Review: The Black Prism

9780316246279.jpgTitle: The Black Prism (2010)
Author: Brent Weeks
Pages: 678
Series: Lightbringer #1 (Series Tracker)

I’ve been meaning to start this series for a while, so I was excited that my initial impression upon starting this book was very positive. I was immediately hooked on the cool magic system and worldbuilding, but the hook eventually wore off as I became frustrated by the uneven pacing, the way the characters are drawn, and the sometimes clunky/cringey dialogue that is used. Several characters are sharp-tongued, flawed, and unlikable, but I’m hopeful that this will lead to further character growth as the books progress.  There are seeds of great storytelling here that I hope can be more consistently implemented in future installments. Hearing that this is not the high point in the series leaves me hopeful for future books, as I do plan on continuing to book 2.

★★★½ out of 5

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Review: The Queen of All Crows

The-Queen-of-All-Crows-coverTitle: The Queen of All Crows (2018)
Author: Rod Duncan
Pages: 370
Series: The Map of Unknown Things #1, Gas-Lit Empire #4 (Series Tracker)

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Fresh off her battle with the International Patent Court, Elizabeth Barnabus finds herself working on behalf of that very organization that brought her so much trouble in the past. She sets sail to investigate the disappearance of an airship that went down in the Atlantic.

The concept of the worldwide alliance that maintains world peace at the cost of technological advancement continues to be a fascinating one. This novel explores the parts of the world untouched by this alliance and the consequences of unrestrained progress.

Having raced through and enjoyed Rod Duncan’s previous trilogy, I was excited to see what new direction he takes with Elizabeth in this new series set in the same world. Sure enough, Duncan has crafted a solid adventure story that featured some superb scenes and passages. I remain impressed by Duncan’s skills as a writer. His prose is clean, readable, and rich. There’s a great theatricality infused into his stories that make the mundane seem grand.

My main issues with the story had to do with the third act, where some lulls in pacing emerge and some steam is lost from the first parts of the book. Overall, though, this is another enjoyable adventure featuring a great protagonist and set of side characters. I look forward to seeing what comes next.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky

BeneaththeSugarSky.jpgTitle: Beneath the Sugar Sky (2018)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Pages: 160
Series: Wayward Children #3 (Series Tracker)

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

In this third novella of the series, a group of travelers from Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children sets off to resurrect a former student in hopes of saving her future daughter (who somehow already exists).

Having enjoyed, but not loved the previous two books, I found this one to be my favorite of the bunch. The characters are well-drawn, rich, and nuanced; the story feels cohesive, complete, and fun; and the portal world of Confection is a joy to read about. Author Seanan McGuire does a great job to further the development of the portal worlds, giving more background into their existence and what they mean to the children who venture there.

Generally, I struggle to rate novellas higher than 3 stars, as they rarely dive as deep as a full-length novel can, but this one came close! I’d happily go on another adventure in this world, though.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: The Custodian of Marvels

the-custodian-of-marvels.jpgTitle: The Custodian of Marvels (2016)
Author: Rod Duncan
Pages: 368
Series: Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #3 (Series Tracker)

In this third and final book of the series, Elizabeth Barnabus gets swept up in a plot to conduct a daring robbery of the most protected location on earth. While the preceding two books were mysteries, The Custodian of Marvels is a heist novel at its heart. I appreciate that this book is trying to do something different and it ramps up to a conclusion that is satisfying, surprising, and left me wanting more. Luckily, Elizabeth returns in early 2018 to kick off a new series in what has become a very compelling alternate history story.

★★★¾ out of 5

Review: Oathbringer

oathbringer_cover-finalTitle: Oathbringer (2017)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Pages: 1,242
Series: The Stormlight Archive #3 (Series Tracker)

The hype surrounding Oathbringer was deafening in the fantasy community in anticipation of its 2017 release. I’ve read most of Sanderson’s work and am fascinated by his massive Cosmere universe. That said, Oathbringer was mostly a letdown. I enjoyed The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance, but just felt a total disconnect when it came to this book.

The most frustrating part is that I can’t quite put my finger on why I disliked it so much compared to the previous books. Was it too long? Was it unfocused? Was it too uneven? Did it spend the most time with the characters that I like the least? Did the scope expand too much? Do I have Sanderson fatigue? Or was I just in the wrong headspace to connect with this massive tome? Perhaps it was a combination of all of these issues. Either way, I could not become invested in this story until after the 1,000th page, and by that point, the strong ending could not salvage everything that had come before it [Although it did keep this book out of the 2-star range].

I won’t abandon this series yet, as I’m still intrigued by Sanderson’s world and concept, but if there isn’t some sort of story/character shakeup in the near future, my reading experience of future installments will continue to be a trudge rather than a sprint.

★★★ out of 5

Review: Unseemly Science

UnseemlyScience-144dpiTitle: Unseemly Science (2015)
Author: Rod Duncan
Pages: 368
Series: Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #2 (Series Tracker)

Unseemly Science picks right back up with Elizabeth Barnabus attempting to solve a new mystery involving blocks of ice, body-snatchers, and an enigmatic charitable foundation. I found this to be a worthy sequel that lost only a bit of the magic from the first book. Author Rod Duncan has crafted an amusing, well-drawn story with a wonderful protagonist. The overall story has yet to feature much in the way of empires falling, as the series title suggests, so perhaps the third book is more towards that end. I look forward to finishing out this series in time for Rod Duncan’s new Elizabeth Barnabus series coming in 2018.

★★★¼ out of 5

Review: The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter

TheBulletCatchersDaughter-144dpiTitle: The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter (2014)
Author: Rod Duncan
Pages: 375
Series: Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire #1 (Series Tracker)

In this steampunk series-starter, protagonist Elizabeth Barnabus uses the powers of illusion and deception to evade capture while simultaneously solving the mysterious disappearance of a missing aristocrat. While never crossing the threshold from “good” to “great,” The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter tells a compelling story in a fresh world with a likable heroine. I think I’d like to see how this series plays out…moving on to book 2!

★★★¾ out of 5

Review: Children of Time

chaykovski.jpgTitle: Children of Time (2015)
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Pages: 600

More often than not, I’m left feeling that a book with a cool/intriguing concept fails to properly deliver on said concept. Children of Time is an exception to this trend. I was blown away by how masterfully Tchaikovsky executes this evolutionary tale.

I was immediately hooked on the story, which builds and builds as a spider species on an alien planet evolves across millennia, while the last remnants of the human race exist in a sort of suspended stagnation just trying to survive in deep space. The narrative is told in a very straightforward way, with propulsive pacing and a tremendous amount of momentum. It’s engrossing from start to finish with few lulls along the way. It easily joins the ranks of my favorite science fiction novels. Read this!

★★★★¾  out of 5

“Why should we be made thus, to improve and improve, unless it is to aspire?”

Review: The City of Brass

CityofBrass.JPGTitle: The City of Brass (2017)
Author: S.A. Chakraborty
Pages: 528
Series: 
The Daevabad Trilogy #1 (Series Tracker)

My thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Nahri is a supernaturally good healer. She uses this gift to further her aims as a con woman, not realizing that her skills are the result of a unique hereditary magic. When she accidentally summons an ill-tempered djinn warrior to her aid, she’s swept into an unknown mystical world where her mere presence creates ramifications that are thousands of years in the making.

There is a general charm and pace to S.A. Chakraborty’s writing that made for a delightful reading experience with the feel of a summer blockbuster popcorn movie. This densely packed world is filled with myriad characters, races, rivalries, and complicated histories. As such, the expansive vocabulary and terminology was sometimes difficult to parse, but I was so sucked into the culture and the feel of the world that it did not matter.

The City of Brass is an excellent debut novel that seamlessly blends together rich cultural worldbuilding, solid action, complex politics, and a set of nuanced characters. Each character is holding onto secrets that unfurl as the book goes on. With each subsequent reveal, more questions emerge as the stakes rise, and this dynamic leaves me excited for future installments in the series.

★★★★¼ out of 5