Kings of the Wyld

Verdict: 5/5 stars. Nicholas Eames delivers a fun, fast-paced story with a “voice” the rest of us can only dream of. 

What I loved:

Voice/Style: Kings of the Wyld draws you in almost immediately with prose that is not only clear, effortless, and crisp, but personal. He’s able to deliver on a lot more humor than most books (especially “second world” fantasy) are able to, and I’m one jealous writer. Seriously, this book would be worth reading for nothing more than Moog the gay wizard and his hilarity.

Setting: Kings of the Wyld is unapologetically fantasy, and I love it. I don’t think the almost ridiculous slew of monsters and tropes work without Nicholas embracing them (and the genre) 110%, which he does. As a result, the world feels rich, full, perfect.

Characters: This is where Nicholas really nails it. Each of his characters is introduced well, and each has a consistent, unique personality. He tells a compelling story within a semi-ridiculous world, and it works, really well.

Pace: Eames knew what kind of book he was writing, and stuck to it. Thank god, we finally got a fantasy book that doesn’t bog down to tell us all about the world, or meaningless politics, or the author’s views on life or humanity. The action is constant, with beautiful world-building woven in skillfully.

Plot: Many books take on the “feel” of a movie, especially modern fantasy. Everyone wants Netflix or Starz or HBO to buy the rights to their book and make them rich (can’t blame them). While Kings would do very well as a movie/TV show, I’m fairly certain that Eames wrote this book to be the genesis for a video game, which is fairly unique. But this book really felt like a well-written fantasy adventure game… one I’d really like to play.

 

Go read this book.

Sins of Empire – A Five Star Review

Verdict: 5/5 Stars. Go read it, it’s awesome.

What I loved:

  • Characters –  The book starts out introducing each primary character in turn, and McClellan does a very good job of establishing each character outside of and while setting up the impending conflict. I thought each character had unique and interesting flaws, believable motivations, and little details brought them to life. I liked the diverse cast of characters as well – the POV characters weren’t your typical fantasy heroes.
  • Plot – McClellan intertwines his character arcs in such a way that they not only come together gradually, but so that the character growth moments also comprise the main plot. I can’t recall another book or author who has done this so well. I would really like to talk to Brian about how he plotted this book.
    • I also appreciated that Brian was able to continually raise the stakes without resorting to a world-ending threat in the first book. He went from personal stakes and interesting side-quests for the primary characters to those side-quests turning into a large scale conflict. Even better, the personal stakes and side-quests stayed away from typical fantasy tropes, for the most part.
  • Pacing – I think Brian encountered an issue in the first 10% of the book that almost all speculative fiction authors have to deal with: hooking your readers while also setting up the world and characters. To me, the pacing for the first 10% was above average, but the remaining 90% was superb. Not only did the plot move forward extremely well, but switching through 3 primary POV characters was handled expertly.

What I liked:

  • Style: the writing is clear and engaging. There were very few passages that I either glossed over because the words were unnecessary, or that I had to read twice because it wasn’t as clear as I’d like it to be, and the few I encountered could easily have been due to my own user error.
  • Worldbuilding: SoE builds off of the world created in the first Powder Mage trilogy, which I really like. I’ve seen a few complaints about the interwebs regarding logical inconsistencies in how the magic system(s) work. Really, people? You have no problems with alternate universes where unexplained magic can be used indiscriminately, but the fact that gunpowder has magical properties is a problem for you? C’mon man. I like it. It’s fun and makes for a great story.

My takeaways as a writer:

  • I loved seeing someone execute a near-perfect blend of plot and character in an interesting world. I’ll be tweaking my plotting process as a result of reading SoE.
  • The treatment of POV characters was awesome, and convinced me that a measured approach to switching between a small number of POVs can work very well.

-Scott

Review: The Emperor’s Blades – Brian Staveley

The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #1)The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

True Rating: 4.45 – Brian, if you read this (and you won’t, because what kind of lunatic reads all of his reviews on the interwebs?), I’m sorry for not rounding that 4.45 up to a 5. But I really try to reserve a 5 rating for those books that really blow me away. Not many come to mind, but Rothfuss’s books and a few of the Wheel of Time books come to mind for me. And maybe some of the Dresden Files books.

One can learn a great deal by looking at a person’s goodreads book collection. What people could/would/should learn from skimming through mine is that I’m a huge Fantasy nerd. It’s almost sad how many Fantasy books I have read compared to any other genre or category. What’s even sadder is that when you’ve read that many great Fantasy books, it becomes difficult to find the next book that really enthralls you. Most recommendations floating around the world of geekdom either aren’t up to par, already live on the “read” list”, or just aren’t my cup of tea.

Enter, “The Emperor’s Blades”. I received a copy of this book at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England 2013. I don’t think it’s an ARC, but rather an early proof copy of some kind.

The first point I’d like to make is that I think it’s AWESOME that TOR put the money and effort into printing copies to give away to fantasy fanatics at WFC.

The second is that I should have read this book much sooner. I have recently been wallowing through a few books that were mildly interesting at best, and decided to give this book a try after looking it up on goodreads and finding a large number of favorable reviews.

Okay, now to why I gave this book a 4 instead of rounding the 4.4 up to a 5 (which was not an easy decision, mind you). It all boils down to the 3 character arcs. I know what you’re thinking, the first time author must have had a hard time relating and tying the 3 arcs together. Nope, not it. Staveley actually did a really good job of foreshadowing and then tying the threads together (at least 2 of them literally converged).

The problem is that I only found Valyn’s thread truly engaging. He had a goal, believable motives, a romance interest, a heckler, a shadowy enemy/threat (who ended up fairly predictably being the heckler, one of my only knocks on this character thread), and he literally kicks ass. He’s a character who speaks to me personally, so I accept that others may have found the others delightful, but I found their (Kaden and Adare) plot lines fairly boring and their character arcs very predictable and vanilla. I found myself skimming those sections just to stay current on plot points.

The book really is very good, though. Staveley is a very solid writer. I was reading an uncorrected proof, and even still there were very few grammatical errors. I only noticed the writing when I came across a phrase that I liked, which for me is a powerful testament to Staveley’s skill. And his characterization is superb. He doesn’t have many truly “deep” characters, but give the guy a break, it’s only the first book. He is, however, very good at giving characters, even secondary or tertiary characters, a distinct on-page flavor. This is particularly impressive to me because I worry about it constantly in my own writing. I know each character and their motivations, but Staveley has succeeded in making me insecure about how each of my characters presents him/herself on page.

And that’s what I really liked about this book: It not only grabbed me by the eye sockets and pulled me along for the ride, it made me want to be a better writer and showed me something I can improve.

Many thanks to Brian for writing such a great book.

View all my reviews

Review: The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan (Powder Mage #3)

The Autumn Republic (The Powder Mage, #3)The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I gave this book a 5 because I enjoyed reading it enough that I finished it within a few days, and because I think that the author did a very good job with his characters in this book. The characters were moderately interesting in the previous two volumes, but I felt a real attachment to them several times in the final volume, which is not easy to do. The magic system is very interesting, and the character actions and reactions are believable for the most part.

The Autumn Republic is also a good example of why I wish there were more resolution to the rating system. 3 stars may as well be zero as far as I’m concerned, which leaves very little room to differentiate between books that are various degrees of awesome.

If I could have, I would give this a 4.5 or so. The above positive points make this a very enjoyable book, but at times I felt that the author was in too much of a hurry to hit all of his plot points. I appreciate a fast-paced book as much as anyone, but it’s unfortunate to see the continuity of the prose suffer at times. One particular example is a scene in which a main character is stabbed, and the perpetrator is then seen “running down a hill” or some such, never to be heard from again. Furthermore, there were a few logical inconsistencies and/or improbabilities that keep this book and series from becoming a truly masterful compilation. And finally, the ending felt rushed. I mean come on, nobody reading fantasy books minds if you take another twenty or even fifty pages to put together the spectacular ending that this series deserved.

Overall, a great book and series. I recommend it to all. I’ll certainly be reading this author’s future works, as he does a great many things right and showed definite improvement even just through three books.

-Scott

View all my reviews