Book Review of “Last Argument of Kings”

“Last Arguments of Kings” was published in 2009 and is the third book in “The First Law” trilogy by Joe Abercrombie (http://www.joeabercrombie.com/books/). Mr. Abercrombie has published 8 books. This eBook is availed on Kindle.

This trilogy is set in a non-earth world similar to medieval-era Europe, where there are knights and wizards. The story is set in the Union. To the north the Union is bordered by the barbarian Northmen, and from south the Gurkhul Empire threatens. The same basic characters appear in this novel as in the first two. The story is told third person from the many principal player’s points of view.

The king has died leaving no heirs. The Open Council must now vote on the new king. Everyone is surprised when at the last minute First Mage Beyaz reveals that there is a bastard son of the King. He is named king, but he inherits a shaky throne as the Gurkhul Empire has invaded and Adua is at risk. Beyaz is at the new king’s side giving guidance, sometimes too much guidance in the king’s mind.

Jazal dan Luthar reunites with Ardee West. She is far below his class, but he thinks he has deep feelings for her. He is regularly sleeping with her, but still unable to commit to her. Superior San dan Glokta who was asked by Collem West to look after Ardee, confronts Jazal and tells him he must either marry Ardee, or get out of her life.

In the far north the battle with the Northmen continues. Colonel Collem West is in the thick of it along with Logen Ninefingers and a band of Northmen. Together they develop a risky plan to bring the war in the north to an end.

Superior San dan Glokta finds more treason in the capital. He also finds himself now with two masters – Arch Lector Sult as well as the banking house of Valint and Balk. He cannot continue to satisfy them both and finds himself in increasingly desperate situations.

Ferro Maljinn feels betrayed by Beyaz. She has not been able to take her vengeance on the Gurkhul as he had promised. And she hates the city of Adua, as well as all of the “pinks” that live there. She feels others are watching her and Beyaz is using her.

All is brought to a climax with the city of Adua under siege, but that does not stop the intrigue within the walls even as the city teeters on the brink of being overrun. There are battles and intrigue, twists and turns as the trilogy comes to a conclusion.

I enjoyed this book as much as the first two and give it a 5 out of 5. I thought is was well written and kept up a fast pace. All of the principal characters have their strengths as well as their flaws. Most of the major story threads are wrapped up at the end of this novel, but there you are left with more to be learned.

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Book Review of “Lady of Devices”

“Lady of Devices” was published in 2011 and is the first book in the “Magnificent Devices” series by author Shelley Adina (http://www.shelleyadina.com). Ms. Adina is the author of over 20 books, with more on the way. This eBook is available on Amazon.

I obtained this novel for free through http://readcheaply.com/. This story is told first person from the standpoint of young miss Claire Trevelyan who has just graduated from St. Cecelia’s Academy for Young Ladies. It is set in 1889 London, but of a slightly different reality than our own. Styled as a “steampunk adventure,” the world in which this novel is set is driven by brass and steam, with the internal combustion engine a failed technology. Throw in a touch of SciFi with small perpetual motion motors that power home appliances, vacuum tubes to every house to deliver mail, and fantastic electrical devices.

Claire is part of the “Blood”, the upper crust of society that has the proper heritage. Her mother is pushing her to be a lady and look for a proper husband, now that she has finished school. What Claire really wants is to go to University and become an engineer. Her world is turned completely upside down when her father looses everything in a failed petroleum company investment.

The failure affects many Londoners, and Clair’s mother and brother flee to the country home to avoid the backlash. Claire is left to finish packing up the London home and then reluctantly to follow her mother. But then rioting forces Claire into unexpected circumstances where she uses her understanding of science to see her through. Along the way there is a light touch of possible romance, and an opportunity to pursue her interest in engineering.

I found this a totally enjoyable read and give the book 5 out of 5. The novel was well paced and well written. I look forward to reading the other novels in this series

Book review of “Before They Are Hanged”

“Before They Are Hanged” was published in 2009 is the second book of the “First Law” trilogy. The book Joe Abercrombie’s (http://www.joeabercrombie.com/books/) second novel and the eBook is available on Amazon.

This trilogy is set in a non-earth world similar to medieval-era Europe, where there are knights and wizards. The story is set in the Union. To the north the Union is bordered by the barbarian Northmen, and from south the Gurkhul Empire threatens.

The same characters appear in this novel as in “The Blade Itself”. Inquisitor San dan Glokta is sent to Dagoska near the border with the Empire. He is to take charge and hold the city against the threatening troops of the Empire. He is also charged with finding out what happened to his predecessor, Superior Davoust. There is danger both from outside the fortress walls as well as from within.

Meanwhile, Captain Jezal dan Luthar, Logen Ninefingers, and Ferro Maljinn follow First Magi Beyaz to the edge of the earth to find a hidden relic. They encounter many challenges along the way, and those that return are not quite the same people who left Adua on their quest.

Collem West has been promoted to Colonel and is in the far north with Lord Martial Burr to drive the invaders from Angland. Not only must he fight the invading Northmen, but also generals Kroy and Poulder of his own army.

There is more intrigue, sword play and magic in the second installment of this tale.

This is the third novel by Mr. Abercrombie that I have read, and it is every bit as good as the first two. I like the way he develops the characters, each has their strengths, but is carrying their own demons as well. The pace of the novel was good, never letting the reader get bogged down.

Over all I give this novel a 5 out of 5, and highly recommend it for those who like fantasy quests.

Book Review of “Inferno”

“Inferno” was published in 2013 and is the sixth novel by Dan Brown (http://www.danbrown.com). This action thriller is the fourth in the Robert Langdon series. The eBook is available at Amazon.

This novel mostly takes place in Italy. First in Florence, then later moves to Venice. It ends in Istanbul, Turkey. As with his other novels in this series, the reader gets a good dose of art and history as the story progresses.

In this novel Robert Langdon, Harvard Art History Professor, wakes up in a hospital in Florence having no memory as to how he got there. Adding to his confusion, a young woman bursts into the hospital and attempts to kill him. He escapes with the assistance of one of his doctors, Sienna Brooks.

Thus begins an exciting race that evolves around Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and associated art work. As Langdon and Brooks search for the answers to their puzzle, two different powerful groups seem to be working feverishly to intercept them.

This novel follows the same general plot of the first three books in the series. Langdon is presented with a puzzle, then follows a series of clues through art and history to find the solution. I enjoyed this novel as I have the others in the series, but I felt that this one had a little too much description of the sights. Perhaps the same general plot is getting a little stale for me. I give the novel a 4 out of 5.

Tools for Readers

I have for some time intermittently used Stanza with my eBooks. It allowed format conversion on DRM free books. It also allowed books of many different formats to be read on my Mac. It had been limited to the Mac, but was expanded to Windows. However the product, now owned by Amazon, does not appear to be supported any longer, though it can still be downloaded.

I met a friend for lunch recently and he reminded me of another utility program for eBooks – Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com).  Calibre does everything that Stanza did, plus it includes an eBook library manager and a few other useful features. Again it only works with DRM free eBooks, but in the week or so I have been using it I have been pleased with it. It has the added benefit of being available on Windows, OSX as well as on Linux.

While this site is probably known to most readers, I recently joined Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com). The site allows you to track the books you have read, socialize with other readers, see their reviews and post your own. It also will recommend books to you based upon your reading history. I have only been a member for a few days, but I think I will enjoy participating. Goodreads was purchased just over a year ago by Amazon.

Book Review of “One Fine Day”

“Some Fine Day” was published in 2014 (July) and is the first novel by Kat Ross (http://katrossbooks.com). The eBook is available on Amazon.

“Some Fine Day” is a Young Adult SciFi novel. I was given access prior to publication through NetGalley (https://www.netgalley.com).

The setting of the novel is a near future earth where climate change has gone severe, flooding the world as we know it and spawning huge, permanent hyper hurricanes. These have rendered the surface uninhabitable, so humanity has gone underground.

Jansin Nordqvist is 16 and nearing graduation from The Academy, a military institute in her subterraneon colony city-state. Her family is taken to the surface for a brief, once in a life time holiday by her father, a general in the military. The group is attacked one night and Jansin gets separated from the others. She discovers that there are still humans living on the surface, the remnants of the many who were left behind when the elite and connected went underground. They take her captive and sail off before a rescue can be staged.

While Jansin is a prisoner she meets Will, a self trained “physic” who is only a little older than she is. Jansin discovers many things that her government has been keeping secret. Will tells her of a rumored land mass that is free from the hurricanes. Jansin comes to like the people and they finally accept her. But Jansin’s father does not give up the search for her.

As the story unfolds there is a little romance, some intrigue, and a lot of excitement as Jasmin seeks the truth about the surface, looks for the mystical land that is free from the hurricanes and tries to keep her new friends, and Will in particular, free.

I enjoyed this novel and I give it a 4.5 out of 5. It is well written and the characters were developed well. The story keeps moving along, never bogging down. The way the story ends I expect there to be a sequel and I look forward to reading it when it appears.

While only a minor part of the story, I did find the idea of the “mole” vehicles which were able to relatively quickly mechanically dig their way from the colony to the surface and back a little far fetched.

Book Review of “I am the Weapon”

“I am the Weapon” was published in 2014 and is the fifth novel written by Allen Zadoff (http://www.allenzadoff.com). It is the first in the “Unknown Assassin” series of thrillers. The book is available on Amazon as an eBook.

I would characterize this as a Young Adult Thriller novel as the primary character, Zack, is 16 years old. Zack is not the normal teenager though. He is a highly trained assassin working for The Program. His own family was killed by a fellow member of The Program and he was recruited at age 12. Following two years of intensive training he has been working assignments for The Program for the last two years. His assignments address what he believes are problems of national interest, where risks to the American government have to be handled quietly.

The other main characters are:

  • Samara “Sam” Goldberg is a High School student at a private school in New York City. She is popular and beautiful.
  • Jonathon Goldberg is a brilliant computer scientist and business man. He is currently the very successful mayor of New York City, and Sam’s father.
  • Howard is a classmate of Sam’s. He is a nerdy computer hacker that is considered an outcast by all at the school but Sam.

Zack is handed an unusually short five day assignment to get close to Sam and assassinate her father. Zack never knows why he is sent in to take action. He just follows orders and moves on to the next assignment, but this time he hesitates as he gets to know Sam and her father.

This is the first time he has not carried out an assignment at the first opportunity. Against procedure he reaches out to the reclusive Howard for some assistance.

As the story unfolds there is intrigue, romance and action. The story moves along well, never letting the reader bog down.

I do have some reservations about the plot. I found it hard to accept that Zack is a 16 year old assassin. He repeatedly encounters fully grown trained men, and bests them in hand-to-hand combat. In my opinion it would have been better to have put him in his mid-twenties, but looking young enough to pass as a teenager. That at least would make sense.

Also, there are more than one instance in the story of Zack “projecting his energy” around him to detect those following him. Is he supposed to have some extra ability? Nothing is mentioned if he is other than his projecting energy. This, to me, is out of place for this otherwise straight thriller. If he is not supposed to have some special ability, these instances in the story could have been written in a different, more believable way.

Overall I give this novel a 3 out of 5.

Book Review of “The Blade Itself”

“The Blade Itself” was published in 2006 and was the first book published by Joe Abercrombie (http://www.joeabercrombie.com/books/). It is the first volume of “The First Law” fantasy trilogy. The book is available on Amazon as an eBook.

This trilogy is set in a world similar to medieval-era Europe, where there are knights and wizards. The story is primarily set in the Union. To the north the Union is bordered by the barbarian Northmen, and from south the Gurkhul Empire threatens.

Several characters are principals in this novel, but the most important are:

  • Captain Jezal dan Luthar is a nobleman. He is a shallow but dashing young officer and possible fencing champion. Should he win the annual fencing tournament, his future would be set. He meets Ardee West, sister of his fellow soldier Captain Collem West. While Ardee is low-born and beneath him, he constantly has her on his mind.
  • Inquisitor San dan Glokta, is a former soldier and hero of an earlier war with the Gurkhul Empire though he survived that conflict as a cripple. He had achieved fame before the war by winning the annual fencing tournament. Now he is an increasingly bitter relic who has joined the Inquisition and is a torturer. He has know the West family since he was a young man.
  • Logen Ninefingers is a hulking Northman and an infamous warrior with a bloody past. The people of the Union consider him uncivilized. Remarkably, he is sometimes able to converse with spirits.
  • Bayaz is the First of the Magi. He is a noted wizard from early in the history of the Union. He has his own agenda, but to what end?
  • Ferro Maljinn is an escaped slave. She is a fierce fighter and holds her desire for revenge above all else, often failing to think before she acts.

An apprentice to Bayaz finds Logen Ninefingers and tells him that Magi Bayaz wants to meet him. They hazard encounters with some from Logen’s past, but eventually make it to Bayaz’s library/fortress. Magi Bayaz convinces Logen to accompany him to Adua, capital of the Union. The journey is not without risks.

Once they are in Adua, they cross paths with Captain Jezal dan Luthar and he is not sure what to make of them. Meanwhile there is intrigue between the Inquisitors and the growing merchant middle class within Adua. The King is aging and is now more of a symbol than a real leader.

Magi Yulwei rescues Ferro and brings her, to Magi Bayaz in Adua. Magi Bayaz has been absent from Adua for many years and not all, particularly the Inquisitor, believes him to be who he says he is. Inquisitor San dan Glokta is delegated to disprove Bayaz’s claims.

There is intrigue, adventure, sword play and a touch of magic in this well told tale.

This is the second novel by Mr. Ambercrombie that I have read, and it is every bit as good as the first. I like the way he developed the characters, and how the plot evolves leaving plenty of room for unexpected twists and turns. I have added him as well as this series my list of recommendations. The pace of the novel was good as well, never letting the reader get bogged down. Over all I give this novel a 5 out of 5, and highly recommend it for those who like fantasy quests.