The Crown Tower (The Riyria Chronicles #1) by Michael J. Sullivan

Originally reviewed on https://thereadingseasons.wordpress.com, on 27 Jan 2018.

Jaret’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Length: 12 hours and 49 minutes (Audible/audio-book)

Alright so lets dive right in shall we. I first want to warn you I am slightly biased in this review as I read all six of the Riyria Revelations book last year and they found their way to the top five all-time epic fantasy books on my list. Sullivan is a fantastic author who is able to weave the most incredible stories and really connects the reader to his characters. The Riyria Chronicles are a series of prequel adventures following the two protagonists, Hadrian Blackwater and Royce Melborn. Hadrian being a lawful good expert fighter type, raised in a poor town by a single dad. So he is very humble and considerate of everyone he encounters. Royce being raise by a gang of street children in a kill or die scenario in the slums of a major metropolitan city. Each has a very different background and in this book we are treated to their initial meeting and tale of how, against the odds, they became partners.

The book alternates between Hadrian and Royce’s story and Gwen DeLancy’s origin story. Gwen’s story line did fill in a lot of context for why her character acts and does the things she does in the later series. That being said, I could have done without it hence my 3.5 of 5 star rating. I also felt this story did not have the same frenetic, desperate pace that the original six did, with the fate of the world at stake. (Which I loved) My other critique is the fact that I did not get a sense that very much was accomplished by the end of this book, which is a whopping 432 pages… I don’t want to dig into the three or four scenes that seemingly dragged throughout the whole book for fear of giving spoilers.

In spite of my complaints, I am very much looking forward to continuing this series and riding along with Hadrian and Royce on their adventures. I still found many moments throughout the story that had me genuinely appreciative of Sullivan’s prose and love for the characters. I would definitely recommend this to my friends and followers.

If you read the book, leave me a comment below and let me know what you thought of the pacing and Gwen’s story line.

-JR

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Extinction, Edge (Book #2) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Originally reviewed on https://thereadingseasons.wordpress.com, on 02 February 2018.

Jaret’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Length: 290 pages

This book picks up right after the events of book #1. I really love how it just feels like episodes with no long gaps between the content. I read some of the other reviews on this book and saw some readers point out the lack of substantial character development in this book. I don’t agree with that opinion and my review should explain why. These books are relatively short being around 300 pages compared to the typical fantasy arcs I read which are 500 to 900 pages and also have multiple books in the series. Each of the Extinction books lead right into the next, so I think it is too soon to slam book #2 of seven written for not getting heavy in character development. Also, Edge is heavily centered on action and combat which is a fantastic focus in my humble opinion. I am also currently reading various other books, some very light on action so Sansbury Smith’s action thriller is a perfect puzzle piece in my reading collection!

Ok, so now I want to highlight a few of my favorite parts in this entry, spoilers ahead. Skip to the last paragraph for my conclusion. Beckham and Horn go back to Fort Bragg to search for Horn’s wife and two young daughters early in this book. Soon after their insertion they are nearly wiped out by a pack of the variants. Only to be saved by two fellow Delta force operators and a handful of Army Rangers. In the aftermath conversation, the new crew informs Horn his wife was killed but his daughters are still alive. This interaction hit me hard in the feels and I loved it!! I have grown connected with Beckham, Horn and Reid and their triumphs and sorrows really strike a chord with me. I thought this interaction was spectacularly written.

Another tense scene I flagged was involving a group of three survivors in New York, two firefighters and a wayward Marine. They are trying to flee the city and Meg (one of the firefighters) falls into an open manhole during her blind panic filled flight. As she is trying to fight off a pack of Variants in the sewer with her while climbing up the ladder to escape, her two fellow survivors look down into the hole and decide the odds are not in their favor, closing the cover on her. They ignore her cries for help….OH THE HUMANITY! My synopsis does not do the scene justice and it was another example of the powerful human nature prose in this book.

The last scene I flagged was involving Fitz, a double amputee veteran Marine who is the ultimate warrior spirit and refuses to let any handicap slow him down. He was left in charge of Kate and Horn’s daughters while Beckham and Horn were forced to participate in a take back New York mission, later in the book. Events unfold on Plum Island which test the metal of everyone there and the action and human spirit composition in those final chapters were so much fun to read. Fitz was introduced late and book one and his character really grew in this entry.

In closing, I thought this book was almost as good as the first, maybe even a little better. However, I have decided to start being more exclusive with my five star ratings. So 4 out of 5 for this excellent follow up. I started book number 3 last night and I can’t wait to see what is in store for our protagonists. However with the odds of survival so low, I really do fear one or more of our main character will not make it to book #7 and I know now, if any of them fall, it will be a sad, sad day.

-JR

 

Extinction, Horizon (Book #1) by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Originally reviewed on https://thereadingseasons.wordpress.com, on 22 Jan 2018.

I will make every attempt to keep my book reviews spoiler free.

The first time I picked up this book, I got about seventy-five pages in and it just didn’t draw me in. I have discovered I tend to go through reading preference phases. I really have to be in the right frame of mind for a good zombie/post apocalyptic story. Additionally, the story did not pull me in right away. One of the lacking elements that was most obvious to me in the early story was the lack of character investment before several of the characters die. I found myself not caring at all about the death of these characters, or the main male protagonist struggling with the emotional trauma of those deaths.

However, when I came back to this book a few months later, I was ready for a zombie ride. I powered through the next hundred pages, which were a blur of action and entertainment. The story alternates between two major points of view. One an elite delta operator, Master Sergeant Beckham and the other a very high level CDC doctor, Kate Lovato. The mix is a bit new to me but I enjoyed the science as well as the run and gun aspects both contributed. I’m no scientist so I do not know how accurate the data provided is, but it is believable from a lay man’s perspective. The military aspect, to include shooting, ammunition, tactics and brotherhood were all superb! Nicholas Sansbury Smith shines in this department and my connection  deepened with the main characters by the end and I was able to reflect on the early trauma and empathize with the misery it caused.

This book was a fantastic ride and I absolutely loved the nuanced detail sprinkled in everywhere. Various puzzle pieces to inform the reader how the United States is dealing with this terrifying virus. Not too much diversion from the story which might  bog down the main plot but just enough to show the author really treated this with a top down thought process. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the genre.

Bravo Mr. Sansbury Smith, I have already started the second of the series and am about 100 pages in. I’m hooked and cannot wait to see where this ride takes me.

 

5star

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Originally reviewed on https://thereadingseasons.wordpress.com, on 16 Jan 2018.

I will try to keep this review spoiler free but I make no promises. Continue reading at your own risk. This book did originally release in 2005, so I doubt many reviewers will have not read it already. I read the first five in this series as a teenager, when they were released in the early 2000s. The sixth book was published and released during the end of my high school days and I was otherwise too busy to read the final two books of the series. So it sat in the dust bin of my “to be read books” for 12 years. I listened to this via Audible books. Now on to the review.

I felt the novel started pretty slow and I struggled to get used to the narrator’s accent and various voice inflections for the many characters in this book. That being said, around the midway point, I really felt the story began to hit it’s stride and I was hooked. After about four or five hours, my narration critiques fell away and I really dove into the story. This was Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts and my favorite sub-plot in the book was his growing friendship with Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore was an obvious mentor to Harry and their unequaled trust in each other and Dumbledore’s constant push for Harry to continue improving himself really struck a cord with me. Harry makes the statement numerous times in this book, “I’m Dumbledore’s man, through and through.” Each time he said this, I felt it landed with great gravity and Harry’s pride in this strong relationship was spectacular. Each of the characters began experimenting further with romantic relationships which was fine, but Ron and Hermione’s mutually repressed affection for each other was a bit tedious.

One thing I did notice reading this as apposed to my usual more adult oriented science fiction/ fantasy books, was a shockingly fortunate leaning toward the good guys. It seemed like every time Harry or another protagonist really needed things to go right, they always did. I’m used to things almost never going the protagonist’s way so that kinda threw me. My anxiety would build, waiting for that final breath before failure…but the failure did not come. I’m chalking this up to it being a young adult aimed book. I’m not mad, this “good guy winning” theme was actually pretty refreshing.

**Plot Spoilers coming up** The fight between the death eaters and the staff as well as a few members of the Order of the Phoenix was pretty awesome. I was on the edge of my seat during those final chapters. I was SHOCKED when Snape killed Dumbledore!!! Seriously!! I spent the entire book waiting for Dumbledore to reveal why he placed so much trust in Snape and believed Snape would possible be Harry’s next mentor after their long history of seemingly hating each other. I am still reeling in disbelief that Severus landed the killing spell. Harry was right….again! The final revelations at the end about Voldamort’s horcruxes and Snape being a true death eater are more than enough push for me to devour the last book. From about the midway point to the end was such a fun ride. I would definitely recommend to anyone who loves magic and friendship.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

I just finished this book last night. It took me about three months to finish, which is longer than usual for a book I really enjoyed overall. I picked this up after completing Mr. Weeks’s original series, The Night Angel Trilogy. I really saw his writing and prose grow in strength throughout his debut series and was captured by the finale.

So, naturally I had to try his next series. I have to say he did a fantastic job introducing and entirely fresh and original magic system. The color spectrum and corresponding magic, mostly involving a substance called, “luxin.” Which is essentially a physical representation of the varied color magic, holding different consistences between solid and gas states. This system was somewhat complicated and took me a while to grasp. By the end of the 626 page book, I’m still not entirely sure I know how it all works. Luckily there are at least three more tomes full of luxin fun!

There was a ton of action, fighting and plot movement. All of which was explained and written in a way that kept you wanting to keep reading! I particularly love the short chapters, ranging from 3-10 pages in length. This works so well if you have a very busy life and just want to get a taste in each day. One aspect really lacking in this book, was any romance line. I really like the dynamic of having that in epic fantasy books and I was pretty disappointed to find it missing here.

To conclude, I thought this story was fantastic and would highly recommend to those who enjoy the fantasy genre. I will be starting the second book, The Binding Knife, soon.

-JR

Prince of Thorns, by Mark Lawrence; a short review

Wow…this book was fantastic!!!!! 6 STARS, bravo Mr. Lawrence, you have gained a new fan! It has been a long time since I read a book with a first person point of view and I was a little worried. One chapter in though and my desire for a dark, epic brutal fantasy tale was fed and I loved every page of it. 

This book was fantastic, the magic, the sword fighting was all so grim and dark. The grit breathed a realism to the fantasy that other titles suffer without. I can not recommend this book enough for those looking for an excellent adult fantasy tale. I can’t wait to devour the rest of Mark’s content.


-JR

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