Thursday, August 28, 2014

What's a Taragusii? You should find out.

We are back to the land of Odessiya this week and very happy to do so. Life projects got in the way of me reading through this as quickly as I wanted, but nevertheless, I am now finished wondering why I didn't pace out the goodness better. Good news: the book ended with a note from Shalev that he is currently writing the fifth book, and I can now eagerly await more to come.

Sacrificial Flame by Alon Shalev

While I will try to keep this review spoiler free, there are three books prior to this so please be prepared to be spoiled on those. The original trilogy took us on the adventure of Seanchai growing into the Wycaan master to face down the evil emperor. We met exciting new races and loved and lost with the protagonists. (Did an author really kill a main character? Could he actually be so realistic about the harsh world of revolution?) Now we have jumped a decade forward as peace has settled across Odessiya and Seanchai has become a father. 

There is a complacency forming as Prince Shayth builds a strong united peoples. Elves, dwarves, humans, and pictorians have had time to heal their diversity and develop a place of acceptance and shared knowledge. The Wycaans have increased in population and opened an academy for any wanting to learn. People focus on healing and growing. It's wonderful.

Then the Emperor pops out of some unknown wasteland with a great (new) race the Taragusii. (Seriously Shalev makes up some of the most fascinating species.) We also get to deal with what really makes a villain. Just because they are the antagonist, are they evil? The Taragusii capture children, but they do not harm them and even show some respect. So much thought provocation on the concept of good and evil in these stories. 

While the writing is absolutely mind-bending, the editing can cause some serious hiccups and break the imagery a little. These books could be a serious contender in the epic fantasy category of history without those little snags. There are quests, epic journeys, life lessons, villains worthy of the greats, realistic protagonists, and outstandingly developed races. This and the previous three Wycaan master novels are a must read for YA and adults alike. Go visit Shalev's website for great details and where to buy your copy. (And seriously, these books are $2.99 a piece so no excuses to not get a copy.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Steampunk travelling mysteries

Happy release day to Anna Kashina for The Guild of Assassins. Her publishing brother, Rob Duncan, has a novel releasing this month as well. I really think after you read my review you will see that it is worth a pre-order. Angry Robot has some excellent talent in their author pool. Get prepared for this worthy entry in the steampunk genre.

The Bulletcatcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan

This was a great twist to the steampunk genre. There are airships and the realm is called the Gas-Lit Empire. That is the end of the steampunk element. There are no fancy contraptions all over the place. Everything else is a wonderful world of the Romani gypsy. In Duncan's steampunk England, there was a second revolution with the end result of a divided country. There are now the Anglo-Scotish Republic (full of bland Puritans) and the Kingdom of England and South Wales (full of vibrant, free-spirited travellers). The leading lady Elizabeth is a mix of both worlds and both sexes; she freelances as her own twin brother for a living as an intelligence gatherer. What a lovely, upbeat way to say spy in steampunk.

The other addition to the steampunk twist is the International Patent Office. Instead of a look into how our history would have been had we (and I mean every person no matter station or gender despite how unrealistic that may be) invented everything through steam power and brass cogs, Duncan's steampunk world is somewhat drab. No one is allowed to invent anything untoward to the common man. And who makes that determination, you ask? An all powerful entity has been created with power over all governments in any country. How nice. The Patent Office has the power to grant inventions life, snuff plans for progress, and arrest any rebels who threaten this utopian dream.

Enter the monkeywrench: the travellers. I was so glad these were a key component to this novel. I really loved the magic of the masterful illusionists and all the glamour of the big top. Duncan really captures the intent of an illusionist to pull in the audience through his writing and his plot. I really should have seen the ending coming, but somehow was diverted by all his wonderful sleight of hand. Side warning: Duncan uses very specific language to the travelling gypsies and can be a bit confusing if you don't know what any of it means. I however appreciated the authenticity and flavor, and there is a glossary in the back if you want to start there.

This book easily rates 5 stars from me, and I am very excited to see where this series goes.

Visit Rod's website to learn more about his works. You can also visit Angry Robot's website for more information on the novel and release. I highly recommend you go to your favorite book outlet and pre-order a copy.