Category Archives: Book Reviews
Bradley’s Lays of Anuskaya series was on my radar this year thanks to all my Night Shade Books reading last year and it ended up going on my “25 Series To Read In 2013″ challenge. When I read the first book earlier this year in February, I was quite struck with the scope of the world-building and with the characters. Not to mention the fact that I loved the (inspired-by) Russian setting, despite sometimes getting lost with the names and the familiar names. The Winds of Khalakovo is definitely one of my favourite books of the year and Bradley one of my favourite authors.
The second novel, set some time after the events of the first novel, goes further with the world-building and deals in concepts and cultures and locales that we did not see in the first book. That gets some automatic points from me, for sure, because I love that aspect in a second or third novel. Fleshing out the setting created and introduced in the first book is one of the most important things in a sequel that I look for, and Straits of Galahesh is enjoyable for that fact. But, some of the characterisation and the pacing did suffer this time around, so it wasn’t as smooth sailing as the first book.
Ever since I started reading SFF for good back in high school, what I like to call my formative years of reading genre fiction, I’ve read some quite thick books. That was around the time when the Harry Potter novels were extremely popular as well and were following the trend of each new book being thicker and bulkier than the one before, so it was truly an interesting time. In more recent years, I’ve stopped reading big fat SFF novels all that much because I don’t really want to spend all that much time reading a book now. When I was reading like 3-4 novels a year, it was fine to spend a couple weeks on these books, but these days my daily life is far too fast-paced for me to be that slow.
While Scott Lynch’s debut novel The Lies of Locke Lamora isn’t quite the thicket fantasy novel I’ve read to date, its certainly one that’s taken me the longest, almost an entire week during which I barely kept up with my comics reading and blogging. The novel was that much of a slog throughout. I started reading it since I’d gotten caught in all the excitement of the release of the third book in the series, and I kind of wanted to see what all the buzz was about. So I had some high expectations going in, but few of them ended up being met and the novel generally proved to be a poor one with a lackadaisical plot, some uninteresting and bland characters, and limited world-building.
When I compiled my list of “51 Most Anticipated Novels of 2013“, I put Chris Wraight’s Blood of Asaheim on it because I had really liked his first full-length 40k novel, The Battle of the Fang for the Space Marines Battle series. He gave a really nice depth to the Space Wolves with that book, and he brought together the disparate portrayals of the 40k Space Wolves by William King’s classic novels and Dan Abnett’s Horus Heresy piece, Prospero Burns. I love the former, but I detest the latter. Chris Wraight gave me a nice middle ground between the two and that’s what I hoped that Blood of Asaheim would be. It wasn’t.
Blood of Asaheim isn’t tied to Battle of the Fang in any direct way. They are both novels about the Space Wolves Chapter, but where the previous novel is set 1,000 years after the Horus Heresy, Blood of Asaheim is set in the current 40k timeline, one where Ragnar Blackmane is the Wolf Lord of his own Great Company, as per the character’s history as set in the tabletop lore. Chris Wraight offers up several new characters and the premise itself is an interesting one, but unfortunately the execution turned out to be pretty flawed because it was essentially repetitive material.
This is the year that Wizards of the Coast goes really big. They are in the midst of launching the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons and to tie-in with that they are releasing a series of linked novels that tell of how all the changes to the D&D settings, such as the Forgotten Realms, end up happening. Each book is written by Wizards’ top talent and links to existing series. Bob Salvatore’s The Companions is the first tale of The Sundering and it is also the latest novel in Dark Elf Drizzt Do’Urden’s epic saga that has lasted for a great number of novels.
Paul S. Kemp’s latest, The Godborn, is the second book in The Sundering and it is also the latest in his Erevis Cale series that has lasted for seven novels thus far and doesn’t look like its going to stop anytime soon. I read the novel last month and it proved to be just as damn good a read as the previous two trilogies. There were a lot of plot threads left open at the end of the Twilight War trilogy, even as Paul provided a very satisfying, but emotional, conclusion. With the new novel, he addresses many of them and creates yet more mysteries, maintaining a healthy balance between the two.
In recent years, C. L. Werner has emerged as one of my favourite Black Library authors, especially through his short fiction. Primarily writing in the Warhammer Fantasy setting with an occasional foray into Warhammer 40,000 I think of him as one of the more technically sound authors and someone who can tell complex stories and complex characters really well. He showed that with Dead Winter last year, his first Black Plague novel for the Time of Legends meta-series. It was political epic fantasy at its best and showed a cross-section of the Empire and its enemies at one of the lowest points in the former’s history.
Earlier this year the second novel in the trilogy was released, which I got to read last month. I’ve been really neglectful of my Black Library reading this year, so I haven’t had a chance to read all the books that I’ve wanted to. But what little I’ve read has been quite good and Blighted Empire is a great example of that.
I’ve talked before about Matt’s super-crazy plan to write a dozen novels last year, a project that he called 12-for-12 which specifically called for him to write one 50k novel a month for every month of 2012. He didn’t quite get to complete the project, since he also undertook comic gigs and wrote novels as work-for-hire, aside from other events, but it was still a superhuman feat. He’s been working on the novels this year as well and has already released nine of the novels, three separate trilogies with different themes and settings, to great fanfare and a hell of a reception. While I loved his Brave New World trilogy and his Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy was another good one, its really his Dangerous Games trilogy that I have really, really enjoyed.
Set at the premier gaming convention in the West, GenCon, this trilogy is a thriller/crime novel that makes full use of Matt’s experiences as a tabletop/board/card game designer and his attendance of the convention itself for the last several years. If ever you needed a window into a geek con through the lens of a contemporary novel, this is the trilogy you need to be reading.
Just about a year and a half ago, I read my first ever books from Wizards of the Coast: Paul S. Kemp’s excellent The Erevis Cale Trilogy (review). Set in WotC’s highly popular Forgotten Realms setting, these books took me for a great ride through a setting incredibly rich with characters and diversity. It was a… bold new world for me to explore, as someone who had never read any Forgotten Realms novels before, and who was heavily invested in Games Workshop’s Warhammer Fantasy setting. Paul’s books proved to be a great turning point and they inspired me to read more from WotC, and I soon followed up his novels with various others, such as the War of the Spider Queen series and Erin M. Evans’ Brimstone Angels series.
This year, I haven’t read nearly the same number of Forgotten Realms novels sadly, but I’ve started to change that around. I read R. A. Salvatore’s The Companions (review) just last month and a couple weeks ago I finished up Paul’s second Erevis Cale trilogy, Twilight War, constituting the novels Shadowbred, Shadowstorm and Shadowrealm. This trilogy proved to be even better than the first, and I’m really glad that I read it. Now I’m finally caught up with this series, right in preparation for reading Paul’s next Forgotten Realms novel, The Godborn, which is the seventh novel in this series and is the second novel that ties in to the current Forgotten Realms event, The Sundering.
A few days ago I came across a review of Mark Lawrence’s second Broken Empire novel, King of Thorns (link), which is up for nomination for the David Gemmell Legend Awards in the Legend category. The Legend Award is given to the Best Novel of the previous year. On Twitter and Facebook, I talked about how that review justified all my reasons and fears for not reading further into this series after my experiences with the first novel, Prince of Thorns (review).
My tweets eventually spawned off a discussion about negative reviews, which led into the review that forms the basis and reason for this entire post. In January last year, reviewer Liz Bourke wrote about Michael J. Sullivan’s first Riyria Revelations novel, Theft of Swords (link). This review was brought to my attention by a friend on Twitter who had taken exception to the way that Liz Bourke took potshots at the author and his editors at Orbit Books.
Going through the review and the comments thread, some things become apparent to me as to the intent of the review, the tone it is written in, and what, ultimately, were the reactions. However, what really ended up happening was that it all sparked off some self-examination about negative reviews. And that’s what this post is all about.
So welcome to another Publishing and Marketing blogpost.
Earlier this year, in January, I set myself a very particular reading challenge. The goal of this reading challenge was to read through 25 different SFF series (link), from across the genres and across times. To be specific, I wanted to read through at least 12 of these various series, to get a start on them. I hit that mark sometime in July, with Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy #1: The Assassin’s Apprentice (review). As of last month, I added another notch to that reading challenge by reading Jaye Wells’ first Sabina Kane novel, The Red-Headed Stepchild.
Throughout the year, I’ve read all sorts of novels, good, bad, decent, meh, everything. Fortunately, Jaye’s novel proved to be one of the better ones. Urban Fantasy wasn’t all that big a genre for me until late last year and since then I’ve had a lot of fun with the genre. For me, The Red-Headed Stepchild stands as one of the better examples of the genre, a really fun and interesting story throughout, with a hell of a lot things to recommend itself.
Being withing the publishing-related blogosphere, etiquette is becoming ever more important day by day. Week on week there is some instance where etiquette breaks down and some kind of meltdown happens. Last year was especially notorious in that regard with several controversies stemming from reviews over at Goodreads where authors and their posse attacked reviewers for negative comments or even vice versa where reviewers (Goodreads reviewers to be specific) engaged in deliberate author baiting.
It was so bad for a while, in my opinion, that it was as if Goodreads was just going to implode and gain a certain notoriety to such an extent that authors would just give up on the site altogether. Fortunately, that never happened.
In recent times, it has all been replaced by a beast of another kind: reviewers baiting each other or authors engaging in some really despicable bigoted thinking that is absolutely vile (no, I’m not referring to a certain “master” SF author here). The latest example of the reviewer baiting happened a few days ago over at Fantasy Faction. And the culprit happened to be none other than “Overlord” Marc Aplin, who runs the site and is its chief editor.