Book Reviews April-May

Posted by phultstrand // May 21, 2013 // in Books // 0 Comments

Book Review: The Janus Affair
A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel
by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Reviewed by Michael Bradley

This is the sixth collaboration between the authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris and the second in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. The first, Phoenix Rising, won them the 2011 Airship Award for best Steampunk novel of the year. The sequel continues to follow the adventures of Miss Eliza Braun, a rambunctious wild agent for the Ministry and Mister Wellington Books, the staid and proper gentleman with knowledge of science.

The book starts off a bit shaky if you have not read the first as the characters are not reintroduced. However, this quickly fades as you start to understand the relationship between the two and some of their past history as you go. It is a great adventure, mostly in urban London in the Victorian Era with a large degree of Steampunk technology thrown in the mix.

Someone is making prominent suffragettes disappear with a strange vortex machine and Eliza and Wellington must battle all sorts of enemies, including office politics and English social morays in order to get to the bottom of the mystery. I was especially impressed with the intricacies of detail in the London area and the characters, which make you feel as if you are there in that world.

I would definitely recommend you read this series if you are into adventure or Steampunk. I had the good fortune to communicate with Pip and Tee and they are both wonderful people as well as very entertaining spinners of yarns. I think the book works better having a male and female writer working together, as both the male and female leads in the book are written strongly and with the proper perspectives. I look forward to the next book in this delightful series.

Book Review: The Inexplicables
by Cherie Priest

Reviewed by Michael Bradley

I am a big fan of Cherie Priest as a person and as a writer. I first met her some years back at a Phoenix ComicCon when we chanced to sit down next to each other at two of the few chairs at the event. We had a very nice talk and were both headed to the same panel, her as a panelist, I as an audience member. She had just written Boneshaker. Through the years, I have talked with her online and in person on several occasions. Cherie Priest has several books that she had written in other genres. Boneshaker was kind of a project that she did not expect to do well, but it really launched her career on its skyward path.

So it was that her agent, editor and publisher wanted her to do more Steampunk style novels. They were not necessarily meant to be a series, but ended up that way, with tie-ins between each, dubbed "The Clockwork Century Books." They take place in America where Texas is still an independent republic and the Civil War has dragged on for years. A yellow gas released in Seattle is turned into a drug that keeps the troops fighting, but causes addiction and eventually an undead zombie-like state.

The Inexplicables is the last book currently planned in this series. It follows Boneshaker, Dreadnought, and Ganymede as the fourth. Boneshaker takes place mainly in the blighted city of Seattle. It is a claustrophobic and totally unique setting combining Steampunk, Civil War era Seattle and The Walking Dead into one milieu. Dreadnought is in the open, with the main character traveling across country by train, headed to Seattle. Ganymede is set in New Orleans for the most part and centers on espionage and a secret weapon. The Inexplicables returns us to the original scene in blighted Seattle.

I wish I could say this fourth book is as good as the others, but I can't. It starts out great, following Rector Sherman, an orphan of the blight, addicted to the "sap" made from the yellow gas, going into the city of Seattle to find the body of his dead friend he helped into Seattle in the first book. He is haunted by his ghost and seeks death or redemption for his guilt. However, the addiction and the hunt for the ghost are virtually forgotten half way through the book.

The title itself, The Inexplicables, implies there will be a bunch of blight created Inexplicables running around. But there are only two, a small creature and a large one, and they play only a side role in the novel. It was almost as if the first half of the book and the second half are from two different stories. It does bring back characters from the other books and serves as a travelogue and update of sorts to cap off the series, but it left me and other readers disappointed it did not live up to her earlier stories.

I would recommend strongly you read Boneshaker which is heavy on science fiction and confined spaces, and that you read Dreadnought, which has strong characters and great descriptors. If you are a big Cherie Priest fan, you should go ahead and read this final clockwork offering, but otherwise I would recommend you pass on it.

The Tower and the Knife Trilogy by William Mazarkis
The Emperor's Knife.
Nightshade Books, 978-159780387, hardback, 352 pages, November 29, 2011

Reviewed by:  Normalene Zeeman
Adult Services Lead Librarian
Prescott Public Library

Emperor Beyon, his brother Prince Sarmin, and Sarmin's fiancée Mesema fight the Pattern Master, an evil Mage trying to take over their world. Intricate alternate Middle Eastern world-building with lots of action and some very well-developed characters, like the Vizier, create a refreshing change from the ordinary. The title takes its name from an assassin "The Emperor's Knife." The Pattern Master mixes evil wizard with M.C. Escher, which makes him wildly unpredictable and the ways the three try to fight him are ingenious. As the first in a new series, there are lots of unanswered questions, but I'm looking forward to the sequel which came out in November 2012, Knife Sworn.

Book Review:  Throne of the Crescent Moon
By Ahmed, Saladin ,DAW, 978-07407117, hardback, 288 pages, February 7, 2012

Reviewed by:  Normalene Zeeman
Adult Services Lead Librarian
Prescott Public Library

Reminiscent of the Arabian Nights Tales and the never-ending battle between good and evil, a world-weary Wise Man, a young passionate Dervish and an even younger desert girl blessed with the lion shape, fight an ancient evil to save their city, Dhamsawaat, home to djenn, ghuls, holy warriors and heretics. Who is the mysterious, Robin Hood-like, Falcon Prince? Should our heroes support the Khalif whose taxes are ever-rising or help the people who may find no other savior? Excellent world-building and empathetic characters make this a must-read for fans of epic adventure tales. The feel of the desert comes through strongly and infuses the story with the heat and wind so you can almost feel them against your skin. This is a stand-alone novel but there is room for more adventure.

A Ruby for Victor
By Ronald C. Tobin

Reviewed by: J.J.M. Czep

I am going to start right out with, I would love to read Victor's paper on politics. The main character, Victor Trent is presented with a very anti-establishment personality and it is very much a driving point throughout the novel, A Ruby for Victor. The book itself becomes more than just a story about vampires, and more a commentary on how skewed society, human and vampire alike, have always been.

This first in the Plaz Seschni vampire series follows Victor and his sister Zoe as they are lured into the web of the vampire world. These are not blood thirsty animals, nor sparkling perpetual teens, Tobin's vampires are much more the seductive and political strain, akin to those of The Kindred or Anne Rice's universe. There are some twists though that make them very unique, and make me really want to pick Tobin's brain for a few hours at least.

If you enjoy the seductive, nocturnal hunter, with a will and intelligence, you will appreciate this story. If you are into trashing in U.S. and world politics, you will find the satirical bent to this story. If you are into ancient mythology and hints of the otherworldly, well, I don't want to give away too much.

I will say Tobin's writing style was something I had to get used to through the first few pages, and the ending left me feeling that while I know I want to read the next book, I also was left with a few loose ends untied in this one. There are also a lot of characters, and relationships to follow, I really felt at some points I needed a flow chart. I have to say though that none of these kept me from enjoying the story and the array of interesting characters. Well done, Ronald Tobin, I am hooked on a vampire series and looking forward to the next book!

That Ghoul Ava and the Queen of the Zombies
By T.W. Brown

Reviewed by J.J.M. Czep

Ava is a snarky thirty something with a big house, a great car, and a career that consists of odd jobs - very odd jobs. She is haunted by her boss - no really. And she is trying very hard not to upset the humanity of her teen roommate, while going up against some rather unusual adversaries. I did not read the first installment of the Ava series, but that is likely how I would have summed Ava up at any point.

I see this story appealing to the high school horror fans on up to those of us who might be a bit more mature chronologically. If there was ever a chic flick subgenre to horror, I think Ava's ghoulish adventures would be dead on.

The stream of consciousness style of writing, while at times a bit confusing, is perfect for this story. Offering insight into the main character's thoughts and motives, as well as back story, the little dips into Ava's inner thoughts also allow some mystery to be maintained as she misses important points in conversations.

The characters are fun in a dark sort of way in that the monsters are not so monstrous when faced with the mundane angle of the day to day. I can't wait to read the next (and the first) book in the Ava series, as I look forward to the growing up that Ava's young roommate experiences, how a ghoul deals with romance, and the things in her basement.

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