The Chaplain’s War

cover50097-mediumThe Chaplain’s War

Brad R. Torgersen

Baen Books

I am always fascinated by books that tackle the subject of faith in a science fiction setting. The Chaplain’s War is set in a future in which humanity is caught in a losing war with the Mantis cyborgs. These aliens are much more advance in technology than the humans and quickly have them on the run. Chaplain’s Assistant Harrison Barlow is trapped on a planet where the Mantis have enclosed them with a force field and ignored them. That is until a different kind of Mantis shows up and asks Barlow to explain faith to him. Barlow inadvertently brokers a cease fire while they explore the question.

Once he is known to both the Mantis and Human chains of command he is the logical person to move the cease fire to a permanent truce. If only both sides weren’t determined to start the war up again.

I have to admit that I was annoyed at the beginning that in a book that centers around faith, that the main character exhibits so little. Patience is rewarded as we learn why he’s a chaplain’s assistant and why the Mantis civilization needs him as much as the humans.

I recommend the book to sci fi readers of all interests. This is not a book that preaches, but it explores the nature of faith and its place in our universe. The characters are complex and interesting on both sides of the conflict.

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Shadow Swarm

cover49625-mediumShadow Swarm

D. Robert Pease

Evolved Publishing

Aberthol Nauile wakes up in a tomb and doesn’t know who he is. The people around him tell him he is the King, come to save them from the blackest enemy. His triumphant return becomes an ambush and he must flee with the granddaughter of a man he wasn’t able to save. They meet up with her exiled father and learn that the situation is even worse than they thought. The only person who can save them is Aberthol, if he can only remember how.

I enjoyed reading a book that is complete in itself. I enjoy a trilogy when it is well done, but it is nice to have a book that begins and ends satisfactorily in one volume. Shadow Swarm is a great read. The main character is complex and the people of the land who he is to save are unique and varied. One may think that the plot of a chosen person to save a country from a dark overlord is a plot that has seen its day, but the author puts his own spin on the plot and weaves us in and out of time to riveting conclusion.

I recommend the book for people who like fantasy, especially epic fantasy.

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Blightborn

cover50117-mediumBlightborn

Chuck Wendig

Cael and his friends are trying to find a way to rescue his sister and find his love Gwennie. Cael has enemies on the ground that he knows, but his family history means he has enemies he doesn’t know exist, and they are determined to kill him.

Gwennie has her own problems up in the sky. She wants to find her family, but her life is very curtailed. There are people who are very interested in making sure that she doesn’t succeed. There are politics in the Empyrean, and in the Heartland that result in a heart-stopping conclusion.

Blightborn is the second book in a trilogy. You will know this as soon as you start reading. It picks up the action immediately following the first book and there is no recap or time taken to orient the reader to the characters or the story so far.

I found as I went along that i was able to piece together what was happening, who was who, and why it was important, but I suggest that you read the first book, then read this one. I recommend the book because it is a very different dystopian view of the future. The elite live in flying cities while the workers slave on the dry ground. The only thing that grows is a form of semi-sentient corn.

The characterization is brilliantly done. All the people in the book are different with their own goals and desires. The mix and conflict of those desires makes for a story that keeps us reading and wondering how it can possibly work out.

I recommend the book for any who enjoy complex character driven stories, but I suggest you read Under the Empyrean Sky first.

 

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Wolf

cover50334-smallWolf

Jim Ringel

Wolf is a strange and twisting tale of a failing salesman. Johnny Wolfe carries bits of his dog in a vial in a pocket. Dogs are extinct because his cop ex-wife led the hunt to exterminate them. Thus it is complicated when an associate dies from a dog attack. He steals a sales order from the dead man. It’s a big sale and the commission would set him up for a year and perhaps impress his ex-wife enough to return to him.

The problem Johnny has is that his ex-wife doesn’t believe in dogs, and he becomes a suspect in his colleague’s death. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t know what he is trying to sell or what it does.

Johnny is an anti-hero in the tradition of Willie in Death of a Salesman. He is alternatively devious and incompetent. The reality of the dogs and what he is selling is creepy enough, but it is hard work to get there. The story asks for a lot from the reader as we wade through sales aphorisms and Johnny’s inability to achieve anything.

The concept of the story is interesting, but I had to struggle to get past the slow story and a bevy of characters who are all devious and incompetent in their own ways. I really wanted to like the book for the sake of the concept, but I can’t recommend this book.

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The Emperor’s Edge

The Emperor’s Edge

Lindsay Buroker

The Emperor’s Edge is a book that sneaks up on you. It begins with Amaranthe Lokdon, one of very few female enforcers working for the Emperor. She gets into trouble with her superior covering for her somewhat ne’er do well partner. We are expecting a swords and sorcery police procedural and from first looks a pretty good one. She comes to the notice of the Emperor, and the powers behind the young Emperor decide to set her up by sending her off to kill the most efficient assassin of their day. This is when the book really starts to get interesting and leaves the police procedural behind.

Amaranthe learns that it is no possible to be loyal to her Emperor and remain an enforcer. She puts together a very unlikely ragtag group of people, including the assassin she was sent to kill and set out to stop the people who threaten the Emperor and the country she serves.

The characters are well drawn, and what is more they learn and grow during the course of the book. The plot is suitably twisted and we get to enjoy her antics as she avoids people on all sides trying to kill her. This book looks to be the first of a series and I hope the following books live up to the standard Buroker has set with this first one.

 

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The Map to Everywhere

The Map to Everywhere

Carrie Ryan & John Parke Daviscover46486-medium

Little, Brown and Company

Nobody remembers Fin. Even if he is standing right in front of them. Friendships are very hard, but it makes thieving much simpler. Marril loves adventure, so she is horrified when she learns that her mother is sick and they’ve decided to live in one spot.

A slip of paper on an errant breeze brings the two together. Marril is the only person who remembers Fin, who struggles with the need for friendship. The unlikely pair sail the Pirate Stream with a cranky wizard and a young looking Captain looking for the pieces of the Map to Everywhere.

The Map to Everywhere is a delight. From the wonderfully almost gibberish names to the diverse and creative adventures to the blossoming friendship between Fin and Marril, the story carries us along. The plot is much more complex than I expected with some very neat twists and turns and a remarkably different way of looking at prophecy.

The book promises to be the first in a series and I’ll be looking out for the next one. I recommend this book to people of all ages who like great adventure stories.

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The Earl of Brass

The Earl of Brass

Kara Jorgensen

Fox Collie Publishing

We meet Eilan Sorrell as he goes down in an airship crash on the way home from the Negev. He loses an arm in the crash and very nearly his life. While the doctors are able to save him, he fears that he will have no purpose. He has refused to become a dilettante heir and has always worked on archeological digs. Eilan’s interests set him at political odds with most of his family.

Hadley is the name of the woman who crafts Eilan’s artificial arm. The arm is the last work of her brother George and she unreasonably dislikes Eilan for that reason. When she discovers her brother’s notes about how to make a functional artificial limb, Eilan is the best candidate for the job.

I like the book in spite of some technical issues. There is a bit of head hopping, but it isn’t severe enough to push me out of an engaging story. The author also tries a little too hard for my taste to say something with her book, but again, it stays in service to the story and thus forgivable. The characters of Eilan and Hadley are very well drawn, and even the bit parts stay away from predictable caricatures.

I recommend The Earl of Brass to lovers of steampunk and adventure stories.

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The Silver Rings

cover45511-mediumThe Silver Rings

Samuel Valentino

Brattle Publishing Group

 

Twins Celia and Alice decide to escape their stepmother. They have very different ideas of where would be a good place to escape to with one preferring the city and the other the wilderness. Their very hands off fairy godmother suggests they split up and gives them each a silver ring to help them keep track of their sister. She also gives them lizard skins as disguises. The rings will turn red if one of the sisters is in trouble. It doesn’t take long and we are off on a romp.

The book is written very tongue and cheek so there is as much fun for the adult as for the younger reader. This is a great book for reading out loud, especially if one is prone to doing different voices while reading. The illustrations are fun and complement the story.

I like that sisters are so different in temperament, though they are identical twins. They are also independent and smart, dealing with life on their own terms. This book is fun and well written. It winks at a large number of fairy tales, some of them not terribly well known. Half of the fun is recognizing another story being hinted at.

I would recommend the book for people of all ages who like a good story .

 

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The Garden Plot

cover41779-smallThe Garden Plot

Marty Wingate

Alibi – Random House

Pru is an English Gardener from Texas. She has given herself a year to find a full time position as a head gardener before she must return to Texas and pick up her old job and her old life. She is nearing the end of the year at the start of the book. (We are reminded of her situation through an assortment of delightful rejection letters.) While she is waiting for the head gardener position, she has been working as a contract gardener for a variety of people.

The Wilson’s hire her to fix up their back yard for them and in the process she finds some Roman mosaic. That is exciting enough, but the next day she discovers a body lying on the mosaic. The police come and particularly Detective Inspector Pearse.

The Garden Plot is part mystery, part romance and part whimsy and all thoroughly enjoyable. Pru is refreshing as a fifty something woman who has set herself a goal and is determined to achieve the goal by her standard. The D.I. Pearse is not over done. He is a police man through and through, but leavened with wit, compassion and an interest in badgers.

The other characters that wander through the story are written to be well rounded and interesting, and they populate the story to give it flavour and just the right amount of chaos.

I recommend The Garden Plot for mystery lovers and garden lovers alike.

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Faelorehn – Book One of the Otherword Trilogy

cover39108-medium

Faelorehn – Book One of the Otherword Trilogy  

Jenna Elizabeth Johnson

Meghan lives with her adoptive family in California and goes to a private high school with her best friends. She has to deal with the usual high school bullies, but other than that, her life is pretty good.

Well, except for the unexplained visions of things that don’t exist, and the recurring nightmare of being abandoned in L.A. as a toddler, and the fact that some of those things from her visions are showing up in reality with a desire to kill her.

Fortunately Cade also shows up and Meghan starts getting some answers to questions she’s asked all her life.

Faolorehn is a well written book and Meghan is an interesting character. My problem with the book is that it doesn’t really start until it is almost over. We spend the largest part of the book watching Meghan go through her almost normal life. I found it a long wait before the real action starts; unless one is really interested in high school drama and teen angst about not fitting in.

My guess is that the second book will move much quicker and pull us deeper into the story that book one mostly hints at. The good news is that if the technical parts of the writing stay at the same calibre, Book Two will be a very good book.

I don’t want to say not to read the book, but I can’t completely recommend it either. If you are patient and have a high tolerance for teen stuff, the pay off at the end and the hints of what is to come will be worth the effort of reading the book.

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