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review 2017-05-18 15:19
Shadow Games / Glen Cook
Shadow Games - Glen Cook

 

After the devastating battle at the Tower of Charm, Croaker leads the greatly diminished Black Company south, in search of the lost Annals. The Annals will be returned to Khatovar, eight thousand miles away, a city that may exists only in legend...the origin of the first Free Companies.

Every step of the way the Company is hounded by shadowy figured and carrion-eating crows. As they march every southward, through bug infested jungle, rivers dense with bloodthirsty pirates, and cities, dead and living, haunted by the passage of the Company north, their numbers grow until they are thousands strong.

But always they are watched--by the Shadowmasters--a deadly new enemy: twisted creature that deal in darkness and death: powerful, shadowy creatures bent on smothering the world in their foul embrace. This is the first round in a deadly game, a game that the Black Company cannot hope to win.

 

A smattering of the Black Company still remains and they have decided to head back to their beginnings, heading south to the legendary city of Khatovar.  They are in search of the lost Annals of the Company, so you may be sure that this operation is being headed by our cranky Annalist, Croaker.

 

Croaker isn’t sure that he likes being in charge, but he shows an aptitude for it, thinking up sneaky surprises for the enemies that they encounter and showing that knowing some history gives a leader a good grasp of the many things that can go wrong.  He informs the reader that “I guess I suffer from an impoverishment of the sociopathic spirit necessary to go big time.”  He is selling himself short.

 

Finally, I see why so many other readers love Lady.  She is down, but not out.  She still has the governing touch and retains buckets full of knowledge about battle, administration, and politicking.  And she’s not afraid to use it.  A peek at the next book reveals that she will take up the pen as Annalist and I can hardly wait to get her take on things.

 

Book 258 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2017-03-10 17:06
Divided Allegiance / Elizabeth Moon
Divided Allegiance - Elizabeth Moon

Paksenarrion, once a sheepfarmer's daughter, now a veteran warrior, meets new challenges as she breaks up a robber gang, dispells an ancient evil possessing an elvish shrine and is accepted for training at an academy for knights. Clearly, a high destiny awaits her.

 

The biggest impression that this book made on me was thinking, “We still don’t treat our wounded veterans very well.” Paksenarrion, the golden girl, leaves her fighting unit for a while to do advanced training. Being the Mary Sue character that she is, she shines at all of it, and is ear-marked to become a Paladin of Gird until she is captured & tortured. Suddenly, her fellow fighters & superiors are questioning her future, even questioning her past dedication to her profession.

Moon was a Marine, and her service experience colours the Paksenarrion saga. Not nearly as dark as Glen Cook’s Black Company series (she obviously had a less traumatic experience than he did), her portrayals of camaraderie in the ranks are pretty sunny until late in this book, when Paks has what we would call post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and things get pretty bleak for her. As things still are for returned veterans who are suffering, making this still a rather timely book.

The extra portions of angst for Paks actually make this a better book than the first installment, where she could do no wrong. It is much more interesting & engrossing. No question about whether I will read book 3—it is already in my book bag as my next “work break” book.

Book 248 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2017-02-17 21:38
Sheepfarmer's Daughter / Elizabeth Moon
Sheepfarmer's Daughter - Elizabeth Moon

Paksenarrion — Paks for short — is somebody special. She knows it, even if nobody else does yet. No way will she follow her father's orders to marry the pig farmer down the road. She's off to join the army, even if it means she can never see her family again.

And so her adventure begins... the adventure that transforms her into a hero remembered in songs, chosen by the gods to restore a lost ruler to his throne.

Here is her tale as she lived it.

 

I really wanted to like this tale more than I actually did. It had moments of greatness—as when Paksenarrion fights off her father and leaves home to join the army. (Although, as the daughter of a pig farmer, I will tell you that there are worse men that you could end up married to).

I read this book while on holiday and it always seemed that I was interrupted right in mid-battle, left wondering for many hours how things would turn out! That said, the battles were certainly not gritty like those described by Glen Cook in his Dark Company series. These were battlefield-lite. And although Paks is injured several times and has bad things happen to her, she leads the charmed life of the fantasy heroine.

What was refreshing was having a female main character who was competent with a weapon and interested in tactics. Now, how much is her own doing and how much is she being assisted by somewhat magical influences? This supernatural stirring in her life puts me in mind of Joan of Arc….

Book 241 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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review 2016-03-29 10:00
Hell & High Water (THIRDS Book 1)
Hell & High Water (THIRDS Book 1) - Charlie Cochet
I stumbled upon this series a few days ago and it sounded like I would like it, so I immediately got me the first book.
I half expected just to get some men and women in uniform, shapeshifters, a brewing struggle between human and shapeshifters and some romance, a setup that worked well for me in several other books I read so far, but I got more.

Let me elaborate:
The world Charlie Cochet created is one where shapeshifters (aka Therians) were created by accident by humans in the 70ies when biological warfare in the Vietnam War released a virus which later required development of an antidote. This antidote created the shapeshifter mutations.
To cope with that, the government created a Therian government called THIRDS (aka Therian Human Intelligence, Recon, Defence Squadron).
The counterpart for the human population is the HPF (aka Human Police Force).

The story starts with human homicide detective Dexter J. Daley’s testimony against his former partner after him witnessing him committing cold blooded murder. This leads to Dex being treated like an outcast and as a traitor of his precinct in the HPF and human race, since the victim was a young Therian.
Eventually he loses his job but he gets sort of promoted to be an agent with the THIRDS because his dad is a sergeant there. Therians clearly don’t have a problem with family members working together.
Agent Sloane Brodie is a jaguar Therian and Dex’s new team leader and partner. He previously lost his partner and rejected all other potential candidates so far. He and the rest of the team fully intended to do the same with Dex because they were all still grieving. All while they had to solve a case of murders of Therians.
But well Dex is Dex …. He somehow managed to find his place in the team and the heart of Sloane and the process of it was somewhat funny as hell. Dex is a dork. A huge ABBA singing dork.
I loved Dex’s banter with Sloane.

Sloane turned, arching an eyebrow at Dex.
“ABBA?”
“What kind of gay man are you?” Dex thrust a finger toward the door.
“Out of my house. Your kind isn’t welcome here.”


“You seem to forget where you are. You’re in Casa de Dex, and in Casa de Dex is much singing.”

“You gotta stop doing that!”
“Doing what?”
“That popping-up-outta-nowhere thing you do.”
Sloane’s brows rose in amusement. “ I use doors like everyone else.”


“Are these,”-Sloane peered at the wrapping paper-“stripping Santas?”
Dex wiggled his brows, “In thongs. Pole dancing.”
“Sometimes I worry about you.” Sloane shook his head, before tearing through the paper.


I also loved the banter between Dex and his team mate Ash. So funny.

Ash rushed forward, and Dex aimed his rifle.
“I swear I will send your hairy ass back to Narnia if you don’t back the fuck up,” Dex warned him, releasing the safety on his rifle.


Oh god, he was about to get a hard-on at work, and the bastard (Sloane) that was the cause of it was loving every moment of it.
Think unsexy thoughts. Think unsexy thoughts.
Ash’s growl echoed through the showers. “What are you two gay boys doing in there?”
Aaand done.

I loved the writing style of this author. This was my first book of hers, but I’m already set on reading the second book in this series.
She created an interesting world and I hope she writes more about the development of the Therians in the future instalments.
The way she developed the team dynamics and their banter was beautiful and just perfect.
I also liked that in this world the main problem was the hate of some humans against the Therians and not skin colour or a different sexuality.
It was also refreshing to read a shifter novel without them acting like sex starved idiots in a frenzy.

But there were also some parts I didn’t like that much.
The mystery came a bit short for my liking and felt rushed in the end because the development of Dex’s and Sloane’s relationship took a huge part of the book. It also was kind of obvious after a certain point. This could have been done better.
I also thought that Dex at the beginning was vastly different from the Dex who started at THIRDS. He went from depressed and frustrated to an always funny and happy dork in no time. However I like the Dex at THIRDS better.

I would recommend this book and I’m going to continue the series not just because of the cliffhanger , but also because I want to know how the relationship between Dex and Sloane continues. I also want to know more about the rest of the team.
 
 

 

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review 2016-03-06 20:01
The Warrior's Apprentice / Lois McMaster Bujold
The Warrior's Apprentice - Lois McMaster Bujold

Discharged from the Barrarayan academy after flunking the physical, a discouraged Miles Vorkosigan takes possession of a jumpship and becomes the leader of a mercenary force that expands to a fleet of treasonous proportions.

 

A rolling stone gathers no moss. Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, with his favourite saying at the ending of the book being “Forward momentum,” will never grow any moss.  At the end of Barrayar, Miles is a small, brittle-boned child with a reluctance to sit still and preternatural speed for finding the next predicament to get into.  He is able to keep three or four adults hopping and still regularly break his bones while performing these antics.

 

The Warrior’s Apprentice introduces the reader to Miles, the young man. Still determined, still looking to make his mark in the world, but rapidly washing out of Barrayaran military school due to his physical limitations.  So what will he do with his life once the military life is ruled out?  It becomes expedient for Miles to visit his maternal grandmother in Beta Colony and the adventure begins.

 

Miles is a perfect balance of his genetics—he has his father’s mind for strategy and politics and his mother’s Betan heart for people, understanding them and wanting to help. The combination launches him on his big adventure almost by accident.  His grandmother Naismith acknowledges his propensity to “pick up strays” and with his first two acts of kindness he attracts his first two devoted followers. 

 

One thing leads to another and soon Miles is an accidental military leader and leaning on what he has learned by spending time with his father plus what he can steal time to study on the job. Fake it till you make it. 

 

A rollicking adventure with a satisfying ending. No cliff-hanger, but obviously set up for the further adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, which I look forward to reading.

 

Book number 214 in my science fiction and fantasy reading project.

 

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