Thursday, June 28, 2012

Harmony

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 2 stars
Length: Long in a distinctly clunky way (465 pages)
Publication: August 5, 2008 from Daw Books
Premise: The planet of Harmony is supposed to exist in a balanced seven-caste system, but the system is starting to waver. The planet is venting its displeasure with disasters like earthquakes and storms, the old High Priestess died when the Temple collapsed, and her successor is Sissy, a common Worker girl who has been hiding her unusual marks of all seven castes for years. Jake, a spy from the Confederated Star System, was sent to Harmony to steal a secret that could help humanity win its war with the Maril. When the two are thrown together, change starts to sweep the planet with the force of an earthquake.
Warnings: Assassination of children and families, imprisonment and mistreatment in asylums
Recommendation: Give this one a miss. Blending science fiction and fantasy elements in a single setting is difficult, and Bentley hits a halfway point that misses the best elements of both.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nightlife


The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Pleasantly solid (339 pages)
Publication: March 7, 2006 from Roc Fantasy
Premise: Caliban Leandros is half-human, half-supernatural, and his father's demon race has been hunting him for his entire life. He and his older brother Niko have been on the run for years, moving to another city every time they run into one of the creatures that they've termed Grendels. This time, however, Cal wants to stay; he and Niko have started building a life with friends, and he's sick of running. Refusing to flee will put both of them in types of danger that they never anticipated, and they may finally learn what makes Cal so valuable...and why he was born.
Warnings: There's one scene of wandering in on a violently dismembered body and another vivid one of someone being stabbed and feeling it in great detail, but those are only a page or so each and the book as a whole isn't too graphic. There is, however, quite a lot of childhood emotional abuse (and implied slapping) of both brothers, particularly Cal, in the backstory.
Recommendation: Give this one a shot; some of the plotting is rough around the edges, but you really can't ask for a more engaging narrative voice than Cal's. Thurman delivers the humor and character relationships in spades. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Court of the Air


The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 3 stars
Length: Long and shows it (608 pages)
Publication: June 10, 2008 from Tor Books
Premise: The kingdom of Jackals has reigned supreme for years with the strength of its aerostat ships and its fey-touched Special Guard, easily pushing back incursions from the neighboring state of Qatershift. But the head of that state has found a different set of allies, ones who have been locked away and scheming for millennia, and the entire face of the game is about to change. Treachery is everywhere, and two ill-prepared teenagers are thrust into the center of the conflict, trying to live out destinies they don't understand. 
Warnings: Extremely frequent character death, torture
Recommendation: If you're looking for richly woven worldbuilding and are willing to accept the plot twists as happening "because," this could be the one for you. Following its twists and turns can be cumbersome at times, but it doesn't lack for exciting sequences.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Taken: release day!

I managed to pick up this as an ARC (Advanced Reader's Copy) when I stopped by the bookstore where I used to work; I'll be trying to find more where I can so that I can put up reviews on the day that each one comes out. If you or your publishing house would like to send me one, drop me a line and I'd be happy to take a look.


The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 3 stars
Length: On the long side of moderate (432 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: June 12, 2012 (today) from Harper Voyager
Premise: Griffin Shaw was a P.I. when he died fifty years ago, and he's spent the years since unable to let go of his memories as he escorts departed souls into the Everlast. One night he lets a recently murdered woman back into her body for a moment, and she has just enough time to write her friend a note when Shaw isn't looking. That small action dooms the rockabilly reporter Kit Craig to die and gets Shaw banished into mortal flesh until the time when he watches Kit's death and experiences it as his own. But this P.I. lost a bold woman to violence in Las Vegas before, and he won't stand by and let it happen again.
Warnings: Attempted rape, attempted gang rape, coerced prostitution, and offscreen sexual abuse of children; this one seems to be trying to go for Shock Value Bingo in places.
Recommendation: If you have a strong attachment to the trappings of the 1950s or to the idea of angels on earth, you could do worse than this one, but otherwise it's too predictable in some areas and not quite intense enough in others to make up for that. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Left Hand of God


Not to be confused with The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursala K. LeGuin, which I hear is a lovely book; one day I'll actually write a review of it just for the excuse to read the thing.

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 1.5 stars
Length: Longer than it needs to be (400 pages)
Publication: June 15, 2010 from Dutton
Premise: Thomas Cale has been raised as a Redeemer in an enormous prison, trained to be the perfect warrior and killer. Escape is too dangerous to attempt until he comes across one of his teachers dismembering one of the first women he's ever seen. He, two fellow students, and a young woman from the locked-off part of the building have to flee in order to escape being tortured and killed, but life outside the monastery is more difficult than any of them had bargained for.
Warnings: Minimally detailed dismemberment, lots of discussion of death by torture, implied child prostitution, massacres.
Recommendation: Give this one a miss. It has some interesting ideas in the beginning, but it turns into deathly dull work to read when none of the characters grow into actually interesting people.

This one has a few spoilers down in the red pen section when I start in on the female characters, so if you're planning to read the book then I'd recommend skipping that bit.