Friday, February 24, 2012

The Runelords ‘The Sum of All Men’ by David Farland

This book was first published in 1998, but for some strange reason I had never read any work by David Farland.  That omission, however, has been rectified.  I am now a drooling fan! 

The novel begins violently. A man is set upon and injured most gruesomely. He later dies from his injuries, and a series of events is set into motion.  Meanwhile, young Runelord, Prince Gaborn Val Orden of Mystarria has traveled to the kingdom of Heredon with the intention of winning the hand of Princess Iome Sylvarresta, daughter to King Jas Laren Sylvarresta, longtime friend of House Val Orden. He and his bodyguard, Borrenson meet a woman in the market of the city of Bannisferre. The encounter is quite entertaining, and at the end of it Gaborn arranges for her to agree to marry his bodyguard.  With this act immediately we see that Gaborn is wise and generous, and he should be for he has been endowed with the wit, and stamina of several people. Farland has created a unique and believable system of magic which relies on the existence of distinct bodily attributes, such as brawn, grace, and wit. These attributes can be transferred from one individual or even an animal to another in a process known as giving an endowment.  Lords who have taken many endowments become extremely powerful, almost superhuman, and are known as Runelords. That is a concept that I really found intriguing.   

Gaborn's plans are put on hold, however, when he receives word that Raj Ahten, the most powerful Runelord since Daylan Hammer, is leading his army north into Heredon and has nearly reached Castle Sylvarresta. Although Gaborn travels as fast as possible to the castle, he still arrives just moments before Raj Ahten and his forces. He brings word of the invasion to Iome and King Sylvarresta, then quickly sneaks out the back of the castle with help from the herbalist and Earth Warden, Binnesman. Raj Ahten, meanwhile, takes the entire walled city with only a single arrow being fired; King Sylvarresta's men eagerly swing open the gates for him, his numerous endowments of glamour and voice making laymen powerless to confront him.

Both King Sylvarresta and Iome are forced to give Raj Ahten endowments to show fealty to their new King. Gaborn risks capture by returning to the castle to rescue Iome and her father, and then he and the princess flee south, intending to warn Gaborn's father, King Orden, who is a few days ride from the city. Raj Ahten, meanwhile, moves his forces out, with a similar intent as Gaborn: track down and kill King Orden. With Raj Ahten gone, Prince Orden's personal bodyguard, Sir Borenson, acting on orders of the King breaks into the dedicate's keep at Castle Sylvarresta and begins slaying all the dedicates. Borenson escapes, and Binnesman learns from the Earth that Raj Ahten may be the least of all their problems. An ancient race of subterranean creatures known as Reavers are preparing to strike.
The book is often violent, and frequently frank.  It is a grand sweeping epic that made me turn the pages as fast as my kindle would go!
The first thing that I noticed as I began this remarkable book was the amazing sense of place and time that Farland conveys in his writing. With minimal strokes he paints the scenery and the emotions of the moment.  Immediately as each character was introduced I knew them.  There was not one moment where I felt any disbelief.  This very original world is well crafted, and the people who inhabit it are fully formed and clearly drawn. Farland’s work flows beautifully, and the emotions of each scene are conveyed seemingly effortlessly.
A Runelords Movie is in the works, and David Farland himself has written the screenplay so I think that it will be a real stunner!

The last and final installment in this series of books is due to be published on April 5, 2012.  I am looking forward to reading all the rest of the books in this series so that I can be ready when the big day arrives!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Last Guardian, Joan Hazel

I admit that I rarely read Paranormal Fantasy, what with my personal addiction to elves and dragons, but I enjoyed THE HECK out of reading this book!  The heroes are sexy, funny and full of mischief. The plot is not the usual good vs evil plot that I am used to, but is more subtle. Yes, good does battle evil, but some of evil's companions have redeeming qualities that are not fully explored in this book. This does set it up nicely for a sequel.

The guardians were created by the Norse Goddess Freya to care for her children, who (in this tale) are shapeshifters. Norse Mythology figures quite strongly in this tale, as does the lore of the Lakota People, a unique melding of the two.

Starting off immediately in a state of suspense and action, the "pack" is introduced with all the bravado of a special op. attack force. Hazel quickly plunges her reader into the personalities and relationships of the four pack members: Fergus, Saint, Mika, and Ghost. In the opening sequence a member of the pack is injured and the rest rush to save him.  His injuries are so serious that his abilities are compromised.  As the story progresses, the complicated relationships between the pack members drive the storyline, and the action keeps you on the edge of your seat.

These strong male characters are complemented by the protagonist CJ Carson. Charlie Jean, or CJ, is about to be thrown into a world she does not understand, and yet holds the answers to questions that have nagged at her all her life. Unbeknownst to her, she was born into a family whose sole occupation for generations has been to be the Guardians who keep the secrets of the shapeshifters and protect them. 

Unfortunately there are traitors within the shapeshifting community and they plot to free themselves of the guardians. They murder the man who was actually CJ’s father, and when they discover her existence, her life is then in danger.

The pack must bring CJ safely into their community, but the antagonists will stop at nothing to prevent that.  The final battle in this book is heart-stopping adventure and is one of the best parts in a book that is filled with great moments.

The pack is comprised of sexy, ooh-la-la men, and they are witty as well as easy on the eyes.  CJ and her friends are well drawn and compelling characters.

The plot is well paced and keeps the reader interested.  This is quite a romantic book even though it never drops into 'romance-novel' territory. The chemistry between Mika and CJ is good. I whiled away a rainy Sunday reading this book, and highly recommend it!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sakuri by Jacob Henzel

Today we are dipping into the sci-fi that I love!  Sakuri by Jacob Henzel is a roller coaster ride!  It is filled with non-stop action and great characters. I love the anime-style art on the cover. 

Twenty-three year old Sakuri is a courier who relies on roller blades to make deliveries. She still lives at home with her mother. The only social life Sakuri has is her very large dog, Oni, and her very strange boss.  Sometimes the courier business involves dealing with some very shady characters, and Sakuri is very wise to the ways of the world.

But Sakuri has a very big secret, one that she shares with no one, not even her dog.

One day she comes to work and is sent out on a job for a reformed mobster named Jacqueline. Of course it goes horribly awry.  This is the beginning of the most amazing, heart-stopping series of incidents that I have read in a long time.

She makes the delivery in a parking garage, and is the witness to a mob-style hit. In the flurry of hiding, Luke, the man she is to deliver brief case to, tells her to take the case and get out of there.  As she is hiding, it opens and a strange metallic glove-like thing falls out.  She puts the strange glove on for safekeeping.

Unfortunately, the assassins see her, and come after her. She narrowly escapes with her life when a sword wielding girl pulls up and dispatches the assassins.  Sakuri can’t remove the strange glove that she put on, and it sort of becomes a part of her.  The unidentified girl gives Sakuri a keycard that allows Sakuri to escape through a private building. She makes it back to work, only to find it closed.

When she arrives home, she finds the strange sword-wielding girl there.  Her name is Shannon, and she is the daughter of the infamous Jacqueline.  No longer a mobster, Jacqueline is now funding scientific research. Who knew that scientific research was so competitive?

Sakuri can’t remove the glove. Shannon tells her to go to work as normal the next day, and that Jacqueline will send someone to pick her up to get it removed.

The next day Sakuri finds her boss murdered.  The assassins are waiting for her, and her glove helps to save her life.

But now the people for whom she was delivering the package take control of her life.  Nothing is what it seems, and enemies become allies as Sakuri is drawn into a secret underworld that exists to save the planet from a terrible threat from beyond.
The story is told from Sakuri's point of view.  There is a deep personal story that unfolds along with the action. The relationship with Shannon begins rather antagonistically but evolves to a deeper friendship. Her relationship with Luke deepens as the story progresses. As it unfolds Sakuri learns to trust enough to have a friend and to possibly love someone, despite the very big secret that Sakuri does not share with anyone.

  This is a top notch first book by an indie author. I definitely recommend Sakuri to the sci-fi lover, and the lover of flat out adventure!