FRIDAY FACE OFF JULY 21, 2017

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Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a new weekly meme hosted by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in the literary universe.

This week’s theme is:  “Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it.  A cover which features a planet.

When I read this week’s theme I was filled with a sense of calm, because I knew there were loads of science fiction books featuring planets.  But even though there were many recent choices to pick from I decided mys election this week had to be an unusual one.  A cover which most people would never have heard of much less ever seen.  And this led me to pour through older sci fi offerings.  Sure, many of them were a little strange, but they were damn creative too.  And my favorite featuring a planet was . . .

LUCKY STARR AND THE RINGS OF SATURN 

by

ISAAC ASIMOV (Writing as Paul French)


COVER A

RINGS OF SATURN 1


COVER B

RINGS OF SATURN 2


COVER C

RINGS OF SATURN 3

 



AND THE WINNER IS . . .


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I have to admit really loving Covers A and C.  They both are really eye-catching in different ways.  But, finally, I admitted to myself that one was just cooler than the other one.  And so, I picked . . .

RINGS OF SATURN 1

 

Agree or disagree?  Which would you choose?  Why?

And why not join in next week with your own selections.

Posted in Cover Lover, Friday Face-Off | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

BOOK TRAVELING THURSDAY: A BOOK STUCK ON MY TBR WHICH I’M GOING TO READ THIS YEAR

booktravelingthursdays5Book Traveling Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Catia and Danielle.  Each week everyone picks a book related to that week’s theme, then you write a blog post explaining explain why you choose that book and spotlight all the different covers from different countries. To find out more check out about BTT go to the Goodreads group!

This week’s theme is: A BOOK STUCK ON MY TBR WHICH I’M GOING TO READ THIS YEAR!  The topic being fairly self-explanatory.

What I loved about this topic was it gave me an excuse to look through my lengthy, organized tbr pile.  (Who am I kidding.  I had to dig around on my cluttered bookshelves out in the garage.)  And it didn’t take me long at all to find the perfect book which I had almost completely forgotten about.

ORIGINAL COVER 

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I believe this is the original cover for the book.  It is definitely the one I recall when the novel first came out at my local bookstore back in the mid 1990s.  If I’m wrong, and there is an older one I’d love for someone to link it.

FAVORITE COVERS

There never is really a real “Why” I like a cover.  I just like them or I don’t.  Seldom do I ever learn to like a cover which I initially hated.  So, for whatever reason, these are four covers for Assassin’s Apprentice which I looked at and immediately thought to myself “Cool!”

LEAST FAVORITE COVERS

No real deep reason for labeling these as my least favorite covers.  They jsut didn’t excite me, cause me to go “Wow!” That is a book I have to read.”

So what do you think.  Agree?  Disagree?

Posted in Book Traveling Thursday | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: BOOKS NOT SET/INSPIRED BY WESTERN WORLD

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Today, the guys in the Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday group have an interesting topic, one which seems to be coming up more and more lately: Books Not Set/Inspired By The Western World.  “Talk about books that are set outside of the Western World (so outside of North America and Western Europe) or if they are SFF, books that aren’t inspired by those places.  So no medieval fantasy setting, even in outer space!”

As a lover of medieval fantasy settings, I find this last caveat a bit annoying, because fantasy is generally populated by magical creatures, strange races, and every shape, size, color, and creed of people that the author’s imagination can dream up.  So whether the “setting” is inspired by European, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, African, or some non-human culture doesn’t seem easy to determine nor really important, because, obviously, the setting isn’t really Western if people fly around on dragons, level mountains with magic, or spend their time fighting mutant chaos warriors from another dimension.  Instead, fantasy settings are a hodgepodge of ideas; the very best of the genre meshing the magical with the ordinary, the unbelievable with the mundane, to create worlds completely new and original with which to dazzle their readers.

But even though I didn’t agree with the topic’s proposition, it was worth exploring.  As I mentioned, this demand for non-Western inspired fantasy seems to be a growing trend, and so I needed to do some research, ponder a few things, and put together a coherent response for this type of criticism of my favorite reading genre.

At this point, I’m turning it over to actor Chris Platt to issue a statement in my behalf to everyone who is about to read this article.

I want to make a heartfelt apology for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying . . . I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I’m the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said . . .

I am not in the business of making excuses. I am just dumb. Plain and simple. I try. I REALLY try! When I do (potentially) commit the offensive act for which I am now (pre) apologizing you must understand I (will likely have been) tired and exhausted when I (potentially) said that thing I (will have had) said that (will have had) crossed the line. . . Trust me. I know you can’t say that anymore. In fact in my opinion it was never right to say the thing I definitely don’t want to but probably will have said. To those I (will have) offended please understand how truly sorry I already am. I am fully aware that the subject matter of my imminent forthcoming mistake, a blunder (possibly to be) . . . is (most likely) in no way a laughing matter. To those I (will likely have had) offended rest assured I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen (again).

Okay, with the pre-apology out of the way, I want you to know I spent a lot of time thinking about this topic.  Initially, I thought perhaps what the topic was referring to was fantasy such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  I mean, that seems to be the seminal work many people point to as the blueprint for “European-type” fantasy.  But even if that is so, what exactly about the men of Gondor, Elves of Rivendell, Lorien, and Mirkwood, Dwarves of Erebor, Ents of Fangorn, Orcs of Mordor, Hobbits of the Shire, and all the rest could possibly make them “inspired by the Western World?”  Is it their languages?  Their religious beliefs?  Political systems?  Morals?  Types of warfare?

So I pondered.  Contemplated it even more.  And I grew more perplexed, because LoTR’s races don’t look, talk, believe, or act alike in any particular way.  Perhaps they relate to one another as enemies/allies of Sauron, but they are far from a homogeneous culture.  Rather, they are races who have interacted with one another for centuries and been changed through the diffusion of ideas between one another.  All of which meant I couldn’t isolate what would make LoTR Western inspired.  Back to the drawing board.

Finally I came to the realization that perhaps this whole “Western Inspired” caveat is somewhat of a flawed premise to begin with.  Let me explain why I believe so.

As you’d expect, modern readers view elements of culture through their own preconceived beliefs, based upon their individual/group experiences. Certainly, there are many who are history buffs and bring more to the table, but by and large most readers use the modern litmus test for what is Western, Eastern, Middle Eastern, African, and so forth.  However, a custom which is Western today wasn’t necessarily “Western” in the recent or remote past; a fact which generally produces skewed results when guessing on a fantasy societies inspiration.

At least that was my hypothesis, and like the methodical, scientifically minded reader I am (I’m making fun of myself there.) I created a simple, scientific poll which I forced a dozen of my closest friends to participate in.  The test basically consisted of me describing a generic fantasy culture with strange names, magic, common language, and one very different custom, then the participants were asked to tell me if the society was inspired by Western civilization.  I took down their answer, ran them through a terribly complex algorithm which I created myself and reviewed the data. Let me share a few of the results.

Society Number One was a fantasy culture where monotheistic religious principles similar to Judeo-Christianity were the basis of worship.  The religious beliefs here were based off the Nestorian Christians; this group of Christians (mostly from Egypt, Levant and Anatolia in the West to China and Sumatra in the East) were certainly not European in nature and held “Christian” beliefs far different from those of their fellow adherents to the faith at the time, who tended to be more orthodox (I’m using the term loosely.)  However, 91% of people polled immediately labeled this culture “Western Inspired” simply because anything remotely Judeo-Christian is viewed today as “Western Civilization.”

My second society was constructed around heavily armored horse and riders as the mainstay of the fighting forces; all other aspects of the society were generic, including a tendency toward polytheism.  When asked, 100% of those polled said this society was inspired by Western civilization because it had medieval, European knights.  Unfortunately, all of them were wrong, because I based these warriors and their fighting style upon the cataphracts of ancient Antiquity; the Medians, Persians, and other Iranian tribes being the forefathers of heavy cavalry, covered in mail and using lances.  Yet again the erroneous modern belief knights are European resulted in an incorrect categorization as to this culture’s inspiration.

My third society was one where manorialism existed; serfs being held in a form of bondage, tied to their superior’s land; all other aspects of the society the same generic fantasy I’ve already mentioned.  Without any hesitation every polled friend confidentially answered that this society was “100% Western inspired.”  Again, they were wrong, because the serfdom I mimicked was the type used in another part of the world.  This time I used the serfdom practiced by China from the Zhou dynasty until the end of the Han dynasty.   I chose this type of manorialism specifically because it had a distinct Asian element to it, which differentiated it from European serfdom.  However, I could just have easily picked the form of serfdom used in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt (Sixth to Twelfth dynasty), Muslim India, Japan, or the Chinese Qing dynasty (1644–1912).  No matter, it seems a large group of people believe only Western civilization had serfdom.

The last example I used was a society where the social norms include polygamy, as well as the practice of secluding women in confined areas.  Those polled immediately said this type of society was not Western inspired but Middle Eastern in nature.  Great guess, but wrong again.  I used the concubinage of ancient Greece as well as ancient Rome and ancient China as my basis for this societal custom, mixing certain elements together to create a unique situation.  Yet, due to the fascination the institution of the harem exerted on European arts during the Age of Romanticism and Orientalism, concubinage is today viewed as solely a Middle Eastern, or Islamic, practice, which is completely inaccurate.

So, those were the results of my simple test.  The data (small sample size though it was) reinforcing my belief that this whole question of decided what culture a fantasy society was inspired by was somewhat flawed to begin with.  Most people’s guesses generally wrong and skewed by our societies modern misconceptions.

But my test also raised another important question to the forefront of my mind: Are fantasy societies only inspired by one culture or another?  Is that even a bad thing?  “Inspired by” doesn’t mean that the fantasy is only about one culture.  Quite frankly I can only recall a handful of fantasy books where after reading I thought the culture was a carbon copy of the “Roman Empire” or a reproduction of “Late Medieval Period France.”  Rather, most fantasy authors mix and match ideas, cultural traits, religion, and other things to the point there is a little Western, a dash of Middle Eastern, some Eastern, and more than little African in the mix.  But don’t take my word for it, read what an author of an Asian flavored fantasy wrote when posed a question regarding historical influences for his fantasy world.

Asker: What influences from history (if any) did you draw upon when writing The Emperor’s Blades?
Brian Staveley:   I taught ancient world history as well as comparative religion for a bunch of years, and the influences from real-world history are legion.  Just to pick a few:
The Shin monks pull from Buddhism, Taoism, and Shinto, (though, of course, their religions is very different from any of the above).
The Annurian Empire, in terms of population, level of technology,  extent of trade, etc, is similar to Tang era China. It is NOT Tang China, there are hundreds of differences, but that provided a jumping-off point.
The Kettral were my attempt to make a fantasy version of modern special forces, something I hadn’t really seen done before.
The conflict between the Church of Intarra and the Unhewn Throne has myriad historical precedents all over the world.

 

So now I must ask everyone: Is Brian Staveley’s The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne inspired by Western, Eastern, Middle Eastern, African, or some other culture?

Personally, I believe it is obviously inspired by many different cultures.  Tang era China might have been the greatest influence, but there are small tidbits from every where and every when, which Mr. Staveley used to create something all his own.  And he is a perfect representative for how the majority of SFF authors create the culture in their stories.  At least, that is my opinion.

Of course, this brings up yet another question: If Mr. Staveley is among the norm of fantasy writers, then why is there a growing trend to point at the state of fantasy and say there are not enough books based off non-Western civilization?  Is it a fair question?  Is there even any proof the problem truly exists?  Is the issue relevant going forward?

Personally, I believe I’ve illustrated to some extent that guessing the inspiration for a fantasy culture is nearly always inaccurate. Historically speaking the world’s cultures have all passed ideas back and forth to one another for thousands of years, so we have many things in common, especially if you look at history.  And if authors like Brian Staveley are explaining that they use many cultural norms from around the world to build their own fantastical worlds, this fact seems to argue against there being some subconscious conspiracy to only use Western civilization as inspiration for stories in the genre.  All of which means this whole issue appears to be a non-problem.

So why does it continues to grow?  Well, it could be less about the facts and more about emotions.  Some individuals examining every book under a microscope, demanding that it pass their litmus test of diversity.  (Sorry, if that sounds harsh, but I just read an article where Game of Thrones was being labeled racist because it didn’t have more minority characters.  I suppose I see where the criticism comes from, but then again, the last romance book I looked at didn’t have very many middle aged white guys with dad bods on the front cover.)  No doubt, there are some areas of the genre where calls for more diversity might be based upon facts, but this whole idea of lack of non-Western inspired cultures is a bit silly to me.

So what is the whole point of all this?  Not much really.  I was asked a question, thought about it, ran a test, and decided I’d give my opinion.  I’m not an expert, just a blogger who needed to post an interesting article today.  Maybe, I’ve written a piece which made you smile, think, or question something you wouldn’t have questioned otherwise.  And if you’d like to share this post so my page views would go up I will not complain at all.

 

 

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PUTIN’S GAMBIT

PUTIN'S GAMBITPutin’s Gambit by Lou Dobbs & James O. Born

Genre: Thriller

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Forge Books (June 20, 2017)

Authors Information: Lou Dobbs’ Twitter | Facebook
James O. Born’s Website

Length: 320 pages

Putin’s Gambit is the best kind of thriller: intricate conspiracies, pulse-pounding action, and a twisting plot which is grounded in real world facts. But while readers might pick up this collaboration between Lou Dobbs and James O. Born for those reasons, what they will stay around for are the engaging characters and the friendships at the story’s heart.

Set somewhere during the second term of President Obama, Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, has hatched an intricate scheme to restore his country to its Soviet Era glory. Joining (or rather using) radical Islamists, Russia capitalizes on terrorist attacks, violent elements picketing Wall Street, and a $200 million unauthorized transfer destabilizing financial markets to mass Russian troops on the Estonian border. Putin sure that the U.S. President will be slow to respond when the invasion begin.

Caught up in this geopolitical mess is a former U.S. Marine named Derek Walsh. Having served in the Afghan war, Walsh is now employed in the currency transaction section of a Wall Street financial group, and when his computer is used to conduct the $200 million unauthorized transfer which ignites financial panic, he finds his whole life destroyed: the FBI after him, even as Russian agents attempt to silence him before he can exonerate himself.

With things looking bleak indeed, Walsh turns to the remaining members of his old Marine squad to help him survive and, maybe, clear his name. But while he is doing this, the whole world looks like it is going to go up in flames!

What Putin’s Gambit excels at is telling an exciting, action-packed thriller where geopolitical themes and individual stories not only intersect but mesh together. Walsh’s desperate fight for survival wonderfully complementing the tense story of Russian troops about to begin World War III in Europe. Dobbs and Born’s use of real world facts and trends adding to the immersive experiencing by grounding the thrills in realism; the authors’ expertise in these matters clear to see from the flawlessly presentation.

The only deficit in the narrative was a tendency to bounce from one scene to another. While this did allow the authors to show all aspects of the story, it was a bit annoying when these bounces occurred too frequently and, many times, during the height of the action.

Overall, lovers of modern day thrillers will love Putin’s Gambit. From its realistic portrayal of the world to its conspiracies to its up close action involving Derek Walsh, this story keeps the surprises and action coming fast and furious from the first page to the last. Definitely a book fans of the genre will enjoy.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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BEST FANTASY COVERS VOL. 4

cover lover collage 1

It’s that time again! Time to highlight some of my favorite fantasy covers!

Last weeks fantasy covers’ post was so well received that it gave me the excuse to do another one!  Which I’m really excited about, because I love fantasy covers.  Honestly, I’m not ashamed to admit I judge prospective books by their covers, and I’m sure many of you do as well.

Anyway, I give you a few more covers which have captured my attention.  Some of them are new.  Some of them are old.  But every one of them are beautiful and cannot be easily forgotten.

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The Ties That Bind Trilogy by Rob J. Hayes

This grimdark trilogy has been republished by the author recently, and he spared no expense in updating the covers.  Personally, I have to say his cover artists, Sigbjorn Pedersen and Alex Raspad, did amazing jobs.

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Michael J. Sullivan’s Fantasy Series

Whether you are already a fan of Mr. Sullivan or have not yet discovered him, you will have seen his amazing fantasy series on a virtual or physical bookshelf somewhere; The Riyria Revelations, The Riyria Chronicles, and The Legends of the First Empire some of the most talked about classic fantasy out there right now.  Naturally, great books deserve great covers, and Michael J. Sullivan always had some of the best with Larry Rostant and Marc Simonetti providing the covers to this point.

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The Licanius Trilogy by James Islington

This is a series I haven’t picked up yet, but will be soon.  And what has driven me to take the plunge (besides all my friends well-written and compelling reviews) are these strikingly beautiful covers.  I have to admit loving the black and white images with the colorful celestial objects in the background.  Jacket design: Lauren Panepinto / illustration by Dominick Saponaro

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Richard Anderson

Instead of picking another few book covers from a single series, I decided to just list my favorite cover artist of the moment.  Richard Anderson’s offerings outstanding on so many levels; his breathtaking covers gracing the front of so many fantasy books that I could not pick just a few, so here are a handful of my favorites! (Well, more than a handful, but not all of the covers Mr. Anderson has done.)

 

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Well, that is it for this week.  Hopefully, you discovered a few books you had never heard of before, or an artist or two that have now become one of your favorites.  Until next time, keep judging books by their covers!

Posted in Cover Lover, Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

THE FLASH, VOL. 1: LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE

guest-post2Today, I’m happy to have my son, Connor, return to the blog for yet another of his graphic novel reviews.  Thankfully, this is becoming something of a regular occasion, and I personally will be enjoying it for as long as it lasts.

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flash rebirth 1The Flash: Lightning Strikes Twice by                      Joshua Williamson

Genre: Superhero Comics

Series: The Flash (Rebirth) #1

Publisher: DC Comics (January 24, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 219 pages

Connor’s Rating:   connor-capconnor-capconnor-cap

If you have ever looked at my favorite graphic novels, then you probably already know I love The Flash. The Flash television show is my show; Flash is my favorite DC character; and the New 52 version of The Flash was my all-time favorite. So when I finally got my hands on this book, I was so excited to finally get to read the Rebirth Flash!

Well, now, I’ve read it, and it is hard to put my feelings into words except to say . . .

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Joshua Williamson’s story is about a huge lightning storm hitting Central City. But not an ordinary lightning storm but a speed force storm. The storm turning hundreds of people into speedsters!

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If having hundreds of speedsters running around Central City isn’t bad enough, there is someone who is hunting them down. This person is named Godspeed, and he is determined to steal everyone’s speed force away from them until he is the most powerful speedster ever!

godspeed

What does The Flash do now? Track down this new, bad guy solo and take him down himself, or gather up a posse of speedster?

I think I already, kinda, let you know I didn’t love this story, so let me tell you why. Mainly, I think the writer went a little overboard with everyone being turned into a speedster by a speed force lightning storm. It seemed real silly and made the idea of someone being super fast seem ordinary.  Didn’t like it at all.

The other thing I couldn’t get into was the villain being yet another speedster. Personally, I’m tired of every story arc being about a bad speedster. Don’t get me wrong, I like Zoom and the Reverse Flash; they are great villains; but I think we need some non-speedster villains to show up once in a while. I mean, Flash has a whole rogue gallery, so let’s use some of the other non-speedster guys.

flash villains

As for the art, I thought it was good. Nothing stood out bad or good, which is okay. Art doesn’t have to blow your mind every time.

If you liked this book, I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I just didn’t. Maybe, the next volume will be something I can get excited about. Until next time then.

Well, I hope you liked this review, and if you are on Goodreads, friend me any time to talk about my reviews or comic books.

batman-V-superman-logoAbout Connor (In his dad’s words):

Connor is a teenager who enjoys graphic novels (DC Comics are preferred!), superhero movies (Spider-Man:Homecoming is his current favorite.), watching episodes of The Flash, Arrow, and Futurama, as well as the NFL, NCAA football, and the NBA on t.v., will happily accept any and all caps (because you just can’t have too many caps), and whose favorite music right now revolves around AC/DC.  And, no, Connor did not have any input into my paragraph about him.  Being a dad does have it’s privileges.

Purchase the book at Amazon.


Posted in 3 Stars, DC, Flash, Graphic Novels, Rebirth | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (JULY 17, 2017)

funday-monday

Another week begins.  I quickly slip into my business suit and head back into the office to save a few innocent people. But while I try to fool myself into being excited about the promise of a new year and the continuation of the regular grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

bordertomorrow's kinTomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress 

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy #1

Publisher:  Tor Books (July 11, 2017)

Author Information: Facebook | Twitter  

Length: 352 pages

Tomorrow’s Kin is the first volume in and all new hard SF trilogy by Nancy Kress based on the Nebula Award-winning Yesterday’s Kin.

The aliens have arrived… they’ve landed their Embassy ship on a platform in New York Harbor, and will only speak with the United Nations. They say that their world is so different from Earth, in terms of gravity and atmosphere, that they cannot leave their ship. The population of Earth has erupted in fear and speculation.

One day Dr. Marianne Jenner, an obscure scientist working with the human genome, receives an invitation that she cannot refuse. The Secret Service arrives at her college to escort her to New York, for she has been invited, along with the Secretary General of the UN and a few other ambassadors, to visit the alien Embassy.

The truth is about to be revealed. Earth s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster and not everyone is willing to wait.

Purchase the book at Amazon


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killing is my businessKilling Is My Business by Adam Christopher

Genre: Science Fiction — Mystery

Series: Ray Electromatic Mysteries #2

Publisher:  Tor Books (July 25, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 288 pages

A blend of science fiction and stylish mystery noir featuring a robot detective: the stand alone sequel to Made to Kill

Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape for intrepid PI-turned-hitman–and last robot left in working order– Raymond Electromatic. When his comrade-in-electronic-arms, Ada, assigns a new morning roster of clientele, Ray heads out into the LA sun, only to find that his skills might be a bit rustier than he expected….

Killing is My Business is the latest in Christopher’s noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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HONORED ENEMY

honored enemiesHonored Enemy by Raymond E. Feist               and William R. Forstchen

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Legends of the Riftwar #1

Publisher:  Harper Voyager (June 27, 2006)

Authors Information: Website | Twitter | Twitter

Length: 416 pages

My Rating: 4 Stars

Raymond E. Feist is an author I grew up reading, yet haven’t picked up in a long time. But when I saw this standalone novel set during the Riftwar, I decided to take a chance on one of my old favorites. Now, I’m glad I did, because Feist and William R. Forstchen deliver a great military fantasy story with Honored Enemy.

It is nine years into the Riftwar on Midkemia. The battle lines are fairly stable. Frontier forts and garrisons lining the cold, rugged and war torn Northlands. Midkemia and Tsurani units fighting more small actions against one another than huge battles.  Little headway made by either side.  Both sides growing weary of the near stalemate.  But the war continuing with no end in sight.

Dennis Hartraft’s Marauders are one of the most successful raiders in the Kingdom army. Their commander’s hatred of the Tsurani driving his men to accomplish daring missions behind enemy lines; their name infamous even among their enemies. And now they are returning from another raid, heading for a frontier fort called Brendan’s Stocakade to settle down before winter arrives.

Meanwhile, Asayagsa, a Force Leader of the Kodeko Clan of the Tsurani forces, has orders to attack Brendan’s Stockade.  While Asayagsa believes his orders are madness inspired by Tsurani politics, he cannot disobey for fear of bringing shame to his house.

Fate brings our two forces together at the frontier fort at the same time. A surprise awaiting both of them. The danger of being decimated by a third enemy causing the Kingdom and Tsurani to band together to survive. The rest of the tale focused on our “honored enemies” attempting to find a way across the frozen Northlands while battling a determined enemy and trying not to slaughter one another!

Definitely, this is a military fantasy, where the troops and their situation is tense, exciting, and filled with action, but it was my growing fondness for the characters themselves which kept my reading into the night.  Dennis Hartraft’s past very compelling; Asayagsa’s constant dilemma with honor and survival expertly told; and the developing tale of the elf Tinuva wonderfully developed. Hell, I even loved the times when the enemy leader was focused on, finding this individual far more than a cookie cutter bad guy but someone I could understand, even empathize with in a strange way.

What I didn’t enjoy about the story were a few twists which eased the tension between our honored enemies. These events were just too convenient, too fortuitous for me to really believe they would happen in real life. And it kept the narrative from having to handle the ultimate question of whether our two bands would turn on one another as soon as the enemy presence behind them disappeared.

All in all, I really enjoyed Honored Enemy. This book – plus the short story The Messenger in Legends II – has reignited my desire to return to Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar series, because now I realize my childhood fondness for his stories might still hold true today. And I’d encourage other Riftwar lovers or fans of action-packed fantasy with a military twist to pick this one up. I really believe you will enjoy it!

Purchase the book at Amazon

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Posted in 4 Stars, Fantasy, Military | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

LEGENDS II

legends IILegends II edited by Robert Silverberg

Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction

Series: Antholgy

Publisher: Del Rey (December 30, 2003)

Author Information: WebsiteTwitter

Length: 644 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

Legends II is an anthology edited by Robert Silverberg, who has gathered together an outstanding group of diverse stories for this collection. From George R.R. Martin to Diane Gabaldon to Terry Brooks, the big name authors have seemingly jumped at the chance to be featured here, and they have produced some fine tales, running the gamut from classic fantasy to urban fantasy to alternate history to science fiction. All of which means there is sure to be something in this anthology to satisfy or peak the interest of every reader.

Naturally, however, the diverse nature of any anthology means certain stories will connect better to some individuals than others. Certain authors more palatable than others; one story more compelling than another. And since I’m a reader first and foremost that goes for me as well, and so this review will focus on and rate each story individually, so as to help others determine if this collection is one they wish to obtain.

Homecoming by Robin Hobbs 5 stars

This return to the Realms of the Elderlings is an autobiographical story of a hapless colonist to the Cursed Shores. Her diary entries reading like a fantastical Robinson Crusoe tale, where this civilized lady must shed her modern ways, adapt to her harsh wilderness home, and deal with the strange madness which her fellow survivors begin to succumb to. All in all, it was a fantastic story, which I would recommend to everyone.

The Sword Sworn by George R.R. Martin 5 star

Like so many fantasy fans, I love A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as the Game of Thrones television series. Can’t get enough of anything to do with place, including the tales of Hedge Knight Dunk and his squire Egg. And this was yet another great tale of the duo, one where Dunk’s loyalty to his liege is challenged by the realization of how and why this elder knight has fallen on such hard times.

The Yanzoo Queen by Orson Scott Card 2 stars

I can’t say I’ve ever been a huge fan of this author or his alternate history series featuring Alvin Maker. And this story of the didn’t convert me, but I’m sure fans will enjoy this one, especially all the famous historical figures who make appearances.

Lord John and the Succubus by Diane Galbadon 1 star

Outlander is another series I’ve never really gotten hooked on. It just doesn’t appeal to me. And this supernatural thriller set during the Seven Years War with a good deal of eroticism mixed in did not appeal to me either. In fact, I DNF’d it about halfway through. I’m sure fans of the series will love it though.

The Book of Change by Robert Silverberg 2 stars

A Marjipoor story set in both the past and present, presented through the eyes of a frivolous poet. I couldn’t really get interested in it, but then again I’ve never enjoyed the Marjipoor series.

The Happiest Dead Boy in the World by Tad Williams 2 Stars

Orlando Gardiner, a virtual reality caretaker of a V.R. universe, must solve a mystery while dealing with the unique problems of his occupation. A nice sci fi/fantasy genre blender will some good moments, but it just felt a little flat to me.

Beyond Death by Anne McCaffrey 4 stars

An emotional Pern story filled with love, grief, and peace after death. The quasi-religious overtones might bother some, but they aren’t specific to any particular religion, merely of a spiritual nature. Be that as it may, I have to admit Anne McCaffrey really tugged on my personal heartstrings with this one, causing me to nearly tear up a few times.

The Messenger by Raymond E. Feist 5 stars

This simple story of a young messenger doing his duty no matter the cost during wartime is probably my favorite of the whole collection. Definitely, the action and drama of whether our youth will survive gripped me, but even more so, the character’s simple heroism, dogged determination, and unswerving dedication was what made me love his story so much.

Threshold by Elizabeth Haydon 5 Stars

A great cataclysm is about to destroy the kingdom. The majority of the inhabitants of the land having taken to the seas to escape. Left behind is a group of dedicated individuals determined to find and aid any stragglers, hoping against hope the cataclysm never comes. This emotional tale of self-sacrifice, dignity, and the true beauty of the human spirit an amazing read, filled with deep emotions.

The Monarch of the Glen by Neil Gaiman 4 stars

American Gods continues here with Shadow traveling the world and being sucked into an ancient ritual. Gaiman delivers a mysterious, compelling narrative which will satisfy old fans and encourage others to give American Gods a try.

Indomitable by Terry Brooks 4 stars

A nice, light Shannara tale which picks up a few years after the conclusion of The Wishsong of Shannara. Brooks doesn’t change his style any here or subvert any classic fantasy tropes, but he does deliver a self-contained journey which is filled with likable characters engaged in an entertaining, fast-paced adventure. Honestly, it is probably the best thing I’ve read by Brooks in many years.

If you were keeping count I thoroughly enjoyed most of these stories. I even discovered a few series that I definitely intend to try (Gaiman’s American Gods) and a couple I intend to revisit in the near future (Feist’s Riftwar). Certainly, there were a few which I didn’t love (Outlander), but overall, this was a great anthology, one which I would encourage others to give a try.

Purchase the book at Amazon

Posted in 4 Stars, Anthology, Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

FRIDAY FACE OFF JULY 14, 2017

friday-face-off

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a new weekly meme hosted by Books by Proxy. Join us every Friday as we pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in the literary universe.

This week’s theme is:  “ The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea, in a beautiful pea green boat … A cover which features boats!

There has to be tons of fantasy covers out there with boats, right?  At least, I thought so, but I couldn’t find very many in my research. So, naturally, I turned to ships.  I mean, boats and ships are the same.  Sort of.  (Okay, I know they aren’t.  I’m just trying to justify using ships here.)

Well, even looking at covers with ships, I couldn’t find many fantasy novels with lots of multiple cover versions from across the globe.  So I became worried.  Then I had an epiphany.  Why worry about quantity of covers when I should be worried about quality.  And with that in mind, the choice for this weeks pick became very easy.

DRAGON HUNTERS by MARC TURNER


COVER A

dragon hunter

 


COVER B

DRAGON HUNTERS

 

 


AND THE WINNER IS . . .


drumroll

I love both covers.  I mean, what fantasy fan could resist a ship facing off against a dragon?  I couldn’t.  Plus this series by Marc Turner is one of the most underappreciated works in the recent past.  The books getting better and better.  And, honestly, the covers do as well.  (Go look at the RED TIDE cover.) But there can be only one, and that one is …

DRAGON HUNTERS

 

Which would you choose?  Why?

And, why not join in next week with your own selections.

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