Book Review: The Emperor’s Edge

Emperor's Edge

The Emperor’s Edge is the first book in the Emperor’s Edge series (of eight books), by author Lindsay Buroker. I have only read the first two books in the series, so don’t know whether book eight (Republic) is the conclusion or whether more books are planned. This review is solely of Book One.

The story revolves around Amaranthe, a woman in her mid-twenties. She is an Enforcer (Enforcers are the police), and to her knowledge is the only woman in the force. Within the Turgonian Empire in which she lives, women run businesses, but don’t get involved in security services, so she is often discriminated against in terms of her career.

When she gets noticed by the Emperor and subsequently is offered an opportunity for promotion if she succeeds in a dangerous mission, she therefore accepts. And thus begins a roller-coaster journey for the heroine as she crosses a deadly assassin, discovers treasonous plots, fights magicians from foreign lands (magic officially doesn’t exist in Turgonia) and gathers together a small band of outcasts to embark on a wild plan to save the Emperor.

I surprised myself in thoroughly enjoying this book. Why was it a surprise? Well, there is virtually no character development, and my favourite books are those that delve into the main protagonist’s inner world. There’s not really any of that in The Emperor’s Edge. There is also nothing here to make you stop and think about the world we live in: something I also enjoy.

It is, however, utterly fun. Amaranthe is a wonderful character who has a delightful way with words as she coerces… sorry, gently persuades, others to provide her with information or to undertake tasks that further her aims. She would be a complete nightmare to live with, but I found her a totally lovable character (from the distance of a book cover). The other main characters also all have their own distinctive personalities, and participate in some great banter. The book is a perfectly good standalone novel, but at the very end it is set up well for future books.

As far as the plot goes, there were some interesting quirks, but I didn’t find the overall plot especially unusual – and I had worked out the big reveal early in the book. But none of that mattered. It was an enjoyable romp of a read, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. If you like a fun read to distract you from life, I would recommend The Emperor’s Edge.

My rating: 

4 Stars

Author/Novel Spotlight: Tito Martinez Barberi, The Pinnacle of Power

Today I talk to Tito Martinez Barberi, author of The Pinnacle of Power, Book 1 in the Keeper of the Balance saga.

Tito was born in Mexico City, in 1970. He spent many years working as a translator and copyrighter, and his experience in these fields, added to what Tito himself calls his “hyperactive imagination” led him to write the fantasy series The Keeper of the Balance.

Tito is a passionate lover of fantasy and sci-fi. Although he lives in Puebla, Mexico with Dani, his cat, Tito’s mind spends most of his time in planet Akaladia, working on the next books in The Keeper of the Balance saga.

What made you decide to publish a novel?

I wanted to write my own take on the Hero’s Journey, trying to tell it from a fresh, novel, original point of view, set in what I like to describe as an alternate, futuristic version of Earth in a parallel universe. I took writing this as a challenge that I thought would be lots of fun, and so it’s been

Where do you get you inspiration to write?

I get inspiration from everyday life, from people I’ve met who’ve left a mark on me (be it positive or negative), from major events happening across the world, historical and current both, from spirituality, from books and films I love, even from conspiracy theories . . . in short, my influences are so wide and varied that there’s just too many to put here.

Pinnacle of PowerIf you could pick just one phrase from your writings to preserve for future generations, what would it be?

“All in its due time.”

Where did the idea for the The Keeper of the Balance come from?

Again, this story was shaped by many ideas, influences, and sources of inspiration. I just sat down one day and decided to write this take on the classic Hero’s Journey, using more modern, current themes, but trying to keep the classic archetypes found in fantasy literature intact.

Different authors have differing approaches to writing. Some prepare very detailed plot outlines before they begin on their first draft, while others have a much looser outline and like to see where the story leads them. What was your approach with The Pinnacle of Power? Continue reading

Book Review: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is a fantasy trilogy by author Stephen R Donaldson, beginning with Lord Foul’s Bane.  A few years after the original trilogy in the 80’s, there was a second series, and then the “Final Chronicles” series of four books was concluded within the last couple of years.  This review is really of the full series rather than of standalone books.  The first book in the first series, Lord Foul’s Bane, works as a standalone novel, but after that you really need to read each series in full as the individual novels often end on cliff-hangers.

Lord Foul's BaneIf you scout around the web for reviews on this series you’ll get quite polarised views.  And I can understand why.  While I’ll explain below why I just love this series, my wife who also enjoys fantasy really couldn’t bear it.

Lord Foul’s Bane begins in our world, with the main character Thomas Covenant.  He is a leper, and as a result of his disease has been abandoned by his wife (taking their son with her), and is an outcast in his community.  He has had to learn to live by strict routine and view everything around him as a potential threat to his wellbeing in order to avoid potentially life-threatening cuts and bruises.  He has previously had two of his fingers of one hand removed due to his disease.

With that background he is transported to “The Land”, a place of beauty and magic, of healing and heroic deeds. Continue reading

Book Review: The Wise Man’s Fear

Wise Man's FearThe Wise Man’s Fear is the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.

I gave the first book in the series, the Name of the Wind, 4 stars.  The prose was amongst the most beautiful I have come across.  I found the main character, Kvothe, interesting.  The world building was terrific.

The series follows the life story of Kvothe as he relates it to a scribe known as the Chronicler.  A renowned hero, he has mysteriously disappeared, now living as an innkeeper when the Chronicler tracks him down.  Whether or not he has lost his fantastical abilities since going into hiding is ambiguous.

In many ways Wise Man’s Fear continues where Name of the Wind left off.  Indeed, certainly for the first half of the book if anything I found the writing even more gorgeous than the first instalment.  And my interest in the younger Kvothe as he seeks to overcome his many challenges and grow into the power he possesses is engrossing.  As with the first book in the series, if you like epic fantasy with a lot of long descriptions, and if you like your stories to be as much about the development of the characters as the action, then it’s fantastic.

The minor criticisms I had for the first book remained: there are stories told within stories within stories, and I find that a distracting way to give the reader information.  And some of the bad guys remain somewhat two-dimensional.  But they are small things in what is otherwise quite brilliant writing.

Unfortunately, for me (and I know I’m in the minority here) the second half of the book lost its way a bit.

It was all going so well until our protagonist headed into the forest.  Whether you read Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter it seems to be a necessity that there is a lengthy section wandering around the forest.  And just as I found the woodland meandering in those terrific series tedious, so too this section in Wise Man’s Fear seemed to drag.  It almost appeared to me that as the author was writing the section in the woods he decided it needed to be longer, so padded it out.  Now there will be those, I’m sure, who disagree and find great meaning in everything that happens in that part of the book, but for me it really didn’t work.

But my main gripe with the second half of the book began with an encounter Kvothe has with a female faery who can only really be described as a lethal nymphomaniac.  Without giving away spoilers, there are certainly things that happen within this section of the book that are crucial to understanding Kvothe’s story.  But it goes on for something like 70 pages, and there are references to their intimate antics seemingly on most of them.  It’s not especially explicit, but for me it was gratuitous.  And once he finally leaves the infamous faery behind, he has another 3 sexual encounters which all include some degree of description.  It seemed to me – and again this is just how it read to me – that there was almost an obsession with sex in the second half of the book, which was incongruous with the first book and a half.  Whether or not it is essential to the story it could have been told in a less gratuitous way.  If you’re into that sort of thing then fine, but it didn’t work for me.

So despite the truly remarkable prose that glittered this book – in particular the first half – in the end I was somewhat disappointed when I finished reading the Wise Man’s Fear, and indeed may not bother with the final instalment as and when it is released.  Certainly I’ll carefully read a range of reviews before buying.  (That said, Wise Man’s Fear was published in 2011, and as of the date of this review there is still no news on the third book in the series, so it would appear that it’s not coming any time soon.)

Between the engrossing first half of the book, and the largely forgettable second half, my rating is:

3 Stars

Book Review: The Shadow of What Was Lost

Shadow of What Was Lost

The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington is the first book in the Licanius Trilogy, and follows primarily the paths of three friends; Davian, Asha and Wirr.  They live in a time when the magic that is practiced – called Essence – is largely frowned upon.  It is permitted but has onerous restrictions place on those who practice it.  And while the three friends are all training in its use, they each eventually have their own… well, without revealing any spoilers, there are quirks for each of them in relation to their use of Essence.

They are separated and reunited at different points during the story, and as they seek to understand why one of more of them appear to be being (or attempted to be) manipulated to serve other more powerful ends, a power of enormous malevolence appears ready to break free from the bonds that have been holding it in check for nearly two thousand years; threatening to bring their world down.  Needless to say, over the course of the book, things are revealed about each of the friends and they each become individuals of increasing power and importance (in different ways) in the events that are shaping their world.

Overall, I found the book to be gripping.  While at first Essence was little more than a renamed magic, it became more complex and interesting as the story went on, and by the end it’s clear that not even the users of Essence really understand it.

For the most part the characters had depth.  Of the three, I found Wirr to be the least 3-dimensional; but I came to care about both Davian and Asha and am looking forward to seeing how they develop further when the second book in the series is published later this year.

There were several twists and turns in the story, and while I could see some of them coming, there were enough that I didn’t to keep me unsure of just where the story would go next, and to keep me more than interested in learning how it would develop.  There is a major reveal at the end of the book that certainly makes me want to learn more about just what is going on with that particular character.

I found the pacing also good; never rushed, while the momentum kept me reading to the end.

The only thing that annoyed me was something that afflicts all books that have several main characters; and that is the shifting Points of View (POV).  If an author wants to have multiple main characters then it’s inevitable I suppose; but for me as a reader there is little I hate more than getting to an exciting point in the story, only to turn the page to the next chapter and instead of finding out what happens next, to switch to a different character in a different place – “But I don’t want to read more about Asha now; I want to see what happens to Davian!” – or the other way around, etc. But that is really just a statement of my own reading preference rather than a criticism of the book.

All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed the Shadow of What Was Lost.  Unusually for me, I registered my email on the author web-site so I can get news about the release of the next book in the series, and will be purchasing it as soon as its e-book becomes available.  A terrific book that I would wholeheartedly recommend.

 

My Rating:

4 Stars

Book Review: The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles)

Name of the WindThere are few books I’ve read that are as beautifully written as the Kingkiller Chronicles. Patrick Rothfuss has a way of describing the most ordinary events that turns them into pearls, and in that sense I found the Name of the Wind a total joy to read. His world building is impressive; each element brought to life as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The characters for the most part are well-developed, and the humour that is sprinkled throughout is natural and, well, funny.

The price for capturing such beauty of prose, and depth of story, is book length. These books are LONG, and while that appeals to me as once I find a good story I enjoy being absorbed in it for as long as possible, if you’re someone who likes a book that moves through its story with pace then this series won’t be for you.

I nearly gave this a 5-star rating, but for me there are a couple of things that only just hold it back. Firstly, virtually the entire book is told from the POV of the protagonist relating his life story – i.e. it is a story within a story. While that is fine, and I think works, there are then other stories within his story within the story, and while they seem to be giving the reader relevant information, the format of having multiple layers of story I found a little distracting.

Also, while most of the characters I found well-developed, there are one or two (seemingly quite important) who for me were a little two-dimensional. Perhaps their reasons for acting as they do will become apparent in the third book of the series (they don’t seem to be any clearer in book 2), but for now some of their behaviour comes across to me as a little irrational.

For all that, these are minor criticisms of what I consider fabulous story-telling, and it took me only minutes after completing this book before purchasing the second one in the series.  If you don’t mind lengthy books, and enjoy beautiful world building within the fantasy genre, then I would thoroughly recommend The Name of the Wind.

 

My Rating:

4 Stars