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Ravnica: City of Guilds by Cory J. Herndon (Book Review)

My first substantial introduction to the world of Magic the Gathering was through the comics written by Matt Forbeck for IDW Publishing. They introduced me to the planeswalker thief Dack Fayden through some really fun adventures across the Multiverse. Since then, I’ve taken up the game itself, and now I play fairly regularly and follow tournament coverage as well. Naturally, my interests would also lead me to other Magic fiction, specifically the novels, and I’ve read a few of them in the last couple of years, the most recent being Cory J. Herndon’s Ravnica: City of Guilds.

The first of the Ravnica Cycle trilogy, this novel follows a lieutenant of the League of Wojek, Agrus Kos, as he undertakes a murder investigation that draws him into a conspiracy that will shake up the entire world of Ravnica. As a fan of the setting, I really appreciated Herndon’s detailed descriptions of Ravnica and its many citizens, which really helped to bring the world alive in my mind. I’m not familiar with any of the characters here, but that’s the thing about Ravnica: City of Guilds, you don’t have to know anything about Magic the Gathering to enjoy it, though that does help.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: BFZ Spoilers Week 1

About a week ago, I ran a post in my Adventures In Magic the Gathering series that talked about the various (or, most of) cards revealed for the upcoming block (and set) Battle For Zendikar, during the Magic the Gathering Worlds Championship during PAX Prime. There were some rather huge announcements during these previews, not the least of which was a reveal of the new cards for iconic characters like Gideon and Ulamog, but also tasty tidbits for collectors such as the Zendikar Expeditions promos and the new rare lands cycle for the set. And then in this last week, we’ve barely gotten any spoilers, likely due to the fact that Wizards of The Coast frontloaded so much during PAX, but now we are back in spoiler territory, so let’s kick off.

This is only week 1 of spoilers, as counted on the Wizards website, so we still have a long way to go, especially since so far we know only about a third of the entire set. But at the same time, many of these spoilers were really good, especially the new Kiora planeswalker and the new Wrath effect. Or all the cool new allies. Or even the new lands cycle to be found in the set (making it one of two, though only one is actually brand new), though the entire cycle is undoubtedly split between Battle For Zendikar, and its sequel set for next year, Oath of The Gatewatch. So let’s get to them!

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Best of 2014 Part 2a: Novels

Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.

With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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12 Days of Best Covers of 2014: Day #3

The third book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for Christie Golden’s World of WarCraft tie-in novel The Shattering: Prelude To The Cataclysm. This novel marked a resurgence of my interest in reading tie-in fiction outside of Warhammer, Star Wars or Star Trek, and took me back to the days when I first read The Last Guardian and Rise of The Horde, two of the best WoW novels I’ve read to date. And since I never got to play the Cataclysm expansion properly at level, this prequel novel did much to soothe that longing.

The third set of comic covers I pick this year are for Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 #1 by Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs, with the cover done by Steve Morris, and the second one is for Superior Spider-Man Annual #2, also by Christos Gage, though he worked with pencillers Javier Rodriguez and Philippe Briones on this one, with the cover done by Michael Del Mundo. The former marked my first foray into reading Buffy comics, though I had read some of the Angel & Faith comics before that and the latter was another dip into the Superior Spider-Man territory, the premise of which I find rather intriguing, to say the least and love it as well.

So without further ado, hit the break to see both the covers in all their glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.

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The Doom of Dragonback by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

Dwarfs and Gav Thorpe have a long relationship since some of the earliest days of Black Library’s Warhammer Fantasy fiction, much as is the case with him and the Dark Angels in Warhammer 40,000. I’ve read some of his Warhammer work to date, though not all, and his Time of Legends: The Sundering series stands as some of the best books I’ve read from him to date, though they don’t quite hold the same fascination for me as does his Warhammer 40,000 or Horus Heresy works. Still, whenever Gav writes something in WHF, I do sit up and take notice since he happens to be one of my favourite writers.

And his latest is The Doom of Dragonback, a novel set in a post-War of Vengeance Old World where the dwarfs are still recovering from their decades long war with the elves, who have themselves withdrawn from much of the land and are nursing their own wounds in their homeland, Ulthuan. Following the adventures of various dwarfs of Ekrund, The Doom of Dragonback is the story of how a mighty dwarf hold can fall to orcs and goblins, and how tenuous and fleeting life can be in such an environment. As has been the case of late for me with Gav’s work, the novel is among the best of his works, for he does lots of things here that are different from the norm.

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Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Double Review)

With the upcoming release of Myke’s second novel, Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier in the first quarter of 2013, I was one of the reviewers invited to review the book as I’d previously reviewed the first novel, Control Point. And the great thing is that Fortress Frontier is a much better novel than Control Point, especially since it has a much better protagonist and the story is much more interesting as well. If you liked Control Point, then Fortress Frontier is definitely going to be a better experience in almost all respects.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole (Book Review)

Myke Cole is another 2012 debut author I discovered in that same year. His first novel Shadow Ops: Control Point presented an interesting world where magic and technology exist side by side and where governments around the world use magically-empowered special forces. It was a fun novel, albeit a protagonist who made it really tough to like him, and is one that I can certainly recommend, if only because of the world-building and the fact that it does get better towards the end.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Best of 2014 Part 1a: Novels

This post is coming in at a slightly later time than I’d prefer, about two weeks late at least, but I guess I can’t really “complain” when the lateness is due to my own wedding which took place exactly two weeks ago on the 5th. It has certainly been a very busy and intense time, what with being engrossed in all the marriage stuff and then even after that there’s been one thing after another. Reading time has definitely suffered greatly, which makes me a little sad considering how much I love reading, but eh, all for a good cause really.

With half the year now over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st January to 30th June. There’s been a ton of books that I’ve read in this period as usual, and I made a very strong effort to read more tie-in fiction than I usually do, so the list is most assuredly going to reflect that. Tie-in fiction is a very important part of the publishing industry I feel and it always deserves some recognition. Now if we could only get an award started that celebrated tie-in fiction and all would be alright with the world. Or so my thinking goes.

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War by Christie Golden (Audio Review)

Quite unintentionally, I’ve started on a sort of WarCraft kick this year as far as my reading is concerned. First it was The Shattering: Prelude to the Cataclysm and then it was Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, novels that were set in the World of WarCraft: Cataclysm expansion, and they both proved to be really good reads all the way through. They also helped me reconnect with a game that I’d long stopped playing, and the hit of nostalgia was pretty strong. and also very enjoyable. And since Christie Golden is such a good writer, the experience was better than I’d expected.

Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War is both the epilogue to World of WarCraft: Cataclysm and the prologue to the next expansion, Mists of Pandaria. In this novel, we see how the calculated brutality and savagery of Garrosh Hellscream turns Jaina Proudmoore from a pacifist to one intent on the path of vengeance. It is one of the most stunning character reversals I’ve seen in fiction for a long while, Christie handles it with aplomb. Some of the usual deficiencies of Christie’s writing are evident here, but by and large this novel was a damn good read and very emotional too.

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Superior Spider-Man Annual #2 (Comics Review)

In just a couple of weeks, Marvel’s most controversial title to date will be coming to an end very soon. Under the guidance of writer Dan Slott, Superior Spider-Man has been one of the most polarising titles released from the publisher, coming as it did on the heels of Peter Parker’s death and Otto Octavius taking on the superhero’s mantle. But now, in April, we will be seeing the dead hero come back alive in Amazing Spider-Man #1, and that means Superior Spider-Man is over. For the moment though, we have Christos Gage and Javier Rodriguez’s latest Superior Spider-Man Annual to consider.

 To date, I’ve only read the first two volumes and the first annual for this series. When I read the first arc, I was pretty taken in with Dan Slott’s writing, and Ramos’ art. The second arc proved to be even better. And then there was the first annual, with which Christos Gage made me a fan of the series and the hero. I didn’t get a chance to read more, since I had to do arc catch-ups, but Christos’ writing has been damn good fun. In the new annual, he takes a moment to cover some of the lesser characters, like Phil and Ben Urich, and Norah Winters and Carlie Cooper. Which was excellent. And the art by Javier for the main story and by Philip Briones for the backup was just as good, if not better.

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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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