Thursday, March 03, 2016

February 2016 Reading: Elliott, Schwab, Gannon, Sutter, Gaiman, & Akers

February was a short month, but longer than usual as it was a Leap Year (yay!) and like every month for the past forever, I read a handful of books. I'll cover the books I didn't review in more detail than those I did.  I’ve been much more inclined to pick off books from the older slopes of Mount Toberead as of late than the Newer Releases. 

That said I did post a couple of book reviews in February, the first of which was for Tim Akers’s The Pagan Night, posted to SF Signal at the beginning of February. I thought this one had some good ideas, but ultimately was weighed down by an overly bulky middle and a muddling of secondary characters. Loved the monsters Tim created for this Historical Epic Fantasy.

From there I jumped into Trial by Fire the second installment in Charles Gannon’s Terran Empire series. This is a fun space opera saga that is leaning towards Military Science Fiction as the series progresses. 

Fun stuff, great aliens and Gannon mixes traditional SF with modern sensibilities quite nicely. His characters feel real, for the most part, and behave in a plausible fashion in the galactic society he’s constructed for this series.

 My only real complaint with this one is that the protagonist, Caine Riordan, seems to not feature in the book quite as prominently as he did in Fire with Fire. This book was sitting on Mount Toberead for quite a while, I picked up at the Baen Books booth back at New York Comic Con in October 2014.

I listened to two audio books in February, one of which was James L. Sutter’s Akers’s Death’s Heritic which I thoroughly enjoyed. More about that one at the link to my review, but I’ll again stress that an excellent story and a superb narrator make for a great story experience.

That story + narrator combination was full effect in V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, the audio book which kept my ear-holes happy for the early part of February. A couple of years ago, I read Schwab’s Vicious which is one of the best superhero (supervillain) prose stories I’ve ever read. For A Darker Shade of Magic, Schwab turns her pen to a mix of magic and parallel worlds. As a long time comic book reader, I love parallel world stories and what Schwab with the concept is fantastic. Schwab’s concept of a magical multiverse is, if not exactly a new concept, but one that feels very fresh in how magic exists in each of the parallel worlds.

The characters were very well drawn, Kell as a pressured and roguish magician who can travel between worlds. Delilah (Lila) Bard is his co-protagonist, well initially she felt like a sidekick, but grew as the story grow. I also was slightly annoyed by her at first, but Schwab did a wonderful job of endearing the character to me by the end of the novel.

Steven Crossley is the narrator for this audio version and he’s got a very pleasant style. His narration, combined with Schwab’s at times poetic and lyrical storytelling, made me feel as if I was listening to a Dr. Seuss story. This is not a bad thing.

Continuing with my re-read and catch-up of Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars series, I stormed through Prince of Dogs. Elliott does such great things with the characters in this one, introducing a couple of new players and continuing a Robin Hobb-esque method of torturing her characters. I’m glad I still have five more books to read in this series because this is such a fun, comfortable, and enjoyable series that hits every one of my check-boxes for epic fantasy. I’m still debating if I’m going to do a full write-up of each book in the series.

Yes, that is my copy signed
I loved the new character of Rosvita, especially her interactions with Liath and how she comes to an understanding of the events unfolding around her. I hope Rosvita sticks around and becomes more involved because she feels like an important person. Of course, to counter her wonderful appearance is the return of a character from King’s Dragon who was thought to be gone.

Next up was an impressive debut novel, Katherine Bonesteel’s The Cold Between. I’ll be posting my review of this one on the day it publishes (March 8), but I’ll just say right now that I was impressed with the book and Bonesteel’s novel.

Lastly, I finished off volume three of The Annotated Sandman by Gaiman and compiled by Leslie Klinger. The highlight of the volume was the Brief Lives storyline which recounts Dream, at the urging and insistence of sister Delirium, searching for their brother Brian Destruction who quite his position among the Endless. One of the reasons Brief Lives was so great was the art of Jill Thompson and Vince Locke.  Wonderful art that complemented an excellent story.

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