Book Review: Trysmoon Book 3: Hunted

Trysmoon Book 3: Hunted, by Brian K. Fuller
The Trysmoon Saga
Originally Reviewed Here.

Grim adventure, vivid characters. Slows in the second half.

Trysmoon Book 3 opens strongly, with Gen trapped, and all the main characters far from home and in grave danger. The story of their return is gripping and well told. The hardships they endure feel real, and the dangers are convincing. Perhaps the high point of the book for me was Gen accepting his abilities, though not his destiny, as the Ilch, and making very effective use of them at a key point.

As with Mikkik and Joranne in Book 2, the author gives us some insights into the motives and mindset of the villains, through the evil, yet fascinating Ghama Dhron and Sir Tornus. Athan emerges as a complex antagonist, with plausible motives for his ruthless methods. He isn’t remotely charming or sympathetic, but he is interesting. Among the protagonists, Gerand and Volney show solid character development, and it was good to see their friendship deepen with each other and with Gen. The Chalaine gradually begins to find her strength, as she struggles against the empty powerlessness of her title and position.

At mid-book, there is a startling twist. It is both unexpected and welcome, however potentially disastrous for the cause of the protagonists.

Alas, it proved a turning point for the worse. The latter book devolves into intrigue, an enormous amount of lying and deal-making by all parties, and an excessive use of capture and rescue as plot devices. The quality of the writing prevented what might have been tedium in another author’s hands. Even so, I think much could have been condensed without harming the story, and the series as a whole might have been better off in three books rather than four.

However, the larger implications of that are a subject for my review of Book 4.

RATING: 8/10

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Book Review: Trysmoon Book 2: Duty

Trysmoon Book 2: Duty, by Brian K. Fuller
The Trysmoon Saga
Originally Reviewed Here. Posted 2015/08/25 on

A hero’s journey, with twists and turns.

Trysmoon Book 2 follows directly from the events of the first novel. Gen is now the trusted guardian of the Chalaine, and a hero to many. He’s also near death. It is hardly a spoiler to mention he survives, though with much help. A key revelation follows.

The first book played with traditional fantasy tropes in unexpected ways, and this one does much the same. The Ha’Ulrich, the chosen one of prophecy, continues to demonstrate what happens to a person raised with every conceivable indulgence, and no discipline. Hints continue to accumulate about the nature and origin of that prophecy. The evil god Mikkik is unusually clever for a fantasy villain, and even has a turn as a POV character. Gen himself is a twist on another fantasy convention… but that I’ll leave to the reader.

Much of the first half of the book is focused on preparation and character development. Gen gradually shakes off the dehumanized coldness inflicted on him by Shadan Khairn’s training. The young man beneath is sometimes disappointing, but believably human. His romantic life becomes complicated, though it moves largely in circles rather than forward. In particular, his relationship with the shallow, flighty Fenna seems forced. The slowly developing love triangle with the Chalaine and Mirelle has more power. This is the first time in fiction I’ve seen a love triangle with mother and daughter as (unintentional and largely unwitting) romantic rivals, and though odd, it didn’t disturb me the way it has some readers.

The pace picks up in the second half, as most of the main characters gather for their great mission to the marriage of the Ha’Ulrich and the Chalaine, and their prophetic destiny. I’ll avoid spoilers, but the vivid writing and strong characters carry the story through both action and stretches of quiet. When the climax arrives, many show their true natures.

On the whole, a strong, engaging story. Enough so that I continued directly on to Book 3.

RATING: 9/10

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Book Review: Hammers in the Wind

Hammers in the Wind, by Christian Warren Freed
The Northern Crusade, Book One
Originally Reviewed Here. Posted 2015/08/24 on

Vivid characters, strong story, poor editing.

Hammers in the Wind is a powerful, raw tale of an antihero, the younger brother of a king, who finds his heroism. Bahr is a grim, older man who has long been an adventurer and pirate. When seeming assassins kill his nephew, the son of his brother, King Badron, and capture his niece, he decides he must help.

The truth is far different. I will avoid spoilers, but events are not as either the protagonist nor the main villains think. The cast of characters are vivid and well-drawn, and the military background of the author shows through in the all-too-real, harsh presentation of the war that follows.

That said, I have complaints. Badron, the king, and as it proves, one of the antagonists, is ultimately disappointing. As someone who has forged a powerful, militaristic kingdom from what is implied to have been a disorganized mess, he ought to be more personally impressive, but he is not. And more directly, this book could use better, far better, editing. I loved, really loved, some of the characters, but it was not enough.

I’d like to give this book a higher rating, but faced with plot holes and numerous basic grammatical problems, I can’t. The unfinished, unedited writing detracted from my willingness to follow what could have been a great tale, in the grim Norse tradition of tragic sagas.

The writer is a diamond in the rough. If you like this tale, and want to read further, by all means do so. I’ve yet to decide whether I will.

Rating: 6/10

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Mercy of the Prophet: Book One reaches new heights in the UK

As of 2015/08/27 at 11:04PM, Mercy of the Prophet: Book One is #1 in Greco-Roman Myths and Legends on Amazon UK, and #7,830 overall out of 3.6 million eBooks for Kindle.

Click the image above to go to the book’s Amazon UK page. Additional links below:

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Book Review: Trysmoon Book 1: Ascension

Trysmoon Book 1: Ascension, by Brian K. Fuller
The Trysmoon Saga
Originally Reviewed Here. Posted 2015/08/24 on

Fantasy tropes, taken in unexpected and powerful directions.

At first glance, Trysmoon appears to be an almost cliche story of a village boy singled out by destiny. It becomes far more. Gen, the protagonist, is a young apprentice bard. When you first meet him, he seems confident, sarcastic, and slightly egotistical. There is more to him. His world is unique – a planet that was physically shattered when the heroes of centuries past failed. He lives in a feudal kingdom on one of the shards of that world, floating through the void in fragments.

Gen’s life is overturned when Shadan Khairn, warlord ruler of another nation, begins a covert invasion of his own. Khairn himself, though the villain of this book, has a greater role to play in the series. Khairn is brilliant, ruthless, crazed, and yet entertaining and strangely likable. He also has the power to heal, even from the brink of death, and he uses it for far from noble reasons. Khairn captures Gen and trains him to fight in the most brutal possible way, making full use of his healing powers.

Imagine the kind of harsh master in some old Chinese martial arts films, utterly uncaring of his student’s well being or even sanity. So Khairn deals with Gen. The young man emerges as a kind of emotionally detached, psychologically scarred killing machine – or so it seems. In truth, in his suffering for himself and those he cares for, Gen finds his moral compass. It forges him into a hero.

This is a dark book, but the overall series varies in tone. It is not grimdark. Gen truly becomes a hero, and subsequent events prove it. The writing is fantastic and powerful. The editing is generally good, though it has a few misses. Some reviewers have complained that Trysmoon is a single, massive book cut into four pieces. I agree, but I don’t see it as a problem. I’d rather read a story on such a scale in stages, deciding on my own how far I want to proceed, than expect more than a thousand odd pages for the price of one eBook.

And so I did. I eagerly bought book 2, and followed Gen’s tale.

RATING: 10/10

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Book Review: Rojuun

Rojuun, by John H. Caroll
Willden Trilogy, Book 1
Originally Reviewed 2015/08/20 on

Starts well, but quickly falls apart.

Rojuun starts off promisingly. There is a brooding, dangerous atmosphere that hints of things to come. The initial main protagonist, Tathan, has a lot of worldly experience and a dark past. In an unusual touch of complexity, he shows signs of PTSD. His return to his family home had the feeling of a war veteran doing the same. Things turn much darker when raiders attack and slaughter his family. He proves himself impressively dangerous, but only he and his teenage cousin Liselle survive the battle.

Now here is the thing – I don’t need a story to be gritty or dark to find it good. I could handle what came next… but not both in the same book.

What do I mean? After some brief and perfunctory mourning, the tone gradually became more and more comical. Tathan, the character with 14 years of grim experience in travel and danger, started deferring to his completely world-inexperienced teenage cousin. She in turn was revealed to be an always-right, borderline Mary Sue teenage magic girl. Then things became even more dissonant with the arrival of two new characters; the prancing purple dragonish thing Vevin, and Sir Danth. The latter, despite having been on oath-bound watch in a treasure cave for sixteen hundred years, and likely undead, quickly turns into a ridiculous slapstick figure.

In tandem with the shift to a comic tone, the writing became more adolescent. Liselle, Vevin, and Danth proceeded to blunder about cluelessly, yet without consequences, while Tathan’s objections were very nearly always proven wrong. An initially impressive and mysterious protagonist declined to being the ineffectual straight-man in a cartoonish comedy routine. By about 1/3 of the way through, it felt like reading an entirely different novel.

It was really baffling – a switch from a fairly serious, almost grimdark tale to, well… a low-budget Xanth.

I liked Xanth, by the way, but I didn’t like this.

RATING: 3/10

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Book Review: Born of Water

Born of Water, by Autumn M. Birt
Rise of the Fifth Order, Book One
Originally Reviewed 2015/08/16 on

Young protagonists in an interesting, dangerous world.

The story begins with Niri, a young priestess on a mission she’d rather not have. She failed in her first try, and now has to make good before it is discovered. Niri quickly discovers things were not as they seemed, and her world comes unraveled. I was intrigued.

Born of Water takes place in a setting far from the usual fantasy world. There are no hierarchies of kings and nobles, and no dark lord lurking in the shadows. There are no prophecies and no chosen one, and the villains, more or less, already control most of the known world. There is no long, slow set up in some idyllic backwater village. Instead, four young people have to almost immediately navigate the unknown while tremendous danger comes their way.

The characters themselves are believable – they are very young, and they act like it – and to me that rings more true than teenagers with the wisdom of ages. I think Ty, who may be meant to be a brooding, angsty anti-hero, strikes a discordant note, but otherwise I found them likable and engaging. Niri is slightly older than the others, and while not world-wise, she’s gone through things that give her greater maturity and make her the plausible, natural leader of the four. It is easy to care for her, and want her to succeed in helping them all stay alive.

Like some other reviewers, I was at first thrown off by the tendency to start chapters somewhere in the beginning of the action, and then reveal how things got there through conversation and flashbacks. However, once I got used to it, I saw how the author makes good use of it as a dramatic device. The quality of the writing is excellent, and those who start with assumptions about indie authors are in for a pleasant surprise.

This was a fantastic start to the larger story, and I eagerly continued on the the second and third books.

RATING: 9/10

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Book Review: Taming Fire

Taming Fire, by Aaron Pogue
The Dragonprince’s Legacy, Book 1
Originally Reviewed 2015/08/16 on

More dragons, please.

I’m not usually fan of first person narrative, but I made an exception here. The hero has the usual fantasy protagonist start as a poor boy in a small village, but he had the unusual touches of sufficient skill with swordplay to teach other boys in his home, and he knew a spell. That kept me going until the wise old wizard appeared to declare him the chosen one.

At that point, I groaned and nearly stopped reading. I’m glad I pressed on.

The story quickly turned from the standard path, when the hero’s home kingdom proved to have hints of complex and internally-driven politics that didn’t have any particular place for a chosen one. The wizard’s plan fell apart, but he pressed on anyway. There were hints of some reason why the hero’s father was well-known, and executed for merely stealing a loaf of bread, and I sorely hope they are developed in the next book. From there, the plot threatened to turn into a Harry Potter tale of the young outcast at the magic academy, but that went in fresh directions as well. The antagonists at the academy were, unfortunately, standard black-clad baddies, but they too had hints of complexity and motives of their own.

Where things really got interesting was the introduction of Vechernyvetr the dragon, who was like a breath of fresh air, or rather fire, and he instantly became my favorite character. More of him, and his kind, and I’m sure there will be, will keep things fun in later books.

I’ll leave off further spoilers, but from Vechernyvetr’s arrival things really pick up, and force the hero into some dangerous, meaningful choices.

RATING: 7/10

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Book Review: Sorcerer’s Code

Sorcerer’s Code, by Christopher Kellen
The Elements of Sorcery, Book 1
Originally Reviewed 2015/08/16 on

A likeably roguish protagonist.

Sorcerer’s Code was a short, but worthy read. The protagonist (and it would not be accurate to call him a hero) is a morally questionable, bookish, somewhat cowardly spellcaster who dabbles in some very dark magic, and proves to be far more capable than he first seemed. I think of him as a less comic and more intentional Rincewind. He’s somewhere at or near middle-age, and needs no coming-of-age genesis to come into his powers – he’s already got them, they just haven’t been put to use yet.

Some of the secondary characters were a bit crudely drawn, but not so much as to distract from the story. They also fit the overall dark and faintly comic tone. The story itself is a simple, but satisfying mystery, and the resolution sets the protagonist in motion without any heavy-handed set up for later books. I look forward to reading them.

RATING: 9/10

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Book Reviews

Like many writers, I’m also a voracious reader. I review books from time to time on Amazon, but have never posted any here. Going forward, I plan to do so on a wholly ad-hoc basis, as time and interest permit. In many cases the review here will be derived directly from my review on Amazon, though I may change, add, or reformat material based on the different venue here, or any further thoughts I might have.

I will be using a ten-point scale, with any given book rated as N/10.
If I find a snazzy graphic, I’ll use it, but for now it will be text rather than little stars or whatnot.

Please note that I am NOT interested in trading reviews with other authors, as I believe it biases the result. I know of at least one case where the author in question has separately reviewed a book of mine, but it was not part of any agreement.

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