Excitement OVERLOAD! – July Edition

GAAAAAAH! Hello! I’ve been thinking about what book I’m most excited to read next, and it’s actually not a difficult decision at all.

It’s funny, too, because I’m reading Abercrombie’s Sharp Ends right now and rather than sate my appetite, this short story antology set in the First Law universe is making me all the more excited.

A Little Hatred picks up in the familiar world of the First Law, decades after the conclusion of our first trilogy, with a generation of new and, I assume, deeply flawed characters who will be coming into conflict with all-new threats to the Union. We’ll see familiar faces like Sand dan Glokta, King Luthar the Not-So-Blond-Anymore and who knows who else! Are you excited, I’m excited, me, me, me!

Joe Abercrombie’s writing only gets better and better and I am so looking forward to all the delightfully horrible ways in which this latest bloody book will blow my mind. No one writes quite like he does and I can never get enough of his words. They’re downright divine, if you ask me!

It’s coming out in just over a month and a half, on September 17! Who’s aboard the hype train with me?!

Inspired by Lynn’s Book Blog, and this blog post, in particular.

Monstress Vol. 02 – The Blood by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

My review of Monstress Vol. 01 — here.

The Blood reveals a few missing pieces about Maika Halfwolf’s family and our young protagonist’s complex relationship with her mother, while it also answers several mysteries first set up in volume one.

What did I like about this volume the most? I think it was the revelation of the full scope of the power the Ancient within Maiko used to posses, as well as the relationship he had with the infamous Shaman Empress. I won’t spoil it because I don’t wanna feel guilty all day after posting this review but…

One of the most visually stunning characters introduced in this volume is a fox Ancient, imprisoned within the island on which Maiko hopes to find answers about the nature of the god inside her. What Takeda has done with Greybeard, as Maiko affectionally calls him, is everything you can hope to ask from an expert comic book artist. His cold, almost eyes, the guarded expression, the proferred piece of gold in his hand, they tell us readers more about this ancient arcanic than the first few dialogue bubbles do!

Revelations aplenty — who’d have ever thought that our Lovecraftian monstrosity, this god abomination that has consumed one of Maika’s hands already, has a heart? The nature of the gods is touched upon as well, with a sibling of our monstrosity introduced through flashbacks.

Maika herself continues to shine. Whether she’s exchanging verbal blows with pirate captains or very real ones with a variety of creatures intent on ending her life, Maika responds blow for blow at anything coming her way. Monstress wouldn’t be what it is if it didn’t throw some tough curveballs Maika’s way — illusions, drowning, emotional bombshells — but our girl does her tiger uncle Seizi proud. What tiger uncle, I hear you ask? I ain’t saying more!

And of course, there’s always Kippa, affectionately called Little Fox by Maiko. She’s a source of light much needed in even the darkest moments Monstress’s plot throws our way.

This is a solid second act that continues to do everything that Volume 01 did right — theworldbuilding astounds, characters grow and evolve and the art– oh, the art! There’s a reason why this series won an Eisner for best multimedia artist AND for best cover last year. I’ll occasionally open up The Blood just to take in the art and let me tell you, it does not lose its appeal one bit.

The Blood is good, dear reader. It’s damn good. Worth every cent of your money and every minute of your time. Buy it, read it, enjoy the hell out of it. I know I did, and I am looking forward to what comes forward!

The Grimoire Digest, 15-22 July: 11/22/63, Thorn of the Night Blossom, Ch05en: Ivy

Hullo, dear reader! I’ve been blogging a lot this past week — unfortunately, none of it has been on my personal blog, The Grimoire Reliquary. I did put three new reviews out into the world, over at booknest.eu. I’ll toot my own horn here and share them with you, following the late, great axiom of #everythingiscontent!

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Thся was someting else, something special. A novel about an English teacher who goes back in time to stop Kennedy’s assassination should be challenge enough but King’s not about to deal with anything less than five different genres in this 850 page novel. For the full review, click here but if you’d like an excerpt, have at it:

Stephen King is the rare kind of author who does not allow himself to be bound by the staples of any one genre. He’s been writing a book or two a year for so long that the tools he once borrowed for his early works have now become so seamlessly his that in combining conventions of different genres he weaves stories quite unlike anything else out there.

Take for example the victim of this review, 11/22/63. I could label it as sci-fi, of course, because the central plot point of this novel is time travel. I could label it a thriller twice over, because during two—three, even—parts of the novel, it certainly borrows from murder mysteries, spy-craft novels and the like. I could easily call it a great romance because…I  think you can figure that one out. Hell, it’s an excellent introduction to the history behind Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of Kennedy, with a number of artistic freedoms. It’s all this and beyond; an 850-page novel that’s more than the sum of its parts. This is one of those books that you owe to yourself to experience.

Thorn of the Night Blossoms (Scions of the Black Lotus #1) by J. C. Kang

This was a really fun novella because of the action and the China-inspired setting…but it’s also got a half-elven ninja-spy protagonist! A lot is done in a mere 93 pages, and I’m looking forward to digging into the next novellas in the series. Lookit here:

horn of the Night Blossoms is an excellent introduction to a world that’s beautiful and hideous in equal parts. This is best illustrated by “The Floating Wind”, the finest among many houses of pleasure both in its riches and in its finely trained girls. But the splendour and finery hide a cutthroat world of flesh peddling, information trade and manipulations both physical and magical in nature. The women of “The Floating Wind” are trained in the art of seduction from young girls but that’s far from the only skillset they learn; from a secret sign language to a myriad of abilities that would make a ninja blush, both in combat and outside it. 

Our half-elven main character is Jie, the finest (or at least, most talented) operative produced by the Black Lotus clan in recent years. To the eyes of the uninitiated, however, she’s a Floret, a young woman who is still a virgin. But even then, Jie is special; because of her exotic blood and looks, hers is the most valuable “virgin price” not only in “The Floating Wind” but in all the province.

And the last review I penned over this last week is, drumroll, please…

Ch05en: Ivy by William Dickstein 

I love superhero stories. This wasn’t quite what I expected and although I didn’t love it, I did have a decent — even good — time reading it! The review is here:

What is strangest about this novel is that I felt it was a prequel to the novel I came to expect based on the blurb. Here is a portion of the blurb:

“Ivy and Lochlan’s worlds collide in the small town of Choudrant, Louisiana—where the residents have more secrets than shopping malls. The lead Cape in Choudrant has defected, and an android might be the only one who can find out why. If he’s going to succeed, Lochlan will have to look for help in unlikely places and unlikely genes.”

This collision between Ivy and Lochlan takes place only in the last chapter of the novel. A lot of what happens before feels like inflated filler. This holds particularly true about Lochlan’s (he’s an android agent of the World Government) sections, which go into minute detail about anything and everything to do with android functionality, agent politicking and more. Well thought out, and I admire the effort…but it’s true what they say about magicians – if they show you everything about how their trick works, it’s no longer magical. Too many of the descriptions, in particular those that involved the android agent Lochlan, suffered from that; they made me conscious of someone doing the writing. Often, descriptions didn’t flow, leaving me aware of the words on the screen instead of allowing me to immerse myself fully into the world. Some of the dialogue between agents Lochlan and Khard (who seemed about as important to the overall Lochlan arc but slightly more likeable) came across as stilted, as well.

There you have it! What I was up to over the last week over at booknest.eu. If you’d like to check the full reviews, the links are above; and if not, I hope these excerpts might’ve given you a semblance of an idea as to what you can expect.

This week, I hope to write my review of Monstress Vol 2, The Blood! An essay on Le Guin’s The Tombs of Atuan is also in the works. Stay tuned!

For the Emperor (Ciaphas Cain #1) by Sandy Mitchell – Book Review

I have so much fun with books in the Warhammer 40k setting. There are hundreds upon hundreds of them and they range from the utterly ridiculous to the downright tragic; from grimmer than grimdark to…uh, kids’ books narrated by David Tennant and Billie Piper *squints*. All sorts of brilliant writers have contributed to the colossal body of works that is the lore of this universe – my absolute favourite so far has been Dan Abnett – and through its sheer amount, there is something for everyone. Granted, this is licensed tie-in fiction and I don’t think I’ll be doing anyone a disservice when I say that a lot of it isn’t particularly good. I’m not pointing any fingers!

That said, like with Abnett’s Eisenhorn series, every once in a while I come across something exciting and really, really good! In this particular case, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to the one, the only, Commissar Ciaphas Cain! Say hello, Commissar, don’t be shy, I know how you love the spotlight. Who is Commissar Cain? If you ask any high-ranking officer in the Imperial Army, he is a man of undeniable moral fibre, unquestioning loyalty to the Emperor and bravery in the face of unspeakable horror.  If you ask Cain, he’ll gladly corroborate all these…while reflecting in the deep recesses of his mind that he is in fact an opportunist who has spent nearly two centuries surviving through quick thinking, exemplary bluffing and no small amount of luck.  

For The Emperor is presented as the archived diary of this amusing Commissar, with footnotes and editorial comments penned by an Inquisitor who plays no small role in the untangling story of an Imperial frontier world that has erred away from the Emperor’s light. If a lot of what I said doesn’t make much sense to you, let me explain – in the fortieth millennium of the grim future, a very xenophobic humanity is barely surviving thanks to the will of a god-like entity entombed alive in a golden throne, holding together thousands of worlds and trillions of human lives through strength of will alone. This doesn’t play a factor, really, but you might as well know it if you’re still with me so far. This book doesn’t exactly get into any of this ‘bigger picture’ stuff but it’ll expect you to know certain backdrop information like this, or a few species of xenos (aliens) that aren’t explained in-depth. Certainly a minus for newcomers, I have to note, much as I adore this book.

Why do I like it so much? It’s humorous; hell, it’s laugh out loud funny, thanks to Cain (and, I suppose, Mitchell’s) acerbic wit, displayed time and again whenever the Commissar is forced to deal with life-threatening or otherwise harmful to himself situations. Or social functions. But in Cain’s case, they usually end up being one and the same, and the man has so much of that razor-sharp humour to spare for friends and enemies alike that it’s hardly a factor we need worry about.  Inquisitor Veil’s footnotes are alike tongue-in-cheek, poking fun at much of what Cain has to say. Oh, you want an example? Fine, you’ve twisted my hand, here you go!

Cain: “Bribery and threats are popular methods for getting what you want, but the Inquisition is better at both and tend to resent other people using them.”

Amberley: Entirely untrue. The Inquisition is most definitely above such petty emotions as resentment.

With the aid of his smelly adjutant Jurgen, Ciaphas Cain is damn near a force of nature, and a ridiculous caricature of your average Commissar to boot. I hear he’s also the antithesis of Dan Abnett’s famous Commissar Gaunt…No way of telling really, since I have yet to touch those novels but it sounds believable enough. I adore Cain. It was refreshing to read about a character who, despite all outward appearances, is a self-centred rogue looking out for himself. Or is he? That’s the catch, the big question – is Ciaphas Cain the self-serving ass he sees himself as, or is he more a hero than he could ever admit?

I’ll let you decide for yourself, dear reader. Ciaphas Cain is much like Schrodinger’s cat; instead of wondering whether he’s alive or dead, though, we wonder which interpretation of Cain is the one closer to reality; others, or his own. As for me, I am happy to give For the Emperor a score of 4/5 stars on Goodreads! I had an immensely good time with the audiobook version of this novel; it was released just last year, eighteen years after the paperback release. Stephen Perring’s narration adds so much to the character, gives him a remarkable voice that reminded me so much of actor Tony Curran (Defiance, Doctor Who) that I could’ve sworn when I first began listening that it was indeed Curran narrating it. What I want more than anything is for Perring to narrate the rest of the novels in the series – come on, Black Library, you can do it!

You’ll enjoy this if:

  • You like Warhammer 40k but are tired of the mixture of heroics and melodrama;
  • You really enjoy well-written tongue-in-cheek humour that somehow manages to deconstruct much of what’s iffy with the Warhammer 40k universe without taking away any of the fun of it;
  • You’re into excellent characters, there are plenty of those;
  • and more! Prob’ly.

Before I wrap this up, I want to give a shout-out to a really enjoyable cast of supporting characters – a likable, newly-promoted colonel, a bunch of convicted soldiers, a general with a high opinion of the Commissar, among others. I can’t wait to read more about them, about Cain’s regiment, the 597th Valhallan, as a whole, and about what comes next for the good Commissar. I just want Stephen Perring to narrate it all! Oh, and I don’t suppose I ever told you about the Inquisitor. Let’s just say…Amberley Vail is a ruthless badass, one of the very few who see through Cain’s carefully crafted mask. An Inquisitor (I really like Inquisitors), Vail is an efficient operative who drags Cain into danger for the first of many times to come!

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle #1) by Peter V. Brett – Book Review (Excerpt)

The entirety of this review is published over at booknest.eu. Below is an exerpt of it because…well, #everythingiscontent, and this is mine.

Entering a new fictional world that might take up dozens or even hundreds of hours of your time is no small thing; those first few hours are decisive as they can either mesmerize or let you down. The Warded Man hooked me, and it did so in several ways. First of all, the atmosphere of fear and constant danger that oozes across every page through the first half of the novel is nothing short of impressive. It’s owed to one of the most original renditions of demonic entities I’ve come across in recent memories – the demons. These appear as soon as the sun is down, every single night, filled with malice and hatred for humans. The only thing that keeps them at bay are the wards, magical symbols of protection etched into wood, stone and cement. Thanks to these and these alone does humanity survive, whether in great walled cities or in tiny villages, spread throughout the land, often cut off and isolated from one another. But wards are not failproof; the demons possess base cunning and test them time and again. If any of the wards are weakened or imperfect, the demons will find the weakness and break through.

What follows is a merciless slaughter, the kind only fanatical, thoughtless hate can inflict upon innocents. It’s evil made manifest. How humanity responds to that at the time of the book’s opening is not too difficult to picture; the time for fighting has long since passed and fear has nestled deep in the hearts of men. There’s no fight left in most of them and those in whom resistance still burns bright are the blazing exception. The demons can’t be hurt by conventional weaponry and trapping them until dawn is tough work, demanding sacrifice that most are unwilling to pay, and bravery none possess. And who could blame them? If creatures materialised out of smoke outside my home every day and spat venom or fire, or were fifteen feet high and made of rocks, I wouldn’t be bursting with bravery, either.