Friday, May 18, 2012

Still Searching for the Next Great Read

Each week I try to review a book that really rang my bells.

So what happens when I have read 6 books in one week and out of those six books I was only moderately interested enough to finish 2 of them, and I still don’t have a book worth calling ‘best’?

I keep on reading, hoping to come across a new L.T. Suzuki or a young Tad Williams.

What do I look for in a book? First, because I read so much that is produced by the indie author, I don’t really expect perfection in the editing department. After all, even big name authors like Rick Riordan and Stephen King have some editing errors in their work and they have big publishing behind them. As a rule, if it is a great story I can ignore most errors as long as they aren’t too frequent.  

But if I can be forgiving about some editing errors, there is one thing I must have and that is a real, interesting and original story that is worth talking about and worth telling my friends about. I want a well-thought-out plot with great tension and characters that interest me and draw me into their lives.  I want consistent, believable magic and political systems and if you have nothing new for me, then I want new takes on old plot twists. I want a big finish if it is the first book in the series, despite that fact that the author may have a series in mind.  I want that first book to stand alone, and leave me wondering what is going to happen after that last page is turned.
In short, every time I start a new book, I am hoping to read something that moved me the way L.T. Suzuki's 'Imago, A Warrior's Tale' moved me when I first read it. The trouble is, I already reviewed it here on October 21, 2011.

I am sorry to say that this week I didn’t have time to read more than 6 books. Out of those 6 books, 2 were moderately good reads and 4 were stinkers.  The four stinkers had more problems than I could explain in one post.  I will simply say that atrocious sentence structure gagged me with overwhelming descriptions of eye-color and scenery or offended me with random, inexplicable incidents of extreme violence for the sake of the shock value. The authors had killed their own books in the first 5 chapters. 
Rather than poke needles in my eyes, I deleted them from my Kindle and moved on, hoping for a jewel in the next book.

The 2 moderately decent books began with great promise.  They had imaginative plot ideas, and wonderful characters.  In both cases, I finished the book because of the characters and I wanted to know what happened. Neither book ended well, and by the halfway point the plots were faltering and I was unable to understand how the characters used their rather muddled magic powers.  But I did like the characters and I hope that the authors continue working on their writing skills because they do show promise.

But I do have around 50 or more books queued up in my Kindle that I have not yet read (being only able to read about 6 a week) so I am sure to have something new and wonderful to talk to you all about next week!

Until then, my friends! Happy reading!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Amber Magic, B.V. Larson

Today we are reading a rather short novel, by today's standards, called Amber Magic.  It is written by B. V. Larson and is the introductory novel to a epic series, The Haven Series.

The tale opens with the Giant, Twrog being tricked into murdering a man for Voynod the Dark Bard, who just happens to be dead. He is known to be a member of the dreadful Wild Hunt. the victim, Arlon, had entered the Deepwood hunting boar, in an effort to win the hand of Molly.  Unfortunately, Arlon is set upon by the Giant, and as he is dying, Voynod fills a silver goblet with Arlon’s blood.

Two brothers from River Haven, Brand and Jak Rabing are setting off late in the day, trying to get their offerings to the central city of Riverton before the full of the Harvest Moon. Brand sees a dark figure in the forest, one that strikes fear into his heart. The figure vanishes, and he tells Jak what he has seen and they continue on their journey to deliver their goods as is required of them.  All year, the people of Haven have known that something is wrong in the Deepwoods, stirring up the magical creatures. They have been plagued with reports of wolves, merlings and worse, but the two young men must continue on their journey, meeting with their cousin Corbin on the docks as they had planned. Jack suspect two families within their community, the Silures and the Hoots, of having had a hand in his parents deaths several years before.

They stay with their Aunt Suzenna and Uncle Tylag and several strange incidents happen, including an owl that tries to enter the room Brand and Jak are sleeping in. The man in black is also seen again. All of these incidents lead them to believe that the great pact wit Faerie had somehow been broken, despite the effort the people of River Haven put into gathering the large annual offering of the best foods and goods that they produced.

This is a completely original take on the world of Faerie as we think we know it.  All the dark things we have ever suspected, are here, but with a twist. The people in this tale draw you into their world, and you feel sympathy for them immediately, even for those whom we know only briefly.  Their names are colorful and so are the characters. I found myself living the story along with the characters, feeling the fear, the joy and the determination to survive as they did. 

Larson's style of story telling lures you in and holds you, compelling you to keep turning the page.  There is a truly original premise to this tale, and the ending promises fine things to come in the rest of the series. If you are looking for a truly wonderful, immersive epic fantasy, read this story. I promise that you will not be disappointed.

I have a new hero among the many great authors that I admire, and his name is B.V.Larson.  Larson is the author of many books, in the genres of both sci-fi and fantasy. He is the author of the fantasy series The Hyborean Dragons, and also the Sci Fi series, Star Force  I will definitely be reading the rest of the Haven series, and I will eagerly seek out any other work by Larson!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Storm Dragon's Heart, David Alastair Hayden

The Storm Dragon's Heart, written by David Alastair Hayden is a nicely put together tale of a young wizard who is severely tested on the road to adulthood. 

The world that young Turesobei of the Chonda Clan lives in is remarkably Japanese in some ways, although it is clearly a fantasy world.  The people and the places all have distinctly Asian-sounding names and the warrior culture of Turesobei's world is clearly based on the historical warrior cultures of the far east.  This makes for a compelling well conceived background against which Hayden's tale is portrayed.

At the outset, 14 year old Turesobei of the ruling Chonda Clan is a sheltered, spoiled young man who makes many mistakes that a self-centered young person might make.  He is somewhat arrogant, as he has been tapped from birth to step into the position that his grandfather, Lord Kanenan occupies as the High Wizard when the time comes. Each day he trains rigorously, if somewhat rebelliously.  He has been betrothed since birth to a girl who disdains him, but for whom he has exceedingly confused feelings.  His father, Noboro, is a great warrior-mage who is obsessed with finding a magical artifact that is both dangerous and evil, The Storm Dragon's Heart.  Legend holds that it is actually the heart of the evil Naruwakiru, who has been dead for millenia, and indeed it is an object that has cast a spell upon his father. Noboro can think of nothing but gaining the Heart which has been guarded by the  evil Storm Dragon Cult.

Turesobei is overjoyed to be allowed to go with his father when Noboro returns to the hunt.  He is allowed to go because his father needs a wizard and Kanenan feels that Turesobei needs the experience and has the ability to handle what will surely be a grueling mission.  They depart with 24 guards.

Things go terribly wrong, and in a terrible battle all their guards are killed. Noboro is kidnapped by the cultists.  A terrible accident saves Turesobei's life. Suddenly alone in a strange country, and desperate to get his father back, Turesobei finds a friend in Onudaka, an old man who is also the brother of Sobei's enemy. Another unintentional ally is found in the female assassin, Iniru. 

Turesobei's journey into adulthood is well told, and draws you in.  I found myself thinking about this story when I was not reading it.  Hayden colors his worlds well, and his system of magic makes sense as do the  intrigues which provide the tension of the tale. 

The story is frequently violent. The cultists torture Noboro, and there are atrocities committed. There is no graphic sexual content, but are occasional references to adult situations which illustrate Sobei's deepening relationship with Iniru.  The personal transformation of Turesobei from an untried boy into a man to be counted on and respected is not without a few bumps in the road. His growth, both in his ability to use his magic, and in his character unfolds in a compelling series of events. The end of the story provides a satisfying conclusion to the epic-quest tale. 

The Storm Dragon's Heart is an excellent stand alone novel, as there are very few loose ends left at the end, but it is apparently the first book in a series, the Storm Phase series.  David Alastair Hayden is also the author of the epic fantasy tale, Wrath of the White Tigress which is the first book in a separate series, The Tales of Pawan Kor.