Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bastard Reaction: Dead Reign by T.A. Pratt

After a few disappointing urban fantasy reads recently, Dead Reign by T.A. Pratt was a welcomed change. This is the third installment of the Marla Mason series, and it gave me just what I was expecting to get out of it. I'm glad I held back continuing the series after finishing up Poison Sleep a few months back, as reading Dead Reign when I did was just what I needed at the time.

Death has come to Felport, and naturally it's chief sorcerer Marla Mason who has to put a stop to him before he destroys her precious city. The timing is inconvenient as she has to appease the ghosts of the founders by throwing a party in their honor or risk mayhem through her city. By the same token, she's short on allies and people who she can trust, not that trust has ever been something she could count on in her world. Needless to say that Marla finds herself outmatched by a god, but that has never stopped Marla from picking a fight to defend her city.

Marla Mason is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters in fantasy, a no-nonsense kickass heroine with a heart of gold. At least that's how she resides in my mind; love is blind I guess. We see more of that here as Marla takes on an entity that simply is too powerful even for her. But who cares, right? If someone is going to take over Felport it'll be over Marla's dead body, and who better for the job than Death himself.

After each installment the character interaction has been better and better. The author seems to have hit his comfort zone; the dialogue has good rhythm and the characters and the world complement each other perfectly. While in the first Marla Mason novel there were a few head scratchers for me in how some elements might have seemed a bit out of place, everything being introduced just seems to fit naturally right now regardless of how outlandish it may seem. It all starts with how well Marla has come along, and especially the great supporting cast she has been surrounded with, beginning with her "sidekick" Rondeau who has become a fascinating character in his own right.

Dead Reign more than just being a novel about Marla overcoming odds to protect her city, it's also about soul searching for her. As such, I couldn't think of a more fitting title for the novel, the dead in some form or another have left their imprints allover this novel. Marla undertakes a journey where she literally faces the demons of her past, which in ways have been stunting her personal growth. Through the novel we get to know her better than ever before, expressly aspects of her past that we've been in the dark about. Not only that, we also learn about the nature of magical artifacts, in particular that of the dagger of office and Marla's cloak.

My only real complaint is that through Marla's journey we are faced with a few scenes that I didn't care much for, particularly ones that were rehashes of events we've already experienced. Other than that, a ton of fun and full of gratifying events. It has a cliffhanger for an ending, one that I very much liked. I say that, but know that the plot that was laid out in Dead Reign was concluded. It's inconsequential though since you can just pick up the next novel and continue the story without a problem, which I did.

In any case, another entertaining novel from T.A. Pratt which has the Marla Mason series steadily climbing the ranks among my favorite urban fantasies. It's a series that I can easily recommend to any urban fantasy reader, and welcome readers outside the sub-genre to give a try.

Buy Dead Reign from The Book Depository.

Make sure to follow T.A. Pratt's website and the dedicated Marla Mason site for more info.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mihir on FBC December 2011 - January 2012

First of all, happy birthday to Mihir who became one year older yesterday; or so he wants us to believe. I think he's angling for birthday presents. While I sort things out, here are his posts from December and January on Fantasy Book Critic:

Review: December 5, 2011 - Legend by Marie Lu
This is a dystopian YA novel from debut author Marie Lu. I don't reach much young adult books, but this one looks like one I may be interested in, Mihir certainly enjoyed it.


Review: December 7, 2011 - Zero Sum by B. Justin Shier
Sequel to his UF debut Zero Sight, a series that has been highly recommended and one of Mihir's top reads last year. I'm hoping to read and review this one sometime soon.


Interview: December 12, 2011 - Kelly Gay
Cool interview from the author of one of my favorite UF series, Charlie Madigan. All three books are reviewed on the blog, here's the latest one The Hour of Dust and Ashes.

Review: December 13, 2011 - Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough
I've only read one previous book from Kelly from his UF Ravirn series, WebMage which I enjoyed. Good to see that his new series also looks to be a good one.


Review: December 16, 2011 - Three Indie Mini-Reviews
Three indie novels are reviewed here which seem like they could be a good read, Child of the Ghosts by Jonathan Moeller, The Blood Gate by David Ross Erickson, and Wrath of the White Tigress by David Alastair Hayden.

Review: December 20, 2011 - Stirred by J.A. Konrath & Blake Crouch
An interesting dynamic here as two series by two different authors get a concluding crossover novel. Been hearing good things about this one.


Review: December 22, 2011 - Deadcore: 4 Hardcore Zombie Novellas
I personally don't care much about zombies, and I know Mihir doesn't, so that he enjoyed this anthology from authors Edward M. Erdelac, David James Keaton, Randy Chandler, and Cheetham makes this something worth looking.


Review: December 27, 2011 - Magic Gifts by Ilona Andrews
This is a novella about Kate Daniels that was available for free for a limited time. It takes place during the events of the forthcoming spinoff novel Gunmetal Magic, which will also include this novella.

News: January 4, 2012 - Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett
An update by Peter V. Brett on the status of the series, which includes a tentative date for the 3rd book in the series, The Daylight War for early 2013. Speaking of which, it's time I get my ass in gear and read The Desert Spear.


Review: January 7, 2012 - Imperium by Nicholas Olivo
A novel that caught my attention some months ago, but haven't yet read. I mentioned it to Mihir, who read it and thinks that it's a very good debut. Hopefully I'll find some time for it soon.


Top Reads: January 9, 2012 - Mihir's Top Reads of 2011
Self explanatory, Mihir picks his top reads of 2011. I haven't read most of them, so got some catching up to do.


News: January 10, 2012 - Prequel & Sequel Novellas
Announcing a prequel novella for The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron. An omnibus has been recently released, hope to review it soon. Also, a sequel novella for the Elemental Assassin by Jennifer Estep. Most recent novel is about to be released, By a Thread.
Review: January 17, 2012 - Dead Eye by Jim Bernheimer
Two novels of this series get reviewed, Pennies for the Ferryman and The Skinwalker Conspiracies. First time I hear of them, and look like must read for urban fantasy fans.

Review: January 18, 2012 - Blue Fall by B. B. Griffith
Looks like some mixed feelings here. The premise of the novel seems interesting though, so certainly curious. Will have to see until I hear more on it though.


Review: January 21, 2012 - Strata by Bradley P. Beaulieu & Stephen Gaskell
Collaboration from two sci-fi authors, apparently winners of the Writers of the Future Award. A 70 page novella getting some high praises around.


Review: January 24, 2012 - Control Point by Myke Cole
First book in the Shadow Ops series, and the first 2012 novel I read. Currently working on my review, should be up within two weeks. Excellent debut novel from a promising author which I recommend to just about anyone.

News: January 25, 2012 - James Rollins
Author of the Sigma Force series, one that Mihir has been nagging me to read for months now. Update on his projects and an author interview for Jon Land.

Review: January 27, 2012 - Dominion by C.S. Friedman
This is a prequel novella to The Coldfire Trilogy, one that has been highly recommended for some time and I should really find time for.

Review: January 31, 2012 - Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
This has to be the most anticipated debut novel of 2012, and from what I can tell it's living up to its promise. Been hearing many good things about it; still need to get a copy of it myself.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bastard Reaction: God's War by Kameron Hurley

God's War by Kameron Hurley was a top read of mine last year, and my favorite novel from a debut author with a tough competition. Been meaning to write something about it for some time now, but was struggling with what I wanted to say given that it's been a year since I read it. Details are currently a bit fuzzy. Just found out that the novel has been nominated for a Nebula for Best Novel in 2011, so seems like a good time as any to say a few things about it. It's the first book in the Bel Dame Apocrypha series, in what I understand may be a trilogy from which two novels are already released.

Nyx is a former Bel Dame, a government sanctioned assassin among other duties, surviving amidst a war. She's now a bounty hunter, leading a group of specialized misfits, who has been tasked by the Queen to bring the head of an individual who holds the secrets to a weapon that will change the balance of the war. In a violent and cruel world, filled with bug magic and technology, Nyx has an uphill battle in her hands while former allies and current enemies try to kill her in a game which Nyx is not aware she's a pawn in.

Months before it was released, I was sold in pre-ordering a copy with the cool cover and a short description that included something about cutting heads. Later on I read Mad Hatter's review, in which he labels the books as a bugpunk and I knew I had to read it as soon as I got my hands on it. Needless to say that I wasn't disappointed.

God's War is not an easy book to read. Though there's some complexity to the plot, it seems evident to me that the author doesn't have much interest in spoon feeding the reader. The experience through the novel was one of playing catch-up. I personally liked this aspect of it, but I can see some readers get frustrated or have trouble getting into the rhythm of things. In addition to that, the book has plenty of crazy violent and disturbing scenes. Awesome, right?

I recall being asked a few months ago who was my favorite female character in fantasy, and the clear choice was Nyx. Well, a tie really with Kate Daniels, but in any case Nyx is just great. She's a walking contradiction and tough as they come. I really don't know what to make of her, she's allover the place. One thing you can count on though is that she'll be hard to kill and kick some ass in the process. But I still don't know what to make of her. Is she patriotic? A rebel? Loyal? Untrustworthy? Selfish? Compassionate? Dependable? Crazy? Well, we know she's a bit nuts, but other than that you can make arguments for and against any label you try to apply to her, which makes her a very interesting character to me.

Nyx aside, the biggest strength of God's War is the interesting and unique world building. The society we focus on is Islam influenced, but with a reversal of gender roles in various ways. It's matriarchal and males are sent off to the front-lines of the war, where chances are they won't return. A cool dynamic which was handled quite well without centering on gender differences, but on circumstances which has led them to their current situation where the male population is decreasing at a rapid pace and females hold the power of the governing bodies. There are other countries in this world that have their own distinct circumstances, but our action was mainly focused on the civilization depicted above.

I made mention of the the book being described as a bugpunk. Insect manipulation plays a big role in this world. They're used in their technological advances, for medical procedures, as weapons, transportation, among other uses. Those who manipulate them are called magicians. There's just a good combination of unique and weird elements with an interesting society which breaks away from what may be deemed comfortable and usual.

Topics wise there's a lot going on here, though I think the main ones have to do with power, sacrifice, and lack of communication, and the cost that comes with them. Loyalty is a constant dilemma particularly when it faces off against distrust and self-interest. Of course, religion plays a big part in here in both the shaping of civilization as well inner struggles from some characters. War and violence have their claws in just about every aspect of this society, it's not a pretty world and there's a constant struggle between what's necessary and excessive; regularly placed on a balance of individual vs. the benefit of the many. Plenty more to be found here, bravery vs. cowardice for one.

I thought the collection of characters were great. Maybe a few were underused and not developed as much as I would've liked to see, but just a consequence of the novel really focusing on the POV of its two main characters, Nyx and the magician Rhys. But cool characters all around, and certainly multidimensional and they all serve their role in the events quite well.

I can't recommend God's War enough. Plenty to like here particularly if you're patient and not frustrate yourself when the events and narrative get a bit hard to follow. It's fresh and it should satisfy those that constantly complain that they keep reading more of the same. Above all for me, this is simply a kickass, fast moving, action packed novel with tough people going at each other, scheming and cutting heads. A very strong debut for Kameron Hurley, and congratulations on her Nebula nomination. Already read the sequel, Infidel, which was another great installment to the series. Anticipating eagerly the next one. Give them a try.

Buy God's War from The Book Depository.

Please visit Kameron Hurley's website for more information.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bastard Giveaway: Tangled Threads, Spider's Revenge, and By a Thread by Jennifer Estep

Great giveaway for some novels from one of my favorite urban fantasy series, Elemental Assassin. The giveaway is for signed copies of the three most recent novels, Tangled Threads, Spider's Revenge, and the soon to be released By a Thread. So thanks to the awesome Jennifer Estep, author of these novels, for making this possible.
My name is Gin, and I kill people.

They call me the Spider. I’m the most feared assassin in the South — when I’m not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don’t use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride.

Participants have to be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change. 

The giveaway is open for US mailing addresses only, and it will run from February 13, 2012 until 11:59pm ET on February 24, 2012.

How to participate:
  • To enter the giveaway, just place a comment in this post letting me know you wish to participate.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Make sure to provide an email address to which I can contact you.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on February 24, 2012.
  • Winners will be chosen by random sorting entries, and then using a random number generator.
  • There will be 1 winner total, who will get one signed copy of all 3 titles.
  • Will have to confirm email to be considered a winner within a week after February 24, 2012.

Additional entries may be had by doing the following:
If you do the steps above, and only by doing those steps, you'd end up with the possibility of 3 total entries:
+1 Comment Entry
+1 Google Friend Connect (Mention your GFC username)
+1 Twitter Follower (Mention your twitter username)

Thanks, and good luck!

If you have problems commenting to enter, feel free to email me at bastardgiveaway @ gmail with the proper information of entry (name, GFC, and/or Twitter nicknames).

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bastard Reaction: The Greyfriar by Clay & Susan Griffith

Vampires and steampunk, how can you go wrong with that? It was with high expectations that I went ahead and read The Greyfriar, the first installment from Clay and Susan Griffith's the Vampire Empire series in what ended being a fun action packed ride.

In an alternate history setting, in which vampires control the northern hemisphere, Princess Adele of the Equatorian Empire is on the run from a band of vampires who attacked her airship. Her only hope lies on the mysterious Greyfriar, renown revolutionary against the vampire empire of the north. She's the critical piece in the impending war of human and vampires as she's to be married to Senator Clark of the American Empire, thus fortifying what might be the vampires biggest threat to their occupation. Adele represents their biggest threat and their biggest opportunity.

The best way I can describe my experience with The Greyfriar is that it was a very fun, but unbalanced novel. In my opinion, the biggest fault it had was that it may have been too action focused, making character and plot development suffer. Interestingly enough, much of that action centers around scenes focusing on Senator Clark, who I thought was a major negative in this book. Too much of a buffoon for my taste, and honestly was featured too much in place of more interesting characters, some of who were forgotten as the novel went on. There are some amusing turn of events featuring Senator Clark though, so don't want to completely write him off, but it's one of those situations where less would have been more.

Vampires were a plus in this novel, more gruesome and violent than I anticipated coming into it. For my complaints about plot, I thought the vampire side of things was the more interesting portion. Though with some reservations, the political intrigue vastly more compelling as well as the power conflicts it presented. Main complaint about vampires is that they were presented as weak to warm weather, but that really didn't come off properly. They make allusions to it, but during the fights where this was supposed to factor somewhat, it really wasn't shown. The other thing is that they were conveniently docile during some portions particularly when dealing with Princess Adele, our main character.

The biggest strength of the book was the world building, I found setting to be very interesting as well as how the whole world is staged, with external and internal conflicts. Reminded me of one of my favorite anime, Trinity Blood; probably the main culprit of my high expectations and anticipation. The steampunk, though limited and understated, I thought it was well done and fit the world extremely well. Really enjoyed some of the devices that were presented.

Adele was a strong character, and quite refreshing in many regards. Gutsy and not afraid to meet the challenge when it presents itself, or sacrifice herself if needed be. The Griffith's did an amusing take in the damsel in distress scenario, which is really my favorite aspect of this book all told. Despite some of my complaints above, the cast of this book is well rounded, just a bit underused.

The Greyfriar was simply an enjoyable novel, and a quick fast paced read; action packed with a few plot progression and character interaction issues. Though seeming to be a bit harsh on it, I thought it was a promising debut and I think you should take this reaction with a grain of salt, mainly because I've already read the sequel and thought it was very good. In many ways, it made most of my complaints here irrelevant.

If you're looking to sit back and take part of a fun ride, then I don't think you can go wrong with this one. I think urban fantasy fans and paranormal fans will have the biggest success with this series. For those wondering, romance really doesn't come into play in this first book. It really is action focused, and more of a stage setter than anything else. Flawed, but promising debut from Clay and Susan Griffith, and I'm personally looking forward to reading the rest of the series. It has been well received by many, so very much worth the try.

Buy The Greyfriar from The Book Depository

Please visit Clay and Susan Griffith's website for more information.