Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

The third book sees Harry Dresden, Wizard face off against even greater odds. I won’t say what he’s up against as that would be spoilers but there were a few times I was wondering how the hell he would get out of it.

The story starts off with a plague of ghosts infecting Chicago and Harry’s working at it with his sometime partner Michael. Michael is a new character, a Knight of the Catholic Church and I enjoyed him quite a lot. I’m not a very religious person myself but I did enjoy his unwavering belief. It also helps that he is seriously bad ass. 

We don’t really see a lot of other returning characters apart from Susan but I’ll be honest I didn’t miss them. This is a pretty action packed book from start to finish and I enjoyed learning more about the Nevernever and rules that govern our world with the supernatural. I also liked that we are still learning about Harry’s past, particularly in relation to his godmother. His whole injury thing still bothered me but somebody told me that this does get eventually explained.

Anyway really enjoyed this, the prose seems a bit smoother, presumably as the author has gained experience, and the story was fast paced and interesting.

4 stars out of 5

The Power by Naomi Alderman

A very interesting book. The basic premise is that women suddenly begin to manifest a type of electricity through their body that they can then discharge as they wish. This has profound impact on society as women become the ‘stronger’ sex. Roles are reversed, there are revolutions, men first demonstrations etc. It is also strangely framed as if it were a historical fiction document from the future.

We have four main POV’s: Allie, an orphan who goes on a religious journey; Roxy, the daughter of an organised criminal; Margot, an older woman involved in politics; and Tunde, an aspiring journalist. I’ll be honest I wasn’t very fond of most of the people except for Roxy but I did find all of them interesting and that’s more important than liking them really. My only real grievance with the book is the rapid change in society. I think it all happens over less than a decade and the change in women seems a bit too forced. Maybe I’m being naive.

It definitely has a message, and parts of the book are really disturbing, especially towards the end. It could have been a dry book, or preachy, it definitely wasn’t. It’s a real page turner with a great story and character development. I’d thought at first it was going to be gimmicky but though the in-world explanation for it is a little far fetched, the story and framing of it meant it wasn’t an issue.

4.5 stars out of 5

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Another very solid book, I think I preferred it to the first book. This book, as you may guess from the title, revolves around werewolves. We have a series of gruesome murders, which all lead Harry to a mad series of situations with different groups of the aforementioned werewolves. We have the same cast of regulars: Marcone, Murphy, Susan etc along with new characters; I particularly liked the mysterious Tera.

This one is pretty brutal on Harry, and I think Butcher fails on that familiar theme I see quite often in Fantasy; the unrealistic recovery times of injuries. Seriously if half of what happened to him in this happened to you, you would take months to recover if at all. I also feel that Murphy distrusts Harry way too quickly, it bothers me he withholds so much, seems to be too much of a plot device, but still.

With that I still enjoyed it, it is a fun read and we still have only glimpses of Harry’s past. I am very much enjoying the slow reveal, it seems like the author has a very long term plan in his mind for these books if we have gone through two books and still shown so little. It is also very promising that the general agreement is that it starts coming into its own in the next book, and since I’ve enjoyed these so much I have high expectations for it. Hopefully I haven’t built it up too much.

3.5 stars out of 5

Storm Front By Jim Butcher

I’d heard a lot of things about this series, it’s often mentioned as the best urban fantasy around so I thought I’d finally give it a go. I’d also heard that the series doesn’t really get going until the third book so my expectations weren’t too high.

It centers around a wizard PI called Harry Dresden, the only openly practicing wizard in Chicago. Harry gets two cases in a short period of time (after what sounds like a long dry spell) that quickly lead to a lot of crazy things going on. 

The whole book is written from Harry’s POV and he has a very world weary detective noir viewpoint. It’s fairly generic from my limited experience of this genre but I still enjoyed it. This book has wizards (good and bad), vampires, demons, monsters, gangsters, pretty much the whole shebang. It is the author’s debut so it is a bit rough around the edges prose wise.

A bit cheesy in places but overall a fun read. If this is considered the worst of all the books then I have a lot of good reading ahead of me. I doubt I’ll read them all at once but I think they could be good palate cleansers between denser series.

3 stars out of 5

The Master of Whitestorm by Janny Wurts

A somewhat strange book. Describing it it seems to be like a RPG game, where our protagonist completes tasks, each getting harder and more implausible as it continues. We start the story from the viewpoint of a slave on a ship where he is shackled beside our hero. Apparently he’s been a slave for five years at this point and from here the adventures begin. It is a rich and detailed world and as a this book is a standalone it is almost a shame that there are not more stories to come from it as I would like to know more. 

Why I described this book as strange is that our protagonist Korendir is basically insane. I have no idea why there is a friendship between Haldeth (the aforementioned slave) and Korendir as it is not really reciprocated. We are told of the great compassion of Korendir but there is very little evidence. He’s been obviously broken by a great tragedy in his life (which we find out about) but he is quite hard to relate to. He does mellow somewhat as the story progresses but still, I would not have stuck around.

Now this seems like I did not like it, I did. It has elements of sword and sorcery books but written extremely well. Janny Wurts is a master of the written word. The glimpses we have of the world are very engaging and I liked all the characters except kind of the main one. This is not an issue as much as it should be as most interactions we get of him are external. The ending is also beautiful and sad. There is a sense of melancholy running through the book that I really enjoyed and the fact it is a standalone is kind of refreshing even though I would like more stories set in it. A beautifully written, deceptively simple book.

4 stars out of 5

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Well that was a very enjoyable read. I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk for a while now so to get totally immersed in a book again was nice. It’s set in a pretty depressing future about 30 years from now. Due to a global energy and environmental crisis the world is a pretty bleak place. People are packed like sardines and life seems to have not much value. Corporations rule the roost and I particularly was repulsed by the idea of ‘indentured’ corporate employees who are basically slaves because they couldn’t pay their bills. The only happiness people seem to have is playing in OASIS, a virtual reality game they gives users full immersion with headsets, bodysuits and gloves. It is a seriously cool place, whole planets/systems devoted to people’s favorite games/movies/books etc.

So the premise is that the founder of OASIS dies and leaves his entire fortune, including the future of the OASIS to anybody you can find the ‘Easter Eggs’ and solve the puzzles he’s left somewhere in the game. And so sets up the story of our hero and his friends to find the clues while battling against the evil corporation. It sounds fairly generic but it’s put together well. The founders obsession with 80’s geek culture means that there are loads of cool references throughout, even to me who was never much of a gamer. I really liked all the characters and particularly liked the twist with Aech at the end, I wasn’t expecting that!

The story flows at a nice pace and though I didn’t really enjoy the whole romance thing, I didn’t mind it either. A very good read and I would recommend to almost anyone, even people who aren’t up on their 80’s music/movie/games trivia.

5 stars out of 5

Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

While I didn’t enjoy it as mush as the first one, it is still a really good book. We start off pretty much straight after the last one and are reintroduced to the same characters as before. Also fairly minor characters from the first book have a much more prominent presence now though the POV’s remain the same I think. The scope gets bigger and we see more places than before including a good chunk in a Dherg (dwarf) city. Raithe takes a bit of a back seat in this one but Persephone and Suri are front and center which is no bad thing at all. We also spend some more time with the heir apparent of the Fhrey (not even trying to spell his name) and I enjoyed the political aspect of this though the character himself is annoying, which I gather he is meant to be as an adolescent. 

One of my only criticisms is the ramp up of technology in an incredibly short period of time. We basically have the invention of the wheel, writing, the bow and arrow, and iron in the space of a couple of months. There are mitigating circumstances in this in that other races already have it and help accelerate the process but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the concepts were invented by basically two people. Now I actually do like the fact that the author is bringing this up as I think it is a fair criticism of too many fantasy series about the staleness of society but it was the timeline that bothered me. Too much, too soon but I acknowledge that there is a timeline here that needs to be maintained and so it can’t be drawn out over centuries.

Other than this fairly minor issue I had I really love this series and am very eager for the next instalment. We’re only on book two of six, and all at least partially written!

4 stars out of 5

Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

What a book! There was just something about it that really appealed to me, it gave me the feeling of anticipation that I rarely get these days, where I’m just dying to find out what happens next. I read the whole book in one day, I think that shows how good it was.

We have two main characters, Raithe and Persephone, both humans in what seems like fairly early bronze age technology tribes. We also have a few other POV’s, in particular Arion, a practitioner of the Art in Fhrey (Elvish) society, which I particularly liked. It’s set in the same world as the Riyria Revelations and Chronicles but thousands of years before. The Fhrey are considered gods by the humans and are starting to think it themselves, at least in certain parts of the society. As you might gather the focus of this book is how the humans are starting to become disabused of this notion and the consequences of this from both sides.

Like all the books of his I’ve read there’s nothing particularly earth shakingly new about the concepts here but there’s just something about the writing, about the dialogue and characterisation that I really love. It could be because the author has already said that the books are basically already ‘written’ so I am always wondering at things, wondering if they are foreshadowing something, it is a great way to experience. I would highly recommend this book to anybody who liked the Riyria books or who just loves a good old school, high fantasy adventure, you will not be disappointed!

5 stars out of 5

The Vorrh by Brian Catling

A very strange and odd book. There is no real plot as such, and there are an awful lot of different characters to keep track of, and of which there is not much connection between them. One character, Muybridge, seems to be entirely separate from all the others and has absolutely no connection to the ‘main’ area of the book, the titled Vorrh. To be honest there could be a connection but I entirely missed it as the whole book has a slightly dream like feel to it, and there are so many strange and weird things going on. The prose can be quite poetic and descriptive and the book itself I can only describe as quite ‘literary’.

This sounds like I didn’t enjoy it, I did. Sometimes I struggled wondering where the hell it was going but then I just started to enjoy it for what it was and see what madness was around the corner. I will pick up the sequel at some point so that shows that it was definitely worth while. I would recommend to people looking for something a bit different.

4 stars out of 5

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey

So part three in the adventures of the Roci. We are introduced again to a new set of characters, though Holden is still around. We have Anna a preacher, Bull an Earther working for the OPA and Melba/Clarissa who I won’t say too much about. I think an issue I had was that I didn’t connect as well to these characters as I did to Bobby and Avasarala in the previous volume.

There is a lot of action and the most of it revolves around the consequences of the end of Caliban’s War. I really enjoyed Holden’s interactions with an old friend and the limitations in the ‘slow zone’. I think another issue I had was that the climax at the end felt a little forced, not entirely realistic, but saying that it was still great to read about. So another very good book but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the previous two.

4 stars out of 5

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