Friday, December 27, 2013

The Wolf At His Door (Runes Trilogy #1) by Adrian W. Lilly

Alec has many good friends, a twin brother and big sister who support him and even now a new boyfriend – well, potential boyfriend. Sure their parents fight a lot and not all is warm and fuzzy – and his headaches can make him damn miserable at times, but things are good.

Except those headaches are prescient – an omen of doom to come.

When the werewolf arrives, it extracts a cost of blood. Friends, family and loved ones die, one after another. The town is rocked by a huge string of missing persons, people disappearing without a trace – and the new boyfriend Jared is more than what he seems

In the midst of chaos and loss, Alec can only find some way to stop the werewolf before everyone he loves is killed.

We have a pretty interesting and intriguing story here – one that takes werewolves back to being monsters, a threat a danger. Few books have truly made the werewolf as monstrous as this one – not just in terms of evil deeds and savage monstrosity (though the atrocities committed in this book easily match any that the monsters have committed in others) but also in terms of sheer unstoppability. The power of the werewolf, the horror of facing one down, the utter helplessness of being confronted by this monster has been excellently conveyed. The book also doesn’t pull any punches when presenting the horror of the aftermath, the carnage, the gore, the shellshocked and wounded survivors, the devastation left in their work.

We have some excellent hints of a broad world and some building epic metaplot that will no doubt lead to lots of fascinating revelations and development in the future. There’s a lot there that is being hinted at with all kind of implications of experiments and magic and powers that I really want to know more about

The main problem I have with this book is we have a lot of characters who are introduced to us very quickly and not a great deal of effort is made to develop any of them. And that includes the protagonist – who spends a decent portion of the book unconscious – in fact, I’m not even sure if it’s accurate to call him a protagonist because the book didn’t really focus on him. It just didn’t really focus on anyone else either. The only person who had a lot of her depth analysed, her past, her motivations and her pain was Ilene. And while it’s good to get a character so developed, her motivations, her past, her guilt, her shame, her battling to move past there, her loss and her confusion, I’m still left kind of wondering why I spent so much time in her head and not everyone else’s when she was so secondary to the plot.

We have a number of characters buzzing around the plot who didn’t seem to serve any role – Alec’s doctor, police investigating missing persons, police investigating the murders. Hey were kind of just there – and yes, you expect all of these people to be there, but why make them such characters, why have scenes from their point of view, why spend so much time in the heads of people who could just as easily been reduced to names on paper? They may be relevant later in the trilogy, I suspect several of them will be – but there’s just bloat now. There’s just a lot of time in this book spent examining the heads of people who aren’t really relevant to the narrative, to the detriment of the people who actually are.

This leads to many of the horrific incidents in the book not carrying the same weight. People are killed in this book and I’m not even sure who they are. There are so many people wandering back and forth I needed to keep notes just to figure out who each person was and how they related to the protagonist and, eventually, a note on whether or not I actually needed to care about this person, what they were doing or what they were feeling. One small advantage of Ilene‘s over-analysis is it gave us some window into the grief over the many many dead – but it was kind of the only window. And there were some characters dying here who should have been utterly devastating to Alec and quite a few other characters and it just wasn’t, not to the extent I’d expect. I certainly wasn’t moved because I didn’t know enough about them to connect.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays

'Nightmare Before Christmas Tree.' photo (c) 2010, San José Library - license:

Hello everyone, the Fangs for Fantasy crew would like to wish you and yours, a safe happy and prosperous holiday season.  We would like to thank you for all of your support this year and greatly look forward to our continue shared passion of speculative fiction in all its glorious forms

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Entice (Ignite #1.5) by Erica Crouch

The war against Heaven has just ended – with Lucifer striking Michael down and his soul being imprisoned in Hell. Azael, instrumental in defeating Michael, is eager to rise within Lucifer’s councils and reach the upper echelons of demonhood

Pen, his twin sister and fellow fallen angel, is not nearly so keen. She left Heaven because its censorship, its rigidity, its lack of thought and questioning was too much for her – she’s not thrilled that Hell seems to be little better

But Lucifer is determined to make her fall in line – and he has a task for the twins: the corruption of Adam

I was rather surprised by this book’s length. As a story between book 1 and 2, I expected a novella of some kind, but this book kept going on. And on. And on and on.

Yeah… that’s kind of not a good sign.

I’m not saying it was a bad book – because it wasn’t, not even close. It was just… an unnecessary book. After reading Ignite we know several things about Pen and Azael. Azael is evil, short tempered, impetuous and desperate to get in Lucifer’s good books. Pen is extremely conflicted about this whole Hell thing, she fell because she disagreed in keeping mankind ignorant of language (and ignorant in general), she found Heaven dictatorial, censorious and unreasonable – so she fell but found Hell to be no better and she’s not willing to jump on the “yay Lucifer” train but is dragged along because she has nowhere else to go and because she has an almost creepy attachment to her brother.

And in Entice we’re shown that Azael is short tempered, impetuous and desperate to get into Lucifer’s good books. While Pen is conflicted, not happy with Heaven but really not sold on Hell either, but is dragged further into it because of her almost creepy attachment to her brother.

Both stories are good. Both stories develop the characters well. Both stories show someone who is deep and nuanced with many lairs with a joyous love of language woven into them. The conflict is really well presented, the pressures on Pen shown excellently. I can’t overstate how well presented Pen’s emotional conflict and motivations are presented in both stories.

But we didn’t need both stories to tell us the same thing, to excellently portray the same emotional conflict and torn priorities. It was so well done the first time, it didn’t need to be excellently done the second time.

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Study in Ashes (The Baskerville Affair #3) by Emma Jane Holloway

When we last left this world, everything was in complete tatters.  Evie having been imprisoned by Keating, Nick presumed dead and  Imogen's soul being imprisoned by her dark twin Anna, nothing looked hopeful for our merry band of steampunk characters.  A Study of Ashes opens one year later with everything in disarray.  As bad as the events of the last book were, the characters have no idea that things are going to escalate and get so much worse. You see, the kingdom is on the brink of war because the people are tired of the strangle hold of the steam barons and for their part, the barons are determined to draw the noose even tighter and consolidate their power.  Can our merry crew survive the evil machinations and still get out in one piece?

A Study of Ashes is the darkest of the trilogy.  With the return of Magnus, Evie is once again tempted by dark magic.  With the fighting between the barons, even fearsome The Black Kingdom has a role to play. For those who are used to a lighter story, this might be disturbing; however, I found myself relishing it.  Stories must after all progress to retain the interest of their readership.  At times, A Study of Ashes felt like a blending of gothic horror and steampunk.

For as much as I enjoyed A Study of Ashes, I do feel that the story did get bogged down when it came time for the epic battle.  I understand that this was necessary to explore the full scope of Evie's power but I do feel that it dragged on for a little to long.  At times, I was even tempted to simply skim until the story had moved on. This might however be a matter of taste, as I have never been a fan of epic fight scenes.

After all that Evie has been through, she is not the same young brash woman we met in A Study in Silks.  For me this is a good thing, as I am tired of protagonists who are dragged through the mill yet do not change.  Evie still retains much of her spunk but it is darker somehow - more determined.  I will however say that it was annoying that she was constantly reduced to a pile of mush when Niccolo looked in her direction.  I understand finding comfort in love when times are tough, but did she constantly have to get distracted and drift away?

One of the largest distractions was the Imogen's storyline.  It seemed out of place and rarely interacted with the characters that we have come to know. I often found myself irritated when we returned to her predicament because it felt like being pulled out of all of the action.  That said, I am glad that Imogen got her happy ending.  It is well worth mentioning that sidelining Imogen meant that Poppy had a much larger role to play.  The problem is that Poppy is young and though brave, clearly out of her element. Not being a fan of YA, I found Poppy irritating but again, this is another case of your mileage may vary.

A Study in Ashes is a satisfactory ending to this trilogy.  All of the storylines begun in the first book were neatly wrapped up.  Holloway even gave us an interesting twist on the Baskerville Affair.  We were introduced to Professor Moriarty and the story even left potential for more with what happened to Tobias (sorry no spoilers).  It is my hope that Holloway uses these openings she left behind to continue on with these characters, perhaps even staring a much more mature Poppy.  The sign of a good book is when it leaves you wanting more and A Study of Ashes definitely had me thinking that this shouldn't be the end to such a worthy series.

Editors Note: A Copy of this book was received through Netgalley

Atlantis, Season 1, Episode 12: Touched by the Gods: Part One

Jason has a visitor – Circe has arrived in Atlantis to demand he fulfil his debt to her and kill Pasiphae. His deadline is at noon in 3 days or he’ll die and maybe several others as well. He then finds Hercules’s body – dead.

And he wakes up – debtor dream! So much more effective than a menacing red letter.

The three friends gather for gloom angst (and Hercules comic relief) before Jason faces the fact he has to kill the Queen. Hercules briefly admits it’s all his fault (everything is Hercules’s fault so let’s just take that as a given) and Hercules and Pythagoras agree to help being royal assassins.

After much comic plotting, Pythagoras discovers chloroform (and Hercules tests it on Pythagoras because – well funsies mainly), they arrange with Hercules’s friend the wine merchant to get them in the palace and Jason begins to realise the enormity of killing someone in cold blood.

Speaking of royal deaths – King Minos is on his last legs thanks to Pasiphae’s poisonous ministrations.  He insists that his wife and daughter look after each other and Pasiphae also reassures him that she’ll totally look after Ariadne. King Minos is not a good judge of character, it has to be said.

Of course, Pasiphae’s plans aren’t going all her way, Minos may be dying but Ariadne still isn’t married to Heptarian. Heptarian offers to kill Ariadne which doesn’t impress Pasiphae even slightly – she wonders at her choice of plotting tools. See, you can’t get good evil minions these days.

Our heroes enter the palace, Hercules and Pythagoras filling the vital roles of bumbling comic relief and nerdy comic relief (you simply cannot go on an assassination mission without the comic relief, it distracts from all the sinister murder). I also quite like how Pythagoras can “calculate” where Pasiphae’s bed room – either he knows where it is or he doesn’t, there’s a limit to what even a genius can do with maths.

After a little more comic ineptitude from Hercules, Jason reaches Pasiphae’s bed chamber and tries to stab her – and is either stopped by a magic shield or by his conscience. I think the latter but it’s not exactly clear. She wakes up – and screams. Alarms! Running guards! Hercules wants to run off and abandon Jason but Pythagoras insists he stays

Jason runs, avoiding the guards but he takes an arrow in the side while he does so. He arrives at the rendez-vous point, but Hercules and Pythagoras have had to leave. They make it home ok to worry about Jason – and drink of course

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: Autumn 2013, Episode 12

This week our podcast is on a Sunday - and our last podcast before the holidays!

Join us join us here and you can listen live on our youtube channel as we discuss the last few shows on air and our book of the week.

All of those links will also carry a recording after the show is finished. As ever all our previous podcasts can be found in the archive

The podcast begins at 7:00pm EST

16th December - 22nd December: Goblin Quest by Jim C Hines
22nd December - 6th January: Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs
6th January - 13th January: Fury of the Demon by Diana Rowland
13th January - 20th January: Bloodlines by Eileen Wilks

The Podcasts will return on Monday 6th January at the normal time of 7:00pm EST

Fangs for the Fantasy Book of the Week

Every week on the Fangs for the Fantasy podcast (archives here) we read a book and discuss it on the show. This week we're holding our podcast a day early because of the holidays - and the book of the week review went up on Friday.

To give people a chance to read along with us, especially over the holidays, we include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

 Our podcast will be at 7:00pm EST tonight 

16th December - 22nd December: Goblin Quest by Jim C Hines
22nd December - 6th January: Tempest Unleashed by Tracy Deebs
6th January - 13th January: Fury of the Demon by Diana Rowland
13th January - 20th January: Bloodlines by Eileen Wilks