The Court of The Air

With the opening novel set in the Jackelian world, The Court of the Air is a thrill ride that contains more ideas than it knows how to deliver.  Author Stephen Hunt pits two orphans against a menacing evil, gives them power they don’t understand, allies that they can’t trust and asks them to save the world as they know it. The two primary story lines are uneven in execution and one protagonist fares better as a character than the other.  The novel is, at times, a daunting read and Hunt fails to fully execute on some of the grand ideas but, on balance, it’s a fun adventure tale with elements of steampunk and fantasy.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Crack’d Pot Trail

Steven Erikson is a master of modern epic fantasy. His opus, a 10 book series named The Malazan Book of the Fallen, is a masterpiece on par with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. Erikson creates a menagerie of fascinatingly amoral or ambiguous characters and proceeds to wind them all together in sub-plots that build off the primary thread. Some of those secondary plots fall away and some stay in tune but all of them are interesting. He is a tremendous writer.

That is why the novella Crack’d Pot Trail is such a collasul disappointment. Nominally about Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, two necromancers who provide an element of comedic relief through parts of Erikson’s The Malazan Book of the Fallen, who are pursued by a band of knights and hunters sworn to kill them, the book is, in reality, a violent assault on the fourth wall (the “wall” between the stage and the audience) and role of the audience in artistic affairs. Narrative is a secondary concern, if at all, and the titular characters are absent for all but two pages of the book.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

The Man Who Went Up in Smoke

The second detective novel by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo featuring Martin Beck as the lead, The Man Who Went Up in Smoke, lacks the charm of the first novel. Even attempts to contextualize the book, written in 1966, offer few positives to take away. Where Roseanna featured a wider array of characters and a better crime narrative, the sequel focuses too much on Beck’s introspective and uses a grating twist to solve the case.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

The White Dragon

The final book in the initial trilogy by Anne McCaffrey, The White Dragon is both the farthest reaching in scope and the most enjoyable to read. With the focus of the book away from F’lar and Lessa and a better developed cast of characters, the world-building is allowed to shine along with the growth of the new protagonists.  While the dragons were a pleasant diversion previously, they now take center stage with the namesake of the novel.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Headhunters

Norwegian author Jo Nesbo is better known for his detective series featuring alcoholic but persistent detective Harry Hole. In Headhunters, Nesbo brings to life a surprisingly self-aware character who is equal parts pragmatic and amoral. Part mystery, part thriller, the novel takes a series of unexpected turns that are often only fully realized in the retrospective.  The extreme rationality of the main character, Roger Brown, will be in strong contrast to the visceral reaction that most readers will have to him.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,

Dragonquest

The second novel set in Anne McCaffrey’s world of Pern, titled Dragonquest, is a more complex and developed novel than it’s predecessor Dragonflight. Featuring the returning main characters F’lar and Lessa, a better cast of secondary personalities helps prop up the bland and too perfect protagonists.  With secondary tales enveloped in the larger storyline, McCaffrey allows her story to wander in ways that make it feel less constrained than the first novel.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Dragonflight

The omnibus edition of Anne McCaffrey’s first three Pern novels that I’ve included a picture of is seven years my elder meaning it was published in 1978. I came across it some time ago, nearly a decade, at a used book fair and enjoyed it enough to purchase the better part of the subsequent series. It is a fantasy genre novel of a previous generation far removed from modern day epic fantasy novelists like Steven Erikson, George R. R. Martin or Robert Jordan.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Escapement

The second book in Jay Lake’s Clockworth Earth series, Escapement is a multi-viewpoint work that brings minor characters from Mainspring back to serve in prominent roles. The world creation continues to be the best feature of this novel but the characterization problems that plagued Mainspring are mostly absent.  The plot proves far more worthy of the setting with better, though imperfect, pacing and more nuanced, subtle metaphor for religion.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Mainspring

Jay Lake’s Mainspring is a book that is better liked in faded memories than in the moment of reading it.  A clumsily characterized protagonist and a meandering plot are further confounded by a rather bizarre love story.  The book is the first in Jay Lake’s Clockworth Earth series and the subsequent novels are, on balance, the better novels. There are redeeming aspects to Lake’s world-building but it is overshadowed by the book’s flaws.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,

Roseanna

Published in Sweden in 1965, Roseanna is the first book by authors Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo in their Martin Beck series.  The plot is simple: The body of young American Roseanna McGraw is pulled out of a canal during a dredging. An aloof librarian from Nebraska by day, Roseanna was vacationing in Sweden on a cruise. Detective Martin Beck, with help from a pair of noteworthy colleagues, sets about to find the murderer.  Over the course of the novel, the detectives trace a series of people and photographs to find the killer before setting a trap to ensnare the suspect.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , ,