Archive for March, 2010

Quick Reviews

March 24, 2010

Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk

Magic to the Bone, the first in Devon Monk’s series, has an interesting system of magic. Each time magic is used, a physical and painful price, such as in the form of migraines and flu like symptoms, is taken from the user, unless it is offloaded to another person. However, Allie Beckstrom also loses memories. Allie works as a Hound, finding illegal casters by following their scent from their work. When she finds a boy suffering under the effects of an illegal offload, she finds her father’s signature on the spell, forcing her to see her father for the first time in years. Supposedly, magical signatures cannot be forged perfectly, so when Allie’s shows up at a murder site, she goes on the road with the help of the mysterious Zayvion.

Magic to the Bone was a good read. While I like Monk’s magical system, having the character forget everything and distrust everyone after every major event can become a little tedious. However, I do recommend the story. The characters are colorful and its universe is quite unique. Zayvion and Allie’s magical abilities hint at a more complex understanding of magic than the one for public use in the novel.

You Can’t Stop Me by Max Allan Collins and Matthew Clemens

You Can’t Stop Me starts out with a bang and does not slow down. Just hours after stopping a presidential assassination attempt, J.C. Harrow returns home to find his wife and son murdered with his wife’s wedding ring missing. After time passes and the police cannot find their killer, Harrow vows to find him on his own. A few years later, Harrow becomes the host of a reality television show that solves crimes. When a connection is found between the murder of a law enforcement officer’s family and his own, Harrow puts together a team to find the murderer as part of the reality show. They find a number of similar murders, making the suspect a serial killer.

I could not put You Can’t Stop Me down. The story just took hold and would not let go. With little passages from the murderer’s point of view, you cannot help but wonder if Harrow and his team will catch him when he can watch their progress on television. Collins and Clemens have concocted a clever plot with likable characters. Even the killer’s history evokes some sympathy.

St. Patrick’s Day Review: Patrick, Son of Ireland by Stephen R. Lawhead

March 17, 2010

I’ve been waiting for St. Patrick’s Day to post my review of Stephen R. Lawhead’s Patrick, Son of Ireland. To begin with, Patrick is a fictional imagining of the life of St. Patrick and explanation of the four names he was given at various points. I’ve read several reviews where the story was picked apart and disliked because of the historical inaccuracies it has compared to what is known of Patrick’s life. Patrick is fiction, of course everything is not going to be true, otherwise it would be a biography. Keep this in mind when you read it. It is a great story that keeps you turning pages to see how Patrick survives the difficult situations in which he finds himself.

As a spoiled, young, Welsh nobleman’s son, Succat Morgannwg is enslaved by the Irish in a raid  when he was sixteen. Determined to return home, Succat somehow manages to keep his spirit alive throughout escape attempts and the resulting beatings. He even falls in love with an Irish woman, whose druid brother saves his life and brings him to live with the druids. Deciding to become a druid in order to get his freedom, he takes the druid teachings to heart, finding many similarities between them and the teachings of his grandfather, a priest. Succat’s journey’s take him war ravaged Gaul, imperial Rome, and finally back to Ireland, where he finds his destiny. Each portion of his life under the names Succat, Corthirthiac, Magonus, and Patricius is filled with wonder, loss, and learning.

I loved Stephen R. Lawhead’s take on St. Patrick’s life. His suffering and losses made me cry in sympathy and hope for his later happiness. Lawhead’s writing makes history seem to come to life. Along with Patrick, I recommend his King Raven trilogy:  Hood, Scarlet, and Tuck, set in Wales in the time of William the Conquerer, based on the Robin Hood legend.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! And happy reading! Don’t forget to wear green.

Review: Shalador’s Lady by Anne Bishop

March 8, 2010

Shalador’s Lady, the latest in Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series and sequel to last year’s The Shadow Queen, continues the story of Lady Cassidy’s rejuvenation of the land Dena Nehele. The Black Jewels series has a huge cast of strong characters living in a, sometimes tyrannical, matriarchal society.  Set in the aftermath of the cleansing of the corrupt Queens in Terreille, the surviving Warlord Princes asked for the help of a Kaeleer Queen to remind the people of the old ways. Disappointed in the plain, light jeweled Queen Cassidy, Prince Theran, who tries to see what others see, feels a connection to the selfish but vivacious Lady Kermilla who visits Cassidy in Dena Nehele. Deciding that Kermilla would make a better Queen, Theran begins to undermine Cassidy, despite the fact that she found the treasure of Grayhaven and has started to heal the land. Blind to Kermilla’s true nature and his friends revulsion of her, Theran’s actions cause Cassidy to move her court to the Shalador reserves. The land begins to fracture as the people choose sides.

I cannot say enough good things about the Black Jewels series. Anne Bishop’s writing just grabs you and immerses you into a brilliant universe with a vivid cast of characters. Daemon Sadi has become one of my all time favorite characters. In anticipation of the release of Shalador’s Lady, I re-read The Shadow Queen and ended up re-reading the original trilogy as well. Then after reading the new release, I went back and read The Invisible Ring again, which depicts the ancestors of the characters in the two newest books. It seems that every time I read one of the books in the series, I end up getting sucked into the universe and re-read all of them.

I think Shalador’s Lady is a good addition to the series, though it is not my favorite. Unlike the emotional delving in The Shadow Queen, this one focuses more on the action side of things in Terreille. The SaDiablo family sections are not as big either, which I missed since they are my favorites. I did like the return of Surreal and Ranon, who always add a lively air to things. And of course I loved seeing Gray become the man he was meant to be.

I highly recommend any and all of Anne Bishop’s novels, including the Black Jewels series, the Ephemera series, and the Tir Alainn trilogy.