Category Archives: Book Reviews

Horus Heresy: Mark of Calth by Laurie Goulding (Book Review)

In the wake of Black Library switching and changing the printing schedules and formats of its flagship Horus Heresy series back in late 2012, I fell off with the series in early 2013. Where before I read the publisher’s novels pretty much as soon as they were released or just prior, months went by before I read anything, and this applied more so to Horus Heresy since I preferred to wait for the regular paperback editions. As such, I am significantly behind in my reading, though the experience of catching up has been fairly delightful thus far, especially with their various audio dramas. I got back on track back in May with Nick Kyme’s Vulkan Lives, and that reignited my interest in the series, though I haven’t been able to read another Heresy novel until just a few days prior.

Mark of Calth is the twenty-fifth novel in the series and to read this one, there isn’t a lot that someone needs to have read already, which is great really. The anthology kicks off from Dan Abnett’s fairly amazing Know No Fear from 2012 and it expands upon a lot of the minor arcs in that novel, as well as setting the stage for more future stories. Guy Haley, David Annandale, Graham McNeill and Anthony Reynolds deliver some really good stories, with lots of action packed in, while the stories by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Dan Abnett, Rob Sanders and John French are good but do miss the mark in some ways.

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Banished by Liz de Jager (Book Review)

I haven’t had much of a chance to read debut novels this year, but I have read a few since this is sort of an unofficial challenge for me, to see how many debuts I can read in a year alongside all my other reading. Debut novels offer something very interesting and part of that is finding out a new voice, a new style, a new character, and a new story and world to go along with all of that. Of course, some debuts are good, some are bad. Some are really awesome, some are really terrible. It really runs the entire slider scale. And when a good friend and (former) fellow blogger makes it as a debut, then I have even more of a reason to read his/her book.

Banished is Liz de Jager’s first novel, and it is a superbly-crafted urban fantasy tale that takes some baseline genre concepts and then does quite an interesting twist on all of it, something that really works out well by the end. Kit Blackhart has become one of my favourite characters of the year, by far, and a lot of that is owing to how well she is characterized by Liz and the sorts of adventures that she gets dragged along into. And I really loved the whole “two minutes to midnight” feel of the story as well, which provided ample stakes and tension for the reader to latch on to.

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Forgotten Realms: Forsaken House by Richard Baker (Book Review)

It has been a good long while since I’ve read a Forgotten Realms novel. The last one was in December of last year, Elfshadow by Elaine Cunningham. It was a fairly good read, but I’ve definitely read better, from the works of Erin M. Evans and Paul S. Kemp and Richard Baker and all. It is definitely a setting that I love exploring and the more I read in it, the more excited I get about it. Forgotten Realms fully explores the multiverse side of things for a fantasy setting, and that is part of the charm, in addition to the utter abundance and wonder of its many different races and cultures and what not.

And in that respect, Richard Baker’s first novel in the Last Mythal Saga, Forsaken House, is really good. It presents many different facets of Elf life in the Forgotten Realms and it also presents a really fast-paced, excitable and intriguing premise paired with some really interesting characters. The only other novel of Richard’s I’ve read before this is his Condemnation, the third novel in the 6-part War of the Spider Queen multi-author extravaganza and that too was a damn fine read. It is great to see Richard’s best replicated here, and the Last Mythal Saga is definitely a tale that I want to read in full now.

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Star Trek: The Poisoned Chalice by James Swallow (Book Review)

Star Trek: The Fall has proven to be a most enjoyable event series from all that I’ve read. My interest was piqued because of the cover to Una McCormack’s Crimson Shadow, and diving into the four-part series with David R. George III’s Revelation and Dust proved to be a good place to get back into the status quo of Star Trek tie-in novel fiction. The nature of these books, taking a look at several major characters and crew and locations of this wonderful universe has been the major attraction for sure, and I really applaud the creators and the publisher for going this route.

The Poisoned Chalice is meant to be the cap-stone to this wonderful series, and it does fulfill that promise. James Swallow has been one of my favourite writers for a number of years, ever since 2006 when I started reading his Warhammer 40,000 novels. He has never really disappointed after an initial hurdle and his output in recent years has been top-notch. The Poisoned Chalice clearly is among his best works to date and it brings this series to a close in a spectacular fashion, with all that’s best about the Star Trek universe and none of the drawbacks.

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The Plague Forge by Jason M. Hough (Book Review)

Last year Jason M. Hough put out one of the best debut novels of the year, one that I even put on my “Best 2013 Debuts” list at the end of the year. The Darwin Elevator was a really fun and fast-paced action SF novel set in a post-apocalyptic future where the only remaining mass of humanity is concentrated in what used to be the (roughly) coastal city of Darwin, Australia and where humanity’s lifeline to the stars, a space elevator built by mysterious aliens, is located. He followed it up with The Exodus Towers and that too was a great read, though not as good as the predecessor. Still, they were both enough for me to love Jason’s writing and I’ve been looking for time to read the final novel ever since.

I finally got the chance to read The Plague Forge last month and the experience proved to be worth the wait for it falls squarely between the previous two novels and he gives quite a resounding conclusion to the Dire Earth Cycle trilogy. The revelations at the end are mind-boggling indeed, and though the ending is rather natural, there are also plenty of hooks for Jason to return to this setting at a later time, which I sincerely hope he does. But in the meantime, I had as much fun reading The Plague Forge as I did the other two novels, and I loved how he closed out the story of all the characters, whether I hated or loved them.

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Star Trek: A Ceremony of Losses by David Mack (Book Review)

In the last year, roughly, I’ve slowly gotten back on track with reading Star Trek novels. First with James Swallow’s Cast No Shadow last year, and then with the first two books in the Typhon Pact: The Fall 5-book series this year, the experience has reminded me again and again of how and why I fell in love with Star Trek in the first place. The aforementioned series also happens to be on my “25 Series To Read in 2014” reading challenge list as well, and is one of the more rocking series I’ve had the pleasure of reading as part of that challenge. The first book Revelation and Dust was slow-paced and a bit too complex but the second one The Crimson Shadow really blew my mind. Going into the third book, I wanted more the latter and none of the former.

A Ceremony of Losses is written by Star Trek stalwart David Mack and is definitely among the finest examples of tie-in fiction I’ve read to date, in the context of the best novels I’ve read to date in the Stargate, Star Wars, Star Trek, Warhammer, WarCraft and a bunch of others. This time the focus of this novel is on the Andorian fertility crisis and the consequences of the Andorians’ secession from the Federation two years ago. And our characters are also much different, although many of them are drawn from Revelation and Dust since one half of the novel takes place on the newly consecrated Deep Space 9 and on Bajor. Just as Una McCormack did with The Crimson Shadow, so does David Mack with A Ceremony of Losses and presents one of the finest examples of Star Trek fiction.

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Rebellion by Lou Morgan (Book Review)

Lou Morgan’s 2012 debut Blood and Feathers proved to be one of the best novels I’d read that year, and also a fine guide in my exploration of the urban fantasy genre which started that very year with Chris F. Holm’s Dead Harvest from Angry Robot Books. Blood and Feathers was a great read but it missed the mark a little, yet it was good enough that I looked forward to reading the sequel Rebellion, which was released in early 2012. However, I couldn’t get the time to read it then, which is why I made the effort to finally get through it last month. And it proved to be every bit as good as its predecessor.

Rebellion continues the story of Alice as she tries to find her place in a world where the Fallen have left Hell in a mass exodus and are causing all sorts of trouble in her world. This is also the world where the Archangel Michael will stop at nothing to destroy Lucifer once and for all, even if it means sacrificing his own people, or that of the other Archangels. Rebellion is much more cerebral and fascinating than its predecessor, and that’s what I loved most about it, in the end. That was exactly what I was looking for in the novel and Lou Morgan delivered on that front quite handsomely.

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Magician by Raymond E. Feist (Book Review)

Raymond E. Feist’s Magician remains, to this day, one of the finest examples of traditional epic fantasy that I’ve read. When I started out reading epic fantasy/space opera back in freshman year of high school, it was one of the very first books I read, soon after J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and soon after Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Dragonlance Chronicles. That was a really great time for me, because I was discovering so many great books one after the other, and there was something about the adventures of Pug and Tomas and their friends that really drew me in to this world that Feist had created.

Magician is primarily the tale of two boyhood friends’ rise to power from extremely humble beginnings, one the son of kitchen servants to a frontier (but politically powerful) Duke, and the other an orphan with none to claim him. Tomas and Pug experience some really extraordinary adventures in their rise to power and together they become embroiled in some really amazing and epic events that date back to thousands of years in their world’s past. Full of exciting action, interesting characters, a really epic plot and a truly wonderful setting, Magician is a must-read massive novel as far as I’m concerned.

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The Enceladus Crisis by Michael J. Martinez (Book Review)

Michael J. Martinez debuted last year with his novel The Daedalus Incident. The book had a bit of a rough time around its release since the publisher Night Shade Books went under and was eventually bought up by Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing. The release was delayed and when it finally arrived, it quickly became a hit, as far as I’m concerned. I’d read the book much earlier and I had enjoyed it quite a bit, so I followed all the news with an interest. A shame that the book was delayed so, but the end result was positive, so that’s the silver lining. Michael wrote a really fantastical novel that merged the fantasies of alchemy and the Age of Sail with space opera and the sequel was something that I looked forward to a great deal.

The Enceladus Crisis is the second novel in Michael The Daedalus series and if anything, it is a better novel than The Daedalus Incident. Michael continues the story of Lt. Cmdr. Shaila Jain as she is finally given her dream job of commanding a ship of exploration to the Saturn system and at the same time we also touch base with Captain Thomas Weatherby who is now a much respected captain of His Majesty’s Royal Navy. But in a twist, while only two years have passed for Shaila Jain and her friends in the near-future, in the alternate reality of Thomas Weatherby almost two decades have passed, and the worlds of these two explorers and heroes are set to collide once again for a very dramatic showdown in the end.

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Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (Book Review)

Looks like I’m back to talking about another space opera this time, which is fine for me of course since I said last time that this is a genre that I absolutely love and am always up for reading more of it. And given all of that, I’m definitely making more of an effort to read more space opera this year than the last two years combined. Will see how that works out. More so since I have quite a few space opera novels on my “25 Series To Read In 2014” reading challenge, both tie-in fiction and original fiction alike. A few days ago it was Jack Campbell’s first Lost Fleet novel, and this time it is John Scalzi’s first Old Man’s War novel.

Bearing the same name as the series, Old Man’s War is exactly what the title says. In the mid-distant future, Mankind has colonised outward from Earth, but resources and habitable planets are both scarce and this means that our species runs up against other alien races constantly for those same resources and habitable planets. And in the midst of all this, the military forces of Mankind are staffed by the elderly, and this comes with a rather surprising twist that really makes the whole experience worth it. I definitely enjoyed this first book, and will be reading the next two for sure, eventually.

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Heirs of the Demon King: Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell (Book Review)

When I started getting back into the Warhammer universes back in 2010, one of the authors that I was following at the time was Sarah Cawkwell, a relatively recent addition to the ranks of Black Library authors who had written quite a few short stories around the time and who then went on to write two fantastic novels as well, one of which was her debut even! In all this time, Sarah has definitely emerged as one of my favourite authors and this is why I was really excited late last year when I found out that she was having her first full-length original novel published very soon. As someone transferring over from her Warhammer work, I was really anticipating the novel.

And it turns out that Uprising, the first novel of the Heirs of the Demon King series, is almost what I expected it to be (one of my 41 Most Anticipated Titles of 2014). Instead of the war-torn far future or the eternal war of the “old world”, this time Sarah tackles historical fiction and the series is built upon the premise that when Richard the Lionheart returned from his victories in the Holy Land, he brought back magic to England, and changed the course of history forever. The novel then follows some of Richard’s descendants and several magi as they clash over the best way to save the world from the evil designs of a most cunning villain, someone who intends to drown the world in blood and war.

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Dauntless by Jack Campbell (Book Review)

Space Opera. The one genre in fiction that I love above epic fantasy. We go back a long way. Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Sarah Cawkwell, Timothy Zahn, Rachel Bach, Graham McNeill, Una McCormack, Guy Haley, Jean Johnson, David Annandale, Paul S. Kemp, Gav Thorpe, James Swallow, these and more authors have shaped my reading over the years and each one of them has provided something different from the norm. There is a certain allure, a certain charm, a certain seduction in space opera that I really enjoy and there has rarely been a novel in the genre that I haven’t liked.

Joining all these amazing authors is the name Jack Campbell, the pseudonym for noted SF author John G. Hemry, and the title in question is the first in his Lost Fleet series, Dauntless (part of my 25-in-14 reading challenge). Every thing that I love about space opera and far-future science fiction, Jack Campbell provides aplenty in this novel, although the balance is weighted towards character development rather than the action, which is fine with me. It makes for a refreshingly different type of read and that is something that I am definitely in favour of. Onwards and upwards with Dauntless!

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