Category Archives: Review

Review: The Seven

The Seven by Peter Newman

Warning: spoilers if you haven’t read The Vagrant, The Malice or The Vagrant & The City.

Years have passed since the Vagrant journeyed to the Shining City, Vesper in arm and Gamma’s sword in hand.

Since then the world has changed. Vesper, following the footsteps of her father, journeyed to the breach and closed the tear between worlds, protecting the last of humanity, but also trapping the infernal horde and all those that fell to its corruptions: willing or otherwise.

In this new age it is Vesper who leads the charge towards unity and peace, with seemingly nothing standing between the world and a bright new future.

That is until eyes open.

And The Seven awaken.

So, straight off: it’s not as good as The Vagrant. The Malice wasn’t as good as The Vagrant. But…I think that’s mostly because this is now telling the story from several points of view (well, two usually) and the Vagrant was a very simple and straightforward one. That said, this is still an excellent story, and definitely worth picking up if you read the first two (and do read the first two, and then the short story) and liked them.

We get to see a lot of the faces from The Vagrant and The Malice, more of Vesper, more of Reela, more of the goat (or a goat, a kid in this case), and some new figures…the Seven. And as antagonists go, they’re pretty damn good. They’re not good, not evil, and I loved the splits and weaves of the personalities. They’ve all got their own agendas which sometimes align, and sometimes don’t. I love the part that Reela plays with Delta, and while I felt The Vagrant didn’t entirely get the status he’s had in previous books, it was awesome to see him back in action.

And the ending…I wasn’t hooked until about 2/3 of the way through, and then I didn’t put it down. The ending is fabulous.

So. While The Vagrant is my must must must read, The Malice and The Seven are excellent second and third books, and The Seven certainly rounds off the trilogy nicely. The world’s chaotic, broken, weird, unusual, strange and enthralling, and the characters are equally wonderful. Read all three and marvel.

A Bucket-load of Reviews

the moon king coverThe Moon King by Neil Williamson

All is not well in Glassholm. Life under the moon has always been so predictable: day follows night, wax phases to wane and, after the despair of every Darkday, a person’s mood soars to euphoria at Full. So it has been for five hundred years, ever since the Lunane captured the moon and tethered it to the city.

Now, all that has changed. Amidst rumours of unsettling dreams and strange whispering children, society is disintegrating into unrest and violence. The very sea has turned against Glassholm and the island’s luck monkeys have gone wild, distributing new fates to all and sundry. Turmoil is coming.

Three people find themselves at the eye of the storm: a former policeman investigating a series of macabre murders, an outsider artist embroiled in the murky intrigues of revolution, and a renegade engineer tasked with fixing the ancient machine at the city’s heart. Each must fulfil their role or see Glassholm shaken apart, while all are subject to the machinations of their inscrutable and eternal monarch, The Moon King.

Weird – in a good way! Interesting, mixed, imaginative and odd.

I didn’t enjoy this as much as Neil’s short story collection, as it lacks the lyrical edge that made his writing so compelling in the shorts. However, the ideas are in full force – the world reminds me of China Mieville’s New Weird style, tilting over the edge into strangeness but weaving enough human characteristics and reactions in to keep it understandable. The plot is interesting, weaving three different characters into each other, without revealing the connections until towards the end. I loved some of the details – the luck monkeys, Darkday and Full,  the machines and the history. But I wasn’t as sucked in as I would have liked to be…a flaw as a reader, rather than the writer, I think. It’s certainly a weird, unusual, odd book – and all the better for it.

witches of lychford coverWitches of Lychford by Paul Cornell

The villagers in the sleepy hamlet of Lychford are divided. A supermarket wants to build a major branch on their border. Some welcome the employment opportunities, while some object to the modernization of the local environment.

Judith Mawson (local crank) knows the truth — that Lychford lies on the boundary between two worlds, and that the destruction of the border will open wide the gateways to malevolent beings beyond imagination.

But if she is to have her voice heard, she’s going to need the assistance of some unlikely allies…

I was expecting this to be longer. I would have liked it to be longer! It seemed…well, I had that feeling when I finished it of “Oh. Is that it?”

That said, it’s very good. It’s a mix of Miss-Marple style village life, with a large dose of supernatural and a seasoning of personal angst. I would have liked to see more of the enemy (although I believe there are more novellas to come, so I assume they’ll be back?) and more of the village’s characters as well as the three heroines, but the plot and characters as they stand are engaging and tense. Worth a read!

Silversands by Gareth L Powell

In an age where interstellar travel is dangerous and unpredictable, and no-one knows exactly where they’ll end up, Avril Bradley is a Communications Officer aboard a ship sent to re-contact as many lost souls as possible. But a mysterious explosion strands her in a world of political intrigue, espionage and subterfuge; a world of retired cops, digital ghosts and corporate assassins – all fighting for possession of vital computer data that has lain hidden for almost a century. . .

I have to admit….I couldn’t get into this. There just wasn’t the hook; there wasn’t a catch that grabbed me and got me in. Sure, there’s an explosion, and someone coming back from a long journey to a mysterious message, and a big secret that could hold the future for humankind…

Bah. When I put it like that, it sounds like this book should be really exciting – and I’m sure it is! If you like that kind of thing. Which I just…didn’t. I read the first few chapters and then skipped on, and eventually did the Kindle equivalent of putting it down and not picking it up again – which for me is skimming past it in my carousel every time I tried to find something to read!

I would, however, highly recommend the Ack-Ack Macaque series by the same author, so it’s obviously just my taste in sci-fi!

 

A pile of reviews: Ladies with Blades

It’s ladies with blades in this stack…or guns and sidekicks, as the case may be!

emperor's edge coverThe Emperor’s Edge by Lindsay Buroker

Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin, is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.

I have to admit, I found it hard to get hooked into this – but it’s very definitely me! The writing is good, and the tensions and interactions between the characters are very nicely done. The world’s got nothing particularly unique, but this doesn’t really matter, as the fairly simple set-up allows for more detail of the political tensions and intricacies of the plots. It’s got a relatively quick pace, and I think if I’d been more invested in the characters then I would have enjoyed the pace…but eh, it’s just me. So if you like fantasy intrigues, assassins and plots, politics and puzzles…give it a try.

when dark falls coverWhen Dark Falls by Pippa Jay

In a city where Dark Technologies Inc. now runs the show, Kadie Williams has more immediate concerns than the fall of Blaze, their guardian superhero. Almost every morning for the last few months she’s woken up with cuts and bruises on her body, and no idea how she got them. There are no nightmares. No evidence that she sleepwalks, or any sign of a break in. And nothing to tell her who’s been cleaning up after her. As just one of thousands of civilians conscripted to slave away in the labs of Professor Dark, she knew there’d be trouble ahead. But she never expected it to be so bad, or so personal.

Desperate for answers, Kadie looks to the new defender of the night, the only person who can hinder the total domination of Professor Dark—Nocturnelle. The mysterious vigilante superhero came from nowhere with her cybernetic sidekick Shadow, set on putting an end to the brutality of Dark’s regime. But as his laboratories work on a new secret super-weapon, Nocturnelle and Shadow may not be enough to save Nephopolis…or to save Kadie either.

Interesting mix of steampunk, superhero romance and urban fantasy! I liked the industrial element to this, along with the dystopian edge and the fact that the bad guy had previously won – and also destroyed the superheroes in the process! There’s mysteries all the way through this, which adds to the tension, and I did like the twists at the end. A different take on the superhero trope, and not too overwhelmingly romantic.

Steel PrincessThe Steel Princess by Amy Sanderson

Skye was never meant to rule. The third child of Eskeleth’s king, it’s her place to practice the skills of war and death, to protect her country and the older sister who will be queen. She’s spent six years learning the ways of an assassin, preparing to do just that.

Disaster has befallen Eskeleth’s royal family, though, and Skye is next in line for the throne. For the sake of her people, she must return to a land plagued by ghosts – and bordered by a rapacious empire – to fight for her crown against a council that will do anything to keep her from it.

Because if Skye is to rule, she must overcome an ancient prophecy, one that promises Eskeleth’s end in blood and fire. To save her kingdom, she will need to be princess and assassin both, or everything she’s ever known will be destroyed.

A nice YA, coming-of-age and learning-to-rule book. I liked the range of characters in this; none feel cliche or stale, and the plot – despite sounding routine – isn’t at all. Skye is an interesting character, trying to find her way in a new world, and her emotions and choices all the way through feel very authentic. The plot is compelling, with one problem after another, all winding in to the end – and even then not solved, as this is only the first book in a series. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next or not, but it’s certainly a good read.

Amy Sanderson also has fiction on her website and Wattpad, which is worth a read!

conspiracy of alchemists coverA Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz

In a Golden Age where spark reactors power the airways, and creatures of Light and Shadow walk openly among us, a deadly game of Alchemists and Warlocks has begun.

When an unusual cargo drags airship-pilot Elle Chance into the affairs of the mysterious Mr Marsh, she must confront her destiny and do everything in her power to stop the Alchemists from unleashing a magical apocalypse.

A mix of gothic fiction, steampunk and supernatural romance! I hadn’t expected the romantic element to be as strong as it is, but there you go. I liked the industrial aspects of the world in this; I have to admit that as soon as the supernatural element became stronger I lost a little of my interest, but I think that’s a personal preference. The plot combines intrigue with romantic tension, and chases the protagonists from England to Venice and onwards; the world is mostly steampunk, but with some interesting additional aspects.

This is the first book in a series; I’m not sure if I will pick up the second or not, but if you like steampunk romance with a gothic and supernatural edge, give this a try.

The Goblin Emperor

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Goblin emperor cover

The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir. 

Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment. Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend . . . and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he lose his throne–or his life.

So, so good. I-nearly-missed-my-stop good. “I know it’s dinnertime but I just want to finish my chapter” good. If you like political intrigue, amazing and detailed worldbuilding, a subtle and deep adventure…the book reminds me of Kushiel’s Dart or Ursula le Guin – I haven’t read anything else with this level of politics in modern fantasy, but I’m sure it exists.

This isn’t adventure, but it’s definitely drama-filled. I was very caught up with Maia all the way through, and I love so much that it’s not all about him; other people make choices that affect him, and there are points where the action could go any way!

I think what really makes this book is the details. The language is rich and complex; it almost felt translated, as I was craving the subtle tu and vous switches of formal to casual rather than the generic “you” of English – but the details are cleverly dropped in to add the atmosphere. The use of etiquette and the level of detail is spectacular, and adds so much to the world without having to info-dump. Maia’s part-knowledge, part-ignorance works really well to slide us in to the Court, and it never feels boring; as Maia learns and grows and muddles on and adapts, following him is a tug and the constant problem of new situations and choices presents ever more interesting difficulties.

My personal view is that this book is done a disservice by the cover – I’d love to see something in the style of The Seven, or a much more dramatic representation of Maia and the Court. The existing one doesn’t convey the politics and the intricacies of the story, and almost gives it a simplistic view. I also wonder if it would have been better without the Goblin/Elves label. Yes, it does convey a lot about the races without needing to explain…but it also introduces a lot of fantasy-cliche background. I could have lived with more explanation of the way characters looked in the descriptions if it meant not having the echoes of existing fantasy races winding through what is, in reality, an entirely new world. But both of those are minor points that only annoy me because they potentially limit the reach of what is an absolutely fantastic book.

It’s a stand-alone so is a nice self-contained read, but the author has written other works under her real name of Sarah Monette – so I’m heading off to check those out!

Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

closed and common orbit coverThis is the sequel to A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, but it also works as a stand-alone; you don’t have to know the characters and the world to pick this up!

Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has to start over in a synthetic body, in a world where her kind are illegal. She’s never felt so alone.

But she’s not alone, not really. Pepper, one of the engineers who risked life and limb to reinstall Lovelace, is determined to help her adjust to her new world. Because Pepper knows a thing or two about starting over.

Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that, huge as the galaxy may be, it’s anything but empty.

Beautiful. Wonderful. Character-focused, philosophical, moral, full of stories and thoughts and places and the universe, all in one beautifully woven story…I knew I adored Becky Chambers’ writing from her first book, but this just cements it. She has a way of weaving everything in together and telling a story while you’re caring about the characters that means you’ve suddenly got to the end of the book and you’re somewhere between crying and smiling, but you’re not sure why.

It’s a gentle and sweet read, but one that also tugs you along; I was reading this on my commute and I did not want to put it down. I was reading it while making dinner and kept forgetting to stir things. I actually let my tea go cold! I had to read one more chapter, one more paragraph, just to find out what happens next…

We get to see more of the universe and the cultures in this sequel, and it’s all so inventive, so different – and yet everything works together. Yes, there’s horrible people and places, there’s bureaucracy and frustration and anger and hate. But there’s so much love and hope, and I think that’s what I love most. You come away from the stories realising that even if everyone is so, so different – somehow, they can make those differences work.

The story itself is sweet; the two timelines follow Jane from her start as a worker in a factory, sorting scrap, and Lovelace taking her first steps in a human kit-body after being a ship’s AI. But the two stories wind together at the end, and I love seeing both of them grow.

So yes. Sweet, adorable, thoughtful, growing and wonderful. Read it. Read the previous one. And then read them again.