Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Round Up: SF Signal Mind Meld & SFFWorld Reviews (Staveley, Williams, & Huff)

Wow, it has been nearly a month since I did one of these Friday Link dumps here on the 'o Stuff.  That's partially due to not posting reviews in Later November/Early December (the book I was reading was a gigundo omnibus of three books which took about two and half weeks to plow through). So, without further ado, here's the round up of some recent posts I've made.

At the end of November, my review of Brian Staveley's debut novel The Emperor's Blades (Book 1 of The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne) was posted at SFFWorld. This was a fun and engaging debut.
What Staveley does so effectively with Kaden and Valyn is to give each of them their own mini-boss of sorts – or foil. For Kaden, it is the man who is training him Tan. The mentor/mentee relationship between them is contentious at best; Kaden has many questions and in Tan’s eyes, every question is the wrong question. This battle of the wills made for compelling reading; for Tan was an enigma even to some of the Monks of Shin. Through him, Kaden and the reader learn a great deal about the lore and mythology of the world, which is in contrast to the relatively barren mountain landscape where the Shin monks reside. Valyn is able to interact more personably with his cadets; he forms friendships and even a potential romantic interest which is, of course, frowned upon by the military. Valyn’s arc has as its foil the brash and outspoken Sami Yurl. A simple name, but one that credit to Staveley, easily conjures up antagonism as I hear the name in my head.
As is inherit with an opening volume, The Emperor’s Blades is the table-setter for the series, laying out the world and conflict the characters will have to deal with as the saga progresses. For the most part, it is very successful; I was engaged throughout and wanted to know more about the world they inhabit; particularly the deep past at which Kaden’s mentor Tan hinted. If I can compare the series – at this early stage – to any I’ve read over the past couple of years the closest would be to David Anthony Durham’s Acacia Trilogy and Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet. This bodes very well indeed as these are two recent favorites you all should go out and read while waiting for The Providence of Fire.

Last week, my December Mind Meld was posted to SF Signal, wherein I asked Erin Lindsey, Jamie Todd Rubin, Julie E. Czerneda, Michael R. Underwood, Rene Sears, and Sylvia Izzo Hunter:

What Genre Holiday traditions to you partake in every year? What favorite films do you like to re-watch? What favorite books or stories you like to re-read? What are your favorite Holiday-themed episodes of genre shows (beyond the classic Rankin-Bass stop motion specials)?

This week, keeping with a holiday theme, I posted a review of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig, a novella from Tad Williams featuring his snarky angel advocate, Bobby Dollar.
Let me change that, in the case of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlepig, the novella is a nearly perfect length of story for a little side-story featuring Tad’s angel Doloriel (Bobby Dollar to most folk) an advocate for recently deceased souls. Based on the title of this novella, it should come as no surprise that the latest soul for which Bobby is advocating passes from the land of the living on December 24th. Now you might think an angel arguing for a soul to gain entrance into Heaven on Christmas Eve would be a touchy-feely Holiday Tale, you’d only be half correct. For this is a Holiday tale, but Bobby learns a great deal about the soul of Petar Vesić, not the least of which is that the man was more than just a man, he was a werewolf. What is most surprising is that Vesić doesn’t want Bobby’s help, he is prepared to go to Hell.


I was grinning all the while I was reading this one. I’ve made it no secret that Tad Williams is one of my favorite writers so it would be hard for me not to like this one. Instead, Tad has proven yet again why he remains a favorite writer.

Lastly is a review from a genre mainstay new to me, Tanya Huff with that rarest of beasts in the genre, a standalone fantasy novel.  Here's a bit from my review of The Silvered:
There’s a lot to like in this novel; strong well-realized characters, believable conflict, but most of all for me it was Huff’s incredible world-building. The world is similar to our own during the 19th Century, except magic is real and conflicts with science in many ways. Science and magic don’t often coexist in Fantasy novels, but here they both work together and are in conflict with each other. The Emperor uses his soothsayers (magic) to determine how to acquire the werewolves so he can use science to experiment on them. There’s a strong steampunk feel to the Empire, an aesthetic which is often a blend of science and magic. Huff has crafted such a logical and well-rounded pack dynamic for her werewolves that it seems the only way it could have existed.

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