Review of Three (Angry Robot Books, July 30, 2013)
Three: Legends of the Duskwalker Book 1 is a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy about bounty hunter Three and his adventures trying to keep himself and sometimes others safe in a very dangerous world. After sunset every day the Weir, monstrous beings which used to be human but were taken over by cybernetics, attack humans anyplace they can reach them. They can track anything which accesses the net, which means most people since implants for communication are the norm. The only way to stay safe from them and not have to hide is to completely avoid the net and use hard currency instead of cards.
The world is sort of an urban desert with small clusters of humanity in protected areas. Larger cities survived but they have gates and security to keep out the Weir. Three is a bounty hunter who finds those wanted by different enclaves of humans and returns them to the place offering the reward. This means he travels constantly and has a few scattered friends but not really anywhere to call home.
While waiting for an agent to gather enough hard currency to pay the bounty he was collecting, Three meets a woman, Cass, and her son Wren, who are being chased by some genetically modified goons. The bounty hunter helps the two of them get away from a couple of goons, and when he leaves town he takes them with him.
This leads to numerous dangerous treks across the land in order to stay safe and eventually deliver the boy to his father because his mother is dying due to the damage done to her system by drugs. Three had always been a loner and would never have helped anybody, but for some reason this little boy tugged at his heart. As they travel, Three and Wren start to bond as Three keeps them safe and shows them places to go. When Three realizes that people are trying to take Wren because he is a special child, he starts teaching him to use a little knife in self-defense. Cass is concerned but realizes it is better if Wren is not wholly dependent on the adults for his survival.
Cass is an interesting mother character, who will do anything for her child, even if she doesn’t survive it. Sometimes she makes decisions which have bad consequences because she uses things which can be tracked in order to feel safer for the moment or to determine where they are instead of trusting Three. As time passes, she realizes that Three cares for Wren, so she trusts him more and feels she won’t leave Wren alone if she dies. Wren comes to treat Three like a father or a much older brother, and Three treats Wren the same way in return.
Three can’t quite figure out how he ended up traveling with the two in tow: something just told him not to leave them behind even though he had always done so for everyone he had met in the past. By the end of their journey in this book, he has had thoughts of maybe having a family and has found somewhere he might actually consider living. These are radical thoughts for him and show how much he has changed during the journey. It will be interesting to see what he does in further volumes, since this is Book 1 of the Legends of the Duskwalker.
Review of Queen of Wands by John Ringo (Baen hardback August 2012, paperback August 2013)
Queen of Wands is the sequel to Princess of Wands. This Ringo urban fantasy book has a strong heroine who fights monsters as a Christian holy warrior using a special sword or a gun (but only really heavy guns or a holy sword work on the monsters in this volume). Barbara Everett is a mom and wife who works for the Foundation for Love and Universal Faith, which subcontracts to the FBI when the weirdness of the cases warrants it. All of the foundation members are holy warriors of some type, but they run the gamut from Christian, Hindu, Wiccan, and pagan to Asatru, who worship the Norse gods.
The fight against an age old type of monster sends an Asatru worshipper to fight on the astral plane, but some other foundation members manage to get her to a neutral area and go to see if they can get her out. The area of the astral plane where she is located is a depiction of Dragon Con, complete with costume contests, con suite, panels and strange guests who may not be who they appear to be. Poor Janea does not even know what happened to her to make her end up at a convention, much less realize how to get out. She gets some pointers from some nice folks who will be very familiar if you have attended Dragon Con or other cons in the southeast.
Barbara and her fellow warriors are well-developed characters who inhabit a slightly strange version of our world with a government which is even crazier than our present-day one. The plot moves along quickly, and there are the usual dead redshirts and cool weapons in Ringo’s fight scenes, although it is a pleasant change for the weapons to be melee weapons instead of guns. The body count potential is very high, but the actual death toll does not reach the epic levels of some of Ringo’s books. The setting in Chattanooga (Ringo’s hometown) is very realistic and well described, plus the astral plane version of Atlanta and Dragon Con is detailed and quite realistic even if not on our plane.
If you like a good urban fantasy with real geography, then this is a good read for you. Buy it before or at Dragon Con and you might even be able to get it autographed because as usual, Ringo will be at Dragon Con.