Book Review – The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes

The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes

The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes

The blurb cons:

Who would have thought a book of naughty poems by elves could mean the difference between war and peace? But if stealing the precious volume will keep the Republic and the Empire from tearing out each other’s throats, rogue soldier Isafesira de Lochenville—“Loch” to friends and foes alike—is willing to do the dishonest honors. With her motley crew of magic-makers, law-breakers, and a talking warhammer, she’ll match wits and weapons with dutiful dwarves, mercenary knights, golems, daemons, an arrogant elf, and a sorcerous princess.

But getting their hands on the prize—while keeping their heads attached to their necks—means Loch and company must battle their way from a booby-trapped museum to a monster-infested library, and from a temple full of furious monks to a speeding train besieged by assassins. And for what? Are a few pages of bawdy verse worth waging war over? Or does something far more sinister lurk between the lines?

I liked the first book in the series, but it had a few flaws.  Fortunately this book is better in most ways (less unpronounceable names, clearer writing) but there were still some problems.  There are a lot of main characters, and the point of view keeps switching between them so it’s hard to keep track of everyone’s arc,

This was a good second book in that it could pretty much stand on its own, but it also contains a dramatic revelation about the events of the first book as well as setting up the third one.

I still appreciate the author’s attempt to use non-straight-white-male characters.

Book Review – Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

The blurb says:

In Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, shadow demons plague the city reservoir, and Red King Consolidated has sent in Caleb Altemoc—casual gambler and professional risk manager—to cleanse the water for the sixteen million people of Dresediel Lex. At the scene of the crime, Caleb finds an alluring and clever cliff runner, Crazy Mal, who easily outpaces him.

But Caleb has more than the demon infestation, Mal, or job security to worry about when he discovers that his father—the last priest of the old gods and leader of the True Quechal terrorists—has broken into his home and is wanted in connection to the attacks on the water supply.

From the beginning, Caleb and Mal are bound by lust, Craft, and chance, as both play a dangerous game where gods and people are pawns. They sleep on water, they dance in fire…and all the while the Twin Serpents slumbering beneath the earth are stirring, and they are hungry.

An unusual thing about this book is that although it’s the second book in the series, all of the characters and the setting are different.  I like this idea of exploring a world one book/character/setting at a time – it gives a sort of kaleidoscope view, but you’ll probably see more of the world.  A possible down side of this is that if you really liked a character probably you won’t see them again.

Considering how different the books are, it was surprising how similar the plot was – both books explore the interaction between gods and Craft users in the aftermath of the God Wars, specifically (for some reason) to do with contract law.

The new setting in this book is Aztec-esque, if the Aztec hadn’t been overrun by the Spanish and had continued all the way to the present day.  Since these books are very concerned with gods, the gods in this book are inspired by Aztec mythology, which is interesting and a bit unusual.

My only real problem with the book was that I was completely in the dark until almost the end of the book when everything was revealed.  It must be a tightrope for authors to reveal just enough but not too much.  Unfortunately in this case I spent most of the book reading about event after mysterious event without any clue as to what was going on.

Book Review – Tomorrow, the Killing by Daniel Polansky

Tomorrow, the Killing by Daniel Polansky

Tomorrow, the Killing by Daniel Polansky

The blurb entrenches:

Once he was a hero of the Great War, and then a member of the dreaded Black House. Now he is the criminal linchpin of Low Town. His name is Warden. He thought he had left the war behind him, but a summons from up above brings the past sharply, uncomfortably, back into focus. General Montgomery’s daughter is missing somewhere in Low Town, searching for clues about her brother’s murder. The General wants her found, before the stinking streets can lay claim to her, too. Dark, violent, and shot through with corruption, this book is a fantastic successor to a much-heralded fantasy debut.

I’m a big fan of noir and fantasy and I really liked the first book in the series, so I’ve been waiting for this book to become available for a long time.  For whatever reason it came out in the UK years ago, but only recently in the US.

I love this book.  I love pretty much everything about it.  It’s unflinching and funny and cool.

I have a pet peeve about books that leave you on cliffhangers to be resolved in sequels.  The middle books in trilogies are particularly bad for this.  Fortunately this book doesn’t have that problem, to the extent that it’s practically a standalone novel.

One of the things that made the main character interesting in the first book was his history in the army.  It adds a lot of grit and depth to him and to the world.  The war is fairly obviously inspired by World War I except with magic instead of water-cooled belt-fed machine guns and creeping artillery barrages.  Unfortunately I don’t think the main character’s experiences in the war were explored much in the first book, but fortunately they were explored a lot more in this book as occasional flashback chapters.

I also enjoyed the sneakiness of the main character – when he wants to achieve something he doesn’t just go straight at his target but thinks about how to arrange for his goals to be attained in other ways.

Book Review – Of Sea and Shadow by Will Wight

Of Sea and Shadow by Will Wight

Of Sea and Shadow by Will Wight

The blurb reads:

The Guild of Navigators has ruled the Aion Sea for centuries, using their fleet of mystical ships to collect trade for the Aurelian Empire.

Now the Emperor is dead.

For Calder Marten, Captain of The Testament, the Emperor’s death is not an end, but an opportunity. He and his crew seek the legendary Heart of Nakothi, an artifact that could raise a second Emperor…and earn Calder a fortune.

But they’re not the only ones who want the Heart.

The Consultant’s Guild, an ancient order of spies and assassins, will stop at nothing to keep the world in chaos. They seek to destroy the Heart, and prevent the world from uniting under a single Emperor ever again.

On the seas, a man works to restore the dying Empire.

In the shadows, a woman seeks to destroy it.

In this series the author is doing something interesting – there is a complementary companion trilogy so that each book is effectively written twice, once each from the point of view of the main characters.  This book is from Calder’s point of view and the book Of Shadow and Sea tells the simultaneous story of the same events from the point of view of Shera, who is a minor character in this book.  It’s obviously kind of a stunt, but I find myself really looking forward to reading this book’s doppelganger.

I read this book through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and I expect those books to be lower quality than ones that I’ve directly paid for.  This is generally true, but I’ve read some impressive exceptions.  In the past I’ve read The Traveler’s Gate Trilogy by this author through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and it had some very good parts let down in places by poor writing.  My impression of this book is much the same – there were parts at the beginning of the book that were a bit cringeworthy but the world building is really interesting and the interleaved flashback chapters were well done.

I have some issues with the end of the book.  It’s open-ended, which isn’t really surprising in the first book of a trilogy and didn’t annoy me much.  But on the other hand one of the things that happens at the end of the book is pretty far fetched considering the personalities the author has described being involved.

Book Review – Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh

The blurb hard boils:

Spademan used to be a garbage man. That was before the dirty bomb hit Times Square, before his wife was killed, and before the city became a blown-out shell of its former self.

Now he’s a hitman.

In a near-future New York City split between those who are wealthy enough to “tap in” to a sophisticated virtual reality, and those who are left to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets. When his latest client hires him to kill the daughter of a powerful evangelist, he must navigate between these two worlds—the wasteland reality and the slick fantasy—to finish his job, clear his conscience, and make sure he’s not the one who winds up in the ground.

I am a big fan of Noir and a big fan of Sci-Fi, so you can guess why this book appealed to me.

It is both Noir and Sci-Fi, but somehow it takes the schtick too seriously, so it comes off a bit heavy handed.

My only other problem with the book was that I found parts a bit confusing – it’s as if the author was concentrating so hard on making it feel gritty that he forgot to make sure all of the plot points were spelled out.