Sunday, 29 August 2010

Book review : Bearers of the Black Staff By Terry Brooks

Bearers of the Black StaffBook Reviews by Terry Brooks : Bearers of the Black Staff
Bearers of the Black Staff is…well…a Terry Brooks novel. But what does that mean you ask? Well, simply put, if you liked Terry Brooks before, you’ll likely enjoy this first book in the Legends of Shannara series, and if you haven’t read Brooks before, then this is very much indicative of what you can expect from the pen of this New York Times bestselling author in his latter years. But for the discerning fan of epic fantasy, you’ll leave this volume wondering why you spent a chunk of change on so many words where nothing exciting happens.

Bearers of the Black Staff begins 500 years after the boy Hawk and his followers had moved into a secluded and protected valley to escape the ravages of the world devastation wreaked by our current technological society. (see the Genesis of Shannara series for their story) But whatever it is (not explained in this book) that has been maintaining the grey cloud that kept outsiders out and insiders in is failing. The world outside, and whatever mutants or horrors survived the last 500 years is about to enter the secluded valley that had protected the humans, elves, spiders and lizards that are the comatose and complacent descendants of Hawk’s followers.

The story followers three characters primarily. The first is the Gray Man, Sider Ament, a solitary person charged with bearing the black staff and patrolling the wall, waiting for the day it fails. There is Panterra Qu, a scout paired with the girl Pru who is driven by fierce loyalty and who is the child become a man character that is part and parcel of every Terry Brooks novel. And there is Phryne, the elven princess who is brash and reckless who becomes a woman that is indicative of every Terry Brooks novel. It is these three, with the help of some others, who must protect the land from being conquered by an army of trolls from outside the valley.

In this novel, Brooks has not overexerted himself in his writing. Though there is character development, the characters come across as flat, not emotionally connected to the reader. Sure, the reader may appreciate their successes or dangers, but as far as getting excited about them, it is rather hard to do with the way Brooks writes. It is like looking at an abstract work of art when you have no frame of reference for appreciating it. You know it should be good, or that you should feel something about it emotionally, but all you can do is look at it and say: Huh? This is usually the end effect of writing archetypes rather than characters, something Brooks has always done to some extent, but which is made so painfully obvious here.

The plot follows a pattern that he has perfected, following a young person (or several persons) as he or she find himself or herself in the trials and tribulations presented by their environment. It is not even resolved by the end of the novel, being left to the sequel (or sequels) to do. And cliffhanger in no way left me gasping to read more. The characters move in and out of the valley, sometimes in bizarre ways, and Brooks will change perspective in odd places, and add meaningless sequences just to ensure that he mentions things like elfstones and other Shannara specific elements. The novel has some action and adventure in it, and certainly has suspense (though none that really makes the reader feel it, except perhaps for Pru’s near death experiences there at the end). Yet undoubtedly, those who have been long time readers of the Shannara series will appreciate the addition to the cannon uncritically.

Read Book Review Towers of Midnight By Robert Jordan Now!

Towers of Midnight
The Last Battle has started. The seals on the Dark One's prison are crumbling. The Pattern itself is unraveling, and the armies of the Shadow have begun to boil out of the Blight.

The sun has begun to set upon the Third Age.

Perrin Aybara is now hunted by specters from his past: Whitecloaks, a slayer of wolves, and the responsibilities of leadership. All the while, an unseen foe is slowly pulling a noose tight around his neck. To prevail, he must seek answers in Tel'aran'rhiod and find a way--at long last--to master the wolf within him or lose himself to it forever.

Meanwhile, Matrim Cauthon prepares for the most difficult challenge of his life. The creatures beyond the stone gateways--the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn--have confused him, taunted him, and left him hanged, his memory stuffed with bits and pieces of other men's lives. He had hoped that his last confrontation with them would be the end of it, but the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. The time is coming when he will again have to dance with the Snakes and the Foxes, playing a game that cannot be won. The Tower of Ghenjei awaits, and its secrets will reveal the fate of a friend long lost.

This penultimate novel of Robert Jordan's #1 New York Times bestselling series--the second of three based on materials he left behind when he died in 2007--brings dramatic and compelling developments to many threads in the Pattern. The end draws near.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Read Book Online: Dark Peril By Christine Feehan

Dark Peril

Dark Peril (Dark, book 21) by Christine Feehan

'Carpathians are an immortal race of beings with animal instincts and the ability to shape shift. Every Carpathian male is drawn to a life mate: a woman - Carpathian or human - able to provide the light to his darkness. Without her, the beast within slowly consumes the man until turning into a vampire is the only option.' In Feehan's latest, lose yourself in one man's gripping battle to save himself and his search for the one woman who will answer all his well as satisfy his desire.

Read Book By Chloe Neill Best Series Twice Bitten

Twice BittenNeill and Merit Continue to Impress
There are a plethora of kick-ass urban fantasy series with kick-ass heroines out there today. The genre is rockin' and sockin' like a frat house on a weekend bender after a football championship win. Every author has created a slightly different world, with slightly different mythos, slightly different characters, etc...the emphasis on slightly. That's not a criticism; it's more like a statistical probability. I believe the key is finding those authors and series that present a world or mythos or characters that appeal to your personal tastes. As urban fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and I have a very eclectic palate for it, I read a lot of UF series. Some set themselves apart, some don't. Few make it to my "Oh my release?? Get it! Get it! Get it NOW!!" category.

Chloe Neill is, in my opinion, utterly unique in that she's created a series that, arguably, isn't the most original in location (the awesome city of Chicago) or in world building (vampires have come out of the to humans and are working a wicked PR campaign to keep themselves from being turned into crispy critters and other supernaturals are eying them intently, concerned about the potential power shift and threat), or, honestly, in mythos (not really sure what the vampires' origins are, but they've had their fair share of genocidal cleansings that sound quite a lot like witch trials of old and of the inquisition), yet Neill has managed to catapult herself and her series into that category I mentioned. Yes, I actually have an "Oh my release?? Get it! Get it! Get it NOW!!" category. I never said I was well balanced. Moving on...

What Chloe Neill has managed to create that is unique and appealing, is Merit, Sentinel of Cadogan House and kick-ass heroine of a kick-ass series. Bright, independent, stubborn, maturing Merit is one of my favorite UF heroines in any and every series I'm reading or have read. I absolutely love her. She's a novitiate vampire, new to the world and the House, and she's been forced into positions as both political pawn and weapon for her liege and master Ethan Sullivan, yet she remains relatively poised and strong willed as she grows within her House and her position as Sentinel. I am completely appreciative of a heroine that I can relate to and admire and, frankly, not want to strangle...because there are so many other UF heroines that I'd like to take a two-by-four to for so very many reasons, even when I like the series they're in (annnnd we're right back to the unbalanced issue...moving on). The Chicacoland Vampires series is told from Merit's perspective in a smooth, contemporary, first person narrative that is at turns humorous, griping, and caustic with sharp wit. Twice Bitten: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel in particular shines with zippy dialogue and internal monologues, and Merit is almost solely responsible for that fantastic aspect of the book.

In Twice Bitten, which picks up mere days from the events of the second book in the series, Friday Night Bites: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel, and just a few months from the first, Some Girls Bite: A Chicagoland Vampires Novel, Merit is still dealing with the potential threat of Celina Desaulniers, former Navarre House Master and total power hungry wingnut, still training with Ethan, and still exceptionally drawn to him. The fireworks between them are incendiary and in this book,, yeah. So anyway, the shapeshifters are on their way to Chicago for a convocation concerning their next move as a species and the Apex of NAC pack, Gabriel, is tentatively willing to extend a paw to Cadogan House and Ethan and Merit in particular. The foresight-gifted shifter has seen a future that includes pack and House affiliations he's not too specific about, but one that features Merit heavily. Ethan is practically salivating for the opportunity of an alliance because...well, because he's a politics junkie, for one, but he's also very aware that a war is brewing and the only hope of survival of both species against a planet of humanity may be joining forces with a past nemesis. Unfortunately, not all of the pack agrees with its progressive thinking Apex, and soon politics turns to bloodshed and death and assassination attempts. Will any tentative hope for an alliance go up in flames or will two races at odds be able to unite against a common threat? The cost for misstep will be paid in blood.

The political and sociological structures of shifters and vampires are brilliantly written here, and while the plot is both less an more than most end-of-the-world-or-some-other-similar-catastrophe UF series, it's fascinating and poignant, and there's a lesson to be learned about the crippling nature of bigotry and prejudice. This book (and series) is far more subtly written than others in the genre, allowing for some truly fantastic character development for a larger contingent of characters than most UF books. Through Merit's eyes we see how similar to humans in some ways, and how spectacular in others, vampires are as we get a deeper and broader view of the people and personalities that make up Cadogan House. Other than a brief and a bit bitter trip to Morgan at Navarre House, we don't see any of the other House vampires (I'm ignoring Lacey on purpose), so the aspect of internal vampire politics is much muted here, to its benefit, I think - too much vampire posturing and politicking gives me a headache. Instead we get a chance to see Cadogan vampires in a more relaxed and natural setting, allowing a more intimate relationship with them as people, and I very much enjoyed that. I've grown quite fond of Lindsey and Luc and the rest of Merit's growing circle of friends.

I did have a few moments where I got a bit troubled with the plot, though. I can't say I totally bought into the motivations and actions of the players surrounding the main conflict and climax of the story. It seemed a little too neat and perhaps a bit cliched. Admittedly, I was more frustrated because the rest of the book had made a lot of excellent strides in laying groundwork for a positively Machiavellian development...though, I suppose I could be looking at it from a more vampiric perspective. That race does sort of epitomize Machiavellian. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were also moments in the book that I felt attained a sort of sublime truthfulness, most notably with Merit and the guy in the library. There was a scene that pointed out in unapologetic detail that for some, atrocity isn't history - it's memory, and should be respected as such. Humans surely aren't immortal, but atrocity isn't limited to history, either, and the message was a poignant one that struck a chord with me.

As much as I hate to be one of those readers who clamors for more from a favored author, with pleas to write faster or produce more quickly, I have to admit, I'm less than thrilled that Neill is currently writing two books a year and one of them is for her Dark Elite series Firespell . Very unfortunately, that means no more Merit for another year. That's more than a little disappointing. Still, I have to say, Merit...and the Chicagoland Vampires worth the wait.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Fantasy Book Critic:Fever Dream Read Book Review

Fever DreamFever Dream By Douglas Preston
At the old family manse in Louisiana, Special Agent Pendergast is putting to rest long-ignored possessions reminiscent of his wife Helen's tragic death, only to make a stunning-and dreadful-discovery. Helen had been mauled by an unusually large and vicious lion while they were big game hunting in Africa. But now, Pendergast learns that her rifle-her only protection from the beast-had been deliberately loaded with blanks. Who could have wanted Helen dead...and why?

With Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta's assistance, Pendergast embarks on a quest to uncover the mystery of his wife's murder. It is a journey that sends him deep into her past where he learns much that Helen herself had wished to keep hidden. Helen Pendergast had nursed a secret obsession with the famed naturalist-painter John James Audubon, in particular a long-lost painting of his known as the Black Frame.

As Pendergast probes more deeply into the riddle-the answer to which is revealed in a night of shocking violence, deep in the Louisiana bayou-he finds himself faced with an even greater question: who was the woman he married?

Read Book This Body of Death: An Inspector Lynley Novel Review

An Inspector Lynley NovelThis Body of Death: An Inspector Lynley Novel By Elizabeth George
Take three young boys in London looking for – and finding – trouble, and a young woman found murdered in a London cemetery. Add an inexperienced detective superintendent who carries vodka pick-me-ups in her purse and makes rash, ill-advised decisions; a detective inspector who still mourns his wife’s untimely death; and assorted detectives with axes to grind or personal problems to sort out. Throw in a country park ranger with a missing sister, a questionable police superintendent, and a roof thatcher with a missing lover. Mix with an overbearing landlady, a female psychic, and a psycho musician, and you have Elizabeth George’s This Body of Death.

An excellent book but not without problems. The plot is good and characters are well defined, but there are so many of them as to cause confusion. The book could be used as a geography book for England and as a road map for London; deletion of this copious material would have resulted in a much tighter – and shorter – story. The first hundred pages are difficult to stay with, but after that you won’t want to put the book down; and everything gets neatly tied up in the end. A highly recommended read.