Story Review: The King’s Despatcher by David Farland from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  The King’s Despatcher by David Farland is the eighth story in the Unfettered II AnthologyDeval is hated by all the boys he trains with. He was found by the princess of the country, but all he’s received after being placed in training is scorn and distain. The story begins with the most important question, how can a man be true to a country he hates? The answer may lie in a very specific set of skills. 

Character:  I liked these characters. They were sympathetic and believable. I like Deval the most (I may be spelling that wrong. I listened to the audio book, so I only have sound to go on). The author did a fantastic job of showing the pain he was going through while still giving him a way to endure without corruption. 

Exposition: This was nearly flawless. Yeah, there was a tad of exposition hidden in some dialogue, but I do that myself, so I didn’t mind it at all. This story is very clean. There isn’t any part that drags down the story. My problem with the story is actually that I wanted more. I didn’t get the sense of closure I wanted. I’d be happy to hear if there is a direct continuation of this story out there. So as a teaser tale, it works, but I’m frustrated by the tease. 

Worldbuilding: The worldbuilding for this story is focused narrowly on the characters involved, but it teases a wider world. This is a nice mix in which the reader gains glimpses into a wider world, but remains rooted in the scene and events of the smaller story.

FarlandDialogue: This was solid. There wasn’t a ton of it, but the conversation between the princess and her father is great. It reveals character while providing context to the events. It’s quite masterful. 

Description: The description in this story wasn’t as visceral as I’d like. I can’t really picture much about the characters or the scene. If I’m reading a book, and you’re going to lack something, this is the one I’d pick. 

Overall: This is actually a great short story. It fell out of my top three because I didn’t get that sense of finality I like in a story, but it’s a powerful tale that has great characters. I really do recommend it.  

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

What Authors Owe Readers

What Authors Owe Readers

Greetings all,

I was just thinking about books I’ve been waiting forever for, and that led me to this post.

caught-front-coverFirst, I’m very guilty. I was supposed to have the entire Oneiros Log done by now (Hey! I’m getting there). I got derailed on quite a few projects, and while I still produced books, I didn’t publish the titles some of you are waiting for.

The thing is, authors owe readers stories. More importantly, they owe readers the stories they’re waiting for. Now, the author doesn’t owe the reader the stories the reader wants in terms of I want Kaladin to marry Shallan, but they do owe readers the next chapter in the story.

There should be some grace in this. For instance, any Stormlight book is some 700 pages. They’re huge, so waiting two years for 500,000 words is probably fair. But what about three, four?

Readers should be patient. I think Towers of Midnight had some issues here and there because they were working so hard to get it out there. So there’s a balance between the fact that the author owes the reader another story and the reader needing to be patient.

I dream of the day someone gets mad at me for not having this book or that book done. It hasn’t come yet, though I do have a few readers who are indeed waiting for Betrayed. Thinking about how angry I was waiting for word on the next Dresden book gave me some perspective on that.

Why is this important? Well for starters, it’s very hard to gain momentum when you’re not putting out product. A guy like George R. R. Martin can make anyone wait as long as he wants because he has his money. The worst readers can do to him is say, “Well, HBO ended it, so I’m good.” Please know that I don’t think that’s the case; I’m only saying if it was, no one could really do anything about it.

However, a guy like me trying to earn a living doing this needs to make sure that he’s always ready with the next book.

I get a lot of questions about being an author, and in the context of this post, I always say, “If you’re writing a story, don’t publish book one until you have the other two books in the series ready.”

Caught and the rest of Oneiros taught me that. For starters, when you publish books in quick succession, you give yourself more visibility. We’re in a binge age, and people want that next series. However, they want that series readily available. Even as I mention the need for readers to have at least some degree of patience, I understand that people want to marathon a whole season of television. I do the same with books. I don’t want to read one book in a series; I want to read the whole series, and I don’t want to wait a year to move to the next book.

Sojourn_Ebook_CoverDoes that mean authors are evil if they don’t release books in quick succession? No. I confess Power of Words, Repressed, and Sojourn all distracted me from the book I probably should have written. Sometimes an artist has to go where the muse takes him.  You may want a book quickly, but you don’t want a quick turd. Again, there’s  a balance. I finally got Betrayed ready and COVID obliterated the chance for conventions (and therefore the opportunity to make what I need to get edits done).

That led me to start working on Discovered, and I even had the chance to return to Images of Truth. I have so many things I want to release, but I live on a budget. Yes, I owe you the rest of Oneiros, and I’m getting it done as quickly as I’m able with that budget.

What about the big guys? Well, I don’t think they’re being rude either. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes wonder what Martin is up to (probably editing another series). It doesn’t mean I didn’t wonder what Butcher was up to. As a reader, I found myself frustrated at the wait. As an author, I feel convicted about not having stuff ready to print.

So maybe you’re not personally waiting for Betrayed, but you might be waiting for the next Ice and Fire book or something of that sort. I agree, it is frustrating to wait. You have a right to that emotion. Authors owe readers stories, and they should be produced in a timely fashion.

On my end, I’ll start drafting Discovered on the first. Once I’ve saved up enough money, I’ll send Betrayed to Sara for edits.

So I’m curious. How long do you feel it is appropriate to wait for “the next book?” Are you satisfied if an author at least publishes something in that time?

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Story Review: And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire from Unfettered II

Story Review: And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  And Men Will Mine the Mountain for Our Souls by Seanan McGuire is the third story in the Unfettered II Anthology. The princess and prince of dragons have seen the end of their world. The humans are coming, and there is no foretelling of how to prevent it. How will they face the end?

Character:  First off, I love dragons. I’m always attracted to tales of dragons, and the more human they seem, the better. The dragons here are absolutely sympathetic. I want to call them proactive, but that’s what bugged me about the story. This inevitable thing is coming, and it just, well, comes. I wanted there to be something to come of it, and I don’t feel I got that.   

Exposition: This was good. The point of view and the exposition did a great job of connecting me to the characters. That’s actually what made the ending so anticlimactic for me. 

Worldbuilding: I want to mention how impressive this was given the short nature of the story. The author crafts unique characters and lore into tight prose and structure. I was impressed by the author’s ability to do that. Usually, people sort of gloss over worldbuilding to account for short fiction. This story proves you don’t have to do that.

McGuire
Image of the author was taken from her bio on her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: The dialogue here was solid if not impressive. It was realistic and helped connect to the characters.

Description: This was good enough on my end if not what some people look for in fantasy. I could see the dragons and the scene. There could have been more senses activated, especially considering dragons were the viewpoint. 

Overall: This story sort of disappointed me. You see, it had a lot of great elements, but those elements lead to an unsurprising and, ultimately, unsatisfying conclusion.  If the characters gained something, or we had a pleasantly surprising ending where the characters found a clever answer, this would be an amazing story, but to see characters just sort of lament something and then watch it arrive made great elements a disappointing story.     

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian from Unfettered II

Story Review: A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  A Slow Kill by Peter Orullian is the second story in the Unfettered II Anthology. What seems like the story of a pair of famers working becomes a tale of an assassin’s work. However, each tale told reveals a deeper plan to the final target.

Character:  I like stories where the characters have a deeper agenda. I can’t name the characters after this long, but I remembered this story when I reviewed the title, and that’s a good sign. The protagonist has a lot of cool moments that sort of (on a very small level) remind me of Man on Fire. 

Exposition: This was strong. The plot moved well, and I didn’t get bogged down with back story. 

Worldbuilding: There isn’t much here in that regard. The story is pretty self contained. It doesn’t degrade the quality of this story since it’s so character driven. Those who want deep worldbuilding and intricate magic systems probably won’t get what they’re looking for here, but if you like clever stories, this is pretty good.

Orullian
Image of Mr. Orullian was taken from his about page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This story did right what the previous story didn’t do so well. It still didn’t have the banter or wit I typically love in dialogue, but it was genuine and natural. The conversation ebbed and flowed naturally and really made the end pay off. 

Description: I actually really appreciated this description. Obviously, a story told by an assassin is going to have some elements that could be overly graphic, and that’s not my jam. Orullian does a great job of giving the readers what they need to feel and sense the scene requires without being gruesome or lewd.  Now, there may be arguments that Caught is gruesome. That may be, again, people have different sensibilities. So I need you to understand that, as an author and creator, I  feel Orullian did a good job of being descriptive without being distasteful.

Overall: This is probably my third-favorite story in the anthology. It’s a good little tale with a nice twist that was satisfying if not surprising. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Castle Coeurlieu by Naomi Novik from Unfettered II

Story Review: Castle Coeurlieu by Naomi Novik from Unfettered II

 

 

Cover
Cover for Unfettered II taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Spoiler Free Summary:  Castle Coeurlieu by Naomi Novik is the first story in the Unfettered II Anthology. A young boy and girl investigate a tower after dark. The secrets it keeps could make one of them a monster forever.

Character:  The characters were proactive if not memorable. I think this story fell short in two areas for me, the lack of sympathy I felt for the character is the first issue I had. Sure, the characters were taking action, but I just didn’t really care about them. Short fiction has to immediately connect readers to the characters or it will fall flat, and I think that’s what happened with this story. 

Exposition: For short fiction, this exposition was outstanding. The author’s crafting of words isn’t remotely in question. While this story didn’t really ring my bell, I’d probably be willing to give any of her longer fiction a try because of her style and how well paced her writing is. Honestly, this story comes down to a card match, which would bore me to tears in any other case, but the pacing and style of the writing allowed the story to flow well despite the lack of character connection.  

Worldbuilding: There’s not much here. The scene make sense, but I never really got a fell for much more than what I needed to know what was happening. I don’t think that’s bad, exactly. I wanted more though.

novik-newyorktimes1
This image of Naomi Novik was taken from her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This is the other area where the story fell short for me. Essentially, there’s a card game where people talk. That conversation didn’t carry the story the way it needed to. I’ll confess I like plenty of wit in my dialogue, and that’s not exactly a thing all writers do. Still, I read a lot of talking, and it the tone and pace of that conversation didn’t really do much for me. 

Description: This was good. This author shows a lot of skill in telling concise stories and giving plenty of detail. I’ve often said that you can tell a story is good if two of the categories listed here are good, and that holds in this case. The two categories (exposition and description), just happen to be among the categories  that are the least important to me. Regardless, this story truly activated my senses. 

Overall: Drama and character fall short, but readers who enjoy smooth stories with great description would love this little story. It has a pretty interesting premise, I just wish I was more invested in the character.

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Things I Hope to See in Rhythm of War

Things I Hope to See in Rhythm of War

Greetings all,

Temporary CoverMost people who follow my blog know I’m a huge Brandon Sanderson fan. Well, his newest book, Rhythm of War comes out Nov. 17, so I thought I’d do a blog about the things I hope to see in Rhythm of War.

SPOILER WARNING! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

1. An end to Kal’s trauma: It’s perfectly understandable that Kal had a traumatic life. That trauma came to a head in Oathbringer. I think I’ve reached my limit on Kal’s struggle to save everyone. I’d really like to see him accept that sometimes you lose people you love, and sometimes you don’t.

2. Hoid do something awesome. A while back, we heard, “Hoid would do something awesome.” I believe that was originally intended to be in Book 5, but I hope it’s in this one. What I hope is to see Hoid do some sort of cross-world magic stuff. Like using biochromatic breath or allomancy against some of Odium’s peeps.

3. I want to see how Nightblood got to this planet! Obviously we know where Vasher is but I really want to know how they came to be there and how they got separated. I’m thinking Vivenna had something to do with it. This is probably the thing I’m most interested in at the moment.

4. More intimate battles. The last book, the scope of the battle was huge, and that’s cool, but I’m more a one-on-one kind of guy. I’d really like to see a few of those. I’d also like those fights to display more of the other radiant abilities. I have a good handle on Kal’s abilities, but they currently seem to be the ONLY offensive radiant abilities. Lift I suppose has some abilities that are more visual, but even they seem more defensive in nature, but at least they’re active.

Oathbringer5.  I want to see Odium throw down. With how powerful everyone else is, I think it’s time for a threat. I want to see Kal get his but whipped (which might contradict what I mentioned above, but if it’s to make Odium a threat, I’m all for it). It doesn’t have to be Kal, but now that the knights had a huge victory, we need to see the Odium and those he’s working with or manipulating show their stuff. Now Sanderson usually does this through subversion. If you look closely at all his books, the good guy hardly ever gets beat. It happens, but it’s rare. I’m hoping to see some bad guy flexing.  I need this personally because Kal (and his order) are pretty much OP at this point. Lift is all but impossible to kill. I’m not asking for a body count, but I wouldn’t be against it. The minimum for me is to see the threat posed. I get Odium’s situation, so I don’t really expect him to do much, but I need someone on team Odium to show that maybe Kaladin and Dalinar aren’t up to the task.

6. I ALMOST FORGOT! I want to see Adolin awaken his shardblade. He knows its name now. He can hear it. I really want to see him become a knight by brining his spren back to life. I almost forgot that because I expect it, but I EXPECT it, so I really want to see it happen.

7. A reunion of Vivenna, Vasher, and Nightblood. Do I need to go farther?

That’s pretty much it. I mean there are several other things I’m looking forward to, but those are the highlights. I don’t necessarily want to see all of these things happen in the next book. (Otherwise, what would be the point of the other six?) But I’d really like to see maybe two of them. If I had to pick which two, I’d say number 6 and 3. Those are the ones I really want, but any of the others in any combination would already make Rhythm a great addition to the saga.

What about you? What would you like to see out of the book?

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Transcendence and Rebellion by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Transcendence and Rebellion by Michael G. Manning

Transcendence and Rebellion is the final book of The Riven Gates series, and the last

Transcendence
Cover image for the book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Mageborn saga book. My review for book one of this series is here. My review for book two is here. My review for the first the last book in the previous series is here. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Mordecai’s power has grown so much that the very world is now in danger. The only hope of saving the world might be for his own children to plot his death, but Tyrion, influenced by the being who’s put everything into motion since Tyrion was a boy, might ruin any chance the youngest generation has at saving the world.

Character:  I like how everything came together in this book. I won’t say I got everything I wanted out of the end of this saga, but I feel like the characters all had a chance to shine. For a cast this massive, that’s hard to do. Mordecai shines, as does Matthew. All the characters have motivations one can empathize with. They are all charming and sympathetic. It’s very fun seeing how everything comes together in Manning’s universe.

Exposition: This is probably the weakest area, but not because there was too much. I’m not sure what I missed between book two and three of this series, but the biggest element of the plot seemed to come from nowhere to me. Since I listened to this on Audible, that might be the cause. However, I actually wanted a bit more in this regard to help me track all the plot lines and character threads.

Dialogue: As is typical in a book from Manning, there was a lot of conversations used to get plot information across.  It’s still not enough so much that the book isn’t great, but it’s obviously  there. It reminds me a lot of the feeling I got whenever Buffy and the gang were in the library. There were key points in the book where I was like, “Ok, here comes the dissertation on how we got here.” I love Buffy for the record, so it’s not that big a deal.

Description:  This time I wasn’t as blown away as I normally am, but his “weakest” work in this book is still head and shoulders beyond everyone else in the business. If you’re a young writer seeking to understand how to incorporate description into a story, you should study Manning’s work.

Overall:  I might do another post sometime down the road just to talk about the scope of this series. I don’t think this saga holds up to Wheel of Time, but I really feel like there’s something to be said for fourteen or so books that all share the same history. This is a saga you can enjoy for a long time, and I think you should. I loved this series a lot. I probably wouldn’t put it against my top three all time, but I might put it in my top ten (if not top five). There’s just too much to enjoy and too many characters to fall in love with to deny this series a place among the best in fantasy. I think there were a few books that dragged the story down for me (more than Wheel if you want to throw Crossroads of Twilight at me). However, the weakest books in the series are still not bad. I couldn’t recommend this series strongly enough. Rebellion landed at number two in my best books of 2019, and it’s worth so much more than the cover price.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis

Book Review: Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis

 

 

Blunt
Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis is the first story in the Monsters and Men trilogy. First, I’ve already declared this the best book I read in 2019, and I stand behind that. Janzen Robinsion is a former apprentice to a group of heroic magic-wielding heroes, but that was five years ago, and none of his friends are alive. However, he stumbles into something that will cause him to choose to continue to lay low or rise to be the hero he was training to be.

Character:  Janzen is a great character. He’s every bit as proactive as he is sympathetic. He’s competent in his own way, but his flaws lie in his stubbornness.  I wouldn’t be shocked to hear Janzen was heavily inspired by Dresden. I don’t mind this at all given how long I’ve been waiting for a new book (which is coming by the way). I was such a fan of Janzen that I bought the next book in the series. 

Exposition: Even for a first-person narrative story, the exposition is smooth. It helps that Janzen is custom made for first-person narrative. His voice and thought process brings life to the expositional content. The other note is the author does a great job of weaving in the pain of the main character’s past. 

Worldbuilding: This is urban fantasy, so he had a lot to start with. However, we get introduced to some of the magic elements in ways that move the plot and expand what we currently know. In a book full of brilliant writing, this is actually the best part of the book from a critical standpoint. Anyone will notice the great characters and clever dialogue, but to be introduced to world-expanding elements in a perfectly-timed manner is impressive.

Davis
Image taken from the author’s Goodreads page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Dialogue: Janzen as a character and the dialogue are the two reasons this feels like a Dresden book. It’s clever and quick. It keeps the reader chuckling and tearing up in all the right moments. 

Description: Like everything else about this book, the description was on point. It was visceral, activating all the senses. Davis put a lot of effort into not just helping us see the creatures (which a lot of urban fantasy writers do), but he also helps us see the characters. Side note: some of the characters have disabilities, and that brought a new dimension to the story. 

Overall: This book was simply wonderful. The characters are charming. The plot grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags your mind and heart through a range of thoughts and emotions that leave you hungry to read Janzen’s next adventure. If you love urban fantasy like Dresden, you need to read this book. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

The Red City Review For Sojourn In Captivity!

The Red City Review For Sojourn In Captivity!

Greetings all,

Sojourn_Ebook_CoverA while back I sent Sojourn in Captivity to be reviewed by Red City Review. The five-star feedback was humbling and kind.  You can find the official link here.

What I’d like to do most is take a moment to talk about one particular compliment.

“Essential plot pieces are set in place here for future series entries, but the real attraction is Weech’s world-building. Animals, trees and plants, domestic customs, and planetary weather phenomena are all described in detail, giving a well-formed view of life on Oron.”

The Perception of War series is huge, and my goal is to provide a truly universal story. This means the planets need to feel real. The aliens need to feel authentic. Is that what everyone will think? No. But it is my goal to help a number of readers feel like they’re on different planets interacting with creatures.

That comment from Red City Review was particularly validating because it showed that the effort I put into making Oron and the Seferam feel authentic worked, at least for that reviewer.

Honestly, I would have been elated for them to say that the world building was good, so to have the reviewer say the world building was the real attraction was actually a surprise, but a welcome one.

WeechLogoColorI’ve said a few times that I always strive first to have compelling characters. My new logo proclaims, “Great Characters. Clever Plots.” I want to stand behind that, but I also strive to grow with each project I work on. If I’m going to grow as a science fiction / fantasy author, I need to have immersive worlds, and this review indicates I’m off to a good start.

In related news, Sojourn is entered into the 2019 Red City Review Book Awards. I haven’t heard anything regarding whether or not it’s a finalist, but I’m hopeful. I truly do think Sojourn is a fantastic story (even if it’s short).

My hope is the review might convince you to give it a try if you haven’t already. If you have, even if you hated it, I’d sure appreciate a rating and review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thank you for reading,

Matt

Heists and Headstones: Promoting A Friend’s New Story

Heists and Headstones: Promoting A Friend’s New Story

Greetings all,

eBook-Heists & Headstones COVERMost of you who follow my blog know that C.L. Schneider is a good friend of mine. She and J.R. Swiger have a new short story available for pre-order, and it’s only 99 cents!

Heists & Headstones pits a killer and a thief together in a cat and mouse heist story.

Here’s the blurb:

He steals. She kills. For years, they’ve played a game of cat and mouse, defined by an unspoken set of rules and infused by competition—and a dangerous attraction.

Raiza knows better than to trust a thief, especially one who comes bearing gifts in the middle of the night. But when Tanic shows up offering a truce, and an opportunity for coin, curiosity sets in. She’s learned the hard way that Tanic is never without an ace up his sleeve. This time, she has one, too. But in a game without end, it’s less about winning and more about who makes the better move. Will Raiza finally outfox her long-time thieving nemesis? Find out in this exciting tale of wits and blades, co-written by the author of The Crown of Stones Trilogy.

End Blurb.

This story is available for pre-order until Feb. 4. I haven’t read the story myself, but I know C.L.’s writing ability enough to know it’s worth a shot.

I just wanted to give a shout out to a friend. I hope you’ll give her book a try.

Thanks for reading,

Matt