Sunday, 16 September 2018

Review: The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye

The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye by Michael McClung
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much suffering.

So many, many coordinate commas that don't belong (and more than a few typos, vocabulary stumbles, and other punctuation errors).

For both of the above reasons, I enjoyed this less than the first book in the series. It's still good - we still have a motivated protagonist in a dynamic situation, with plenty of skill, determination, and a strong desire to contain a powerful threat to innocents. Amra is a great character, and I'd watch her do her laundry, let alone take on dysfunctional gods and monsters.

I'll perhaps be a little slower to pick up book 3, though, given the amount of torture the author puts her through in this one. Certainly I want to see a character struggle, but as a matter of personal taste, I don't want to see her suffer for suffering's sake, or just to demonstrate how very dark the world is.

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Review: The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye

The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye by Michael McClung
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much suffering.

So many, many coordinate commas that don't belong (and more than a few typos, vocabulary stumbles, and other punctuation errors).

For both of the above reasons, I enjoyed this less than the first book in the series. It's still good - we still have a motivated protagonist in a dynamic situation, with plenty of skill, determination, and a strong desire to contain a powerful threat to innocents. Amra is a great character, and I'd watch her do her laundry, let alone take on dysfunctional gods and monsters.

I'll perhaps be a little slower to pick up book 3, though, given the amount of torture the author puts her through in this one. Certainly I want to see a character struggle, but as a matter of personal taste, I don't want to see her suffer for suffering's sake, or just to demonstrate how very dark the world is.

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Review: Stealing Life

Stealing Life Stealing Life by Antony Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An interesting, and sometimes uncomfortable, blend of sword-and-sorcery (thieves, wizards, city-states controlled by criminals) with a futuristic setting. For a long while, I kept stumbling over the futuristic parts, because the essence of the book is so sword-and-sorcery in tone, feel, and trope.

The main character is a thief with some principles, specifically against killing, which lands him in trouble and in debt to a mob boss. This gives us a highly motivated protagonist in a dynamic situation, and things keep getting worse and worse for him, while the stakes for him and everyone else escalate - a good basis for compelling fiction.

Ultimately, he's not able to purge the corruption in the system, only to minimise its impact on innocents. But he does so with intelligence and daring, at personal cost, without ever blaming anyone else for his misfortune, and that makes up to a large degree for the cynicism and darkness of the setting. It's maybe a little worldweary to be fully noblebright, but it's tending strongly enough in that direction that I enjoyed it considerably.

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Review: The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids by Michael McClung
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A classic sword-and-sorcery tale of thieves and wizards, but with a touch more idealism than the sometimes nihilist genre often displays. The titular thief, despite a disadvantaged background, a hard life, and a generally pragmatic outlook, manages to hold onto some principles; she doesn't kill unless she absolutely has to (and only those who really deserve it), she doesn't steal from anyone who has less than her, friendship means a lot to her, and she never gives up.

I have had this sitting on my Kindle for a long time, put off by the starting premise: the main character's friend is horribly murdered. When I got past that, though, the book presented me with a motivated character in a dynamic situation - a well-realised character who I could admire, despite her criminality - and that swept me all the way to the end.

I jounced over some typos on the way, but they weren't enough to dent my enjoyment much. I almost immediately picked up the sequel.

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Review: Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A typically over-the-top Sanderson premise: a man hallucinates, and knows that he hallucinates, other people who possess knowledge and skills that he does not have conscious access to. He's perfectly sane; but his "aspects" have all kinds of psychological problems.

The author hints pretty clearly in his introduction that this is based on his own experience as an author - that his own characters help to keep him sane, by being safe carriers of his issues, as well as being able to do things that he can't. He takes the idea in some fun, interesting, and ultimately thought-provoking directions.

I've seen Sanderson dismissed as being merely the ultimate commercial writer, following the market's demands and expectations, but he's much more than that. Not only does he have wildly original ideas and develop them in ways that nobody else would think of, but there's a degree of emotional and psychological depth to his recent work in particular that isn't found in many authors. He hand-crafts his books, he doesn't stamp them out of a mould. While the first in these three connected novels shows the central character as a kind of superpowered detective, the following two increasingly follow his psychological struggles and internal, as well as external, challenges, and bring out philosophical questions while not neglecting action and conflict. The collection ends with a complex, but hopeful, conclusion.

I'd already read the original novella, I think in a collection, and eagerly requested this version via Netgalley when I saw it there. Thanks to the publisher for granting my request; it's one of the best books I've read this year.

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Friday, 7 September 2018

Review: Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven

Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven Harley Merlin and the Secret Coven by Bella Forrest
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Started out well, and I thought it was going to be both well-edited and fairly original. Sadly, in the end it was neither. Enjoyable enough, but barely a four-star.

Firstly, it's based much too closely on Harry Potter, up to and including points for an end-of-year prize and childish bickering (if anything, the HP kids are more mature than these characters).

Second, there are quite a few excess coordinate commas, and a good few vocabulary issues - homonym errors (like diffuse/defuse); wrong word choices for what the author means; and one of my pet hates, the jargon "going forward" repeatedly used to mean "in future" or "from now on".

Third, there are two - TWO - Convenient Eavesdrops, and even though neither one is completely essential to the plot, I still despise this plot device with a mighty hatred. It's weak writing, a convenient way to get around point-of-view limitations.

It's OK in a bubblegum sort of way, enjoyable for what it is, but it doesn't inspire me to look for more from this author.

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Review: Eye of Truth

Eye of Truth Eye of Truth by Lindsay Buroker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The classic Buroker elements are here: banter; steam conveyances; political intrigue which the characters are not so much engaging in as victims of; two people who appear confident but are privately full of doubts, and who look set to have a slow-burn romance; magic, here a bit more front-and-centre than usual. Another new element is the presence of elves and dwarves.

Somehow, though, the whole thing didn't quite come together for me. I enjoyed it well enough, but I wasn't so entertained or gripped that I am rushing out to buy the sequel. Perhaps the formula has become too formulaic.

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