Review of The Oathkeeper by J.F.Lewis (Pyr, June 9, 2015)
This is the second volume of the Grudgebearer Trilogy. The main characters in this volume are Rae’en and Wylant. These female characters had a lesser role in the first volume because Kholster was alive then and for this volume he is a god.
Wylant and Kholster’s marriage is still ongoing even though he has passed into godhood, but the situation definitely makes for some amusing romantic confusion. Kholster wasn’t the brightest bulb about romance before he died, and becoming a god only made him more obtuse in some ways.
The Zaur attack while several of the other races are trying to make peace so that gets delayed and the city must be evacuated while also trying to fight the Zaur. It has lots of fight scenes and general confusion, including some caused by a dragon. The reptiles invaded the other races’ territories from several directions over both land and sea. They also are trying to settle a treaty with one of the races, but everyone is suspicious of this. The Zaur they are speaking with does have an ulterior motive but not the one they think.
Several characters in this book moved from being male idiots in the last book to being more sympathetic beings. This made this volume have a better overall tone than the last one (where several characters were males who deserved to have some sense slapped into them).
There is more magic use in this volume because of some changes with a few Eldrennai characters. The setting and races of beings in this are quite amazing. None of them are really typical fantasy races, although there are analogs to several. The writing is well done and it moves fast. That is actually the one problem with this volume: the scene shifts are too rapid in some cases so it is easy to get confused on where geographically you are and even in some cases whose viewpoint it is.
It’s the only fantasy series we’ve read with sympathetic characters who eat other sentients (dead ones, although they sometimes do get a bit over-enthusiastic while making them dead). We will be looking forward to the next volume!
This is a good choice for readers who like non-typical fantasy races and strong women characters. Women have all types of roles in this series and it is not the same standard role for the different races. This series also explores slavery and what happens when the powerful slave races are freed. More than one race was freed so the contrast between the former slaves is interesting and adds much complexity to the politics of the setting. The balance of genders and roles plus the diverse types of characters make this a very enjoyable fantasy.
Review of Dark Run by Mike Brooks (Del Rey UK, June 4, 2015)
Drift is forced by an acquaintance to accept cargo for a smuggling run to Old Earth. He can’t tell his crew what is in the cargo containers or who the delivery is for; they just have to be delivered on time. This causes all kinds of strife between the crewmembers of the starship Keiko. The delivery ends up being more than they bargained for of course, so they have to lay low and depend on less than trustworthy help to keep from being nabbed by authorities or the unhappy client.
It’s a fast, fun read with fights, some hacking stunts, and some cool ship maneuvers. The crew is ethnically diverse and includes several strong female characters, particularly Tamara, whose knowledge, fighting skills, and connections Drift has come to depend on, and Jenna, the ship’s young hacker.
The setting is a future with many poor mining colonies and Drift and his crew seem to always end up in the worst bar in town no matter where they go. This is probably because they primarily smuggle for a living, but seeing futuristic dive bars as part of the setting is different and amusing. They also go to Earth, so you see how it has become a major dump of a planet. As a whole the setting has a sort of Firefly feel to it.
This is great science fiction adventure with fascinating characters that all have many secrets in their pasts, which are only partially revealed in this book. Luckily, the second volume is finished and is being edited now, so we don’t have too long to wait for more! Dark Sky comes out November 5, 2015. This is an excellent first novel and we hope his fiction gets released in the US too.
Book Event Note:
We attended a book launch for this at the Forbidden Planet store in Birmingham, UK. They had recently moved that FP to a larger location where they have room for signing events. This was well organized and publicized via social media. Also, kudos go out to Michael Rowley for coming out to support his author at the event. Mike did an excellent job answering questions and we hope to see him at some conventions.
Review of The Shadow Revolution by Clay and Susan Griffith (Del Ray, June 2, 2015)
This is the first volume in a Victorian London urban fantasy series. The second volume, The Undying Legion, came out on June 30 and the third volume, The Conquering Dark, is coming out on July 28.
It has fight scenes, werewolves, lots of magic and a kick-butt female alchemist trying to save her wimpy little sister. Scottish monster-hunter Malcom MacFarlane and the supporting cast he brings in are fantastic. Simon Archer, the playboy magician, is very annoying at the beginning but you soon realize it is a veneer covering loneliness and loss because his family is gone. His mentor Nick Barker likes drinking better than doing magic but when Simon is in a tight spot he comes through. It will be interesting to see how Simon’s character changes after what happens to him in this volume.
The alchemist, Kate Anstruther, is a rich feminist who spent her childhood following her father so she doesn’t really realize that her views are odd. She has enough money that others just ignore her strange non-ladylike behaviors. This is an interesting way to insert a female with whom modern women will identify without making a character who doesn’t fit the Victorian time period. It appears that she plays a larger role in the next two volumes and Nick Barker stays away (he leaves in this volume).
The fight scenes are well-done. The tone, mood and weather descriptions give the proper mood for the story, but the London and the English country side are not really detailed. The speed of the story doesn’t really require any more detail, but it does feel like the setting was glossed over. Individual rooms and places are detailed but neither they nor the characters feel very British.
It was a very quick read and we look forward to the later volumes. But it is character-oriented so don’t expect the British details like the Peter Grant series contains. For US urban fantasy readers it’s great, but Your Humble Reviewers are not sure how it will be received by a UK audience.