Guest Review: UPDRAFT by Fran Wilde (Tor)

WildeF-B1-UpdraftUSPBWelcome to a world of wind and bone, songs and silence, betrayal and courage.

Kirit Densira cannot wait to pass her wingtest and begin flying as a trader by her mother’s side, being in service to her beloved home tower and exploring the skies beyond. When Kirit inadvertently breaks Tower Law, the city’s secretive governing body, the Singers, demand that she become one of them instead. In an attempt to save her family from greater censure, Kirit must give up her dreams to throw herself into the dangerous training at the Spire, the tallest, most forbidding tower, deep at the heart of the City.

As she grows in knowledge and power, she starts to uncover the depths of Spire secrets. Kirit begins to doubt her world and its unassailable Laws, setting in motion a chain of events that will lead to a haunting choice, and may well change the city forever-if it isn’t destroyed outright.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

Upon its release, Updraft enjoyed a fair amount of positive buzz from SF/F critics and reviewers that I respect, and when it popped up on numerous “Best Books of 2015” lists, I knew I had to give it a read. When a book receives such widespread hype, my anticipation tends to ratchet up. First and foremost, I was very intrigued by the idea of a city made out of living bones, where humans live far above the ground and get around by flying. This set my imagination running, and I was excited to find out what exactly brought the situation into being. Furthermore, I tend to prefer books written in first person perspective, so this seemed like it would be a perfect read. Continue reading

Guest Review: FALL OF THE DAGGER by Glenda Larke (Orbit)

LarkeG-FL3-FallOfTheDaggerThe Forsaken Lands Concludes

Excommunicated cleric Saker returns from exile in the Spice Islands to find his homeland in chaos.

A dark sorcerer controls the ear of the King, turning him against his own son and heir, while a corrupted army gathers in the shadows.

With the illusionist Sorrel and islander Ardhi, armed with magic from Ardhi’s homeland, Saker now must stand between his city and the corruption that threatens to cripple it before it is too late…

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

The Forsaken Lands series has been my favorite fantasy series of the past year or so. The first two books of this series were so good that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the final installment, The Fall of the Dagger. Easily my most anticipated book of 2016, I’m happy to say that Larke more than delivered the goods with this finale. Continue reading

Guest Review: A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan (Tor/Titan)

BrennanM-LT1-ANaturalHistoryOfDragonsUSThe first Memoir of Lady Trent

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart — no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments — even at the risk of one’s life — is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten…

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever. 

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

A Natural History of Dragons is set in a Victorian-era-esque, male-dominated world where women, particularly those like Isabella (of noble birth) are meant to host teas, plan dinners and keep their interaction with the natural world limited to gardening. Obviously, Isabella wants none of that life and instead yearns to be accepted into the scholarly life as a Natural Historian who studies dragons. As luck would have it, she winds up marrying possibly the one man in all of Scirland who is willing to help her achieve her goals. Through her husband’s connections, she finagles her way into an expedition that is set to study dragons in a far-off land. Upon arrival, they are attacked by one of the region’s dragons, (attacks of this sort are a rare occurrence), and from there, the expedition continuously veers away from its original purpose. Continue reading

Guest Review: THE TYRANT’S LAW by Daniel Abraham (Orbit)

Abraham-D&C3-TyrantsLawThe Dagger and the Coin, book three

The great war cannot be stopped.

The tyrant Geder Palliako begins a conquest aimed at bringing peace to the world, though his resources are stretched too thin. When things go poorly, he finds a convenient target among the thirteen races and sparks a genocide.

Clara Kalliam, freed by having fallen from grace, remakes herself as a ‘loyal traitor’ and starts building an underground resistance movement that seeks to undermine Geder through those closest to him.

Cithrin bel Sarcour is apprenticing in a city that’s taken over by Antea, and uses her status as Geder’s one-time lover to cover up an underground railroad smuggling refugees to safety.

And Marcus Wester and Master Kit race against time and Geder Palliako’s men in an attempt to awaken a force that could change the fate of the world.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become a much more discerning reader. I have to work a lot harder to carve out reading time these days, so I’m much more picky about what I read. My pickiness reaches even greater heights when it comes to book series. Let’s face it, if it is hard to commit time to one book, it is even harder to commit to three, four, five, or – if it is a Sanderson or Erikson series – ten or more books. But, here’s the catch: I love epic fantasy. So, I’ve adopted a stance where the author has to keep me interested in the series book after book after book. It’s no longer a case of, “Well I liked the first book in the series, so I gotta read ‘em all.” If a series isn’t up to snuff, I’m done. I’ll move on. Harsh, maybe, but there’s so many books out there that sound amazing! Anyway, Daniel Abraham has been doing his part of keeping me interested in his Dagger and Coin series, so I gotta do my part and keep reading.

I guess, since people don’t like spoilers, I should note here that there will be spoilers for books one and two in this review… Obviously. Continue reading

Guest Review: THE KING’S BLOOD by Daniel Abraham (Orbit)

AbrahamD-D&C2-KingsBloodBook Two in the Dagger & the Coin series

War and madness cast shadows over the lands dragons once ruled.

Geder Palliako’s star is rising. He is a hero of Antea, protector to the crown prince, and darling of the court. But storms from his past are gathering, and with them, a war that will change everything.

Cithrin bel Sarcour founded a powerful bank on stolen wealth, forged papers, and ready blades. Now every move she makes is observed, recorded, and controlled. Unless Cithrin can free herself from her gilded cage, the life she made will be for naught; war may provide just the opportunity she needs.

An apostate priest sees the hidden hand behind all: a long-buried secret of the dragon empire threatens everything humanity has built. An age of madness and death approaches, with only a few doomed heroes to stand in its way.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

I read The King’s Blood hot on the heels of finishing The Dragon’s Path. The previous volume had felt like a tasty appetizer hinting at further tasteful courses, and I was hungry for more. I’m happy to report that this second volume provided me with pretty much everything I’d hoped for in a follow-up novel. Continue reading

Guest Review: THE DRAGON’S PATH by Daniel Abraham (Orbit)

AbrahamD-D&C1-DragonsPathThe Dagger & the Coin Book One

All paths lead to war…

Marcus’ hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody’s death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.

Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation’s wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords.

Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path-the path to war.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

This is not my first time reading The Dragon’s Path, nor is it the first time I’ve reviewed it. I first read (and reviewed) The Dragon’s Path a little over three years ago. When I first read and review the novel, I had mixed feelings. This time around, some things that bothered me the first time had little-to-no-effect on me, while other issues that I had with the narrative persisted during both reads. Continue reading

Review: FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS by Nalo Hopkinson (Tachyon)

HopkinsonN-FallingInLoveWithHominidsA new anthology of short stories

Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, Skin Folk) has been widely hailed as a highly significant voice in Caribbean and American fiction. She has been dubbed “one of our most important writers,” (Junot Diaz), with “an imagination that most of us would kill for” (Los Angeles Times), and her work has been called “stunning,” (New York Times) “rich in voice, humor, and dazzling imagery” (Kirkus), and “simply triumphant” (Dorothy Allison).

Falling in Love with Hominids presents more than a dozen years of Hopkinson’s new, uncollected fiction, much of which has been unavailable in print, including one original story. Her singular, vivid tales, which mix the modern with Afro-Carribean folklore, are occupied by creatures unpredictable and strange: chickens that breathe fire, adults who eat children, and spirits that haunt shopping malls.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

I typically read short fiction for one of two reasons, either it’s an author whom I love, and I’ve devoured everything else of theirs so I dig into their short-form stuff, or it’s an author whom I’ve never read before and I want to sample their work without trying to pick out a full-length book to start with. The latter was the case with Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids. Hopkinson is an author who’s been on my radar for a while now, so when the opportunity came along to check out her yet-to-be-released short fiction collection I jumped at the chance. Continue reading

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

LarkeG-2-DaggersPathThe second novel in the Forsaken Lands series

THEY FOLLOW WHERE THE DAGGER LEADS

Ardhi, Sorrel and the excommunicated cleric, Saker Rampion, stow away on a ship to the Spice Islands. They must return stolen items of great power to Ardhi’s home, but there are ruthless men after this power, men who will kill to possess it.

At home in Ardrone, an army of demonic origin runs amok while Saker’s superiors in the church struggle to quell it. And the young queen Mathilda struggles with the possibility that her newborn child, the heir to the throne, may be linked to the corruption that has erupted throughout the land.

Sorcerers, lascars, pirates and thieves collide…

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

Think of a time when you thoroughly enjoyed the opening installment of a series… It’s probably not too hard a task, and honestly, not all that uncommon. Now, think of a time when you enjoyed the second installment of a series more than you enjoyed the first. For me at least, that’s more difficult. Sure, it happens, but once I’ve mentally checked off Empire Strikes Back, Deadhouse Gates, and… um, The Drawing of the Three, I’m forcing my brain into action, and who needs that? Suffice it to say, the second installment in a series is a tricky thing. That fresh, clean smell is gone, the characters are no longer new and exciting, and often (especially if we’re talking a trilogy) the characters tend to do a lot of moving around so that things are set up for the finale.

Well, The Dagger’s Path just so happens to be a second installment in a trilogy, it also follows a first-in-series, The Lascar’s Dagger, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So how did this second volume fare? Quite well in fact. Continue reading

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