Review: The Reborn King

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Posted on : 11/22/2017 10:40:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Reborn King The Reborn King by Michael R. Miller
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This is a 1-star review. I made it to chapter 3 before the ghost of Dorothy Parker rose from the pages. I rarely ever give 1-star reviews. Usually, the grammar and spelling have to be atrocious to warrant that sort of review. The grammar and spelling in this book are fine.

The characters and setting exuded an air of cardboard. Fortunately for the reader, this book does not feature any fire-breathing dragons. The resulting conflagration would have required the Herculean efforts of the entire firefighting staff of a minor metropolitan area to contain.

The characters were one dimensional and uninspiring. We start off with a villain being given some greater evil power. Why? Did they ask for the power? Were they on some sort of evil short list? Who knows. What does the greater evil power want? Again, who knows.

Then we get to the protagonists. The king of dragons is morose, defeatist, focused on his belief in an old religion. The king of humans is the only character to raise a modest amount of interest. He has lost one heir and seeks to protect his only surviving heir; a baby girl. The king of humans is in turns insufferably arrogant and incredibly spineless. The queen of the faeries is just.....there....barely.

The setting is sketched out in the barest of terms. The one feature this citadel has is that it includes a large number of objects made from a stone that looks like gold...or that has gold veins running through it. There are vague references to armor, arms, and other trophies of past wars. We have no idea what those wars are about or who the armor, arms and other trophies might be worth having. We really aren't given any idea what they look like, such is the generic description that is in play.

What drove me out of this book was the poor storytelling. Examples:

"I call this council of war to order. Scant as our numbers may be, we here are the leaders of the Three Races (humans, fairies, and dragons), and so our decisions cannot be contested"

This dialog is the king of the dragons speaking to the king of the humans, the queen of the fairies, and his son; the prince of dragons. There are a few servants, but this is essentially a private meeting. They all know that they are human, fairy, and dragon. So why the parenthetic clarification?

Later on, the dragon prince is running to save the baby princess. The forces of evil are battering down the gates and seizing the citadel. The princess' guard promptly begins to carry her down to the ship that awaits her at the port. It is so urgent that they get her out of there that they carry her in a crib that is so large that it requires 6 full grown men. If it is so urgent that she get to the ship, then why not just carry her without the crib?

The dragon prince eventually carries the princess in his arms in an attempt to get her to safety.

From the book - "As the door caved in, he fell with it, and saw a flash of black ripple past his face. His right cheek flared in pain as the arrow sliced through the top layers of his skin."

Wouldn't it be more direct to just say that an arrow grazed his cheek?

Moments later the dragon prince is attempting to bodily ram through a door while carrying the princess in his arms. The door, being magically sealed, rebuffs his attempt and he lands on the floor. His armor is dented badly enough that it now pierces his skin. Despite the obvious violence of the impact, the princess is unharmed.

Children playing with GI Joe action figures have more believable adventures.

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Review: Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

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Posted on : 11/19/2017 06:44:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Hell Divers Hell Divers by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2 star "did not finish" review.

The hook for this book is that the world has been destroyed and the only pockets of humanity left alive are on airships. The airships send out skydivers....well Hell Divers (roll credits)....to scavenge for equipment/parts that are in short supply.

Part of the ability to suspend disbelief is the fact that there are other believable elements to the story. By chapter 5 I had more than enough plot holes that could not be filled except by just accepting that this was just a story.

A reader that just wants a cool read might well enjoy this book. The writing/grammar is fundamentally good. It's just that the plot holes drove me out of it early and often.

- So the promotional reading indicated multiple airships. There are two, so the plural is accurate....barely.

- Everything is in short supply on these airships. Yet the hell divers are ready to knife their way out of their parachute harnesses. Also, they don't spend much time recovering the useful gear of a diver that dies on the way down.

- Nuclear fuel is heavy. Nuclear fuels are very dense. They pack a lot of energy into very little space. But it still requires tons of the stuff to power a reactor that can power a city. One hell diver finds a "case" of nuclear fuel cells that weighs 40 lbs. This is supposed to be enough to power the airship for years if not decades. There isn't enough energy in 40 lbs of nuclear fuel to do that.

- Nuclear fuel is radioactive. Yet the hell diver opens the case to see what is inside.

- Again, things are in short supply. But when the hell diver returns to the airship via a balloon inflated using helium, they just let the helium escape.

- And the hell diver "steers" the balloon into the open bay of the airship by pulling ropes/lines like they were steering a parachute or a kite.

- Early on it is established that none of the hell divers has seen any significant signs of surviving down on the polluted/radioactive surface of the world. Yet the two teams that go down instantly run across semi-humanoid lifeforms.

- The divers have binoculars. Things that should have existed before the world was destroyed. Binoculars are normally used close to the eyes to get the focal length right. Yet the divers wear masked helmets. The shouldn't be able to use the binoculars effectively.

- The divers wear helmets and suits that seem to be uniquely well suited for jumping into a poisoned and radioactive environment. Yet it is established that no one knows who started the war that ended the world. Why would those suits exist on those airships before the world ended? How could they have been manufactured on an airship suffering from scarce resources after the world ended?

There were just too many plot holes for me to bother reading any further.

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Review: The Red Knight

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Posted on : 10/11/2017 01:04:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Red Knight The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review. There were a couple of minor issues with the book, but overall this is exactly what great fantasy fiction looks like.

On one level this is a straight-out swords and sorcery tale. One of the fae has created an incursion into the lands conquered by humanity. His objective is to retake a fortress that is home to a source of magic that is valuable to the fae.

A band of mercenary knights hire themselves out to the abbey that is housed in the fortress. They are led by a bastard son who is young for such a position. He leads this elite group of warriors on the field. He is also in the process of developing the skills needed to use magic.

The nuns of the abbey have rather unusual habits that end up being used to help heal those that are wounded defending the fortress/abbey from the fae siege.

The world suggests that it could be a version of the earth after some sort of cataclysm has wiped out modern technology and replaced it with magic. The religion in the world bears many of the forms of Catholic Christianity; including an opposition/revulsion of the use of magic. It is church teaching about children born out of wedlock that lead the young knight into a mercenary life.

And yet he and his group end up defending a church abbey.

Beneath this straightforward story is an examination of the difficulties of living in a world that uses social/cultural conventions to create a uniform populace. How can a person survive when their very existence is condemned by "the church"? How can a person actively foster a faith that teaches that they are damned?

This is a tremendous start to what I hope will be a fantastic fantasy series.

There are two nits to pick with this book. The grammar editing of the book was quite poor. Fortunately, the story is good enough to pull me right back in after encountering a plethora of easily identified errors.

The second is that the there are times when the book reads like the author just purchased a second-hand copy "Medieval Armor Illustrated". As it turns out, the author's other interest include medieval combat; including armor, natch! It wasn't a huge issue, but there were times when the examination/description of the armor worn by various knights got a little repetitive.

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A brief afterwords:

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Miles Cameron is a fellow United States Marine.  His love of martial experiences definitely comes through in his work.  Now I am looking forward to the next installment of this series even more.

After the afterwords:

Per his profile on Goodreads,  Miles was actually a Naval officer and suffered under the tutelage of firm Marine Corps hands in OCS.  I had misread a common on one of his blogs to mean that he was a Marine.  He's still a vet and still writes great fantasy.

Review: The Watchmaker: A Sweet Contemporary Time Travel Romance

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Posted on : 10/10/2017 11:19:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Watchmaker: A Sweet Contemporary Time Travel Romance The Watchmaker: A Sweet Contemporary Time Travel Romance by Anna Erishkigal
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A 2-star review.

This is a sort of romance dressed up as a time travel tale that uses a watch as the McGuffin to get things moving.

The story consists largely of the main character thinking about how they could change the past while running through the city.

After the watchkeeper tells her how she cannot change the past, she ends up violating his rules. He explains how at the least, such an attempt will result in the same outcome, or at the worst a freezing her in a time loop. Despite the warnings about the negative consequences, there are no negative consequences after she changes the past.

Read it for the romantic aspect. Not very good as fantasy.

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Review: First Keeper - A Landkist Short Story

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Posted on : 10/10/2017 11:19:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

First Keeper - A Landkist Short Story First Keeper - A Landkist Short Story by Steven Kelliher
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A 1-star review. And a DNF.

While the world building had some promise, the plot consisted largely of children sitting around a fire while an adult evaluated their magical colors. Lots of description from within the heads of the characters and not much action or character development.

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Supporting Creators

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Posted on : 10/10/2017 04:05:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

I enjoy podcasts.  This is not exactly earth-shattering news for regular readers of this space.  All 2.37 of you.

And I try to support content creators whenever possible.  To that end, I participate in Patreon to help support several podcasts.  To keep my budget under control, I limit my Patreon participation to $10 per month.  As of right now, this is how my contributions break down.

  • Tea and Jeopardy - $3/month.  Used to be $4, but I had a recent addition that I enjoy just about as much.  This is a Hugo award-winning podcast that is well worth your time.
  • The Project Entertainment Network - $3/month.  Again, it used to be $4, but...changes...they happen.  I am a big fan of The Horror Show with Brian Keene.   I haven't been attracted to the rest of their offerings. 
  • The Grim Tidings Podcast - $3/month.  This is that recent addition.  They just started their Patreon campaign.  As the name suggests, Rob and Philip focus on the Grimdark sub-genre.  This engaging duo that asks interesting questions.  And they have the best sound effects! 
  • The Once and Future Podcast - $1/month.  Down from $2.  It is a decent podcast, but my enthusiasm for it is waning.


People that create content may do it as a labor of love, but they also have expenses.  Support their advertisers when you can.  And hitting the tip jar every once in a while is also a good idea.

Review: Shift

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Posted on : 10/02/2017 01:55:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Shift Shift by Hugh Howey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a well-deserved 2-star review.

After the fantastic experience in reading Wool, this book was a notable disappointment.

In Wool, we learned of a world where everyone lived in silos that ran hundreds of stories deep. There was strict control of information and reproduction. And occasionally, people got fed up and took a walk out in an outside world so dangerous that the air itself was a confluence of corrosion and lethality.

At the end of that book, we learn that the decision to live in these silos was not in response to something that was done to us. It was the plan of action knowing what we would do to others.

Shift presents what we did. And it represents a thoroughly unbelievable belief about how the U.S. government functions. A single US senator creates funding for the design and construction of the silos. He sets of a program to evaluate and select those who would be "saved". He uses a pair of US Congressmen to do the design and construction management.

The US President isn't saved. The cabinet isn't saved. The only people that get saved are this senator and those he has selected. The US government simply doesn't work this way.

The book also indicates a lack of knowledge about geology and civil engineering. The location for each silo is excavated before the silo sections are placed. A void is left around the silos to allow remote detonation and destruction. The laws of physics and limitations of geology mean that this sort of construction methodology isn't possible. Structures of that size must be placed on deep piles to support the load. Deep excavations are subject to collapse of the pit walls.

As a last (but not final) criticism, the premise of having a multi-state political convention be the reason to drive people into the silos creates some further issues. The silos are portrayed as having spaces extending from the central hub for farming, manufacturing, etc. The silo residents are also described as largely having no idea that there are other silos in the world. Most of the residents think they are alone in the world. As vibrations will travel a long distance below ground (and a really far distance in stone/tightly compacted earth) the silos would have to be positioned miles from each other to prevent such vibration transmission.

Yet the campaign event that drives everyone into the silos suggests that each silo opening is close enough to the others to permit people to hear the activities at each adjacent location. It is also a short walk from one silo to the next. If the silos were that close together, then the residents in each silo would have easily heard activities in adjacent silos.

The one brief moment of respite in the book was when the political party responsible for this mess is revealed. I laughed.

Read Wool. Enjoy it. Skip the rest of the series.

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Review: Waiting Out Winter

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Posted on : 10/02/2017 01:55:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Waiting Out Winter Waiting Out Winter by Kelli Owen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A 3-star review. Really more of a 2.5-star review.

Thought this was going to be a suspense/horror book. Not really a lot of either involved. Perhaps that explains my response as I was expecting this to involve some level of horror that simply was not there.

A fairly pedestrian "something bad happens and some people survive" storyline. The characters were not terribly engaging.

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Review: Fae: The Wild Hunt

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Posted on : 9/29/2017 02:02:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Fae: The Wild Hunt Fae: The Wild Hunt by Graham Austin-King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a 3-star review. Really more of a 2.5-star review.

The world building is interesting. The characters also have a lot of potential.

But this is not a complete story. It is the opening to a good story. It appears to be the beginning of a multi-book saga. The book sets up plenty of conflicts, but it resolves none of them.

As a secondary nitpick, one of the societies involved has a significant physical barrier to keep outsiders from attacking them and maintains a capable and highly competent sailing fleet. When faced with the prospect of being an over-populated nation of islands, how do they respond?

By becoming traders? By becoming a place where wealth can be safely deposited?

Nope. They turn into bloodthirsty pirates abroad who have respect for hard work and private industry at home. Erg.

This book could have been so much more, but it ended up being so much less.

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Review: Black City Saint

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Posted on : 9/28/2017 02:18:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Black City Saint Black City Saint by Richard A. Knaak
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star review.

While I have enjoyed some of the author's books in the Dragonlance series, this book was quite disappointing.

Most of the characters were pretty two-dimensional. The female lead character was the most frustrating as she had no existential motivation. She loved the male lead character because she loved him.

The plot was pretty straight-forward; mostly a hard-boiled detective does some detecting-with-magic-thrown-in. The setting (roaring 20s Chicago) was uninteresting.

The only redeeming character in the book was the dragon.

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