Category Archives: Book Reviews

Star Trek: Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (Book Review)

Last year it was announced that the Typhon Pact series would continue with a new “event” called The Fall which would work across multiple books and involve some of the biggest names in both Star Trek fiction and the Star Trek setting. Earlier this year I read the first book in the series, Revelation and Dust by David R. George III and it proved to be a fairly good read, better than expected in many cases. Having fallen off reading any Star Trek fiction ages ago, I was quite unprepared for all the new changes that had been afoot at DS9 ever since the show stopped. But getting back in touch with the characters proved surprisingly easy.

And that’s what happened again with Una McCormack’s The Crimson Shadow, which is the second book in the series and focuses on a small number of crew from the Enterprise-E alongside several Cardassian characters, especially one of my favourites, Elim Garak from DS9. The Crimson Shadow was, unreservedly, an awesome read that dealt with Cardassian politics and the continuing rebuilding of their homeworld after the attacks of the Dominion several years ago. Una McCormack’s characters are extremely fun to read about and she tells a really exciting and interesting story that also ends up having some allegorical meanings.

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Gotrek & Felix: The Serpent Queen by Josh Reynolds (Book Review)

Last year in January we had the first Gotrek & Felix novel after a gap of several long years. The series started off as short stories by William King that were eventually collected into a novel and became a trilogy, then a double trilogy and so on. Eventually, when William King left, Nathan Long was brought in and he enjoyed a good long run as well. But then the series lapsed and all we had for a while were more short stories and even some novellas, although they were primarily written by a new incoming group of authors. It was good stuff. But what we really needed was a full novel, and that’s what Josh Reynolds’ Road of Skulls did.

The new Gotrek & Felix novels, whether those written by Josh Reynolds or David Guymer, are set out of continuity, which means that they are not part of the main series and are set somewhere in between those adventures already published. Road of Skulls, the first in his new set of novels, was an absolute fantastic read and reminded me of why I loved the series in the first place. And now we have the third novel, The Serpent Queen, and it is every bit as good. It features some more out-of-continuity adventures but sets them in the Southlands, in the homelands of the Lizardmen and we see a conflict between Tomb Kings and Vampires. Pretty superb right out of the gate.

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Legion of The Damned by William C. Dietz (Book Review)

As with last year, it seems that at the moment I’m doing well enough with my “25 Series To Read In 2014” reading challenge, where I pick out the aforementioned number of series in a variety of genres and attempt to read at least the first books in each. One of the books that I read for this challenge earlier this month was the first novel in William C. Dietz’ Legion series, Legion of the Damned. Bill is an author I’ve known for quite a while, and even invited on the blog for a guest post. His first Sauron duology novel DeathDay is among my favourite books, and is one that contributed towards my decision to become a writer, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I hold him in high regard for being an inspiration.

Legion of the Damned imagines a future where humanity has spread out of the cradle of Earth and has built for itself a sprawling galactic empire, ruled by a creepy and perverted and highly schizophrenic Emperor who cares more about his own enjoyment rather than the Empire itself. And one of the fighting forces he has at his command is the Legion, a futuristic incarnation of the French Foreign Legion. A lot of the novel deals with the political drama between the Empire’s various armed forces and the invasion by the technologically superior Hudatha, who have been burning world after world. As a whole, Legion of the Damned has some fine concepts, but it doesn’t always go all the way, and some of the concepts even prove to be troublesome. But it is still a novel I’d recommend reading.

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Wolf of Sigmar by C. L. Werner (Book Review)

So ends another Time of Legends trilogy. C. L. Werner’s Black Plague is part of the second wave of trilogies that are part of the overall Time of Legends brand, trilogies that tell the tales of some of the greatest events in the Warhammer Fantasy Battles lore, such as the Fall of the Elves in Gav Thorpe’s The Sundering or the rise of Sigmar in Graham McNeill’s Legends of Sigmar. With his first two books in this trilogy, Herr Werner did something that hadn’t quite been there in other Warhammer novels, fantasy with a strong and intense political edge. This is what I loved best about the first novel Dead Winter and with the second novel Blighted Empire.

In the final novel, released a short while ago, Herr Werner took things further and he really established Black Plague as one of the finest trilogies in Warhammer. The action is superb. The characterisation is superb. The handling of all the different characters and the betrayals and alliances is superb. I honestly could not have asked for more on that front. Wolf of Sigmar went in some unexpected directions and since I’m not all that conversant with Warhammer lore, it proved to be a very satisfying read indeed.

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Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts (Book Review)

When you are a reviewer and an avid reader as I am, you always end up with a mountain of books that grows week by week. And you always have an urge to read even more books because you find something that interests you and that you think could be a fun read. This is one of the reasons why I started my “25 Series To Read In ….” reading challenges (2013, 2014), because I wanted to make a dent in that reading pile. Or try to. For this year’s challenge, one of the series I picked is J. A. Pitts’ urban fantasy trilogy Sarah Beauhall, which has some of the most awesome covers I’ve seen.

The first novel in the series, Black Blade Blues, does a great job of introducing the character and setting up the slice of the world that Pitts has created. It is full of some great characters, Norse mythology, runes, dragons, magic, and more. Quite a potent combination. The Norse mythology connection was one of the other reasons why I wanted to read this series, and the reality has borne out the expectations, because Black Blade Blues was as fantastic a read as I was hoping for. Great story, great characters, great twists.

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World of WarCraft: The Shattering by Christie Golden (Book Review)

As far back as I can remember, the first video game that I owned, good and proper, was the Game of The Year edition of WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness. An elder cousin, on holiday from college in US, got me the game and I was hooked on it immediately. It was my first real taste of a fantasy game like this. I finished both campaigns, Human and Orc, in short order (a few weeks or something), and spent several weeks playing the various maps and stuff. It was awesome. Eventually I played the other games too, and then came World of WarCraft in my senior year of college. And it was magnificent. I was exposed to a type of game I hadn’t imagined before, and it was glorious. And I played a paladin as my main, first as a healer, then as dps, then tank, and then whatever I wanted.

In all of this though, I didn’t read a WarCraft novel until quite late. A friend in college loaned me The Last Guardian by Jeff Grubb. Knowing what I did from the days playing the original WarCraft and then WarCraft II, it was an enthralling book and I loved it. Soon after, I read Christie Golden’s The Rise of The Horde, which stands as one of my favourite fantasy novels to date. Others have followed so far and recently I got the chance to read Christie’s The Shattering, which serves as a prelude to the events of the World of WarCraft expansion Cataclysm. And I think Christie has another hit on her hands with this. I loved this almost as much as I loved The Rise of The Horde and The Last Guardian.

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X-wing: Mercy Kill by Aaron Allston (Book Review)

Just a few short days ago passed the man who brought me into the Star Wars universe with my first ever novel in the setting, X-wing: Starfighters of Adumar. The writer was Aaron Allston, a man who has given me some great reading experiences with his X-wing novels over the years, and is someone I can pick up unreservedly and know that I’m in for a good time. I wrote about his passing and the passion he inspired in me to get stuck into the Star Wars universe in a post here. If you’ve never read a Star Wars novel before, and only know the broad basics, then I’d say Starfighters of Adumar is a great place to start. It mixes in a cameo character from the original movie trilogy with lots of new characters and presents a very interesting world.

Mercy Kill came out a year and a half ago to great fanfare and great anticipation. The X-wing novels have a great pedigree, first shepherded by Mike Stackpole with his Rogue Squadron-centric novels, and then with Aaron as he began with the Wraith Squadron. I’ve read them all, pretty much, and each of them has been quite satisfying. Among the best tie-in novels I’ve read. Mercy Kill, Aaron’s last fanfare with this universe, proves that it deserves to stand there with the best, whether we talk about Rogue Squadron or Wraith Squadron. It really is a wonderful novel that takes a lot of chances and comes out the better for it.

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The Serpent Tower by William King (Book Review)

It wasn’t until 2010 that I found out that one of my favourite Black Library authors, William King, had been on an extended sabbatical from writing anything for the publisher, and that he had spent time working on and developing his own original series, The Terrarch Chronicles. And it wasn’t until 2012 that I finally read the first book in the series, Death’s Angels. It was a pretty damn good and fun fantasy romp, doing a new take on the typical elf-human relationships within epic fantasy. And it was packed with all the typical William King fun that you’d expect, which was a huge bonus.

However, it wasn’t until January this year that I got around to reading the sequel, The Serpent Tower. And reading the novel made me realise just what it was that I was missing. Because the second novel is every bit as good as the first. In fact, it is quite a bit better! It avoids all the typical “mistakes” of a second novel, the so-called “sophomore slump”, and it is a fun and enjoyable novel to read from start to finish. It also helps that Bill significantly ups the ante, and explores more of this world that he built up in Death’s Angels, and showed a much more awe-inspiring side of it.

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2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (Book Review)

Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is a novel that I will never forget. It has the distinction, for me, of being the first ever full-on space opera/science fiction novel that I ever read (I am not counting the young adult Animorphs novels). It was also the first novel I read at my new school in Dubai when we moved there in July 2001 (I read the book sometime late September 2001). To this day, I remember the book very fondly. It started off in an amazing place, and it ended with the most wondrous climax that I’d read to date, and that applies to all the hundreds of novels I’ve read since then.

There is something about nostalgia, and that first book. Frank Herbert’s Dune will always be an amazing masterpiece for me and a true space opera classic, but 2001: A Space Odyssey is a great companion at the top of that table. Clarke’s novel is the one that really set me on the path to reading the wider science fiction and fantasy genres, and that is why it will always have a special place in my heart. Just a few days ago, I re-read the novel for the first time ever since that first reading almost twelve and a half years ago. The sense of wonder and grandeur in the novel is just as compelling today as it was to an inexperienced reader all those years ago. A timeless classic.

Note: This novel is part of my 25 Series To Read In 2014 challenge.

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The Thousand Names by Django Wexler (Book Review)

Django is one of the authors that I discovered through Twitter. And I meant to read his debut last year itself, but didn’t really get a chance to do that. Which is why The Thousand Names is one of the first books that I read this year. I’d long been interested in it, especially given the premise and since it had been getting a lot of positive buzz in the part of the blogosphere that I frequent. And that’s actually quite important to me. If my friends like something, then I am much more liable to check it out, just because of all that buzz.

And with The Thousand Names, the first in Django’s The Shadow Campaigns series, I was quite impressed with it. I’ve been noticing, among all the debuts I’ve been reading in the last two years, that the quality is often quite high indeed. Some really talented authors are making themselves known and I feel really excited to say that Django is right up there too. The Thousand Names is easily one of the best novels that I’ve read since becoming a reviewer and thinking about books and stuff critically. So that’s quite an achievement on a personal level, all things considering.

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Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters (Book Review)

Author and artist team of Tim Marquitz and J. M. Martin got together last year to form their own publishing company, the small press known as Ragnarok Publications. As one of their first projects, they launched a kickstarter for an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories with a very common theme: kaiju. The man with the idea here was Nickolas Sharps, a fellow blogger and writer who had recently seen the movie Pacific Rim and after enjoying the hell out of it, he got the idea to do an anthology about kaiju since it seemed as if the genre was rather sparse in terms of original fiction.

Needless to say, the kickstarter was mightily successful and just yesterday I finished reading the anthology in its entirety. As someone who had a tiny hand in bringing the project together (I suggested some of the authors who were accepted for the anthology), I’m really pleased with the final product. The anthology has exceeded my expectations and I’m quite happy to say that it is one of my most fun readings of the year so far, and we are only like 36 days in! Tim and Nick assembled some great talent for this anthology and their hardwork and that of J. M. has definitely paid off I think.

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Monster Academy: I Will Not Eat People (Book Review)

Matt Forbeck, one of my favourite SFF authors, has a new book releasing today. I Will Not Eat People is the first book in his Monster Academy trilogy of young adult novels which he has written as part of his 12-for-12 writing program. It was his writing challenge for 2012, where he did four kickstarters, one for each trilogy, and was to write a book for each month of the year. Due to delays, some outside his control, he wasn’t able to complete the challenge in the same year, but now the overall project is finally seeing its completion. Monster Academy is the fourth trilogy, and it is off to a great start.

I’ve enjoyed all of Matt’s work that I’ve read to date, some thirteen or so novels at the least, and with each book he has impressed me even more. I find the idea of Monster Academy really fun and seeing the execution of it last month was really fun. The humour is always front and center with this book, but that’s not all of course, and just as with the previous trilogies Dangerous Games and Shotguns & Sorcery there is a strong sense of a murder investigation here, which is thrilling.

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