The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson REVIEW

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson REVIEW
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Back in 1954, Poul Anderson released his novel The Broken Sword. Not many have heard of it because a little book came out that year took all the spotlight… Some book called The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

And I admit, I didn’t know about The Broken Sword until a year ago. (Was slightly embarrassed, especially since I’d enjoyed a well-worn copy of the Poul Anderson short story collection The Armies of Elfland in my youth. And I’ve been aware of Anderson’s popular novel Three Hearts and Three Lions, of which I still need to read.)  I found out about it after reading an excerpt of Richard K. Morgan’s novel The Steel Remains that included a quote from Sword:

‘I think you look on death as your friend,’ she murmured. ‘It is a strange friend for a young man to have.’ ‘The only faithful friend in all the world,’ he said bitterly. ‘Death is the only one sure to be at your side.’

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Cover of the 1st edition from 1954. First published by Abelard-Schuman.

I was immediately intrigued, and after reading the synopsis, reading the excerpt, I thought I’d have a go. Though before I go on, this book isn’t as kid friendly as LOTR. Sure LOTR isn’t “children’s literature”, but unlike that Hobbit tale, Sword takes a grittier tone.

That’s to be expected, especially since our protagonist’s father Orm the Strong (No relation to the character King Orm from Aquaman.) is a Viking: and savage he is, raiding the coasts and surrounding lands… Unknown to Orm, one family he decides to slay is the family of a witch. The witch escapes, and puts a curse on Orm that would take his firstborn son away from the world of men.

Before Orm’s child Skafloc is christened, he’s kidnapped by the Elf Earl Imric, and replaced with a troll made to look exactly like Skafloc. Thus, Imric raises the boy…And I won’t spoil the rest.

The characters are what truly makes this Fantasy standout, at least in 1954. The characters do good things, and yet at the same time they’re just as capable of bad deeds as well. The elves are just as bad as the trolls at times, and the trolls are just as heroic in certain scenes. Nowadays, you can find shelves of books with characters like this, but it’s nice to read a book before that was mainstream Fantasy. Best part about Anderson is that he didn’t try to emulate Tolkien’s opus—he did his own thing.

Looking at the setting, I have to say I’ve never seen anything like it. Being a story about

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The cover from the 1977 Del Rey edition, with art by the talented Boris Vallejo… My favorite cover for the tale!

Vikings, Elves and Trolls, one would assume the book would only be based on Norse myth and legend. He also included Celtic, Greek, Irish, and Asian myth just to name a few. I’ve read books where authors attempt to stuff everything from everywhere in a novel and seeing them fail miserably in making their tale into a coherent narrative. Anderson makes it work, and makes it look effortless. (I’ll be studying this book for years to come from a writer’s perspective.)

The plot fires off at a steady clip. It may be a sixty five year old book, it still had plenty of twists I didn’t see coming, except for a few scenes—and unfortunately the ending. The ending feels like one I’ve read far too many times in other books, and in particular the Epic Fantasy subgenre. Is it a horrible ending? Not really.  Just a little bit anticlimactic.

Overall, I give the book 4 stars.

Anderson was a writer decades ahead of his time. The Broken Sword should appeal to fans of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion novels, Viking sagas, and Lord of the Rings. (GoT fans as well, and fans of Dungeons & Dragon novels.)

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Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence REVIEW

Note: This book is not for children. Yes, it’s about a 15 year old boy. But it’s about a boy thrust into a world of blood and ruin. Not for children, or squeamish readers. If this was a movie, it would be a hard-R. You have been warned.

For the last two years or so, in Fantasy groups on Facebook and beyond, I’ve been hearing quite a bit of praise for Thorns. I put it on my massive reading list for a while, and finally got to it last year. Thankfully I stopped procrastinating about reading it, and finally finished it this year.

The book centers on Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath, heir of Ancrath. When he nine years old, he witnessed soldiers belonging to Count Renar, murder his little brother and his mother, while he watched helplessly from a thorn bush he fell into.

Jorg’s father, King Olidan, refuses to get revenge for the senseless murder, so Jorg decides to take matters in his own hands, and leave the castle to plot his revenge. By age thirteen, he becomes the leader of a group of brigands, and by age fifteen he decides to return home and become King… But some things are easier said than done. (And that’s all I can say without spoiling the book.)

The book is told entirely from Jorg’s point of view, in the first person. (Rare for a Fantasy novel to be told from that view, but Lawrence handles the challenge beautiful.) He is cold and ruthless, yet he’s also very sarcastic and at times made me laugh out loud. And it’s largely the humor that kept me reading, and the unpredictability of Jorg’s actions.

As for Jorg the character, he’s not a large brute that bashes everything that moves that you normally find in revenge stories. He is small and skinny, preferring to outthink and outmaneuver his opponents, giving him a big advantage in a world of darkness and brutality. And thankfully Lawrence writes the antagonists s of the tale the same way, and makes them just as memorable as Jorg.

Another thing different about this tale is that everyone is equally capable of good and bad. A good break from clearly defined and moustache twirling characters.

Even the writing style is refreshing. Descriptions are short, and to the point, moving the story along at a quick pace. As a writer, it’s a style one can and should aspire to.

Overall, I give Prince of Thorns  4 ½ Stars out of 5. If you like your Epic Fantasy on the gritty side or revenge stories, you should give this book and the rest of The Broken Empire series a look. Should also appeal to fans of David Gemmell, Joe Abercrombie, and Scott Bakker.

Blood Skies by Steven Montano REVIEW

11439413Over the past few years, Post-Apocalyptic novels, shows, and films have captured many people’s’ imaginations. Though the usual cause has always been the same: man mistreating the environment , nuking everything , et cetera. But what if the calamity was magic entering our world ?

Sounds like a cheesy concept, but Montano makes it work. He also combines the military fiction and horror genres, with fantasy but it doesn’t feel out of place. The characters are an absolute treat to read. The villains aren’t too bad either.

Also no whiny kids in the plot is a plus! (Looking at you Divergent !) I really hope more post-apocalyptic tales follow suit.

Overall , I give it 4 stars. If you like The Dark Tower series, and novels like Starship Troopers, Blood Skies is for you.

Thr3e by Ted Dekker REVIEW

I’m a big Ted Dekker fan. But I didn’t start with Thr3e. I first read Showdown, and fell in love with the quick paced, and thought provoking writing. Then I burned through Blink and The Circle Trilogy. (All amazing in there own right.)

I’ve been itching to read more of Dekker’s books, so I decided to start with his first novel Thr3e. It had a great suspenseful first few chapters, but by the time I got to the middle, it became an extremely slow read. Too many unnecessary scenes, and clunky descriptions and dialog.

It didn’t get good again to close to the end… But the end wasn’t too satisfying, and I felt like my time was wasted.

If you’reTedDekker_Thr3e reading Dekker for the first time, skip this book and read Showdown or Blink instead. His writing has improved greatly since Thr3e was released.

Overall, I give the book 3 out of 5 stars.

Detective Comics #27 New 52 REVIEW

I know I haven’t reviewed comic books on this blog, but I thought it would be smart to add them. Lately, I haven’t really been reading much novels. And I happen to subscribe to quite a few Marvel, DC, and Independent comics. So it seemed like a good idea to add comic reviews rather than let this blog get lost in the web.

I won’t be reviewing every single issue though. I need more time for writing fiction, editing, etcetera. So I’ll be reviewing certain issues and graphic novels I really enjoyed. Like this issue; Detective Comics #27.

Back in 1939, Batman first debuted in Detective Comics #27. That issue is worth millions of dollars, and is very rare… Unfortunately, this review is not for that original issue, but rather a retread. DC controversially rebooted all their books in 2011 and renumbered all of the books as #1, as part of The New 52 initiative. A little confusing I know, but in the modern comic’s industry renumbering has become common, and not too special.

But what makes this issue special, is that it’s been 75 years since Batman first appeared on the comic stands. And it’s issue #27 all over again! 🙂

You can find or order this comic at your local comic book shop.

You can find or order this comic at your local comic book shop.

To celebrate 75 years of the Bat, DC decided to make #27 a special over-sized issue with Batman stories that paid tribute to Bill Finger & Bob Kane’s popular creation. This 100 page comic has some amazing new stories, written by people such as Scott Snyder (Current writer of BATMAN and THE WAKE.) , Peter Tomasi (BATMAN & ROBIN), John Layman (DETECTIVE COMICS) , crime fiction and comics writer Gregg Hurwitz (Batman: The Dark Knight) and surprisingly the bestselling thriller novelist and host of Decoded, Brad Meltzer (And he wrote the popular DC miniseries IDENTITY CRISIS.).

It also has fantastic art by Francesco Francavilla (Afterlife with Archie) , Bryan Hitch (THE ULTIMATES), Sean Murphy (Punk Rock Jesus), Jock (Savage Wolverine) and many other amazing artists.

Overall I’d give the comic 4 out of 5 stars! This $7.99 over-sized issue is well worth the purchase, especially if you’re a long-time Batman fan, or want to be introduced to the books. Also, it stays true to Bill Finger & Bob Kane’s vision for the character, and has all the qualities that has made Batman relevant for 75 years, and very likely beyond that. 

The Scars of Ambition by Jason Letts REVIEW

scarsEver get tired of a Medieval Fantasy setting? Or have you ever wondered what would happen when Middle Earth’s technology would become like ours? With The Scars of Ambition, Jason Letts answers these questions.

The novel takes place in a land called Cumeria, where the government hardly has any serious power, and wealthy all powerful corporations control nearly every aspect of life. Much like Game of Thrones, these wealthy families behave much like the squabbling Houses of Westoros. But, the background setting is much like modern day. There are airplanes, gas powered vehicles, computers, phones, guns, etcetera.

You may ask how Scars can be Fantasy with all of these modern pieces of technology, there still are some elements, like magic, creatures, and swords, that are in most Fantasy Novels. I honestly didn’t know if Letts could pull the fusion of new and old elements off, but Letts does amazingly well, and makes the plot his own rather than follow the normal conventions of the genre.

The story centers around the Bracken family. It centers around Lowell Bracken, the father & head of the family business called Bracken Energy. The Bracken’s have been leaders in the land of Cumeria for hundreds of years without resistance. That is, until forces beyond his control turn on him, and he doesn’t know who to trust…That’s all I can say about the without spoilers. All I will say is that the tale will keep you guessing till the end. 🙂

As for the characters, they are well done too. Every character is fleshed out well, even characters who you only see a few times will stick with you.

Overall, I give the book 3 1/2 stars!

If you are a fan of G.R.R.M, the TV show Dallas (When you read it, you’ll know what I mean.), and Steampunk Fantasy, this book is made for you.

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King REVIEW

Click image to get from Amazon.com!

Click image to get from Amazon.com!

With books & shows like The Vampire Diaries, and True Blood dominating pop culture, (And that book about sparkling vampires everyone talks about. I don’t know what it ‘s called… 😉 )  people have forgotten what a Vampire book should be about.  And it’s not books for angst filled  teenagers, or old cat ladies. Thankfully, true Vampire books that actually scare people are around…you just have to look around. ‘Salem’s Lot is one of those books.  It’s Stephen King’s take on the Vampire story.

In the sleepy Maine town of Jerusalem’s Lot, an evil lurks below the surface of a seemingly charming small town. Then, when strange new visitors arrive, nothing will ever be the same. And not all of the monsters are of the blood sucking variety…

As with most good books, I don’t want to spoil the plot anymore. Other than the book is a modern-day retelling (When it was written that is, which was 1975. It was King’s 2nd novel.) of the first and one of the best Horror novels Dracula. So, it’s definitely worth it if you read Dracula  first before you touch this book.

As for the character’s , they aren’t cardboard cutouts. They are all deep. And the amazing thing about King’s writing ability, is that he is able to have a big cast of characters, and make them all deep, and make you empathize, and he is even able to make the  horrid characters believable, rather than clichéd caricatures. This reason is just one of the many than make ‘Salem’s Lot brilliant,  and relevant today.

This book should not be missed.

Overall, I give this 4 out of 5 stars! 

Note: This book is not for the squeamish.

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