Review: A Young Man Without Magic by Lawrence Watt-Evans

A Young Man Without Magic
A Young Man Without Magic

NOTE: Yes, I’m still sick, but apparently I never posted this review.  Oops.

 

A Young Man Without Magic
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Tor, 2009

Believe it or not this is my first experience with veteran fantasy author Lawrence Watt-Evans.  While certainly not a bad read by any means it is one rife with problems and one that feels more or less incomplete.  In A Young Man Without Magic our titular young man is the recently-educated and well-to-do Anrel.  His parents were killed in a arcane experiment when he was a child and he was taken in by his uncle, also a Mage.  Anrel, unfortunately, is indeed without magic which in a society ruled by mages means that, despite his birth, Anrel is nothing more then a mere commoner.  A commoner yes but one educated with the finest instruction money can buy.  Returning home from school Anrel finds his boyhood friend Valin, a mage raised from common blood, now something a radical; preaching the importance and power of common man in the governance of society.  When Valin runs afoul of a local lord and winds up dead Anrel’s brash attempt to honor his friend’s memory provokes an avalanche of consequence that sends him on the run.

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Review: Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

Servant of a Dark God by John Brown
Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

Servant of a Dark God
John Brown
Tor, 2009

John Brown’s debut, and the first in a new series, is a blend of both classic fantasy tropes and more modern themes.  With its unassuming boy hero it might be easy to write this off as a return to the farm hands and kitchen help of fantasy’s yesteryear but Brown, through delicate crafting of his world manages to avoid this potential pitfall creating something that, while it hearkens back the roots of classic fantasy, manages to become something slightly different.

The world of Servant of a Dark one is ruled by the mysterious and powerful Divines who ask for and wield the “fire” or life energy of their subjects in order to power their magic.  We learn over the course of the novel that the Divines weren’t the only ones in charge and a multitude of conquered people are not necessarily satisfied with their rule.  One such people, the Koramites, are a subjugated minority, servants to the powerful Mokkaddians who, in turn, serve the Divines.  Tossed into this mix is a magical abomination and the machinations of unknown powers that plunge one small corner of this world into near chaos.

Read on for more, though some minor spoilers may occur….

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Review: The Other Lands by David Anthony Durham

The Other Lands
David Anthony Durham

The Other Lands
David Anthony Durham
Doubleday, 2009

Durham, known for his historical fiction novels, burst onto the fantasy scene in 2007 with Acacia: The War with the Mein the first in a new fantasy series.  Released back in September The Other Lands is the second book in Durham’s Acacia series continuing the saga of the Akaran family and their empire.   Like the first book The Other Lands is a different from many fantasy novels today and its pacing, structure, and themes all seem informed by Durham’s experience with historical fiction.  If you’ve yet to read the first book there are definite spoilers here.

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Worlds of D&D over at Wertzone

I wanted to take a moment to point any D&D fans, new and old, over to the Wertzone where Adam Whitehead has been slowly eking out historical overviews of the various D&D campaign settings that have existed through the ages.  So if players just getting into D&D with 4e want to see some of what came before or if older gamers want to relive the glories of past adventures I can think of no better place to start.  You can find all the posts HERE or you can jump to a specific post:

Overview

Greyhawk

Dragonlance

They’re all really long so beware!  They’re all really good as well so enjoy!

 

Review: The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas
The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

The Adamantine Palace
Stephen Deas
Orion UK, 2009 (US: Roc, Feb. 2010)

Stephen Deas’ debut The Adamantine Palace is a strong debut though not without its problems.  The world of The Adamantine Palace is ruled by several Kings and Queens who in turn are, if not ruled, at least mediated by a Speaker who sits in the titular palace.  The power of the nobles of the world stems from what looks like a combination of perceived divine mandate and the harnessing of dragons.  The novel follows the tumultuous events that occur when one dragon, Snow a perfect white, is lost and unable to be tended by the mysterious alchemists as all dragons are.  Amidst this several powerful nobles vie for the role of Speaker double dealing and politicking their way to the top.  Politics, betrayal and violence ensue spinning a tangled web of consequences.  Perhaps the most startling thing, for me at least, and a potential detriment to many readers is the difficulty in finding a protagonist.

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Fake Curses

When finishing a fantasy novel, particularly a Robert Jordan or Steven Erikson novel, I typically find that I want to add their diverse list of swear words/phrases to my own lexicon.  After reading a section feature the one-eyed soldier Uno I find I want to make every other word of my sentence “flaming” or “bloody” or, before a particularly trying moment in my own life, I occasionally want to mutter ‘Blood and bloody ashes.”  Sometimes I want to throw out a “fish guts” or whisper a certain phrase in the Old Tongue before trying my luck at something difficult.

When it comes to Erikson the curses are particularly inventive and, should I ever choose to inject them into my day-to-day speech, likely all the more perplexing to those around me.  Phrases like “Hood’s breath,” or my particular favorites “Togg’s teats” and “Hood’s balls” would likely draw confused stares from friends and strangers alike.  Oddly though Jordan and Erikson are the only author’s whose made-up curses really stick in my head.  Are there others out there?  Does anyone have any other fantasy based explicatives they are fans of?

Review: Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson

Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson

Dust of Dreams
Steven Erikson
Bantam, 2009 [UK] (Forthcoming Jan. 2010 U.S.)

More and more I find that reviewing Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series a difficult prospect.  There is a less of a problem reviewing Ian C. Esselmont’s books set in the same world, they are typically stand-alone novels, but in series as large and sprawling as this one it becomes harder and harder to review as the series has gone on.  Which makes Dust of Dreams, the penultimate volume (really part 1 of a 2 part novel), a bit difficult to review.  Things are even more difficult here because for some reason my heart just wasn’t in this read.  890 pages read in half hour spurts (my lunch break) since I received the book in August means things aren’t exactly fresh in my mind.  Even my co-workers, frequently observant of the near roulette speed with which my lunching reads change, were quick to point out (and chide) at my glacial trek through Dust of Dreams.

As with any late series review I recommend not reading on if you’ve haven’t read earlier volumes.

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Sa souvraya niende misain ye: Identity and The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm

The Gathering Storm
Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Tor, 2009

There have been a number of well-written reviews for The Gathering Storm.  So rather then belaboring many of the points covered elsewhere or echoing the slightly off-putting voice Sanderson employed for a one Matrim Cauthon (though the elderly aunt conversation did have me literally laugh out loud but there was something vaguely Erikson in that exchange) or even summarizing the plot up until this point I will recommend that you check one of the many fine reviews already out there.  Instead I’d like to take the time to look at, and praise, the theme that runs through the entirety of novel: identity.

WARNRING: There are likely spoilers below!  If you haven’t read the book yet reading beyond this point might ruin some things for you.

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Looking Back at October

Well, I admit I kind of lost a bit of steam towards the end there.  I am in the midst of Who Goes There and a couple of stories into Lovecraft Unbound and, if or when I finish, I’ll get some shorter reviews/commentary up.  Of course the last week of October had significant distractions including a certain Gathering Storm not to mention a Halloween Party and metal concert (both of which rocked).  Moving into November I’m going to be tackling fantasy once again.  This week should see a post on The Gathering Storm and Dust of Dreams.  From there I’m going to be sticking to a bunch of sequels I’ve been meaning to read; we’ll see how far I get.  In the meantime here is my list of October reviews:

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi #3: Abyss [Audiobook]
The World More Full of Weeping by Robert J. Wiersema
The Tel Aviv Dossier by Lavie Tidhar and Nir Yaniv
The Space Between by Erik Tomblin
Zen in the Art of Slaying Vampires by Steven-Elliot Altman
The Revenant Road by Michael Boatman
Locke and Key Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft