Books

Review: The King’s Traitor

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Review: The King’s Traitor

                   The game is ending.

Jeff Wheeler brings the Kingfountain trilogy to a close with The King’s Traitor, an epic story drawing partly from English history but mostly from Arthurian legend.

Owen Kiskaddon has served his regent faithfully these last few years. Well, except for the fact that he’s been hiding the identity of the young boy Drew, the son of King Severn’s deposed nephew and true king of Ceredigion. It’s been a struggle for Owen, who – despite losing all contact with his family and having to stand by while the love of his life is married to another man – still believes that loyalty to a cruel king is better than treason. But he’s watched Severn turn into exactly the kind of horrible person that everyone always believed he was, and Owen is putting plans in place in order for the true heir to claim the Hollow Crown. Until that heir is old enough to rule, Owen will have to grit his teeth and continue to go along with Severn’s schemes.

Severn’s latest plan to make sure no other kingdom (or anyone, really) has more power than he does is to start a war with one of his allies. Still playing the loyal duke, Owen travels to nearby Brythonica to give Severn the pretext to invade by making an insulting demand that’s sure to be refused: the marriage of Owen with the reclusive Duchess of Brythonica.

The Duchess’s response to Owen’s proposal is the very last thing he expected. Now things are going to get really complicated.

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Review: The Raven and the Reindeer

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Review: The Raven and the Reindeer

I read The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher (known as Ursula Vernon to her friends, and ursulav to those of us who follow her on deviantart) back in February and I loved it to pieces, but I didn’t write the review right away. Fast forward six months and I thought if I want to do a good review, I ought to read it again.

No kidding, it’s even better the second time around. And the first time it was amazing.

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Review: Doctor Strange – Strange Origin

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Review: Doctor Strange – Strange Origin

Are you ready for the Doctor Strange movie in November? Are you? ‘CAUSE I SURE AM. 

While we wait, I decided to check out the Doctor Strange: Strange Origin graphic novel that Marvel released this month. Although when you get right down to it, 99% of this is a re-release since it’s a repackaging of Greg Pak and Emma Rios’s Doctor Strange: Season One graphic novel, with the first issue of the latest ongoing Doctor Strange comic tacked on to the end. 

The 2012 Season One storyline follows most of the usual highlights about Doctor Strange’s origin, but adds a new dimension to his relationship with the character of Wong. Traditionally portrayed as Strange’s loyal servant, Wong appears in this story as a rival student of the Ancient One, and he’s not happy about Stephen Strange being admitted as a student as well. He also doesn’t trust Strange when the two of them are roped into a quest for three powerful relics that could give their owner the power of the mystical Vishanti.

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Review: Foundling

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Review: Foundling

I’ll admit it, I do judge books by their covers sometimes. I flipped through a paperback copy of Foundling because the color scheme appealed to me, and the cover artwork is drawn in a style I really like. I checked for the artist’s name and found out that D. M. Cornish is the author and the artist for the cover and all of the interior illustrations.

The book jacket description of an orphan boy – named Rossamünd, and no he’s not happy about that – leaving his home of Madame Opera’s Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls so he can start his career as a Lamplighter sounded like an entertaining boy’s adventure. Then I found what looked like a sizable glossary in the back, with descriptions of monsters and monster-fighters (some of whom have been…altered to make them into better monster-fighters), and before I knew it I’d read the first twenty pages of the book.

Okay, Mr. Cornish, I’m officially intrigued.

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Review: Tenth of December

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Review: Tenth of December

I picked this one up because of a challenge. Or maybe it was more of a dare. My youngest sister (*waves* Hi Hannah!) read this collection first, and while she was impressed that the author had the range to write such wildly different stories – many of them in completely different genres – she also found it grim, depressing, and with a truly bleak view of humanity, and by God she wanted someone else to read it so she could have someone to talk to about it.

There are ten stories in George Saunders’s collection Tenth of December, and I tore through all ten of them in about two days. Maybe closer to a day and a half. Readers beware, these are all very dark (with an occasional moment of dark humor), but the author’s writing style flows so easily that it makes for perfect summer reading. But maybe not bedtime reading, since you might have trouble sleeping afterward.

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Review: How to Talk to Girls At Parties

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Review: How to Talk to Girls At Parties

Enn: “I don’t know what to say to girls.”

Vic: “They’re just girls. They don’t come from another planet.”

Awkward teenager Enn was already unhappy about being dragged to the local party by his confident friend Vic. He was even more uncomfortable when it turned out to be the wrong party. But Vic decided they were going to stay anyway. Because this party had lots of girls. 

Enn didn’t have a lot of experience with girls, so he was going to have to stick to Vic’s suggestion: just try talking to them.

It sounds like a regular coming-of-age story (or at least trying to survive being a teenager with one’s sanity intact). And it is, sort of. Except for the fact that the girls at this party are from much further away than either boy realizes.

If you’ve been waiting for an excuse to read something by Neil Gaiman (or if you’re like me and you’ll read anything that has his name attached to it) then you might want to pick up this graphic novel adaptation of his short story How to Talk to Girls At Parties, with artwork by the incomparable Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.

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Review: The Last Days of New Paris

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Review: The Last Days of New Paris

…the other was a torso, jutted from the bicycle itself, its moving prow, a figurehead where handlebars should be. She was extruded from the metal. She pushed her arms backward and they curled at the ends like coral. She stretched her neck and widened her eyes.

Thibault swallowed and tried to speak, and tried again, and screamed, “It’s the Vélo!”

Just a novella this week, but that’s okay because there’s enough glorious weirdness in China Mieville’s latest work to fill a whole novel.

The story begins with the sound of gunfire. German soldiers scatter as they’re attacked by a creature in the shape of a woman merged with a bicycle. Even stranger, the reaction of the French Resistance fighters watching is less Dear God What Is That Thing, and more Look Out, It’s Another One.

The Last Days of New Paris is set in an alternate history version of Nazi-occupied Paris, where an unexplained event, the S-Blast, has somehow tapped into the soul of the Surrealism movement. Now images from works by Max Ernst, André Breton, Yves Tanguy, and hundreds more are stalking the streets, while demons called from Hell reluctantly follow the German soldiers’ orders, and the very landscape of Paris has been twisted into something impossible.

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Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

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Review: In a Dark, Dark Wood

I wanted to do a quick review of Ruth Ware’s mystery novel partly because they were handing out free copies at San Diego Comic-Con and I want to encourage that kind of thing (seriously, getting a preview pamphlet is fun, but for a book nerd getting handed a whole free book is like winning a mini lottery.) But also because the movie by Reese Witherspoon is tentatively scheduled to come out in 2018. It’s being touted as “The Next Gone Girl” and I wanted to see how close to the mark they got.

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Review: Compendium – Artifacts of Lumin Book One

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Review: Compendium – Artifacts of Lumin Book One

Lumin is a forest world, with trees who’s roots reach all the way to the planet’s core. The lives of the people of Lumin are closely entwined with those trees. Maybe too entwined; after using the energy that flows through the forests to power every aspect of society, the Core is heating up and the trees themselves are dying. There’s only one way to reverse the damage: shut down the entire Network, cutting off all advanced technology that feeds off the trees and throwing the planet into a new dark age. The Core will stay sealed for as long as it takes the planet to heal.

More than six hundred years later, a young woman named Mia stumbles across a treasure in the Archives of the Order of Vis Firmitas. The treasure is a book, hidden away for centuries. The history of an ancient battle and the key to the lost technology of the planet may be contained inside the mysterious artifact that slowly comes to life in Mia’s hands: the Compendium.

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Review: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories

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Review: Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories

Last week the Binary System Podcast was on vacation (check out the BSP Facebook page for pictures taken in and around Niagara Falls), and traveling means picking something want to read, something out of a list of books I’ve been saving for a special occasion. Adam-Troy Castro’s short story collection Her Husband’s Hands and Other Stories was the perfect choice for some light reading while waiting around in airports.

Keep in mind that “light” in this case refers to the size of the book. It does not mean “happy”.

Shakespeare wrote that art is “a mirror held up to nature”; for this book Adam Troy-Castro is using a funhouse mirror with a magnifying glass, reflecting some of the very worst that human nature has to offer. These stories are dark like you wouldn’t believe. They’re also fascinating, thought-provoking, hard to put down and, in several cases, deeply upsetting. You could plow through all eight stories in a matter of hours, but I’d recommend following the suggestion David Gerrold wrote in the intro: don’t read all of them at once.

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