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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Review: A Field Guide To Fantastical Beasts by Olento Salaperäinen


A Field Guide to Fantastical Beasts
     An Atlas of Fabulous Creatures, Enchanted Beings, and Magical Monsters
Author:  Olento Salaperäinen
Publisher:  Sterling, October 11, 2016
Format: Flexibound Paperback, 192 pages
ISBN:  9781454920946
List Price: US$14.95

Review: A Field Guide To Fantastical Beasts by Olento Salaperäinen
A beautiful, illustrated guide to the most magical creatures of legend and myth. 

Fairies, demons, four-legged fiends, and, of course, zombies: the world is filled with fantastical beings, beautiful and scary. Come meet them in this magnificently illustrated menagerie, which includes many creatures made famous by popular fantasy and sci-fi film franchises. Take a detailed look at everything from goblins, pixies, and gnomes to vampires and dragons, and discover their origins in literature, folklore, and ancient history.


Brannigan's Review

Olento Salaperäinen’s A Field Guide To Fantastical Beasts is the perfect book to take with you on a fairy hunt into the woods. Salaperäinen groups the beasts by category: Fairies & and Little People, Demons & The Undead, Water Creatures, Hybrid Beasts, Humanoid Creatures and then The Sacred & The Divine; with about seven to ten creatures listed alphabetical in each of those subcategories.

Each beast has one to two pages of information about it with an illustration. Salaperäinen tells us where the beast originates from and some interesting tidbits from history. One that I found interesting for example is Gremlins weren’t created until World War I. They gave pilots a lot of trouble, since the Gremlins like to eat and destroy engines and machinery. Salaperäinen also includes information about each beast and how they interact with pop culture. There’s a great reference of Michael J. Fox’s Teen Wolf in the Werewolf entry.

The art in the book is wonderfully folky and gives the book its very own characters. Salaperäinen also added a glossary, index and bibliography in the back in case you want to go deeper into the subject.

One of the weaknesses of the book is its limited scope of beasts. As a fan of all things mythical and fantastical, I want to learn about new creatures. I would be surprised if the everyday non-fantasy fan hasn’t heard of each of the beasts. I will say that even though the entries are small they do pack a big punch of information.

A Field Guide To Fantastical Beasts is the perfect beastiary for young adults or people new to the subject. The only warning a parent or reader needs to be aware of is there is a subcategory dealing with Demons and the Undead, so depending on your own personal beliefs you may want to steer clear. Otherwise, I would feel comfortable suggesting this to Tweens and Adults.


You may view part of A Field Guide To Fantastical Beasts at Issuu here.

Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu


The Wall of Storms
Author:  Ken Liu
Series:  The Dandelion Dynasty 2
Publisher:  Saga Press, October 4, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 880 pages
List Price:  US$29.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:   9781481424301 (print); 9781481424325 (eBook)

Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
In the much-anticipated sequel to the “magnificent fantasy epic” (NPR) Grace of Kings, Emperor Kuni Garu is faced with the invasion of an invincible army in his kingdom and must quickly find a way to defeat the intruders.

Kuni Garu, now known as Emperor Ragin, runs the archipelago kingdom of Dara, but struggles to maintain progress while serving the demands of the people and his vision. Then an unexpected invading force from the Lyucu empire in the far distant west comes to the shores of Dara—and chaos results.

But Emperor Kuni cannot go and lead his kingdom against the threat himself with his recently healed empire fraying at the seams, so he sends the only people he trusts to be Dara’s savvy and cunning hopes against the invincible invaders: his children, now grown and ready to make their mark on history.



Brannigan's Review

Ken Liu's The Grace of Kings was one of my top books of last year. The Wall of Storms is the second book in his Dandelion Dynasty series and I have to say it is an amazing sequel. Liu does everything right for his sequel, he expands on the cast of characters, the world itself and the conflict.

When it comes to characters, Liu knows how to bring complexity. I thought he had a lot of characters in The Grace of Kings, well I was wrong. He added even more for this book and spends plenty of time giving them time on the page to develop their own stories. Something I really enjoyed with this second book is the fact that so many female characters got so much attention and development. The Emperor Kuni Garu, the main protagonist, has two wives (or a wife and a consort), and a daughter--not to mention the leaders and scholars in the court that are also female. Each of these female characters play major parts in this story as they all want to have as much influence in the court as possible and go about it in different ways and even work against each other to accomplish their goals.

Some things that I really enjoyed about the first book that continue over into this book is the way that Ken Liu does writes his characters in such an equitable way. There are never any truly good or evil characters. They all seem to do the wrong things, even if they've justified them to be right in their minds. Yet because they stay true to their needs, I find myself forgiving them or at least feeling empathy. The antagonists in this story have plenty of relatable aspects to their personalities and yet they do some really horrible things even if you can understand why they do it. I love the complexity Liu gives them.

The world expands a lot in this second book as we see how the islands react after the rebellion and the new Emperor starts his rule. Once again the gods spend a lot of time in the story popping in and out, taking sides with different factions and generally causing as much chaos as possible. I've never been a huge fan of deities in fantasy fiction. We see the mixture of technology and magic development much more in this second book, which I found very entertaining. We are also introduced to the Wall of Storms, which I don't remember ever being mentioned in the first book. Basically, the islands are protected or separated from the mainland by a wall of cyclones that keeps ships from crossing it. This aspect of the world plays a major part of the conflict in the story.

I love Ken Liu's writing, but I always try to point out one or two flaws I find in the book to be fair. Liu is a master storyteller and mixes in some beautiful poetic lines in his prose. His descriptions are breathtaking. However, this is not a short book. It's 858 pages and it's a very slow read with a lot of political dueling and the introduction of many new characters while balancing the already large cast. Things don't really pick up speed until the last 1/3 of the book. This is not to say I didn't enjoy every part of the book, but it took me much longer to read. Much like the pacing of the book, the number of characters and plots going through this book can become very confusing. Once again, you have to know your limits as a reader. If you prefer your cast of main characters to be under ten, this isn't the book for you.

The Wall of Storms brought everything I wanted in a sequel. I spent a good month enjoying myself in this one book and would love to do it again. I can't wait to see where we go from here and even though I'm not a huge fan of stories lasting longer than three books, I'll be sad if it ends in the next book. If you love an immersible Asian Fantasy with a large cast of complex characters, you're going to be in heaven with this one. You really need to read the first book in the series to enjoy this book, but you won't regret the time you'll spend in Liu's world. Frankly, they would be the perfect two books to enjoy over the holidays.





Previously

The Grace of Kings
The Dandelion Dynasty 1
Saga Press, August 9, 2016
Trade Paperback, 640 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 7, 2015
Mass Market Paperback, February 23, 2016

Review: The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu
Two men rebel together against tyranny—and then become rivals—in this first sweeping book of an epic fantasy series from Ken Liu, recipient of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. Hailed as one of the best books of 2015 by NPR.

Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.

Fans of intrigue, intimate plots, and action will find a new series to embrace in the Dandelion Dynasty.


See Brannigan's Review here.

Review: Reanimatrix by Pete Rawlik


Reanimatrix
Author:  Pete Rawlik
Publisher:  Night Shade Books, October 18, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 364 pages
List Price:  US$15.99 (print); US$11.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781597808804 (print); 9781597806015 (eBook)

Review: Reanimatrix by Pete Rawlik
An obsessed detective on the trail on a murdered young woman finds more than he bargained for in this tale of hard-boiled cosmic horror, an inventive mash-up of the pulp detective story and Lovecraftian terror.

Some say the war drove Robert Peaslee mad. Others suggest that given what happened to his father, madness was inevitable. He’s spent years trying to forget the monsters that haunt his dreams, but now has returned to witch-haunted Arkham to do the only job that he’s qualified for, handling the crimes other cops would prefer to never talk about. He’s the hero Arkham doesn’t even know it has.

Megan Halsey is dead, her body missing. She might have been one of the richest young women in Arkham, but all that money couldn’t make her happy. Word on the street is that her mother split a long time ago, and Megan had spent a lot of her money trying to find her.

Peaslee soon becomes obsessed with the murdered Megan. Retracing the steps of her own investigation, traveling from Arkham to Dunwich, and even to the outskirts of Innsmouth, he will learn more about Megan and Arkham than he should, and discover things about himself that he’d tried to bury.

It’s 1928, and in the Miskatonic River Valley, women give birth to monsters and gods walk the hills. Robert Peaslee will soon learn the hard way that some things are better left undead.



Brannigan's Review

Reanimatrix is a genre-blending thrill ride. Pete Rawlik mixed Lovecraft with pulp fiction detective mystery with romance. It's post World War I and the two main characters are Robert Peaslee and Megan Halsey. They both grew up in Arkham, Mass. Robert was in the war, where he saw his first signs of otherworldly power. After the war he spent time as an agent traveling Europe. It's here he hears about Megan's murder and decides to make his way back home to solve her murder, only to find true madness and evil.

Rawlik does a wonderful job of grabbing you and immersing you into his world. It's a true pleasure to read. For those of you familiar with Lovecraft, you'll be rewarded as well as other literary characters that pop in and out of the storyline. I won't ruin the surprise of who makes appearances, but I'm confident even I missed some of them. One major aspect of the story revolves around the reanimated dead. I have to say I really like the way Rawlik handles this as it felt like a truly fresh take.

Rawlik chose to write his story in the format of letters written by Robert and Megan, giving the reader immediate understanding of the two main characters and their inner workings. The only downfall is you can't completely trust the representation of other characters as they are filtered through the eyes of Robert and Megan.

My only real complaint is the writing style and narrative choice. It's a lot harder for me to get truly sucked into First Person Narratives and then the added choice of Letters to convey the story slows things down for me.

Reanimatrix is a unique take on genre blending that worked out better than I could have hoped for. Rawlik brought a fresh perspective on some familiar tropes. I can say you'll be glad you picked up this book. There is violence and minor adult themes. I'd recommend it to teens and adults. There are so many different genres covered in this book with other fun literary easter eggs, anyone that likes to read will find something to enjoy.

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt


Liar's Bargain
Author:  Tim Pratt
Series:  Pathfinder Tales 33
Publisher:  Tor Books, June 7, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384317 (print); 9780765384300 (eBook)

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Bargain is the latest in their popular novel series.

The sequel to Hugo Award Winner Tim Pratt’s Liar’s Island! For charming con man Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym, life is all about taking what you can and getting away clean. But when the pair are arrested in the crusader nation of Lastwall, Rodrick faces immediate execution, with Hrym spending the rest of eternity trapped in an enchanted scabbard. Their only hope lies in a secret government program in which captured career criminals are teamed up and sent on suicide missions too sensitive for ordinary soldiers. Trapped between almost certain death and actual certain death, the two join forces with a team of rogues and scoundrels, ready to serve their year-long tenure as best they can. Yet not everyone in their party is what they seem, and a death sentence may only be the start of the friends’ problems.



Brannigan's Review

Liar's Bargain is the third book set in the Pathfinder world based on the characters of Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym. I read and reviewed Liar's Island a while back. I've come to see how Tim Pratt writes and I enjoy it. He doesn't let things get too serious. He likes his characters to have fun as well as his readers.

Rodrick is a confidence trickster finds himself caught by some holier than thou Paladins along with some other criminals. This group is quickly forced into performing some tasks that are the types of missions crusading paladin's are too good to do. It reminds me a lot of the Suicide Squad comic book, if you're familiar with that. This premise isn't new, but Pratt does a great job of keeping it fresh and allowing the characters to move the plot along. By the end of the book, I found myself wanting the group to stay together. The characters had a fun dynamic in their relationship while on their missions.

Even though this is the third book with Rodrick and Hrym, Pratt still finds some opportunity to show growth in his characters and their unusual relationship. The world building is perfect. Even after a few books in this world, each one has taken place in a new area with its own history and custom, and each writer has done an excellent job at breathing life into the world.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was the villain. I'm not going to tell you anything about the villain so you can enjoy it once it comes. I love being shown new creatures. I had never read about this one in particular, so I'm not sure if it's only found in the Pathfinder world or not, but a very cool monster.

Liar's Bargain is an enjoyable romp in the fantasy haystack. There is minor violence and minor adult themes. I'd recommend it to teens and adults. If you can't enjoy yourself while reading this book, you might need to talk to a doctor about supplementing your fun with funzala (side effects include giggling, uncontrollable smiling, the happy sweats, excited clapping, impossible death).





Previously

Liar's Blade
Pathfinder Tales 13
Tor Books, August 18, 2016
     eBook, 388 pages
Paizo Publishing, March 12, 2013
     Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
With strength, wit, rakish charm, and a talking sword named Hrym, Rodrick has all the makings of a classic hero - except for the conscience. Instead, he and Hrym live a high life as scoundrels, pulling cons and parting the weak from their gold. When a mysterious woman invites them along on a quest into the frozen north in pursuit of a legendary artifact, it seems like a prime opportunity to make some easy coin - especially if there's a chance for a double-cross. Along with a hooded priest and a half-elven tracker, the team sets forth into a land of witches, yetis, and ancient magic. As the miles wear on, however, Rodrick's companions begin acting steadily stranger, leading man and sword to wonder what exactly they've gotten themselves into... From Hugo Award-winner Tim Pratt, author of City of the Fallen Sky, comes a bold new tale of ice, magic, and questionable morality set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.




Liar's Island
Pathfinder Tales 28
Tor Books, August 25, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

Review: Liar's Bargain by Tim Pratt
Rodrick is a con man as charming as he is cunning. Hrym is a talking sword of magical ice, with the soul and spells of an ancient dragon. Together, the two travel the world, parting the gullible from their gold and freezing their enemies in their tracks. But when the two get summoned to the mysterious island of Jalmeray by a king with genies and elementals at his command, they'll need all their wits and charm if they're going to escape with the greatest prize of all-their lives.

From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of magic, assassination, monsters, and cheerful larceny, in Pathfinder Tales: Liar's Island, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.


See Brannigan's review here.

Review: Song of the Deep by by Brian Hastings


Song of the Deep by
Author:  Brian Hastings
Illustrator:  Alexis Seabrook
Publisher:  Sterling Children's Books, July 12, 2016
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 176 pages
List Price:  US$12.95 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9781454920960 (print); 9781454921455 (eBook)

Review: Song of the Deep by by Brian Hastings
Twelve-year-old Merryn lives with her fisherman father in a little cottage by the sea. Each day, her father braves the tumultuous waves and returns home in time for dinner. One stormy evening, he doesn’t come back. Merryn has a vision that he’s been dragged underwater by a terrifying sea creature, and he needs her help. Determined to rescue him, Merryn builds a tiny submarine and embarks on a journey through the undersea worlds she’s only heard about in her father’s lullabies. As she faces the dangers and wonders of the world below the waves, she realizes that her father’s stories were all real.

Readers can also experience Merryn’s daring journey firsthand in the new Song of the Deep video game from acclaimed developer Insomniac Games.



Brannigan's Review

Song of the Deep is a charming, nautical-themed fairytale. It's both a book based off a video game and a children's book. I haven't heard of the video game and I'm not a child so I'm not the target audience. Yet I still found moments of enjoyment out of the story. Merryn is a young girl who has to go save her father after he doesn't return home from a day of fishing. She does this by building her own submarine and along her journey discovers many friends and foes in a magical underwater world.

I really wish my kids were old enough to read this to them, but sadly they are just a few years too young to grasp some of the concepts and some of the darker moments of the book. I do plan to keep the book to read to them in the near future and maybe I'll update my review then.

The story moved along at a nice pace and was filled with plenty of adventure and was short and sweet. The character of Merryn held more depth than I would expect from a children's book.

Song of the Deep would be a great bedtime story. I think it would give children plenty of excitement and wonder as fuel for dreams. However, it's too simple to really tempt a parent into sneaking ahead on their own. A little heads up to parents, the book deals with the death of the mother, so use your own discretion.

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner


Starspawn
AuthorWendy N. Wagner
Series: Pathfinder Tales 34
Publisher:  Tor Books, August 9, 2016
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
List Price:  US$14.99 (print); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765384331 (print); 9780765384324 (eBook)

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner
Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games. Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn is the latest in their popular novel series.

The sequel to Hugo Award Winner Wendy N. Wagner’s Skinwalkers! Once a notorious viking and pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her home, ready to settle down and raise her young son. Yet when a mysterious tsunami wracks her island’s shore, she and her fearless crew must sail out to explore the strange island that’s risen from the sea floor. No sooner have they arrived in the lost island’s alien structures, however, than they find themselves competing with a monstrous cult eager to complete a dark ritual in those dripping halls. For something beyond all mortal comprehension has been dreaming on the sea floor. And it’s begun to wake up...



Brannigan's Review

I'm back! I know I know all of my ones of fans have been crashing the site begging me to write a new book review, so thanks to Floyd in Briar Hook, Delaware for sending all of those emails and for your trailblazing social media campaign. Much love.

Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner was the best book for me to read to get me back into reviewing. It has pirates, natural disasters, a mysterious island crawling with all kinds of half-man, half-fish creatures. A Lovecraftian monster, treasure hunting, battles, creepy crawlies and even a dolphin being sacrificed to a dark god by the deep ones. I mean really!? What more could I want in one book. Nothing that's what. Now, lets get into the juicy bits.

The protagonist is Jendara, an ex-pirate mother of a mute son named Kran who's married to Vorrin, the captain of the pirate ship Milday. Jendara was in a previous book entitled Skinwalkers, also by Wagner. There are several mentions of past adventures that took place last year, which I assume is from the first book, but thankfully I never felt lost in this book. I was able to enjoy the current adventure without needing to go grab a copy of Skinwalkers, but if you're like me, you will want to read more about this crew. All right, back to Jendara. She's a very nice character: a strong woman, mother, wife and adventurer. Wagner did a great job balancing all the sides of this character and in the end helped her feel completely real and relatable.

The story starts off simple enough with Jendara and her son Kran on an island in an archipelago, when a tsunami hits and destroys most of her village. Right after the event, her husband and his crew of pirates arrive to offer aid, and explains that an island has risen out of the sea nearby and is covered in ruins and riches. Jendara and her son join the crew on a quick treasure hunt/exploration of the new island in hopes of using it to help the islanders recover from the tsunami. The rest of the story takes off from there. Kran and Vorrin both get enough time on the page to get a sense of their characters, but there isn't a lot of detailed information given. I truly believe these bases were covered in the first book along with the rest of the crew, which didn't bother me a bit. I had enough information about each supporting character that the story warranted. The island itself is the antagonist of this story with plenty of different creatures and groups causing problems for the crew. We get hints to this island's past, but a lot of it was left hidden, which added to the mystery.

Wagner knows how to weave a story. Everything starts off nice and calm, and then wham!, the action starts and it doesn't let up. She threads in plenty of mystery about the island, the people found there and their intentions. We're left to wonder about several different character's fates as the party explores the island. Wagner colors the story with just the right amount of humor to keep things from getting too dark and stressful, but doesn't ruin the overall mood.

My only complaint would be by the ending of the book there were five different groups on the island, including the crew, and I didn't feel I got enough of an explanation about the motives and means of each of the groups. Now, that's not saying the ending is unsatisfying or rushed. I just wish I knew a little more. Wagner gives different levels of information about each group so this is a sliding scale. Not withstanding this one issue, I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. You don't always need to know everything to enjoy a book.

Starspawn is the type of book that brings out the kid in me. There's so much going on and written in such a way that each event builds on top of the other creating a crazy ride. It's books like this one that remind me why I love fantasy and renew my love for the genre. Just knowing there are authors out there writing books like this will keep me young at heart forever. For those of you who would like to know, there is violence and minor language. I would recommend it to teens and adults.





And for those who'd like to read Skinwalkers:

Skinwalkers
Pathfinder Tales 19
Tor Books, August 18, 2015
    eBook, 404 pages
Paizo Publishing, April 15, 2014
    Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Review: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner
As a young woman, Jendara left the cold northern isles of the Ironbound Archipelago to find her fortune. Now, many years later, she's forsaken her buccaneer ways and returned home in search of a simpler life, where she can raise her young son, Kran, in peace. When a strange clan of shapeshifting raiders pillages her home, however, there's no choice for Jendara but to take up her axes once again to help the islanders defend all that they hold dear.

From author Wendy N. Wagner comes a new adventure of vikings, lycanthropes, and the ties of motherhood, set in the world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Retro Reviews: The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman


Retro Reviews: The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman


The Last Four Things
Author:  Paul Hoffman
Series:  Left Hand of God Trilogy 2
Original Publisher and Date:  Dutton, August 4, 2011
Original Formats:  Hardcover and eBook, 384 pages
Current Formats:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Retro Reviews: The Last Four Things by Paul Hoffman

The epic story of Thomas Cale-introduced so memorably in The Left Hand of God--continues as the Redeemers use his prodigious gifts to further their sacred goal: the extinction of humankind and the end of the world.

To the warrior-monks known as the Redeemers, who rule over massive armies of child slaves, "the last four things" represent the culmination of a faithful life. Death. Judgement. Heaven. Hell. The last four things represent eternal bliss-or endless destruction, permanent chaos, and infinite pain.

Perhaps nowhere are the competing ideas of heaven and hell exhibited more clearly than in the dark and tormented soul of Thomas Cale. Betrayed by his beloved but still marked by a child's innocence, possessed of a remarkable aptitude for violence but capable of extreme tenderness, Cale will lead the Redeemers into a battle for nothing less than the fate of the human race. And though his broken heart foretells the bloody trail he will leave in pursuit of a personal peace he can never achieve, a glimmer of hope remains. The question even Cale can't answer: When it comes time to decide the fate of the world, to ensure the extermination of humankind or spare it, what will he choose? To express God's will on the edge of his sword, or to forgive his fellow man-and himself?


Brannigan's Review

The Last Four Things picks up right after the first book and immediately starts going in a completely different direction than I thought it was heading. This is always enjoyable in a middle book, which can, if written improperly, feel like an extra long chapter to the first book or a story that drags on without anything really happening to the characters.

Paul Hoffman's skill at writing descriptive environments is as strong as ever. The world continues to baffle me. I've decided that it's an alternate Earth where the middle ages went on far longer than ours. I personally don't like alternate Earth settings, so I am a little disappointed, but for those of you who do like them, I think you'll enjoy this one. The world building itself continues to develop and we get a better understanding of the different religious sects as well as the different countries at play in the immediate area.

Hoffman develops his characters more in the second book, especially some of the minor characters from the first book. It's also nice to see this in a second book, instead of continuing to give the majority of the page to the Protagonist. For those of you like me who are fans of Thomas Cale, do not fear, he is not ignored in his own development. I really enjoyed learning more about some the minor characters and their motivations.

The Last Four Things is a great middle book in a series. It takes the story in a completely different direction than I thought it would go and sets things up for a satisfying ending. It's still a darkly themed book as it deals with children soldiers and religious wars. There is violence, language and sexual situations. I would recommend it to adults only.

Retro Reviews: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs


Retro Reviews: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs


A Princess of Mars
Author:  Edgar Rice Burroughs
Series:  Barsoom 1
Original Book Publisher and Date:  A.C. McClurg, October 10, 1917
Still in Print: Yes
Current Formats: Print and eBook
Availability: Yes - used and new

Retro Reviews: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Brief History

Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago, IL on September 1, 1875 and died in Encino, CA on March 19, 1950. His father was a civil war veteran. In 1911, Burroughs was working as a pencil-sharpener wholesaler when he began to write fiction. In 1912, Burroughs had his first story, Under the Moons of Mars, serialized in The All-Story magazine from February to July 1912. Tarzan is his most famous character with John Carter close behind. Burroughs has written over 80 books in many different genres, including Science Fiction, Adventure, Westerns, Romance and even Historical. Ray Bradbury said of Burroughs in The Paris Review Spring 2010 No. 192, “I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly—Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special. That’s what we have to do for everyone, give the gift of life with our books.”

A Princess of Mars was originally published as a serial in the February-July 1912 issues of All-Story Magazine under the title of Under the Moons of Mars. Burroughs was influenced in his portrayal of Mars by the astronomer Percival Lowell. On October 10, 1917, the first book edition was printed by A.C. McClurg. The book is now in public domain in the United States.


Description

A World to Conquer.

Suddenly projected to Mars, John Carter found himself captive of the savage green men of Thark. With him was Dejah Thoris, lovely Princess of Helium. And between them and rescue lay a thousand miles of deadly enemies and unknown dangers.



Brannigan's Review

This is the second book I've read and reviewed by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I'll be honest I was a little nervous to read it. I wanted to like it and I've heard so many people say how wonderful it was that I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations. So, for you, dear readers, I conquered my fears and read A Princess of Mars.

Burroughs does a splendid job of developing characters for a such a short book and considering its time frame. John Carter is a man of principles and doesn't falter from standing up for what's right. He also shows tact and patience in his affections towards Dejah. Even the green martians show depth and evolution as the story progresses. Tars Tarkas and Sola show very little in their relationship at the beginning of the story, but their relationship becomes much more complicated as secrets are revealed.

The world building shows depth and is revealed in such a way that it truly makes the world feel old and on the brink of extinction. Burroughs introduces several different alien flora and fauna. He also takes time to explain the differences between the green and red martians by color and within their own respective groups. It shows a great deal of detail for such a short book.

The pacing was a lot faster than I expected but not as fast as modern books. However, I wasn't bothered or bored since Burroughs did a wonderful job keeping my attention through the story. The fact that there's so many different genres within one book, like western, science-fiction, romance, and adventure, also helped to keep my attention.

A Princess of Mars lives up to all it praise and history. I would call it a foundation stone to the genre. It made me giddy and happy as I became immersed in the pulp. I'd recommend this book to youth and adults. There is minor violence. I'd recommend you buy a copy. It truly is one of the pioneer texts in the science fiction genre and should be read and owned by anyone who professes a love of  science fiction.


Favorite quote from the book

“God help the coward, for cowardice is of a surety its own punishment.” page 7

Review: The Eye of God by James Rollins


The Eye of God
Author: James Rollins
Series:  A Sigma Force Novel 9
Publisher:  Harper, January 28, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 576 pages
    Hardcover and eBook (William Morrow, June 25, 2013)
Price: $9.99 (MMP and eBook)
ISBN: 9780061784804 (Hardcover); 9780061785672 (MMP);
     9780062194916 (eBook)
Review Copy: Hardcover from Publisher
Note:  The Hardcover is out of print

Review: The Eye of God by James Rollins
In The Eye of God, a Sigma Force novel, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins delivers an apocalyptic vision of a future predicted by the distant past.
In the wilds of Mongolia, a research satellite has crashed, triggering an explosive search for its valuable cargo: a code-black physics project connected to the study of dark energy—and a shocking image of the eastern seaboard of the United States in utter ruin.

At the Vatican, a package arrives containing two strange artifacts: a skull scrawled with ancient Aramaic and a tome bound in human skin. DNA evidence reveals that both came from the same body: the long dead Mongol king Genghis Khan.

Commander Gray Pierce and Sigma Force set out to discover a truth tied to the fall of the Roman Empire, to a mystery going back to the birth of Christianity, and to a weapon hidden for centuries that holds the fate of humanity.
[description from Mass Market Paperback]


Brannigan's Review

I like a good thriller, so just for the fun of it and to get a break from the speculative fiction I decided to read The Eye of God by James Rollins. I was quickly sucked into the story and finished it in record time.

The characters remind me of modern pulp fiction characters we know just enough to get the story told. Rollins attempts to give them some depth and for the most part succeeds. However, there are times when it comes across a little forced. For most the book there are two to three different groups of characters traveling all over the world and in each party there's about 3 to 4 different characters, so it's understandable that Rollins couldn't give each and everyone of them depth and their own subplots. Rollins does a great job of giving me enough information about the characters and the world that it didn't matter that I haven't read the first eight books. I knew what I needed to enjoy the story.

The plot of the story is where Rollins really shines. He's able to weave in history, science, religion, and plenty of action to make the book constantly entertaining and even thought-provoking. The world is coming to an end and the only way to stop it is to go a quest to find relics from the past that are the keys to saving the future. It's very imaginative and even plausible for the most part.

There is no real world building as it takes place in the present to near future time frame. Rollins does some building as he creates the Sigma Force headquarters underneath the Smithsonian Castle and hidden tombs around the world, but for the most part he's using our everyday world.

The Eye of God is a fast-paced thriller that doesn't suffer in story quality or imagination. A lot of these long book series often begin to feel cookie cutter, but even at book 9 I had a blast. There is violence, minor language and minor sexual situations. I would recommend it to older teens and adults. This is definitely for anyone who enjoys a good quest thriller with plenty of action included.

Review: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias


A Darkling Sea
Author:  James L. Cambias
Publisher:  Tor Books, January 28, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages
Also Available:  Trade Paperback
List Price: US$25.99 (Hardcover); US$9.99 (eBook)
ISBN:  9780765336279 (Hardcover); 9781466827561 (eBook)

Review: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a team of deep-sea diving scientists investigates the blind alien race that lives below. The Terran explorers have made an uneasy truce with the Sholen, their first extraterrestrial contact: so long as they don’t disturb the Ilmataran habitat, they’re free to conduct their missions in peace.

But when Henri Kerlerec, media personality and reckless adventurer, ends up sliced open by curious Ilmatarans, tensions between Terran and Sholen erupt, leading to a diplomatic disaster that threatens to escalate to war.

Against the backdrop of deep-sea guerrilla conflict, a new age of human exploration begins as alien cultures collide. Both sides seek the aid of the newly enlightened Ilmatarans. But what this struggle means for the natives—and the future of human exploration—is anything but certain, in A Darkling Sea by James Cambias.



Brannigan's Review

I was drawn to this book initially because it reminded me of one of my favorite movies Abyss. Instead of surly oil workers, A Darkling Sea has scientists interacting with aliens on the sea floor. James L. Cambias creates a dynamic plot that kept me reading late into the night.

Cambias' world is in our future when Earth begins to truly explore space and the many different planets and moons. During our exploration, we meet a peaceful alien race named the Sholen who resemble six-legged otters. The Sholen fear humans because we remind them of their war-ridden past. They try to control human exploration when a group of humans sets up an underwater base to study the alien race of Ilmatarians who resemble lobsters. The Sholen try to control the contact between the humans and Ilmatarians. I enjoyed the fact that both alien races are very different in their development, even though they both have connections to water-based animals.

Cambias shares the POVs of several different characters for each race that helps to establish their races while also allowing for character development. My only complaint about the aliens was the fact that they were basically lobsters and otters. I like my aliens weirder. I will say I was very happy with their unique cultures though.

Where the book truly shines is the pacing. It helps that Cambias has several different POV characters who keep the story fresh and exciting. It also helps that he's not afraid of action. One of my pet peeves with science fiction is it can be a little dry with very little going on. Thankfully, Cambias doesn't have this problem. He doesn't waste a lot of time before we get a lot of interesting conflicts and battles.

A Darkling Sea is a science fiction political action tale. Besides the animalistic qualities to the aliens, I had a blast reading it. It was also nice to read a stand alone novel. There is violence, language and sexual situations involving otter aliens. I would recommend it to older teens and adults.
Review: A Field Guide To Fantastical Beasts by Olento SalaperäinenReview: The Wall of Storms by Ken LiuReview: Reanimatrix by Pete RawlikReview: Liar's Bargain by Tim PrattReview: Song of the Deep by by Brian HastingsReview: Starspawn by Wendy N. WagnerRetro Reviews: The Last Four Things by Paul HoffmanRetro Reviews: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice BurroughsReview: The Eye of God by James RollinsReview: A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias

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