Category Archives: Book Review

A review of a book in the fantasy genre.

I’m Looking for Reviewers for my Novel

Hi All,

 

This is an open request to any fantasy aficionados out there. I have previously published the novels “Drasmyr” and “The Children of Lubrochius.” “Drasmyr” is the prequel, and “The Children of Lubrochius” is Book I in my series “From the Ashes of Ruin.” I am nearing the final stages of Book II “The Sceptre of Morgulan” and I’m looking for reviewers. If you have read the prequel and Book I, great, I’m hoping you will consider reading Book II and reviewing it for me in exchange for a free download (ebook only). If you have not read any of my books, I’d like to recruit you to review all three: “Drasmyr,” “The Children of Lubrochius,” and “The Sceptre of Morgulan.” Deal will be the same: free ebooks (all 3) in exchange for an honest review of each (although “Drasmyr” is free for everyone). If you start the series and decide you don’t wish to continue, let me know and I will drop your name from my list of reviewers. No hard feelings.

 

Just for your information, although a vampire has a major role in this series it is not a romantic role. The vampire in this series is evil; he’s kind of my sinister alter-ego. It is nothing like “Twilight.” The series as a whole could best be described as a cross between “Dracula” and “The Lord of the Rings,” or perhaps an AD&D style story. Additionally, you should be informed that I am planning two more books for this series, so that in the end it’ll be a four book series with a prequel, or five books in all.

 

I would ask that all reviewers post a review on Amazon and on Smashwords. Especially Smashwords.

 

If you are interested, send me a DM on Twitter: @MatthewDRyan1. Then we can exchange e-mails and go from there.

 

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Matthew D. Ryan

Author of “Drasmyr” and “The Children of Lubrochius.”

 

Book Review: Firefight (2015: Brandon Sanderson) (4 ½ *’s)

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson is the second book in his series The Reckoners. It is a young adult novel. In a nutshell, the series is about evil super-heroes (called Epics) and the attempts of common humans to take them down. Basically, it’s set in an alternate Earth where a strange cosmic occurrence happens—a burning red star-like object appears in the sky—and a small sub-population of the humans inhabiting Earth are granted supernatural abilities. The first book in the series was entitled Steelheart (click to see my review) and it dealt with the destruction of the powerful Epic of the same name. The main character in both that tale and this one is a common human named David who has joined the underground resistance known as “The Reckoners.” They are led by a mysterious man referred to as Prof (for professor) who unbeknownst to many (although not David) is a powerful Epic himself who has sworn off using his abilities.

In the book Firefight, David leaves his home of Newcago (Chicago) and travels with his group of Reckoners to Babylon Restored (a borough of Manhattan). Although the Reckoners have a purpose there—to take down the ruling Epic and all other Epics in her service—David has plans of his own. He wants to find another powerful Epic—Firefight—an illusionist Epic who served in the Prof’s command undercover for Steelheart in the preceding novel. Basically, David has a crush on her, or perhaps is even in love with her, and he believes he can save her and convince to keep from using her powers so she will be normal. This sets up conflict with the Reckoners, because Prof wants her dead as he wants all the Epics dead.

Strengths: this is Brandon Sanderson’s work, so the strengths are many. The writing, of course, was excellent. It also had good, believable characters with well-developed personalities and emotions. Lots of conflict and tension. An interesting, convoluted plot (but not too much); I could follow everything without getting too confused. The twists and turns of the story were clever: some I saw coming, others I did not. It was a very enjoyable read. Weaknesses: maybe the fact that I saw some of the twists coming could count against it, but not by me. I prefer a novel I can follow that doesn’t become so convoluted everything seems forced.

Ultimately, I’ll give Brandon Sanderson’s Firefight four and a half stars out of five.

Book Review: Stardust (Neil Gaiman) (3 ½ *’s)

Stardust is the second novel of Neil Gaiman’s that I’ve read. The other was The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Like Ocean, Stardust is a relatively short novel with reasonably long chapters that were broken up into short subsections. I saw the movie a few years back. I enjoyed the movie, so I figured I’d give the book a go. It was an easy quick read; in fact, I read the entire novel in a single day. The main character in the novel is a seventeen-year-old young man by the name of Tristran, who is hopelessly besotted with the youthful beauty Victoria. In a fit of indifference, hoping to put off Tristran and his advances, Victoria says she will give him whatever he wants, if he finds the star they both witness falling. Much to her surprise, Tristran agrees and heads out of town in pursuit. There is a catch, of course; it’s called Faerie.

Tristran and Victoria live in a town called Wall, named because it has grown up in the shadow of a long wall separating our world from the world of Faerie that lies on the other side of the wall. There is a hole in the wall, a gateway between the two worlds. Once every nine years the two worlds meet in something of a Faerie Market which is held on the Faerie side of the wall for three days. It is quite the event, and it was a liaison there between Tristran’s father and a captured Faerie woman that led to Tristran’s birth. Tristran does not yet know that he is half Faerie, but his quest to please Victoria will lead him on many revealing adventures. It is this quest which consumes the bulk of the story. Tristran does find the star he is looking for, but it is not anything like what he expects. Still, he endeavors to bring it back to Victoria, no matter the cost.

Strengths: the prose was excellent; the characters were reasonably well-developed given the time and space the author had. The plot was okay: Perhaps the natural surprise and intrigue suffered because I had seen the movie previously. Weaknesses: I take issue with a few things. There were several elements in the novel that jarred on me because they seemed more appropriate for an adult book than something written in the Fairy-Tale type of style and tone that Stardust seemed to embody to me. There was a sex scene (although not too graphic), and a few profanities like p*** (which isn’t a really big one), and also f***. Like I said, they just didn’t fit the tone of the novel as a whole and were therefore kind of jarring. In any event, the novel never really gripped me. It wasn’t bad. It just lacked something I can’t define.

I’ll give Neil Gaiman’s Stardust three and a half stars out of five.

Book Review: Emperor of Thorns (Mark Lawrence) (4 *’s)

Emperor of Thorns is the third book of Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series. You can find my reviews of the preceding books here: Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns. I’ve been looking forward to this book, and I enjoyed it considerably. It continues the story of Jorg Ancrath, now a king, 20 (I think) years of age. He’s still ruthless and basically corrupt, but he has grown to care for his pregnant wife and soon-to-be born son. And now he has his eyes set on the throne of the Emperor which has been vacant for over one hundred years.

The story begins with Jorg Ancrath and a small contingent of his loyal forces being escorted by the Gilden Guards to the formal meeting of the kings to select an emperor called the Congression. Much of the present day tale follows him and his journey on the road. He encounters undead creatures of various sorts: common undead soldiers, and more powerful lichkin. Throughout there are flashbacks to Jorg’s adventures five years ago when he traveled to radiation poisoned lands in search of ancient technology, the land of the Moors to meet a powerful caliph and his mathmagician, and to Vyene, the seat of the empire. He has his trials and tribulations along the way, influenced by both modern magic and ancient technologies (that’s kind of a funny twist I just noticed: modern magic and ancient technology). The whole leads to a climax in the Empire’s throne room where he confronts the horror of horrors: the Dead King, leader of the unholy armies of the dead.

Strengths: the writing was excellent, the story gripping and sufficiently convoluted to keep me engaged, and the plot was well done. Weaknesses: I’ve said in my prior two reviews that I was not fond of the character of Jorg as a main character since he’s basically evil. He’s grown on me to a certain extent, and I do enjoy his adventures now. He’s grown a little: he cares somewhat for his wife and even more for his son. That doesn’t justify anything he’s done, and makes the juxtaposition between himself and savior of the realms an odd one, to say the least. Finally, I was raised Catholic and the prevalent corruption throughout his Church did not appeal to me. He can paint his Church any way he likes, of course, and the modern Catholic Church has known some well-deserved criticism for its moral failings at times, but not one of the priests in these novels really measured up to any of the priests I have known in my life.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book and I’ll give Emperor of Thorns four stars out of five.

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (4 *’s) (2015)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies completes the story begun in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and continued in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The movie stars Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Richard Armitage (Thorin), Luke Evans (Bard) and a whole host of other actors and stars including Cate Blanchett (Galadriel), Hugo Weaving (Elrond), and Christopher Lee (Saruman).

The story picks up where the last movie left off. Smaug is destroying Lake Town and only Bard the archer can hope to stop him with the last remaining black arrow. It is a tense scene, worth witnessing, but suffice it to say, Smaug’s screen time in this movie is probably less than five minutes. He’s in at the beginning, then he’s dead. Then the real challenges begin: for Bard, it is finding refuge for the survivors of Lake Town. For Thorin, it is keeping the Lonely Mountain in the hands of the dwarves. For Bilbo, it is being a true friend to Thorin and company, seeking the best for them, despite what they might think. Soon, there is an army of humans, and an army of Elves on the doorstep of the mountain. The entrance is walled off and fortified, but Thorin and company are only twelve in number. They send word to Dain of the Iron Hills via a thrush and shortly an army of Dwarves arrive on the scene. It looks like there is about to be bloodshed between the Elves and the Dwarves when an army of Orcs arrives. A foe everybody can hate. There is much bloodshed and chaos. Thorin has his final epic struggle with the pale orc, Azog. Some of the company die. The dwarf-elf love interest of the second movie is left unfulfilled and bittersweet as Kili dies. Then, the Eagles arrive, carrying Beorn with them. There is more blood and chaos, and the orcs are defeated. Oh yes, and all throughout this is interwoven Gandalf’s story. He is rescued by the combined efforts of Galadriel, Elrond, and Saruman. Sauron is driven off, the ringwraiths are defeated. Then, Gandalf is off rushing to the aid of Bilbo, Thorin, and company.

Strengths: the acting was good, the special effects were good, the story kept my interest even though the bulk of it was about a battle and the build up to said battle. Tolkien purists might object to some of the liberties taken with the material, but I thought that all the modifications were still in keeping with the spirit of the tale. Weaknesses: Probably my biggest complaint was the fact that Smaug was killed in the first five minutes of the movie. If you’re going to keep the dragon around after the movie he should have died in (The Desolation of Smaug), then you should make ample use of him. Oh yeah, there also these things called werewyrms, or something like that, that showed up briefly, dug some tunnels, and then disappeared. I mean, what was that?

Anyway, I’ll give The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies four stars out of five.

Book Review: The Wise Man’s Fear (Patrick Rothfuss) (4 *’s)

The Wise Man’s Fear is the second book in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles. It continues the story of Kvothe (pronounced “Quothe”) the gifted Edema Ruh (kind of a gypsy) who is currently studying at the legendary University to become an arcanist (a scientist/magician kind of). The backdrop of the story is an old inn where the elder Kvothe is telling his life-story to a man known as Chronicler and Kvothe’s demon-friend, Bast. This outer, framing story is dipped into several times throughout the book. Both interwoven tales keep the reader engaged. The book is nearly 1000 pages long. As such, condensing the plot down into a manageable paragraph is nearly impossible, particularly since I was a slow reader on this one and have forgotten much of the first part of the book.

 

Anyway, Kvothe has one real romantic interest, a young wandering woman named Denna, who pops in and out throughout the story. The first part of the story consists of Kvothe always scraping for money. It’s kind of interesting: they tell writers to make sure your characters have a goal or desire to keep the tension going. Rothfuss used Kvothe’s lack of wealth for much of the story as means to keep the tension. I found that interesting and refreshing; it wasn’t just go and kill the bad guys. Anyway, Kvothe has run-ins with another student by the name of Ambrose which continues to escalate. Finally, he takes a semester off and goes to work for a powerful noble in a distant land. The culture described is unique and interesting, although essentially feudal. While there he does some mercenary work and winds up going to another distant land and learning about another culture (basically a martial arts style culture with very unusual beliefs regarding sex and reproduction). The story ends shortly after the point where Kvothe returns to the University for the next semester.

 

Strengths: the writing was good, the character development was good, and the tension was good. I enjoyed the story, though I did not read it as quickly as I would have liked. Weaknesses: in terms of literary structure and stuff, I could not find any weaknesses. I will remark, however, that if you are offended by sexual promiscuity, this book is not for you. There is not much of it in the first half of the book, but in the second half it is chock full of it. There is a culture that treats sex almost like a sport. They don’t believe that sex causes impregnation. They believe that children just grow as a woman naturally lives. Men do not contribute anything to the reproductive process. Children are fruits of womanhood, and that is all. As a result, everyone in the culture is having sex with everyone else. And, of course, for some reason they don’t suffer from STD’s. I would mark the book with a warning because of that: not appropriate for the very young.

 

Anyway, I still enjoyed the book and I’ll give Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear four stars out of five.

 

For those interested, you may read my review of the former book, The Name of the Wind, here.

Book Review: Legend (David Gemmell) (3 ½ *’s)

Legend is the first novel of David Gemmell. It tells the story of Druss, Captain of the Ax, a hero of legend. There are other characters as well, of whom Rek and Virae are probably the two most important. As a whole, the story is about the siege of a great fortress, Dros Delnoch. Much of the book is a build up to the actual siege. The invading army is the barbarian Nadir horde; they sit poised to conquer Dros Delnoch and the Drenai kingdom it protects.

 

The story begins with Rek awakening in an inn with a young woman. He has just had a powerful dream, a vision of a burning fortress and he feels himself tied to that as if drawn to destiny. To add to the tension, he learns that the Nadir horde is on the move. They will soon besiege the mighty fortress of Dros Delnoch. This citadel is the last hope of the Drenai, for if it falls, their kingdom will be left unprotected. Before leaving the inn, Rek encounters a fortune-teller who reads his fortune and tells him … more likely things about his nature, rather than future events. He tells him he is of uncertain character and sporadic courage, a thief and a dreamer, etc… Rek, of course, disregards this and goes on his way. Shortly, he encounters the young woman, Virae, and rescues her from bandits in the forest. They do not hit it off well; at least, at first. However, soon they wind up in bed and provide the romantic subplot for the book. Virae, the daughter of the Earl of Dros Delnoch, is actually carrying a message for her father. Rek, of course, offers to assist, and soon they are swept up in events revolving around the upcoming siege of Dros Delnoch and the legendary ax-wielding warrior, Druss.

 

Strengths: I’d say the greatest strength of this novel is the pacing and the flow. The characters were okay, but he only had 350 pages to work with and even though he popped in and out of heads with great abandon, there were too many characters to fully develop them all. The most important, as I said, were Rek and Virae, and Druss, of course. Weaknesses: well, this is a first novel, and as such, the writing isn’t great—it’s okay, passable, but there are a number of obvious newbie flaws. For instance, the tendency to jump from point-of-view to point-of-view without breaking up the text. Likewise, I think he used the infamous mirror-trick three times in the book. I think that’s a record. Of course, saying that, I used the mirror trick in my first book, too, so I probably shouldn’t complain (for those that don’t know: the mirror trick is when an author uses a mirror to describe a character in that character’s point-of-view. Basically, he looks at himself in a mirror so he can describe himself to the reader. It’s generally considered a newbie tactic. Personally, though, I don’t have a strong issue with it; after all, mirrors are real objects; what else are you going to see when you look a mirror head on? And using a mirror is not an uncommon action.)

 

Anyway, despite the lower quality writing, I’ll give this novel, Legend, by David Gemmell, three and a half stars, or maybe even four if I’m feeling generous, out of five.

Book Review: Words of Radiance (Brandon Sanderson) (5 *’s)

I’ve said it before: I’m going to kill Brandon Sanderson. I didn’t want to get sucked into a coming ten book series of ginormous books as I expect The Stormlight Archive to become. I read and reviewed The Way of Kings some time ago. Words of Radiance continues the story of the Knights Radiant, the Heralds, and the world of Roshar (is it Roshar or Roshone?). Anyway, this book weighs in at 1080 pages or so. Not quite as long as The Way of Kings, but still a behemoth in its own right. I enjoyed every moment of it.

 

This is the part where I normally summarize the story. I hope you don’t expect me to do that with this one. Book Two of a series. Weighing in at 1080 pages. Four major characters and a plethora of minor ones. There’s just too much awesomeness to pack into my short review. I still think Sanderson went overboard on the developing the unique world motif, though. I’m still not sure about the moons. There’s at least two and one of them is purple. That’s about all I could gather. And I’ve forgotten what crem is supposed to be, just collected sand and mud, I guess. There’s a war brewing between the Parshendi and the humans of Alethi. There’s high storms periodically ravaging the country side (imagine a long lasting hurricane strong enough to hurl rocks and boulders). There’s hordes of spren which are proving far more integral to the story than I originally thought. Most importantly, Sanderson has been focusing on some moral ideals like honor and such. I like stories that do that, and Sanderson does it quite well. Makes me want to believe we can be better people.

 

Strengths: the writing was superb. The characters were rounded and well-developed. The conflict and crises were engaging and thoughtful. And the plot was mesmerizing. Sanderson is, by far, the best author I’ve read in a long time. Weaknesses: it might be too grand an undertaking. He doesn’t suffer from George R. R. Martin’s overabundance of characters yet, but he does have quite a few, particularly in the Interludes, and I’m not sure how all of them relate to the main story. It might get away from him. But I hope not.

 

Anyway, I’m giving Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance five stars out of five.

Book Review: Assassin’s Apprentice (Robin Hobb) (4 *’s)

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robing Hobb is an unusual fantasy story in that the main character is an apprentice to a king’s royal assassin. If you are going to read the book for enjoyment, you’ll have to put on the shelf any moral reservations concerning assassination you might have. It sounds like a dark and nasty profession, but the way it is presented in the book, it is almost respectable. I admit I liked the characters, including the assassins, and once I got into the book, it flowed quite smoothly.

 

The main character is a young boy named Fitz, the bastard son of the king-in-waiting, a prince named Chivalry (that was an interesting little facet about the book: all the royalty were named after the virtue they were supposed to embody in their lives. Thus, you had King Shrewd, Lady Patience, Prince Verity, Prince Regal, etc….). Fitz is a young man with an exceptional array of talents. He has both the Wit (the ability to bond with and essentially telepathically speak with animals) and (later in the book) the ability to Skill (much like the Wit except it applies to humans). The story begins as a first-person narrative on Fitz’s part like a memoir. His earliest memory is being dropped off at a royal outpost by his grandfather. The grandfather is apparently tired of supporting the bastard son of a royal personage and consigns Fitz to the care of his father. Then the grandfather disappears from the story, and the story of Fitz’s life in the royal household begins. At first, he is all but ignored and simply under the care of Prince Chivalry’s loyal stablemaster Burrich. Then he comes to the attention of King Shrewd who wants to put him to use as the next royal assassin for the king, and his training begins.

 

Strengths: the characters were well-developed and existed in a well-proportioned number. There weren’t so many that the reader got confused, nor were there too few that the reader got bored. It was just about right (cue Goldilocks). The writing was superb, the character development excellent, and the plot and storyline were good and engaging. Weaknesses: hmmm … I can’t think of any at the moment, except, it did take me a while to get engaged in the book. There was just something about it I didn’t like at first. Also, the “magic” system of the Wit and the Skill I thought was kind of lacking. I prefer fireballs and lightning bolts like in AD&D. Oh well. It was still an excellent book.

 

I’ll give Robin Hobb’s The Assassin’s Apprentice four stars out of five.

Book Review: The Last Unicorn (Peter S. Beagle, 4 stars)

I read this book, Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, as part of an assignment from a Goodreads reading group. I’d read it before, many years ago, but I didn’t remember a thing from the novel, which really isn’t a good sign. The novel tells the story of the last unicorn who lives a life of ease as a solitary immortal creature in her woods until one day she overhears two woodmen discussing the disappearance of all the unicorns as they travel through the woods. She cannot believe that she is the last of the unicorns and so goes on a quest to find the others.

 

Soon, however, she is captured by a witch and her traveling band of entertaining circus sights: a lion that appears to be a manticore, a dog that appears to be Cerberus, and a few other illusions like that. But she’s got two real amazing creatures: one hideous harpy, and the ever elusive unicorn who she managed to capture while sleeping. Schmendrick the magician, one of the witch’s lackeys, helps the unicorn escape. The witch and her other henchman are killed and the unicorn now has a traveling companion: Schmendrick. After a few more brief adventures, they pick up another traveling companion: Molly Grue. By this time they’ve learned that the legend is that the unicorns were driven into the sea by the Red Bull. The Red Bull is a mystical beast that is under the authority of the wicked King Haggard who lives in a cursed castle in a cursed land. So, the last unicorn heads off in search of King Haggard, his castle, and the Red Bull. Can the last unicorn stand and face the Red Bull, the beast that has systematically all but eradicated her brethren? Find out and read the book. I’ll tell you no more.

 

Strengths: the prose was excellent. Perhaps, too excellent. A few times I caught the author rhyming dialogue and I thought that was inappropriate. Still, good prose helps a story a lot. The characters were reasonably well-developed: they each had their own little quirks. I liked the unicorn up until she fell in love. Actually, that’s not true. I liked her up until the point she turned tail and ran from the Red Bull and was so easily cowed by the creature. I just wish my heroes were more heroic, even if they are unicorns. Weaknesses: first would be the cowardice of all the unicorns who preceded her. The Red Bull took them one at a time with little fight. Second, it took me a while to get into the story. I read it mostly for the reading group, and the first half of the book did not really appeal to me story-wise. It just seemed sort of blaahh. But it picked up at the end and everything was resolved to my satisfaction.

 

I’ll give Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn three and a half, or maybe even four stars, out of five.