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Yearly Archives: 2010

Secrets of the Fire Sea by Stephen Hunt

This is my favorite of the series so far. Most of the pacing issues I had with previous books, the sort of situation where everything goes to hell in such a rushed fashion the reader is almost left behind, are delightfully absent in this one. The Commodore drove me nuts, as usual, with his eternal put-upon misery, but even that had a fantastic pay off by the end. I think, after finishing the book, that Commodore Black was one of my favorite characters. His scene at the end is just so visceral. Not punches pulled. And I loved it.

Add in Jethro Daunt, the Circlist priest who was kicked out due do the fact he hears old gods (possessing an amazing talent for deductive reasoning), and his companion Boxiron, the head of a Steamman Knight inexpertly attached to the inferior man-made machine body (with an issue with aggression and stuck gears, not to mention a black market skill set) , and Fire Sea has a cast that not only grabs the readers attention but pulls them through each and every page. Every now and then Jethro appears to be a fantastic hat tilt to Sherlock Holmes, and on occasion made me chuckle with appreciation. His first scene in the book really drives that impression, and I was unable to get it out of my head whenever he was in a scene for the rest of the book.

The main protagonist is Hannah Conquest, ward of the church and math prodigy. She is interesting, but serves more as a reason to bring the rest of the cast together than anything else. Purity and Molly remain far more compelling heroines in my opinion.

The isle of Jago itself presents a creepy, hellish setting. From the corrupting domain of the valvemen to the beasts that roam the exterior of the city there is an omnipresent sense of danger and horror. The book itself is full of murder, conspiracy, and skulking Old Gods, which combined with the setting adds the twisted horror aspect I have come to love and expect from Hunt’s books.

The Ursine race added another interesting culture to the social menagerie that populates the world, and the fact the plot hinged on something more mundane than most of the other novels- race/culture conflict between the Humans and the Ursines- the book as a whole was a more intriguing read.

This is a wholly brilliant addition to the series. I highly recommend picking it up!

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Face Off by Mark Del Franco

I will continue to rate these highly by virtue of the utterly fantastic world build. I read and read and I still want to know more about Fae politics, and how they are dealing with being thrust into the human world, and how the humans are coping. It seems an overdone, trite concept, but trust me when I say this is a singular world/series.

The plotting and the scheming in Face Off was good, though I did sort out the overriding threat long before the protagonist did, which left the last chunk of the book less interesting than it could have been, but it was still executed very well.

The second Laura Blackstone novel lived up to the expectations of the first, and moved a bit more towards a more typical urban fantasy with the development of her love interest. The character still remains intensely interesting on a psychological level- having one person pretending to be so many conflicting personas at once leads to interesting contemplations on issues of the self- and Laura does go through some changes in this book. And they are good changes, ones that further the character, and I am interested to see where they take future books.

Del Franco’s Connor Gray books remain a better series in my opinion, but the Laura Blackstone books are still a very enjoyable read. You get an inside view of the Guild and InterSec workings you miss from reading Connor’s point of view. Both series work together excellently to flesh out the magnificent world Del Franco has created.

If you are looking for unique urban fantasy, give either of these series a shot. They are well worth it.

Face Off

Skin Deep (The first Laura Blackstone novel)

Unshapely Things (the first Connor Grey novel)

‘Rise of the Iron Moon’ by Stephen Hunt

If you have any interest in steampunk at all, this series should be at the top of your to read list. The world build is a perfect mix of industrial and fantastical. The society is delightfully skewed and often brutal, and horrifyingly believable.

This was a book bursting with pure, enjoyable high adventure. As a bonus, the two lead characters from Court of the Air made an appearance, and while they were not technically center stage for this adventure, they worked very well with those who were.

There is a new threat to the Kingdom of Jackals, and it comes in the form of the invading Army of Shadows. The Army leaves desolate wastelands in its wake as its bizarre creatures rape lands to supply the needs of the Masters. It is up to Molly, Oliver, the Commodore, Coppertracks, and young Purity Drake to somehow stop the Army, defeat the Masters, and save their world. There are hijinks and shenanigans aplenty, politics and dark magics.

We get to see more of the Steam Nation and its sentient race of steam men, which I always enjoy. A nice mix of technomancy and voodoo make the steam culture one of my favorites in the books.

As always, it is the tone of this series that brings me back again and again with such delight. High stakes mayhem and cunning social commentary work very well together and make for some amazing page turners.

Court of the Air is the first book in the series, followed by Kingdom Beyond the Waves. They are all brilliant reads, and I cannot recommend them highly enough. They are fun, pure and simple, and everything else ties into that sense of fun and excitement to make one of the most satisfying reads I have enjoyed in a long time.

“Feed” By Mira Grant

I would like to say the zombies are what makes this book fantastic- after all, it does start with a guy poking a zombie with a stick- but what makes Feedso bloody amazing is the sheer scope of its humanity. The book takes human nature and tears it apart and shows you all the hidden bits you never wanted to know about. It will give you goosebumps. It will make you laugh. It will make you angry. It will make you cry. It is that well done.

It starts with an amazing world build. Humans cured cancer, they cured the common cold, and those two cures blended in just the wrong way and unleashed one nasty virus upon the world. The good news, humans survived the initial zombie event. The bad news? Humans all carry the zombie virus, in its dormant state, and it can be triggered. Add in the fact all mammals over 40 pounds can also ‘go zombie’ and trigger the virus out of dormancy in a human, and lets just say animal husbandry and pet ownership is not as common as it once was.

Now, lets move to the social aspect. Bloggers are the news now, and engage in bids for ratings that are fascinating to read about. The whole blogger/news infrastructure is beautifully done, and for someone who spends as much time communicating online as I do, it rang with enough possible truth that I found it enthralling.

The book revolves around a bloggers covering the presidential campaign in this environment, with enough plots and conspiracies and real nasty political maneuvering to keep the pages turning at a frantic speed. The usual novel format is broken in places by ‘posts’ from the main characters, adding to the urgency and strain of building events, and making the characters almost painfully real.

No punches are pulled in this one, and it is an absolutely amazing book as a result.

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