Demonkin by T Eric Bakutis – A Review

This book was provided to me by the Author in exchange for an Honest Review

The Blurb from the Authors Site – “For years Jyllith Malconen ended lives and damned souls to avenge her family, only to learn all her victims were innocent. Now others like her, children twisted to hate, raise a new threat. Alone and haunted, Jyllith must infiltrate their Demonkin cult and stop them… even if it costs her soul.

Meanwhile, Kara Honuron’s journey to Tarna has taken its toll on family and friends. Before they can recover, an ancient demon attacks Tarna and scatters those she loves. Facing an enemy who seeks her complete destruction, Kara sets out to stop the demons once and for all. Pitted against each other on converging paths, these two young women will either save the Five Provinces …or doom them to a horrific fate”

This is the story of Jyllith. No. Really. She is the star. Well her and Ayrn/Tania.

I am going to try to be as spoiler free as possible with this review, as far as Book 1 goes. But if you have not read Glyphbinder, then stop right here. This book has nothing for you. Go and read the first, lest you be lost.

This book showcases Eric’s writing style, with fast paced action and well paced story. Again, much like before, not a single word is wasted nor a single scene pointless. Everything he does either builds up characters or expands on the world. And I absolutely love it.

The blurb really does explain this well without actually giving anything away. This really is the story of Jyllith. She is a main focus here. Kara actually gets very little “screentime” as it were till the end of the book. In fact, honestly, for me Kara was the weakest of the characters. She becomes more of a hormonal teenager then anything else, traumatized from the events in book one, and gaining a sort of “I have to save everyone alone” complex later on. Which honestly was what I was hoping to avoid seeing. She basically apparently decides that she is in love with Trell, and when he goes to sacrifice everything to save people, she flips out and tries to rescue him against something that she clearly has no chance of beating, and she knows it. But she does it for love! Love…for a man she has known at this point for 3 weeks, give or take.

See? hormonal Teenager moment. Blah.

Storywise, the book takes a breakneck pace and leaves you very little breathing room. Everything is tense, as it should be, given the circumstances. I found myself unable to put the book down, which is always a good sign.

However, the book has no ending. Its a cliffhanger. A hard, blatant, cliffhanger. It makes sense, in a way. This is the second book of a trilogy, but its hard for me to excuse it. The book just…ends, with a very clear “Join us next week as Kara continues to try to save the world!” with no real resolution of the events of this book.

Yes, Jyllith manages to do what she set out to do…partially. And Kara manages to do things…partially. But at the end of the book, nothing has really been resolved and things are even worse then when they started. And only Kara can save them, apparently.

This ending, combined with the fact that this is written as a squeal, are two problems I cannot forgive. For me, these things are a major strike against the book.

If someone had never read the first book and came to read this, they would have no idea why Cantrell, Jyllith, Byn, Sera, Aryn, Xander, Mellysa, and others are important. They would have no idea why they are connected, what made them who they are now. Nothing. It gets…somewhat explained in this novel, but in very small amounts and in passing.

And that ending. Ugh. That just aggravates me.

One thing I do want to point out involves the new character of Tania. And some parallels I noticed. Tania is a blind girl, who is an Earther. She specializes in Earth magic. Further, she is sassy, sarcastic, and learned how to see without using her eyes. Does this remind you of anyone reader?

If you said Toph, from the Last Airbender, you would be right! She is clearly inspired by Toph. Once I noticed this, well, I started noticing other parallels between these books and the last Airbender. Byn is Sokka, a solid physical styled fighter with a good heart and humor. Sera is Katara, a healer and fiercely loyal character. Kara is clearly Aang, mastering all forms of Glyphs/Bending. Aryn is Zuko, a scarred fire master trying to regain his place in the world. I started noticing these comparisons and have to wonder if Eric was subconciously influenced by Avatar. Granted, if you are gonna be inspired by something, you could do worse the The Last Airbender.

Overall, I would have to give this book a 3/5. For fans of Glyphbinder, its great. You get a real good look at Jyllith and learn a great deal more about her, and Aryn and Tania are fantastic as well. Hell, my personal favorite character was the demon general Abaddon and his interactions with Trell. Seriously. I need more Abaddon.

But the ending left me unsatisfied, and the lack of context for new readers is definitely an issue. So again, read Glyphbinder. If you enjoy that, then come and read Demonkin. And personally, I am excited for book 3. Get on it Eric!

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Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum by Gregory Funaro – A Review

A Copy of this Novel was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The blurb, as always: “When Grubb, an orphan and runaway chimney sweep, entered the wondrous world of the Odditorium, his life changed forever. Apprenticed to the mechanical marvel’s strange proprietor, Alistair Grim, Grubb unfortunately must settle into his new position on the lam, as the whole of London is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain bent on mass destruction. Grim, however, has come up with a plan to expose the real villain: Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium’s power source for himself.

With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium’s crew embark on a perilous adventure to find the legendary sword Excalibur: the only weapon capable of penetrating Nightshade’s magical suit of armor. As expected, their quest turns out to be anything but ordinary. Not only can the Odditorium fly, but it can also swim! And so the crew battens down the hatches and sets off on an underwater voyage to the otherworldly realm of Avalon, home to Excalibur. Along the way, they must battle a banshee assassin, sea monsters, and a witch who seeks revenge on Alistair Grim for stealing her magical objects.

But that’s not all. Unbeknownst to Grubb and the others, their fate has been written in an ancient Avalonian prophecy—a prophecy that holds the key to a destiny not even Alistair Grim could have possibly imagined.”

So before I really get into anything here, be aware of this: This is a sequel. To a book I personally have not read. And unfortunately, this book reads as a sequel.  Go read the first one if you are even remotely interested.

Because honestly, here is very little time spent on character development or interpersonal relationships, because its obviously been built up in the previous book.  Everything in this book was setup in the first.  EVERYTHING.

My biggest issue here was the fact that I was unaware it was a sequel. The blurb kinda hints at it, but doesn’t really make it clear. However, within a few pages it becomes very clear very quickly that things occurred in a book prior to this, major things, and these things are never really explained or gone over in any detail for those of us who are coming in mid-series.

Now, I don’t mind this generally. Plenty of book do this, but the issue here is that there are also a ton of books and even long running series that do not do this, and are actually able to be read in really any order, as each book is a self contained story.

The Dresden Files are a good example of this.

But my personal favorite example is The Elenium Series, by David Eddings.

I actually received the 3rd book of that series as a gift when I was a kid and did not know it was book 3. I read it, loved it, found it there were 2 other books, and went and read them in order.

And I missed NOTHING.

Every major event from the first two was referenced perfectly in book 3.

Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum really does not do that. The author clearly assumes you have read the first book and just goes forward with the plot.

And truthfully, the plot is not that great if you have no vested interest in the characters. And if you have not read the first book, you won’t have that connection. And thus everything falls apart. Which is exactly what happened to me.

On a technical level, the writing is good. But I found myself rather bored with the whole thing. I didn’t click with any characters, and really did not see any reason to care. Nothing was bad, but nothing was really fascinating.

I am curious as to why the author felt he had to make up a word to replace Artifacts. Cause these folk refer to Artifacts…as Odditoria. And going on an Aquaticum refers the an underwater adventure.

Because WHIMSY!

I give this a 3/5. I would suggest checking out the first book before even touching this one, otherwise you will miss a whole lot.

And truthfully I most likely won’t bother with the first one simply because this one failed to interest me on its own.

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Armada by Ernest Cline – A Review

Dear lord have mercy.  Armada.  A book that, as best as I can tell, is fairly divisive among fans of Cline.  His second outing after Ready Player One.

A book that I wish I liked more then I did.

Let me put this up here quickly, for those who don’t want to get too bogged down.  Armada, for me, is average at best.  A decent story, but with a variety of issues that prevented me from enjoying it more.

Armada tells the story of Zack, a high school senior with anger management issues.  He is a gamer, playing the online MMO Armada, a space fight sim that is the biggest game in existance.  Billions of people play it every day from all over the world, and Zack is ranked 6th in the world.  He lives with his single mother, and tries to connect with his deceased father through his fathers old belongings and music.

Early on in the story Zack sees what he thinks is a space ship, straight out of Armada, hovering near his school.  He assumes it to be just his imagination and having played too much Armada, and then vows to lay off the gaming after the evenings major event.

He works after school in a small Retro Gaming shop, where his boss spends all day playing the alternate game to Armada, Terran Defense Force (or something along those lines, I cant remember).  A ground combat game where the enemy aliens of Armada are fought on Earth with Giant Mechs.

He eventually discovers that not everything is what it seems and that maybe aliens are real and that Armada was only a training program to fight them off!  What follows is Zack trying to come to grips with several disturbing revelations as he tries to save the world from the alien invaders with the help of some new friends.

All in all the basic premise sounds great right?  Alien invasion that is fought off by gamers instead of the military, who have been secretly trained via video games?  But there is one major flaw that makes the whole thing fall apart for me.

Characters.  They are as flat as can be.  Zack can truly be summed up as the teenager with anger management and daddy issues.  Thats all he is in this book.  Zacks mother is your standard Single Mom missing her dead Husband.  Zacks two friends are comic relief one and two.  The school bully is just that, a bully.  Zack meets a girl who he almost instantly falls for, who can be described as the Punk Rock Hacker Chick.  He meets the other 4 members of the top 10 (members 7-10) and they can be descirbed best as Religious Single Mom, The Foriegn Kid, The Excitable Youngster, and the Pothead.  He meets his 2 commanding officers, one can be described as the level headed conspiracy theorist, and the other the hardnosed battleweary general.  His primary commanding officers aides are the super conspiracy theorist and the skeptic.

Thats right.  Every character can be summed up in such a way, and the book moves at such a breakneck speed that no development that makes any sense is given to anyone!  At one point, when it seems like they are all going to die fight, everyone but Zack and his commanding officer break up into pairs and bang.  I am not even kidding.  Zack cant bang his supposed love interest though because she is on earth and he is not at the time.

Further, there are a few twists that occur in the book, and both are easily telegraphed early on.  I don’t want to spoil them so I wont point them out.  But seriously, you can see them coming.

Now there is some good.  It does a good job portraying what could happen in such an event.  The writing is spot on, and while the characters get almost no development you can sort of forgive that at times just because of the action scenes.  And the action scenes are stellar.  As is the world building.  I can easily imagine a world where these sort of games take over.  Just look at our world now.  Much like Ready Player One, Cline presents a future that is entirely plausible to a point.

Overall, there is some good here, and some bad.  Its average at best, and after Ready Player One I think thats the biggest problem here.  Its just simply average.

I would give this a 3/5.  Read it if you are a fan of Cline and want more of his work.  Otherwise you can avoid it, or hell just wait for the apparently upcoming movie.

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SoulServe by Robert S Wilson – A Review

I was given a copy of this book by the Author in Exchange for an Honest Review

The Book Blurb: “An emotional and suspenseful prequel to e-Thriller.com’s July 2013 Thriller of the Month, EXIT REALITY from the Ray Garret/Lifeline cyberpunk detective technothriller series!

Death is but a doorway… when SoulServe holds the key.

One by one, a group of scientists at Brizen Health are being murdered by… something. Doctors, subjects, and even janitors are reporting disturbances in Section 671, the Neuro-Technical Division. Ever since the death of Dr. Carl Broxson, the server room in Section 671 has maintained a negative 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Printers turn themselves on and print out terrifying cryptic messages. People have been seeing things in and out of the virtual world of the Lifeline. Including the apparition of their beloved colleague Dr. Broxson himself.

When local police realize the case leads directly into the deep digital canyon of the Lifeline, Antivii agent Ray Garret is called to the scene to get to the bottom of things before another brilliant mind can be taken. But when his wife, Rhonda, starts falling at random and begins to have seizures, the ghost in Brizen Health could be Ray’s only hope to save the love of his life.”

Alright, this review should be pretty short because this was a novella, and honestly there is not much to talk about. SoulServe is the prequel of another novel called Exit Reality. It deals with the character Ray Garret and his investigation into a series of murders happening at a place called Brizen Health.

I know that what I just said is up there in the blurb but that is because there is not much else to this story.

This is at best average for me. You see, Exit Reality came first, and I assume that there are better explanations as to the characters and world in that then in this, because frankly I know next to nothing about anything other then who the villain was and how the story played out. I know almost nothing about Ray other then the fact that he is something called an “Antivii Agent”. I have no idea what Antivii is though. I got the idea that the Lifeline is basically the net only visually. After 3 chapters I finally learned what HPDID was (seriously, if you are going to use an Acronym please tell me what it means as soon as it first appears!) and realized it was basically a jack in device for said Lifeline.

I know that Ray was married to Rhonda, and that she got sick.

But beyond that? I know next to nothing. I don’t know WHO these people are. Or what these things are. There was next to no world building done, and I can almost guess that it would be very difficult to do so in 100 pages. Further, early on plot points feel disjointed as the narrative seems to jump from event to event, almost like the bits in between are meaningless. Everything just felt rushed.

Now, thankfully it does have a solid ending, with everything about the case wrapped up. And the actual technical aspects of the writing such as format, spelling, and grammar usage are all spot on. But it felt, well, soulless. I did not care what happened to Rhonda because I knew nothing about her. How could I? My intro to her was her making dinner and falling down, then her going to a doctor, then her having a seizure. She is basically there to make Ray emotional.

Then there is a strange bit involving a woman trying to seduce Ray for some strange reason which I still don’t understand. That came out of left field honestly. Especially given the ending.

Truth be told I feel this would have been much better if it honestly had more world building and time spent getting me hooked on the characters. But things moved so quickly I could not really connect with anyone or anything here. It just felt so lifeless.

Overall I give this a 3/5. I am not a fan of this at all, its dead average for me, and I don’t think I would want to read Exit Reality at this point, as that actually was written BEFORE this one, and thus I am worried that the mistakes and missteps here are repeated there.

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The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny – A Review

Oh dear where can I begin with this monster. Normally its easy for me to really get a grasp on how to start, but this tome is 10 books in one. Thats right, 10 bloody books in one volume. So I am going to do my best to give it the treatment it deserves.

If you want the short answer: GO READ THESE BOOKS. Find the Anthology, and go.

Now then, I suppose the best place would be a rough description of the tome. And make no mistake, it is a TOME. You see, the Book of Amber is the collected works of Roger Zelazny, and houses his Chronicles of Amber. It goes under a few different names, but seeing as how I read the Omnibus edition titled The Great Book of Amber, I figured I would discuss that here.

Firstly, this houses 10 total novels, split into two “cycles”

The first 5 are the Corwin cycle, and are:

– Nine Princes in Amber
– The Guns of Avalon
– Sign of the Unicorn
– The Hand of Oberon
– The Courts of Chaos

These five detail the story of Corwin, a Prince of Amber. What is Amber I can hear you asking? Well! Amber is no less then the center AND the only real point in the known universe.

The basica idea behind the world is that Amber is the center of the Universe, and everything beyond Amber is nothing more then a Shadow cast by Amber. Our universe is one such Shadow, and its where Corwin begins his journey. From there he deals with other members of his family as well as a great black Road, trying to determine what happened to his father Oberon, and a few other insane mysteries as well as the forces of Chaos.

Its very much a product of its time. Written in 1970, it has the trappings of detective noir, lots of smoking and drinking and instrospective moments. The world building is fantastic as well. You get a real sense of Amber, and its environs, and Corwin’s family. The one that sticks out in my mind are Brand and Ran, and Benedict. Corwin’s family are basically superhumans. Almost all of them are tougher then a normal man, faster, and devious to a fault. Corwin remarks requently that the family is not a very “close” one. Lots of backstabbing here.

Without spoiling too much, the series starts with Corwin awakening in a mental hospital in upstate New York with no memory of who he is. He manages to escape, find the person who had put him there, and from there begins the process of unrvaelling his memories as well as the intricate plots and politics of being a Prince of Amber.

Another thing that is very prominent in the series is the Pattern. At the very center of everything lies the Pattern in Amber. This is basically a huge pattern that houses the very Stuff of Reality. To show you are a Prince or Princess of Amber, to gain the ability to Walk the Shadows (which is how they access the various realities of the Multiverse) you must survive walking the Pattern. Corwin does it to prove he is who he says he is at one point.

The Corwin Quintet is a great read but can be a bit hard to get through. The prose is dense and you can miss things if you read too quickly. Further, there are layers and layers of interaction. But its a page turner make no mistake. And by the end you will have things ending in a satisfactory way.

The second 5 books are the Merlin Cycle, and are:

– Trumps of Doom
– Blood of Amber
– Signs of Chaos
– Knight of Shadows
– Prince of Chaos

The first of these books was wrriten in 85, and shows a very different style and tone when compared to the first five. While the first five came off as a Noir / Detective styled story, this came off more action oriented, almost like a Hacker novel. Merlin is the son of Corwin, and a Prince of both Chaos and Amber.

He has walked both the Pattern in Amber, and the opposite, the Logrus, in Chaos. He is a being of both worlds, and strives in the books to try to save both from destroying themselves as well as the very fabric of the universe. He also creates his own AI in the form of Ghost, a machine who thinks of him as its father and tries to help him out.

I found this group of stories to be…less interesting then the first. Perhaps it was fatigue that got to me here. I am not sure. But I can promise you they are still worth your time and by the end of the 10 books the whole world felt nice and complete, and the story done.

I would rate this Omnibus a solid 4.5/5. I urge you, if you are interested in a different sort of Fantasy, to give this a read. Yes, its going to take you a LONG time, but its worth it all the way till the end.

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Interactive Fiction

One of the most fascinating things for me has been interactive fiction. I can almost see you folks scratching your heads going “what is this guy talking about?”

Well, allow me to drop a knowledge bomb here.

Interactive Fiction, to me, is any form of fiction that requires input from the person experiencing it, and the input can cause the story to branch or have multiple conclusions.

The earliest form of this would be the Choose Your Own Adventure books. These are still being created today in fact, and are a prime example of where the reader has some control over how the story unfolds. Later, Tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons would appear and these would be another prime example of Interactive Fiction.

And then you got video games. And I am not referring to games like Call of Duty, which has the barest of stories. I am speaking of the Adventure games like Kings Quest, or games like Wasteland 2, Baldurs Gate, Fallout, A Wolf Amoung Us, and more.

One particular type of Interactive Fiction I want to talk about however are the Gamebooks. These were books that were a sort of evolution of the CYOA series. You see, a Gamebook takes the concepts of D&D and merges it with a CYOA novel to create a hybrid of sorts. You would sit down, make a character based on the rules within the book, and then go on an adventure. You would have fights where you might roll some six sided dice or choose a number from a random number table and you could lose and die. All sorts of options.

And they were fun. The ones I played the most were the Fighting Fantasy Series and the Lone Wolf Saga. I only had two books from each series unfortunately but I played the crap out of them.  One was the Legend of Zagor, pictured above.

In fact, the Lone Wolf Saga has an Android App for free with the whole series in it, and built in controls for advancement. Because in the Lone Wolf Saga you could take your character from book to book and build yourself up. Which was awesome.

If you have never experienced anything like these books I suggest you go and give em a try. They all tell good stories but at the same time let you make choices to see how things unfold.

And if you want some reviews of these sort of books, this guy right here has ya covered.

Now if you will excuse me, I gotta go get the Sword of Sommerland!

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan – A Review

Yes, I know, a Review on a Saturday?! But honestly, I HAD TO. This book was amazing.

The Book Blurb: “Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .”

I will be frank here. I love Rick Riordan and his style of storytelling. The wit, humor, and attention to detail in regards to the things he is talking about is great. His sense of grammar and spelling are perfect. In short, he is a fantastic author.

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer is no different. Whereas in the Percy Jackson / Heroes of Olympus books he tackled Greek and Roman mythology, and in the Kane Chronicles it was Egyptian, now he is butting heads with Norse mythology. Odin, Thor, Freya and Frey, Fenris, Loki, ect. Its all here.

This book tells the story of Magnus Chase. And yes, if you have read the Percy Jackson series, he is related to one of the important folks there. Her cousin, point of fact. Magnus lost his mother roughly 2 years before the start of the story, and has been living as a homeless person on the streets of Boston. He is a survivor, not above stealing or scavenging if the situation calls for it. His mother frequently warned him to not talk to any of his relatives, and he has done just that.

When the story begins however, said cousin, her father, and his uncle have decided suddenly to start looking for him. Its his sixteenth birthday you see and all sorts of things are about to happen.

I can’t really say too much because I do not want to spoil one single solitary bit in this story. The way the world is connected to his previous works is fantastic. I really got a sense that all his worlds (Kane, Percy, and now Magnus) are interconnected. Its awesome to know that there is a shared world here.

However, at the same time, if you have never read a single one of his other books you thankfully will not be left in the dark. Yes there is a connection to the Percy Jackson world, but its only shown twice and its not overtly mentioned. Rather, this is the story of Magnus. His adventures through the Nine Worlds, his dealings with giants, gods, dwarves, elves, and more.

I am a huge fan of mythology, personally. And while Norse is not my strongest suit I do know a decent amount of it, and he stays true to the mythology of it. He even goes so far as to mention the Odin myth and how Odin learned rune magic: By hanging himself by his neck for nine days after stabbing himself with his spear. Magic, you see, requires sacrifice in the Norse world.

If you have an interest in Mythology, or just want a good solid YA Fantasy read, you should check out Magnus Chase. Also I would like to mention that the story has a solid conclusion, and is definitely part of a larger adventure. I want to see how things pan out after the reveal at the end.

I rate this a 4/5. This absolutely deserves a place on your shelf. Its funny, witty, heartwarming and heartbreaking, and will even teach you a bit.

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