Book Review: The Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey from The Dragonriders of Pern

Book Review: The Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey from The Dragonriders of Pern
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Spoiler Free Summary:  The Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey is the fourth book (sort of) in the Dragonriders of Pern series (at least what is commonly regarded as the first in the main arc). The renegades of Pern are cast-outs. They are those who live outside of the protection of a hold. Jayge is a trader, but when another holdless group composed of outlaws seeks Thella, one who can hear all dragons, he must protect his clan and his people.

The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character: This was easily the most forgettable cast for me. Part of it is that this story is a side-story. The overall plot doesn’t move one inch in this story. The world is still great, but because these characters are so new to me, I had trouble giving them a chance because I wanted to see what was happening with the main cast. So I’m not saying these characters aren’t good, but I might recommend one read this after the series as sort of a side quest that’s interesting and entertaining. I wonder what others think. If you have feelings on this particular story, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Exposition: This story had an expected increase in exposition because McCaffrey took the story in a new direction. By opening up the world more, she had to help readers understand these new details. For me, the combination of less familiar characters and more exposition brought this story down. I still enjoy it, but I don’t enjoy it nearly as much the others in the series.

Worldbuilding: This is still the calling card of the whole series. As frustrating as it may be to read a whole story that doesn’t advance the main objective of the saga, it’s still amazing to see that no matter how vast one may think this world is, there is still so much more to see, and that’s the reward of the series and what this book brings to it. These kinds of books are best after the saga is done so that you can truly appreciate what the book is doing rather than resent it for what it was never designed to do in the first place.

This Camera Press image was found on McCaffrey’s New York Times obituary and used for this review.

Dialogue: This is about where McCaffrey usually lands for me. The dialogue is interesting and detailed. It’s not just about moving the plot forward. Her dialogue probably isn’t as memorable as Koontz or Butcher, but it feels real, and that’s always a plus.

Description: The details McCaffrey adds are always what gives her stories more life. What I appreciate is that those details are sprinkled in and through the prose in a way that doesn’t overly bog down the story. I normally just keep description light to avoid the issue, but that takes away from the immersive feel of a story. What one should do is aspire to be more like McCaffrey in technique. The idea is to try and actually see the world as it happens, and she shows the world to readers in that manner. Based on what I recall from this story, I think there’s a lot that here that really adds to the overall feel of the world. Using the holdless to show that point of view was a truly inspired idea.

Overall: I always have a strange appreciative resentment for stories like this. They’re cool because of how they expand a world, but they’re frustrating in that they don’t advance the plot forward. The answer is simple with a series like this. Read the “main arc” books and enjoy them. Then come back and read a story like this to add depth to an already amazing world. By all means, read this. Just don’t read it hoping it’ll do something it was never intended to do.

Thanks for reading

Matt

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Story Review: The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch by Shawn Speakman from Unfettered II

Story Review: The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch by Shawn Speakman from Unfettered II

Spoiler Free Summary:  The Last Flowers of the Spring Witch by Shawn Speakman is the final story in the Unfettered II Anthology.  The spring witch is sick. Her children set out to defeat the troll that inflicted her with the illness, but the truth of her disease is more complicated than they know.

Character:  I can’t say I specifically remember the names of the characters, but I remember them the way I remember people I met in my travels and remember fondly. These characters are charming and sympathetic even if their names aren’t memorable. I also have to remind you that I listened to this on Audible, and it is harder for me to remember names I’ve heard as opposed to names I’ve read. These characters band together. This story is analogous to Speakman’s own life and, in a way, my own. The characters were easy for me to connect with because the subject matter was near-and-dear to me.

Exposition: This was fantastic. I don’t actually remember much exposition in this story. I do remember some prose, and I have to admit that if some find this a bit nostalgic, self comforting, or even preachy, I would probably not argue with you. However, I think the majority of this story’s strength is its connection to its intended audience. If you’ve ever seen someone you love pass on and felt helpless to do anything about it, you’ll enjoy this story. Even if you haven’t, I’d say that the story still holds up because Speakman limits his prose and exposition very well.

Worldbuilding: While I got what I needed from this story, I didn’t really get what I wanted. This is clearly a fantastical world with wonder and magic, but the scope of the story isn’t wide enough to warrant too much world-building. While I wanted to linger in this story more, I understand the editorial need to keep things down.

This image of Mr. Speakman was taken from the About Page on his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: The dialogue was good but not impressive. Some of the characters’ charm comes from the dialogue. This story is driven more on emotion and pace than development of character.  

Description: This was good if not great. The scenes were vivid. I may have wanted a bit more description of the characters, but the ending was a lovely use of description to create emotion.

Overall: I have to admit some bias in this because the content is near to my own heart as both Mr. Speakman and I lost our mothers to cancer. This story perfectly articulates how hard a person fights to hold on to people he loves and yet how it ultimately isn’t in a person’s power. This was my second favorite story in the anthology and was a great way to end it. I think the five or so strong or outstanding stories here make up for some of the others that were frankly underwhelming, and this story is an example of what I mean. This story was worth the price of the anthology itself.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Story Review: The Red-Rimmed Eyes of Tou Ma by Aidan Moher from Unfettered II

Story Review: The Red-Rimmed Eyes of Tou Ma by Aidan Moher 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 Red-Rimmed Eyes of Tou-Ma by Aidan Moher is the tenth story in the Unfettered II AnthologyA former mercenary is driven to get to his destination, but instead he’s hired by a woman with red-rimmed eyes. Her people are trapped, but that trap is much more than simple unfair treatment by a leader.  

Character:  The characters here are interesting. Their motivations are believable. They’re proactive, which is always a plus. I can’t say I really bonded with them, but they held my attention. 

Exposition: As with last week, this is probably why the story didn’t stick with me so well. The exposition here isn’t nearly as bad as it was last week, but there was far too much of it, and most of it was right up front. It sort of felt like having to get a brief history review before I could actually start the story.

Worldbuilding: This was pretty awesome! This world has a great balance of tech, magic, and creatures. It sort of felt like steampunk in a high fantasy setting, and that was cool! Also, some characters have little dragons (I forget what they’re called) that do some pretty cool stuff as well.  This story didn’t really hook me, but if there’s a larger book out there set in this world, I’d probably give it a shot.

aidan-moher-photo
This image was taken from the author’s “about” page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Dialogue: This was solid. Each character had a unique voice (helped by the narrator). But even some parts of the conversation that were honestly just spoken exposition, I at least had some sense of character from the conversations. 

Description: This was good in that I had the images in my mind going off and didn’t have to slow down to absorb the author’s vision of the scene. I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve ever read, but it was what I needed.

Overall: I really would be interested in seeing if there’s a larger story set in this world. What this particular story lacked in reader connection and exposition would probably be resolved by a longer format. If you’re a fan of mixed genre stories, you should at least give this story a chance. 

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

 

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

 

Book Review: Pipe of Wings by Sarah K.L. Wilson

Book Review: Pipe of Wings by Sarah K.L. Wilson

Cover
The book’s cover image was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Pipe of Wings by Sarah K.L. Wilson  is the fifteenth book in the Dragon School series.  Amel gets tricked into obeying her new prince. This new leader has her reaching out to old friends for aide. The mysterious pipe she’d found holds a secret that my prove to be a move valuable weapon than she imagined.

Character:  Right up front I need to state that this is Book 15 in a series that’s designed (based on my reading) to be read in order. On one hand, it’s unfair to judge on book in the middle of a series. On the other hand, most authors of a saga should realize that people are going to jump into their series in the middle, and those readers will need some help catching up. I’m not going to be too hard on Wilson, but it’s a challenge to get into a story when you came in on the 15th part. Why did I do this? Well, this book was a Book Cover of the Month winner back when I ran those brackets.  

That said: Amel is a sympathetic character. I’m fascinated by her disability (something about her leg, though I’m unclear what it is). As sympathetic as she is, she didn’t strike me as very proactive or competent. Now, this is YA fantasy, so there was bound to be a lot of decisions an older person like myself doesn’t necessarily feel were the best. Amel was interesting enough that if I had the time, I’d probably go back to book one and check things out, but she wasn’t so cool that I feel compelled to go back. For me, that’s telling. Heck, I didn’t even really know Amel’s name until the last third of the book. (I listened to the audio version, and she didn’t leave a lot of tags for readers to track who was who or even who was saying what.)

Exposition: Honestly, this might be the first book where I feel I didn’t get enough exposition. I was clueless through pretty much the whole book. Sure, I came in late, but readers who come in late don’t have a chance at gaining enough context to enjoy what might be an amazing story for those who started in book one. I think it’s a shame because every book should be an opportunity to invite readers to your other books.

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Image of Sarah Wilson was taken from her Amazon author page for review purposes.

Worldbuilding:  The pipe was an interesting element as is the relationship between the dragons and their riders. I don’t understand it too well, but it was interested. I’ll assume the world, politics, and societal issues I was lost on in this book are a result in my ignorance.

Dialogue: This felt pretty rough. This doesn’t have anything at all to do with context or what book I was in. The conversations felt a bit formulaic. There were points of conflict that I felt deserved to be dealt with that were instead glazed over or even just ignored, which made the scene hard to believe.

Description:  This was very good. While I didn’t know who was who, I still saw and sensed a lot. I like picturing dragons of different colors flying around. This was easily the strongest area of the book for Wilson. One reason I’m not such a fan is probably because its best attribute is my least-favorite story element. That said, the worldbuilding and description in Dune were also amazing, and I didn’t very much care for that book either. Dune is mandatory reading for SCIFI fans and Wilson is a best seller. I wouldn’t let my singular opinion stop you from checking this series out, but I would strongly urge you that, to give it a fair shot, you start on book one.

Overall: While this is obviously part of a series, this book doesn’t provide any context or background to help readers starting in the middle. If you’re going to give this series a try, start at the first book. That may seem obvious, but some books do a fantastic job of helping the reader (or listener) catch up. The story is fast paced. The characters are hard to connect with, but the premise is very interesting. This series as a whole has a very interesting premise with a lead character with the opportunity to be inspirational.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The Severed Realm by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: The Severed Realm by Michael G. Manning

The Severed Realm is the second book of The Riven Gates series, which is the fourth series in the Mageborn saga. My review for book one of this series 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.

Cover
Cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Mordecai is still reeling from the events of the previous books, and his enemies only press their advantage. When Mordecai missteps, his decisions get him imprisoned, and Rose Thornbear must risk everything and do anything to save him.

Character:  It would be fair to say Rose shines in this book. I probably would have liked for the sub-plot (obvious if you’ve been reading the whole series) had another book to develop, but Manning does make a reasonable effort to make it plausible if not believable. Mordecai doesn’t get much screen time, but the next generation of heroes really brought a smile to my face. They didn’t get as much screen time as I’d have wished, but they’re really coming into their own. I’m not actually a fan of political intrigue stories, so the fact that this held my attention is a testament to the characters and an example of why I love Manning’s work so much.

Exposition: This might have been a bit heavier than the last book, but that’s because this book is dominantly a political intrigue and mystery novel. You can’t have a novel of that sort without a higher-than-average amount of exposition. Someone may disagree with me on that, but when you’re talking about a mystery, eventually someone (Holmes) has to explain to someone (Watson) what the clues mean. So while there was more exposition than an average Manning story, I’d say this is actually better given the type of story he’s telling. The story never drags or gets bogged down.

Dialogue: Still Manning’s weakest area, Manning leans on this pretty hard to get his exposition across.  There’s one particularly lengthy discussion between Rose and another character that doesn’t work for me (spoilers). This weak area doesn’t bother me so much, but if when I groaned while reading this book, it was while reading dialogue.

Description:  This book carries on Manning’s typical amazing visuals and visceral settings. Honestly if you like worldbuilding and description, I’d recommend any of Manning’s books just to study these characteristics of a book.

Overall:  This book is a great addition to the series, and I think I like it even more than I did when I finished reading it three months ago. It’s exciting, and it has great drama. it sets up a lot of conflict. I will say that some of this is based on my optimistic belief that the next book will be much more action oriented. If the conflict teased in the first two books pays off in the next, I’ll be thrilled. As a stand-alone story, it’s a very good drama.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: Of Fire and Storm by D.G. Swank

Book Review: Of Fire and Storm by D.G. Swank

 

cover
This image of the cover was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Of Fire and Storm is the second book in D.G. Swank’s Piper Lancaster series.

 

Spoiler Free Summary: Piper is still new to the who demon slaying business, but the threats are still increasing more greatly. A mysterious threat is targeting young people who inevitably commit suicide. Things take a turn for the worse when one victim turns out to be connected to Piper. Her powers are growing, but someone she loves is going to betray her.

Character:  So this story is really closely patterned after Buffy. While I think the relationship is too close, I still like the feeling because I’m such a fan of Buffy.  It would be unfair to call Piper a Buffy ripoff. Sure, she’s a blonde-haired demon slayer, but Piper has enough unique traits. I’ll even admit that I’m such a fan of Buffy that I’m probably forcing the thoughts.  Piper is compassionate and driven. These traits make her easy to like. She’s a bit gullible if you ask me, but her sympathy and proactivity make her worth following.

Exposition: As the second book in a series, one has to expect some degree of exposition to help the readers along. However, this was pretty solid for me. I got the history when I needed it, and I got the story when I wanted it. I don’t feel like the story dragged down or went off the rails at any point.

Swank
Image of Swank was taken from her website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Description:  I probably could have used a bit more description. There was enough to get the movie theatre in my head going, but it was a pretty small theatre, and they didn’t have dBox effects. The character description was better than the scenic description by far. But some of the environments felt a bit thin.

Overall: Though it rigidly holds to the Buffy template I’m certain inspired it, it is still entertaining. It’s got a few surprises amid some of the more predictable aspects. It’s not bad if you’re a fan of the genre. It’s a fun read that gives fans of the genre somewhere to go if they need a fix. While heavily inspired (in my opinion) by the aforementioned TV show, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a cheap knock off. I think I enjoyed it as much as I did because of the blending of new aspects amid a familiar, well-loved story. If you miss Buffy, give this a read and see how you feel about it.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Betrayed: The Discovery Draft of Oneiros 2 Is Done!

Betrayed: The Discovery Draft of Oneiros 2 Is Done!

Greetings all,

caught-front-coverI’m happy to report that the discovery draft to Betrayed: Book Two of the Oneiros Log is finally finished!  I’m genuinely sorry for the delay on this project. Things got pushed around, and then some life stuff happened, and it just feels like I kept being pulled into other projects. I’m happy that part is done.

So what’s next? Well, Betrayed is gonna sit for a while. I can’t just jump into editing. I’m already too close to my own work, and if I don’t let a manuscript sit for a while, I tend to be blind to certain issues. I need to be objective when editing my work, and that means giving it some time.

While that goes on, the first thing I’m going to do is finish listening to the audio version of Sojourn in Captivity, which is going well. Courtney did some revisions, and now I need to just give everything a check to make sure it’s ready to go. I’m hoping to have that out in the world before I go to Shore Leave next month.

45003791_10156740898697460_7981328569286524928_nCollin is working pretty hard on Issue 2 of Hazel, and I’ll get the dialogue polished off for him when he needs. There’s some exciting news in that regard, but nothing is final yet, so I’m waiting until I have real facts rather than high hopes, but I am hopeful this project is progressing well.

I plan on doing the first draft of Betrayed starting in July. Yes, that’s a month away, and this book was supposed to be out last year, but a month is typically how long I let a project of that length sit. What that time will also let me do is outline Discovered: Book Three of the Oneiros Log.  Not only will getting that done mean the trilogy will be finished in time, it might help me reconsider certain things from this book.  There’s a huge gap between books one and two, but two and three are only a few weeks (or so) apart. Getting a good feel for the last book should help me make sure everything wraps up nicely.

Betrayed currently clocks in at 57,768 words. I think the gaps between writing and my own tendency to be a little lacking in description hurt me here.  The book should have been about 80,000 words. I know one character needs a bit more screen time, and I know I need some better description. So this revision will probably be a bit more work than the last few titles have been. The good news is the major framework is done, and I’m content with where the story is. Yes, it needs work, but I feel pretty confident that I know what I need to do.

I want to thank all of you for your patience in this. I’m so happy that I can write these stories and share them with people. I’d be lying if I said this book was anticipated, but I do know there are people waiting for this story, and I hope that Repressed did enough to tie you over. We’ll get Betrayed to you as soon as I can get it through the editorial process.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

Book Review: Mordecai by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Mordecai by Michael G. Manning

Mordecai
This cover for Mordecai was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Mordecai is the first book of The Riven Gates series, which is the fourth series in the Mageborn saga. 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 has seen the passing of the Dark Gods. He’s saved Lothion, placed kings on thrones. His children have done similar things. However, now his past, and the past of the She’Har, are coming together to put him in a position he’s never been in. Tyrion, the progenitor of human mages and Mordecai’s distant ancestor, has returned to the flesh. The ancient enemy of the She’Har has also set it’s sites on Mordecai’s home. The ensuing conflict will cost Mordecai more than ever.

Character:  Mordecai is as wonderful as ever in this story. To me, this book sort of put the series back on track. Any series this large and this old is going to have ebbs and flows. While this book wasn’t as good as some others, it was one of the better ones in my opinion, and Mordecai’s story is why. I loved seeing Tyrion again, and most of the cast get’s some good screen time. The thing that has always elevated the series to me has been its characters, and they remain the driving force behind this outstanding saga.

Exposition: Previous books gave us the background and context we needed, so now we can get right into the drama and the action. Sure, I remember some scenes that might have slowed down a bit, but I’d say this was some of the better exposition I’ve seen in the series in a while.

Dialogue: I’ll admit that this is probably Manning’s weakest area. A lot of the dialogue feels like exposition sometimes. We get told things rather than listening to other characters talk. It’s not honestly such a problem. A lot of writers (including myself) tend to lean on this. So you’ll read conversations that feel more like plot outlines here or there, but it’s still conversational and engaging.

Description:  Any Manning book feels like watching a 3D film in iMAX. This story is no different.

Overall:  This book takes everything you know about Mordecai and his world and flips it on its head. Everything that’s been building for more than ten books comes to a satisfying climax in what’s only the start to what I hope is the most amazing series yet. I’m not going to pretend this is the best book, that right is still reserved for Betrayer’s Bane. However, this book was a shot of adrenaline after a more youth-reader-centered trilogy from the younger heroes in the story. I already think this series is better than the last, and it has potential to evolve into one that rivals the first (chronologically).

Thanks for reading

Matt