Thursday, April 29, 2010 | | 1 comments

Two sides to a story: Darker Angels by MLN Hanover

Warning: This book contains adult language and sexual content.

Bryce's Take:

Darker Angels continues The Black Suns Daughter series from Daniel Abraham, AKA MLN Hanover. In this second installment, more mayhem ensues, as main character Jayne receives a phonecall that there's a demon loose in New Orleans.

This book surprised me initially, since I expected for Jayne to have progressed a little bit more in her understanding of the supernatural and what was going on around her. The book begins more quickly than I had thought it would, taking place just a few weeks or months after the first book. Development-wise, Jayne is coming into her own a little more as a character, which I liked. This is going to be one of those reviews where I say that if you liked the first book, you'll like the second one as well. The twists and turns didn't seem quite as exciting to me this time around, and I figured out what was going on about twenty pages before the characters, but that's to be forgiven. Maybe the foreshadowing was too heavy, or maybe I was particularly brilliant in my insight.

This book is an opportunity for the reader to really settle in and get into the series. Jayne's a little more mature, and a little more thoughtful. Those polished gems of ideas about demons moving from person to person, using them as horses don't shine quite as much as they used to, but that's only because the idea isn't brand new anymore. This second effort is worthy of the original, and expands the world that this story is taking place in. I also love that Jayne has the means to travel the globe, since so many urban fantasy books revolve around the idea of "one wizard, one town." I enjoy that the scenery changes with each book, and Abraham does just enough to get me into each new setting. Using New Orleans in this second installment was brilliantly done, and I enjoyed the atmosphere that it created for the book.

Darker Angels (8.5/10) is a worthy sequel to Unclean Spirits, and I'm definitely looking forward to continuing the series later this fall when Vicious Grace is set to come out.

Darren's Take:

Darker Angels was a very good sequel to Unclean Spirits, and I think I like this series maybe slightly more than Bryce, because I didn't think that anything wasn't polished or shiny. The idea still had a lot more fleshing out to do (the demons I mean) and this book delivers. I'm gonna surprise you all and... agree with Bryce about the rest of what he said. If anything, this book delves even deeper into the emotional angle, and by the end I wasn't sure that Legba was all that bad (it's not a spoiler if you have no context). I found myself able to get emotionally invested (at least slightly) in a demon, a serial killer, and a guy who really needs to stop being such a dick and get laid (I can kind of understand that one, hehehe). I'll keep this short, only saying that it was an interesting turn for the plot to take, and it didn't suffer at all from the dreaded Book 2 Lull that happens so often in trilogies.
Another 9 of 10, and I hope that I can be one of your ARC readers in the future, Mr. Hanover (Or Mr. Abraham, whichever you prefer).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | | 0 comments

Two Sides to Every Story: Unclean Spirits by M.L.N. Hanover (aka Daniel Abraham)

Warning: This book contains adult language and sexual content.

Bryce's Take:

Unclean Spirits is the first book in Hanover's Black Sun's Daughter urban fantasy series. So far, there are two books, the second being Darker Angels. The third book, Vicious Grace is due later this year.

The book tells the story of Janyé, a college dropout who learns that the death of her uncle Eric has suddenly, and quite completely, changed her life. Not all of these changes are for the better. As with all urban fantasy, we quickly learn that all of the creepy crawlies from our nightmares are quite real. This series deals (so far) with these demons as unclean spirits that inhabit the bodies of their victims, allowing them to move about in our world and to reproduce and do whatever it is really bad things do with their free time. Along the way, we'll meet some pretty nasty fellows, including the bad guy of this book, a Mr. Coin. What can I say? Money is the root of all evil.

Janyé is a strong character, and I enjoyed spending time in her head. Hanover (Abraham) does a solid job writing a woman who is complex, and sexual without being your cliché bombshell. The other characters feel very much like the characters from Jim Butcher's Dresden files. They're not terribly deep just yet but, given enough books, they'll be much more fleshed out.

Of course, there's a romance in the book between Janyé and a man named Aubrey. I have to admit that I was impressed with how it took center stage in a lot of the decisions the characters made, but wasn't over-done so that I was throwing up in my mouth a little.You see, I like a little romance in my urban fantasy, rather than a little urban fantasy in my romance novels, and Hanover has catered to people like me. I just don't feel like romance needs to be the center of every urban fantasy out there, and I'm tired of the blonde bombshell heroines in their leather pants. Thankfully, the romance is well done and the only leather was worn by men on motorcycles, so we're cool.

Probably the thing that I would praise most about this book was that it was "smart." Now, just saying that doesn't mean much. What I'm trying to say is that people thought things through, debated with one another, and formed logical plans. And when everything went straight to hell, it did so in a logical manner. The bad guy seemed realistic, and their try/fail cycles (look it up, ye un-writerly) made sense. It was "smart" urban fantasy, rather that a story about some busty blonde that falls in love with a zombie/werewolf/biker/night-shift manager and somehow learns that all things other-wordly are real, and goes out to right the wrongs. It was the story of a woman seeking revenge against a bastard that had killed her favorite relative and was after the closest thing she had to friends, and that makes sense.

Now, I haven't read a ton of urban fantasy, maybe only twenty books or so, so you'll have to forgive my ignorance. A question, though. Does everyone have to have the crap beat out of them at the beginning and the end of the book? It just seems like this happens a lot, and if I ever write an urban fantasy, I'm going to try to stay away from this.

Unclean Spirits (8.75/10) is a very solid beginning to an urban fantasy series that I'm sure I'll enjoy. It keeps the clichés to a minimum while still playing with elements familiar to fans of the genre. I'll look forward to reading Darker Angels soon and giving a full report.

Darren's Take:

Unclean Spirits was an interesting  book in and of itself, but I think it represents a great step towards respectability for one group of writers: men who write female characters. There are quite a few people (women mostly, though I hope no one gets angry at me for pointing out that distinction) that think that men are frankly unqualified to write women, though there are those who take it far enough that it seems they feel men are drooling idiots when it comes to anything with breasts (which is actually possible, now that I think about it). There are even panels about male authors who write female characters at such places as LTUE, etc. I believe it was Tracy Hickman who said something to the amount of "Men write women as men with breasts" and I think he has a fair point, FOR THE MOST PART. MLN Hanover (Daniel Abraham) is quite the exception. His main character, Janye`, is not only emotionally believable, but as Bryce said, she's not the buxom superhero we normally see. Superhero, maybe. Buxom, I dunno, it never mentions that, but the point is, she's real enough to form an emotional bond with. Maybe it was just me, but I kind of understand what she's going through (at least at the start) with the whole family doesn't understand you, college dropout, nowhere to go, few friends thing. I've been there( I'm still kind of there) and that made the book speak to me more than I think it otherwise would. I'll not go on long, because Bryce already said all that needs saying about the plot and such, but I will agree that I look forward to the next two books, and the next ten if it so happens. I like this writing style, and it's quite interesting to note that it is completely different from his style in Long Price Quartet. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Monday, April 26, 2010 | | 0 comments

The Week in Reviews....In Review

"Humour is a funny thing though isn’t it? ‘Blonde Bombshell’ wasn’t my thing but, like I said earlier, if you’re already a fan of Tom Holt’s work then it could very well be yours..."- Graeme's Fantasy Book Review

"The Passage (*****) is a superbly-written, well-paced and convincingly-characterised novel where the situation and characters remain in the imagination long after it is finished. This could be the start of something major indeed."- The Wertzone

"‘The Reapers are the Angels’ is a beautiful read and one that is thoroughly worth looking out for if you’re a fan of zombie fiction."- Graeme's Fantasy Book Review

"...if you’re ready to do some running then ‘Sleepless’ is a book full of rewards for those who ready to go looking for them. Not an easy read by any stretch of the imagination but one that I very much enjoyed."- Graeme's Fantasy Book Review

"The Adamantine Palace, provides a fast, fun escape into a world with just enough political intrigue and some pretty nasty dragons. However, it’s far from perfect and simply fails to stand-out in the crowded epic fantasy genre."- Nethspace

"Despite the tropes, Blake Charlton wrote an engaging -- if not the most original -- story. Spellwright makes for a good reading experience that does bring back memories."- Pat's Fantasy Hotlist

"The Horrifying Presence was a complete surprise. I didn't think it was possible for writers of this quality to languish in relative obscurity for so long. Why are all of this man's works not widely available in the English speaking world?"- Speculative Fiction Junkie

"Brett proves that fantasy doesn't have to be overcomplicated and it doesn't have to follow fantasy tropes of sword and sorcery. It's just a great book that has everything you want..."- Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin' News and Reviews

"If you haven't read Mr. Hussey's adult fiction, you absolutely should do so right away, but I can't give as strong an endorsement to his debut work for young adults."- Speculative Fiction Junkie

Saturday, April 24, 2010 | | 0 comments

Review: A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham

A Shadow in Summer is the first of a four book series (a complete one, no less) by Daniel Abraham called The Long Price Quartet. Let's see here, how to describe this book. Hrm.....well, it reminded me somewhat of Acacia: War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham in that it was a very political fantasy book. Now, that absolutely does NOT mean it was a boring book, or that Abraham had a political agenda in writing it. What it does mean is that the magic system is used in more gray areas, and less "Orcs are evil, we must needs rid the planet of their plague," areas. The book moves along fairly quickly, though it does start off somewhat slowly, and it has just the right mix of action, intrigue and mystery to keep you turning pages.

A Shadow in Summer opens us up to a new world by telling the story of several characters, most notably Amat, Liat, Maati and Otah. Their stories, naturally, come together in a plot that foreshadows horrible disaster for their city of Saraykeht, and great changes to the world as a whole.

The magic system is very interesting, in that it's heavily involved in commerce and trade. I've always wondered why more people didn't use their superpowers to make money, and it looks like Mr. Abraham has penned a tale that I can finally sink my economical teeth into. The poets are essentially magicians who use their studies and words to capture the Andat, thoughts made into words made into demigods. One such creature is the Andat Seedless, a cunning, ruthless element that wants nothing more than to be free of the bonds of slavery and to strike back at his master for having given him form. The story of Seedless' intricate plot to destroy Heshai, his master, and gain freedom ultimately draws all the characters in and sets up a wonderful fantasy series.

A Shadow in Summer (9/10) doesn't feel like a first effort from an author. Granted, Abraham has many short stories to his credits, and did spend time at the fantastic Clarion West workshop with authors such as George R.R. Martin and Connie Willis. His polished craft shows, and I'm eager to get to more of his books. For those of you who are more inclined to purchase something from the urban fantasy section of the world wide web, you might be interested in some work Abraham did under the pen name M.L.N. Hanover. The two books in that series (so far) are Unclean Spirits and Darker Angels, and I'll be trying to get my hands on both for upcoming reviews.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | | 0 comments

Review: Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon

So to start off, I'd like to thank the author for a wonderful experience (yet again) and to say that I really look forward to the next book.

If that didn't give away my feelings towards this book, well... you aren't paying attention.

Oath of Fealty is set in the same universe as the Deed of Paksenarrion, and in fact takes place only a day or so after that series ended. It takes the viewpoints of other characters in the books, namely Dorrin, Arcolin, Stammel (somewhat) and the Duke Phelan, and tells their stories. All the others are still around, and we see Paks from time to time, but it isn't about her anymore, which is an interesting turn for this series to take.

The characters, as usual, are quite superbly written, and convey their emotions in a believable manner. They are well developed, and also quite entertaining from time to time, which is a good sign that they are well written (the characters themselves are entertaining, not just the plot).

I can't say too much about the plot without spoilers, so I won't. Suffice to say, some things need solving, and the crew is back to do the job.

There is little I can say in detriment to this book, and even less that I want to (writing critically about books you really enjoyed is a lot harder than you would think). The only thing I had been hoping for was some glimmer into what Paks and King Falkieri were doing in Liar's Oath, but I'm assuming that we'll get to that point.

Thank you, Elizabeth Moon, for a great read that I couldn't put down, and for coming back to this series after all these years. This is one of my favorite fantasy series of all time, and I am literally counting the days until I hear about book 2.


This, in my opinion, is my runner up for Must Buy Book of 2010 (Changes still takes the title, though just barely.) For veteran fans of the series such as myself, it could well take the top spot. READ IT. It's good for you.

But first, if you haven't read them, you should read The Deed of Paksenarrion, and The Legacy of Gird (the two previous series). The first is a trilogy, the second is just two books, and in my opinion they are worth EVERY MOMENT spent reading them. That is all.

Monday, April 19, 2010 | | 0 comments

Just a quick drop post to tell you what's going on.

So I'm now officially a contributor to the blog, and as such, I'm going to tell you what I'm reading right now, and that is:

Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon.

Moon has been one of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy (yes, both) authors for quite some time, and I was ecstatic to learn about this book, because it is a continuation of one of her older (and in my opinion best) trilogies, The Deed of Paksennarion. I wanted for so long to read more in that universe, because it is full of life and interesting things, and now I get to! Needless to say, I'll be done soon, and you'll have a full report from me. Thanks for tuning to this site, and hopefully you'll come back soon and often.


The Week in Reviews

A new feature here at The Intelli-Gent Reviews, "The Week in Reviews" will be posted every Monday morning, unless I'm lazy. If that's the case, it will be posted whenever the heck I want to do it. I'll be linking to some of my favorite Sci-Fi and Fantasy review sites, and I really hope they don't mind, since I haven't necessarily

"‘Shadow Prowler’ doesn’t bring anything new to the table at all, and I’m still wondering if there’s a problem with the translation, but it is a lot of fun and has me waiting for the sequel to arrive."- Graeme's Fantasy Reviews

"I was very, very impressed with 'The Hunger Games' and would much rather spend my time with this series than with anything from the "Twilight" universe."-  Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin' News and Reviews

"From time to time any avowed escapist such as myself needs a shock to the system – and King Maker provides just that. The wonderfully creative premise and horrific reality make it a book that should be read. Unfortunately, it is a flawed work that undermines the weight of the powerful punch it should deliver."- Nethspace

"Beneath the Surface is a strong collection punctuated here and there by near perfect stories. No one is better at writing compelling nightmares than Mr. Strantzas." - Speculative Fiction Junkie


Review: The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

The Shadow Year is the World Fantasy Award winning novel by Jeffrey Ford. Having decided to step back and try to read several of the World Fantasy Award winners, I thought I may as well begin with the most current. Full disclosure: The book did tie with Tender Morsels for the win, so it wasn't complete and total victory. Still, this book sang to me like few books do.

I was wrapped up in the setting of the book immediately. You can tell that the author grew up in the time period that he wrote about, because everything is living and breathing. It reminded me of stories my father used to tell about growing up with his older brother during the same time.

The Shadow Year is a murder mystery/fantasy/coming of age tale. As far as I can remember, the point of view character in the tale doesn't ever get a name. He's just an 11 year old boy. The story manages to blend the everyday life of growing up in the 60s with a child's hunt to catch a murderer. The novel is difficult for me to describe, so I'm just going to say that if you like coming of age tales like To Kill a Mockingbird, then this book is right up your alley.

The Shadow Year (9.5/10) is quick, humorous, frighteningly accurate, and well written to the point that I didn't want to put it down for sleep. I laughed out loud several times while reading the book. The humor inherent in growing up shines like a beacon, and looking back I can see why it beat out The Graveyard Book and the other nominees to win the World Fantasy Award. This isn't my MUST BUY of 2010, since it came out in early March of 2008, but I'm going to take a quick trip back in time and make it my MUST BUY of 2008.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 | | 0 comments

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a mystery thriller by Stieg Larsson, an author from Sweden. After his death in 2004, he published three novels ins his Millenium series. This is the first.

The story revolves around a journalist who is down on his luck getting a call from an old man, formerly the head of a well respected company. This old man wants the reporter to track down a murderer. The twist? The murder happened over 30 years ago. It's a classic locked room type mystery, with plenty of action and side story thrown in to keep you turning pages....just not the first 50 or the last 50.

I enjoyed everything but the first 50 pages and the last 50 pages of this book. Sadly, it starts out so heart-breakingly slow that I actually stopped reading it and came back to it on a day that I had more patience. Not unlike Andy in the Shawshank Redemption, you're going to have to crawl through some poo to get to freedom with this book. The last 50 pages are drawn out as well, in one of those "based on a true story" movie styles, giving each little character a nice tidy blurb about what they're doing now.. The mystery and thrill of a wonderful book are over, and you're left with a huge wrap-up that wasn't strictly necessary, especially given the fact that it's the first book in a series.

Now, while the book clearly doesn't believe in the writer's phrase, "In late, out early," everything but those 100 pages was wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed the murder mystery, and found the two main characters to be interesting, and easily capable of carrying a book. The twist was solid, especially when you find out that things were so much worse than you imagined, and the big reveal near the end was great.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (8.5/10) was an action packed, thrilling mystery, just not at the beginning or the end, where it should have been.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 | | 0 comments

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells

Dan Wells' second effort, Mr. Monster, is the second book in his amazing horror/sci-fi series. It's currently available in the UK, while a US release of his first book, I Am Not a Serial Killer, just took place last month. He's bigger than Strudel in Germany, and hopefully people will catch on to this fantastic author here in the U.S.

That being said, my review of Mr. Monster will undoubtedly be short. In fact, I could just leave the entire thing alone after spewing forth the following sentence (in all caps of course, to further clarify the extreme nature of my fanboyishness): IF YOU HAVE READ I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER YOU MUST ALSO READ THIS. There, it's just that simple. This book is the continuation of John Cleaver's struggle against the demon inside him, Mr. Monster. John tried so hard to stay away from becoming a serial killer, but after the results of book one, it's getting much much harder. He's looked at differently by everyone he knows, especially his neighbor/obsession. Can John keep it together when strange things start to happen in town again?

Everything about this book is better, faster, and creepier. Wells is really coming into his own, which is no small praise since I thought his first effort was pretty darned stellar. John Cleaver is an amazing character, and his interaction with people is even more interesting in this second installment.

Now, for the downside: the book was too short. I got it as a birthday present, and before I could even blow out the candles on the cake, I was through. I do have to remind myself that this is a young adult book, even though it's creepy enough for any adult, so it's naturally going to be a little shorter. It's also not epic fantasy, either. So, the length isn't really all that bad, considering. I just felt like things moved so quickly in the book that I didn't get as much enjoyment as I should have, somehow.

Still, the enjoyment that I did receive was huge. Mr. Monster (9.5/10) is right up there for my MUST BUY of 2010. I'd still say Changes by Jim Butcher had more of a wow factor, but it's the 12th book in the series, so you've gotta cut Wells some slack for doing something so amazing with just his second book in print.

Saturday, April 10, 2010 | | 0 comments

Two Dudes Review: The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

 In an effort to be somewhat different, we've decided to start a once a month chatlog review of a book that Darren and I both read. So, without further ado, welcome to Two Dudes Review: The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett    Bryce: So, this is Two Dudes Review. Let's get right to some gripes. One thing that bugged me was the ending, more specifically the character development of Renna. She just flew way too quickly from helpless girl to murderous She Beastie...also, she reminded me of what's her name from Joe Abercrombie's series a little too much. 
 Darren: Yeah, I agree...
  Bryce: You know, tough amazon chick that loves blood...whatever her name was.
  Darren: She has almost zero character development.
2:39 AM Which really is alright, but she's pushed way too fast into the middle of everything.
  Bryce: Or maybe it's that she has almost ten million character development. she grew too fast, and we all know what happens when you do split your pants
  Maybe that's why she had to cut them part way through the book?
  Darren: Fair enough. Fair enough,
2:40 AM But I'm thinking that, (at least it seems this way to me) the author had a much bigger arc planned for her, and just didn't write it.
  Either for time constraints or what have you.
  Bryce: Could well be. Maybe she plays a huge part in the third book and he needed to hurry her along to meet that part.
  Darren: But she goes from farm girl to murdering psycho hose beast in like 3 chapters.
  sorry, Spoilers!
2:41 AM  Bryce: It's all right.
No one reads this blog anyway :P
  Darren: hehehe, fair enough
  we do though!
  i didn't want to spoil it... for... me?
  I dunno, whatever
  Bryce: Yep
  So, favorite part of the book?
2:42 AM  Darren: Gotta be when we got to see Par'Chin from Jardir's point of view.
  How awesome and strange he was
  Bryce: Yeah, it really made him larger than life
  especially to someone that hated outsiders
  Darren: Well, yes and no
  He seemed larger than life to the Krasians
  but we saw him when he was a sniveling farm boy
  so it's an interesting dichotomy for us
2:43 AM  Bryce: ooh, +5 for that word
  Darren: meh, I use that word as often as possible, cause it makes me sound smart
  Bryce: good call
  For me, it was all about how Brett just dumps a big bucket of gray paint on his first book, which was much more black and white
  Getting to see everything from Jardir's point of view did a lot of that
  Darren: Yeah, and throws in a history book.
2:44 AM Yep
  I agree
  Bryce: So I guess we both have the same favorite part, to an extent
  Darren: Yeah, but at the same time... that's the slowest part of the book
  Bryce: Although Jardir's part was a little slow...
  whoa, mind reading!
  Darren: although... come to think of it, if that wasn't my favorite part, it'd have to be when Arlen was arming the Hollow
2:45 AM cause that's pretty cool
  Bryce: That was pretty cool.
  Darren: it's on the same scale as Perrin arming the Two Rivers in TWoT
  just unexpected and awesome
  Bryce: I liked the fight scene between a certain two unspoilered women.
  Darren: oh yeah!
  yeah, favorite scene all told for me
  it was pretty fun
2:46 AM  Bryce: Any time there's a demon skull and poisoned needles chick fight, I'm in!
  Darren: and possession!
  Bryce: ooh, very true
  Darren: always a bonus
  Bryce: So, comparing it to the first book, how do they stack up?
  Darren: plus it was two hot chicks, I mean, come on! magical cat fight? where do I buy tickets?
  Bryce: True, True
  Darren: first book is waaaaay better I think
  I like this book, but...
  Bryce: I'd have to agree
2:47 AM  Darren: the first book is just solid
  this one seems a little frayed and glued on the edges
  I think this sets up a good start for a third book, but the first one did that too, so it doesn't have anything over the first one there
  Bryce: My only complaint about the first book was I didn't like seeing the Painted Man become so dark...but the second book showed me he had a heart again, so it's all good. I think that book 3 has the potential to be better the other two.
2:48 AM  Darren: yeah, I agree. I think it has the POTENTIAL... we'll see if it pans out
  I have faith in Mr. Brett's style of writing, but... I was slightly disappointed in the second book
2:49 AM  Bryce: was still good, especially for a young author...but he's gonna have to win me over again with the third book.
  Darren: Although I must admit that I do like the fact that the second book brought Arlen back as a character...
  Bryce: Agreed. That raised its score from me quite a bit.
  Darren: The end of the first book, he was just the random awesome dude that saved everyone.We actually get his perspective again.
  It was nice.
2:50 AM  Bryce: It was totally necessary.
  Darren: Agreed.
  Bryce: If he had left him as superman, I wouldn't have been able to read the next book.
  Darren: well, that depends if he brought in a suitable replacement, which Jardir, for all his interestingness, is not.
  Bryce: If you've got a point of view character, and they're not dead, they'd darned well better continue to be a point of view character down the line. Otherwise, I've wasted time investing emotionally in them.
2:51 AM And that makes me sad in the pants.
  Darren: yeah, there is that... but sometimes that's what the author wants. is a slap in the emotional face so to speak.
  Bryce: A kick in the emotional groin.
  Darren: oh no, we are not degenerating into metaphor...
2:52 AM  Bryce: Maybe that should be the title of this Desert Spear review: A slight kick in the emotional groin.
  Darren: A slight kick in the emotional groin, but more worth it.
  Bryce: An emotional groin kick that comes with a bag of book 3 ice?
  Okay, we're done here.
  Darren: Yeah, done.
2:53 AM calling it...
   Bryce: Called
  Darren: 12:52 is time of death
  That was two dudes reviewing stuff!
  Darren: Thanks!

Friday, April 9, 2010 | | 0 comments

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett (review by Darren)

Today, we're going to be talking about The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett. (Caveat: This book contains adult language and adult situations, and does it oh so well.) To give you a preface, it came out a couple years back, and caught everyone's attention because it was written in a very unorthodox fashion: on his Blackberry, while taking public transit to work. Odd, yes. But apparently effective, because his book is quite simply one of the best pieces of fantasy I have read in quite a while. My brother gave it to me to read, and lo and behold, as is always the case, Bryce was right again. It's a fine piece of literature, and I'll tell you why: because it seems real. Does it seem strange to you that I say a fantasy book seems real? Well, then you misunderstand me: magic isn't real, neither are demons, or many other fantasy tropes. But this book makes them seem alive, and if life isn't real, then what are we?

    The characters, mainly Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer, all start this book out very young: we meet Arlen when he's 11, Leesha when she's 13, and Rojer when he's 3. By the end of the book, Rojer is 17, which makes Leesha 27 and Arlen 25. Now that we've done our math, we begin to see a bit of interesting thought: how does he cram 14 years into one book and not make it seem like a history book? It's only barely more than 500 pages, and yet... I don't think there was ever a slow moment. I began reading this last night: I read for about 10 hours total, and am now done, and it's almost one in the morning. I couldn't put it down, and as soon as I finish writing this review, I will begin counting the seconds until I can read the second book, The Desert Spear, which Amazon says will be out on the 13th of April.
    The plot, a mixture of twisted fantasy tropes and ingenious new ideas, is basically this: every night, demons come out of the ground, and if you aren't behind some kind of warded shelter, you are dead, because the wards for fighting demons have been lost for... well, for a long time (it doesn't give you exact time frames, which makes sense with the amount of knowledge lost when the demons started destroying things). Seems basic, right? Well, only if you look at it from that perspective. The world is immersive, and the characters are literally alive, making you feel their emotions and see from their eyes, almost like you were playing a virtual reality game, rather than reading a book. I've spent 10 hours with them, and I'm pretty sure I could make full 3d models of them (and I'm no good with 3d modeling).

    It speaks as a testament to the writing prowess of Mr. Brett, that I can say things like that with a straight face, and completely mean them. I am looking forward to, well, anything that he writes from here on out. Please, if you read this, I'd love to be an ARC reader of yours in the future, and best wishes on your career. I give this book a 9.5 out of 10, only docking half a point for a slight plot hangup that I had (why didn't Arlen immediately go back to Cob with the new wards? I think he would have done that, but that's my opinion.) If you can ignore that plot point (and please don't kill me if that spoiled anything for you, I don't think it will) then it gets a 10/10. READ THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY. I command it. That is all.

Saturday, April 3, 2010 | | 1 comments

Changes by Jim Butcher (guest review by Darren Dayton)

    So, this being my first review, I wish to introduce myself. I am Darren, Bryce's younger brother, and we tend to have the same tastes in reading, so I was a natural extension of the reviews on his site.

    Today, we will be talking about Changes, the latest book in the Dresden Files series by author Jim Butcher, and a book (and series) I highly recommend. He has not been mentioned on the site thus far, but it was not due to lack of interest or appreciation, but rather time constraints. His latest (and one of his best in my opinion) books starts out like every other one of his books: an important, yet hilarious beginning scene that introduces well the main conflict of the story, and lends to the entertainment aspect of literature quite well. I am impressed, because this time the beginning was even more of a home-run than previous books, and I wasn't sure that was possible. It is, however, twelve books into the series, so I suggest starting with book one, Storm Front.

    On to the actual review, then, eh?

    The characters as always are completely alive, and to rate the immersion: I sometimes forget I'm reading a book. This book is no different than any of the others in the series... well, not quite. The title, Changes, is quite appropriate, in that we see some changes in characters, and things going in ways we never thought (or hoped, or dreaded) they could go.

    As to the quality of the work, I literally just read it in about 8 hours straight, in one sitting. I have not stopped for food, water, various toiletries; heck, I started reading it while I was at work this morning, and only stopped for the ten minutes it took me to get home. Mr. Butcher puts on an excellent performance, so to speak, and it is masterfully entertaining, while also being involved and absorbing on a level I, as an avid Fantasy fan since close after birth, have seen.

    The characters and plot left me emotionally invested enough that I have not only read 12 books about them, but I literally feel joy and sadness with them, live and die; without any spoilers I tell you that as I sit here writing this, I am still in an emotional stupor over the events at the end of the book, and that just doesn't happen to me folks.

    Quick non-spoiler plot summary:
        Harry, main character and resident wizard in Chicago, has just learned from an old girlfriend that the Red Court of vampires has taken a little girl, and intends to... well, they don't know what yet, but it obviously can't be good. I mean, vampires, right? Someone is destabilizing the power of the White Council of wizards, and Harry also has to try to find out what's going on there before full-on war breaks out anew between the Court and the Council (but that's nothing new, really. Read the last few books.) Anyway, things go wrong in a spectacular fashion, as is usual, and it's up to Harry to stop them from either destroying the world or killing millions of people.

    If that seems generic to you, it's because the plot is so involved I cannot say a single word different without giving things away. Suffice to say, like Robert Jordan, Jim Butcher weaves plot upon plot, twist upon twist, until no reader can say for sure what the outcome will be until the end of the book.

    Overall rating: 10/10.

    Fantastic work, Mr. Butcher, and while I had qualms with almost everything that happened (plot, character changes, building/car demolitions) know that you got a 10 out of 10 because all that points to just how good the writing is, and just how much of a vested interest I had in this book, and the series in general. I hope you continue to keep 'em coming, 'cause I will read them until they nail shut my coffin. Thank you for the wonderful time I had reading this, and I hope all the readers of this review will go out and get started by reading Storm Front, because this series is well worth it.

Great review Darren. I simply want to add that Changes is a very apt title for this particular book. Almost everything that we know about the Dresden Files gets turned on its head, and things are definitely headed in a new direction. I'm confident, though, that future volumes will still be excellent. This is, so far, my MUST BUY book of 2010.


Review: Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Monster Hunter: International is a novel written by Larry Correia. The novel gives us the story of Owen Z. Pitt, an accountant who has the unique opportunity of killing his boss after he turns into a Werewolf and attacks him. Pitt, after recovering from the horrible battle to the death, is recruited by a special group of people who kill monsters, and make quite the living doing it. All this thanks to an excellent program put in place by the government to keep monsters under wraps and under control.

The novel has everything that a good sci-fi/fantasy fan is looking for, plus a little more. If you’re a fan of guns, especially detailed descriptions and accurate usage, look no further. Correia is a self-confessed gun nut, and takes plenty of time to describe each weapon in great detail. The action almost suffers from the point of view of someone who’s not such a gun nut (myself) but I was willing to overlook it for the sheer pleasure of the rest of the text. This story has it all, and all the classic stereotypes are twisted just enough to keep you coming back for more. The pacing is pretty solid, with action that keeps the story moving. It only slowed down where it absolutely had to, which is high praise for a first novel. The characters were believable, and fun, if somewhat predictable. This book isn’t going to blow you away with anything new and extraordinary, but it’s VERY FUN, and sometimes that’s just what I’m in the mood for.

Honestly, apart from the overzealous gun description (my brother and I coined the term “gunsterbation” while reading it on the way down to a writer’s conference) the only truly noticeable flaw in this debut novel is a severe lack of contractions. By the end of the book, I would have given my left arm if Pitt had just said “didn't” one time, instead of “did not.” It’s something minor, but when you’re reading a book, little things like that can throw you completely out of the story. It took me maybe 200 pages before I really stopped noticing it, my brain having switched to autopilot, replacing each “did not” with a much more natural “didn’t” automatically.

Monster Hunter International (8.5/10) doesn’t break much new ground, but it’s a highly enjoyable read. I’m looking forward to Monster Hunter: Vendetta which will be out this fall. Also, make sure to check out Correia’s website, as he has a lot to say and some of it’s very funny.