Saturday 27 September 2014

Review: Dark Rift

Dark Rift
Dark Rift by Alesha Escobar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, and the series of which it's the second, have good bones. It needs an editor, but the author tells me it's getting one very soon, so its issues - mainly tense problems, occasional odd phrasings and possible anachronisms - should go away, leaving an enjoyable and well-told story.

Full disclosure: I know Alesha Escobar on social media, and we've been in an anthology together ([b:Theme-Thology: New Myths|22500072|Theme-Thology New Myths|Alesha Escobar||41946514]. I thought her story in that collection was one of the best in the book. She has talent as a writer, and a good editor will bring that out and help her shine as she deserves to.

Apart from the problems I've alluded to already, the main issue for me was that it felt like it could be tenser and faster paced, especially near the beginning. I think a bit of cutting of mundane detail that doesn't contribute to plot, character or setting would fix that easily. I was never bored, but I did feel that I could have been more caught up in events, and could have felt a greater sense of urgency in what was, after all, a tense situation: fighting Nazi vampire wizards and their werewolves while trying to keep your allies from hunting down your father for appearing to be something that you, yourself, secretly are.

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Monday 15 September 2014

Review: The Six-Gun Tarot

The Six-Gun Tarot
The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a difficult one to rate. Three stars usually means I didn't enjoy it much, but for a long time I was enjoying it. However, when I got about two-thirds of the way through, the horror elements became more dominant. Since I don't like anything more than mild horror, and I was starting to be ready for it to be over anyway, I stopped reading at that point.

Early on, I felt that, despite some notable editing issues, it had the potential to be great (or rather, that the author did). I still think that potential is there, with the right developmental editor and a better copy editor. It's not just the same old tired tropes, though it gets a little tropey when it brings in bits of Mythos (there's even a sly mention of the King in Yellow). At the same time, there's some freshness to it, and a sense of depth - though I felt, on reflection, that the author might have been trying too hard to achieve depth and ended up merely with complexity.

I mentioned the copy editing. A good number of the problems are sloppy typing: missing quotation marks or other punctuation, missing words, fumbled words (like "clam" for "calm"), the kind of thing you would once have blamed a typesetter for back when there were such people, but must now be blamed on the author. There are also a good few examples of using the wrong word, though: "filament" for "firmament", "proscribed" for "prescribed" (though I've seen Samuel Delaney make that mistake, so Belcher is in good company there), "taunt" for "taut", "shorn" for "shored", "utterance" for something written down, "willing to sate the most jaded pleasures" (instead of "appetites").

The prose sometimes purples to the point of incomprehensibility: "a flute made out of a human femur rattlesnake whirred an ice-knife tune up and down his spine", which is also a thoroughly mixed metaphor. People know things they couldn't know. There's head-hopping. There's a direct commuter line to the Department of Backstory, and it's used on every possible occasion.

Notwithstanding all this, the potential is there. The cosmic significance, and at the same time the authentic Western feel, and the two not seeming at odds - that indicates talent. I feel the same sort of thing has been done better, though, notably by [a:S.A. Hunt|6952140|S.A. Hunt|].

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Monday 8 September 2014

Review: The Thief

The Thief
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought for a long time that this book was slow to get going. Five chapters in, we were still on the way to the scene of the theft, still having back and forth between the various characters, establishing their relationships. I finally decided that, in a way, that was the story, that the journey was the destination. But then we actually got to the theft, and it became the story I'd been expecting all along, and now the journey looked overlong again.

I also had some issues with the worldbuilding. It starts out Greek, apparently ancient Greek, but then we get metal breastplates, and then we get guns, and then (after at first sticking closely to flora and fauna found natively in and around the Mediterranean) we get a random eucalyptus. And none of this is necessary. The plot would have worked identically if it had stayed ancient Greek the whole way through.

Regardless of those issues, the ending served up a twist that was different from the twist I'd been expecting, always a pleasant surprise. The writing and editing were excellent, and the story ultimately satisfying.

I'm not sure I'll rush out and buy the next one, given that this was near the upper end of my preferred ebook price band, but I'll keep it in mind for the future.

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Friday 5 September 2014

Review: The Master of the World

The Master of the World
The Master of the World by Jules Verne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A disappointing lack of protagonism lets this one down.

The main character and narrator is a police inspector who's trying to find and foil the supervillain after whom the book is named. He tries several things and fails conspicuously. Nothing wrong with a try-fail cycle, but he then acts as what I call a "camera character," a mobile point-of-view that observes events without really affecting them. He's finally saved by one of several deus ex machina moments, brought on by the villain's pride in what is very close to a Disney villain fall.

The eponymous supervillain doesn't monologue; in fact, he hardly says anything, leaving his motives and his thought process largely unexplained.

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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Review: A Cold Wind

A Cold Wind
A Cold Wind by C.J. Brightley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the first book in this series, and, as I predicted, this one is better. I found it emotionally moving more than once, which doesn't happen often. It has two threads to it: a romance plot, and what can't quite be called an adventure plot because it's deliberately not high-action or fast-paced (and, to me, is none the worse for that).

The two would-be lovers, kept apart by their lack of self-confidence and their inability to communicate, were wonderfully depicted, and the matter-of-fact courage of the hero continues to make him admirable.

I did feel that the early part of the book could have been tighter, and found Riona's unpleasant suitor a little too obviously inserted to make a point; I thought that subplot could have been polished further overall. In the main, though, this is a fine piece of writing, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

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