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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The Beka Cooper Trilogy – Book Review

October 25, 2012

Written by the amazing Tamora Peirce. this trilogy is an adrenaline ride from start to finish.

Over the past three years I have been systematically going through her entire library of books. I’ve now read everything she’s published with the exception of short stories and comics.

It was an amazing journey, I feel like I watched her and her world grow with every book. Her encouragement of new authors on her site and her own journey as an author has helped push me towards publishing my own novels.

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

Characters

With a three book series, it’s easy to fall into the trap of developing too many characters. These books find a perfect number of characters. Enough characters to hide the twist villain, or villains, but not enough to force the reader to take notes.

As for the main character, Beka is strong, intelligent, and great at her job. She has her flaws, that make her human and several attributes that make her feel real.

The secondary characters have lives around the main plots and main character. It’s easy for an author to assume that nothing interesting happens to the secondary characters when the main character isn’t around. That never happens to Mrs. Pierce, it always feels like there’s a novel hiding with the secondary characters, a new and exciting story. It’s never enough to throw you out of the story but it’s enough to feel real.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

This trilogy is a departure in multiple ways for Mrs. Pierce and for the world of Tortall. It’s the first Procedural, the first series that doesn’t have a large story arc, and the first to be written as series of journal entries.

Each book flows from one to the other but the stories are separate. Characters and lives flow between each but not mysteries. The procedural aspects of the book are fantastic. After getting used to the slang journal, I found I really enjoyed it.

The only negative I can see was the lack of rest. After the first few establishing chapters it was non stop action. I would have liked a few chapters of rest to let my poor heart rate return to normal.

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

Story

The story in each of the books was fantastic. Possibly her best work and definitely some of the best books I’ve read.

That said there were a few things that bugged me. Not to go too much into detail but there was one character that felt tacked on and not all that important. Pounce is her magical cat. I found he was a little too powerful and for that reason she needed to find reasons why he disappeared. It was a nice tie in with her first Tortall Series but I found it unnecessary.

The one part of Mrs. Pierce’s writing that I don’t particularly like is her romantic plots. It often feels like her characters just fall into the relationships. I’m not sure what’s missing exactly but I feel it happens too easily.

These are little nit picks that don’t greatly affect my enjoyment.

I give the story 5 out of 5

Fun

In my opinion, Tamora Pierce is one of the best Young Adult writers. Her stories are entertaining, intelligent, and well thought out. It’s nice to find an author who doesn’t continuously writes female characters as boy crazy, indecisive dolts.

This series is my favourite for the year so far. They are a lot of fun.

If you have never read a book by Tamora Pierce or if you’ve read everything she’s published, you should enjoy this series. It has enough links to the rest of the series but is completely understandable without having read anything else.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Final score is 90%


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%.


Little Dagger – Book Idea

May 3, 2012

I haven’t posted book review in a while. The reason is simple. I’ve been reading A Clash of Kings. It’s HUGE!

I had a dream last night. It was nothing like the following scene but the idea of a princess called Little Dagger interested me.

Read the rest of this entry »


Evil not Stupid

September 15, 2009

Word of the Day: sternutation

It was a lumbering hulk of a castle, built completely of black stone. The plans where drawn up by thirteen crazed wizards and at times it seemed like there was no way to if a corridor went to a bed chamber or a crocodile pit. Also there seemed to be a distinct lack of washrooms. This meant it was always empty until an attack when monsters and guard magically appeared in random and unexpected places.

“Sir” Said the small hunchbacked Dwarf. “I have the information you asked for about the prophesised hero.”

The Evil villain rose his long black cape billowed in anticipation. His eyes crackled with power and the Dwarf was forced to look away.

The response, in contrast to his movements, came slowly anger boiling behind each word waiting for an excuse to bubble over. “Yes, Dwarf. What is it that you have learned.”

Dwarves shouldn’t squeak they are a proud race with deep voices but this Dwarf shamed his people by almost mimicking Mickey Mouse’s voice. “Sir, he shall pose no… no, threat to you.”

“That is for me to decide minion. Don’t insult me with your petty assumptions.” His composed voice rose in a contemptuous crescendo; the last word causing the walls themselves to shake.  

Darting back and squeaking un-Dwarf-like once again he continued “Bu…But he is nothing master. A simple farm boy, with a rag tag group of friends. He is just lucky that he’s made it this far without killing himself.”

At the words “farm boy” the Villain jerked backwards his face contorted as if he was going to sneeze, but the sternutation never came and his face became more twisted in shock with every word.

“Sir…” the Dwarf stuttered before continuing, “his only advantage is that he wields his fathers sword”

The villain shuddered and sat back onto his throne. When he spoke again all power and strength had disappeared from his voice, “Is one of his companions not from around here? Were his adopted parents killed? Does he have a quirky talking animal sidekick?”

The Dwarf looked confused having never heard fear in his master’s voice before, “Yes Sir, to all your questions. But don’t worry Sir. I have good news. He’s been hurt. His wounds are most likely fatal and if he does survive he’ll be scarred for life.”

Now the villain looked three feet shorted and spoke slowly again but his words quivered in fear, “Scarred for life… Oh god it’s the end of the second act.” He got up running to his chambers he took out a large travelling chest and started to put anything around him into it.

The Dwarf watched him confused, finally working up the courage to ask, “Where are you going Sir?”

The Villain lifted the travelling chest and put a hand on the Dwarfs shoulder. “You’ve been a good lackey but I know when the full force or literary tripe is coming at me and I assume there must be other countries or worlds I can rule.”

Taking his black onyx crown off his head and placing it on that of the Dwarf’s, he said, “Good luck.” Before disappearing.