146 Followers
184 Following
wandapedersen39

Wanda's Book Reviews

I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles.  (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).

Currently reading

The Fall of the House of Wilde: Oscar Wilde and His Family
Emer O'Sullivan
The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel
Nina George, Simon Pare
Progress: 196/320 pages
The Last Coin
James P. Blaylock
Progress: 86/328 pages

Spider's Bite / Jennifer Estep

Spider's Bite - Jennifer Estep

My name is Gin, and I kill people.

They call me the Spider. I'm the most feared assassin in the South — when I'm not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don't use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Now that a ruthless Air elemental has double-crossed me and killed my handler, I'm out for revenge. And I'll exterminate anyone who gets in my way — good or bad. I may look hot, but I'm still one of the bad guys. Which is why I'm in trouble, since irresistibly rugged Detective Donovan Caine has agreed to help me. The last thing this coldhearted killer needs when I'm battling a magic more powerful than my own is a sexy distraction... especially when Donovan wants me dead just as much as the enemy.

 

I decided to start this series as the author will be attending a conference that I am registered for this summer. I like to have a feel for the work of the featured guests before the event.

If you are enamoured of urban fantasy, as I am, I would recommend this book to you. If, on the other hand, you find UF tiresome, pass this series by. For those of us who enjoy the genre, this is an acceptable series, with a number of good ideas.

Good ideas: (1) A female assassin. With magical powers, although she tries not to rely on them. (2) An interesting elemental magic scheme. (3) Gin (our assassin friend) is confident, competent & doesn’t even pretend that she’s a loner. She has friends who are like family & freely admits it.

The stuff that didn’t work so well for me? (1) The repetition. How many times do we need to be told where Gin carries all of her knives? Or how much she loves all of her knives? (2) The novel was filled with UF clichés, e.g. the main character has a tragic & damaging past (shades of Batman), she has a “code” (à la Dexter or Spademan in Shovel Ready). (3) Of course she is romantically interested in a policeman, he is as self-righteous as she is pragmatic, and every time she lays eyes on him all she can think about is sex

(but her little feelings are hurt when they eventually have sex & he still dislikes her).

(show spoiler)


The set-up of Gin’s world is a little grittier and darker than I would normally choose. Sexual situations are just part of the background (lots of prostitutes & their clients) and often described more graphically than other UF series that I have read. I realize that it is just part of Gin’s “wrong side of the tracks” world, but it grated on me a bit.

Still, I liked the book and will continue with the series, both to see if Gin can “go straight” with her restaurant business (I assuming not entirely or the series is named wrong) and if she does, whether Detective Caine will unbend a bit and meet her in the middle.

Fire Touched / Patricia Briggs

Fire Touched - Patricia Briggs

Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae.

Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?

 

Plenty of Fae goodness in this installment of Mercy Thompson! They are absolutely the best frenemies—devious, slippery, powerful, and power-hungry. Mercy has to be careful even with her friendly Fae!

Mercy & her shape-shifting gang beat a powerful troll, then Mercy “claims” the Tri-Cities area à la Kate Daniels of the Ilona Andrews series. Just like Kate, Mercy finds that her spur of the moment solution causes more headaches than she anticipated.

Excellent things about this book? Mercy finally gets some female friends! She gets to have a heart-to-heart talk with The Flanagan, a fabulous Fae woman—the only reservation I have is that its “girl talk” as they discuss the men in their lives. Soooo close to Bechdel test territory, but no cigar. But there is less hostility from the female werewolves and Baba Yaga makes some friendly overtures, giving me hope that Mercy may get some normal friendships out of the deal.

Secondly, Mercy doesn’t get absolutely bashed up in this installment. For once, someone else gets crushed by troll-tossed cars, fae-flung boulders, and any other bone-crushing missiles. Just a few bruises this time for our heroine.

If there are any minuses, it’s that the vampires are virtually absent. Yes, we get Thomas Hao, as The Flanagan’s prospective love interest, but Stefan never makes an appearance at all and even Wulfe only gets one little phone call to be creepy in.

A perennial complaint of mine—cover art. This one seems particularly bad to me, depicting Mercy with far less clothing that I picture her wearing. I just don’t see that shirt being too practical for all the butt-kicking that she does.

I wonder if we might get a spin-off series featuring Thomas Hao & The Flanagan? I’d read those!

Agent of Change / Sharon Lee, Steve Miller

Agent of Change - Sharon Lee, Steve Miller

Once a brilliant First-in Scout, Val Con yos'Phelium was "recruited" by the mysterious Liaden Department of Interior and brainwashed into an Agent of Change—a ruthless covert operative who kills without remorse.

Fleeing the scene of his latest murderous mission, he finds himself saving the life of ex-mercenary Miri Robertson, a tough Terran on the run from a team of interplanetary assassins. Thrown together by circumstances, Val Con and Miri struggle to elude their enemies and stay alive without slaying each other—or surrendering to the unexpected passion that flares between them.

 

The Liaden Universe entertains again—I stayed up past bedtime last night to finish this novel and absolutely had to know how things ended. Except I now know that I will have to consult another title for “the rest of the story.” That’s okay, this was a fun romp.

What do you do when you are a hardened, take-no-prisoners spy who almost incidentally rescues someone and then you find yourself quite taken with her? Val Con yos’Phelium suddenly can’t just leave Miri Robertson in the lurch. He saved her life once and now it seems the two of them have become interdependent. Neither one of them is sure how they feel about it.

Although their developing relationship definitely has a starring role in the novel, there is plenty of action & adventure too. A new species is introduced to the Liaden series, that of the large, sentient turtles (The Clutch). The most prominent of them, Edger, reminds me of the Ents in LOTR—living & doing business at a stately pace, watching short-lived humans whip through the world at a frantic rate. I’m looking forward to seeing how these reptilian characters feature in future adventures. Not to mention the space mafia that they seem to be set up to oppose.

The ever-so-complicated Liaden world barely impinges on this book—our main characters never get near Liaden society, so there is less of the societal machinations prominent in Local Custom or Scout’s Progress. I look forward to future stories of Val Con and Miri.

Book 245 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

Leonard / William Shatner

Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man - David Fisher, William Shatner

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner first crossed paths as actors on the set of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Little did they know that their next roles, in a new science-fiction television series, would shape their lives in ways no one could have anticipated. In seventy-nine television episodes and six feature films, they grew to know each other more than most friends could ever imagine.

Over the course of half a century, Shatner and Nimoy saw each other through personal and professional highs and lows. In this powerfully emotional book, Shatner tells the story of a man who was his friend for five decades, recounting anecdotes and untold stories of their lives on and off set, as well as gathering stories from others who knew Nimoy well, to present a full picture of a rich life.

 

I am a dyed-in-the-wool Star Trek fan—I started watching the original series while in my tweens. It was “must see” after school TV (even though the show was cancelled by this point & I was watching re-runs). Mr. Spock was my absolute favourite character and I was happy to see him popping up in later incarnations of Star Trek, especially the new series of movies. So I was saddened by Leonard Nimoy’s death in 2015. I appreciate that he did many other roles, by it is Spock that I will remember him for.

In January, I was able to see his son’s documentary For the Love of Spock while flying to Johannesburg. I enjoyed seeing Nimoy & Spock from his son’s perspective, even the difficult parts of that relationship. Naturally, when I got home, it seemed appropriate to read William Shatner’s memoir concerning Leonard Nimoy as well.

I was pleasantly surprised at how honest Shatner seemed to be in this memoir. I think that it takes courage to admit that you don’t have many friends, that you don’t know how to make or maintain friendships, and that you screw up friendships & don’t know why. His co-writer, David Fisher, lets Shatner’s voice shine through and I felt some empathy for a man who may have career success, but seems like a lonely old guy.

Mind you, this book is replete with Shatner’s two favourite words, “I” and “me.” While nominally about Leonard, the memoir reveals far more about Shatner than it does about Nimoy. Shatner can’t be an easy man to befriend—he doesn’t seem to fully understand concepts like teasing, for example. He tries to participate, but more like a person following a ritual than like someone who truly understands what’s going on and as a result, he often misses the mark.

Although his egoism is obvious, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Shatner at the book’s end, when it seems that he and Nimoy were estranged. Shatner quite honestly couldn’t understand why and seemed honestly distressed by the situation. Despite their rift, he has written an honest and moving account of their 50 year association and has tried to give a fair portrayal of their relationship.

If you too are a Star Trek devotee, you will probably enjoy this memoir. Others may not find it quite as interesting.

Sheepfarmer's Daughter / Elizabeth Moon

Sheepfarmer's Daughter - Elizabeth Moon

Paksenarrion — Paks for short — is somebody special. She knows it, even if nobody else does yet. No way will she follow her father's orders to marry the pig farmer down the road. She's off to join the army, even if it means she can never see her family again.

And so her adventure begins... the adventure that transforms her into a hero remembered in songs, chosen by the gods to restore a lost ruler to his throne.

Here is her tale as she lived it.

 

I really wanted to like this tale more than I actually did. It had moments of greatness—as when Paksenarrion fights off her father and leaves home to join the army. (Although, as the daughter of a pig farmer, I will tell you that there are worse men that you could end up married to).

I read this book while on holiday and it always seemed that I was interrupted right in mid-battle, left wondering for many hours how things would turn out! That said, the battles were certainly not gritty like those described by Glen Cook in his Dark Company series. These were battlefield-lite. And although Paks is injured several times and has bad things happen to her, she leads the charmed life of the fantasy heroine.

What was refreshing was having a female main character who was competent with a weapon and interested in tactics. Now, how much is her own doing and how much is she being assisted by somewhat magical influences? This supernatural stirring in her life puts me in mind of Joan of Arc….

Book 241 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

The Dragonbone Chair / Tad Williams

The Dragonbone Chair - Tad Williams

A war fueled by the powers of dark sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard—for Prester John, the High King, lies dying. And with his death, the Storm King, the undead ruler of the elf-like Sithi, seizes the chance to regain his lost realm through a pact with the newly ascended king. Knowing the consequences of this bargain, the king’s younger brother joins with a small, scattered group of scholars, the League of the Scroll, to confront the true danger threatening Osten Ard.

Simon, a kitchen boy from the royal castle unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, will be sent on a quest that offers the only hope of salvation, a deadly riddle concerning long-lost swords of power. Compelled by fate and perilous magics, he must leave the only home he’s ever known and face enemies more terrifying than Osten Ard has ever seen, even as the land itself begins to die.

 

Oh, the orphan boy with unknown talents, who under-performs until the pressure is applied—how many fantasy stories have you read with this structure? Let’s see--Magic’s Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, The Riftwar Saga by Raymond Feist, The Belgariad by David Eddings, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, even to some extent The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (substitute “hobbit” for “boy”). Maybe even the King Arthur story to some extent—until young Arthur pulls the sword from the stone. It’s a well-used idea.

At the book’s beginning, I found Simon particularly annoying. As lives go in Midieval-like settings, his lot in life isn’t so bad, although the housekeeper Rachel does make his existence somewhat miserable. However, we all have to earn our keep, so pull up your socks, laddie, and make an effort! Even when offered opportunities to learn to read and to study, he complains! Typical 14-year-old, I guess, something I wouldn’t know about, having had the reading bug ever since I learned to read. Simon doesn’t appreciate his warm bed, three square meals a day, and secure surroundings until he has to flee the castle.

Once he starts running for his life, Simon begins growing up. He becomes a much more likeable character at that point and I began to get invested in his tale. He loses some of the ADHD qualities that made him a “mooncalf” in the beginning and becomes a much more focused young man.
I also appreciated a brand new take on trolls—making them smaller, wiser, and wilier. I liked Binobik and his wolf companion a lot. The Sithi are interesting in their ambiguity—are they enlightened, ethereal beings like the elves in Tolkien? Or are they the dark enemies of mankind? The world of Osten Ard is very detailed and easy to picture in the mind’s eye.

The writing isn’t the best ever, but the story is engaging and I am waiting impatiently for volume 2 at my public library, where it is ‘on order.’ No telling how long I will have to pause before I know what happens to Simon, the kingdom, and the Storm King!

Book number 239 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

To pick up at the library on the way home....

Agent of Change - Sharon Lee, Steve Miller The Conjoined: A Novel - Jen Sookfong Lee Fire Touched - Patricia Briggs Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man - David Fisher, William Shatner Skinwalker - Faith Hunter The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 3 - Garth Nix, Stephen Baxter, Holly Black, Michael Swanwick, Joan Aiken, Holly Phillips, Kelly Link, Ian McDonald, John Kessel, Jonathan Strahan, Paul J. McAuley, Greg Egan, Maureen F. McHugh, Margo Lanagan, M. Rickert, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kij Johnson, Elizabeth Bear, Robert Re Spider's Bite - Jennifer Estep The Fall of the House of Wilde: Oscar Wilde and His Family - Emer O'Sullivan Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World's Most Famous Human Fossils - Lydia V. Pyne

I will undoubtedly have plenty to read this weekend!  And it is a long weekend, Monday being Family Day here in Alberta.

 

Happy Friday everyone and enjoy the weekend.

 

Wanda

My South African Adventure

I've been away for the better part of a month, on a birding holiday in South Africa.  This link will take you to my Facebook photo album of the adventure, should you be interested. 

 

South Africa is a great country to visit--I would highly recommend it.  The wine is fabulous and we ate some pretty good food, too.  The big infrastructure (roads, airports) is good, but the personal infrastructure (plumbing, air con) leaves something to be desired in some places.  However, as our tour guide reminded us, it is a third world country, despite the first impressions.

 

I'm very glad I visited and even more glad that I saw all 3 species of cranes and the African penguin, cranes & penguins being my favourite families of birds.

 

Have a great Friday!

 

Wanda

Magic's Pawn / Mercedes Lackey

Magic's Pawn - Mercedes Lackey

Though Vanyel has been born with near-legendary abilities to work both Herald and Mage magic, he wants no part of such things. Nor does he seek a warrior's path, wishing instead to become a Bard. Yet such talent as his if left untrained may prove a menace not only to Vanyel but to others as well. So he is sent to be fostered with his aunt, Savil, one of the famed Herald-Mages of Valdemar.

But, strong-willed and self-centered, Vanyel is a challenge which even Savil can not master alone. For soon he will become the focus of frightening forces, lending his raw magic to a spell that unleashes terrifying wyr-hunters on the land. And by the time Savil seeks the assistance of a Shin'a'in Adept, Vanyel's wild talent may have already grown beyond anyone's ability to contain, placing Vanyel, Savil, and Valdemar itself in desperate peril...

 

Oh, what a validating novel this would be for a child who had no sports talent, but was being forced to participate anyway! Every boy convinced by his father to set aside his violin or book in order to fail dismally at baseball or hockey would be able to relate to Vanyel. Music is everything to Vanyel with academics running a close second, but his father only wants him to become a brutal swordsman.

Others who may relate: those who excelled in their own small pond (small town or small school), but find themselves out-shone by talented peers when they arrived at university. Vanyel is considered smart and musically talented at home, but once he is sent to his Aunt Savil at the school for Herald-Mages, his talents fall short of the mark.

Also a book for a youngster (in the 1980s) struggling with his/her sexual orientation. The good thing that comes out of this new situation is that Vanyel realizes that he is interested in boys—that’s why bedding girls at home was never alluring to him. And although some people are prejudiced against him for his orientation, the author makes it clear that they are “provincial” and not to be listened to. I was pleasantly surprised to find this viewpoint expressed so unequivocally in literature from the 1980s.

Like most teenagers, Vanyel is very self-centered. It goes with the territory, but it does make the kid hard to like (at least for a woman in her 50s). However, it was also disappointing that the instructors at the mage school made so little effort to see behind the arrogant pose that Vanyel used to protect himself. The situation improves as the book progresses, with Aunt Savil realizing that there is a great deal more to her nephew that she had previously realized and that maybe her brother was even thicker than she had thought. This is also a pretty standard plot device—I think of Simon in The Dragonbone Chair, who also starts as a self-involved teen (with fewer talents than Vanyel), but eventually becomes a person of character.

I had to wonder at the addition of the horse-like Companions—in order to become a Herald-Mage, one must be “chosen” by one of these superior, magical beings, who reminded me very much of the Houyhnhnms from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Maybe in the next book, I will figure out why the Companions are necessary to this world.

Book 244 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

Rimrunners / C.J. Cherryh

Rimrunners - C.J. Cherryh

Meet Elizabeth Yeager, "Spacer, machinist, temp." A refugee waiting for a ship to call home, Bet Yeager was once a marine.

Now she's on the run.

 

In this world Yeager has hit bottom, she's jobless, homeless, and starving on Thule, a nearly abandoned station in the by-passed Hinder Stars. Sleeping in toilets, killing to save her body, stealing to stay alive, she feels her hopes die ... until the Loki docks. It's a spook: a mercenary warship barely legitimated by Alliance documents as a free-lance bounty hunter and spy vessel—a ship whose captain has no qualms about signing on a "machinist" with no papers and a shady past, not to mention murder charges hanging over her head.

 

 

Not my favourite Cherryh book, but I still liked it. She has an uncanny knack for exploring aspects of the future that wouldn’t occur to me. Like this book—what happens when you’re a spacer and you lose your job and become homeless? Is it possible to conceal your identity in such an advanced society? Considering that this book was written in the 1980s, when it was considerably easier to take on a new identity, it would be interesting to read something along the same lines written in this century. It would seem to me to be almost impossible to disappear today, though I understand that there are books which give instruction on how to do that—erasing traces of yourself, both physical and electronic.

Bet Yeager is a difficult woman to relate to, but despite that I found myself rooting for her, especially as she started making connections with the people around her, despite herself. Funny how friendship can change the shape of a life, pushing people in different directions than they would normally go.

Rimrunners is a tribute to the power of personal connections to pull people out of difficult situations.

The Burning Page / Genevieve Cogman

The Burning Page - Genevieve Cogman

Librarian spy Irene has professional standards to maintain. Standards that absolutely do not include making hasty, unplanned escapes through a burning besieged building. But when the gateway back to your headquarters dramatically malfunctions, one must improvise. And after fleeing a version of Revolutionary France astride a dragon (also known as her assistant, Kai), Irene soon discovers she's not the only one affected. Gates back to the Library are malfunctioning across a multitude of worlds, creating general havoc. She and Kai are tasked with a mission to St Petersburg's Winter Palace, to retrieve a book which will help restore order.

However, such plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy - particularly when the enemy is the traitor Alberich. A nightmare figure bent on the Library's destruction, Alberich gives Irene a tainted 'join me or die' job offer. Meanwhile, Irene's old friend Vale has been damaged by exposure to Chaotic forces and she has no idea how to save him. When another figure from her past appears, begging for help, Irene has to take a good hard look at her priorities. And of course try to save the Library from absolute annihilation. Saving herself would be a bonus.

 

I was so frustrated with the ending of The Masked City, I could hardly wait to get my hands on this, book three of the series. The Burning Page answered the hanging questions from TMC and plunges the reader into more Library adventures with Irene and Kai.

Thankfully, this volume ends on a better note for me—the story is wrapped up, although there is definitely room for more adventures (which I shall await impatiently). This installment has fewer Fae in it (a minus for me) but gets Irene back to the fundamentals of being a Librarian, i.e. the pursuit of rare books (definitely a plus).

I love the Library’s determined neutrality—they refuse to support either the forces of Chaos or those of Order, knowing that the optimum state is a balance in between those two poles. Like real libraries do, actually, trying to support the needs of their community, no matter which political party is currently forming government, while defending free speech, free flow of information, and freedom from censorship.

I do hope that Irene and Vale manage to overcome their issues to become a couple in the next book (although if he is a Sherlock-Holmes-kind-of-guy, this may be a doomed relationship). Four books is an awful long distance to draw out the suspense of this courtship. And Kai is hinting that he’s in the running too, so will Irene have to deal with some awkward workplace romance? And will she regain her standing within the Library hierarchy, or is she doomed to probation forever? Perhaps The Lost Plot will answer some of my questions.

I’m ever so glad that I discovered this series—it is highly entertaining and I will be sad when I’ve finished reading it. Thankfully, that point seems to be some distance in the future right now, with books 4 and 5 promised, but no dates for publication yet available.

Magic Binds / Ilona Andrews

Magic Binds - Ilona Andrews

Mercenary Kate Daniels knows all too well that magic in post-Shift Atlanta is a dangerous business. But nothing she’s faced could have prepared her for this…

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

 

 

 

”You’re like a crazy cat lady, but you collect killers instead of fluffy cats.”

A pretty accurate assessment of Ms. Kate Daniels, by her husband-to-be, Curran Lennart. A standard fantasy fiction trope—the charismatic leader who draws a motley band of followers to achieve some glorious objective. But I really like the spin that the Andrews team give it. Kate would be just as happy not to have to defend Atlanta (which her god-like father Roland/Nimrod provoked her into claiming), but she feels responsible. And she is definitely a people collector—Julie, Derek, Christopher, Barabas, Andrea & Raphael, plus this book adds Adora to the mix.

What makes Kate different from your average fantasy leader is that she is motivated by love—everyone that she takes under her wing, be they people, mules, or dogs, is a being that she cares about. She has gone from being a lonely killing machine, created by her foster-father Voron, to having real relationships. This book adds a new dimension to Kate, as she plans (or tries to avoid planning) her wedding.

A must read for those of us who are enjoying the Kate saga. There is plenty of action, but I keep feeling that this is fantasy for those of us more interested in relationships that in smiting things. I will be most desolate when the Andrews decide that they have written enough Kate adventures.

Sorry for flooding your newsfeed with a bunch of reviews.  I got carried away because its so nice to find that BookLikes is actually working again!

 

I'll be away on vacation until February 8th, so there will be another hiatus, then probably another flood of reviews.

 

Stay warm, BookLikes friends, and I'll talk to you again soon.

 

Wanda

Burn for Me / Ilona Andrews

Burn for Me - Ilona Andrews

Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile case. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire. Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run or surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive. Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.

 

I enjoyed this first book of a new series by the Ilona Andrews writing team and I’ll definitely be waiting impatiently for the second volume to be published this year.

That said, I can objectively see where a lot of this is simply a re-write of the Kate Daniels series. Nevada is the Kate clone—a tough, independent young woman with hidden talents waiting to be revealed and protective instincts that guide her behaviour. Connor “Mad” Rogan is the Curran substitute—the overpowering and arrogant alpha male. He’s pretty cliché, actually, being all the things that we women are supposed to desire, sexy, rich, and powerful. Switch out the Pack from the Kate Daniels series and put in Nevada’s family, including a heavy-duty-mechanic grandmother, a magical sharpshooter mother, and variously talented siblings.

The thing is, I like these people. I like Nevada. I love her grandma. I appreciate Nevada’s moral outlook on the world, i.e. everyone is someone’s child, parent, sibling, or loved one and deserves to be protected. I will wait to see how Rogan will be converted into someone less self-involved, less cold & calculating. The Andrews have set him up as rather psychopathic—a condition which has no cure in the real world, especially as psychopaths see absolutely nothing wrong with their state. (Actually, he’s maybe closer to Hugh D’Ambray than to Curran, which may make for some interesting plot points).

Obviously, this is a winning formula for the Andrews. I can’t blame them for re-constituting it, giving it a somewhat different spin, and getting some more mileage from it. And they have given us a differently magical world in this series—so far, no vampires or were-animals. The Primes are magic users with semi-god-like powers, reminiscent of Kate’s father and/or Hugh D’Ambray, but they are far more human in their outlooks.

Now, I must settle in to wait until the end of May for the next installment.

The Knight and Knave of Swords / Fritz Leiber

The Knight and Knave of Swords - Fritz Leiber

Dark Horse's republication of Fritz Leiber's immortal tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser reach a turning point with this new edition of Leiber's final stories of the two intrepid adventurers. Their journeys have taken them from one side of Nehwon to the other, facing life-risking peril at every turn. Now, in a set of stories that show us Fafhrd and the Mouser both on their own and together, they will face some of their most challenging obstacles, and - against assassins, angry gods, and even Death himself - the duo must battle for their very lives. With a mixture of high adventure, moving drama, and broad comedy, The Knight and Knave of Swords is a perfect endpiece to Leiber's stories of the stalwart comrades.

 

 

 

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser Cranky Old Men edition

We’re old, we’re gray, get off our lawn.

A somewhat unfair assessment of the last FatGM book by Fritz Leiber, who died 4 years after it was copyrighted, at age 81. A few statements within the first few pages seemed to indicate that he was writing to placate fans of the series—you know us fans, we are always clamouring for more adventures of our favourites! I imagine that it’s hard to scrape up enthusiasm for a project that feels rather forced on the writer, especially after 50 years of writing these adventures.

Fafhrd and Mouser are reluctant adventurers in this installment. They would far rather settle down with their current lady-loves, go on the odd commercial venture, and live comfortably for the rest of their lives, but when your life is entwined with nosy gods there are bound to be interruptions.

Leiber was obviously concerned with issues of mortality while writing this, as Fafhrd and Mouser end up with a spell on them, making them elderly in outlook before their time. His earlier beautiful vocabulary gets much coarser in Knight and Knave and I don’t think he got the same delight out of writing about these two rascals anymore.

It was rather sad to watch the decline of the barbarian and the cut-purse, just as it is sad to watch the subtle decline in an elderly relative.

Book 238 of my science fiction and fantasy reading project.

The Yard / Alex Grecian

The Yard - Alex Grecian

Victorian London is a cesspool of crime, and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives—known as “The Murder Squad”—to investigate countless murders every month. Created after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt. They have failed their citizens. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own . . . one of the twelve . . .When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley. Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad . . . but why?

 

I liked The Yard. I really wanted to love it, but a couple of things stood in my way. I really felt like it was a modern forensic mystery being forced into a Victorian corset—and details were frequently straining to escape.

A little research has helped me like it more. This really was the time period during which fingerprinting became a thing that police forces did and autopsies were practiced. I found the resistance of some members of the police force to these procedures to be believable—perhaps more believable than the easy acceptance of them by the main characters.

I probably would have been more enamoured by this novel had I not been reading some of Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent Rivers of London series recently. Aaronovitch, as a Londoner, has such an advantage with the dialog—his sounds authentic, he uses slang expertly, his dialog sounds natural. This is a difficult task for a North American author to duplicate. Grecian’s characters inevitably end up sounding somewhat American. A couple of references to the modern myth of families needing "closure" especially rubbed me the wrong way, particularly since I really don't believe that there's any such thing! Having lost family traumatically in a car accident, I can tell you that there is never closure, just the careful construction of a new reality.

I didn’t get a strong sense of place in The Yard either. London is such a wonderful, rich location for a story--Rivers of London or the Slough House series by Mick Herron make the city an integral part of the action.

Still, this was an interesting first book in the series and I wouldn’t be surprised if I read at least the second book at some point to see if the author finds his footing. There are a number of interesting people who seem poised to become regulars and the possibilities are intriguing. If you enjoyed this book, I would also recommend Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson by Lyndsay Faye, a book which I feel captures the flavor of the period a little better.