Tyler Whitesides – The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

Another review by Wiebe, who nicked my review copy for this title the moment it came in. The review is short and sweet, but he had his reasons for that.

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is good fantasy that differs from the norm, as it is all about the con, or ruse in this case. Tyler Whitesides story reminded me most of the British TV series Hustle or The Lies of Locke Lamorra by Scott Lynch, without being derivative. All three feature a cast of gifted individuals who are so good at what they do, that they can pick and choose whom to con. That leads them to take from the wealthy and criminals, making them way more likeable than if they were fleecing old grannies. The Robin-Hood like approach to the characters makes it easier to like them. And boy, are the characters well written. With a good dose of gallows humour, and a fast pace I was thoroughly entertained.  Read More …

Kate Elliott – The Spiritwalker Trilogy

Wiebe returns with a short review of the entire Spiritwalker trilogy, which if I had to summarise it is basically: “Mieneke, why haven’t you read this already?”

My wife, the lovely Fantastical Librarian, recommended this series to me after I read The Potion Diaries and a discussion of alternative history and romance in fantasy. Based on that discussion, she posited that The Spiritwalker Trilogy by one of her favourite authors, Kate Elliot, would be right up my alley. The titles of the trilogy are Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and Cold Steel. Picking up these three chihuahua killers of the shelf, I was wondering what in the heck would you need three trade paperbacks and more than 2000 pages for, to write some romance?  Read More …

Amy Alward – The Potion Diaries

Wiebe is back with another review.

When the princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors traveling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi – an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam’s family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they have fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? And just how close is she willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing enemy, in the meantime.

Just to add to the pressure, this quest is all over social media. And the world news.

No big deal then.

Reading the text on the back cover of The Potion Diaries, Amy Alward sets herself a lot of goals in this book. A quest, a love story, a family mystery and social media, set in a yet to be explained fantasy world. All that in a fast paced YA-ish novel of 350 pages. Looking back on the novel, I think it was a bit too much. I could shoot holes in the plot, say why I find the world is not fleshed out enough and much more. It is in my opinion a gross underestimation of the readers’ age makes that it makes you think you can get away with that. But it is YA, so long as it invokes stormy emotions and makes me feel 16 again, I will go along with it.  Read More …

Debbie Johnson – Dark Vision

Wiebe is back with another review, this time for Debbie Johnson’s Dark Vision

Lilly McCain is cursed.

With just one touch she can see a person’s future, wether it’s a good fortune or a terrible fate. Afraid of the potent visions she forsees, she distances herself from the world, succumbing to a life of solitude.

But at the touch of a mysterious stranger — who has powers of his own – Lily sees a new chilling future for herself: one where she is fated to make a terrible choice…

Looking at the cover of Dark Vision, we see a lightning-torn sky and a slightly blurred Royal Liver Building and the back of a woman. Combined with the text on the back cover I could kinda guess what this book is going to be about. Girl finds out about a magical world and hijinx ensue. It will probably involve a handsome hunk and resistance to his attractiveness. The only question is if Debbie Johnson manages to keep it above the level of a harlequin novel. I still picked it out of our box of shame, cause that kind of book is a bit of guilty pleasure for me.  Read More …

Andrew Lane & Nigel Foster – Netherspace

This is another Wiebe review!

First contact is only the beginning…

Contact with aliens was made fourty years  ago, but communication turned out to be impossible. Humans don’t share a way of thinking with with any of the alien species, let alone a grammar. But there is trade, trade that produces scientific advances that would have taken thousands of years.

Earth may be a better place but it is no longer our own. We may be colonizing the stars, but we’re dependent on inexplicable alien netherspace drives, and they come at a heavy cost: live humans. When a group of colonists are captured by Cancri aliens, a human mission is sent to negotiate their releasse. But how can you negotiate when you don’t know what your target wants or why they took your people in the first place?

For my next read I semi-randomly picked Netherspace by Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster out of our many boxes of too-read-books. Our bookcases are coming next Monday (Editor’s Note: This review was written on November 16, the bookcases are standing right now). I had to put this book down after reading 130-some pages, as I was starting to hate-read this book. I know I am a very particular and unforgiving reader. Anytime the setting or the writing style takes me out of the story to go “wtf!” it detracts from my reading experience. This book did this too often and I just had to put it down.  Read More …

Chris Brookmyre – Places in the Darkness

As announced previously, my husband Wiebe is going to be contributing reviews more regularly. Chris Brookmyre’s Places in the Darkness is his first review on A Fantastical Librarian in a while.

This is as close to a city without crime as mankind has ever seen.

Ciudad de cielo is the city in the sky, a space station where hundreds of scientists and engineers work in earth orbit, building the colony ship that will one day take humanity to the stars.

When a mutilated body is found on the CdC, the eyes of the world are watching. Top-of-the-class investigator Alice Blake, is sent from earth to team up with CdC’s Freeman – a jaded cop with more reason than most to distrust such planetside interference.

As the death toll climbs and factions aboard the station become more and more fractious, Freeman and Blake will discover clues to a conspiracy that threatens not only their own lives but the future of humanity itself.

Based on the copy on the back of the book, I judged Places in the Darkness to be a detective novel set in space. From the rest of the cover I saw that this is not the first crime novel Chis Brookmyre has written. Writing crime in a completely fictional stetting is a hard thing to do. Not only do you have all the elements for your crime, you also have to explain the universe the story is set in. You need to split your focus and risk not doing a good job on one or both of these elements.  Read More …

Guest Review: Lois McMaster Bujold – The Warrior’s Apprentice

Wiebe is back with another review and this time he is tackling a classic!

loismcmasterbujold-thewarriorsapprenticeMiles Vorkosigan’s physical infirmities have destroyed his lifelong dream. After flunking the physical and being dropped from the Barrarayan military academy, he takes what he thinks will be a pleasure trip. However, Miles has a towering talent for leadership-and for chaos-and he and his companions soon run afoul of spacegoing mercenaries. One thing leads to another until miles, now a self-appointed admiral with an alias, finds himself leading his mercenaries on an impossible mission. If he can’t be an officer in the Barrarayan military, perhaps miles will make a very good space pirate.

There is still one problem, however. Miles is a member of the Barrarayan aristocracy, and the law of his home planet forbids members of that class from having their own armed forces…and breaking that law carries a death sentence. 

My wife, the Fantastical Librarian, suggested Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice to me when we were shopping in the Forbidden Planet in London. Read More …

Guest Review: Jack Campbell – Lost Fleet: Dauntless

jackcampbell-lostfleetdauntlessToday’s review is a guest review. Wiebe has caught the review bug and has started writing up some reviews for A Fantastical Librarian. For those of you not familiar with his name, Wiebe is my husband, who also loves SFF and watches a lot of anime. And he’s got opinions. So sometimes he just needs to write them out in a review, which I happily co-opt for the blog. Today he reviews Jack Campbell’s Dauntless, the fist in the Lost Fleet series.  Read More …

Guest Review: Kieran Shea – Koko the Mighty

Wiebe is back with another review today. This time it is book two in Kieran Shea’s series featuring his ex-mercenary heroine Koko Martstellar.

kieranshea-kokothemightyAfter narrowly escaping death, Koko Martstellar [ex-corporate mercenary] and Jedidah Flynn [depressed former skycop] are busy putting their lives back together, running a saloon/brothel on The Sixty Islands-the world’s most violent and decadent resort. But when bounty agent Jacky Wire comes to collect the outstanding price on Koko’s head, it’s time again for Koko and Flynn to make tracks. Fleeing pell-mell across the Pacific and shipwrecking along a thought-to-be uninhabitable coast, things only go from bad to worse for our heroes… But hey, that is the 26th century for you. Buckle up buttercup. Only the mighty survive.

I read Koko the Mighty directly after I read the first book in the series, Koko Takes a Holiday. There was very little backstory leading on from its predecessor in this instalment, which I liked, especially since this book was fresh in my memory. We continue the story exactly where book one left off— with the last bounty hunter standing about to make an entrance. Again we only get glimpses of this utopian resort of violence and sex called The Sixty islands, since Koko has to run again to avoid death. Taking the mortally wounded Jedidah with her in a submarine, they shipwreck after crossing the Pacific. They end up in a region that might have been Koko’s former work environment as a mercenary, if it hadn’t been for the environmental contamination and its lack of economic value. In this abandoned wasteland they find a strange commune.  Read More …

Guest Review: Kieran Shea – Koko Takes a Holiday

Today I have something different for you. It is a guest review by my husband Wiebe. He is a very different reader than I, putting books away if they don’t work for him or if he gets bored by them. He’s a very picky reader. There are a number of books that I get sent, which for reasons I don’t get around to reading and sometimes Wiebe will pick them up—or even fight me to read them as soon as they enter the house. I’ve long teased him that if he’s reading my review copies, he should review them and he’s finally taken me up on that. It’s his first review ever, so be gentle with him. Hopefully, this will be the first of many!

kieranshae-kokotakesaholidayFive hundred years from now, ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martstellar is swaggering through an early retirement as a brothel owner on The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort archipelago, known for its sex and simulated violence. Surrounded by slang-drooling boywhores and synthetic Komodo dragons, the most challenging part of Koko’s day is deciding on her next drink. That is, until her old comrade Portia Delacompte sends a squad of security personnel to murder her.

Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea is a book I picked up because of its cover. It looked like anime/manga art and reminded me a bit of Cowboy Bebop, with a bit of retro styling in bright colours. The blue hair reminded me of anime in particular. Coincidentally enough, it read a bit as an anime series as well. It has a dense world full of stuff, but set in the background of a fast action shounen story.  Read More …