Saturday, May 14, 2011

Storm Front

So I am a fairly avid avoider (is that a word?) of so called "urban fantasy" the entire concept of the modern world and fantasy mixing has always just come off as a little trite to me to be honest. Quite a few things could be said about authors who revel in the field, almost all biased and untrue. But after hearing so much about the Dresden Files for so long i thought I owed it to myself to take the plunge and see what all this fuss was about. Boy am I glad I did. Jim Butcher has crafted a fantastic read seemingly with ease. There are few books I get through as fast as I got through this one, just over one night it took me, would have been the one sitting if I hadn't started it so late in the evening.
 So why is it so great? The fast pacing is definitely a boon to the reader there are no points where you're bogged down hearing about inane facts or trivialities that don't push the story towards is awesome climax. Don't take this to mean there is a lack of detail in the story though because there isn't it is a full formed story with great detail, it's a testament to the crafting that you don't realize how detailed it is until you look back at what you read. The characters are another boon to the experience Harry could be the long lost love child of Sherlock Holmes and Gandalf. He is the main character and a wizard in Chicago who specializes in finding things. That is a far to simple way to explain this very complex and multi layered character however, Harry is deeply flawed and knows it, he has an inherently good heart and wants to do the right thing however he is also dogged by his own dark past.
 The rich detail of the world covers wizards, vampires, hard-nosed detectives, a bar purpose built for magical patrons,  sociopathic gangsters, and unbelievably hilarious faeries (read it just for the faeries i tell you).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tome of the Undergates

So you want to be an adventurer? The brilliantly realised characters in Sam Sykes first outing may turn you off the idea wholesale.

Why it would be a grand profession I hear you cry. Sam Skyes in Tome of the Undergates shows us a couple of damn good reasons not to be an adventurer, the main one being "other adventurers".

 Sam has been likened to Joe Abercrombie for his darkly cynical turn of phrase and character amorality, when I heard this I new I was in for a treat. Not once did Tome fail on the delivery of that promised treat. The story is essentially a brutal set of violent encounters that cluster around a main plot. Do not despair this is not for a lack of plot or storytelling ability, Sam doesn't throw violence at us readers for the sake of it. Violence is an intrinsic part of the characters lives and serves not only to make the book a fast paced action read but as a method by which the characters are developed, mainly through their reaction to or the way they perpetrate said violence.

 So what is this plot, it is centred on a group of adventurers. Anyone who has ever played a dungeons and dragons game or a similarly inspired role playing game will no doubt see the character archetypes. There is the leader Lenk a silver haired small human with a big sword and a tendancy towards using it as the solution to every problem. Oh and he is also slightly insane.. he hears voices. Lenks band of very unmerry followers is made up of Kataria a "schict", a pointy eared arrow slinging psycotic with the dexterity of a squirell who hates humans and enjoys killing them. Denaos the cowardly and mysterious rogue, Dredaleon the pompous magic user, Asper the self righteous cleric and of course the big red machine no not kane but Gariath the dragonman. Yes you read that right DRAGONMAN how cool is that. He is another non human member of the group who delights in killing and violence beyond the pale, he has an intense dislike for anyone who isn't a dragonman.

The story follows as our bunch of psychopaths embark on an adventure to return a lost tome to their employer as they face off with ten foot tall fish demons and frogmen. All in all a wonderful read and sure to turn any of the male readers into adolesent boys obbsessed with how "cool" certain thin
gs in the read are.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Name of the wind (KingKiller book 1)


Another first time offering, this time from Patrick Rothfuss . Like all new authors that I have heard such great things about I approached this realtively large first release with some trepidation and a muted level of expectaion that any long time reader of the fantasy genre builds over time with new authors.  The excitement of a new voice fills you with hope only to be brought low before even finishing the novel with a sense of rehashed bad prose. I am very glad to say such trepidation about The Name of the Wind was sorely misplaced. 

This is without a doubt the best written fantasy novel I have read in .. well ok I don't know how long exactly but the last time I was this engrossed and fullfilled with a novel was probably the on going A Song of Ice and Fire by fantasy titan and current holder of the world heavyweight fantasy author belt of awesomeness George R R Martin. Yes the writing is that damn good. 

 The high points of the story are the way every character feels real and emotions through the book left me actually feeling them not just thinking about how they would feel. Some examples are a particularly kind and caring man who looks after the downtrodden of society within a city that doesn't care. He is framed in a way that makes you think of his work in a truely awe inspiring and selfless manner which is exactly how it should be seen.  The settings in the book are also fantastic and myriad, the reader is shown varying worlds bordered by circumstance within the main world (a name for the main world is never given that i noticed). These different worlds are used to frame the main plot which is essentially a coming of age story about a man named Kvothe. We see a world of free abbandon in his childhood, a decrepit world of slums, theivery and poverty as he lives on the streets of a city alone and a world of possibility, wonder and mystery as he tells of his time at the University.

The cast of characters are enjoyable with Elodin being a towering high point in my view and someone I hope to see much much more of in the future novels, who doesn't want to know more about a crazy master arcasnist who can perform powerful magic??? Anyone who doesn't is someone deserving of being extremely patronised for their obvious inability to spot cool. Other feats of cool within the book include a drug addicted dragon.  A darker side to fae creatures is hinted at in a rather direct way towards the end of the book that is something to look forward to hearing much more about.

As a final note I shall leave with a question is George in danger of losing his title of most awesome beard to Patrick??






Friday, February 18, 2011

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Not a novel I enjoyed at all. It never seemed to get to the point or deciding what it wanted to be. The characters were cardboard cut-outs that never seemed very interesting or fully formed the main character is a "barbarian" and that is about the sum total of her description of character. 

 The stories "political intrigue" is laughably ill formed for a veritable vipers nest of master tacticians (we are lead to believe) there seems to be almost nothing even attempted in the world building. This is most annoying as the world building that was done showed great potential and cool ideas. 
 The gods were almost so boring that the novel could have done without them all except Naha and the ball boy, the rest play no function beyond standing around. On the subject of Naha ok I get it he's a big scary dude who makes women weak at the knees I did not need to hear about his seductive qualities a hundred thousand times. I found myself skipping large portions where the story descended into mind numbing pages of romantic seductive nonsense between the barbarian girl and the "dark god" if I wanted a bodice ripper I would have opted for a mills and boon novel. 
 The pacing of the novel was entirely annoying with the main story stopping suddenly so our barbarian girl could have a conversation with herself about seemingly inane nonsense. This is explained towards the end of the book however in a rather novel and interesting way but it doesn't justify the annoyance to the pacing that it has leading up to that point. 
 It is almost galling that such a cool concept of gods held prisoner and used as weapons was executed so poorly as to turn me off reading the rest of the series, which I imagine would only get better.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Lies of Locke Lamora


The first of a projected seven book cycle called the Gentleman Bastards Sequence. 

This book has alot going for it, there are alot of things going on with it and alot of things that Scott Lynch gets right.

Something I feel should be addressed first is that this is not a novel for the squeemish or easily offended the characters in this novel do not shy away from profanity. That being said however none of the cursing that takes place in the book is out of place or appear to be thrown in purely for shock value. I find the language quite refreshing and realistic, the characters dealt with are mostly theives or murders or some other variation of a criminal and takes place in a very criminal setting. It has always irked me somewhat in fantasy novels how many authors shy away from cursing, as if it is somehow believable or even comprehensible that people who have no problem killing would have a problem with swearing.... considering the situations that some fantasy heros find themselves in I would say the odd "fuck" or "oh shit" is very much on par with what you would expect.

Anyway onto the actual story. The novel takes place in the canal city of Camorr, a brilliantly detailed cityscape of bridges and canals and otherworldy elderglass towers. Camorr is a city of extreme richness both in people and in coin and culture, one of the most unique Camorri cultural events is what is known as the Teeth Show a deadly gladiatorial event on water that has to be read to be believed, it was one of the highlights of the book for me. Very unique and well described also very telling of the Camorri mentality.

In this city of vice and sin we follow the life of a collective of theives known as the Gentlemen Bastards lead by Locke Lamora the "hero" protagonist of the tale. The gritty nature of the writing makes the underworld the bastards inhabit all the more believable and realistic, it serves to flesh out the characters as people not merely actors on a stage which incidently is one of their games. The bastards are not mere sneak theives they are masters of the extrordinary and exceptional con artists. Further aiding in making the characters come to life is the curious way in which Scott has chosen to include flashbacks to the childhood of Locke and others. With these flashbacks a sense of how Locke became who he is (and why he is so damned cool) comes about, it helps to trace distinct parts of his personality back to their root. A tactic that I would not be suprised to find repeated by many other authors in the future. It's a risky gambit but Scott pulled it off.

Locke and his gang of Pezon are thrust into the middle of a power struggle between the head gangster of the city and an unseen foe threatening all the criminals in the city, playing off one against the other whilst trying to manage a major heist of the cities nobility becomes a tangled web of lies and deceit and death for many.

So what was missing?? Well being that this is only the first of seven novels it would be remiss to complain too much as I am sure Scott has alot of the things I want to know more about in the rest of the sequence but ill give it a go.

More information on the cosmology of the world would have been great and i hope to hear more, of 13 gods we hear almost exclusively about 3.  You have definitly won yourself a new fan in me however Scott and I look forward to reading the rest of the sequence. 



Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Welcome to the StrangeSideReviews, a project for me to trumpet my opinion the world about my obbsession, fantasy fiction. What this place intends to be is a slowly built collection of reviews of fantasy novels as I read them, without a doubt interspersed with tidbits and informative articles about authors or works in projects or anything else remotely related to the fantasy genre. 

For all intents and purposes I will attempt to keep the reviews as recent as possible in the publishing world, however it is based mostly on what I read and I tend to sometimes indulge a nostalgic bent, or I am simply slow to get around to reading something so not all reviews will be "present day breaking events" so to speak. This is also my first attempt at reviewing or running a blog with a topical focus so the place is also a chance for me to learn and experience things myself through the process of writting reviewing and running this blog. 

 First review should be up in a few days as I am almost done reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.