review

Review: Burnt Ice, Steve Wheeler

Title: Burnt Ice (Goodreads)

Author:  Steve Wheeler

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Captain Michael Longbow and his crew of engineers, warriors and operatives are about to catch up on some recreation time on the resort world of Cygnus 5 when an investigation of some ancient underwater ruins turns into a full-scale battle. A series of missions takes them to different worlds to investigate alien tech and rogue Artificial Intelligences, during which the crew must work together and innovate to survive.

Details

Series: A Fury of Aces 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: HarperCollins Australia, April 1 2012
My copy: Digital ARC from NetGalley

Paper copies: Book Depository
E-copies: Amazon.com

Review

I found Burnt Ice to be an entertaining read, although it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

The marketing descriptions compare Burnt Ice to Star Wars, so I was expecting an epic space adventure. About halfway through the book I started wondering where the story was going – it didn’t seem to be building towards anything, but rather felt to me like a series of shorter episodes with down time between each.

Here’s a lesson for bloggers: watch what you write – Steve Wheeler saw my comments about Burnt Ice in my WWW post last week and sent me a lovely note explaining that the book is meant to be picaresque – a series of stories about a certain hero, or in this case, a group of heroes. Colour me embarrassed! He also revealed that there are nine further story sets to come after Burnt Ice!

When viewed as a series of shorter stories, Burnt Ice actually works quite well. It reads a lot like a television series – four or five episodes with a variety of outcomes. The only problem with the story being separated into episodes is the sometimes drawn-out story building between each action sequence. I didn’t really need to read about each crew member’s exact preparations before they set off on their mission. I realise its a good way to introduce new locations and technologies but when the Captain gives each member of the crew exact instructions, my eyes start to glaze a little.

When the action does happen, it’s much faster paced and well-described. The heroes and their various bio-enhancements are pretty awesome in how they deal with situations, and it’s all recorded for broadcast by the Games Board. No wonder they become celebrities!

This book contains a lot of technical descriptions – the team’s every invention and creation are intricately described and I found I had to really pay attention to keep up sometimes. The creations themselves are amazing though – Artificial Created Entities created from the combined traits of various animals to make a pet with benefits? Awesome! Being able to upload yourself into a computer so that if you die, you can just grow yourself a new body? How useful! There are a huge variety of other interesting inventions and advancements that the crew of the Basalt have at their disposal.

The members of Captain Longbow’s crew are likeable enough and they all have secrets that are hinted at, but not revealed. Emotional range is a little limited but that’s made up for by general bad-assery. The fact that they use Aussie/Kiwi vernacular such as “mate”, “have a yarn”, “bugger!” and other local phrases means that the whole story felt like a very local production. This is by no means a bad thing, just different!

If a Space Opera with plenty of battles interspersed with high-tech wizardry sounds appealing to you, Burnt Ice is worth a read! I’ll be watching out for the future of this series.

Warnings: Strong language and sexual references. Not as G-rated as Star Wars.

Review: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Bones (Goodreads)

Author:   Cassandra Clare

Rating: 

Series: The Mortal Instruments, Book 1 of 4 (5 & 6 planned)
Genre: YA Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008
Pages: 512 (paperback)

Paper copies (paperback): Amazon.com Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk • Diesel Ebooks

Clary Fray has just witnessed a murder in a nightclub, committed by three teenagers that only she can see. Things only get more strange as her mother disappears, she is attacked by a demon, and she and her best friend Simon are drawn into the world of the Shadowhunters.

Review

Demons, Vampires, Werewolves, Faeries – The Mortal Instruments has it all. This is not, however, another Twilight clone. City of Bones begins what promises to be a great story of good against evil, tolerance against bigotry, falling in love with the wrong people and learning that all the stories are true.

City of Bones came well-recommended to me and I was looking forward to seeing whether all the hype was deserved. As I read the first few chapters of this book though, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.

Here were Clary and Simon, ordinary teenagers. They meet a trio of mysterious, tattooed youths who seem very free with information about their secret world.

As more and more details about the Shadow World are revealed, I couldn’t help but cringe at the dialogue even though it was quite funny at times. Pretty much everything Simon says in the whole book is a chucklesome one-liner, and the other characters engage in witty repartee even in the most dramatic of situations. Teenagers, at least the ones I know, just don’t talk like that. I just felt a little like such an epic story deserved characters who took the whole thing a little more seriously.

Despite their dialogue, I did become quite fond of the characters as the book went on. Clary, despite being blind as a bat when it comes to relationships, was a sweet character. She did seem to spend rather a lot of time looking at Jace’s muscles – but who wouldn’t, right? The obligatory love-polygon (it’s more than a triangle!) aspect was well written and left me wanting to read the next book to tie up the loose relationship ends.

The second half of the book was action-packed and left me unable to put it down – I nearly missed my station on the train a few times this week! I loved the Shadow World that Cassandra Clare has created. The storyline (in the first book, anyway) was quite reminiscent of the Harry Potter series – I was unsurprised to find out later that Cassie Clare had previously written Harry Potter fanfiction and has supposedly used some of that material in City of Bones. I’m hoping that the story will take on some more unique elements in the rest of the series.

City of Bones was an entertaining and exciting read. Read this book if you loved Harry Potter and if you’re a Young Adult fantasy fan.

Read it to your little ‘uns? Not really. There’s no swearing or naughty bits, but it’s really a story for bigger ‘uns.

Challenges: City of Bones fits neatly into the Immortal Challenge in several categories, but I’ll slot it into Werewolves since my Angels/Demons section is looking pretty full.

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Goodreads)

Author:   Laini Taylor

Rating:

Series: Book 1 of 3 (planned and unnamed)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Published: Hachette Book Group, 2011

Pages: 418
Paper copies: Amazon.com Amazon.co.ukBook Depository
E-copies: Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukEbooks.com

“Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things.

When Brimstone called, she always came.”

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

Review

I was a bit wary picking this book up since it has been hyped beyond any other book recently released. Thankfully, Daughter of Smoke and Bone delivers. I started reading it a couple of days before I was due to do some travelling for work and thank goodness I did – it gave me a few uninterrupted hours of reading time during which I couldn’t bear to put the Kindle down.

I’ve intentionally left this review fairly vague to avoid spoilers, and also because it had been a while since I read any reviews or descriptions of this book before I started reading it which ended up working really well – the story starts slowly, revealing piece by piece of Karou’s lives in Prague and “Elsewhere”.

I loved this book! The action was fast-paced and exciting, the story of love and hope of peace between warring races is sweet and lovely, and the romantic scenes were rather swoon-worthy. Karou is a strong, but vulnerable heroine. I felt the love-at-first-sight introduction of Akiva was a little overdone at first, but later the reasons unfolded and it made more sense. I shall say no more in the interest of avoiding spoilers!

I loved the descriptions of places in our world, especially Prague. I only visited the city for one day but I certainly remember the twisting passageways and odd little shops tucked away in the old town area. What a brilliant setting for a fantasy tale!

The worlds and events described in this book are so detailed that I felt I was almost seeing the action taking place before me. I was so pleased to discover that the rights to make Daughter of Smoke and Bone into a film have been acquired by Universal Studios – I thought a couple of times while reading that the story could make a beautiful and unique movie, and I really hope they will do just that.

The story shifts between Karou and Akiva’s points of view, and also jumps backwards and forwards in time to tell different parts of the characters’ histories. I found this a little off-putting at times, especially as they are just getting into exciting events and suddenly we are in a flashback to a much earlier time. The flashbacks are rarely more than one chapter so we get back to the action quickly, but I felt they disrupted the flow of the story a little.

The ending left me open-mouthed and desperate to know more. The second book in the series will be called Days of Blood and Starlight and is due for release in September 2012. I cannot wait.

Challenge: I read this book as part of the Eclectic Reader Challenge, hosted by Book’d Out.

Review: Snuff, Terry Pratchett

Title: Snuff (Goodreads)

Author:   Terry Pratchett

Rating: 

Series: Discworld, No 39

Genre: YA/Adult Fantasy

Published: Doubleday, 2011

Pages: 378

Paper copies (hardback): Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository

E-copies: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk • Ebooks.com

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse.

And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder.

He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment.

They say that in the end all sins are forgiven.

But not quite all…

Review

The National Year of Reading theme for February is Laugh, and if there’s one Fantasy author who makes me laugh, it’s Terry Pratchett.

I’ve loved reading each book in the Discworld series as they’ve been released for a long time now. I love the world that Pratchett has built over the years, populated with its many varieties of people and creatures and reflecting the real world in a slighty wonky mirror. I usually find that the stories begin fairly quietly, then become harder and harder to put down – the type of stories that cause me to miss my stop on the train, or stay awake reading until I realise that it’s suddenly two am and I have to be up in a few hours.

Snuff is no exception, almost making me rather late for work a couple of times, although in this case the most exciting part is a fair way before the end of the story and the rest sort of comes in bites of action.  This installment in the story of the Discworld is about murder, slavery and prejudice with a tip of the hat to Jane Austen. There are some pretty dark goings-on such as torture, loss of children and sacrifice that aren’t directly dealt with in the story, but we see the aftermath.

In general, I’m not a fan of the Commander Vimes books. The stories about the City Watch are great, don’t get me wrong (plus I think I have a bit of a thing for Captain Carrot), but Vimes occasionally comes across as being a bit too self-important, for all his supposed hatred of his titles. He always seems to know exactly what’s happening before it happens. While that may make him a good copper, it tends to annoy me for no particularly good reason.

That said, I do enjoy the stories he is usually a part of, involving other races and their acceptance into Ankh-Morpork society. I also love Lady Sybil and little Sam and I think they should be in more stories!

While Snuff was not my favourite Discworld book, it is still a very exciting and funny read. Get yourself a copy and have a Laugh this month.

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On a related note, here’s my Discworld shelf. A shiny gold star goes to anyone who can tell me if I’m missing any!

Review: The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams

For my first review, I re-read an old favourite of mine. This review was originally guest posted on Once Upon a Time.

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Title: The Dragonbone Chair (Goodreads)

Author:   Tad Williams

Rating: 

Series: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn – Book 1 of 4

Genre: YA/Adult Fantasy

Published: Legend Press, 1988

Pages: 912

Paper copies: Amazon.com • Amazon.co.uk • Book Depository

E-copies: Not available from Amazon • Ebooks.com

Simon is a teen-aged kitchen-boy in the ancient Hayholt castle. He isn’t very good at the tasks the Mistress of Chambermaids sets him, instead preferring to daydream and make-believe around the castle grounds and buildings. Everything changes for Simon when a series of events is kicked off by old King John’s death. John’s eldest son becomes King Elias, but he keeps odd and sinister company with a priest and the golden age of King John’s reign starts to decline. Simon is forced out of the castle to make a journey to find and join the cause of the old King’s second son, Josua.


Review

The world of Osten Ard is rich and detailed, populated with many races each with their own history, religion and heroes. Tad Williams paints vivid pictures of locations and events – in fact sometimes the descriptions can go on a bit long, but it gives the story a very realistic quality. The story was described by one critic as “The fantasy equivalent of War and Peace”, so you get the idea of the weight of some of the writing.

Events start off slowly with a lot of scene-setting, but once the action starts it progresses fairly quickly. The story is told from the viewpoint of several characters in different locations. I must admit the character of Simon annoyed me until I realised that he is meant to be a whiny teenage boy at the start and he does become more bearable as the story progresses. I felt some of the other characters weren’t as engaging as they could be, with the dialogue a little wooden at times.

The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series reminded me of another series that is being widely discussed at the moment – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. The story is similar to ASoIaF in some ways in the detail of the world and its people, but I didn’t find it quite so confusing to keep track of all the characters and politics in The Dragonbone Chair.

I recently re-read this book – the first time I read it was probably around 15 years ago, so I had mostly forgotten the details of the story, only remembering that I loved it at the time. I also don’t remember how my younger self must have reacted to some of the events of the book – Tad Williams is not afraid for his characters to be killed or hurt in nasty ways and it adds a certain anxiety while reading it. There’s no particularly adult content, but some events could be nightmare material for very young readers.

If you’re looking for a story of adventure, intrigue, magic, battles and prophecies then The Dragonbone Chair will not disappoint. I gave it a total of four stars only due to the length and weight of the story – a truly “epic” fantasy that may end up putting some readers off. It still remains one of my favourite reads.

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