Guest Review: GUARDS! GUARDS! by Terry Pratchett (Corgi)

PratchettT-GuardsGuardsUKReviewed by Ryan Frye

“Vimes ran a practised eye over the assortment before him. It was the usual Ankh-Morpork mob in times of crisis; half of them were here to complain, a quarter of them were here to watch the other half, and the remainder were here to rob, importune or sell hotdogs to the rest.”

Insurrection is in the air in Ankh-Morpork. The Haves and Have-Nots are about to fall out all over again. Captain Sam Vimes of the city’s ramshackle Night Watch is used to this. It’s enough to drive a man to drink. Well, to drink more. But this time, something is different – the Have-Nots have found the key to a dormant, lethal weapon that even they don’t fully understand, and they’re about to unleash a campaign of terror on the city. Time for Captain Vimes to sober up.

Many years ago I read my first Terry Pratchett book. I started where I normally start with any author that I’m new to, the beginning. Sad to say, The Color of Magic and I did not find sweet harmony together. Why? Honestly, it was too long ago to remember what exactly it was I didn’t like about that first read, but I stayed away from Pratchett for a number of years, only to return again a few years later for another shot at this vaunted author. My reread of The Color of Magic went much like the first, and I left feeling sort of ambivalent towards the whole Discworld thing.

Through the passage of years, and my involvement in blogging, online forums, twitter, and the like, I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that the lack of Pratchett-penned novels has left a gaping hole in my fantasy reading resume. With Pratchett’s recent passing I was inspired by the vast outpouring of love towards this man to give his work a third and final shot. If things didn’t work out on the third try…well, sorry Sir, three strikes and you’re out.

Going in, I knew I needed to take a different approach. I sure as hell wasn’t gonna read The Color of Magic again. I needed to move on to different pastures…

The Light Fantastic was out, since that is the sequel to The Color of Magic. Not going there. I kept moving chronologically, reading synopses until I read the blurb for Guards! Guards!, and I knew I had my next Terry Pratchett read. Continue reading

Guest Review: FINN FANCY NECROMANCY by Randy Henderson (Tor/Titan)

HendersonR-FinnFancyNecromancyUSReviewed by Ryan Frye

Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of dark necromancy at the age of fifteen, when the surviving victim of a dark ritual was found in his bedroom. Convicted and exiled to the Other Realm for twenty-five years — twenty-five years as a disembodied soul, tormented by the Others — Finn is now being set free. But his return is met by a magical attack on his escorts, and Finn is framed again for dark necromancy.

Finn has only a few days to discover who is so desperate to keep him out of the mortal world, and find enough evidence to prove it to Arcane Enforcers who already view him as a criminal.

Unfortunately, his family are little help. Father has become a mad magical inventor. Brother Mort fears that Finn wants to take over the family business.  Sister Sammy is now a jaded hacker allergic to magic. And simple but sweet brother Pete still believes he’s a werewolf because of a childhood dog bite, yet wants Finn to help him find a girlfriend.

Finn is joined by Zeke, a former Arcane Enforcer and fellow exile seeking to prove himself worthy of returning to duty — even if that means proving Finn guilty. Together, they will battle magical creatures, family drama, and the challenges of Finn’s love life as they race to solve the mystery of who wants Finn returned to exile, and why.

Finn Fancy Necromancy is a book that came in completely under my 2015 “Hey that looks good I should check it out” radar. However, when I read the blurb I was sucked in, and accordingly bumped it up the reading pile for rapid deployment. Like many Urban Fantasies, this one features a first person perspective and a fast paced plot. Henderson doesn’t waste any time in ratcheting up the action and adventure. We first meet the titular character, Finn as he is being released from twenty-five years’ worth of magical exile. He’s been cut off from the world since 1985, so as you can imagine, he has lots of catching up to do.

Upon his return, Finn is immediately framed for another crime that will certainly put him back into exile unless he can somehow prove his innocence. This crime he’s been framed for sets up all the action for the remainder of the book, and since this all goes down in the very early stages of the narrative; it gives the book a breakneck pace which makes the pages just fly by. Continue reading

Guest Review: THE LASCAR’S DAGGER by Glenda Larke (Orbit)

LarkeG-1-LascarsDaggerA good start to a new series

Faith will not save him

Saker looks like a simple priest, but in truth he’s a spy for the head of his faith. It’s a dangerous job, and more lives than merely his own depend on his secrecy.

When Saker is wounded by a Lascar sailor’s blade, the weapon seems to follow him home. Unable to discard it, nor the sense of responsibility that comes with it, Saker can only follow its lead.

It will put him on a journey to strange shores, on a path that will reveal terrible secrets about the empire, about the people he saves, and likely lead to his own destruction. The Lascar’s dagger demands a price, and that price will be paid in blood.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

From the blurb provided above, I honestly had some doubts about reading Glenda Larke’s The Lascar’s Dagger. Buzz words like spies, magical daggers, and empires harboring dark secrets give rise to a few red flags for this reviewer. I’ve never gotten into the whole bad-ass hooded assassin thing. And empires/kingdoms with dark secrets, and sketchy politics have become ubiquitous within the epic fantasy genre. As a result, I try to outright avoid, or at least limit to some degree those genre themes in my fantasy reading. That being said, I’d read some positive reviews of the book from trusted sources, and I had a feeling that I needed to give this book a shot. I’m glad I listened to that feeling. Continue reading

Review: Tanya Huff’s “Confederation” #1-3 (Titan Books)

Reviewed by H.


A cracking first three novels in Huff’s military science-fiction series

In the distant future, humans and several alien races have been granted membership in the Confederation — at a price. They must serve and protect the far more civilized species who have long since turned away from war. When her transport ship is shot down, a routine diplomatic mission across the galaxy becomes anything but, and Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr must fight to keep her platoon alive.

These three novels – Valour’s Choice, The Better Part of Valour, and The Heart of Valourare the first in Huff’s Confederation series, which have finally made their way to UK shores thanks to an extensive new deal with Titan Books (who are also publishing Huff’s Enchantment Emporium novels, The Silvered, and, perhaps, more in the future?). The series is already at five books in the US (published by DAW), with a sixth, Peacemaker (TBC) in the works. These novels are a lot of fun.

The main character, Sergeant Torin Kerr is a great protagonist, and a great guide to this future setting. She is likeable. She plays the part of frontline officer who is willing and able to keep the Top Brass in check, able to navigate military politics without treading on others’ toes. She’s a great character – gutsy, capable, and kick-ass. Everything a reader could hope for, from a veteran Marine.

Kerr’s tendency to talk back does bite her in the ass in The Better Part of Valour, when she is sent on a “special mission” for speaking her mind to a superior officer: she is assigned as leader of protective detail of a scientific exploratory team, who have been dispatched to investigate an enormous, derelict spaceship. Naturally, things do not turn out as simply or as smoothly as originally hoped. By the third novel, Kerr’s military career has become a bit less action-packed, and she’s found herself sidelined into attending endless briefings and debriefings, with no apparent end in sight. So, when she’s offered the chance to go to Crucible, the Marine Corps training planet, as a temporary aide to Major Svensson, she readily agrees. It was meant to be an easy assignment, lasting no more than a month, while the Major tests out his new body (his previous deployment reduced him to little more than a brain and a spinal cord…). Upon arrival on the planet, however, all hell breaks loose, and it’s up to Kerr to look after a platoon of green recruits, to keep them alive until the cavalry (hopefully) come to rescue them.

The other races Torin and her comrades face and fight are all interestingly portrayed and developed – whether they are villains or just strange allies (who, uh, eat humans…), they can be just as fun as the more humorous characters. Through the various species’ and characters’ interactions, Huff does a good job of exploring our reactions to the Other, and also how we can overcome differences to work together for common purpose.

The battle and combat scenes in all three of the novels are very well-written: intense, fast-paced and ‘realistic’ – no doubt, the author has benefited from her own military career and also her family’s. Although, I must admit that reading about the characters and seeing them interact and develop was more of interest to me (military sci-fi is not my usual bag of tea). After reading these, I’ll have to check out The Silvered (fantasy) and also The Enchantment Emporium (urban fantasy) – it’ll be interesting to see if Huff writes as well in those genres as in this one, although I have no doubt she does.

Overall, therefore, while Valour’s Choice is perhaps my favourite thanks to the newness and sense of discovery I felt while reading it, the series maintains its quality and addictiveness over the next two books – there’s a great balance of humour, story, and action. The changing supporting cast also keeps the stories fresh, although sometimes they took a little bit of getting used to. The novels are quick, fun reads that are not dumbed down. I blitzed through them, and can’t wait to read the next one! Keep them coming!

Valour’s Choice, The Better Part of Valour, and The Heart of Valour are all available now in the UK from Titan Books. The fourth and fifth novels in the series – Valour’s Trial and The Truth of Valour – will be published in April and June, respectively.

For Fans of: Rachel Bach, Elizabeth Moon, Robert Heinlein, David Drake, Jack Campbell, Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica