Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince by S.M. Carrière

December 17, 2013

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I’ve known S.M. Carrière for a little over a year now I should have read one of her books earlier.

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince is an otherworld novel in line with Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Fairy series by O.R. Melling, or Jack of Kinrowan by Charles De Lint.

It borrows heavily from Welsh and Irish mythology to make a well-rounded and fascinating world.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

I liked

There were a lot of characters in this novel but it didn’t distract from the main characters’ story arcs. I really enjoyed watching Ethan’s development from listless jock to Battle Prince. It was so well done that until I thought about it I didn’t see it happening.

I also liked the unabashedly strong and intelligent women in this book. It’s not easy to write a female warrior without falling into stereotypes. S.M. did it extremely well.

I didn’t like

There were a lot of characters and a few of the secondary ones felt like they had interesting stories to tell but never really got the chance to develop. O

There were two that bothered me the most. First was a character called Mitch, who was friends with Ethan. Their seemed to be more to the character and his odd submissiveness but his story ended with a handshake and a nod.

The other was a character called Joseph who was introduced around two thirds into the book. He was interesting and worked as an emotional foil for Ethan but felt like he didn’t need to be there.

The role that Joseph ended up playing in the end of the book was what I expected of Mitch after a step character arc.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The ease with which S.M. weaves mythology into her story is impressive and she manages to avoid info dumping by giving us tiny details throughout.

I particularly liked her use of vocabulary, in many otherworld novels or urban fantasies, the other keeps a very standard language akin to a hardboiled detective style. S.M. keeps the book’s voice in a tongue-in-cheek fantasy style that works perfectly with the story.

One of the strengths in this book is S.M.’s ability to write convincing dialogue. Each character has a unique voice that rings true and it makes it easier to follow which characters are which.

I was definitely taken back to a time I lived with three other guys during university.

I didn’t like

On TV, in movies, and in books I find great pride when I understand the language that the main characters don’t. However, when the opposite happens and I don’t understand, I feel kinda dumb. This book has a healthy dose of Welsh and Irish throughout. At times the conversations are long. Never do they last more than half a page but it still frustrated me.

One the other side of the coin, the author did put a translation for all these scenes at the back of the book. If I had noticed I wouldn’t have minded. I think the translations might have been better as footnotes.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was a standard otherworld story but inversed. Instead of a regular everyday person falling into another world, a Queen fell into ours. I liked the inversion and I liked how well the character handled herself, it’s easy to think she’d panic and go nuts but she dealt pretty well.

Typically this story end after the character returns, or chooses not to return, to their own world, quite often with plot points dangling, and irritating me. The story reached that point and then proceeded to give us some extra action and extra story.

I didn’t like

The story was well crafted and other than the Mitch thing, there were only a few things that frustrated me. I felt that it was a little too neat at the end. I felt like too many people got what they deserved and all was right with the world. It rang true but it also felt like the author didn’t want to wright a sequel and made sure she didn’t have to.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

The book was entertaining throughout. S.M. really knows how to keep your interest. Even through the parts that should have been slow, it was still fascinating.

I also liked the extremely subtle inclusion of herself. A character talks a lot about her roommate and I’m fairly certain that roommate is the author.

I didn’t like

This book was fun through and through. If I were to give it a fault it would be that it was a little too addictive.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince is the perfect otherworld novel, with enough twist and turns to keep an aficionado of the genre happy. I’d happily recommend this as a “gateway drug” to fantasy novels.

The author weaves convincing character arcs with mythology and wonderful storytelling.

I highly recommend getting this book and devouring it. It’ll leave a smile on your face.

Final score is 75%

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Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire – Book Review

October 28, 2013

If you’ve been following my book reviews. You know that I have a soft spot for Urban Fantasy. I also have a soft spot for interesting female characters. Discount Armageddon delivers both and does it well.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

I liked

At the center of the story is Verity Price, a tough ballroom dancer who’s been trained from birth on how to kill things and study them. Unfortunately she isn’t the most interesting character.

The supporting cast from religious mice to a shapeshifer cousin truly makes the book. There is a wide and varied group of people. I loved both the interactions and dialogue between the characters.

I didn’t like

Again, unfortunately Verity Price isn’t the most interesting of characters, falling into the girly tough girl stereotype. She loves to dance and seems to have a love hate relationship with her life. She wants to dance but also wants to follow in the family business.

To ignore her own inner struggle she tries to continuously meet the world with sex appeal and one-liners. She played dumb, when she obviously wasn’t, too many times.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The author isn’t afraid to go on small tangents to explain the world. I really enjoyed the history and Price family life. It’s a great world with all kinds of interesting people and events.

Despite what people often think, writing first person is more difficult than third and if done wrong makes the story sound like “than guy” at a party that wants to tell you all about his d&d character or cat.

Ms. McGuire makes the story flow quickly, smoothly and keeps all the action tight.

I didn’t like

The language bugged me a little. I understand first person characters using slang and odd turns of phrase but sometimes it felt discordant. The writing had a strange juxtaposition of British and American slang.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The flow of the story was wonderful. Never leaving us in the same place long enough to get bored. The story shape is extremely simple but works wonderfully. Never leaving me annoyed with what was happening.

I didn’t like

This is the first in a series and with that there are a lot of details added that don’t directly impact the story. Relatives that weren’t essential, and plot points that won’t be important until later books.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy reading about her grandfather stuck in hell and her grandmothers quest to find him but I would have liked to learn more about the characters that were important to the story.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

Despite her clichés and often bad one-liners I like Verity Price. She perfectly personifies that struggle and lost feeling that I had in my twenties.

It also has a few steamy scenes that made me blush.

I didn’t like

I often would have like more in depth descriptions or interactions. It would have slown down the story pace but it would have given the book more substance. However I realize that this is an action book and not an epic.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

If you like fast paced action and fun characters thrown into ridiculous situations I recommend you pick this up.

Final score is 75%


Quickies: Book Reviews for Aurora Prize Awards – Best YA Novel

August 9, 2013

I’ve been franticly trying to finish all the books before voting time. Darn you Skyrim for distracting me…

There are 2 books in this grouping that I’ve only read half but I plan on returning to them in September.

Above by Leah Bobet

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: I found this book really hard to get into but I really enjoyed the world it was set in. I’m hoping to enjoy it more when I finish the second half.

60%

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 5/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: Addictive story. If I didn’t have the adult category I’d jump right into the third in this series. The characters felt a little underdeveloped but overall it was a great story.

80%

Dissolve by Neil Godbout

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 2/5

Overall: This was an impressive idea and I look forward to re-reading both this one and the first in the series. I also reserve the right to change this when I’ve read more than half.

60%

Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero by Michell Plested

I already reviewed this book here.

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: I highly recommend this to anyone who likes superheroes, coming of age stories, or reading.

85%

Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

I already reviewed this book here.

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: Like A Princess of Mars this is an enjoyable read but I probably won’t re-read it anytime soon.

Good solid writing and ok story.

65%

Under My Skin: Wildlings Series (Book 1) by Charles de Lint

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: I loved both the pace and the style of this novel and I’m looking forward to reading it’s sequel.

75%


Quickies: Book Reviews for December 2012 to March 2013

June 26, 2013

I read a lot of books while I was writing my last novel and I didn’t get a chance to write reviews. Here are the quickie reviews for each of the books I read.

The Colorado Kid – Stephen King

Characters: 5/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: Great book that proves you can have an interesting story without it resolving. Not recommended for those of you who really don’t like loose ends.

75%

WWW Series – Robert J. Sawyer (Wake, Watch, and Wonder)

Characters: 5/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: This isn’t just an amazing sci-fi series; it’s a beautiful story and an educational experience. I highly recommend it. Easily my favourite Sawyer book so far.

90%

 Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss – Justin Richards

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: Fun little book. If you like the new series of Doctor Who and like River Song, you’ll enjoy this book. The plot is predictable and River is a little overdone but it was fun.

65%

Doctor Who 50th anniversary Books

A Big Hand for the Doctor – Eoin Colfer

Doctor Who: The Nameless City – Michael Scott

Doctor Who: The Spear of Destiny – Marcus Sedgwick

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: These novelettes are written by people who truly understand the doctor’s they’re writing. I feel like I’m reading a Doctor Who, mini special. That being said, they’d be a little confusing for someone who doesn’t know the Doctor in question.

75%

Over my Dead Body – Teresa Wilde

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 4/5

Overall: I found this on Kobo on sale for 97 cents and I regret no having paid more. This was a great story filled with a great world and wonderful characters.

75%

Assimilation Squared – Scott Tipton, David Tipton, and Tony Lee

Characters: 2/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: As much as I wanted to love this series they were just ok. I found the portrayal of the Doctor to be spot on but the Star Trek TNG crew to be lack luster. It was a quick read but if it wasn’t my two favourite geek properties I wouldn’t have bought these.

60%

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 3/5

Story: 3/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: By far my least favourite of the Sherlock Holmes collections. It truly felt like Doyle was tired of Holmes and had to prove that his beloved character was flawed and not as great as we thought. And then he kills him off with no foreshadowing.

65%

Doctor Who: Summer Falls – Amelia Williams

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: This book was shown in an episode of Doctor Who and was “written” by one of the characters who are no longer on the show. It has some surprises for fans but the book is strong and stands on its own. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy or science fiction.

80%

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

Characters: 3/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 3/5

Overall: This is a classic and the archetype for carnival horror, but I don’t think its Bradbury’s best book. I enjoyed parts of it but it felt like a short story dragged too long. It had some fantastic ideas but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a huge Bradbury fan.

70%

Devil in the Smoke – Justin Richards

Characters: 4/5

Writing Style: 4/5

Story: 4/5

Fun: 5/5

Overall: Another Doctor Who novel but this one is unlike any of the others. It was brilliantly written, every character spot on, and the story was so much fun. I could only wish that this author would write a series with these characters.

85%


Night of the Living Trekkies – Book Review

October 23, 2012

Written by Kevin D. Anderson and Sam Stall, this entertaining book does exactly what the title promises. It follows a group people at a Star Trek convention, when a Zombie outbreak occurs.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

When it comes to characters the authors took the best of both genres and mixed them up. On average I find Zombie movies have weak stereotypical characters. It’s a good thing that the authors decided to flesh out the characters more like Star Trek. They have detailed and interesting back stories. Along with the flaws and quirks that make them more than just a cardboard cut-out.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

The writing style is a nice cross between silly and serious.

For what it was, it was good. I give it 4 out of 5.

Story

This book was exactly what I wanted and exactly what I expected. Unfortunately, when it comes to Zombies, or Star Trek, I like to be surprised a little. I saw every twist and every story line coming several chapters in advance.

Does this make it a bad story? No it’s still entertaining and fun.

I give the story 2 out of 5

Fun

This book felt like a well planed Star Trek and Zombie, role playing game, it was fun.

If you like Zombies and Star Trek get yourself a copy of this book and enjoy.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 75%


Calculating God – Book Review

August 9, 2012

Calculating Gob by Robert Sawyer has an interesting premise. Aliens believe that Earth’s fossils could help find proof of God.

Robert Sawyer is a Canadian Science Fiction Writer and Futurist. You might have seen the name when you watched Flashforward on ABC a few years ago. He wrote the book, of the same name, that the show was based on.

I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Sawyer after he gave a talk at the Museum of Science and Tech in Ottawa. He’s an engaging speaker, which that comes through in his writing. There are science facts and ideas that could have been dull but he managed to parse them out and make then interesting.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my post here.

Characters

Sawyer’s characters are always interesting. They always feel well rounded and real. This book isn’t an exception. Each character is believable and likeable, even the aliens. The only exception is the villains they felt like an afterthought. It felt a little shoehorned in and they were a bit boring.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

Sawyer has a unique writing style that is understandable and educational. He makes even controversial or heavy subjects interesting. Unlike some hard sci-fi authors, I don’t get the urge to look up every fact to see what he means. He explains it that someone with my limited science background would understand.

He has a wonderful way of combining dialogue and facts. I find it makes a reader feel like they are having a discussion with the characters.

I give it a 5 out of 5.

Story

Most of the time I feel that the discussion in his books, doesn’t overwhelm the story. In this case, despite the strong characters and the great premise, I find that the story felt like a vehicle for the philosophy and science rather than a counterpart.

I give the story a 3 out of 5

Fun

The story was bare bones but the character interactions were highly entertaining. Lines like, “Take me to a Palaeontologist.” Make the book enjoyable.

Another rare and wonderful thing about this book was its lack of judgement. Whenever a book discusses God, I expect to get a lot of defending for one point of view. Sawyer never pushes one point of view over the other. It was unbiased, interesting, and informative.

It’s not the first book by Sawyer I’d recommend friends to read but it’s certainly a lot of fun for those who are interested in the philosophy.

I give it a 3 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 75%


A Clash of Kings – Book Review

May 31, 2012

A Clash of Kings is the second novel in the truly epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. The series is now a successful television show on HBO called a Game of Thrones.

This is a brick of a book. I take an average amount of time to read a book and this took me the better part of two months. The softcover that I own is a thousand pages.

I’ll try to keep this spoiler free but there might be a few that sneak in.

Characters

Complex mythologies and huge casts of characters go hand in hand with fantasy. Clash of Kings isn’t an exception. There are more characters than I could possibly keep straight. There are nine point of view characters and a plethora of others.

It would be easy with nice point of view characters, and a gazillion others, to make them bland or similar. Not going to happen in this book. I believe that despite the terrible things that happen to the characters, they are the best part of this book. Each and every one of them make you feel for them. The emotions vary as much as the characters but they’re their and strong.

That characters are great but they do drop like flies. The body count is as high as the emotions. Often the most likeable characters are the ones that die.

For the strength and consistency of the characters I give this book a five out of five.

Writing Style

This isn’t a quirky or flowery writing style. Martin has a way of making every word count and make you want to keep reading. It’s also a very easy style to follow. That means you won’t spend ten minutes reading a page only to realize you can’t remember what you read.

That being said I like quirkiness, I like flowers, and most of all I like a witty turn of phrase. Martin does it but it’s always through dialogue. If the narrative weren’t so well calculated, it would be dry.
It’s not your typical sword and sorcery fantasy. This is a high fantasy with low magic. It’s gritty and bloody.

For its efficiency I give the writing style a four out of five.

Story

I’ll say this right away. This isn’t one book with one story. Its one book with nine main characters and three times that many stories. It could have been split into 3 books with 3 characters and there would be little difference. With the exception of the wonderful bicep muscles I’ve developed.

Each book in this series builds upon the stories and even adds some. It’s all interlinked and brilliant. The stories are great and plentiful.

That all said I found the twists, high points, and low points subdued in comparison to the first one. I guess the first had a lot farther for the characters to fall on their faces. When the world has already turned to shit, it can’t get much worse. It does just not as dramatically as the first book.

It’s the second book in a series that could be just one large book it does a great job at what it needs to do but isn’t as awesome as the first.

I give it a three out of five for story.

Fun

In its own way this series is a lot of fun. It’s well written, intelligent, and keeps you on your toes. Clash of Kings felt long though. It could be that I wasn’t in the right mood for it or that it didn’t have the dramatic twists of the first. I found myself longing for the next book I’d read.

In fun I give it a three out of five.

Overall

Overall, if you have the upper body strength, patience, stomach, and love of high fantasy you’ll truly enjoy this book as part of the series. If you’ve read the first one and liked, keep going.

I think it’s a solid book by a master writer with an amazing talent with characters. For that I give it a final score of 75%.