Review – The Three Impostors

The Three Impostors

The Three Impostors by Arthur Machen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Three Impostors by Arthur Machen

Machen is a titan of the weird fiction genre, and this is one of his less famous works. It’s an episodic story, the result of serialization, with the framing work of two friends in London with differing views on mystery and spirituality getting wrapped up in a strange web of lies and stories involving magic, lurkers in the wild, and other staples of the old weird.

This is a perfectly diverting book, full of creepiness and period frumpery that was perfectly worth the time reading it. And since it’s free on Project Gutenberg, anyone with the slightest urge can give it a try.

View all my reviews

Review – Unsouled

Unsouled (Cradle, #1)

Unsouled by Will Wight

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unsouled by Will Wight

In this fantasy, a vaguely East Asian-based society is rules by people who can use a natural force called “madra” to fight, create, and manipulate the works arrive them. Everyone is tested for their affinity to one of the various paths of usage and are assigned a future: except the Unsouled, who show no affinity and this are only objects of shame and pity.

Wei Shin Lindo is one such, but he honers to break out of this rigid system and show that he is every bit as capable as his peers.

What occurs carries Lindo far beyond anything he found have imagined, with the fate of worlds moving around him.

This is a great, fun adventure reminiscent of Avatar, the Last Airbender. The practice is great, the characters fun and the working is interesting without being overwhelming in detail.

It’s definitely a pleasure to see Lindo use his wits to overcome his weaknesses, although I can see a definite Dragon Ball Z possibility of endless power creep if the writer isn’t careful.

But I hated to put the story down and I looked pretty much every choice made. What a fun read!

View all my reviews

Review – The Dragon’s Banker

The Dragon's Banker

The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren

For merchant banker Sailor Kelstern, money is everything. He’s a walking embodiment of the Month Python Money Song. He has had a minor business setback with a very powerful Lord, which means his reputation is down but not out, but business goes on. And then a new client appears, asking him to manage the accounts of a very, very wealthy patron in the transition from hard currency to fiat based economy. The client, as you might have guessed from the title, really REALLY likes gold, and is not at all happy about this new paper money.

This book was a hoot. Seriously, it was so much fun. It was refreshing to see a decent protagonist who didn’t use a bit of force, just cleverness and skill, to get through truly difficult situations.

The main character was built perfectly. His motivations, actions, and values all clicked just right to create someone unique, but relatable at the same time. The pacing of the story never lets up (it might actually have been better sometimes if it did) and the plentiful turns paid off well.

The writing was fluid and clever without falling into the trap of “witty banter,” and the editing was very solid. This book showed a lot of care and thought, and I really appreciate the author sending me a review copy.

There aren’t many economic heroes out there (Discworld’s Moist von Lipwig and Cithrin from the Dagger and Coin books are all that spring to mind) but I’m of the growing opinion that we could use a lot more!

View all my reviews

Review – Home from the Sea

Home From The Sea

Home From The Sea by William Meikle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Home from the Sea
by William Meikle

This is a collection of stories in a “Lovecraftian” vein, and all are connected to the sea/water in some way.

Overall, the collection is quite fun. It bounces between exciting novelty, and a somewhat telling repetition of ideas and even sentences. The whole seems to create an almost original branch of the mythos that is all Meikle’s, particularly the influence of music and rhythm on the mind and the “others.”

Some of my particular favorites among these stories are perhaps “Inquisitor,” pitting a shoggoth against a member of the Spanish Inquisition (bet you weren’t expecting that!); and the title story, in which whalers are faced with something horrific from the depths. They both take some basic familiar ideas and use them in novel ways to create something very interesting.

The book does have some minor little editing issues (one story had a bunch of commas replaced by the 3/4 symbol. What?) but is generally very well done and quite readable.

Definitely worth a read for horror and Lovecraft fans.

View all my reviews

Review – Sailing to Sarantium

Sailing to Sarantium (The Sarantine Mosaic, #1)

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Guy Gavriel Kay never fails to write exquisite prose, in my experience, and this book is no different.

Yet another venture into “Europe a quarter turn to the left,” this is the story of a man on the road from Varena to the imperial capitol of Sarantium (an alternate version of Byzantium) to decorate the newly built sanctuary of Jad there with a grand mosaic. But this book is also about mystery, about what there is behind the veil and how we here in the world are to understand our place in it.

There is, of course, almost unbearable humanity in the story, and an aching meditation on art and the artist.

It is beautiful, and heartfelt, and exciting.

View all my reviews

Review – A Pretty Mouth

A Pretty Mouth

A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer

This collection is a reverse chronological exploration of the nefarious Calipash family, a bloodline cursed to depravity, transformation, and dissolution. It is also a masterful exercise in parody, as it lampoons Gothic horror, novels of manners, Lovecraft, and the history of Roman Britain.

The title story, a novella of twists and turns set in a private school in faux-English civil war Oxford, and it genderbends, challenges reader assumption, and sexes things up a lot.

I drive it hard to describe exactly what I looked about this book, but I looked it a lot. The writing is pitch-perfect, adopting the voice and style of each period cleverly, and it twists the tries of the styles in just the right way to keep things interesting.

A real pleasure!

View all my reviews

Shepherd’s Warning – Review

Shepherd's Warning

Shepherd’s Warning by Cailyn Lloyd

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Shepherd’s Warning by Cailyn Lloyd
Review of a NetGalley eARC.

This is a haunted house story in the vein of The Shining or The Amityville Horror (which is referenced explicitly in the text). The McKenzie family: Lucas and Laura, with Lucas’s brother Nathan and his wife Ashley, along with Lucas and Laura’s granddaughter Leah, arrive at the brothers’ inherited house in the Wisconsin countryside. A grand old Tudor mansion, they decide to renovate it for HGTV, but things soon take a terrifying turn. As you would expect from a horror novel.

This first book from Lloyd shows its influences on its sleeve, while working in a lot of unusual takes that would make for something refreshingly new, if so much of it wasn’t just confusing.

The Old English spells, the nearly immortal wizard, the circularity of the events are all interesting and unique. They add flavor to the book and would help it stand out a lot from the crowd, if the rest of the pacing and structure stood up to them. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like they did.

Events unfold in an awkward way, with things that seem really important at the time just fading away. For example, in one scene a young contractor falls off the roof, breaking his arm and impaling himself on a rusty piece of metal. This event IS NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN by the main characters, and only vaguely referenced by a side character (a “ghost” that made it happen). Not only that, but people continue to work on the roof without taking any safety precautions, and indeed someone falls again.

Then there’s the idea that they are renovating the house for a TV show. This dominates the situation for the first few chapters, then it’s just… Gone. No more cameras, no more interviews, no repercussions. Which could be code for the whole book: lots of things happen with no real impact.

The pacing is overall quite uneven. The book opens with a couple of big events, but then nothing really happens until halfway through. There is a lot of pointless running around, and I’ll be honest–all the “L” names warped it into one big, blonde blur.

There is also an odd insistence on specificity, especially regarding brand names, that almost reads like advertising. The main characters don’t drink beer, they drink Spotted Cow (which halfway through the book becomes italicized); the 1,000 year-old wizard doesn’t drink port, he drinks Old Tawny port; Laura doesn’t use a genealogy website, she uses Ancestry.com; Tom Wolff doesn’t wear a trucker’s cap, he wears a Purina cap. It stands out in an odd way, rather than adding any kind of realism or immediacy.

These all seem like minor points, but they build up until the text becomes a struggle. And it doesn’t help that the essential conflict centers, once again, on the corruption of the father figure through his repressed Id. Ugh. Does the father grow distant from his family because of his inability to deal with loss? Yep. Does the father fall into dissolution through alcohol? Yep! Does the father betray his wife, who just wants him to get help, and call her concern nagging and prying? Bingo! At least he wasn’t a writer.

Overall, I really struggled to finish this book, and once I did I wasn’t satisfied.

View all my reviews