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THE PAINTED MAN By Peter V. Brett – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I’ve been really getting into fast-paced, action packed SF recently, so it was a nice change to take on the more sedate pace of fantasy. Before I go any further I have to say I spent a great 544 pages with this book, this is the first book in a series that’s going to be absolutely epic. Almost the entire first book is an introduction, building up the three main characters of Arlan, Rojer, and Leesha as they grow from childhood to adulthood, dealing with their various separate dramas and are brought together (late in the book) by circumstance. You see the world they live in lives in fear of the dark. When the sun sets corelings (demons) come out of the earth and eat and kill humans, and have done for the past three hundred years. Only wards (ancient writing) learnt only by a precious few can be used to protect them, and only then if the wards are perfect. Any imperfection will be found by the demons.

The world in which the story is set is a tired, dangerous place, humans have mostly given up fighting, instead prepared to hide and live a small, simple life, without travel, without night, and with danger just outside their warded walls and doors. There’s so much to the world that Brett has created that it would take more space than we have here to describe it all, suffice to say, it is brilliantly realised, with a nicely tied-in religion, a wide range of characters, and purposeful travel throughout the known lands to give us a nice guide tour, with much opportunity for expansion.

The only problem is that most of the book feels like an introduction or prologue. We don’t get to meet the Painted Man, as such, of the title until near the end of the book. There’s so much information on the characters that they do stick with you, but at what cost? There’s some action, and the final battle is great, but it takes it’s time to get there.

This is a difficult book to review alone, as it’s obviously not meant to be read individually. This is most definitely the first part of a mammoth series, which will no doubt be spectacularly entertaining and brilliant, but without the next book it’s so difficult to tell. A very good first instalment in the series, but I find myself reserving judgement until more titles in the series are available, although I will definitely be ordering the second book in the series very soon. (The cliff-hanger ending is ridiculously exciting!)

ODD AND THE FRONT GIANTS By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by stanleyriiks

This short book was made available for World Book Day in 2008, and sold for a £1.00. Worth every penny.

It’s now being re-released.

Odd is a young Viking boy who runs away from home after another argument with his step-father, and sets off into the forest, only to find himself helping out a bear trapped when trying to get some honey. After Odd helps the bear he finds out that not only can the bear, and his companions the fox and the eagle, talk, but they are also Norse gods trapped in animal bodies by a Frost Giant. They ask Odd to help them out, and with nothing better to do the young boy sets off with them to enter Asgard to help them take their rightful place.

This is part myth part fairy-tale, it’s exactly the type of story that Gaiman seems to revel in. Familiar enough, but new and fresh enough to make us keep reading. You have to find out what happens to Odd and his friends, and you can’t help but enjoy the simple tale. Gaiman is a great story-telling, his created world is brilliantly portrayed, and his characters are pretty much as real as you can get.

Gaiman tells stories like no other, and his unique ability is perfectly showcased in this brief story.

CUBA LIBRE By Elmore Leonard – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Cuba, just before the Spanish/US war.

Ben Tyler’s friend asks him for some help taking some horses to Cuba to sell. Except Ben finds out that horses are not all they are selling, and the guns they are smuggling into the country are for the insurgents to fight the Spanish, and before he knows what’s happening, Ben is in prison for shooting a Spanish soldier who pulled a gun on him and being accused of espionage.

Factor in a wealthy American land-owner out to steal the horses, an evil Guardias, a beautiful woman, a police-force filled with insurgents, and an impending American-Spanish war and in a nutshell you have Cuba Libre.

This is an epic personal story of the struggles of Cuba, the beauty of the country and its people, and the inhumanity of its invaded and rulers. This is a side of Cuba not often seen, the pre-Castro era Cuba, but not the playground of the US.

Tyler’s struggles to survive in primitive conditions whilst in prison and later when hiding as he is tracked by a former slave-hunter, all the while falling in love with the beautiful Amelia, is expertly played out by Leonard. This book shows that Leonard is a splendid writer, with a talent far beyond his crime-novels.

Hot, dusty, and beautiful, Cuba Libre is a sentiment and an experience, expertly captured by a great fiction writer.