Monday, October 20, 2014

Assassin nuns of the 16th century

I was offered to read the first two novels in the His Fair Assassin trilogy in anticipation of the release of the concluding novel. I have a difficult time turning down any requests made directly from the publisher of a fantasy imprint. I am really glad I didn't pass these up. After a lovely (I mean truly beautiful) fall day at the Renaissance Festival, which also seemed a wildly appropriate theme for the reading material of the weekend, I focused my attentions on the nuns of St. Mortain.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

I have read plenty of Middle Ages stories that take place in England. Authors seem to love writing the story of Camelot, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth very much. They are pretty dramatic stories that would naturally draw the nature of a fiction author. Plus, with a British heritage, I just get drawn in by the stories and their familiarity. I was intrigued when these stories took place in medieval France.

The research from those eras is very limited (hence its nickname of the Dark Ages) so this time period can be easy to abuse the facts since there is a lot to embellish. It is a section of literature that I enjoy but struggle to accept. We want to know what the life was like for these people who did not have access to our technologies. We have a certain craving to comprehend a lifestyle so far from our own (be it simple, rustic, uncomplicated, or dramatic depending on your personal spin). Robin LaFevers stays to the facts of her research through the background of places and chain of events but builds that curiosity of people and their motives. Plus, assassin nuns is just a cool concept.

There are parts of the story which stumble along. There are plenty of awkward moments that prove no matter how much research you do, you can't write what you don't know. The concept might have been perfect for the story line, but the reality just didn't come through the writing. I am also not sure I would package these as YA novels since murder, death, and luring men are some key covenants the nuns of St. Mortain live by. However, the female lead is strong and she is overcoming some very strong obstacles in life (oh, and she is 14 when the book starts which I did not recognize--often forgot--throughout the whole story because her character does not feel young in any way). The overall concept was good, the characters were strong, and I was opened to a new angle of history. I consider all of those wins for a good read.

I will give this novel 3 stars and happily move to the next story where we get to focus on events from Sybella's angle. (I anticipate a darker twist here.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is dieselpunk for me?

A weekend spent between my craft room and snuggled on my couch with a good book. Wonderful October! I am always in search of new reading material and Netgalley certainly feeds my reader, but sometimes an author I have gotten to appreciate makes a recommendation. This was the case for Shadows of Asphodel, and it was on Kindle promotion to get to know the series as the second book released. Of course I bit!

Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy

I will have to rate this book 3 stars. The writing was excellent, but the theme and content were not my niche. I have enjoyed my foray into the steampunk genre, it seemed natural to try a dieselpunk novel next. These authors veer away from a solely steam driven what-if, to a general inventor's paradise where progress wasn't shut down and magic can always be added into the recipe. Kincy introduces mechs on a level with Armored Core to her adaptation of pre-WWI Austria. It borders on my fine line of distaste for alternative fiction. I am all for the what-if game, but there has to be a point where we leave some historical facts sacred.

Another deduction in stars comes from this book being in the New Adult category. I am once again having a love-hate relationship with the progress of literature and new genres. New Adult is refreshing with the characters actually being somewhat closer to my own age and life experiences but hard to swallow the gratuitous aspect that seems to be coming from most of the authors. I really do not need to read extensive scenes from the bedroom (Before y'all jump me, I am very aware this is my own personal taste, and certainly will not dampen the story for many readers. This is being honest about the state of the book for those who share my opinion and may want to skip this series). Some of the moments left me glad to step out on my back porch to the cooling October fall air. Whooo. 

While the actual content may not have please me, the writing, characters, and plot points certainly did. These redeeming factors got a star each to make the book certainly worth the time spent reading. I would probably consider this a rent from the library or bargain sale book. It is not enough of my personal tastes to shell out the full $13 for paperback. However, I am very aware that to many others it definitely is, and I highly recommend those readers put this on their shelf.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Welcome to the Nine Hells

Oh my goodness, it is October. Oh my goodness, it is fall! That means pumpkins. Which leads to pumpkin flavored everything (yum!) and made-from-scratch pumpkin pie! It also means nights curled up under the blankets reading good books.

Fire in the Blood by Erin M Evans

I think I have turned into a little bit of a D&D nerd after being privileged to read the Wizards of the Coasts new Forgotten Realms series, The Sundering. I found the overall experience with the series fascinating and a good point to jump into the D&D world. I realize that the Forgotten Realms have existed well before my introduction, but I feel Wizards of the Coast has set up a great point for newbies to jump into the genre. 

I was pleased to see that I would be able to continue with the story arc Ms. Evans had created in The Adversary (for which you can read my review here). Now that I am more familiar with the landscape and culture, this novel was much easier to get into from the beginning. I already knew the characters and knew where they were coming from situationally. It was an excellent book right from the beginning.

These are probably a little more geared to the female reader with a love story for every kind and stage of relationship, but there is no lack of action for the male reader to enjoy. There are knights, wizards, and dragons for instance. Honestly, the love stories aren't your sappy romance love stories either. War is coming and their is intrigue afoot in the court. We get to see more from the Chosen started in The Sundering. All your typical fantasy plot lines and character types, but more awesome than usual to me.

I actually found it very refreshing to see all the dysfunctional relationships and the issues that are very real to humans. This may be epic fantasy, but it doesn't have to be unbelievable. Relationships fall apart and build back up. There are miscommunications of massive proportion in real life. But, there are also all the sweet, romantic moments that make up for the heartache and worry.

This book was fast paced and I was a little disappointed when I got to the end. There is a cliffhanger, which I find to be good--it means there are more good books to come, and that is exciting.

Check out this awesome website to learn all you need to know about the book, author, her bibliography, and the RELEASE PARTY!