Tuesday, September 30, 2008

[Mini-review] The Cloudmages Book 1: Holder of Lightning (S. L. Ferrell)

Erm. What to say about this book. I had kind of forgotten all about it until I saw it in the list of books I wanted to do a mini-review for. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad or anything… it was good, solid, welsh-influenced fantasy. It was at least marginally emotionally engaging, and in spite of being pretty thick it read quickly.

It just… wasn’t really anything new. Girl finds stone. Stone’s made of magic. There are lots of funny fantasy names. Girl faces adversity and meets up with a cast of supporting characters. Some of them are with her, some of them are against her, and there are (easy to call) inevitable betrayals. The whole thing was entertaining enough, it just also felt very “done.” I’ll admit that the ending surprised me a little in some aspects… but… yeah.

That said, I might go ahead and pick up the second book in the series if I’m bored. I’ve heard vague ruminations that the mediocre first book is a huge setup for some really stellar later work, so maybe we’ll see.

[Mini-review]Lisa's Take - The Raw Shark Texts (Steven Hall)

It's rare that I read outside the fantasy or sci-fi genre, but this particular work of fiction was recommended by a new acquaintance, and after drunkenly debating with him about it I decided to give it a read through. The tale is rather Jaws-esque, but with conceptual sharks, rather than actual sharks. Conceptual sharks? Why, conceptual sharks are just one of the many organisms that have evolved in the invisible spaces between theories and ideas.

It sounds pretty weird, but honestly this was a great book. Fun, deep, believable characterizations, a solid story, and nice pacing all combined with the crazy, original ideas to make a really entertaining read. Pick it up if you'd like a break from the standard fantasy fare that I usually foist on you via my reviews.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

[Mini Review] JD's Take: Too Many Curses (A. Lee Martinez)

This book is by A. Lee Martinez.

Do I really need to say more? It's his fifth book and third foray into the fantasy realm (realm being relative, the whole book takes place in one building), it does a lot of interesting things while being readable (I know! I read it!), humorous (though his continuing trend of replacing humorous with entertaining continues, and is awesome), and human (despite not having any humans in it beyond the first chapter or so).

So I'm not going to say any more, if you need to know more about Martinez go read the other four reviews. I will say this though: his blog looks interesting and he ranted about how other authors look down on him because he's not writing a series. I hope he never starts, he's far too good at creating fascinating one-shot worlds.

Also, it sounds like 3 of his books have been optioned, one attached to David Fincher, which is pretty awesome :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

[Mini-Review] JD’s Take - The Innocent Mage (Karen Miller)

Innocent Mage  is a story about a fisherman's son who rises to political and social prominence in the Big City by staying True to His Roots. I should note that while he does *appear* to be the eponymous character, he is in no way a mage. Credit where credit is due, he is pretty innocent about most things... though he certainly isn't naive or air-headed which is typically how authors choose to let us know that someone is innocent. Anyway, while he's getting more and more respect (and similar amounts of bad blood from the people who don't like him because he's a filthy peasant, naturally) the magical world that he lives in is building up to what looks like a spectacular and fundamental Reality Failure, which ought to be fun but I'll have to wait for the next book to see if it happens. 

The writing is smooth, if unmemorable, and the characters are surprisingly nuanced. The plot moves along without belaboring anything, which is a relief because there are plenty of places where your jaded fantasy-reading brain will be like "oh shit, now I've gotta hear about how sad he is for 50 pages". 

Overall, I'd recommend this one if you're looking for an interesting fantasty read that isn't so in love with its world that is neglects the story, and isn't so in love with its characters that it neglects the reader. You might as well buy the second book too though, since it most certainly is not a complete narrative and ends on a cliffhanger.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

[Mini-Review] Lisas’s Take - Age of Fire Book 1: Dragon Champion (E. E. Knight)

I’ve been struggling with this review for a while – I keep trying to be nice about Dragon Champion (“Oh, maybe it would be good if it were supposed to be YA…”) but I’m giving up. A quick summary: Dragon Champion is about a dragon named Auron, and we follow him from hatching through early adulthood. There are some wolves, some hunters, some elves, some dwarves, magicians, and a big doomy war.

This book was mediocre at best, dragging at worst (which says a lot, seeing as how it was maybe 300 pages long). There were a couple of engaging characters and ideas, especially near the start of the book, but through the middle and end it was hackneyed and unoriginal. I didn’t really care about the plot or the characters by the end (mostly because the only two interesting characters had gone their separate ways). I just wanted to finish the damn thing, because there was no excuse not to when it was so short.

The bottom line: I won’t be buying the sequels, and I suggest you don’t waste your time with this one unless you’re between the ages of 10 and 14.

Week of Mini-Reviews

It’s that time again! Time for another week of mini-reviews! If you’re like me and have just a few words to say about a big backlog of books, this is your chance. Go crazy up until Friday.