Archive for magic

THE GRIM COMPANY By Luke Scull – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2015 by stanleyriiks

Having recently enjoyed the delights of Mark Lawrence and Andy Remic’s action fantasies, I was looking forward to this. But this is not Mark Lawrence or Andy Remic. Upon starting to read this I was most disappointed.

It starts slowly….

Mages rule the city states, tussling for power. They killed the gods, dooming themselves to limited magical material. But the brutal ruler Salazar, having lost his navy to one of his rivals, ups the stakes, destroying the city of Shadowport in a massive tidal wave that wipes out everyone and everything.

Two warriors, hunted by their former tribesmen, find themselves part of a rebel band.

A young man, desperate to be the hero he knows he is destined to be, has a rude awakening when he is almost killed, and runs away from his friends and family to try to prove himself.

Mmmm… The slow start isn’t particularly helped by the lack of a good hero, I don’t think the author knows who he wants us to root for: the annoying twerp who thinks he’s a hero, or the grizzled old warrior who groans with every move. The characters in the book just aren’t compelling, or likeable.

The story does start to get going in the second half, the characters actually start to come into their own and grow, and the long awaited action begins to take place.

What could have been a really good action fantasy, feels mostly flat and unrewarding. Sure, the second half of the book really does pick up, and here you get to see Scull at his full potential. But I very nearly didn’t make it that far.

If you’re looking for action fantasy, and have read all the books of Lawrence and Remic then go for Polansky. When you have exhausted all of those and if you’re still desperate for some fantasy action give Scull a try.

Really not sure if I will bother with the second book in this series or not. Disappointed.

ALOHA FROM HELL By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I hate Richard Kadrey. I hate his books. I hate Sandman Slim, one of the greatest anti-heroes to ever be captured on the page.

Kadrey writes books I wish I’d written. He had created a world and characters that I can only dream of creating. He has plots that make me want to read the whole book in one sitting because I want to find out what happens so bad. But also I want to read slowly, to savour every sentence, and respect every line because there is such a wit and darkness in these pages.

This is the third book in the amazing Sandman Slim series, featuring Slim who is a magician returned from hell after turning monster fighter and demon killer. He lives in an LA underworld ruled by Sub Rosa (old magical) families and factions. And finds himself involved as a bodyguard to Lucifer, a private-detective and monster hunter. Slim is my hero. The dude rocks my world, and I wish, I so wish, that he was mine. We would have such great adventure together. But what am I saying? We do have such great adventures together, but that bugger Kadrey creates them! I don’t want to share, I want Slim all to myself.

The third book in the series see Slim having to head down to Hell as his nemesis is having success building an army of hellions and plans to head up to Heaven to destroy it, and then destroy the rest of the world. Of course, there’s excommunicated priests, demons and gods, magic, fighting, betrayal, lies, and all manner of excitement to get in the way of things moving along smoothly.

Slim narrates with a unique voice that entertains with a brisk pace and style that you will find hard to match. The closest comparable voice stylistically would be Joe Lansdale’s East Texas drawl. But Kadrey goes further, where most are afraid to go. He seems unafraid to deal with difficult and controversial issues such as religion and faith, all the while having a wicked sense of humour, and one hellish, fetid darkness that sucks the reader in.

Like the very best fantasists, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman at the top of their game, Kadrey creates a magnificent world that drips reality, characters that ooze personality, and plots that truly capture the imagination.

The third book in the series continues on the success of the previous two books. You must read the Sandman Slim novels. You MUST read one of them.

I hate Richard Kadrey, I want to be Richard Kadrey. I love Sandman Slim. I look forward to most adventures together.

Darkly brilliant.

Demented genius.

FORTRESS FRONTIER By Myke Cole – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2013 by stanleyriiks

A bit of context for those who haven’t read the first book yet: this is like the X-Men, but with magic instead of mutations. When people develop magical abilities, or come up “latent”, things develop swiftly, and they have to report to the Police, otherwise they will be arrested as “Selfers”. There are some prohibited types of magic too dangerous to be allowed in society, the government use these “probes” as part of a secret service in an alternative dimension called the Source, to fight the indigenous population of goblin-like creatures. This is where Oscar Britton is sent, for training and indoctrination, when he develops “probe” magic and accidentally kills his father. But things don’t work out quite as planned for Britton and the Shadow Coven…

The first book in the Shadow Ops series left the remaining renegade sorcerers of Shadow Coven surrounded by goblins after FOB (Forward Operating Base) Frontier was partially destroyed, the witch Scylla was freed, and a massive battle had taken place. If you’re expecting this book to pick up straight after that then you’ll be disappointed. For the most part this is the story of Colonel Alan Bookbinder, Pentagon administrator, who turns up latent, but his magical abilities fail to fully develop. Despite this, he is sent to Frontier, where he becomes the second in command. The timelines of this and the first book overlap, as Bookbinder arrives before Britton and the rest of Shadow Coven go rogue. But when that does happen we see the other side of the action, as the base is left devastated and with no contact or supplies from the home plane (Earth). With rapidly depleted stocks of ammo and food the base becomes desperate and the goblin attacks increase daily. Bookbinder and a small team head out into the wilderness to try to find an Indian base hundreds of kilometres away, their lives on the line, and they are the only hope of survival for those left in the partially destroyed base.

Britton and Shadow Coven do play a part in the story, we get an update about half-way through and then Britton and his team are involved towards the end of the book, tying everything nicely together and preparing the reader for the third book in the series.

This is an SF military action thriller with magic thrown in for good measure. Although it doesn’t have the new and shiny feel of the first book, and the lack of my favourite character Marty (A Dobby-like good goblin), mean this feels a little like the second book in the series (the necessary part between the beginning and the climax [is this a trilogy?], continuing the story and an integral part, but not really adding a great deal.

Those who enjoyed the first book, and that should be plenty, because it’s pretty bloody good, should come to this with an open-mind and they’ll enjoy this slightly different but linked second part. Those expecting the continued story of Britton and Shadow Coven may be a little disappointed by the new direction.

Good fun, but not as good as the first book. I still want to know what happens next, and expect at some point a full-scale war between the sorcerers and the military, and possibly civil war!

CONTROL POINT By Myke Cole – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Oscar Britton is an army officer, and when he and his team are called to deal with a prohibited latent, they have a hell of a time. A latent is a person who develops magical powers. Certain magical powers are prohibited as too dangerous. One of Britton’s men is half killed by fire demons, and two teenage latents are shot dead, a school is burned, and Oscar has an argument with a sorcerer.

A few hours later Oscar has a latent episode, finding himself on the other side of the law. Knowing he has a prohibited magical power (opening wormhole-like gates) he goes on the run.

What follows is actually even more exciting and action packed than the beginning. As Oscar is “recruited” as a contractor for the army, and must face the tough challenges of learning to control his power on the front-line of a war with goblin-like creatures.

This doesn’t really have a slew of original ideas, but it’s put together very well, creating that newness and excitement. The military and magic are juxtaposed, and Oscar and his team work together to discover their powers and use them for good, despite the military’s view of them as weapons.

The book is a cross between Harry Potter and Stripes, or Biloxi Blues. The unique mix of military and magic makes this book. There is a little too much concentration on Oscar’s struggle to deal with his new power and his manipulation by the military, but that serves its own purpose and works within the context of the story. A kind of coming-of-age tale, using all the best bits of a military story, but a little fantasy thrown in for good measure. You can’t help but love little Marty, the goblin. There is plenty of action to speed things along.

Intelligent, exciting, pulse-racing and action packed. Full-on magical military mayhem.

SANDMAN SLIM By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I saw Devil Said Bang in Forbidden Planet before Christmas and knew I had to read it. OCD sufferer that I am, I can’t start a series with book number four, so this one (Sandman Slim) went on my Christmas list. Fortunately Santa listened and I unwrapped this along with another twenty-odd books (Santa’s good!). I thought I’d start with this one because it’s fairly short, and I wanted to start working my way towards that fourth book in the series, the one I really wanted to read.

Fortunately the first in the series is a rock-hard, ultra-violent, action-fest!

Jimmy Stark was sent down to hell eleven years ago by his magic circle. Since then he’s been trying to survive as the play-toy of demons, and has managed to become a monster fighter and assassin. But when his ex-girlfriend is brutally murdered by the very same man who put him in hell, Stark escapes, killing one of Lucifer’s generals in the process. Now he’s in LA, looking for revenge on the magic circle that sentenced him to hell and their leader who killed the only woman he ever loved.

What follows is a cross between David Gunn’s Death’s Head (the attitude, the action, the raw brutality, and the protagonist from hell [this time literally]), and Tim Waggoner’s Nekopolis (a city [this time LA] riven with hellish creatures and magic), although it’s all under the surface here.

Stark is the perfect host (first person narrator), a revenge-driven psychopath, willing to kill himself and whoever gets in his way. The first person he encounters he cuts of their head. He doesn’t get any friendlier as the novel goes on, and it’s great! Hard-bitten, filled with venom and pithy comments, Stark is a true urban anti-hero with a bad attitude.

Kadrey has produced a real character in Stark, a unique individual you can’t help but remember, and may be not for all the right reasons. He’s fantastically caustic, and all the better for it in the urban sprawl of LA. An LA filled with angels, demons and Kissee, along with magicians, G-men from Homeland Security, murderers, skinheads and all manner of human-pus.

Sandman Slim is a unique and terribly entertaining mix, an urban fantasy that is vile and brutal and brilliant because of that. Stark is a hero that demands your attention, he has mine, and I’ll be back for the second in the series, and the third and fourth. I can’t wait!

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!)

TRIUMFF: HER MAJESTY’S HERO By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Set in an alternative England, where Queen Elizabeth the first married Spain’s King Philip the Second, setting in motion a series of Queen Elizabeths to follow, leaving England and the Empire to discover the joys of magic, but not those of the industrial revolution or mechanisation.

Sir Rupert Triumff is an adventurer who has recently discovered Australia for the Queen, but refuses to give her back his letter of passage and return the country back to her.

This is used by plotters to set Triumff up as a traitor in their own attempts to kill the Queen and take over the Empire in the name of Spain.

Fans of Dan Abnett’s gamesworkshop novel should be made fully aware this is nothing like the full-on action-packed adventures of the Space Marines. The king of battle-writing tones down the action for much of this novel, although the intrigue and scheming are ramped up to compensate.

The style of the writing also shows Abnett’s depth, as our narrator, one William Beaver, continues to pop up at odd moments and imbues the proceedings a little light relief.

The plotting is well worked, and the tension continues to grow as the plot to kill the queen gets closer, and Triumff and his friends get closer to discovering the truth behind it.

Although not as action-packed as Abnett’s 40K Universe books, and despite a swashbuckling start, the novel is heavier on machinations and tension. Abnett’s talent doesn’t go to waste, and the world he creates is cleverly portrayed with many layers. Nothing like his tie-in novels, but providing an equal amount of enjoyment and entertainment.

If there is a sequel, I’ll be there.