Monday, November 25, 2013

Alternate History is Butchery

I have ranted previously of my distaste for alternate history fiction. Even with the badge ALTERNATE in front of the history part, these novels pollute our understanding of history just for a garnered fifteen minutes of entertainment factor. It is always great to play the what-if game with hindsight being 20-20 and all, but we should have a responsibility to the future generations to get the story right (what happens in 30 years when the fiction part gets lost in translation?). Authors can create a fascinating world of how history could have been glorious with our romantic visions of the steampunk genre in an entirely created universe. That romanticism is what actually draws me to the movement most of the time. Emma Jane Holloway is one of my favorites by revitalizing a much beloved fictional character with modern twists of science. Chris Kohout fell drastically short for me by using very real, historical persons in his twist. I really thought it might have turned out differently and am very glad I only spent 99 cents.

Fate of Nations: Einstein Must Die! by Chris Kohout

The title is catchy and makes you want to read the synopsis to see if this story is going to have anything to offer. When I purchased the book, it had a different synopsis posted than the one up today and probably would have dissuaded me from reading. The brief promotional talked of war tanks melded with human psyche forever changing the landscape of war (very science fiction and "un"real at first glance) but set in the landscape of early Industrial Revolution America. Inventions by Einstein, Tesla and Edison were mentioned for that authentic feel. I was very mistaken after reading the first chapter and realizing that our main protagonist and antagonist would be Tesla and Edison themselves. Eek! Did I get suckered?

The action of the story was incredible. Fighting scenes followed by dramatic, heart-wrenching scientific advancement moved the story at a great clip. I must give it credit for making it hard to put down. You just absolutely get carried away on a tidal wave of activity. The climax of the story almost seems to occur at the beginning of the book leaving me wondering how the rest of the story will shape up (and if the author has ever taking a writing class on the structure of fiction), but you end up relishing the continuous ups and downs of war just as they really are.

There was a satisfying conclusion despite this being the first in a series. I'm not sure if I will progress along with the series, but this installment was certainly thought-provoking. There is a beautiful blend of philosophy brought about by war and technological advancement. The author brought forth a striking reality to the fiction.

The editing on this book was phenomenal. There were minimal grammatical and structural errors to trip up the story. If only the author had used such great creative powers with fictional heroes, I would have easily given this book 5 stars. My principles on muddying the waters of historical fact leave me at 3 stars; however, many others may not agree with my point of view and should thoroughly enjoy this novel.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Next Step in The Sundering

An excellent weekend for watching the poodles clean the yard and reading on the deck. I was invited to continue on with The Sundering series and after Paul Kemp's Godborn was excited to continue forth. I am still very honored to continue being invited to read these ARCs and happy to lend my review power to (hopefully) my many viewers. 

The Adversary by Erin M Evans

I am getting a little more settled with this series. Ms. Evans did a better job pulling the plot lines that came before her into her installment. This book really felt like it was supposed to be one of the series while being a standalone story. However, (don't you just hate those) I stumbled to get into this story from a writing perspective. Paul Kemp so far has had the best writing.

For this installment, I was back to the internet for research on the vast races that appear in the D&D landscape. Our main protagonist is a tiefling. Completely foreign to me, but I wanted to know what the background of the race was to understand how they fit into the relationship. I also took a brief look at what other stories these main characters had come from. They are the closest in the relational timeline to the plot point of the entire series, so far. Ms. Evans didn't need to "jump" her characters so far forward into time. I do feel the manner in which the time warp occurred was quite clever.

The initial chapters are a solid attempt at bringing some of the past story to the current reader. Unfortunately, I found the experience stumbling and choppy. I had a hard time distinguishing between moments of foreshadowing with moments of flashbacks despite the different fonts from the font (couldn't resist some wordplay and I promise it will make more sense when you read it). I forced myself to march on through the first third of the book. Then it started to simmer. The heat of the Hells warmed the story line and I found myself vested in the characters. Then the concluding third of the novel absolutely boiled over. The action was smooth and quick and got my heart pumping for the characters. There was a clear wrap up while leaving the ending open to the next author. 

I give this book a mid-level review. The price tag is once again hefty and the first third is slogging but the conclusion makes it very much worth the read. Buy it to own the whole set but rent it from the library by itself.

Check out more from Erin M Evans and The Adversary at her blog or the excellent Wizard of the Coasts product page.

Here is to heading back to the steampunk genre!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Russian Folklore

I seem to be coming across many more novels these days surrounding the Russian/Slavic theme. Code Breakers was an excellent insight into British-Russian relations during the first World War and Lost Girl on TV has covered some of the Russian demon baddies in their episodes. Now I find myself researching the old stories in full and finding how they may have influenced many of the folktales I grew up reading (or maybe the other way around? Which came first the chicken or the egg?).

Mistress of the Solstice by Anna Kashina

What drew me to the book was a new avenue of folklore for which I am not currently familiar. I am a sucker for folklore. I have read the Brothers Grimm, Goethe, Rhymes of Mother Goose, Aesop's Fables, and other lesser known Western folklore. I have also recently become familiar with the tales from the Celtic histories of Ireland (who isn't intrigued by a giant named McCool?). The Slavic stories were completely new to me, yet so very familiar. Baba Yaga is remarkably close to the witch in Hansel and Gretel. With the lack of travel, but for a very few rich people back in the "day," it would be easy for a well researched author to spread folktales from other cultures under the guise of the home culture.

Not knowing quite what to expect from the story, it started somewhat slowly for me. As I pushed along, the pacing hit the right stride, though. This was a very moving story. I was carried along by the anguish of the main characters and the intrigue from all the new Immortals of the Russian folktale pantheon. I couldn't help myself but further research these interesting characters. The main adventurer is appropriately named Ivan, and he has appropriately set out on a quest that has yet to be fully explained.

I was fascinated by the rich depth to the folklore and the interaction with each mythological god in Ivan's quest. MotS really captured the quest driven novel exceptionally. I was rooting for the hero all along the way and holding my breath during his tougher challenges. I even managed to answer two of Leshy's riddles in the blink of an eye. MotS was a very engaging, interactive novel. I was truly pleased with the divergence from the epic fantasy binge I have recently been undergoing.

I would recommend this novel to many. Especially those looking to broaden their horizons with yet another example of how we are connected as a whole.