Friday, September 04, 2015

Friday Round-Up: Dawson @SFSignal and Wexler & Beaulieu @SFFWorld

Friday Round-Up Time, you know what that means….

Last week, my review of Django Wexler’s third Shadow Campaigns novel, The Price of Valor posted to SFFWorld:

The third book in a five book series is the exact middle book of the series and while there are some elements of the novel that give it a feel of treading water (the Winter/Jane relationship seemed a bit drawn out), on the whole, Django Wexler manages to reveal more layers of the plot of the antagonists and more about his characters. Janus has been an enigma for much of the series thus far, a character who immediately commands respect and awe from those who serve him, and frustration to those who either oppose him or find themselves at odds with him (even if Janus doesn’t realize it). His air of always knowing what to do and being several steps ahead of the opposition have given him a well-earned reputation as a master tactician. The person most frustrated by him is Jane, and specifically, what an important fixture he is in Winter’s life. Winter, oh Winter, what a great character you are. She is surrounded by a cabal of well-rounded characters who don’t blend into each other and for their “minor” status in the cast of characters, manage to have their own stand-out voices.

Some closure here, but dammit, the unresolved elements and giant hints of things to come have the next installment in The Shadow Campaigns quite high on my I NEED TO READ WHEN IT PUBLISHES list. With The Price of Valor, Django Wexler continues to prove that he’s got a great story to tell. Great characters painted on a fascinating backdrop with military and political conflict make for an excellent novel, and an excellent installment in a thoroughly entertaining Military/Flintlock Fantasy saga.

Also last week, Friday to be specific, my audio book review of Delilah Dawson’s Hit was posted to SF Signal.

Hit is the first of a series and Delilah Dawson does a fantastic job of introducing Patsy as the protagonist and first person narrator. The young girl is forced into her situation; becoming a bounty hunter for Valor National because if she doesn’t take a gun (and leave the cannoli), they’ll kill her and her mother because of overwhelming debt Mom built up after job losses and cancer treatments. Patsy gets her list, is assigned a painted-over mail truck and plays the role of delivery person in order to get her targets. When Patsy greets the target, she gives them something to sign as “confirmation of delivery” of the “fruit basket” she has. Once the agreement is signed (and never read before it is signed), Patsy offers each target the same choice: pay off the debt, become a bounty hunter, or eat a bullet. 
The natural dystopic comparison is to The Hunger Games, if only because both novels feature a very head-strong, likeable, engaging, young female protagonist. If anything, the America and world revealed in Hit could be seen almost as a precursor to the fractured and realigned national boundaries of Panem. There’s a certain South Park episode that served as partial inspiration to the novel/series/world, but the story takes off from the notion set forth in that episode with Dawson’s wonderful pacing and character development.

Lastly, and most recently, my review of the stunning Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu posted to SFFWorld this week:

We begin in the fighting pits, witnessing 19-year old Çeda (pronounced Chayda) Ahyanesh’ala – known to many as the White Wolf – defeat a champion pit fighter, an opponent much larger and more experienced than her. An opponent of her own choosing. This opening was perfect, we get a sense of Çeda as a strong, deceptively imposing physical presence, a flavor of Sharakhai itself, and as the fight ends, a hint of her character and motivations. I dare say that if you aren’t drawn in by Bealieu’s powerful and magnetic opening, you should check yourself.

There’s also a nice interplay of fantasy flavors here, the more intimate and personal elements closely associated with Sword and Sorcery against the larger scale (worldly) elements associated with Epic Fantasy. Through Çeda’s introduction in a fighting/gladiatorial pit, the feel is initially Sword and Sorcery, something that could very easily be compared to a Robert E. Howard Conan story.

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