Review: Toric’s Dagger by Jamie Edmundson

Published by: self-published
ASIN: B06ZYLDLFW
ISBN 13: 9781912221011
Published: May 2017
Pages: 324
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five

Read for the SPFBO, this is the another book that I chose to further consider out of my initial 30, trying to whittle them all down to a single title to put forward to the other judges.

A heist story – yay! At least, this is how it starts, and unfortunately the most interesting writing is at the beginning. The heist scenario is over by about 10%, and from there we are taken to how the novel got its name – Toric’s Dagger, which is a religious relic and needs to be stolen. Stolen back, that is. I never really felt as though they had reason enough to be the ones who had to get it back. It’s a big world out there.

The world building itself felt decent. It felt like a big world that worked, had depth, where people came from a range of socioeconomic lives and it all made sense in the big scheme of things of how lives work.

Overall, however, the characters felt a little flat and seemed to speak the same, and rely on ‘exclaimed’ and ‘answered’ to get their point across. The main characters are a set of twins who can talk to each other mentally, and there’s also a split narrative following a couple of childhood friends (one the son of a landowner, and the other of course a son of a man who used to work those lands…) and their chapters at the start were honestly so boring I skim-read them. The twins however had a far more interesting plot line and was more of a joy to keep reading.

Small errors such as to ‘knock’ an arrow threw me out of the story, and gave the illusion of limited research. Fair enough if it’s a simple typo, however a reader can also assume the author doesn’t know much about archery.

Overall this was a readable book, but this sub-genre is written time and time again that when an author plays in this sandpit – it has to be good. And this was possibly at the middling level of the sub-genre.

Review: Destiny of the Wulf by Harrison Davies

Published by: self-published
ASIN: B00736E83E
ISBN 13: 9780957206779
Published: Jan 2012
Pages: 518
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five

Read for the SPFBO, this is another of the titles I had to try whittle down from my original 30, trying to whittle them all down to a single title to put forward to the other judges.

We meet Coinin and Marrok, who are gifted brothers, who lose their parents quite young and go to live with their cruel uncle. Of the brothers, one is the brawn and one is the brain – able to manage certain magics such as planting other truths in someone’s mind, and taking over the mind of a horse. It transpires they are destined for great things, which is lucky as their world soon needs them.

Overall this book could do with some editing and some work on the characters to make them their own, rather than repeatedly telling us what their personality and atributes are. The dialogue is a little stilted which slowed the book down, and made it a little hard to connect with the characters as they all sound the same, and don’t really say much for themselves – it’s just fairly blunt back and forth grump. 

The plot is its greatest strength – it’s interesting and pulls the characters (and reader) along, and you can’t quite tell what’s about to happen next. It feels diverse and realistic in that outward forces are attacking our characters, compared to some other books where it’s clear the plot is being tightly controlled by the author. This was fluid and easy to keep reading. (However, there are some plot holes and if you were to question certain areas it would fall a little short.) The battle scenes are generally sturdy and decent, and some nifty things are done with their powers.

I had to leave this book for a few days as the ending was slightly disappointing. Unfortunately, this challenge is to find the best fantasy novel (singular), and it really begs you to need to keep reading in order to be satisfied. 

Review: The Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 0671578294
ISBN 13: 9780671578299
Published: 1987
Pages: 115
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

And so then we come to this novella. We’re immediately thrown into a Cetagandan war camp where Miles has found himself where he is promptly stripped of the few resources he has left to his name (clothes, a single cup, a bed roll) and beaten. He’s befriended by the only other person in the camp less popular than he is – a fellow who thinks he’s the chosen one. 

Miles enlists him to the whole reason why he’s there – to track down a military genius by the name of Tremont, who they unfortunately find near death. The war camp is in shambles thanks to the Catagandan psychological tactics to break their spirits which means Miles’ simple plan has suddenly become infinitely harder, and he’s left to wonder whether this may be it.

However, he and his brilliant mind will always overcome brute strength. He rustles up an idea and plays harsh odds – asking one person to rally up 20 friends (as he’s more popular), and Miles commits himself to winning over the women’s camp – where all the women of the camp have fortified themselves together to protect against rape and other attacks which have been rife. He gets himself thrown out countless times in order to make them understand he has guts (or is just very stupid and hence, not a threat) and it’s with their combined forces that they soon win more and more of the other prisoners simply through their astonishing numbers.

They beat the Cetaganadan mind games and slowly bring order to the camp. And because this is a novella, it’s shortly fixed, leaving us to Miles discussing what had happened to Simon yet again. Miles is finally left to rest and recouperate in hospital, and we finally get to see Cordelia again. 

Overall this was a very quick read – things move swiftly and you can’t put it down because you don’t really want to lose count of how many bones Miles has broken so far. 

Review: A Conspiracy of Shadows by Randy Nargi

Published by: self-published
ASIN: B06XQP9F5X
Published: Jan 2014
Pages: 367
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five

Read for the SPFBO, this was a late edition when two from my original list of 30 were deemed to be more science than fantasy, and hence booted off the gangplank.

In this we meet Bander, who has seen much in his life and is now content to walk and walk and walk – he has a path laid out that will take him about a year to circumnavigate and this is all he wants in life. Only he’s called back to return to his old job – that of investigator, and it’s to try and uncover the truth about who murdered an old friend of his. But of course, it’s not going to be easy, and soon Bander is discovering much more than he first anticipated.

This was a good and solid read – Bander is a capable and solid main character, and he’s surrounded by some pretty decent characters. Vala is in charge of the investigation, and she’s probably my favourite character of the novel – more than capable and has earned her position of leadership (specifically that of the leader of the secret police). Silbra Dal, a representative of the Guild, is a mage who can both help or hinder them, but comes to their assistance when an attempt is made on her life also.

Overall this was fun. I was thrown every so often when there were a few words italicised to make it obvious they were magic, such as divination and holding, which we could have done without. It had good adventure and good fighting scenes, and at all times Bander seems very very human. He has his faults, he has to try, and he has to think things through.

In parts it was just a little bit of a push to keep reading, which is why it loses a star for me.

Review: Labyrinth by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 1590623827
ISBN 13: 9781590623824
Published: 1989
Pages: 110
Format reviewed: ePub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Three out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

I have been sometimes free with choosing the cover for my posts – this is the actual cover for the omnibus in my virtual library that contains The Mountains of Mourning (1989) (already reviewed), Labyrinth (1989), and The Borders of Infinity (1987) (coming later this month.) The majority of the covers for this series are horrible, but this one didn’t even really have any to pick from, being from the middle of an omnibus. Such is life.

In this novella we see what Miles got up to just after the previous book – Ethan of Athos – who gets a mention in this tale just in passing, and the knowledge of helps Miles make a pretty tough but quick decision. His original mission was to provide safe passage for a research scientist, but of course when Miles is involved things are never that simple. The scientist refuses to board until Miles does something for him – destroy a project he regrets – especially if it were to get into the wrong hands. And when Miles finds what exactly the project is he quickly decides there’s no way he’s doing any such thing.

Apparently this gives us the background of a character we’ll see a lot more of later on (damn you, spoilers!) which makes me a little more sympathetic to the plot, but I do have one major problem with it, and possibly because it’s something that comes up quite regularly in my line of work. So it’s time for a spoiler cut:

Continue reading