Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Last Guardian By David Gemmell – Book Review

The Last Guardian is the second book with Jon Shannow as the lead character. It’s the fifth in the series, but I’ve never read the first three. The final book in the series Bloodstone is not one I’m going to re-read. It was the weakest of the three and felt tacked on.

In the second book we join the Jerusalem Man on his quest to find the city. The story picks up where Wolf in Shadow left off and he is injured. Batik unfortunately doesn’t make the trip with him. New characters Beth, Nu, and the Dark Lady, are introduced along the way to fill in where the others departed. Beth is a mother and a widow traveling with her two children to find somewhere to settle. Nu, oddly enough, is from Atlantis and is fleeing persecution from the king as he prophesied a coming catastrophe. The Dark Lady is a scientist and scholar Beyond the Wall who is working to find out why people are turning into lions. Yes, you read that correctly.

This book was a delightful surprise. Reading the previous story made me realize that the character of Shannow was a little flat. This book fills him out and makes him more than just the Lone Wanderer archetype. He is tired of the road, he doesn’t want to keep cleaning up after townsfolk, and he is starting to question his quest.

The action is solid, the plot moves along at a nice clip, and this is the strongest of his three book arc. Its ending feels like a good place to leave the series and that’s what I’m going to do. I can’t say more for fear of spoiling the plot.

Verdict: Worth the read.

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Wolf in Shadow by David Gemmell- Book Review

This book is one that I have read many times. It was one of the first books that really had an impact on me. The main character, Jon Shannow, was one that a lot of my stories emulated for a good stretch of my younger years. To be perfectly honest, I was a little nervous to read it again. There had been a few other books that I’ve re-read only to find that my memory of them was much better than the actual story. Wolf in Shadow isn’t a bad book. Reading it again didn’t make me wonder how I could ever enjoy the story and it was interesting to see it again.

Reading it through this time, I found some interesting things. For one, the main character is one of the weaker aspects of the story. Jon Shannow, the Jerusalem Man, doesn’t have much depth beyond his quest. Even when asked why he seeks the fabled city his answer is fell flat. The setting is a post-apocalyptic world where one of the major books to survive was the bible. Shannow believes the words to be true and therefore thinks he can find Jerusalem as a glittering city with jeweled streets and ever-lasting peace. Another contingent of people think that since the world ended it is now the end times and the devil won so they worship him. These are called the Hellborn and are the main villains of the story. Shannow walks through bad guys like an 80s action movie and there isn’t really a time when you feel that he’s in any real danger.

The character that I found most interesting was Daniel Cade. He’s introduced about half-way through the book and it cuts back to him on occasion. Cade is a former brigand, bandit, who starts taking refugees in and protecting them from the Hellborn. His motivations and character arc was much more satisfying.

Donna, Griffin, and Madden are all part of the same plot line, but that’s handled nicely. Unlike some of the other characters they actually get addressed in the end of the book. Even the character Shannow picks up along the way, Batik, is more interesting than the main character. He’s a former Hellborn now being hunted by a group called Zealots who are able to telepathically control animals. He has a decent arc to his character too and I wish there was more time with him.

There are a couple of side characters that are kind of one note, and even the big bad seems a little hollow. He’s the leader of the Hellborn, he’s the bad guy, ta-da character. Ruth is another one of the characters that isn’t the best. She does have some development, but I found her lacking. The biggest failing of the book would have to be the character of Archer. He’s a scholar that Shannow meets along the way. He could have done for more page-time as the small glimpse we had of him was rich. Then there are a couple more minor characters that are hardly worth mentioning.

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Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight- Review

Swords and Scoundrels – Amazon

I will do my best not to spoil things. The story opens on Kacha and Vocho, two duelists who have fallen on hard times and have taken to being highwaymen. They’re brother and sister who happen to be the two best in their field. That was until Vocho supposedly killed someone he was paid to protect and they had to flee the city. What follows is adventure, intrigue, and more than a few deep interesting characters. The set dressings were cool, the overall plot had me invested, and the action was fun. Knight did a good job at keeping the swordplay moving without getting into blow-by-blow details.

This book had me hooked from chapter one. On more than one occasion I wanted to slap a couple of characters, but that wasn’t a bad thing. The character had flaws. Each person presented in the story wasn’t just some cutout plopped onto the page as a plot device. By far my favorite character was Petri. He starts out as what looks to be just a hatchet man, but there is so much more to him.

If you like The Three Musketeers, or swashbuckling stories in general, I would heartily suggest this book. It found me completely at random on Amazon, which doesn’t happen often. Finding new books is usually saved for trips to the store rather than online, but the cover, blurb, and sample had me hooked.

I look forward to book two.

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Double Book Review

A month or so ago I signed up for a free trial on Audible. It comes with 2 credits to download audio-books. I picked out Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Here are the reviews.

Star Wars: Aftermath

The best part of this book was the narrator. Marc Thompson has done a few other Star Wars audio-books so having him doing the reading was a nice slide into things. Not only that but the Star Wars series really goes all out with sound FX and pieces of music to enhance the listening experience. That’s about all that’s good about it. Star Wars books aren’t exactly to top tier of science fiction. They mostly get by on the fanbase, but they’re entertaining enough to read.

This wasn’t. It was set in Third Person Present Tense. She lifts the blaster. He ducks out of the way. I hate that. I’m not a fan of Chuck Wendig. A while ago I saw a bunch of hype about him and someone I respect lent their voice to the praise. I decided to check out one of his books when I was at a bookstore and was underwhelmed. His blog is entertaining, but I don’t understand how’s he’s gotten to be so lauded.

The story takes place on a planet the remaining Empire has locked down. Their story is that nothing the rebels say is true and everything is business as usual.

There was a lot of noise about having a main character who was gay. That’s stupid. I didn’t enjoy the book, the writing was clunky, the tense never settled in my head, and the fan service felt forced. The fact that one of the characters was gay didn’t play in to any part of not liking the story. It felt like the author was grasping at straws for some way to make a flat character interesting.

Verdict: Skip

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson is the author. I like his work, most of the time. He wrote the Mistborn series, which had 2/3 good books and The Alloy of Law was cool. I hope to read that sequel to that soon. The narrator, Michael Kramer, sounds like a badly disguised Microsoft voice and was hard to listen too.

This book. Man. I wanted to like this book. It started off interesting, but it turns out that after the three stage prologue (it calls one of them part 1, but that’s a lie) that the reader has been suckered in to a long trudge. The first prologue is set thousands of years in the past and gives some insight of the larger picture, if vaguely, that is happening. The second prologue is awesome and has to do with an assassin trying to kill a king. That was a sweet read. The magic the assassin used was interesting and dynamic. Part 1, which is really prologue part three, starts a few months in the aftermath. It kept me invested and I wanted to see where it went. Then at the end of the the story takes another leap in time and that’s when the real-real story begins. Something didn’t smell right to me, so after listening for quite a few hours I decided to check out the wiki page. My hunch was right and, not to spoil it, irritated me quite a bit. This damn book is told in 3-6 hour chunks and it wasn’t worth it.

Verdict: Skip

I got these two audio-books for free. They each marketed for like $30 when I got them. I’m so glad I didn’t pay for these.

Sanderson is starting to lose my faith. After the third Mistborn book I was unsure, but Alloy of Law reminded me why I liked his stories. The second prologue, and even the third part, was interesting and I wanted to know more. It wasn’t until I was knee-deep in the slog that I realized I’d made a mistake.

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The Witcher Book 1: Blood of the Elves- Final Review

I just wrote a small review, but I was only about halfway through the book. Now, I’m done, and I can post a full review that is better informed.

The phrase “show, don’t tell” is a common one. If you’ve ever been confused as to what that actually means, read this book. Everything about it is told instead of shown. Constant strings of dialogue or narration to explain things instead of just having the story happen.

I was turned on to the series by the videogame The Witcher and it’s sequels. Unfortunately, I don’t have the correct system to play the game so I decided to check if there was any source material. There is a prequel book to setup the series called The Last Wish. I got that book, loved it, and then ordered the rest of the series. The Last Wish is a good book, it’s a collection of short stories connected by flashbacks as Geralt is healing from a job that went a little sideways. If you like the games, read The Last Wish, skip the other books.

The first 1/3 of the book is mostly dialogue and long stretches of narration to tell the reader what’s happening, how they feel, and what caused this to happen. Again and again there are just long stretches where nothing is really described. This portion of the book takes place in a ruined keep where the witchers train. That’s about as much as I can tell you about it. It’s a ruined keep, with a graveyard, possibly a wall, and training grounds that aren’t fully described. There are references to different equipment setup for exercise, but they’re just given names.

Once it moves on from the training section there is a couple of chapters that further explain what’s going on. This starts to get away from the constant barrage of someone telling you what’s going on and why, with some actual action and description. Alas, this is short lived. After a brief brush with a functional story it goes back to the dull march of exposition. The next little bit of story is Geralt on a barge protecting it from water monsters.

Sounds like a cool setup, right? You, like me, would be wrong. We learn about this creature from a long, drawn-out debate with a scholar, then we get a customs inspection, and some one tries to capture Geralt. Even that is just ho-hum.

For another thing, the setup it that witchers are societal outcasts, but Geralt isn’t treated with anything be respect. Oh, you’re Geralt the witcher, I’ve heard about you… you saved my village last year… remember that time we did awesome stuff together… Everywhere Geralt goes he just happens to run into someone who knows him by reputation or has met him previously and is wildly impressed with him. They stand up for him, they warn him of trouble ahead, and this, of course, leads to more exposition clumsily described as banter.

I guess if my table gets wonky I’ll have something to prop it up.

k keep with a gre

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Blood of the Elves: The Witcher Book 1

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski introduces the world of The Witcher via a collection of short stories told via flashback. Geralt of Rivia is a Witcher, a monster hunter, who travels the land dealing with magical menaces. The twist on the idea is that the inspiration comes more from classic faerie tales and lore rather than just another angle of Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons. I really liked this book. The characters were solid, the world felt alive, and it was a cool premise.

Guess what? There’s a series of books to go along after and this was just the introduction. Thanks to some Amazon giftcard from Christmas I was able to order all three books.

I’m about halfway through Blood of the Elves, which is book 1 of 3, and it’s disappointing. Instead of Geralt traveling the countryside fighting monsters the story revolves around the impending threat of invasion from a kingdom of evil dudes that invaded and failed a few years prior. Large chunks of exposition are just tossed out as dialogue and there isn’t a lot of action to break it up.

Example:
“Yes, duck that, now dodge.”
“Ouch. What did I do wrong?”
“Move faster.”

I’m going to stick it out to see if it gets better.

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Rereading The Monster Hunters Series

I was finally able to replace my copy of Monster Hunters International by Larry Correia. My first copy tackled the plunger and needed to be replaced. That’s not code for anything, it was knocked off the bathroom counter onto the plunger. As much as I like the book, I’m not going to read it after that.

Rereading the series. Currently on Book 2: Monster Hunter Vendetta
Thoughts:
Contains Minor Spoilers

Below.

1. Myers is a tool.
Seriously, he uses Hood’s death as a reason to leave MHI, but then in a flashback we see that he knew that Hood was summoning undead & ‘willingly’ let out Earl. If he really wanted to redeem himself, he should have stayed with MHI.

2. Owen is a jerk to Grant.
Book 1, I understand. Book 2, why? Grant admits (to Julie) it was a bad call, he gets captured by vamps, and Julie chooses Owen. Sure, no one tells Owen that Grant is coming back, but it should be water under the bridge. I don’t really understand why he went to MCB instead of coming back to MHI, but that’s information learned after the fact.

3. Traitors, how did I not see that coming?
Both traitors, how did I not see thing coming? Oh, he’s just a nice MCB agent, and she’s just a newbie who’s taken a shine on Owen, that’s perfectly natural.

4. Is it possible for a vampire to earn PUFF Exempt?
Susan seems a bit more in control than Ray, but she’s pretty focused. I’m not saying a PUFF Exempt vampire would be a good thing, just wondering if it would be possible. I don’t think it would really last since their main food source is people. Unless they hunted animals. Why wouldn’t they hunt animals? A nice health bison probably tastes better than Todd the junkie down the street.
*shrug*
I don’t know, maybe it’s the whole humans taste yummy thing.

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