Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On The Crimson Campaign (The Powder Mage Trilogy #2) by Brian McClellan - REVIEW

Synopsis for The Crimson Campaign can be found here

This is book two of the Powder Mage trilogy. Review for book one (Promise of Blood) can be found here.

When we were kids, our parents would have these ideas. They would have these ideas that they know what is good for us. They would talk to us, maybe we would listen contently, maybe we have a complete and utter melt down of catastrophic proportions. I was a member of the latter response group. I knew what I wanted. I knew what was good for me. I knew me. I wasn't about to listen to what anyone else had to said. Anything they wanted to give me would be unknown and the unknown is scary. And my response to scary was PANIC!

So, one day my parents took me out. We were walking down the lane, watching the passerby's, watching the lights and hearing the sounds. We treaded familiar ground, and I was the happy little kid smiling, running (not too far), jumping about. But, then it happened. Someone had gotten the idea that they knew what I would like. They knew me better than I knew me. And they pointed me in that direction, and the tantrum commenced - stomping, screaming, flailing. I knew what I liked, and if I didn't know it, well, I didn't like it. So, I screamed my tiny little head off. I was not about to go on the Runaway Mine Train at Six Flags Great Adventure.

Now, the runaway train is a roller coaster much like the water from my kitchen sink is a waterfall. I kicked and screamed and put up a fuss, and in the end, it was fun. I learned something about myself... I liked roller coasters (as long as they didn't go upside down). Several years later, and I became one of the older kids still too "scared" to get on a looping coaster (Psh, I'm not scared, I just know I don't like it). This time there wasn't so much kicking and screaming involved, however there were some false starts and delay of games (mixing metaphors a bit, oh well), but after some psyching myself up, I got myself on... I honestly don't remember which coaster it was. But forcing myself into something new caused me to learn a little something about myself. I love roller coasters. I was so set in my "change bad. unknown bad." ways that I might not have learned something new to like.

With Promise of Blood, I was getting myself on the runaway train; something new I hadn't tried - flintlock fantasy with a strong military setting. And I discovered that I like that. With The Crimson Campaign, I have ridden Batman or The Incredible Hulk (pictured - did they rebrand that now that Disney owns Marvel?), and I now love me some flintlock fantasy. McClellan weaves an intricate story of war, religion, and magic. The magic system - gunpowder magic - is interesting and fun as the powder mages deal with common soldiers and more traditional magic users. There is some ambiguity on who is right and wrong, good and bad. There are gods amongst men (I was afraid this wouldn't work - it works here). The pacing is incredibly fast and keeps you sucked in.

I am a little late to the game with McClellan's works. But on the bright side, book three comes out in February - so not too long a wait for me. I wasn't sure I'd be into flintlock / military fantasy. But now I know.

And knowing is half the battle.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie - REVIEW

Synopsis can be found here.

I had this friend going up. A best friend. And being another male, we tended to get competitive about things. Thankfully, I suppose, we were both pretty sporty. Though during one tense game of beach volleyball, the taunts going back and forth, I think the two of us had enough. We fought. I didn't mention that he might have been twice my weight. Well, he was. And needless to say I was left with a bloody nose and he was left laughing. Laughing! I was angry. I was frustrated. I needed to do something, but what could I do? Nothing. And so it stewed. And days, weeks, months, years passed. Hockey became the sport du jour. And during an early afternoon roller hockey pick up game, the score never teetering overly far in one direction or the other, sweat dripping, swears and insults flying, I brought the ball up the middle, faked a direction, he bit, I pulled the other way, but he was too far. He reached. And reached. And split his pants down the middle, rear end exposed to the world. Embarrassment. Ah, sweet revenge.

Who doesn't love a good revenge story?

That's not really a good sell of this novel.

Half a King is a revenge story. And I love a good revenge story (I must have said that four or five times already on this blog). But it's more than my petty little revenge of embarrassment for embarrassment (but come on, his pants split! That's comedy gold right there). It is a coming of age story. It is the story about the broken and damaged individuals no one gives a second glance to or expects anything from. It is a story of political intrigue and family drama. It is a story of survival against a known foe, an unknown foe, the elements. It has twists that are both expected and unexpected. It's a fun read and is rather short in terms of fantasy (it's technically YA... I think. Not that there's anything wrong with that). So really, why not give it a try?

The characters in the story are interesting.

You know...  I think I'm just going to stop.

There's little I can say to sell this more than the publisher already put out there. Abercrombie has been blurbed for this novel by George RR Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, Brent Weeks, Robin Hobb, etc. etc. etc. (the fantasy elite). I mean, this is the Justice League of fantasy fiction, in which Abercrombie himself has a seat at the table (Martian Manhunter, maybe?). They say you should read this book. And I don't disagree.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

On Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage Trilogy #1) by Brian McClellan - REVIEW

Synopsis can be found here.

I was hungry one afternoon, as I am almost always hungry, and decided to go out for lunch. After considering the many options, I went with my local Panera. It was crowded, which is not uncommon, and I stared blankly at the menu determining which of the two or three things I eat at Panera I should get that day. When it was my turn, I ordered the 1/2 a Smokehouse Turkey Panini with a 1/2 of a Baked Potato Soup (more or less my usual order). The woman behind the counter took my order and asked "would you like a free cookie with that?" I had to pause and think about this, not because I wasn't sure if I'd want the free cookie, but to consider why she would even need to ask? Am I really going to say "no, I don't want a free cookie. And I also don't like kittens, rainbows and Christopher Walken." I got my free cookie.

With Promise of Blood, Brian McClellan wrote a swords and sorcery Fantasy novel, but gave us a free cookie - gun magic. Yes, I want some free gun magic with my usual.

This is a really strong start to a trilogy that has nonstop action - none of this characters stopping to wax poetic for 50 pages - as the world deals with the overthrow of a king, creepy prophecy, and imminent war. It only took a few pages of Promise of Blood for me to add books two and three to my to read list.

I give it...  "not my gumdrop buttons!"