Book Review – The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul S. Kemp

The blurb phones in:

Egil and Nix, adventurers and swords for hire, are pulled into the dark schemes of a decadent family with a diabolical secret. A fast paced adventure redolent with the best of classic sword and sorcery tales. 

The book is a fairly standard swords and sorcery novel – the main characters are wise cracking thieves who are awesome at their job, the bad guy is a wizard etc.

It tries a bit too hard at the wise cracking thing, especially in the first part of the book.  It mostly works, it’s just a bit forced.

The second act of the book is pretty slow – the characters spend a lot of time travelling and slowly working out things that the reader already knows.

The monsters are badly imagined – they’re basically just humanoid.

The author tries to raise the stakes with the ending, but it just feels a bit too earnest, eager to please and self-righteous.

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Book Review – The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

The blurb oozes:

Meet Mookie Pearl.

Criminal underworld? He runs in it.

Supernatural underworld? He hunts in it.

Nothing stops Mookie when he’s on the job.

But when his daughter takes up arms and opposes him, something’s gotta give…

You can probably tell from the blurb, but this book is noir urban fantasy.  If you’ve read my previous reviews you may know that I am a big fan of noir, so that’s what interested me in this book, and it didn’t disappoint.

Having said that, the book starts noir but by the end it’s quite Lovecraftian.  It’s a pretty good combination but as far as I’m concerned the more noir the better.

There’s a little bit of alternate history in the mix too, but it’s more in the form of back story than any practical differences between the book’s world and ours.

It only took me a few days to finish the book, but it didn’t feel short and it’s 400 pages long so I guess I just read it fast, which must be a good sign.

I didn’t like everything about the book – some things are a bit too coincidental and some people don’t act in an entirely natural way – but overall I enjoyed it and look forward to the next one in the series.

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Book Review – Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb

Blood of Dragons by Robin Hobb

The blurb promises:

The dragons’ survival hangs in the balance in the thrilling climax of New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb’s acclaimed Rain Wilds Chronicles saga

The legendary dragon city of Kelsingra has been discovered. But most of the dragons now lack the strength for the final hazardous river crossing, and the mythical silver wells they need to survive are nowhere to be found. In a desperate attempt to unlock the whereabouts of the wells, the keepers risk “memory walking”—immersing themselves in the drug-like memories of long deceased Elderlings. The magic of the city and the final secret it conceals present their only chance of survival, not just for the queen dragon Tintaglia but for Malta and Reyn’s infant Elderling son as well.

To make matters worse, time is of the utmost importance. The Duke of Chalced has dispatched his forces to the Rain Wilds with a compelling mission: slaughter a dragon to stave off his own demise. The tide of history is about to turn on a life-and-death battle that will ultimately decide the dragons’ fate. If they win, the regal serpents will rule the world once more. And if they lose, they will vanish from the world forever.

At the end of the second book in the series a lot of the plot points were wrapped up, and the third book introduced a bunch of new points of view to fill the gap.  This resulted in the series feeling like two groups of two books rather than four linked books or one really long one.

In my reviews of the previous books in the series I complained that not much happened, and unfortunately in order to wrap everything up in the final book the author finished some of the storylines a bit abruptly.  At least one major antagonist dies offscreen, and questions that have been pending for at least three books are answered without much fanfare.  Some things are just not resolved at all, which makes me wonder about the author’s plans for further series.

A problem with the way I read all four books in the series back-to-back is that they all kind of blurred together.  This isn’t helped by the fact that none of the books have an individual story arc, so you can’t just think “from this major event to that major event is book one” etc.

There were some mysteries dating back to the first trilogy that were finally answered in this book, but a lot are still left for later series.

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Book Review – City of Dragons by Robin Hobb

City of Dragons by Robin Hobb

City of Dragons by Robin Hobb

The blurb entices:

 Kelsingra awaits for those brave enough to enter! The dragons and their keepers have discovered Kelsingra but so far only Heeby has succeeded in flying over the river to enter the fabled city. The other dragons, with their deformed wings and feeble muscles, are afraid to risk failure and humiliation. But wondrous things await in Kelsingra, a city built for dragons and their Elderling keepers. Alise, overwhelmed by the treasures she finds there, records her finds for posterity. Once the rest of the world knows about the riches the city contains, nothing will ever be the same again. Already, rumours of the city’s discovery have floated down the Rain Wild River and reached envious ears in Bingtown and beyond. Adventurers, pirates and fortune hunters are coming in droves to pillage what they can from the city. As is Hest Finbok, Alise’s husband! Meanwhile, Selden Vestrit finds himself a prisoner of the ailing Duke of Chalced, who believes him to be some sort of dragon-man whose flesh and blood may work miracle cures. Where is Tintaglia, the great sapphire-blue dragon, when all have such need of her? Has she really abandoned her beloved Selden and the fledgling dragons forever? Or will she too return to seek the wonders of Kelsingra?

At the end of the second book in the series a lot of plotlines were wrapped up and one of the antagonists died, so I was concerned about what the author would do with the remaining two books.  It turned out that what she did was to make some of the peripheral characters into point-of-view characters so that their story lines could fill the gaps left by the ended ones.

This was a pretty nice change, and it revitalized the series for me.

The same criticisms that I have for the previous books in the series (and the books in the previous series) still apply – the book is slow and doesn’t really have a plot arc.

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Book Review – Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

The blurb says:

There is a shadow of a legend of a city, a fireside tale of a place where dragons and Elderlings once lived side by side in harmony and comfort. Kelsingra. To the final remnant of the dragon population and the human outcasts of the Rain Wild settlement, it seems a dream too good to be true. Does a haven exist for them? As they continue their trek up the uncharted Rain Wild River, fate and hardship will gnaw at their numbers and their determination. And the legends of the ancient beings called Elderlings will intrude into their adventure in a destiny beyond human control.

I read this book consecutively to the first book in the series, so it was all fresh in my mind and the lack of arc in the first book didn’t bother me as much as it normally would have.

A lot of my criticisms of the first book also apply to this one – it’s still pretty slow and the characters are still oblivious to things that are obvious to the reader.  One of the characters never actually figured out one of the obvious plot points and had to have it explained to them by another character.

On the other hand, a lot of the unresolved plot points from the first book are resolved in this one – so much so that I wondered what would be left for the remaining two books in the series.

As I suspected from my experience with the first book in the series, the second book doesn’t really have the structure or arc of a novel, but at least there’s a dramatic reveal at the end.

Something that I didn’t notice as much in the first book but that the second book suffered from was that most things that happen are caused by external influences.  If a character has a certain personality and has decided on a course of action they never change their path unless something external forces them to.  This happens again and again with each main character, to the point that the dramatic reveal at the end of the book is entirely something the just happens to the characters rather than something they achieved.  The characters’ job seems to be to take as long as possible moving in a straight line until something comes and nudges them in a more interesting direction.

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