Sunday, February 8, 2015

Books for Bastards #3

On my trip to California for the Choopapalooza event, I actually got in to old fashioned reading-with-your-peepers books again. I ended up burning through the ones I brought with on the trip pretty quickly and kept that mojo goin.

I don't have time to mention all these books on the cast, so I thought I'd use this space to do it. Starting with this bad boy. Best. Cover. Ever.

I actually read this one in the middle of my frenzy and probably enjoyed it the most. It follows primarily a slave with a secret past and also the heir to a throne as they tackle some insidious demons. They hate each other at first and then it blossoms into the ultimate bromance. I normally really dislike body snatcher type foes but the quality of the writing and story was such that I enjoyed the book anyways. If you've been reading or listening to a lot of fantasy, I recommend checking this one out as it breaks from a lot of the traditional fantasy conventions.

Magic system - Gifted individuals and demons battle for control of people's minds. They literally battle inside the mind of the possessed person. These beings also gain certain mind type powers and awareness abilities when not engaging in these duels. 

This one is a bit of a guilty pleasure. This is a flintlock fantasy series that scratches all the right spots for the fantasy buff and napoleonic historical buff. Big battles, intrigues, mysteries and even a caper or two. The writing quality is actually pretty poor in the first book of the series. The overall pacing was off and he glossed over huge chunks of story in that one. This second one is an improvement. Hopefully he hits his stride in book three.

Magic system - Quite a few different magicky things going one here. Traditional wizardly types that wear special gloves to unleash their magic. Super wizards that are essentially godlike. "Powder mages" that eat gunpowder to gain strange powers over gunpowder and bullets that is not ever really explained. "Knacked" folk with just one weird magical ability.

I'm a big Steven Pressfield fan so I was eager to check this bad boy out. I found it to be extremely interesting as I had little knowledge about the setting for this scuffle. It would probably help to have a little more knowledge than I, with all the names being bandied about, but even a schmuck like me enjoyed it greatly. It is constructed primarily from actual interviews with the last veterans yet alive. About half the book is build up to the actual start of the conflict and the rest is tales from the front. The passage that kicks off the war portion is completely insane - actual adrenaline was released into my body. In any case, this is a solid recommendation. I wasn't sure what to expect from Pressfield's foray into historical non-fiction, but I think he pulled it off.

Magic system - Very subtle. Monotheistic invocations and some spiritualism but no outright magickery.

I read this one just to round out the Pressfield collection. This is actually his first novel but I'd never gotten around to it previously. It was pretty good overall, exploring themes Pressfield would use with better ability in later books. It does make me want to read more books about different sports, though. First I was delighted Sigler's behind the scenes / inside the huddle look at football in his Galactic Football League novels. Now I'm enamored with the nuances of golf elaborated on by Mr. Pressfield. The spiritual side of the tale falls a little flat for me, but its a quick read overall and I would recommend it if you can snag a bargain copy at your local thrift store. As a plus (or maybe minus), I am also curious to see the movie now.

Magic system - Gods walk among men, give golfing advice and impart extra-dimensional sight to help read the greens.

 This is more flintlock fantasy, although it's extremely light on the fantasy. The first 90% of the book reads like an early Sharpe novel. We get into some spooky shit at the end. Overall, the writing was enjoyable and I did not mind the light fantasy touch. If you're a big black powder nerd you might want to check this one out.

Magic system - Supernatural/demonic entities can be summoned if you know their name and the invocation. Each entity can be bound to a single person and each grants unique abilities.

This one is probably the least memorable of the bunch. It follows a couple operatives trying to instigate a rebellion in one of their enemy's territories. Seems like there is potential there, except there's already a rebellion going on and the main characters don't really do much. Overall quality is fine. Not bad but not really great.

Magic system - Gifted types can wear gemstones that interact with and control ghosts and natural spirits.

This one started out very strong , following under dwellers deep beneath the city. Although the overall story and world building remained interesting, the writing quality just eroded. There are many bizarre and inconsistent narrative choices, including casual spoilers about the next chapter that sucked out a lot of tension and enjoyment. Even a long rambling James Bond villain-esque monologue by the main bad guy at the end isn't enough to make sense of the disjointed plot. Can't recommend this one.

Magic system - Angel type beings used to live in the city and have bred with normal people. These mixed blood folks have scanners type mind powers (literally blowing people up!) and live for hundreds or thousands of years.

There are so many fantasy books trying to put their own unique spin on things nowadays that a traditional fantasy tale is something unique in its own right. This one gets all the nitty gritty historical details about the military equipment and structure right and has an incredibly detailed magic system to match. This story follows a mercenary company that gets coerced into holding a fortress against impossible odds against the wild - the wyverns, trolls and other fantasy creatures trying to retake the realm. Saying this was traditional fantasy was a bit of an overstatement, Cameron does put his own stamp on everything. If I had a complaint it would be way too many one off POV chapters which make it a bit confusing until you pick out the re-occuring characters. Overall, this is a really great read. I'm actually listening to the second book in the series while I paint currently.

Magic system - Gifted individuals can harness magic with training influenced by real world Hermeticism. Casters create elaborate mental fortresses and the interaction between these is much of magic fun. Although, there is outright blasty magic and illusions as well. Some regular untrained folk can harness magical forces to gain enhanced ability or awareness.

Anyways, that's it for now. 8 books in 7 weeks. I did start some books that I did not finish during this time. Up next, some real stinkers!


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