Monday, November 21, 2016

The Shattered Vigil: Review


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What matters most when evil threatens the land and even the smallest detail matters? It's elementary...

Actually, it's The Shattered Vigil, Patrick Carr's newest book, the second in The Darkwater Saga series.

The first book in this series, The Shock of Night, centers around a vicious attack on the capitol city of Bunard, but even before that book, Carr’s novella By Divine Right sets up a really fascinating world where you can quite literally ascribe someone’s skill to their talent or ‘gift’—ranging from medical abilities to musical performances.

Willet Dura stands out against that backdrop of ‘gifts’ as an ungifted man, a commoner, until the day he encounters someone carrying the most dangerous gift a man could possibly gain.

If you want, you can read my review for the previous book here, but the main thing you need to know is: yes, you should start with the novella and work through the series in order. Carr picks up the threads pretty well in this story, but I went back and reread The Shock of Night before starting The Shattered Vigil. It was just as fun the second time and made the story much easier to follow. My only (small) regret is not rereading By Divine Right at the same time.

For the Shattered Vigil itself, I think it is a worthy addition to the series.

As the story begins, Dura and his companions hope that they have ended the evil that invaded Burnard, but a series of near-disasters force them out of the city and into new perils. Though he is no longer the king's reeve, Dura and the others set out on a journey consisting of equal parts forensics investigation and fantasy quest.

I will admit that the story lost me a couple of times. The plot jumps back and forth between a handful of main characters, and it gets very quest-y at times, but it kept moving and kept turning out new adventures. Even better, Carr pulled in some highlights from the first book that I didn't expect to show up again, much less to be really important clues.

Oh, and there is also a romance...it's not quite a side-story, because it's also very important to the main story (something Carr seems to do well). Dura's lady-love is a very spunky (good) lady (literally), and between them, they produce a lot of smoldering-eyes scenes (meh, from my perspective, but good if that's what you like).

Basically, though, I really liked this story, as I've really liked Carr's previous stories. They are adventure stories--fun, a bit mature, a bit dark in places, and pleasantly inventive.

I recommend it if you like that sort of thing.


[My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of The Shattered Vigil in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]








Friday, November 11, 2016

Puppy Observations



Back in college (over five years ago now), I spent one class reading, re-reading, and generally analyzing short sections of Scripture. The goal was to come up with as many observations as possible.  If you spend enough time on a project like that, you can come up with quite a lot.

And, as it happens, you can make quite a few observations on children’s books too, after multiple re-readings—especially when you start with the basics, such as:

1. This is a book about puppies.
2. There are five puppies in this story (not counting the mother).
3. These are very unusual puppies, because they get chocolate custard for dessert.


Then there are the more subtle observations, and the various inferences you can draw from them:

4. Four of the puppies, on three different occasions, have to look for the fifth, the pokey puppy.
5. Even after finding the pokey puppy in the green-grassy space twice before, the other puppies don’t think to look there first when he disappears again.
6. If the puppies see a strawberry while on a walk, they get strawberry shortcake for dessert.
7. The puppies see six other ‘creatures’ on their walk, besides the desserts.
8. Five of these creatures, including a toad, a grasshopper, and grass-snake, are pictured in the book.
9. Only one creature, the “big black spider,” is not shown, suggesting that it must have been a truly terrifying spider, unfit for the pages of a children’s book.


Also:



10. If you listen carefully, you can identify chocolate custard by the sound a spoon makes as it is scraped over the side of a bowl.
11. The pokey puppy is a dog (presumably), and yet he manages to eat five servings of chocolate custard with no side effects.
12. And, even after eating 10 servings of dessert over the previous two days, the pokey puppy is still able to squeeze through a wide place in the fence that the other puppies have heretofore overlooked in their escapades.


If you really want to know what to take away from this story, though, just remember that the pokey puppy is the arch-villain here.


I mean—he lures the other puppies out under the fence and abandons them while he waits to discover what dessert will be. Then he ‘lets’ the other puppies arrive home before him. Once they are safely dispatched to their beds, he sneaks home to devour the dessert himself. 

But—in his final attempt—the other puppies accidentally foil him, saving the dessert! (For themselves, of course.)

#####

Oh, and I might be back next week with a more serious book review.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

King's Folly: Review




Between the earthquakes devastating Armania, his father’s mad attempts to save his crumbling, kingdom, and the strange magic from across the borders, Sâr Wilek hardly knows where to turn.

King’s Folly (The Kinsman Chronicles): Book 1The Five Woes are coming; the end of Armania is at hand…



Like my blogging in general, this review is long overdue. I was actually supposed to post it about a month ago. The reason for the delay actually goes back to March—I got an email from Bethany House with their list of review books for the month. Right at the top of the list was Jill Williamson’s new fantasy novel, King’s Folly.

I was excited to see Williamson starting a new fantasy series after reading a few of her more recent dystopian/sci-fi YA stories. So, of course, I requested a review copy and made it onto the list.

Unfortunately, this happened about a month after moving and changing addresses. Since I didn’t get my address updated in time, my review copy floated off to someone else. (I do hope he or she enjoyed the book as much as I did.)

After waiting over a month, I started investigating and found out what had happened. The result was that I ended up buying my own copy and waiting—again—for it to show up.

Was it worth the complications? I think so.

King’s Folly, the first in Williamson’s Kinsman Chronicles, is a massive, ground-shaking (pun intended) story.

As the King’s oldest son, Sâr Wilek mainly wants to survive the castle politics long enough to be declared his father’s Heir. He’s accompanied by half-a-dozen other major characters, each with their own quest, but all of the action revolves around Wilek.

Wilek is supposed to be the king’s main supporter. If he carries out his role well enough, Rosâr Echad might just anoint Wilek as his heir, and Wilek would be able to change his father’s superstition brutality for a milder rule. The kingdom, however, is falling apart around them as earthquake after earthquake shakes the realm.

Rosâr Echad believes that only sacrifices to the gods can save Armania, but the real secrets and the real corruption lay much deeper in his court than he or Wilek can dream. It will take all of Wilek’s allies to unravel the mystery, and even then they might be too late.

The book does start off a little slow. The first third of the novel focuses mainly on setting up the cast and some of the background to the main story. I actually skipped over the character list at the beginning of the book, since I don’t like reading off a bunch of names before meeting the characters. For this book, that didn’t really matter. Williamson’s first introductions are strong enough to carry the characters through the rest of the story. Everyone was important too, and Williamson makes good use of the various characters’ story-lines, but be warned that there are a ­lot of characters.

Two small caveats:

Darkness Reigns (The Kinsman Chronicles): Part 1First, the specific format may be a little confusing—the Kinsman Chronicles is a trilogy, but each book will have three parts. King’s Folly is the first book in the trilogy, but it was released in three individual ebooks, before being released as a full novel. The first of these ebooks, Darkness Reigns, is available on Amazon for free here. The fourth part, starting off the second novel, will be released in early July.

Second, there is also a lot of sexuality inherent in the plot. None of it is graphic, and Williamson specifically notes that she’s modeling this story after the corrupt kings of Israel, which is a fair comparison for the story. If you’ve read Williamson’s Safe Lands trilogy, you know about what to expect. It is there, though, and I wouldn’t recommend the book to younger readers as a result.

With that said, I did enjoy the story. It met my expectations for a complicated, well-built fantasy novel, while keeping the adventures strong and filling the world with a mix of interesting, believable characters. A few of the characters border on stereotypes—faithful bodyguard, independent female sidekick, etc.—I found the world wonderfully complicated and unique.

I’ll be looking forward to reading what happens next.


[My thanks to Bethany House for sending me a review copy. My address should be correct and up-to-date now, for any future reviews.]