Review: Midwinter by Matthew Sturges

Midwinter by Matthew SturgesMidwinter
Matthew Sturges
Pyr, 2009

Matthew Sturges’ run on Blue Beetle, right up to the title’s unfortunate cancelation, were some of the most entertaining and heartwarming examples of teeanage superheroics that I have ever read.  So, when I learned Sturges would be publishing his debut novel via the fine folks at Pyr I was already onboard.  And man, am I glad I was!  If one were to invision a fairy tale as a high octane action movie you might get something close to Sturges debut novel, Midwinter.

Mauritane, a prisoner of prison-castle Crere Sulace is given one last chance to redeem himself when he is given a special mission by the queen, Titania, herself.  Picking out a crack team of other inmates including the politcal prisoner Lord Silverdun, the Avalonian warrior Raieve, and the human Brian Satterly; Mauritane and his desperate band set out on a high-risk quest the detail of which are unknown even to them.   Elsewhere the Unseelie Queen Mab prepares her forces for an assault against Titania and the Seelie fey.  Mystery, adventure, and a clever tweeking of familiar fairy tale myths make for a fun ride with relatively few stumbling blocks along the way.

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Review: Twelve by Jasper Kent

Twelve by Jasper KentTwelve

Jasper Kent

Bantam U.K., 2009

 

Jasper Kent’s Twelve represents yet another of my “I-hate-the-UK-for-making-me-import-books” purchases since thet title, as far as I know, lacks a U.S. release date but the premise was so damned cool that I couldn’t resist.  It is 1812 and Napoleon is well on his way into Russia.  Our story inolves a group of four soldiers a “special” squad (sabetours and spies) who hire a mercenary band of 12 men called the Oprichniki to aid in harrying Napoleon’s forces.  The mercenaries are disturbingly effective and, over the course of the campaign, their dark nature soon comes to light.  Our intrepid hero Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov (Lyosha) must make a choice between loyalty to his country and loyalty to the entire human race.
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Comics X-Plosion (3/18)

 

X-FORCE #13

 

UNCANNY X-MEN #507

 X-FACTOR #41

 

So this past Wednesday I picked up a copy of Marvel’s X-Force.  It is my first issue since #3 hit and I got kind of tired of it’s ultraviolent schtick.  X-Force, for those who don’t know, is a new team formed by Cyclops to do the X-Men’s dirty work.  Where the X-Men are the face of mutant world, X-Force are the shadowy underbelly subscribing to a “by any means necessary” modus opporundi that typically sees their hands (claws, knives, etc.) drenched liberally in crimson.  Given the rough times mutants have had in the past, and the events surrounding M-Day, a team that is willing to strike at enemies before those enemies strike at them is something I’m at least willing to buy.

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Recommended Reading: Fitzpatrick’s War by Theodore Judson


Fitzpatrick’s War
Theodore Judson
DAW, 2005 (mass market edition)

This is bay and large one of my favorite books of the last decade and I am consistantly surprised that it has gotten such little attention over the years.  Given the current post-apocalyptic craze ushered in by games like Fallout 3 and, likely, the sorry economic state I have seen little, if any, mention of Fitzpatrick’s War on any lists of of post-apocalyptic fiction.   Fitzpatrick’s War is told as the autobiography of Robert Mayfair Bruce a General of the Yukon Confederacy.  In it Bruce relates of the rise and fall of one Lord Isaac Prophet Fitzpatrick.  The book is written in a fairly straightforward narrative but masquerading as non-fiction with footnotes by a modern day scholar Roland Modesty Van Buren pointing out the supposed innacuracies of Bruce’s text with “known and accepted history.”

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Review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafonThe Shadow of the Wind
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Penguin, 2005

The Shadow of the Wind is, without a doubt, one of the best novels I have read. Ever. If you enjoy fiction (either just the reading of it or a general appreciation for it on a grander scale) or if you’re a bibliophile and you haven’t read this book you are doing yourself a huge disservice. The Shadow of the Wind is one part bildungsroman, one part gothic romance, one part mystery, and one part paean to the power of books and reading. It is a novel that functions on multiple levels and its subtly striated narrative structure will likely appear different based upon what each reader will bring to the reading.

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Reminiscence and a Thank You

It isn’t perfect but it is something I’ve wanted to say, and should have said, when Robert Jordan passed away back in September of 2007.  I don’t think my attempt back then really reflected what I felt.  In fact I didn’t talk too much about it when it happened, probably because it hadn’t really hit home or because I had too much going on in my own life at the time.  HoweverLeigh Butler’s re-read of The Wheel of Time over at Tor.com got me thinking about things again.  I’d been meaning to write something trying to put my thoughts to together.  What I got was this.  Hit the jump for the text or ignore this as you wish…

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Review: City Without End by Kay Kenyon

City Without End by Kay KenyonCity Without End
Kay Kenyon
Pyr, 2009

The third book of Kay Kenyon’s The Rose and the Entire series is perhaps the best yet.  All the political and emotional threads woven into the first two novels, Bright of the Sky and A World Too Near, are drawn taught and lead (almost) to their ultimate conclusion.  City Without End sees Titus Quinn seeking to thwart the machinations of Helice Maki whose plan, along with other “savvies” from the Minerva Corp. is to hasten the death of the Rose (our world) while bringing over a bunch of super-smart people to the Entire to give humanity a fresh start.  Oddly enough the eugenic angle of the plot feels only like a minor footnote next to desire and ability to commit genocide and Kenyon’s focus is more on the goings on in the Entire than it is on in examining the social structure of the Rose and how intellegence became a viable means of determining social standing.  Regardless the social structures of both the Entire and the Rose make for a fascinating backdrop for what amounts to a damned exciting story.

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Metal Review: As the Path Unfolds by Crimfall

As the Path Unfolds
Crimfall
Napalm, 2099
Crimfall at Myspace

One word comes to mind when listening to this album: Epic.

First, a bit of history.  Crimfall is the brainchild of Jakke Viitala who, after recording some demos for himself decided he liked the material so much that he sought out two vocalists: Mikko Häkkinen and Helena Haaparanta to help make his vision come to life.  Throw in a bevy of talented studio musicians and pitch perfect production and you have one powerful piece of metal musicanship.

Crimfall falls squarely into some new range between progressive, folk, and viking metal.  Häkkinen provides the harsh gutteral vocals familiar to fans of viking metal while Haaparanta’s smooth, silky vocals are on par with anything Nightwish has to offer.  Viitala employs a broad range of guitar work from the heavy crunch and ponderous tempo of vikining metal to a clean toned delicate approach to some technically trickery that typically rears its head when you least expect.  However the album would be nothing without the studio musicians who add a texture and sense of the  grandiose that is hard to ignore.

The opening track Neothera Awakening surprised me and will likely have new listeners wondering what movie it came from.  For some reason it had me reliving fond memories of playing Baldur’s Gate II.  As the Path Unfolds plays out like it should be an epic fantasy so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that I found my thoughts drifting in that direction.  The occaisonal sound effect does reinforce the album’s almost theatrical production but never veers into the realm of something likey Night Falls on Middle Earth.

   There are moments on this album when I feel like it might be slipping into more pedestrian and well traveled areas of the metal genre but this is almost always immediatley assauged by some new bit or original touch that suddenly swoops in and carries you away on some new and interesting journey.  Despite my love for this album I think that it’ll be an aquired taste for some.  By combining several different niches of the metal genre Crimfall has the potential of being a band that appeals to some of the more disaparate areas of metal fandom but at the same time the folk and progressive trappings of the album will due little to draw fans who are already set against both.  Check out the band’s myspace page to hear some free samples, I think the power and quality of the music really speaks for itself.  Regardless As the Path Unfolds is a remarkably mature debut from a new band and I for one can only hope for greater heights in future endeavors.

Review: Lamentation by Ken Scholes

Lamentation by Ken ScholesLamentation
Ken Scholes
Tor, 2009

Scholes, known mostly for his short fiction, makes his first run at epic fantasy with Lamentation the first in a 5 book series.  The city of Windwir, home of the Andofrancine order and its stores of ancient technology and knowledge, has been destroyed.  The allies of Windwir ride to its aid where the discovery of a sole survivor, a mechanical automaton, slowly unravels a tangled web of secrets and betrayal.  Lamentation is an impressive debut with a fascinating world steeped in history and colored by a unique, and very slight, steampunk vibe.  Impressive as it is Lamentation does have some flaws that, in my opinion, lessen the impact of novel’s events.

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