Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review: World's End by Mark Chadbourn

World's End (Age of Misrule, Book 1)You hear an argument close by and you make in its direction to investigate. What you end up seeing is a man being murdered by a creature so hideous it makes you vomit then completely lose consciousness. That’s exactly what happened to Jack “Church” Churchill and Ruth Gallagher in Mark Chadbourn’s World’s End. The horrific experience has been permanently etched into their subconscious and it has changed their lives forever. Together they embark on a journey to find items that could save mankind from complete destruction by sinister forces.

World’s End is quintessential contemporary dark fantasy. The story setting is a mix of modern day society and various elements from mythology. It’s quite obvious Chadbourn has done his homework, given how well he links all these mythological pieces in with modern theological and philosophical concepts. Chadbourn creates a unique, believable, and complex tapestry of myth and folklore for this world. He pulls this off extremely well and authors-to-be should take note, because it’s this kind of detail in world building that writers often miss in their stories.

The characters in World’s End are many. There are at least six main characters that all get equal time. I’m usually wary when books have too many central characters; someone usually gets left undeveloped. That is not the case in this book. Each character is given the right amount of attention to make you feel for each of them and their unique situations. They have all come from different backgrounds and have very different personalities, but they are forced to rely on each other in deep and personal ways. I grew to love and respect each character as the story progressed. I even grew to like Laura, who at the beginning of the story made me cringe each time she spoke. The character development in World’s End is some of the best I’ve read.

The plotting of the story is where World’s End falters a bit, and was the only thing that kept it from getting 5 stars. The characters find themselves in predictable situations and are often saved in predictable ways. As Stefan said in his review (on fanlit), many of the plot twists are transparent. It almost seems that so much time and effort was put into building an amazing world filled with strong characters, that some of the actual plot devices were left wanting

Don’t let my quibbles about plotting stop you from reading the book, though. Complaining about predictable plotting in fantasy is like whining about there being dragons on the front cover. World’s End is brilliant in almost every other aspect of its storytelling, and I’m amazed that Mr. Chadbourn’s books don’t get as much attention as they should. I see vampire/zombie trash all the time cluttering up shelves. THE AGE OF MISRULE series blows away a large portion of bestselling fantasy available today. I look forward to reading the next installment, and only regret I didn’t read it sooner.


You can also learn more about Mark Chadbourn's books at the Fantasyliterature Mark Chadbourn page

You should also stop buy Mark's blog  Lots of interesting discussions. In just the two books of Mark's I've read, I already list him among my favorite authors. An active web citizen and talented writer that deserves your attention.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Review: Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn

Discord's AppleEvie Walker is a comic book writer who is to inherit a magical storeroom from her terminally ill father. Unbeknownst to her, it has been the duty of her family for thousands of years to keep this storeroom safe. The storeroom contains artifacts from myth and legend, such as the Golden Fleece, Cinderella’s slippers, and of course Discord’s apple. Not only is Evie about to inherit these objects of legend, but she is also about to inherit the attention of powerful beings that would love to obtain them.

Discord’s Apple is a straightforward tale featuring the classic themes of love, friendship and sacrifice, played out by classic characters drawn from sources ranging from the Greek mythos to Arthurian legend. When I first read the back cover I was expecting to find worn-out clich├ęs within. I figured there would be timeless true love, sacrificing heroics, and predictability of the kind one might expect of a story that contains several legendary heroes. I was sort of right — I did indeed get everything I expected — but the classic tropes were employed in a refreshing and unexpected way.

Carrie Vaughn breaks up the narrative into multiple storylines. In addition to Evie’s plot arc, there is a plotline following Tracker, a comic book character created by Evie. Tracker is everything Evie never could be, and Evie lives vicariously through her adventures. A third strand focuses on Sinon of Ithaca, or Sinon the Liar, the man who convinced King Priam to bring the Trojan horse within the walls of Troy. Sinon is a legendary character who has not had much face time in modern fiction, and it’s fun to see Carrie Vaughn’s portrayal of him.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Discord’s Apple. Carrie Vaughn is a talented writer and she did very well in her first adult foray outside of the KITTY NORVILLE series. I must emphasize that Discord’s Apple is very much an adult novel. There is nothing overly graphic in the novel, but the sexual themes might prove unsuitable for younger readers.

I listened to this on audio CD produced by Brilliance Audio. The story is read to us by Angela Dawe and Luke Daniels. The majority of the story is told from Evie’s perspective, and Dawe’s smooth youthful voice is perfect for her. Daniels, who voices Sinon, is also excellent. I enjoyed listening to this a great deal, and highly recommend the audio version.


You can also learn more about Carrie Vaughn's books at the Fantasyliterature Carrie Vaughn page

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Review: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

Blood Rites: A Novel of the Dresden Files“The building was on fire and it wasn’t my fault,” says Harry in the opening line of Blood Rites. This has to be one of my favorite DRESDEN FILES books, and the very first line is quite possibly one of the most memorable in the series. Harry has been asked for a favor by his pseudo-friend and White Court Vampire, Thomas Raith: he is to investigate a possible death curse at an independent adult film studio. As with all DRESDEN stories, not everything is as it appears to be. Harry finds himself in multiple perilous situations, all of which are over his head. Jim Butcher masterfully weaves the reader through the chaotic mess that is Harry’s life, all culminating in a dramatic finale that deserves a standing ovation.

There are so many great moments in Blood Rites, from demon monkeys throwing flaming poo, battle meetings held in an IHOP, to the endless humorous banter between Thomas and Harry. The events that take place in Blood Rites have a lasting impact that still lingers six books later. Several wonderful characters are introduced, and many existing ones are fleshed out. You learn more about the White Court vampires, and Harry’s relationship to them. Mouse the Fu-Dog is introduced, and Kincaid the mercenary body guard becomes one of my favorite characters.

Blood Rites is what I call a keystone book in a series, and long-running series like THE DRESDEN FILES generally have a few of these. The events taking place are essential to the overall story arc that will end many books later. I like to be given the feeling of a “big picture,” and Blood Rites is one of the first DRESDEN FILES books that really move the overall story further along. It was after Blood Rites that I first realized that Jim Butcher had a plan for how he was going to end this series.

I cannot recommend Blood Rites highly enough, and I'm excited that Roc is re-releasing it in hardcover. The middle books of the DRESDEN FILES certainly deserve this sort of attention, as they are some of the best books in the urban fantasy genre. I never read books twice, but though I’ve read Blood Rites before, I found myself unable to put it down when Roc sent me a review copy of their new hardcover edition. It is simply an amazing and fun experience from the very first sentence!


You can also learn more about Jim Butcher's books at the Fantasyliterature Butcher's page

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Review: The Princess and Mr. Whiffle by Patrick Rothfuss

The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed (The Adventure of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle)The Princess and her teddy bear, Mr.Whiffle, live in a marzipan castle and spend their days in various childhood adventures such as fighting pirates, squashing stuffed toy rebellions, and hiding from monsters under the bed. Patrick Rothfuss’s simple and cheery writing style and Nate Taylor’s beautifully comic artwork, full of clean lines and plenty of little details to look for, add to the childish atmosphere.

But The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle: The Thing Beneath the Bed is not a children’s book. It’s a picture book for adults, and there will be a lot of adults who hate it. That’s right, and I mean Haaaaaaate it. Why? Because they won’t get it — they’ll be looking for a message that just isn’t there. There is no deep hidden meaning that someone must be enlightened enough to understand. There is no more point in the Princess’s story than there is to a child running through the mud pretending to be a cowboy. You need to be able to think like a demented 10 year old. (Fortunately for me, I spend a fair amount of my time chuckling over immature silliness, and apparently so do Patrick Rothfuss and Nate Taylor.) The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle has three different endings ranging from the sweet to the sick, so you can let your mood determine your experience each time you read it.

I loved this little book for a lot of reasons, but most importantly I loved The Princess and Mr. Whiffle because it was different in every way imaginable. It’s not a typical fantasy book and it isn’t even a children’s story. I applaud Mr. Rothfuss for trying something unique and imaginative and Subterranean Press for giving a book like The Princess and Mr. Whiffle a home. We are all a little too stiff in our expectations from literature sometimes. It’s nice to be silly on occasion, and this little book is so very silly. Thank you Patrick Rothfuss for making me smile


You can also learn more about Patrick Rothfuss's books at the Fantasyliterature Rothfuss page

Sorry for the delay...

I'm still getting used to being a full time restaurateur, so my schedule is a little out of sync. I used to be online 10hrs a day at work and posting a quick blog was simple...now I have to set aside blogging time. I now have a netbook that I bring with me to the restaurant and will be posting from there.