Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Glamourist Histories: An Unexpected Addiction!



             I have definitely attempted to not have too many spoilers here because this is meant to attract people to the series.  But there are probably going to be some minor spoilers, while I analyze some of the books in the series. 


        I have rarely found myself so addicted to a series so quickly as I was with the Glamourist Histories.  Mary Robinette Kowal is an amazing writer and I found her series to be one of the greatest alternatives to traditional fantasy that exists.  This is the kind of series that really takes chances with what we consider to be fantasy and what most people consider magic to be or not to be.  I found the fact that Mary analyzes the magic system in a very scientific manner and even goes so far in Without a Summer to call Glamour to be examined by science.  Even if it is the science of the early 19th Century.

       I will admit that when most people see Regency Fantasy.  They think of fancy dress parties and people saying, “Oh I say!”

       Which I have to admit is not entirely outside the scope of these books.  But there is quite a bit more to Mary Robinette Kowal’s Glamourist Histories than that.  All of the staples of Regency Fantasy are in there.  But there are no Fae, no elves, no people in long cloaks trying to steal trinkets from each other.  The books take place in the REAL history of the early 19th Century only with the addition of magic.  Glamour specifically; which is a kind of illusion creation.  There is a way to create a bit cold or a bit of heat using Glamour as well.  But neither to any great effect, another words you couldn’t lit anyone on fire with the heat or freeze anyone with the cold.  In the book, Without a Summer, these are talked about in detail.

        More importantly, are the ways that the author wraps you in the world.  There are details aplenty but never so many that you get bored with it or that you just want the action to continue and not care what things look like.  Mary Robinette Kowal, seems to understand this and when there is action she only describes what is ABSOULTELY essential and leaves the rest to the imagination.  During the slower sequences she spends more time talking about the setting and explaining some of the backstory so that the reader can better understand things when the action begins.

       Within this incredible setting are some very memorable characters.  Jane, the main character is definitely a cut above the norm.  Jane is a VERY strong female lead.  But she is still an English woman of the early 19th Century.  She definitely doesn’t always concede to what is expected of her.  But she also isn’t a woman of the 20th or the 21st Century either.  Her sister begins as a rather typical woman of the era but she begins to show signs of being much more like her sister Jane by the time we reach the end of the second and the entire third book.  Of course, Vincent is also an incredible character in this book.  He is both a typical man of the era but as usual in this sort of work; he has some very non-typical reaction to some of the situations that occur.  So that’s pretty awesome.  There are certainly plenty of other great characters in the books, but these characters are the only ones that are present throughout all of the books.

       Now that I’ve outlined the things that I loved the most about these books.  I’ve rated all these books five stars.  Because I felt that way about each one at the time I read it.  But I have to say that my two favorite books in the series were Without a Summer and Valour and Vanity.  But I DO suggest people read the entire series from the beginning.  Personally, I had some trouble finding the book around at my local bookstores.  So you might want to just buy them digitally through Amazon or one of the other wonderful online booksellers.  I did listen to the majority of these books on audio as Mary Robinette Kowal is an Award winning narrator and she is good enough to narrate her books for us.  I would say THAT listening to them in this way is THE most ENJOYABLE way to experience them.  So if you can do that, I would suggest that course above all others.  I listened to them through Audible audio books but I know they are available through other sources.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Promise of Blood Book Review


Promise of Blood

Brian McClellan

Orbit (April 16, 2013)

5/5 Stars



    The best thing about Promise of Blood by far is the setting.  The world building in this book is amazing.  I don't think I've ever read a better realized world from a debut author.  I absolutely love the complexity of the magic system.  There are tons of memorable characters and the pace of the book is brisk and exciting.
     Other than the scenes and chapters where Adamat is the point of view character.  I was completely enthralled.  Not that Adamat is necessarily a bad character; it just seemed like these chapters or parts of chapters were unnecessarily slow and tended to be much less interesting than the others.
     This is the most inventive and interesting fantasy world I've come upon in a long time and I think it is a MAJOR step forward for the genre as it shows what can be done.  Fantasy is NOT devoid of the new or doomed to fall into the "grimdark."  This novel proves that.
     Any fan of Fantasy should give this book a try.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Brandon Sanderson and Brian McClellan Google Hangout! Because why not?

Heaven’s Queen Book Review

Heaven’s Queen

Rachel Bach

Orbit Books

Pub Date: Apr 22 2014

5/5 Stars


           Heaven’s Queen is part 3 of the Paradox Trilogy.  All three books in the series are excellent and tell a full overarching story.  The fact that none of the three books really tell a full story in and of themselves makes the feeling of the series epic.  Especially when so little time has passed from one book to the next.  But I have to say that I was said to say good bye to Rupert and Devi.  The story as a whole was very good from beginning to end and the depth of both the setting and the characters holds up throughout.  A first person Space Opera told from the female perspective is a nice change.  Especially a hard as nails mercenary like Devi.

           The first couple of books seemed like a cross between Star Trek and Starcraft.  But this novel certainly opened up into something more epic dealing with problems that were of a lot higher magnitude, veering into the saving of humanity type territory.  As usual Rachel Bach does a stellar job with dialogue, character, setting, and especially action sequences which always play out beautifully.  Every book in the series has been consistently excellent and this one is no different.

          I did like the ending but it struck me as being rather final.  Which means that we probably won’t be seeing anymore Devi or Rupert anytime soon.  But hey, Rachel Bach is an inventive author I’m sure she can come up with something if these books sell well.. You know, if they become very popular and lots of people buy them…  Let’s hope she has the need and reason to do so.  Go out and buy Heaven’s Queen if you haven’t already.  You will definitely want to start from the beginning of the trilogy though.  So if you haven’t already just pick up the entire thing.  You’ll love it…

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Martian Book Review

The Martian

Any Weir

Crown; First Edition edition (February 11, 2014)

5/5 Stars


           The story of the Martian is nothing new.  It’s a survival story, they have been around for as long as any one can remember.  But what the Martian has going for it; other than incredible writing.  Is an incredible take on the Hard Scifi Novel.  Not something that we see often.  This is Hard SF for everyone, not just for the science loving among us.  Not that, that is necessarily true or even usually true.  But it is what the average person believes when they hear that a novel is Hard SF.  The best SF Novels, whether they are Hard SF or Space Opera are those that are about characters and their stories.  And that IS EXACTLY what the Martian is about.  Mark Watney is important to the reader by the end.  We NEED him to succeed.  Not that their aren’t other interesting characters in the book.  But mostly its Mark Watney’s show.  Which is also what the Martian has going for it.  More often than not, while the main character in a survival story may seem likable.  They are often whiney and annoying.  Especially if the book goes on for a while.  Or they are just not all that bright and you constantly are screaming at them to do this “thing,” that for story reasons, they just won’t do.  None of this is present in the Martian.  Mark Watney is NEVER whiney and he is incredibly intelligent.

           I would also like to give a shout out to the audio version of the book.  Which is AWESOME…  The narration, while dead pan, grows on you so much that you will probably find yourself listening to this book rather than reading it.  I’ve always wondered if some books are just patiently better if they are read to an audience.  My first exposure to the book was when Andy Weir read the first chapter or so to a seminar group.  This IS what made me REALLY want to read this book.  So I decided to get the Whispersync version.  It was WELL worth it.  Andy Weir is not the narrator but the narrator as I said, is deadpan, but good.

          The Martian isn’t perfect, it is a little predictable here and there.  There are some really questionable lines of dialogue and the framing of some of that dialogue is bad.  I felt some of the third person went on too long and should have been cut in favor of a more cohesive and pace setting first person.  Also, there is a certain instance of third person explanation that undermined the drama of a situation.  Which also, in my opinion, should have been cut.  But this was Andy Weir’s first book, it was an EXCELLENT book; can’t wait to read what he writes next.