Review: The Thousand Names

9780451465108_large_The_Thousand_Names.jpgTitle: The Thousand Names (2013)
Author: Django Wexler
Pages: 513
Series: The Shadow Campaigns #1 (Series Tracker)

After striking out with The Powder Mage series and not completely loving this series-starter, I’m not convinced that “flintlock fantasy” is the subgenre for me. Even so, there is a lot to like about this book — interesting cultures, well-written characters, and unexpected twists to name a few. I learned more about military ranks, formations, and factions than I thought possible even when the overall story gets bogged down by long battle sequences that I struggled to follow.

It sounds like the second book improves upon many of the stumbling blocks I encountered within this first book (fewer battles, more focus on characters, better pacing/plotting, etc.), but I’m not going to rush out to devour it. Book 2 will likely fall to the bottom of my TBR pile, but I’m not ready to give up on the series just yet.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Blood of Dragons

BloodofDragons.pngTitle: Blood of Dragons (2013)
Author: Robin Hobb
Pages: 545
Series: Rain Wild Chronicles #4, Realms of the Elderlings #13 (Series Tracker)

Blood of Dragons closes the door on the Rain Wild Chronicles tetralogy. I was expecting a grand finale, but was disappointed to read a more muted story that concluded several storylines that I did not care much about. Robin Hobb’s similarly structured Liveship Traders series had countless characters that all felt like important components of a densely woven tapestry, while this series felt less essential and grand, with a heavy focus on relationship drama. Gripes aside, this is not a bad book, just one I did not enjoy as much as most other Realms of Elderlings works. Four series down, one to go!

★★★¼ out of 5

Review: A Natural History of Dragons

3861af64c1f9c7a81ddb96a914c415a3Title: A Natural History of Dragons (2013)
Author: Marie Brennan
Pages: 334
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #1

A Natural History of Dragons begins the memoirs of Isabella Camherst, a preeminent authority on dragon biology. This volume is her origin story, chronicling her first expedition to observe dragons in the wild.

While the story feels delightfully British, is easy to follow, and features a likable protagonist, I never quite connected with it. I think the whimsical nature of Isabella’s retelling saps the tale of any emotional heft, but that is not to say that the book would have benefited from a more dour tone. On the contrary, I think the tone it sets is necessary for the celebrity-biologist-memoir that it aims to be. Many people will (and have) enjoyed this novel and its subsequent sequels, but I will bow out after this tale.

★★½ out of 5

Review: Senlin Ascends

senlin-ascendsTitle: Senlin Ascends (2013)
Author: Josiah Bancroft
Pages: 361
Series: The Books of Babel #1

Review: I was completely taken with Senlin Ascends right from the outset. Author Josiah Bancroft’s words paint a vivid picture of a peculiar world where nothing is as it seems. It’s Tim Burton meets Wes Anderson meets something completely its own.

The story follows Thomas Senlin as he climbs the massive Tower of Babel in search of his missing wife. Senlin encounters a compelling cavalcade of characters who he uses as stepping stones to reach his ultimate goal, while they use him to further their (often) nefarious aims. These symbiotic relationships teach Senlin about the true nature of the tower and about the man he must become in order to succeed.

Bancroft’s prose is lyrical and conveys a sense of grand adventure that I rarely find in my reading life. I am perplexed about the lack of mainstream attention Senlin Ascends has received since its release several years ago, but I plan to keep the positive word-of-mouth going as much as I can.

★★★★½ out of 5