional which meant my chances of survival might have made it into double digits. The thing is though, there’s a lot of staff only halls and rooms in the casino. I mean this is a place with a race track and restaurants, you have to be able to get employees from place to place. So just running after a noise isn’t a very effective way to find anything.

As soon as I got off the main floor I stopped running and started using my head. I’ve had some dealings with werewolves you see. I’ve studied them and I’ve learned a few things, including how to mimic some of their heightened senses.

I can only do it for short periods and I usually end up with a severe headache from the sensory overload, but it can be very useful. I muttered a few words and released a spell I'd had waiting. Suddenly the world was alive with smells.

Dragon-Hoard-Text-8
The stink of unwashed humans, an odor of raw beef that made me salivate, harsh, choking gasoline from all the cars in the parking lot. All these smells and more swept over me. It was almost too much, but I forced myself to remain calm and go through each smell one at a time looking for that one unique scent, a strange mixture of human and wolf. The scent that would lead me to my prey.

It took more time than I could afford, and I could feel the wolf mind pushing at my conscious brain, trying to break free, but finally I located it and set off again and a slow but steady pace. A feeling of excitement spread through my body as I began the hunt. It would have been so easy to just give in to the sensations, but I gritted my teeth and maintained control.

Now that I had something to follow it didn’t take me long at all to find the wolf. He was in one of the service tunnels near where the food was prepared, but I wasn’t the first person to find him. Rick had been cornered by three of the casino’s security guards and he stood in full wolf form, hair on end, ready to fight.

The guards weren’t complete idiots, none of them was ready to take a step forward and challenge the wolf, but they also knew they couldn’t just walk away and let it wander around the building, and so there they all stood. As soon as someone moved there was going to be blood.

My inner wolf howled in triumph, its prey in sight. I forced it back down and hurriedly ended the spell before I lost control. It was important to get control of this situation before it all fell apart. I also needed to get these people the hell out of here.

“Okay guys, I’ve got this.” I said, trying to project both authority and confidence. They glanced at me briefly, but no one moved.

“On you go.” I said. “Let the expert handle this.”

I could claim that my colleagues were so impressed by my capabilities that they just assumed I was an expert wolf handler, but in truth I gave them just a little nudge.  It’s very hard to change a person’s mind, but encouraging them to do what they really, really want to do… run like hell… is much easier.

All three men backed away down the hall. I nodded to them and waited until they were out of sight before turning my full attention to the snarling wolf.

A cornered wild animal is dangerous. A cornered magical animal is lethal. I’m still not clear exactly how smart werewolves are in their transformed state, but they’re at least as intelligent as your average wolf. Rick clearly knew that the odds had changed in his favor.  If possible he grew even bigger, snarling threateningly as he pawed at the ground.

“Doug’s been looking for you.” I said in a slow and calm voice. Was that a glimmer of recognition in the wolf’s eyes? I knelt down and then pulled a sharpie from my pocket, every movement as slow and deliberate as I could make it. No surprises, nothing threatening, no reason to attack.

“I can’t help noticing that it’s not full moon.” I continued to talk as I took the sharpie in my hand and started to sketch out marks on the concrete floor of the tunnel. “So what triggered your transformation hmm?”

“No, I don’t know either.” I scanned the markings on the floor and added a couple of further lines. “That’s what bothers me. Still, it’s fixable.”

With one final pen stroke I completed the pattern I had been drawing, then I poured just a little bit of energy into it and held my breath. Rick changed. It was impossibly quick, no gross distortions of body or muscles, one moment he was a wolf, the next, a naked man.

“Much better.” I said, as though I’d know that was what was going to happen the whole time. I’d certainly hoped for something like that, I’d been working on the spell ever since my first encounter with Doug’s pack, but it had never been tested. “So, Rick, what happened.”

Rick stared at me in confusion. “I… don’t know.” He said finally. “Where am I?”

I was just trying to figure out an appropriately witty response when I heard footsteps behind me. Rick’s eyes immediately snapped from me to whoever had arrived, his muscles tensing. You can’t take the wolf out of a werewolf it seems.

“Mr. Brodie you need to come and see Mr. Drago now.” Cassandra’s voice was like steel. “My colleagues will take care of your… friend.”

As she spoke some of those colleagues, all wearing expensive looking suits, walked past me and effectively surrounded Rick who looked both scared and angry. I couldn’t help but notice the bulge in their suits where they were carrying their guns.

Next: Part 9 - The Dragon’s Lair


Dragon Hoard is a weekly serial sequel to The Wolves of West Virginia, which is available on Kindle.

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Book Review: The Thief’s Gamble by Juliet E. McKenna http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-the-thiefs-gamble-by-juliet-e-mckenna http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-the-thiefs-gamble-by-juliet-e-mckenna#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 15:54:19 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127991 This review was originally written in September 2000 and is being reposted here as part of a project to get all my reviews hosted in one place. This, you won’t be surprised to discover, is a fantasy novel. It's also “The First Tale of Einarinn” although quite what that means isn’t clear. It might be … Continue reading Book Review: The Thief’s Gamble by Juliet E. McKenna ]]>

This review was originally written in September 2000 and is being reposted here as part of a project to get all my reviews hosted in one place.

This, you won’t be surprised to discover, is a fantasy novel. It's also “The First Tale of Einarinn” although quite what that means isn’t clear. It might be interconnected stories or it may be a full blown series ala Jordan. Its also the author's first published work so make whatever allowances you feel appropriate.

The main viewpoint character is Livak, a thief. She’s also rather full of herself, very cynical and bitchy. Given that so much of the story is seen through her eyes this can become rather wearing.

The Thief's Gamble (Tales of Einarinn, Book 1)

The plot itself goes something like this. A new form of magic has been uncovered and the Archmage is a little nervous about its origins. So he sends out some people to gather artifacts from the past. They quickly discover that someone else is also gathering these artifacts, for reasons unknown. When one of the group is kidnapped, finding out who these strange men are and dealing with them becomes the primary goal.

Nice touches to this book are the way that magic works. The basics are outlined clearly, but without making it sound like a rulebook. Wizards are powerful, but not omnipotent. And they seem particularly vulnerable to this new “aetheric” magic.

Also good was the authors willingness to make most of the central characters less than perfect. They argue, sulk and misbehave. It should be noted though that the author clearly doesn’t believe that being nice will make you live longer. You have been warned.

The weakness of this book is more with the structure than anything else. Several chapters are seen from the viewpoint of a particularly snobbish and selfish mage. There is no obvious reason for this. It doesn’t add anything to the plot and the characters he interacts with don’t really connect with the pain story in any significant way.

Similarly a number of characters pop up halfway through the book and suddenly become central to the story. Granted that's how real life works, but it a book it feels very arbitrary.

At the end of one chapter we are dramatically told that a wizard can’t do weather magic on his own and yet the party are facing weather magic. There is no follow up on this. It turns out that a single wizard has been doing weather magic, but how is not explained. The characters don’t even think to ask.

This sort of thing is repeated throughout the book and I can’t help feeling that another couple of re-drafts might have resulted in a smoother story.

The conclusion is equally annoying. Despite Livak’s statement that she won’t have anything more to do with Wizards, the numerous unresolved plotlines and of course the cover blurb are screaming SEQUEL.. SEQUEL… SEQUEL at me.

Its not that this is a bad book. The characterisation is good, the dialog works well. Its just a little rough round the edges and besides I get nervous when fantasy series won’t tell you how many books they’re going to take to tell the full story.

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Book Review: The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-the-stone-canal-by-ken-macleod http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-the-stone-canal-by-ken-macleod#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 21:07:27 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127984 This review was originally written in September 2000. I am reposting it here as part of a project to republish all of my old reviews in one place. This is the second Ken MacLeod book I’ve read. Its part of a sequence of books, all of which share the same universe and explore certain political … Continue reading Book Review: The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod ]]>

This review was originally written in September 2000. I am reposting it here as part of a project to republish all of my old reviews in one place.

This is the second Ken MacLeod book I’ve read. Its part of a sequence of books, all of which share the same universe and explore certain political ideas. The Stone Canal also has particularly close links with the follow up book The Cassini Division (which I read first just to be difficult) in that the events in this book are referred to in The Cassini Division.

The central characters in this book are Jon Wilde (yes the plural was deliberate). The story jumps back and forward from the 20th century where he was a political agitator and “anarchist with nuclear capability” to the far future where he is brought back to life.

His return to the living is the responsibility of the construction robot Jay-Dub who wants him to take Dave Reid (an old associate of Wilde’s and now the most important man in Ship City) to court. Add to this the fact that Dave Reid’s robot concubine Dee Model is attempting to assert her own freedom and that she just happens to have the body of Wilde’s now deceased wife…

The Stone Canal

As you can no doubt tell there is a lot going on in this book. Its packed with interesting ideas. MacLeod does a stunning job of world building throughout this book, taking is from 1975 through into the 21st century via wars and revolutions and then on to the far future in New Mars.

Be warned that political ideas are central to this book. In particular there is a sort of battle between libertarian ideals and socialist ideals. The two might seem light years apart but MacLeod makes a strong case for them actually being intertwined.

On several occasions I found myself exclaiming “but thats just not RIGHT” as I read what a character had to say about something. I see this as a tribute to the realism of MacLeod’s characters that I actually wanted to argue politics with them.

The book is imaginative and well written. MacLeod plays with the narrative form a little but not in such a way as to distract you from the story itself. His main characters have real personality to them. They aren’t simply mouthpieces for their politics.

I do wonder how easy it would be for people outside of the UK to read this book though. There are several references which would probably slip past them. Certain dates or unusual ways of referring to things. Since I live in Scotland it was rather an unusual feeling for me to read descriptions of places that I regularly pass.

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Book Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-the-goblin-emperor-by-katherine-addison http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-the-goblin-emperor-by-katherine-addison#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 23:50:41 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127976 This book defies genre conventions in a number of ways.  It does feature a young man who turns out to be critically important to the future of a fantasy land. But the thing is that Maia, the eponymous Goblin Emperor is not special. In fact he is exceptional in his ordinariness. The story is also … Continue reading Book Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison ]]>

This book defies genre conventions in a number of ways.  It does feature a young man who turns out to be critically important to the future of a fantasy land. But the thing is that Maia, the eponymous Goblin Emperor is not special. In fact he is exceptional in his ordinariness.

The story is also strangely lacking in the usual fantasy elements. There are no epic battles, there’s no clear villain for most of the book and events just sort of unfold at a sedate pace. It’s really more of an exploration of character and setting than it is a story.

And yet it does what it does with such skill that anything it lacks is easily swept aside.

What’s It All About?

Maia is the fourth son of the Emperor of the Elflands. He has lived most of his life in exile at a country estate, hidden away due to the embarrassment of his half elf, half goblin heritage. However the sudden death of the Emperor and his other sons thrusts a young, unprepared Maia into the role of Emperor.

Maia has to deal with court intrigues, his ignorant of court ways and come to grips with his miserable childhood, all while ruling the Elflands.

He’s Just Like Me!

The Goblin Emperor
As I mentioned earlier Maia is a very ordinary person and that makes him and his behavior easy to understand. His mild personality and determination to do the right thing make him an underdog you cheer for even though he’s technically the most powerful person in the book.

What Katherine Addison has done here is take the turmoil and doubt that most people go through in their teenage years and create an external counterpoint for it that adults can relate to.

Maia spends a lot of time berating himself for his inadequacies and if he was just a regular teenager, this would probably come across as self-indulgent and whiny (as teenagers do) but as someone shouldering an unasked for burden without proper training his doubts and missteps are much more appealing.

From beginning to end this book is a thorough and believable portrait of this honest young man. Other characters do not get nearly the same sort of depth in their treatment. Because the POV sticks firmly to Maia and because, as the book emphasises, his position as Emperor isolates him from other people we only get to see the other characters as they interact with him.

What’s The Plot?

Well, there really isn’t much of one beyond what I already told you. Things happen but there’s no urgency to the events and Maia does not drive them . He’s not completely passive but he primarily reacts to the things that happen around him.

Did You Like It?

Very much so. Maia is just an instantly likable and relatable character. Inhabiting his viewpoint draws you in and on through the book. You want him to succeed and be happy.

There is a mystery over his father’s death but it is downplayed for most of the book, as are the attempted coups  and similar moments which would be the dramatic center of other fantasy books.

Addison is more interested in how things affect Maia and how his sudden ascension will change the Elflands

Social Change

. Maia is, by the nature of his arrival on the throne and his upbringing, an agent of social change. It’s not that he sets out to make great changes and throughout most of the book we are shown how limited he is despite being the ruler of the Elflands.

But Maia’s worldview is very modern and inevitably his approach impacts the ruling bodies around him as they either resist or eagerly take advantage of the new opportunities that present themselves.

Which leads me on to one of my criticisms of the book.  Addison has used world history to construct a very credible post-medieval society. What she doesn’t really do is provide a good explanation in story for Maia’s progressive attitudes. I can’t see it as something he would have learned during his upbringing and his access to other points of view would have been extremely limited.

Stubbornly Noble

If Maia’s progressive attitudes feel like a stretch, his naive attitude seems much more natural as does his drive to do the right thing. But he is noble to an almost superhuman level.

While he frequently berates himself for his failures, he never really seems to be tempted to do the wrong thing. He’s nice to a fault. Combine that with the fact that the opposition to him is not given a strong presence in the book and you do come away with the feeling that everything goes his way.

And yet I’m going to give the novel a pass on that because the story really isn’t about conflict, or at least not that sort of conflict. Instead it has the unfashionable and perhaps naively romantic message that if you do the right thing and treat people well, it will all work out.

Buy, Borrow or Skip

If you have any interest in fantasy at all then this one is a buy.

The Goblin Emperor

by Katherine Addison [Tor Fantasy]
Price: $8.99 £6.39 CDN$ 9.50 EUR 8,76 EUR 8,89

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Book Review: Red by J.B. Wise http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-red-by-j-b-wise http://www.eoghann.com/book-review-red-by-j-b-wise#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 19:22:38 +0000 http://www.eoghann.com/?p=127945 My latest #GreatIndieReviewProject book is Red by J.B. Wise. Taking characters from classic fairy tales (in this case Red Riding Hood), bringing them to the present day and giving them a paranormal spin is a concept that is rife with potential. I see glimmers of that potential in Red but sometimes the execution gets in … Continue reading Book Review: Red by J.B. Wise ]]>

My latest #GreatIndieReviewProject book is Red by J.B. Wise. Taking characters from classic fairy tales (in this case Red Riding Hood), bringing them to the present day and giving them a paranormal spin is a concept that is rife with potential. I see glimmers of that potential in Red but sometimes the execution gets in the way.

It’s worth noting that there is a novelette that precedes this story and that reading that first might better set the stage for what happens in the novel. Some of the events are referenced here but don’t receive explanation which can lead to confusion for the reader. It’s easy as the author to forget that the reader doesn’t have the same knowledge you do, and there’s no guarantee that they will start with the first story.

So What’s It All About?

Red: Guarding the Vila Book One
Well you have three primary actors in the story, Red who has been stuck in her Vila state for hundreds of years, but resists her abilities because she hates the curse associated with them. Then there’s Felan, second in command of the Guard. He finds himself drawn to Red despite the potential problems that creates for him.  And finally there’s Jac, he wants Red.

These three each represent one of Red Riding Hood, the Wolf and the Hunter, though their personalities and actions may not be quite what you expect from the fairytale (again reading the novelette first may help a lot)

The story follows many of the tropes for paranormal romance in that Red and Felan start off disliking each other, but irresistibly attracted at the same time. It’s not an original concept, but the audience for these books likes that trope so fair enough.

Confusion

Reading what I wrote above, you may be asking yourself. What’s a Vila? Who are the Guard? And there lies one of the biggest problems with the book as it stands. J. B. Wise clearly has a complex world structure figured out with different powers all locked in a sort of eternal balance. This matters, because things are happening that could upset that balance, and the consequences will likely be bad.

The problem is, I can’t really tell you exactly who all these groups are, what they can do and why they might be doing what they are doing. I also can’t tell you, in terms of powers, what makes the Guard different from Vila or Trackers.

That confusion is one of the things that stopped me from fully immersing myself in the book. I was always trying to put things together and figure out how they related.

Setting and Description

In the book description, the author says the story is set in the woods of Washington. Now I have never been to Washington so I really can’t critique the accuracy of the depiction but with the exception of the one house where Alistair and Felan live (which I can picture) the other locations are a little generic.

This was even more noticeable to me in the flashback scene which was set in Scotland. As someone who spent the first 28 years of his life in Scotland, those scenes felt like “generic historical setting” not Scotland.

I feel that a little more time spent on the settings and getting across what makes those places unique would pay dividends. A missed opportunity here was to utilize scent more when the characters were in wolf form. Their behavior as wolves is carefully described and we get some references to smells, but scent is of particular importance to wolves and using that more would be a great way to emphasise the different form.

Characters

There are quite a few characters introduced in the book and some, naturally, don’t get a lot of time. The major characters are fairly well fleshed out however and to act in a way that is distinct to each other.

The relationship between Red and Felan is of course at the core of the story so that gets the most time. As I mentioned earlier it does follow a familiar pattern, but the change in attitude is slow enough to be believable.

There’s nothing  wildly inconsistent here. Even the withholding of information that various characters do can be argued to be in character for them. There are, however, characters whose motivation could do with a little further explanation

In the end though how much you like this book probably hangs on how much you like Red and Felan. If you connect with their relationship the rest falls into place or gets swept aside.

Did You Like It?

I’m sort of lukewarm on this one. I didn’t get caught up in the story the way I would like to have and the cliffhanger at the end of the book didn’t hook me for the next one.  The threats to both character and setting didn’t really connect with me. In the end I feel that there’s a better book inside this one waiting to get out. It’s possible that potential will be realized in the sequel.

Buy, Sample or Skip?

I’d say grab the sample from Amazon and try it out if the subject sounds interesting. People who are more into the paranormal romance genre will likely be more forgiving of what I perceived as flaws in the story. You’ll certainly get a good feel for the pacing and style of the book from that sample.

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