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review 2018-07-16 03:12
A Meeting at Corvallis
A Meeting at Corvallis - S.M. Stirling

I am done with this series.  


A Meeting at Corvallis, the third book in first Emberverse trilogy, unfortunately didn't return to the magic of the 1st in this series.  Too much battle info-dumping, not enough people behaving believably.


That said, I did cry


at the death of Mike Havel

(spoiler show)



But I'm just done.  If I want the minutia of military campaigns and what people ate, I'll go read some L.E. Modesitt Jr. At least his villains aren't such caricatures. 

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review 2018-06-12 20:10
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey
River of Teeth - Sarah Gailey

It's that time of year again, when I'm reading my way through the Hugo nominations in preparation for voting, and this is one of the books that is up for Best Novella even though I'm not completely convinced that it actually fits the bill as either SF or Fantasy. The most you can say about River of Teeth is that it's alternate history, of which more shortly, though it still hits more genre buttons than some things that have been nominated in recent years...


Anyway, onto the plot - the basic premise is that, back in the mid-1800's, there was a plan to import hippos to the US which understandably failed to come to anything. In River of Teeth, that plan went full steam ahead and there was also work done to dam up part of the Mississippi when some of those hippos escaped and went feral. In case you weren't aware, hippos are very aggressive and dangerous animals and definitely not something you want to be messing with, though here they also serve a major role as replacements for horses in a part of the world that is significantly swampy. 


Anyway, our story starts with our protagonist getting commissioned to 'deal with' the feral hippos and to do so he comes up with an ambitious plan, involving the need to recruit himself a group of miscreants and blow stuff up. Naturally, since this is essentially a western, there's a suitably oily villain who is a) responsible for crushing our protagonists' dreams previously and b) has a devious scheme of his own. Hijinks ensue. 


River of Teeth is entertaining enough, with well-drawn characters that made me keep turning the page, but I'm not sure it entertained me enough to either vote for it in the Hugos or continue to read further in this series (since there's at least one sequel, Taste of Marrow). 

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review 2018-06-05 19:12
The Hanged Man / P.N. Elrod
The Hanged Man - P.N. Elrod

On a freezing Christmas Eve in 1879, a forensic psychic reader is summoned from her Baker Street lodgings to the scene of a questionable death. Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury (named after her godmother, the current Queen of England) is adamant that the death in question is a magically compromised murder and not a suicide, as the police had assumed, after the shocking revelation contained by the body in question, Alex must put her personal loss aside to uncover the deeper issues at stake, before more bodies turn up.

Turning to some choice allies—the handsome, prescient Lieutenant Brooks, the brilliant, enigmatic Lord Desmond, and her rapscallion cousin James—Alex will have to marshal all of her magical and mental acumen to save Queen and Country from a shadowy threat. Our singular heroine is caught up in this rousing gaslamp adventure of cloaked assassins, meddlesome family, and dark magic.



***2018 Summer of Spies***

Recommended for fans of the Victorian lady detective form of fantasy.

I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of the steampunk subgenre, although I seem to be warming up to that category as I read more of it. This novel is one of those best suited to my particular tastes in fantasy.

I chose it partly because of the series title, Her Majesty’s Psychic Service. It is definitely a mystery with a dollop of romance—I’d been hoping for something spy related, from that series title. But there was enough intrigue that I’m still counting it towards my Summer of Spies.

I loved the family complications that the heroine, Alex Pendlebury, coped with throughout the story and the workplace machinations that also had to be factored into her calculations. Operating on the theory that forgiveness is easier to get than permission, Alex shows a lot of initiative on the investigation, aided by the sometimes-prescient always-handsome Lieutenant Brooks.

As Patricia Briggs wrote in her blurb for the book, there is “Murder, mayhem and tea.” If you like alternate-history Victorian adventure with witty banter and paranormal talents, this is the book for you. Now I am just crossing my fingers that Ms. Elrod will be publishing another volume in the series eventually.

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review 2018-05-23 03:46
Rich detailed setting and memorable characters
Amberlough - Lara Elena Donnelly

This was the type of book that when I finished it, I had to lie back down and just stare at the ceiling. It was mind blowing. There are layers of intrigue and you don’t watch it unfold, in fact it’s the opposite, you watch it form and develop as the story progresses.


The setting in this one is one of a lot of political instability. It’s explained in the earlier parts of the book. It’s a bit difficult to follow (notes may help some readers) perhaps a character list would help in this case to keep everything straight. A glossary would have helped as well as the characters have their own slang - most of it straight forward but it would help nevertheless. That being said despite these little shortcomings, the world is rich and detailed. Amberlough is decadent and has remnants of Weimar Berlin. Now I did say previously it’s hard to follow because of the slang, but it’s precisely because of this slang that makes the world more detailed and fun to read.


The pace of the plot is slow and steady as it sets up the stage for what would follow after. It is essentially, a spy novel, so it quickly leads to a lot of double dealing, moments of backstabbing and betrayal. There are only three characters that you really need to focus on as the supporting ones just add to the flavor of the novel. Of the three that are central to the plot, one must love Aristide.


With a name like Aristide Makicosta you know he’s going to be a character to remember. He’s flamboyant, street smart and clever. Despite the world burning around him he always manages to do everything in style. It’s hard not to fall for his charms and so you would understand Cyril’s love for him.  I still don’t know what to think about Cyril. He was doing the job and had to. It came at a great cost but he had no choice and he had to think for himself (although I know there seems to be a lot of hate for him).


I love Cordelia. She’s got sass, she’s just as street smart and a survivor. Her character development is on point in this book. Yes she may be just a ‘dancer’ but she soon develops into someone with a cause to defend the city she loves. Despite the horrors she goes through in the latter half of the novel, she doesn’t let it break her. It’s admirable and she’s likable not only because of her catchy personality but also because of her unstoppable strength.


That ENDING THOUGH. I felt my eyes grow wide each time I turned the pages throughout the last third of the novel. This was why I had to sit back and just absorb everything I’ve read when I finished this one. It was that good.


Greatly recommended if you like intrigue, a decadent setting, and memorable characters. I absolutely enjoyed this book.

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review 2018-05-05 21:24
The House of Binding Thorns - Aliette de Bodard
The House of Binding Thorns - Aliette de Bodard

Events in The House of Binding Thorns follow on pretty much immediately from the ending of the previous book (The House of Shattered Wings), which I re-read just before starting this book since it had been a while since I first read it - the previous book stood up to re-reading but this one wasn't quite as impressive. 


Anyway, hot off the difficulties experienced by House Silverspires in the previous book, including being taken over by an enormous banyan tree as part of an act of revenge by someone who the House's founder had betrayed and allowed to be killed, The House of Binding Thorns follows what happens to a couple of the characters we met previously as well as introducing some new ones.


Philippe, former dragon and exile in Paris, is one of them though he's mostly kicking around as a supporting character in this storyline, with more attention being paid to the fate of Madeleine. She's still finding her feet in her new/old House when she's sent on a mission to the dragon kingdom under the Seine, as Asmodeus is looking to make a marriage alliance. 


The dragons are in trouble, though - their kingdom is ravaged by the same addiction that Madeleine had and the dragons suspect House Hawthorn is behind it. Meanwhile another House is taking advantage of the relative power vacuum left by the problems of Silverspires and trying to both oust Asmodeus and help rebels take over the dragon kingdom. 


All in all, still an enjoyable read and enough going on towards the end of the story to keep me interested in finding out what happens next, though it does drag a little bit towards the middle. There's a whole sub-plot with Asmodeus' fellow Fallen which doesn't really go anywhere, except to get her into Hawthorn and doubtless set up future storylines and that's a little frustrating. 


One other problem: the paperback edition I read had incredibly small print, like about 2 points smaller than usual. I do a lot of reading in bed and that was really hard to read for extended periods of time!

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