Sunday, January 11, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 1/10/2009)

An interesting cache of books, two of which I read. One I thoroughly enjoyed, another to a lesser extent but which merits a reexamination. Let it roll:

Monster Blood Tattoo I: Foundling by D.M. Cornish . (2007, Speak/ Penguin Children's) I read this when it first published in hardcover in 2006 and thought it OK, but the more I consider the book/series, I think it was a case of the wrong book at the wrong time. Larry’s thoughts on the book have pushed me to reconsider and with the second book on shelves, I may have to re-examine the book, and now, the publisher put a whole new design on the books that really pops out from the shelves. Here’s a bit from my review:

The detail and thought put into his world is indeed extensive, Cornish’s many years of building up the world are evident throughout. The early portion of the novel, when Rossamünd is in Madam Opera’s, should connect with the author’s intended audience, young adults. Rossamünd is picked on and has to deal with stringent teachers and adults. He finds solace in the books detailing the monsters in his world, and more specifically the monster hunter’s who earn, with each kill, the titular Monster Blood Tattoo.

With many Young Adult titles, a big part of the book is the packaging. PenguinPutnam, the publishers, have done a very nice job here. The book feels comfortable in your hands and has a nice cover by the author; Cornish started the storyline years ago in notebooks with his own drawings, he is now a professional illustrator. Throughout the novel, his nicely-rendered pencil drawings decorate full pages, in the form of character studies. The illustrations are also peppered in the appendices, providing a very immersive experience for the reader.

The Twilight Herald (Book Two of the Twilight Reign) by Tom Lloyd. I still have the first book in this series staring at me unread, which I soon hope to change.

Now the eyes of the land turn to the minor city of Scree, which could soon be obliterated as the new Lord of the Farlan flexes his powers. Scree is suffering under an unnatural summer drought and surrounded by volatile mercenary armies that may be its only salvation.

This is a strange sanctuary for a fugitive abbot to flee to – but he is only the first of many to be drawn there. Kings and princes, lords and monsters, all walk the sun-scorched streets.

As elite soldiers clash after dark and actors perform cruel and subversive plays that work their way into the hearts of the audience, the city begins to tear itself apart – yet even chaos can be scripted.

There is a malevolent will at work in Scree, one that has a lesson for the entire land: nations can be manipulated, prophecies perverted and Gods denied.

Nothing lies beyond the reach of a shadow, and no matter how great a man’s power, there some things he cannot be protected from.

Starfinder by John Marco (DAW Hardcover 05/05/2009) – I’ve been enjoying John Marco’s books ever since I read The Jackal of Nar and up through The Sword of Angels. I’m glad to see a new book by John, which he just sent to me. The book/series (Skylords) has a steampunkish feel, but is also a coming of age story. The book might have more of a YA appeal than his previous work. Regardless, I’m looking forward to reading it. In John’s own words:

The world of Starfinder is very much like our own at the turn of the last century, with steam trains and electricity and budding technologies. And thanks to the inventive genius of Fiona’s grandfather Rendor, humans have finally taken to the sky, not only in giant airships but in small, ornithopter contraptions called dragonflies as well.

Not everyone is happy to see mankind’s progress, however. For thousands of years, the mysterious and powerful race known as the Skylords have jealously guarded their heavenly domain. In all this time, an uneasy peace has existed between humans and Skylords, but Moth and Fiona are about to breach the magical boundary between the two worlds.

The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan (Del Rey Hardcover 01/20/2009) – I received the UK ARC early last year, the US ARC in September and now the ‘finished’ copy of the US edition since it is now on the shelves. Del Rey has been staggering the release of Morgan’s novels about 6 months or so after the UK publication. What else can I say about this that I didn’t say in my review? Or that Hobbit didn’t say in his review? Anyway, here’s another snippet from my review:

Like many a fantasy novel, one of the main themes hanging over the heads of the characters is war. However, Morgan doesn’t focus on war itself as much as the specter of a past war and the threat of a potential war. In the protagonist Ringil Eskiath (Gil), Morgan captured an air of embittered veteran. Ringil is called home by his mother to search for his missing cousin Shering, rumored to have been sold into slavery. Ringil brings with him an enchanted sword, Ravensfriend, with the magical ability to can through anything. Unfortunately, Ringil’s father and people from his town are dead set against his quest to save his cousin. Adding fuel to the fire is the disdain Ringil’s father holds over his son; despite Ringil being an honored war veteran, dad still can’t look past Ringil’s homosexuality. Clearly, Ringil is a complex character who has quite a lot baggage, straddles many lines, and ultimately, comes across as rather genuine.

Although the story is mostly centered on Ringil, Morgan surrounds him with a nicely drawn supporting cast, even if they aren’t 100% likeable. His mother, his father, his lover(s) and his enemies. At times, Morgan is able to deftly maneuver some of those labels onto one character, and quite effectively.

The Fall of the Templars (Book Three of the Brethren Trilogy) by Robyn Young. A historical fiction, the third in a trilogy,that has (probably) appeal to fantasy fans. Outside of the US, this goes by the title of Requiem. Why the third book was rebranded (link takes you to a comparison of the US v UK editions of the trilogy) is beyond me unless this book stands enough on its own outside of the trilogy.

1295 AD. The Christian empire in the Holy Land lies in ruins

Returning to Paris, Knight Templar Will Campbell is at a crossroads. He has sworn to uphold the principles of the Anima Templi, a secret brotherhood within the Order whose aim is peace - but peace seems ever more impossible. The Temple has forged an alliance with Will's enemy, King Edward of England, vowing to help him wage war on Scotland. This pact against his homeland strikes at the core of Will's faith and allegiances, while his growing estrangement from his daughter, Rose, leads her into a dangerous affair.

Will now faces a bitter choice: to stay with the Temple and fight another war he doesn't believe in, or to break his vows and forge his own path to peace - even if that too means fighting - for the Scots.

Soon caught up in bloody conflict, Will is unaware that an even more ominous threat is rising, for there is a warrior king on the throne of France whose desire for supremacy knows no bounds and who will stop at nothing to fulfil his twisted ambitions.

The fight for the Holy Land has ended...

The Temple's last battle has just begun.

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