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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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.

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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The Nameless Dwarf by D.P Prior REVIEW

When a writer sends me an email requesting a review, I get a little nervous. There is no guarantee I will like the author’s book, and I prefer not to write a scathing review. Which why I avoid writing bad reviews of books, and move on. I’ve posted a scathing review before, and deleted it because I didn’t have anything constructive to say to help the author.

Thankfully that wasn’t the situation with D.P Prior’s novel The Nameless Dwarf.

Click image to buy from Amazon.com!

Click image to buy from Amazon.com!

The Nameless Dwarf novel take place in the same universe as Prior’s Shader novels (The first of which is Cadman’s Gambit.),but in a part that is more primitive and barbaric than the world previously in the Shader novels. No guns here, and no post apocalyptic Australia.

At the core of the novel, the plot is a tale of redemption. The main character, Nameless, wields an evil black ax, and the ax made him slaughter his own people, and drive them out of their home. In revulsion of his horrible deeds, he stays away from his fellow dwarfs, and shaves off his beard marking him a dwarf. He drowns himself in alcohol to stave off his memories that haunt his mind.

But when Nameless finds out they have fled to the dark lands of Qlippoth, a land of monsters and constantly changing landscapes, he goes on a quest to save them from certain extinction, even though he knows they will probably kill him before he can help.,,And I’d better stop before I spoil the epic plot, and twists. 🙂

Prior has written yet another great and original novel in the Fantasy genre. And he took a big risk making a dwarf the main character, in a genre flooded with stories with elves and young wizards in training. This is another Fantasy for adults that cover very complex themes that people deal with everyday. The Nameless Dwarf is a must read.

I give this tale 5 stars out of 5!

NOTE: Thanks Derek for the reviewers copy!

The Dark Thorn by Shawn Speakman REVIEW

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NOTE: Back in 2011, Terry Brook’s webmaster, Shawn Speakman, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He fought the disease and survived. The problem now is that Speakman had no Health Insurance. So instead of declaring medical bankruptcy, Shawn decided to self-publish his fantasy novel The Dark Thorn and use the proceeds from the book to pay off his debts. (To learn more, follow this link.)  I didn’t buy this book out of pity. I bought it because frankly the blurb grabbed my attention.

Currently the Fantasy genre has seen a huge influx of tales set in a modern-day setting.  There are many subpar knockoffs of these books released every year. The Dark Thorn however is able to be on the same level of books by authors such as Butcher and Hamilton. And I think in some respects the book outshines a lot of newly released fantasies. Traditionally Published and Self Published.

The plot of Speakman’s novel is a unique blend of Arthurian mythology, ancient Church conspiracies, modern history, and the classic Quest tale. These unlikely themes are combined to create a very human tale.

The characters are very superb also. The POV shifts from character to character and at each switch, Speakman takes you on a ride in the character’s mind. Every character had clear motives, and the way they proceed to act makes sense.

At times the writing style reminded me a lot of Terry Brooks. (Speakman is good friends with Brooks, who also taught him at the Maui Writers Workshop.) Speakman is no knockoff though. He may be similar but his style is all his own, and is rather refreshing. The only problem I had was that there were a lot of “ly” adverbs after Speakman wrote said. There were a few “Swifties” here and there but it never stopped me from finishing the novel or liking the story.

Overall, I give the book 4 stars out of 5! A great debut from a new writer! Recommended for fans of Jim Butcher, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Terry Brooks, and Dan Brown. For the price of $6.99 it’s worth every penny.

 Available on B&N, Amazon.com, and in Print.