Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Book Review: The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Pros: excellent world-building, great characters, well paced, exciting

Cons: cliffhanger ending 

Refugees flock to Feros, where Lizanne Lethridge, aka Miss Blood, is given the first of a new and even more dangerous series of missions to perform in the Corvantine Empire. Clay has convinced Hillmore to sail South, hoping to find something that will help them defeat the white dragon. Meanwhile, the white is gathering its army of spoiled, training them to overrun the world.

This book starts off with little reminder of the events of The Waking Fire (my review), so it’s worth rereading it. One of the characters thought dead returns as a point of view character, giving insight into the actions of the white dragon’s army.

The world-building continues to be excellent. You learn more about various governments and see how the drakes interact from a different point of view from the first book. Clay’s mission provides a lot of questions, which I’m hoping will be answered in the next book.

There are two appendices, one for dramatis personae, which is helpful as several names are similar and the cast is large, and a second with the rules for the card game Pastazch.

Lizanne is probably my favourite character, making difficult decisions and still being influenced more by her emotions than a good operative should. I was surprised by where her choices lead her. Clay seems to grow as the book progresses, which I appreciated. I was disappointed that Tekela wasn’t in this book much, considering how she’d grown in the previous book. I was hoping to see more of her development. Loriabeth gets a good amount of page time, which was nice. Her skills have improved a lot and she’s a solid supporting character.

The pacing was wonderful, with a lot of action and cliffhanger chapter endings, propelling you through the book at a rapid pace. There’s little wrap up here, with the final chapters leaving several characters in difficult positions. This is only a negative in that since the next book isn’t out yet, I can’t immediately find out what happens to them.

I’m really looking forward to book 3.


Friday, 23 June 2017

History Book Review: Illuminating Women in the Medieval World by Christine Sciacca

Pros: lots of colour illustrations, good explanations

Cons: 

This is an examination of medieval women as depicted in illuminated manuscripts. There’s a short forward by Timothy Potts, the Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, followed by the Introduction. There are four chapters: Medieval Ideals of Womanhood, Warnings to Medieval Women, Medieval Women in Daily Life and Medieval Women in the Arts. At the end there’s a short epilogue and some suggestions for further reading. The book is 120 pages, and there are 100 illustrations.

The chapters start with a short explanation followed by a large number of illustrations. Each image has a good descriptive explanation that often gives context and/or insights into the medieval mind. I was impressed to see an Ethiopian and a Persian image in the Ideals of Womanhood chapter, as well as a few Hebrew manuscripts represented. The images depict a wide variety of women from a good mix of sources. There are saints, Biblical scenes, scenes of romance, giving birth, patrons praying, etc. Some of the sources are book of hours, prayer books, hymnals, medical and history texts, a book of law codes, etc.

The Warnings chapter opens with a brief foray into nude female imagery and the male readership for whom those images were generally commissioned, something I had never considered before. There are several other interesting tidbits that give greater depth to the people who made and used the manuscripts.


I found this a wonderful read. It’s an introductory volume and so accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the middle ages and the role of women.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Shout-Out: Soleri by Michael Johnston

Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.

The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister's help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god's cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Video: Honest Trailer for Aliens

I've been watching Honest Trailers, by Screen Junkies, for years. They're entertaining, spoilery examinations of movies. Aliens is my favourite film and their analysis is spot on.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Book Review: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

Pros: diverse cast, interesting plot

Cons: minimal world-building

Carina is a zeal addict, living her life plugged into her dreams where she slowly kills virtual people. When a former co-worker uploads coded packets of information into her brain that will help take down her previous employer, she’s not sure she’s capable of sobering up and not becoming a monster in the real world.

This book is set in the same world as the author’s previous novel, False Hearts. While some characters overlap, Shattered Minds works perfectly on its own. 

Carina’s a fascinating character. Having information tied to her memories was a clever idea, and allowed for some great development. I was surprised by how much I liked her considering she had very little emotion, had constant urges to kill, and spent the first part of the book heavily addicted. But then, I also enjoyed seeing the world from Roz’s point of view, and she’s a pretty terrible person. Her scenes didn’t make me relate to her at all, but sometime’s its nice to read about bad guys who are truly evil.

The cast is pretty diverse with one character a native american trans man, which isn’t something you read often. Dax was probably my favourite character, considerate, competent, cool under pressure.

I had mixed feelings about the romantic elements of the book. I liked the pairing, and the text makes it clear that the two find each other attractive. But given Carina’s inability to feel anything other than pleasure at the thought of killing, I didn’t really get the gut feeling that she was even capable of any kind of intimate relationship. I appreciated that things moved slowly, but there was one scene that felt like it happened too early and so didn’t give the emotional satisfaction that it should have. At this point they knew each other better but still didn’t have the emotional connection such a scene requires. Oddly enough, had the author waited a bit, there was a place where I think that would have fit better (see more on this in the spoiler section).  

While I felt the author knew how this world worked, there were times when it would have helped to understand more of what makes Pacifica tick. Towards the end of the book there’s a throwaway comment about the potential consequences of taking down Sudice, of how society could unravel because the company’s tied into so many things. This would have been good to bring up earlier. In fact, the comment states that the group has discussed this issue, though the reader never sees any of these discussions. It’s a failure of world-building because as a readier I didn’t realize the full import of the company they want to bring down and that the Trust’s actions might not be as black and white as they’re being portrayed. Knowing what Sudice does, and how the world would be impacted would have added more depth and complexity to the characters, and the show how difficult the decision they’re making really is.

The book is paced well so there’s a good mix of action and down time. The mystery of what Roz is doing and how the Trust can take her down is quite entertaining, and there are a good number of twists to keep things interesting.

On the whole I enjoyed the book.


***SPOILERS***

















I think Carina and Dax slept together too early. While you get scenes from his point of view, you never see him question the wisdom of starting a relationship with a woman who has urges to kill and how he (or they) would deal with this. The scene at the end I refer to in my review is after Carina has Roz at her mercy and chooses not to kill her. The two talk about where things are headed between them. Given that Dax now knows she can control her negative urges better, this felt like a more natural place for their first sexual encounter. As a reader, this is also where I felt they connected better on an emotional level.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Short Story Review: Darkness Upon the Deep by Hristo Goshev

Aurora Wolf Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 6

Philip Carter is a Valkyrie pilot on the interstellar destroyer Bastion. When a surprise attack and emergency jump leave his best friend behind - certainly dead - and the crew stranded in some unknown space, morale breaks down and Phil has to confront some unpleasant truths about himself.

It’s an interesting science fiction story with a clear underlying sense of dread. You really feel for Phil, for his loss, and even his desire to redeem himself. You learn just enough about the enemy they’re fighting to make their pre-jump situation dire, and enough about their new situation to understand why things are falling apart. It’s quite engaging.

You can read it online here.