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review 2018-06-18 09:16
The Lumberjack- Erik Martin Willén

    Willén, in his first departure from sf space adventure/opera, has written a present-day thriller set in a generic northern forest reserve territory of the USA. Once begun the book is hard to put down, as one is driven on by the pace and tension in the story. The character elements of the evil antagonist bound along the edge of implausibility, on a tightrope between impossible and just about conceavible human physicality. In contrast, the rest of the cast of good, bad and pretty are within a more normal range of observable humanity. The plot is just about conceivable, except for the behaviour of a pack of wolves. We note that the author is Scandinavian, so of a population that has been responsible, more than any other, for demonising the wolf. The author also seems keen to exaggerate the danger from the cougar, or mountain lion as many Americans choose to call the creature. Both the cougar and wolf can on rare occasions be a genuine threat to even uninjured, but isolated, humans, especially if an animal feels cornered. But neither is exactly the danger to man in the way that brown bears are. The wild life, non-human and human is extraordinarily dangerous in this neck of the woods. The book is certainly both great entertainment and the provider of a good adrenaline rush. Anyway, for the cause, thriller writers have never been frightened to claim that some maligned animal or other is almost as dangerous a predator of humans as is another human.

    The idea of the eco-warrior, that so loves nature that he would rather see the devastation of mankind than nature is certainly not new. As our greedy species slowly destroys the planet on which we live, there will be many more examples not just in fiction but in our real lives. I have a great deal of sympathy for the ‘evil killer’ in this story, and that probably caused me to be less bothered about some of the often self-absorbed and shallow victims than I should. I would far rather live with a few billion less people and a more natural balance of wildlife. From the Earth’s point of view, we are very far short of describable as a gift from God. Perhaps in the next instalment, if Willén writes one, the lycanthrope will have a substantial degree of ‘normal’ human support. The flip-side of my reluctance to condemn the killer will surely mean that the more humanist reader, with greater empathy for the main characters, will probably enjoy the chase even more than I did.

    This book would benefit from a good edit, as a few sloppy sentences and typos take away some of the shine of quality. Despite that, I feel no hesitation in giving five stars as an entertainment. Willén generates constant interest and, in crucial scenes, real tension. There are a couple of plot weaknesses, stretch marks rather than holes, as events in different locations run in rough parallel, but not ones that detract seriously from the page turning rush. This is a great holiday read, that can be put down between bus journeys or swims, as enjoyment doesn’t require a very deep concentrate on plot detail. This is anything but an over-complicated whodunit type of thriller. But for a stronger attention to the detail of sentence structure and perhaps the inclusion of a few deeper nuances of plot, ‘the lumberjack’ could be a modern equal of any Alistair Maclean thriller. I am sure I will read other books by this author to add to this, and to the first of the Nastragall space operas that I read and reviewed a couple of year ago.


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review 2018-06-15 23:42
STARLIGHT by Erin Hunter
Starlight - Erin Hunter

Book 4 of series 2 of the Warriors series has the clans finding new homes for themselves. While there are questions of StarClan's approval of the new land, each clan claims a part of the new land. Fighting over the territories becomes hard because the clans are used to working together but for some it is easy to go back to the old hostilities. Squirrelflight and Brambleclaw have their problems to work out while Leafpaw struggles with her feelings for Cloudfeather and his for her.

I like how the clans worked together and still, in some ways, continue to do so. Firestar is still the leader amongst leaders regardless of how other leaders want to go back to the old hostilities. But the younger generation is coming into their own. It will be interesting to see who becomes leaders and who turn traitor.

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review 2018-06-15 21:37
The Warrior of Clan Kincaid - Lily Blackwood

Ever since book one, I have looked forward to the next book in this series.  The characters are so captivating and intense.  Cull the Nameless is such a dark and dangerous character; with his slave background, his cold demeanor, and how he responds to Derryth.  Derryth comes across as a spoiled young girl too superficial and selfish, until she is almost raped and then capture by Cull and his army who are hellbent on taking Inverhaven.  What Cull and Derryth do not realize is that he is the third and youngest lost child of the murdered Laird Kincaid and that the Wolf of Badenoch wants him to take it and kill the “imposters”, not realizing that they are in fact his brothers.  The story is engaging, intense, action-packed, passionate, poignant, and perfect.  I LOVED the “I chose you” scenes between Cull and Derryth.  I’m glad that in the end, he got his name, and a family, and a woman that loved him so much.  His ordeal, I think, was the worst of the three brothers and he definitely deserved a happily ever after.  Loved every second of the story and highly recommend the series.

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review 2018-06-15 16:50
Sun Warrior (Tales of a New World #2) by P. C. Cast
Sun Warrior - P.C. Cast

I did it, I read Sun Warrior. It was a book I picked up with a great deal of trepidation and no small amount of dread. The House of Night Series remains one of the worst I have ever endured and Moon Chosenmanages to plum still deeper depths. I did not have high expectations for Sun Warrior

Which made reading Sun Warrior, almost a pleasant surprise. Oh, not because it was good. Not because it came even close to good. Not because it could even see good on a clear day with a telescope. Because it wasn’t remotely. Nor was it not deeply problematic in many many ways (especially dwelling on a lot of rape as well as some really terrible treatment of the former slaves the Companions controlled) But it managed to avoid a whole lot of the most awful traits of the first book by… basically pretending they never happened or by retconning or by brushing over them super quickly.


Like the book tries to emphasise what a wonderful caring healer Mari is… we’re all completely avoiding the way she just abandoned her people and listened to them scream. At best we have a brief nod while everyone rallies round Mari to tell her she’s amazing and we spend the rest of this book with just about everyone treating Mari like the second coming. Or there’s the racial coding and Blackface of the last book which is just ignored in this book. The description of Earth Walkers as ugly vs the “refined” features of the Companions has been dropped entirely. The  Nightfever is there, but handwaved and we’re all far more concerned by the new plague from the Skin Stealers. She even develops a whole new load of traditions about Clan Weaver weaving - which sounds simplistic, but last book Mari didn’t think her people were capable of art.


It’s not that the book has changed, dispensed with or otherwise redeemed the badness of the last book: it’s just pretended none of it ever happened.


It does have its own problematic elements which largely stem from the writing: it’s horribly slow pace, the endless telling-with-no-showing and the Mary Sue omniscience of the main characters held together with a whole lot of magical plot glue.


This book, this oh-so-long-book, covers about a week, maybe a fortnight. And in that time Mari and Nik decide to create a whole new society called the Pack where all people come together in mutual love and tolerance. Which sounds nice - except remember like 2 days ago these Earth Walker women were imprisoned and enslaved by the Companions. They were enslaved for generations as a people and some of these women had literally spent many years in captivity. It is REASONABLE for these women to be at least a little wary of the Companions. It is reasonable for these women to be more than a little concerned when Mari decides to host several Companions in their BIRTHING BURROW. The place where pregnant women of the Clan give birth. And some of these Companions were literally among the raiding party that kidnapped several Clan women AND killed Leda, Mari’s mother and pretty much destroyed the Clan, a few weeks ago. Hey, y’know, it’s not exactly an act of vicious bigotry for the these women to think that they’d rather their enslavers not camp in the most sensitive parts of their home. But Mari treats them as grossly intolerant and drives some of the women out for not embracing them men who hunted and owned them 2 days before - and no-one challenges her on this



This follows Mari, in both books, repeatedly talking about the bigotry of her people and why she had to hide: but we never see this. Literally not one member of Clan Weaver turns on Mari for being half Companion Tree-Person. Not one. But she repeatedly tells us of the lengths she has to go to to avoid this non-existent bigotry. She continually refers to this non-existent bigotry to bludgeon the surviving Clan Weaver women to just ABANDON their society.


We have something similar with the Companions - with Nik and Mari assuming the Companions will definitely try to kill her and return to their slaving ways. Perhaps there’s more justification in assuming the slave holding Companions being regarded with more suspicion - but we don’t see it; no real wide spread rejection or hostility. The only Companion who really clings to real negativity towards the Earth Walkers is Thaddeus - who is infected by the Skin Stealer disease. But Nik decides to leave his people at a time of utter peril, taking with him Laru (his pet dog and the alpha. Which sort of makes him leader. It’s like a Canine Excalibur) when the ONLY opposition he gets is from Thaddeus the diseased one. He leaves his people literally to die for the sake of a prejudice that we never see.

And despite everyone knowing Thaddeus killed the last Sun Priest, no-one does anything about it. He just wanders around being evil, gathering followers and everyone just shrugs and moves on -not for any reason other than the author NEEDING Thaddeus to run around being super evil to advance a plot. Reasonably these characters would have killed/banished/dropped him down a hole but the plot needs him to be there


This whole lack of actual prejudice is a problem because both Nik and Mari use this supposed prejudice as an excuse to abandon the Companions completely (despite having lost over half of their population in a devastating forest fire and desperately desperately needing help, they have no healer, no home, few resources and lots of wounded) and force the Earth Walkers to completely change their way of life. This prejudice NEEDS to be real to stop Nik and Mari being completely self absorbed and utterly callous towards others and without it being depicted they still look self-absorbed and callous… but also weirdly paranoid. “Everyone hates me!” but… no-one does. I mean, ever.


This prejudice is even used as the driving force for Mari deciding the Pack needs to relocate to a whole new unknown land - this prejudice is an essential driver of the plot and it’s NOT THERE


The books also really fails to examine, well, anything in any real depth. Like Mari and Nik are building this new society and, then, deciding to move to the great unknown to live with pretty horses - but it’s ok everyone going with them choses to follow. Except the Earth Walkers will pretty much die without Mari to wash them. And the Companions are vulnerable to the death fungus which means basically half of them die if they suffer even a minor break of their skin: an ailment that Mari can cure. Oh and now we have the Skin Stealer disease which… only Mari can cure. At no point does any character even slightly hint that Mari has complete power over everyone and how little free will everyone else has because of this. Mari herself never thinks for a second about the ethics of everyone’s dependence on her - even when she threatens to leave or abandon people. Just some level of thought would be nice


Which brings me round to how Mari is just the most ridiculous Mary Sue ever. Mary Sue is a much abused term and is often used by sexist readers to dismiss any half way competent female character - but Mari is such a classic example. She has ALL THE SHINY POWERS in incredible amounts and even Thaddeus wants to capture her to use her special shininess. She is everyone’s saviour since she can heal the Skin Stealer Plague - but it’s not just her powers; it’s the way everyone treats her. Unless you’re actually designated Evil, you love Mari. Everyone loves Mari. Everyone agrees with Mari. She’s radically changing society and gets barely more than a token protest. People line up to love her. When one of the Skin Stealers is fleeing her people she prays to the Earth Goddess and MARI HEARS THE PRAYERS. She’s also getting some very House of Night-style divine guidance as well adding to her specialness. And this is why the whole prejudice themes fail - because the author just can’t bring herself to have people dislike Mari.




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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2018/06/sun-warrior-tales-of-new-world-2-by-p-c.html
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review 2018-06-09 06:53
Fun non-Western fantasy . . . but with too many spiders TT_TT
Akata Warrior - Nnedi Okorafor

Entertaining fantasy adventure read, but WAY too many spiders for me, lol. The initial jolt of awe for the world building from the first book has worn off a bit, but it's enjoyable and seamless to settle back into. I recommended Akata Witch as a potential MG crossover, but the characters and their relationships have aged up in this sequel, so parental guidance is recommended. Nothing too explicit or anything, it's just that the discussion of adult relationships might not appeal to younger kids. Excited for book three!

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