Calamity: A Review

This review is spoiler-free.

Good news: This book wasn’t as bad as some books I’ve read recently!

Bad news: It also wasn’t very good.

As the third book of a trilogy, this book had some living up to do. The first book was wildly creative and excellent. The second was a bit lacking, but still twisty and enjoyable. The third needed a bit more time in the incubator and some serious me-time with the author.

The characters were excellent, but… only in ways that carried over from previous books. Phase 1 characters— introduced back in Steelheart— were for the most part excellent and just as fun as ever. Phase 2 characters— from Firefight— continued being themselves (but didn’t grow in any way). Phase 3 characters— completely new to this book— had almost no bearing on the book’s emotional impact. In writerly terms, Phase 1 were dynamic. Almost everyone from Phase 1 had some sort of development or fleshing out to do. Phase 2 were static. They didn’t change, but they still felt alive. Phase 3 were cardboard. With one exception (based on spoilery things, one character could have been considered Phase 2 or even Phase 1), these characters just didn’t add anything of meaning.

But how can I say that? Surely they added something. Why else would they have been introduced? Well, they changed the plot, aiding or opposing the main characters in some way. But no Phase 3 character (with the aforementioned exception) had any bearing on any Phase 1 character arc. No Phase 2 or Phase 3 character had any arc to speak of.

Let’s keep examining the book, though. Perhaps these books are t0o short for dynamic characters to emerge in the third act of a trilogy. Perhaps there are redeeming factors in the other aspects of the book. (more…)

The Lost Prince: ARC Review

Thanks to Egmont USA for the ARC of Seaborne: The Lost Prince, by Matt Myklusch.  The real thing comes out next May.  (Is it worth the wait?  Read the review, but the short answer: yes.)  Of course, this review will be spoiler-free.  Here’s the synopsis:

Dean Seaborne is thrown off his ship by the Pirate King and given one last chance to redeem himself before he meets Davy Jones’s locker. He has to spy on the Pirate King’s biggest rival, Gentleman Jack Harper, and find the treasure hidden on the mysterious island of Zenhala.

Once on Zenhala, Dean finds that the inhabitants of the island think he is the lost prince who went missing 13 year ago. In order to fulfill his mission for the Pirate King, Dean undergoes intense and fantastical trials to prove he is the lost prince. But the longer Dean stays on the island, the more he questions his mission.

I had a blast reading this book.  Matt Myklusch is one of my favorite local authors, and while his books aren’t that well known, everyone who has listened to my recommendations has enjoyed them.  (I have already reviewed the first and third books of his Jack Blank trilogy.)  Based on previous experiences, The Lost Prince does not disappoint. (more…)

Words of Radiance: A Review

It’s going to be hard, but this review is spoiler-free.  This book is still fresh on shelves, and it’s difficult to get a copy if you’re not into purchasing car-sized books at their hardcover premium.  However, I can’t wait to share my thoughts with you, so as I said, spoiler-free.  I’ll do my very best.  Also, Words of Radiance is book two of the Stormlight Archive, so if you haven’t already read The Way of Kings, you should probably do that before trying to read this.  Just a suggestion.

How do I even begin?  I adored this book.  It feels like it’s been too long since I’ve had a Brandon Sanderson book to read— I’ve only read novellas or short stories of his recently, and I wanted an epic fantasy.  (I actually believe I read through Sanderson’s existing works too quickly, believe it or not; when I ran out of them, I went into withdrawal.)  This was a welcome change.  I loved being back in Roshar (the world) with the grand cast of characters.  I’d list them all, but I’ve just found I can’t remember how to spell many of them, and I’m not sure whether those names would be considered spoilers or not.  (As Sanderson himself said once, admitting that there is a sequel is technically a spoiler for the first book.) (more…)

The Way of Kings: A Review

I keep promising myself I’ll write all the other posts inspired by this book before I write the review, but I’ve found I can’t.  I guess this post will just be a big, informative one.

This is a spoiler-free review for Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings.  I review a lot of Sanderson’s books (well, at the moment, this is the second– but it feels like a lot), but it’s well-deserved.  I learn so much from each of his books, far too much to leave unsaid.  The Way of Kings is a masterpiece of epic fantasy– at over 1000 pages, it’s larger than any modern book I’ve read.  For this reason, I waited for a vacation to read it, so I would have the time.

I flew through it, in about five days.  It was so well written, and although there were a couple stumbling blocks (which I will discuss), it was quite gripping.  It was amazing.  It’s difficult to pace myself and keep from writing a scatterbrained review, but I’ll try.

First of all, this was completely different from anything I’ve read before.  Fantasy is not a new genre to me.  Lord of the Rings, the Mistborn trilogy, Redwall– although I haven’t read much of the adult side of the genre, I felt like I knew what it would entail.  After all, middle grade and YA fantasy ought to be basically the same as adult fantasy, except for perhaps content and length.  Well, I discovered something: trilogies and standalones are one thing, even standalones in a series like Redwall or Ranger’s Apprentice– epic fantasy is a completely different animal. (more…)

The Colossus Rises: A Review

I take a little time out of every trip to the library to go into the children’s section and take a look at the new books.  I like middle grade fictions and fantasies because the author isn’t trying to sell you a love triangle or a run-down society.  When you’re in the mood for a classic, but quick, fantasy, middle grade is the place for you.  There, in the New Books shelf, I saw The Colossus Rises, by Peter Lerangis.  What can I say?  It looked interesting, so I read it.

This review is brought to you spoiler-free by my own goodwill.

Interesting concept, bad characters, and mediocre style. From this book alone, I wouldn’t have known that the author had written over 160– but from this book alone, I can tell you that I don’t want to read any more of his for a while. It was a study in how to do things wrong, and while I appreciate the example, I’d much rather see how to do things right. (more…)

Seraphina, a Review

This spoiler-free review is for Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman.  I first heard of this book from its sparkling starred review by Kirkus (called the best of 2012), as well as its listing among the Top Debuts of 2012 on the Publisher’s Weekly website.  (Note: I glanced at both websites in passing– I’m not so much of a publishing nerd that I follow all the news.  Nevertheless, both are reliable sources for good books.)  In all the reviews I read, Seraphina was described as being an original YA fantasy about dragons– how could I resist?  A few more favorable reviews from trusted sources followed, prompting me to pick up the book as soon as I saw it on the shelves.  Here is the usual summary:

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life. (more…)

The End of Infinity, a Review

This is a spoiler-free review for The End of Infinity, by Matt Myklusch.  First off, I’d like to recommend the series (which begins with The Accidental Hero– I reviewed that here).  Why should everyone rush out and read the series now?  Because it’s good.  And that’s enough of a recommendation; on to the review.

All his life, people have told Jack Blank what his future holds. He hasn’t always liked what they’ve had to say, but there have been times when he’s wondered if they were right.

As the Imagine Nation’s final battle with the Rüstov draws near, Jack’s future is almost upon him. He and his friends will each need their unique powers and abilities to help stop the Rüstov and win the war. But are they prepared to use those powers against the most terrifying and dangerous enemy of all—the one inside of Jack?

The time has come for Jack to choose his path and discover for himself if he will become the hero that the Imagine Nation—and the world—needs him to be, or the cause of its total destruction. (more…)

Reviewing and Recommending

I write book reviews in a weird way.  I don’t write them toward potential readers– I write them for people who have read the books.

I read book reviews in the same way.  I don’t read book reviews on books I haven’t read, or books that aren’t part of a series I’ve already read.  I read book reviews on books that I have read, or am planning on reading.  More the former.

This was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who was wondering why I haven’t rushed out to read all the books she’s reviewed or recommended for me (and believe me, there are a lot of them).  I replied that I haven’t read all of her reviews, and I haven’t heeded the ones I’ve read.  Why not?  Because I don’t read book reviews unless I’m already planning on reading the book or I have already read the book, and I only search out books if they’ve caught my eye more than once.  I look for references, in other words.

The reason I read reviews on books that I’ve already read is that I like to look at what others think of a book I’ve read– if I’ve never read or never heard of the book in question, I don’t pay much attention. (more…)

The Bourne Legacy: Movie Review

This review is for the Bourne Legacy, the latest in the series of adaptations of the original novels by Robert Ludlum.  This is spoiler-free as I can make it, but if you really want to keep yourself free of anything that might give you an unfair advantage while watching the movie for yourself, you don’t have to read this.

All in all, it’s a good movie.  If you aren’t aware of the first three films, which concentrate on Jason Bourne, things might be a little bit hard to understand, but it also might be easier to get into the film.  Things are definitely different from the original movies to this one, beginning with the main character, going through the true depth of the Treadstone project and Blackbriar and its connections, and finishing off with the new concepts introduced.

If you’re unaware of the Jason Bourne trilogy, here’s a brief summary: Jason Bourne was a soldier trained to do elite missions, particularly assassinations with motives that might be questionable.  When Jason loses his memory, he gains the moral determination not to do what he’s ordered to do.  It’s a study in morality, basically, and is a pretty cool story.

This movie, however, is different.  Aaron Cross is another soldier under the same bozos who messed up Jason Bourne.  They’ve gone slightly farther with this “batch”, however, genetically enhancing and mutating them to make super-soldiers: smarter, faster, stronger, and with double the potential for awesome car chases.  Unfortunately, this process is gradual, and the pills Aaron must take in order to be this cool are limited.  In order to finish his beneficial mutation and not return to the weak idiot he used to be, he must avoid the government (who have decided to shut the project down– e.g., kill everyone who is involved) and help the only doctor who knows how to save his awesome life, who is also being hunted.

You can see how different these two stories are.  Bourne was a regular guy who decided that what he was doing was wrong– Aaron was a mutant freak who wanted to stay freaky.  Before you denounce this new movie, give it a chance.  The overall concept is the same: these guys want soldiers who will do what they want, unquestioningly, and do it with explosions.  And they don’t want to go to jail. (more…)