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review 2019-01-14 20:08
Cry Fox
Rivers of London Volume 5: Cry Fox - Ben Aaronovitch

It is no secret I'm a fan of the Rivers of London series and one of the things I like is the multiple ways in which the story is told, e.g. here the graphic novel. Like its predecessors it is good in keeping you entertained while waiting for the next novel in the series.

Cry Fox only contained four issues so it was a very fast read. It was a take on a very well known tale which was maybe not the most surprising or original but the nice cast of characters make up a lot. As one of the characters plays a role in the sixth book, The Hanging Tree, it is best read after it. At the end there is some more information about the Fox in several cultural and literary settings.

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review 2019-01-14 06:03
Kingdom of Needle and Bone by Mira Grant
Kingdom of Needle and Bone - Mira Grant



"We live in an age of wonders.

Modern medicine has conquered or contained many of the diseases that used to carry children away before their time, reducing mortality and improving health. Vaccination and treatment are widely available, not held in reserve for the chosen few. There are still monsters left to fight, but the old ones, the simple ones, trouble us no more.

Or so we thought. For with the reduction in danger comes the erosion of memory, as pandemics fade from memory into story into fairy tale. Those old diseases can’t have been so bad, people say, or we wouldn’t be here to talk about them. They don’t matter. They’re never coming back.

How wrong we could be.

It begins with a fever. By the time the spots appear, it’s too late: Morris’s disease is loose on the world, and the bodies of the dead begin to pile high in the streets. When its terrible side consequences for the survivors become clear, something must be done, or the dying will never stop. For Dr. Isabella Gauley, whose niece was the first confirmed victim, the route forward is neither clear nor strictly ethical, but it may be the only way to save a world already in crisis. It may be the only way to atone for her part in everything that’s happened.

She will never be forgiven, not by herself, and not by anyone else. But she can, perhaps, do the right thing.

We live in an age of monsters."


This is something of a apocalypse/post-apocalyse short story, with an interesting twist at the end.  However, the writing style was a bit flat (not to mention repetitative and preachy) and the characters were rather one-dimensional.  The concept was interesting, if not entirely new, but the author can do better in terms of execution.  The end result would probably have been better if the author had written a more lengthy novel.  In any event, I did enjoy the story.


NOTE:  I suspect this is a prequal.  I'm beginning to intensley dislike this publishing habit of splitting up one novel into 3 short stories or following lack-lustre short stories with proper novels.

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review 2019-01-13 14:47
Dragon Night - Donna Grant

This one was fun! It was also a tad different because usually the dragon king shows his woman who he is but in this one Alex accidentally sees Dorian shift and then later confronts him about it. Also, Dorian has been asleep since the dragons left the realm a millennial ago and he really hates humans. Those two aspects of the character development made this one fresh and fun and exciting. I loved their story. The plot and conflict is building and I am SO ready to find out who Rhi’s Dragon king is!!

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review 2019-01-12 18:39
“Rathen” officially becomes a developed character and series
Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest - Grant Elliot Smith,Steven H. Stohler

Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest by Grant Elliot Smith
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

With this sequel, “Rathen” officially becomes a developed character and series. Highly recommend for fantasy & RPG fans.

Grant Elliot Smith delivers another intense literary-Role Playing Game (lit-RPG) inspired adventure with Rathen: Into Bramblewood Forest; here he continues his Rathen series with co-author Steven H. Stohler. This sequel can easily be enjoyed as a standalone adventure. Whichever one you read, you’ll be excited to read the other.

My review of the predecessor, Rathen: The Legend of Ghrakus Castle holds true for this sequel; both are fun reads, having captain Rathen lead ~a dozen adventurers; as in the first book, the first 50% is the party gathering while they travel; the latter half delivering the real conflict.

Bramblewood unfolds super-fast and is surprisingly easy to read given the number of featured characters (~11 in the main party and ~4 antagonists--all of them have backstories and motivations). Presenting at a pleasant pace and delivering intense action while offering character depth is a testimony to the authors’ ability to unfurl balanced storytelling. The authors must be meticulous dungeon masters. 

Adding a Lich to the party, and ensuring he had a central role in the plot to obtain the Book of Ziz, really provided a unique take on the typical RPG party. Listen below is Rathen’s party, each member you’ll get to know and route for:

  • Rathen: middle-aged captain of the party, and his two buddies from previous adventures: Bulo (veteran gladiator) and Thack (half-orc hunter & bartender)
  • Magom (lich spellcaster)
  • Caswen (female healer,Order of Thandrall) and her guards: Marduke (male knight) & Dryn (female archer)
  • Otherworldly humanoids Rendrak, Garrick, Bandark
  • Apaca (Druid, needed to handle the trees in the titular forest)

Keeping it from a 5-star is the same melodrama that makes the tale enjoyable. There are instances of fast healing that deflate consequences of battle, but still reflect lit-RPG expectations; many subplots come across as artificial (i.e., including a few romantic relationships, and escape scenes) that develop fun tension but approach feeling forced.

Cover Art by Stawicki and Future Rathen: Longtime fantasy illustrator Michael Stawicki provided another great cover. He has illustrated many in his career for Dragon Lance, Monte Cook Games, Milton-Bradley, Hasbro, Wizards of the Coast, Vivendi Games, and others. 

I am committed to the third episode in the works, pitched as “The Battle for Korganis.” 
Combing Stawicki’s website, it is touch to overlook a stunning related work which I hope/speculate reveals the next adventure, artwork called “Rathen’s Descent.”

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review 2019-01-12 15:40
Dragon Burn: A Dark Kings Novella - Donna Grant

This one I knew what to expect because I accidentally read past it and so it is referenced in the books that follow, so there were no big surprises. But that didn’t take away from an enjoyable story, and I liked Sebastian and Gianna. It isn’t my favorite, but I think that is only because I felt like I had already read it before. It has all of the great traits of a DG book and a DK novel-- adventure, passion, intrigue, and excitement.

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