Born in Orange, California, author Jason Cordova has written books ranging from the fantastical realms of fantasy to the militaristic side of science fiction. His latest should be out soon. Really. You should probably buy it. Check Amazon . Demand it at your local store. Pay for his kitten kibble.
Posted in Book Review on May 6, 2013
On one hand, it’s never wise to get hopes up for a series that you know is going to be nothing more than a bunch of Mack Bolan novels on steroids. On the other, when the series becomes much better than anticipated and the characters are completely believable (albeit in the fictional sort of way), you expect something more from a series. That said, Tiger by the Tail is a horrible addition to the Paladin of Shadows series by John Ringo.
Picking up a co-author along the way (newcomer Ryan Sear), the series takes a twist as Mike Harmon (aka “Ghost”, aka “Kildar”) and his Keldaran special operations team (if you haven’t read any book in this series thus far, start with Kildar. Ghost is, technically, the first book of the series but is… uh… not for the faint of heart and really doesn’t add much to the series until you finish Unto the Breach. Only then should a noob — that would be someone new to the series — go back and read Ghost) are currently taking on pirates in the Asian Pacific near Myanmar (Burma). “Practice” seems to be the best way to describe the operations that the Kildar is currently performing, though there are hints that things in the South Pacific aren’t all that they appear. Stumbling onto a criminal enterprise far bigger than anything the Kildar could imagine, Harmon and his team push through the underbelly of the Asian criminal underworld to find out the truth — and stop the bad guys once more.
The action is there. The suspense is there. Dialogue, pop culture references, nerdy “in” jokes… they’re all there. However, this book is lacking something profound. There is not sense of “soul” to this book. Mike Harmon is cool, but he lacks something defining in this book, something that makes him the anti-hero we root for. Anyone familiar with the series will know that Harmon is a special kind of evil, one that is the most dangerous towards other kinds of evil (see Dexter). This book takes this away and gives us juvenile jerk material instead, which is somewhat of a surprise. Sexuality in these books isn’t hidden (trust me, I’ve read Ghost) but in this book it is more portrayed as a teenager discovering his dad’s nudie books in the shed. Before there was rhyme and reason why the Kildar randomly banged women (“rapist in his heart” is a start… I never claimed that they were good reasons) but now, it comes across as someone deciding to slather it across the page because they can.
The Keldara are nothing more than cardboard cutouts this time around, and Chief Adams seems to have reverted to a drunken Navy SEAL set loose on an unsuspecting town of debauchery (which was funny a few books ago; now it’s just something to add to the word count). The villains who are featured for only a short time before the Kildar offs them seem to be better drawn than the actual heroes of the Keldara teams, and the entire book comes across as something that started as fanfic and somehow got published with the original author’s name on it. Before you fire up your torches and pick up those pitchforks, let me explain.
I like the majority of John Ringo’s books. He has an extraordinary gift for gab, to draw the reader in with nothing more than a few lines of dialogue. The only other writer I know of who seems to be able to pull that off without much effort is Joss Whedon. You can always tell a Ringo book apart from the rest of the field because the dialogue is witty and snappy, and can tell a scene without going into expressive detail about every surrounding. Tiger by the Tail is missing this gab, the easy conversation which helps propel the story along. Some of the dialogue is downright painful.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone but the most ardent fan. There’s potential, and this book does move the series along. As itself, though Tiger by the Tail is a perfect miss and very disappointing addition.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on April 23, 2013
While Chuck Gannon isn’t entirely “new” for me (I’ve read his 1632 stories), this is his first solo novel I’ve read and I was quite pleased with the end product, Fire with Firea science fiction novel that has a lot of everything in it — intrigue, suspense, action, mystery, and even a little bit of romance. Without a doubt it’s one of the best SF books I’ve read this year.
Caine Riordan wakes up out of cold sleep and missing memories from the past 100 hours. He is disoriented and confused, since cold sleep (cryogenic freezing) was not something one usually lost that many memories to. He learns that he has not been asleep for 100 hours but, instead, for over 13 years. He struggles to answer questions and to find out what had happened, how it happened, and what would drive them to keep him asleep for so long. However, answers aren’t entirely forthcoming from those asking him questions, and he soon realizes that the man asking him questions, Richard Downing, has a hidden agenda. The man also wants to give him a job.
Recruited into a world of intrigue, Caine must figure out what is going on at a small island known only as Shangri-La on a planet humans have settled far out in the galaxy. Initially thinking that it is simply an oil operation by a major corporation, he soon discovers that something far deeper and darker is at play as he stumbles upon the remnants of a lost alien culture living, and sentient aliens living on the planet. Armed with this information, Caine must make it back to Downing and his allies before the assassins of the oil corporation can stop him.
The only downside of this book is that it really is two books in one, which means that reviewing this without spoilers is very difficult.
Caine must survive long enough to make a presentation to a group of power brokers on Earth at the Pantheon in Greece, and again survive assassination attempts in order to let the politicians on Earth know that humans are not alone. A world government is being formed, and the news of alien existence could make or break the proceedings.
And then the book really gets going as aliens themselves initiate First Contact, and request that none other than Caine Riordan be on the first contact team.
Gannon’s plotting and pacing is fabulous, and Caine is a believable character you can’t help but to root for. His bodyguard/companion/potential love interest, Opal Patrone, is a solid support character with her own tragic past and, due to cold sleep, a woman out of her time. The empathy one feels when she struggles to adapt and, after she does, going about her business with a strange mixture of relentlessness and trepidation is nerve-wracking. The author keeps the action and story barreling forward with only one inevitable conclusion at the end.
Gannon has himself a winner here. Fire With Fire is a tremendous first effort and promises so much more in the following sequels. This is a must-buy for fans who love a good SF story.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on March 12, 2013
One part political discourse, one part romantic adventure, and one part… something else entirely, Sarah Hoyt’s A Few Good Men is a continuation novel set in her Darkship universe that is the first in a series all its own.
Lucius Dante Maximilian Keeva was a monster, kept hidden away in the Good Men’s undersea prison of Never-Never, forever being punished in his mind for murdering his best friend. Locked away and forgotten, it seemed, until one day when is he broken out of prison. But instead of being the monster he believed himself to be, however, Lucius listens to the voice in his head — his long-dead friend Ben — and sets about helping the poor bastards on the lower levels out of the prison before Never-Never flooded.
Lucius manages to help the others escape and fights his way out of Never-Never, flies off away from his old home (the Olympus seacity) and finds himself in one of the other massive seacities of the world, the Liberte seacity. Unfortunately for Lucius, he has not really seen, talked to or even been touched by another human being in fourteen years, and the sudden sensory onslaught of freedom in Liberte almost causes him to curl up in a ball and quit. Fortunately, the voice in his head (Ben) is as stubborn as he, and forces him to go into the city and try to find a way to survive.
Once he overcomes his fears, he catches up on the news of the day — and discovers that his father is dead and his younger brother, who had become the next Good Man, had just been found in his home, brutally murdered. Lucius, knowing that Ben’s family would be subjugated to horrors of a hereditary system and would not have the same security if a new Good Man took over the Keeva’s seacity of Olympus, decides to claim his inheritance.
The first half of the book is splendidly told, with the prodigal son/convicted murderer returning home to claim his family’s fortune and the secrets and lies that he had been fed throughout his entire life being laid bare before. He realizes that Ben’s younger brother, Nat, is in the same peculiar position that Ben had been in many years before with his dead brother Max and that his own story about what has happened in the Keeva household — indeed, with all of the Good Men across the globe — is almost unbelievable. The author teases the reader with the big secret, the big reveal that the reader already knows about if they had read Darkship Thieves (reviewed here) or Darkship Renegades (reviewed here), a slow and almost torturous tease that goes on for almost too long. Once the big reveal is made, though, the book drastically slows down.
Part of the problem is Lucius’ inner dialogue. Since the book is told in a first person POV, this is okay in the beginning, with the narration being fairly thorough and fast-paced. As the book goes on, however, Lucius’ dialogue seems to be replaced more with his growing ideology and less with the actual telling of the story, including points of purposeful “But that’s not my story to tell” comments interspersed. There is a lot less “show” here than the first half of the book, and it does detract from points that could have been especially telling with the characterization of Lucius. It also does a number on the bond between reader and character, since a large part of the second half is political discourse (which is fine, mostly… I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if it is for everyone).
However, the portrayal of Lucius’ guilt about surviving (and murdering his best friend) is excellently done, with the pangs and remorse any survivor has painted beautifully and tragically on the page. The author does a tremendous job and forcing the reader to not only see that pain, but experience it as well, which is something not many try to do these days. An amazing venture here, with the author almost daring the reader to keep going, to see what the hero sees, to feel the pain and anguish of life… not just to use the book as an escape from reality, but as a window in to a reality that is potentially on our doorstep.
A pretty good book from Ms Hoyt, and the promise of a solid series all around. If you liked Darkship Renegades, you will definitely enjoy A Few Good Men.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on February 18, 2013
It seems like everyone is re-imagining classical legends these days, from Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to Disney’s Cinderella. It’s no surprise that the Arthurian legends get such a treatment as well, but it is quite refreshing to see such a dark and urban spin put on them by author Maurice Broaddus in the first book in his Knights of Breton Court series, King Maker.
The novel begins with the fall of Luther, a street hustler ruling over the inner streets of Indianapolis. A determined and ambitious man, Luther is one not to be trifled with. However, after “sending a message” to his rival Green, he lays eyes upon a captivating woman of indistinct heritage. Momentarily forgetting the mother of his child, King, he soon heads for her house to visit. She reminds him that she can’t live the life he lives, and he promises to redeem himself so that they can be together and bring their baby up properly. However, after he leaves her, he rediscovers the strange Asiatic woman. His drive to possess the woman outweighs his desire and edge to rule the streets or follow his own promise of redemption, and after he hooks up with her briefly, Luther is gunned down. The mysterious woman, pregnant with Luther’s child, seems to be preparing to war against Luther’s other progeny, King.
Fast forward about twenty years. Merle, a crazy homeless man who had befriended Luther long before, becomes a companion to King. King, a strange juxtaposition of stupidity and wisdom, is told by the homeless crazy man that he needs to reclaim his destiny. Unsure by what he means, King begins to follow the path that can help him save Breton Court — the ghetto apartment complex he resides in — from both the streets and other dark things that seek to destroy his world.
Part of the allure of this book is piecing together the Arthurian legends with Broaddus’ reimagining of it. Green, the street hustler responsible for Luther’s murder, is fairly easy to work out who he is. Others, like the Samoan siblings who come to Breton Court to kill Arthur, is a bit harder. Background characters like CashMoney, Lady G, Wayne and Lott Carey round out a terrific ensemble which makes King more human — and more believable. With Merle spouting off bits of wisdom and insanity at the same time, King is set to become the one true king of the streets.
One of the more brilliant things in this book is the author’s ability to bring the streets to the pages. It’s hard for a lot of authors to capture the beauty of running the gamer while the hustlers are unknowingly trapped within the own circle of Hell, but Broaddus does it to perfection. The mean streets of downtown Indianapolis are alive in the pages, with a splendid mixing of urban fantasy and hard, gritty true crime bringing the characters to life.
While the pacing can drag a bit, the plot which drives the book is rock-solid, with enough action, suspense and intrigue to keep the ball rolling. Since it’s also the first book of a trilogy, part of the time is spent introducing the reader to the world, which can slow things down at times. I have high, high hopes for the sequel, King’s Justice.
Any fan of true, gritty crime mixed with urban fantasy will definitely appreciate this book. Be warned, however, as the author holds nothing back in his portrayal of just how bad the streets can be.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on January 22, 2013
Editor’s warning: This book review contains spoilers for the first book in the series, Darkship Thieves. If you do not wish for the ending to be spoiled, stop here. Unless you really want to know, in which case, read on.
For any protagonist, one’s spouse being shot in the head less than a year after being married is definitely something that makes the reader sit up. When the protagonist is Athena Hera Sinistra, it makes the reader wonder which world will burn first.
Sarah Hoyt’s latest Darkship novel, Darkship Renegades, picks up immediately after the end of the first book of the series, Darkship Thieves (reviewed here). Athena and Kit, her husband, have just escaped from captivity on Earth after killing her father-clone, the Good Man Sinistra, and triggered an (accidental) beginning of a revolution by releasing prisoners from the undersea fortress of Never Never. Flying their ship back to Eden, they are subsequently detained for being potential spies and collaborators of Earth (something they fought to distinguish against in the first book) once more. The heavy-handed Energy Board committee is beginning to flex their power over the daily life on Eden. Led by a devious man named Casteneda, the Energy Board is tightening the screws of their enemies, which includes Kit and his very extended family. In order to counteract this (and also to prove their loyalty), Athena, Kit, Doc Bartholomeu and the mysterious cat named Zen all volunteer to go to Earth and recover the power tree notes from the brilliant Mule, Jarl Ingemar, Kit’s clone-father, in hopes of recreating the power trees so that Eden would no longer be forced to steal from Earth and risk detection.
It’s right about here when Kit is shot in the head and Doc Bartholomeu, in a desperate attempt to save Kit’s life, performs a strange procedure on Kit’s brain to save him. Unfortunately, this also “uploads” the partial consciousness of Kit’s clone-father, Jarl, who is immediately at odds with Kit and Athena over who gets to control Kit’s body and mind. They journey to Earth and struggle to piece together what is Kit’s brain and what is Jarl’s, while Athena is torn between the man she loves and a man who she hates residing in one body.
This book is heavier in politics than its predecessor, and also (I think) better written. The pacing isn’t as fast as Darkship Thieves, but the characters are deeper, more complex, and their story is far more fascinating this time around. While in the first book Kit was more playful and almost condescending in his attitude towards Athena, in this one he knows of her strengths and respects them far more. Of course, he (wisely) refrains from a condescending attitude this time, because one does not mock one’s wife without paying a hefty price.
Another intriguing facet of the book is Zen. An enigma early on, the reader discovers very quickly why her and Kit are connected and the bond they share. It helps build the potential of a future for Kit and Athena, beyond just their own, but of their potential descendants after them. It also shows a side of Athena (a jealous one) that the reader has yet to really see before. It adds to Athena’s character, I feel.
This book is very, very good. Not quite as good as Darkship Thieves, but better written. It’s hard to explain. Some parts of this book meandered whenever Athena’s mind wandered, which is right on target with what could happen when in a first-person narrative. But it also distracts at times, though not negatively, but building upon things that are evident later in the book. It can drive you crazy if you are not patient, but when all the pieces click together at the end, you find yourself smiling, nodding and wondering why you didn’t see that before.
A must-have book for the spring reading season, and a dark look at what could happen to even the most noble of causes.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on January 15, 2013
Some young adult novels are hard to categorize in just one area alone. Such is the case with Cassandra Clare’s effort, Clockwork Angel, the first book of The Infernal Devices series and prequel to her bestselling series, The Mortal Instruments, which comes across as a fascinating delve into the magic of urban fantasy while still maintaining a strong steampunk undertone.
Tessa Gray comes from the United States to England at the behest of her brother, Nathaniel, who promises her a good job and pay. In mourning after the passing of her caretaker and aunt, Tessa arrives in London and immediately meets two elderly women, sisters by the names of Mrs. Black and Mrs. Dark. They represent their brother, that tell her, since he is unable to meet her at the time. Tessa reluctantly goes with them and immediately realizes two important things: the two sisters use magic, and that her life is in danger.
Tessa is trained in dark arts as well, though she is reluctant to do so. She learns how to change — to assume someone’s shape, form and memories — simply by touching something they once owned. As she grows stronger, she learns that she is to be given to the Magister — a man of much power and influence in the dark London magical underworld. Tessa tries to escape but is caught almost immediately. The sisters tie her up, but she struggles to escape once more — and runs into a boy, no older than she, who is trying to break in to the house.
Will is a nephilim (a descendant of “relations” between an angel and human somewhere in his family’s past) and is hunting the murderer of a girl Tessa “changed” into to please the sisters. After a brief battle with Will, Tessa and the evil sisters, Mrs. Black is slain but Tessa is knocked unconscious. She is then taken back to Will’s home, called The Institute, where she meets the other ”Shadowhunters” and their allies: Brother Enoch, Charlotte, Sophie, Jessamine, Thomas, and the mysterious Jem.
Part of the allure of the story is the cross-mesh between a good steampunk story and an urban fantasy, something that the author does rather well. Her characters are all varying individuals with their own reasons and desires, while they still maintain their friendships and relationships, and don’t come off as trite cardboard cutouts of anyone else. Ms. Clare does a wonderful job with the painting of the character Jem who, despite being sick, is a very skilled nephilim and shadowhunter.
Another compelling piece of characterization comes from Tessa’s motivation: her brother Nathaniel. She is willing to do anything, and go to any lengths, to save him. The twists and turns Tessa must face and overcome throughout the length of the novel makes for a fascinating read, and while it has a few minor bumps (there are some points where the story stalls, albeit briefly), it’s a wonderful introduction to an authors works.
With a twist you don’t see coming and a betrayal you almost wish you’d seen, Clockwork Angel is sure to leave the reader pleased.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on January 8, 2013
Part of what makes an epic fantasy so wonderful is just that — it’s on an epic scale that brings you deeper into a world not of your creation. It snares you, brings you in, paints a vivid image in your head and makes you wonder how you have never read this author before. That was my first impression upon delving into Stephen Zimmer’s massive tome, The Exodus Gate, which is the first book of his Rising Dawn saga.
Benedict Darwin is a talk show host which bears some resemblance to late night shows about government conspiracies, aliens and whatnot. Soon afterwards, he comes into possession of a device which, at first, seems to be nothing more than a very detailed virtual reality device. He goes into the virtual realm and discovers that there is something decidedly odd within the world. Perturbed, he shuts it off and leaves it along — until he decides to let his niece, Arianna, try it out with him. Thinking it as nothing more than a game, the two realize soon enough that whatever — or wherever — the VR world is, it is not some fanciful creation. Benedict and Arianna find out soon enough that there is a war going on, and that it was in the final stages. He also discovers that humanity, and freedom, are about to lose all as the nephilim — cursed children of fallen angels and humans, all but wiped out by the Great Flood talked about in the bible — seek to implement their rule over earth once more with the creation of a One World Government.
Caught up a series of events that are quickly spiraling out of their grasp, Benedict and Arianna find themselves as allies to the strange wolf-creatures in the virtual realm, along with new-found allies in their own realm, against a widening array of forces worshiping the darkest evil of all — Diabolos, the Shining One, emperor of the Abyss.
Rich in detail, The Exodus Gate brings to life mythical creatures and thrusts them into the limelight, forcing the reader to examine both the darkness and light without a filtered lens. The author has an excellent premise early on, and builds the tension very slowly throughout (sometimes a bit too slow) as he reaches for the finish, like a tidal wave building p steam before crashing into the beach. The pacing is slow at times, but some of the action is so intense that these slower times feels more like a deep breath than anything else.
Some of the secondary characters feel like mirrored doubles of others, but the vast cast of characters hides this well. A bit long at other points (an editor could have trimmed some off and not lost anything in the story, IMHO), The Exodus Gate is an excellent alternative for those who could not make it through J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.
One very good read, though plan on more than one sitting. It is extremely detailed, and not a book to be taken lightly.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on January 7, 2013
For fans of Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files, the last offering (Ghost Story, reviewed here) was a bit of a letdown. Harry, the intrepid hero, was dead, and wandering around Chicago in ghost form. It took an act which many reviewers (okay, this reviewer) to declare that the ending was contrived and painful. Nonetheless, Dresden more than makes up for it in his latest, Cold Days
Harry is now the Winter Knight, the ultimate warrior (so to speak) for Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. And after months of “physical therapy” (i.e., trying to kill Harry in every imaginable way possible) she tasks him with his first assignment as the Winter Knight: kill Maeve, Mab’s daughter.
Harry travels back to Chicago to find that the world had changed since his “death”. Friends and allies were no longer such, and those he once counted on in dire circumstances were now his enemies. Harry also learns that a massive war between the Outsiders and the forces of Winter are the only thing which keeps the mortal dimension in one piece, and discovers that something far more insidious — and dangerous — had occurred. Led by the mysterious Cait Sith, Harry must acquire all that he needs in order to complete his mission for Mab before Maeve, or anybody else for that manner, finds out.
Harry is almost immediately beset by the Summer Knight when he reaches Chicago after touching base with all his loved ones — except for one in particular. The Summer Knight is there to kill Harry, as Summer and Winter are wont to do. But Harry manages to convince his old friend Twitch (the Summer Knight) to hold off until the time is right. Harry’s half-brother, Thomas Wraith (white court vampire), also manages to convince the Lady Summer to wait as well. Harry suddenly finds himself trying to figure out just why Mab would need Harry to kill Maeve when the Queen could obviously do it herself. As the plot thickens, so does the danger that Harry and all his friends face.
Butcher gets back into stride after the rough outing in the previous novel, with Harry in full command of his magic and self once more. The powers and influences of the Winter Court are evident throughout, as Harry becomes more and more of a Winter Knight and less of himself. Aware of these inner changes, Harry struggles to keep his identity and sense of self throughout. The author does a magnificent job of pitting Harry’s humanity with the self-gratifying needs and desires of what being a Fae entails. Harry struggles, fails, and struggles again until he finally comes to terms and accepts that while he may be the Winter Knight, he is still Harry Dresden.
Part of the enjoyment of this novel is watching the struggle take place within Harry. He knows it is happening, yet it is careful and subtle while changing his feelings and emotions towards things. He slowly becomes more primal and cunning, while relaying less on his inner set of morals that have helped him stay strong throughout the series. Delving into what may have happened had Harry followed his old mentor, Justin, the author opens up a new side to Harry — one that the character is terrified of being.
Well-paced and filled with action, suspense and a surprise ending that even I didn’t see coming, Cold Days is a wonderful and welcome edition to the Dresden universe. A definite must-buy for any fan of the urban fantasy genre.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on November 21, 2012
Part of the beauty about YA is that there is more diversity to be found on its shelves than one would think. While the typical teenage paranormal romances seem to get all the headlines, a burgeoning (and promising) collection of steampunk and science fiction is rapidly expanding into YA territory. David Weber’s A Beautiful Friendship is one of those books.
The Star Kingdom has only recently settled on the rugged frontier world of Sphinx and were still in the process of colonizing the wild planet, and poor Stephanie Harrington has been dragged along with her parents to this new world. Now, dragged might be a misnomer, because young Stephanie is actually quite excited about exploring the untamed and undiscovered wilderness. Her excitement is tempered quickly, however, when her parents (wisely) refuse to let her explore on her own. With the casual finding of loopholes in the household rules (as teenagers are wont to do), she quickly becomes interested in something else entirely when her family’s small garden is raided by an unknown animal. The entire Harrington family is confused, however, because the only thing that was taken seems to be celery. Stephanie begins to try to track down the thief, but it eludes all cameras and lasers — until Stephanie finally figures out how the strange creature is accomplishing this feat.
Stephanie lays her trap, and finally catches sight of the most elusive of all creatures on Sphinx — a treecat,; a lean, six legged creature with odd intelligence that Stephanie finds amazing. However, the treecat (Stephanie calls it this; at the time, nobody had even suspected such a creature existed) disappears quickly into the forest, leaving behind one very disappointed girl.
Climbs Quickly is a member of the Bright Water Clan, one of the many People which live on Sphinx. The arrival of what his people call the “two legs” has driven all of the clans deeper into the forests, leaving behind scouts to watch the homesteads of their new neighbors. Climbs Quickly, like a few other scouts in the area, has discovered the “stalk”, celery, and is instantly addicted to it. He sneaks into the farm, is discovered by a young two-leg, and flees, though her “mind-glow” (a sort of telepathy/empathy communication between the People) is stuck in his head and he always seems to know where she is at all times.
Stephanie, too, seems to know where the mysterious treecat is at all times and, after ditching her gliding lessons, attempts to track him down. However, she crashes her glider far from home and is alone, injured and frightened. Her treecat finds her and they form a mental/emotional “bond”, which allows the treecat to lesson Stephanie’s pain and fear while Climbs Quickly calls to his fellow People to come and help him save her. However, Climbs Quickly discovers that she has crashed near a death fang’s lair (Think puma on steroids here) and knows that time is running out. He has to protect his young two legs before the death fang returns and kills them both.
I felt a momentary pang of actual fear during the tense standoff between Climbs Quickly and the death fang, which was very odd, because I already know what was going to happen. And yet… my throat constricted, I got a little misty eyed (my office is dry and dusty, dang it) and felt more than a little relief upon the conclusion of the encounter.
David Weber’s Honor Harrington series is one of the best-selling science fiction series out there, yet it pales in comparison to this novel. Setting hard science aside and focusing more on the compelling plot and character development, the author actually betters the story and makes this a far better read than a traditional scifi novel. His pacing, world building and plot are all fabulous, and while the reader gets to feel the emotion of the bonding between two species, one also gets to look in from the outside to see just what is going to happen next.
A simply amazing book about bravery, trust, loyalty and friendship, A Beautiful Friendship is very near the top of my YA books of the year. A definite must-read for everyone, whether they enjoy pure scifi or YA.
–Reviewed by Jason
Posted in Book Review on November 12, 2012
Disclaimer: as you may (or may not know), I hate high fantasy with a passion. The most complaints via email I’ve received from readers is when I have eviscerated a fantasy novel in a review, saying I am “unfair” and “shouldn’t be reviewing fantasy” if I don’t like it. That being said, Jim Butcher’s Furies of Calderon just may have saved fantasy for me.
The book begins with a young Cursor named Amara and her teacher, Fidelias, on their way to investigate and track down a rogue band of knights. However, their disguises fail and the two are captured almost immediately. Amara is left alone in the tent while her teacher is led outside to be killed. Amara soon learns that she has been betrayed and, after secreting a dagger away from her captors, manages to escape and fly away (a Cursor is like a messenger except with the power to summon a magic element — a fury — of wind to carry them great distances). Amara realizes soon enough that she is in far over her head and flies off, struggling to find a river where she can report to the king of Alera, Gaius.
Meanwhile, a young teenager named Tavi is caught sneaking out of his house early in the morning by his uncle, Bernard. An orphan, Tavi has been raised by his aunt. Her brother, the steadholder (ruler) of Bernardholt, assists him after calmly disciplining him. As they wander out, it is made known that Tavi is Fury-less, which is a rarity in the land of Alera. As Tavi and his uncle are out, they discover that the local bully (Bittan) and his brother (Aric) and father (Kord), who is another steadholder (of Kordholt) are out, preparing to ambush a family coming to testify against them. Barnard easily dispatches them and warns them against interfering with the testimony and trial. Bittan and Kord threaten Barnard and Tavi before heading on their way. Barnard and Tavi head back out, looking for lost sheep which Tavi had been sneaking out to find before being caught. While out, they are ambushed by a Marat warrior and his two giant birds and separated. A fury-born storm breaks out, forcing the two further apart, and Tavi finds himself on the run from the Marat warrior.
Amara, meanwhile, lands near Barnardholt, exhausted from her travels and still on the run from the rogue knights. She is caught in the storm and well and, as fate would have it, stumbles into Tavi. The two stumble around until Tavi leads them to sanctuary — the Princeps Memorial, where the last heir to Alera was entombed after being slain in battle by the Marat fifteen years previous.
Butcher has something special here, without a doubt. The plot is deep, compelling, and moves the story forward at a steady pace. So unlike his Dresden Files novels, the author instead keeps everything in a third person POV while writing in a very distinct style. His characters are very believable, and you find yourself rooting for Tavi, Bernard, Amara and Isana (Tavi’s aunt) as well as the Marat warrior leader Doroga. Each one of them is very different from one another, and the difference in cultures between the Alerans and Marats makes for some very interesting interactions.
One of the best scenes in fantasy that I’ve ever written are in this book. In the scene, Tavi, who is trying to win a challenge against Doroga’s “whelp” Kitai in order to secure his freedom and prevent the Marat from overrunning the Calderon (the valley where Tavi lives), they are sneaking into the Wax Forest, a very dangerous place, in order ot secure a special mushroom that the Marat find valuable for healing purposes (among other things). Tavi, who is about to descend into the valley, suddenly realizes that his competitor is a girl and is very flustered, as any teenage boy would be upon such a startling dicovery just before a dangerous — and eadly — competition. Tavi si stammering, while Kitai simply looks on. She does not understand Tavi’s oddness towards her, and watching the two of them go at it verbally as they head into the forest — which is protected by the Keepers of Silence, a very dangerous spider-like creature — is absolutely hilarious in the midst of the terror and danger which surrounds them. This is Butcher’s strength, the humor in the face of adversity, and I am very glad to see it included in a very serious novel.
Packed with adventure, political intrigue, romance, surprises and stirring scenes, Furies of Calderon is a must-read, and one of the best fantasy books I’ve read — ever.
Definite a must-buy.
–Reviewed by Jason