Black Powder War

Friday, March 30, 2012


Black Powder War
Naomi Novik, 2006

Premise: Sequel to His Majesty's Dragon and Throne of Jade. Laurence and Temeraire are finishing their business in China and preparing for the long journey home, when new orders change their plans. They have to take their crew and hurry to Istanbul to take possession of three new dragon eggs, paid for in a treaty with Britain. In order to get there they'll have to face deserts and many more inhospitable miles. Even if they succeed in their mission, though, they'll have to get the eggs home, but meanwhile Napoleon is moving on Prussia, and soon all mainland Europe may fall...

This was a great read, and a worthy successor to the earlier books. I love the continuing threads as Temeraire refines his theories of dragon equality, and Laurence tries to find a place to stand balanced between what he thinks is right and what he knows is possible.

There is plenty of action interspersed, and we meet quite a few new dragons and ways people deal with them.

Black Powder War is roughly split into three sections: getting to Istanbul, dealing with Istanbul, getting across Europe. Somehow the rising action of the growing war manages to permeate the first two thirds, though, giving an overall arc to the book.

The plot follows strongly from Throne of Jade, although there's enough gentle reminders for people like me who read the last book a year ago to keep everything clear. Touches of humor lighten the mood here and there quite nicely.

The minor characters all remain mostly minor, but that doesn't bother me at all; the main focus is always right where it should be, on Temeraire and Laurence, their relationship and their struggles.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

Comics Briefly: American Vampire #25

Wednesday, March 28, 2012



Just one pick today, but it's a good one. New in stores on 3/28/12

American Vampire #25 (Death Race Part Four)
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Rafael Albuquerque, Colors: Dave McCaig

This is a great wrap up to a really fantastic story arc. We finally get the history (such as it is) between young vampire-hunter Travis and American Vampire/all-around bastard Skinner Sweet. The twists come fast and furious as the fight plays out and the reappearance of the Vassals has me really interested in what's coming up. Albuquerque's art is perfect for the tone, as usual, and the dialogue is snappy. I love this book when it's both dark and defiant, and I hope to see Travis again soon. Good to see Pearl again in the epilogue, although it's a sad, if expected, turn of events. I really enjoyed this arc, and while I'm intrigued by the upcoming two-issue story about a minor character from the Ghost War arc, I'm really looking forward to seeing Pearl and Skinner together again in #28.

The Hunger Games

Monday, March 26, 2012




The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins, 2008

Premise: I think you know by now. Badass teen Katniss Everdeen is drawn into a competition in which teenagers try to kill each other while being filmed for the entertainment/oppression of the masses.

Okay, let me get this out right at the start: The Hunger Games is a compelling story that's really hard to put down. It's really well written. And it has a logic hole in the premise the size of a 747.

While I was reading it, I just flew through the pages. I adore Katniss. She's a complicated character without being too flawed or too perfect, and I love her down-to-earth attitude about everything. She's fierce and unapologetic and awesome. I love her relationship with her sister and the friendships she builds later in the book. I loved reading about her alone in the woods, or alone in the arena, in a similar way that I love Island of the Blue Dolphins. It's a survival story much of the time.

The world, on the other hand... sigh. As opposed to Katniss, the world feels underdeveloped and not thought through.

This book is great because it is fast paced, the action is gripping and the main character is fantastic. It is also overrated because it is not especially unique, and it doesn't hold up to any logical thought about the setting.

The rest of this post is a bit spoilery for setting and overall trends, but I'll stay out of plot twists.

I have so many questions about this world that illustrate why it makes no sense to me. Some of them might be answered in later books, but I'm just looking at the first one.

How many people live in a “Disctrict”? It's unclear, but it seems like it's small enough that most of them know each other. How in the world could a government, bombs or no bombs, control a group of people when they were murdering two of their children every year? No idea. That makes absolutely no sense to me. You can only use the scapegoating impulse when a community comes together to decide to cast someone out. You can't expect to steal their children over and over and expect adults to just go along with it.

How do the people in the Capitol get all their fancy tech? Someone has to build it, and they don't seem to do much there in the city. You know what that gives the people who build the tech? POWER. You can't keep 90% of your population at serf-level while giving some people amazing space tech. Your tech will get out to the population, because it's in someone's self interest to release it.

What do these miners use to mine, if they “can't have weapons”? If there's all this wilderness separating the Districts, why don't entire Districts just up and disappear into it sometimes?

They're serfs, but they all have television. Television is practically mandated (despite the spotty electricity.) You know what's inside a television? Stuff you can probably use to make communications systems or other sorts of technology. The folks in charge are way too few. I bet some smart kid could use that unguarded electric fence to build some sweet taser guns.

Why do the people in the Capitol and "rich" Districts let the Games continue? Often well-intentioned people ignore atrocities because they aren't visible. The fact that it's televised means that these people can't ignore the horrible bloody deaths of teenagers. I don't care how well it's cut together, the population does not seem callous enough to enjoy en masse the slaughter of children.

You know the fastest way to get a revolution? Let your population STARVE TO DEATH. People with nothing to lose are dangerous.

I just don't understand how this system could have kept stable for a decade, much less a few generations.

Okay. One other issue:

I love Katniss's attitude toward Peeta's apparent attraction toward her. I absolutely love it. However, I have a very bad feeling that this is going to change, and there is going to be more romance in the later books. Maybe there'll be enough character growth in the boys to make me okay with it eventually, but right now, I don't think any character I've seen is worthy of Katniss, and the romantic elements feel really forced.


However, for all my problems – and a couple of plot twists that made me roll my eyes – I still really enjoyed this book overall, which is a mark of how brilliant the writing is.

4 Stars – A Very Good Book

And yes, I'm seeing the movie sometime this week.

Follow Friday March 23

Friday, March 23, 2012


I haven't done a Follow Friday in a while (long enough that they've changed their logo) but I do glance at the questions each week and I quite liked this one.

It's still hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read

Today's Question is:

Q. What is the longest book you've read? What are your favorite 600+ page reads?


I remember the first time I read a book that I thought was impressively long. That book was Watership Down, and I remember having a giant hardcover edition from the library, although most editions of that book fall in the 450-500 page range.

I exceeded this achievement fairly quickly. I'm not sure what the longest book I've read might be by now. For a while it was To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams, which is long enough that it's generally split into two when published in paperback. Tad Williams' Otherland series are all 700+ page bricks, too.


1104 pages, so it might still hold the crown, if it wasn't for:


The Stand, by Stephen King, 1141 pages
Yeah, that might be it.
No, wait! We have a challenger!


The Count of Monte Cristo, according to Goodreads, is a whopping 1243 pages!

Huh, I think the final winner might be unknowable, since the complete Lord of the Rings is 1285 pages in paperback, but should you count that as one book or three?

Anyway, here's a few more favorite long reads:

 Most recently: Reamde, by Neal Stephenson: 1044 pgs


 Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King is only 714 pages in hardcover, but 925 in paperback. The Dark Tower, meanwhile, clocks in at 1072 pages, but I didn't like it quite as much.

 Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is a respectable 1006 pages

Anchoring the bottom of my bookshelves I also give pride of place to Dragonlance: Annotated Chronicles (1312 pages, but definitely three books in one), Annotated Legends (1312 pages, same), and The Amazing Spiderman Omnibus (1088 pages!)

I thought I didn't read as many super-long books as once I might have, but after looking at this list, I'm not so sure...

Comics Briefly: Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #6

Thursday, March 22, 2012



Only one issue purchased this week, and it's likely to get even sparser from here on in. (See list at the bottom of this post)

Issue new in stores on 3/21/12

Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes #6
Writer: Chris Roberson, Pencils: Jeffery Moy, Inker: Philip Moy, Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.

This issue wraps up this cute little crossover. Like most stories of its type, it's a fun exercise for fans, but nothing too special. There are a bunch of decent character beats as the Legion and the Enterprise Crew swiftly wrap up the plot: Brainiac and Spock are clever, Cosmic Boy and Saturn Girl show off their power, and Kirk makes a big speech about the idiocy of his enemy. Pretty standard stuff for these folks. There is one very odd panel that appears to be an art error: McCoy is clearly wielding a hypospray by the context, but the picture shows... a dagger? Well, everything is solved in short order and unraveling time paradoxes return both teams home with no one the wiser. This crossover was more fun in premise than in execution, but it was an amusing ride.


Comments about other issues this week:
Batman Beyond Unlimited #2
I read this in store. It's fine, I guess, with a couple of nice moments, but "fine" isn't worth 3.99 a month. I feel like supporting this book would just be frustrating for me.

Wonder Woman #7
This I haven't read all of yet, but I've seen some of the pages and heard the controversy. All I have to add is that I'm glad I've already dropped this book, and I have no intention of going back any time soon.


Revised Comic Scorecard:
Still collecting in issues: 
Indefinitely: American Vampire, Mouse Guard, Wolverine and the X-Men
Finishing out at least this story arc/miniseries in issues: Action Comics, Legend of Oz

Will look at the first issue when it comes out: World's Finest, Earth 2, Batman Inc., Avengers Vs. X-men, Superman Family Adventures (can't believe I forgot about this!)

Done collecting issues of:
Finished Miniseries: Huntress, Princeless, Legion/Star Trek
Will pick up the next arc in trade if I hear good things: Batman, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Swamp Thing, Demon Knights
Maybe check out the second trade, only if I hear really, really good things: Animal Man, Batgirl, Wonder Woman

Bride of the Rat God

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bride of the Rat God
Barbara Hambly, 1994
(e-edition 2011)

Premise: Small-town Norah is surprised how well she's adjusting to Hollywood as her sister-in-law's assistant and doggie caretaker.   Chrysanda (aka Christine) is a rising star in the silent movies with a flamboyant lifestyle and a troupe of Pekinese. Norah begins to hope that she can finally start to put the sadness of her husband's death behind her, when mysterious happenings begin to follow both women. What does Christine's necklace have to do with a gruesome murder? And how can they protect themselves from something they barely understand?

This was absolutely delightful, a B-movie set in literary prose. The plot has curses and visions and magic from the MYSTIC EAST, and through it all Norah is determinedly practical and grounded. I love how she manages, even when being practical involves listening to some dreams and not others, talking her friends into seeking out a Chinese wizard, and paying attention when the dogs are nervous.

There are enough little red herrings to keep the suspense up, even though the situation is much more obvious from the reader's perspective. I just loved the detail in the descriptions, the setting of Hollywood was very effective, etc.

I was also impressed that in this volume, Hambly managed to set a story in the 30's, with such a crazy plot, without either overdoing the style of that time or bringing the mentality of the characters too far into the present. This is a really hard balance, and it's why I've hardly ever found an author who wasn't writing in the 30's and 40's who can write, say, hard-boiled detective fiction well. But here, Norah is fair-minded, while Alec (friend and cameraman) is more rough-edged. There is some purposely dated language that borders on offensive, such as “Chinatown” as slang for inexplicable. Christine, meanwhile, idolizes all things Chinese, but seems to think everyone there dresses in gold cloth and lives in pagodas. It's such a delicate tightrope between being unrealistic about how characters at that time would have treated people of different races and building characters who modern readers can't relate to. I think it's very well done here.

It helps that the prose is great, the plot fascinating, and the tension slow to build but amazing in the pay-off.

I absolutely loved this book

5 Stars – An Awesome Book

Check out Bride of the Rat God on Amazon.com

Book Vs. Movie: Princess of Mars

Friday, March 16, 2012



A Princess of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs, 1917

John Carter
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon
Disney Pictures, 2012

I went to see John Carter last weekend, and I really enjoyed it. For the occasion, I also re-read A Princess of Mars.

The Book:

Premise: John Carter is a life-long soldier, a veteran of many wars. While prospecting for gold during a time of peace, he is driven into a cave full of a deadly gas. He dies. Yet his greatest adventure lies ahead of him, for he then goes miraculously to Mars. He has to learn to live among the violent warring Thark tribes, especially once he decides to rescue Dejah Thoris, princess of Helium. Adventures ensue!

I liked this book a lot more than I remembered. It does have a good deal of telling-rather-than-showing at times, and especially early on there are some dated attitudes that are pretty awkward to read. Before too long, though, it settles into a good pulpy science-fantasy adventure.

The writing is nice, except when things are being explained awkwardly. The phrases and descriptions give shading to Carter's character as the narrator, often showing his intelligence and humor.
“..it is difficult to aim anything but imprecations by moonlight...”
There is plenty of action as Carter meets the different tribes of Mars and learns their warlike ways. It is a little ironic that he thinks early on that his soldier's life has given him an affinity for the god of war, but then spends a lot of the book judging the Tharks for being too violent. Carter often claims that the Tharks have bred out all compassion and caring in their race, but he never completely acknowledges that they prove him wrong by the end.

The 'science' in this work of early science fiction is fairly ridiculous. I kind of liked just how ridiculous is was, though. I like that John Carter astral projects his fully physical soul-self to Mars (or something). I like that the 'eighth ray' that “propels the light of the sun” is what provides the lift for the red Martians' crazy airships.

The main characters after Carter are Princess Dejah Thoris and Sola, a young Thark woman who cares for Carter and Dejah against the wishes of her tribe. Sola has a pretty great, complicated character arc, and Dejah has her moments, even though she spends most of the book playing damsel-in-distress or prize-to-be-won.

The Movie:

95% of the problems with John Carter come down to some terrible marketing, including the surface resemblance to the terrible Prince of Persia movie from a couple years back, and the fact that “John Carter” is a really boring name for a movie. The other 5% is Taylor Kitsch. He's poorly cast as Civil War vet and fearless interplanetary badass John Carter. It's frankly a miracle that he carries it off as much as he does, but a more suitable actor could have propelled this movie to great heights.

(I mean, basically all the hot young action stars are a little busy with Avengers or Star Trek, but I still think they could have looked harder.)

The rest of the cast, though, is really fun. The beginning of the story spends a little too long on Earth, but it quickly segues into a humor-fantasy-adventure that should have been advertised as the new Pirates of the Caribbean or Star Wars. It's fun and a bit pulpy, with larger than life characters, creepy villains and gorgeous CG. The matting between the live characters and the CG aliens is imperceptible. Michael Giacchino can always be counted on for a fabulous score (with hilarious song names, like "Thark Side of Barsoom).

I loved Dejah Thoris, I thought she pulled off a nice balance of sensuality, royal bearing, and a bit of inhumanity here and there. Her super-blue contacts were gorgeous.

Here's a couple shots that show more of the movie than the poster:



I loved the costumes, the technology, even the corny parts. Sometimes especially the corny parts. There's a lot of heart and charm to be had here, plus a fantastic ending that had me catching my breath in wonder.

I really hope we get more Barsoom movies, but given the box office returns, it seems unlikely.


A few more thoughts about the adaptation:

Overall I think this is a really strong adaptation. It updates the social mores (Carter isn't directly scornful of Native Americans, Dejah Thoris is much more than arm candy) to good effect. It abandons some of the needless details of the book, like digressions about Martian fauna or 'science' that made no sense, or that everyone is naked on Mars.

John Carter took aspects of the story of Princess of Mars and bits of its sequels and hammers them into a coherent plot. That is pretty impressive in itself, and the result is really fun.


Book: 3 Stars – A Good Book
Film: 4 Stars – Super Fun, Not Perfect


A few more detailed comments follow: Spoilers for BOTH film and book below, but necessary for in-depth discussion.

Some of the attempts to give Carter more of a character arc in the film backfire. I don't need him to whine about how he's done committing to causes when we know that he'll come around. It just makes him look petty. The flashbacks to a wife and daughter are surprisingly effective in the moment, but I think I prefer the books' more straightforward sense of true love at first sight plus a sense of chivalrous purpose.

Sola's story is much more moving and detailed in the book, although since they dropped that plot in favor of giving the Helium/Zodanga conflict a plot, I can't complain too much.

The movie touches on several father-child relationships as central to the plot: Dejah Thoris and her father the Jeddak of Helium, Sola and Tars Tarkas, and Carter's attachment to his deceased child (daughter?). This is why I think it's funny that it stops short of alluding to Carter's son with Dejah, who is born before he returns to Barsoom.

I loved that the movie used the foreword as frame story and twist ending. They totally didn't have to frame the narrative in the context of Burrough's reading his Uncle's memoirs, but I love that they did.

Comics Briefly: Demon Knights #7, Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #4, Wolverine and the X-Men #7

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Favorite Issue This Week: Wolverine and the X-Men #7
All Issues new in stores 3/14/12


Demon Knights #7
Writer: Paul Cornell; Pencillers: Diogenes Neves & Robson Rocha; Inkers: Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira, Robson Rocha; Colorist: Marcelo Maiolo

This issue wraps up the first arc, with the rest of the Horde's attack on the village of Little Spring. Xanadu gets back into the thick of things, and all of the Knights acquit themselves well. The ending is dark in a way that isn't too annoying, although my favorite bit of the issue was probably a flash of black humor early on between Etrigan and Savage. Exoristos has some especially nice moments, too. I want much more of her and The Horsewoman as the series continues.


Mouse Guard: The Black Axe #4
Written and Illustrated by David Petersen

Celanawe takes on the fox plaguing the Ferret King as promised, and most of the issue is taken up with the details of that battle. I did especially like an early section when he doesn't know how to begin and he is taken aback by the size of the creature. The turns of the plot by the end are touching, and the art is gorgeous as always.


Wolverine and the X-Men #7
Writer: Jason Aaron, Pencils: Nick Bradshaw, Inks: Walden Wong, Norman Lee & Nick Bradshaw, Colorist: Justin Ponsor

Yay for comics with quick recaps, even though I did remember what was going on. This issue nicely wraps up the three-issue double plotline. Kitty (aided by the mysterious inter-dimensional imps) tries to help Broo, who's up against an alien scientist determined to put down the only compassionate Brood. Meanwhile, other characters are fighting mini-Brood inside Kitty's body and Wolverine and Quentin Quire are fighting their way out of the intergalactic casino. I love this series. There's character moments going on in the background as well as the foreground, enough pathos mixed with the action and humor to keep things moving along at a nice clip, and a psychic shotgun. Whoo!

The Curse of Chalion

Monday, March 12, 2012


The Curse of Chalion
Lois McMaster Bujold, 2001

Premise: The Castillar dy Cazilar, once a minor lord of the kingdom of Chalion, is travelling home. He had gone into danger and war by his choice, but was left in slavery and pain through betrayal. Now, though, all he asks is a place to heal and do some small service to a noble lady who was kind to him as a young man. The Provincara and her granddaughter, however, will soon have more use for Cazilar than he could have hoped, and his kingdom will ask more of him than he could have feared.

I should know better. I should know better than to think I can tear myself away from a Bujold book for anything short of paid work. I put off quite a few things, including more dirty dishes than are prudent, in my dash through the last half of this book. Even though I had read it before.

Do I need to say I loved it?

Do I need to talk about the brilliant prose, the unique characters, the wonderful story? The eponymous Curse is fascinating, the world beautifully drawn, Cazaril sympathetic and strong and sweet. As a hero I particularly liked his mental and moral strength, both tempered with an unwillingness to look for trouble.

There are so many good touches here, but I'd like to mention just a couple specifically, as good examples of what makes Bujold a master of her craft.

One: great use of words. Lots of authors make up words for things in their fantasy kingdoms. Who do you think 'Roy' means, as a title? You've probably already guessed the king, and you're right. Royal, also roy is Spanish for King, so here it evokes Spain as the loose basis for the setting. The best fantasy terms are evocative of their meaning, either in sound, shape, or derivation. So to speak of Royesse Iselle lets you picture the princess, without having to mentally translate, while layering in the flavor of this particular culture.

Two: great fantasy religion. There are lots of fine ways to do a made-up religion, although many of them seem to come down to a medieval Christian analogue or a Greek-style pantheon. Other authors use a dual god/godess system, but a few can come up with a religion that feels plausible but not derivative. The Quintarian faith system is one. It blends aspects of various traditions with a few fantasy strokes to come up with a whole that feels totally real.

In sum: this is a wonderful fantasy novel with a unique hero, full of adventure, intrigue, and occasional divine intervention.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book, wholeheartedly recommended


Get The Curse of Chalion on Amazon.com

Ex-Heroes

Friday, March 9, 2012



Ex-Heroes
Peter Clines, 2010

Premise: It's been long enough since the outbreak that those who were going to make it to shelter have done so, but not long enough to really start to rebuild. But is it good or bad that the group of survivors in Hollywood includes so many superhumans? And what will they do when the gangs that still exist seem to have somehow allied with the infected, and have an eye on their territory...

Zombies and Superheroes? I was skeptical, but it's actually well done.

The book flashes back and forth between the current time, when the surviving heroes lead their band in survival tactics and fortification against both zombies and raids, and the past, both when the various heroes obtained their powers and when the outbreak occurred.

The characters are unique enough to enjoy for their own sake, while I also appreciated some of the ways they play off of established characters. The main two leaders are St. George (super-strength, flight, invulnerability, flame breath) and Stealth (female super-tactician, martial artist). There's also an energy guy, a psychic vampire type, a scientist/tech-hero, and more. There used to be a darkness-manipulator, a body-switching warlock, and others. Some of whom are not completely dead... yet. Puts a whole new spin on super zombies.

The “Now” story is exciting and interesting, but I enjoyed the “Then” snapshots of the past more. In the current time, the characters are mostly reacting to circumstance, not really being proactive. Which, I suppose, is why there's a sequel or two.

It's well written, and well edited, and while it didn't blow me away, I thought Ex-Heroes was a solidly enjoyable little book.

3 Stars – A Good Book 


You can check out Ex-Heroes on Amazon.com, although full disclosure: it was cheaper when I bought it. I'm not sure it's worth 5 bucks.

Comics Briefly: Action Comics #7, Huntress #6, Swamp Thing #7

Thursday, March 8, 2012



I'm counting down to the end of my weekly comic buying soon (see the scorecard at the bottom of this post) but I'm not done quite yet...

Favorite Issue This Week: Action Comics #7

All Issues new in stores 3/7/12


Action Comics #7
Writer: Grant Morrison, Penciller: Rags Morales, Inker: Rick Bryant, Colorist: Brad Anderson

This was a pretty strong issue, especially the beginning. We're dropped back into the plot from three issues ago - Metropolis abducted and miniaturized, Superman determined to help. Clark's take-off toward the spaceship (despite not quite having full flying yet) was particularly great. There are a bunch of side characters in the scenes with Lois and Lex who I vaguely feel like I should know, but they're not interesting compared to Superman. There are a few silly or confusing moments, and the Steel backup is fine but uninspired. Overall, though, this is a strong issue of a strong series.


Huntress #6
Writer: Paul Levitz, Penciller: Marcus To, Inker: John Dell, Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse

This closes out this mini, not with a bang but with a whimper. It was okay, I guess, but the plot continued to be repetitive and felt pointless. I was happy to see Power Girl at the end, but honestly, we'd all guessed that she was going to be there, and I was underwhelmed by the scene. The art was nice, (not the cover, the covers have been hideous) but this was overall a big disappointment.


Swamp Thing #7
Writer: Scott Snyder, Artist: Yanick Paquette, Colors: Nathan Fairbairn

This was a pretty neat issue. Swamp Thing becomes Swamp Thing - no surprise there - and the way it happens is pretty nice. Poetic and pretty enough, mostly carried by the art. I'm glad to have the end of the arc, but I'm done collecting this title now. I'm satisfied with this ending (although I still wish this whole mess had been three issues instead of seven) but now I'm ready to drop it. Maybe I'll pick up the second trade collection if I hear that it's really good.


Current Comic Scorecard:
Still collecting in issues: 
Indefinitely: American Vampire, Mouse Guard, Wolverine and the X-Men
Finishing out at least this story arc/miniseries in issues: Demon Knights, Action Comics, Legion/Star Trek, Legend of Oz

Will look at the first issue when it comes out: World's Finest, Earth 2, Batman Inc., Avengers Vs. Xmen

Done collecting issues of:
Finished Miniseries: Huntress, Princeless
Will pick up the next arc in trade if I hear really good things: Batman, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Swamp Thing
Maybe check out the second trade, only if I hear really, really good things: Animal Man, Batgirl

The Hero and The Crown

Monday, March 5, 2012



The Hero and The Crown
Robin McKinley, 1984

Premise: Aerin, daughter of the King of Damar, has always lived under the shadow of her late mother, said by many to have been a witch. Did she inherit more than her hair color? She struggles to find a place in a society that distrusts her, but when danger and war comes to Damar, she will wield a power unknown for generations.

I really really enjoyed this book. It's a delightful fantasy that starts very grounded and grows into something completely epic and surreal by the end. Aerin is tremendously likeable, without being perfect or cliché. She is a practical and stubborn person in a world in which magic and dragons, etc. are real, which means that her practical pursuits include befriending an old war-horse and alchemical experiments.

The writing is easy to read, suitable for younger folks, while being beautiful prose: earthy, classic, stately and poetic. Graceful is a good word for it I think.

In the middle, about the time a less ambitious book would be done with its plot, the story takes a turn for the more fantastic. I was actually starting to wonder what the many pages left could be about as I was reading. Terribly wounded, Aerin follows a dream and an impulse towards great knowledge and great danger. I can't tell you most of the things I loved about this, because I don't want to give anything away. It's dreamy and surprising and frightening, and balances Aerin's innate humanity with a situation out of legend, out of poetry.

The very end takes a step back, both, I imagine, to properly end the story, (which in tone reminded me a hair of Stardust) and to remind us that this is actually a prequel to another book, The Blue Sword.

Overall, a wonderful read.

5 Stars – An Awesome Book

The Hero and the Crown is available on Amazon.com

Star Trek Omnibus Volume 2: Early Voyages

Friday, March 2, 2012


Star Trek Omnibus Volume 2: Early Voyages
Dan Abnett & Ian Edginton, Patrick Zircher, Michael Collins, Greg Adams, et. al.
Collection published by IDW in 2009

This graphic novel contains the entire run of the Star Trek Early Voyages comic book, originally released in 1997-1998. I previously looked at a couple of loose issues in this post: Star Trek Comics: the 90's.

I really enjoyed the majority of these issues, and I'm glad to have the series in this format. I do have a few quibbles, though.

The reproduction of the art was uneven. Sometimes the page art went all the way to the edge, sometimes there was a white border. Many of the issues were bright and gorgeous, but for some the art had an odd grainy quality. My only explanation for this is that perhaps for some of the issues they no longer had the original art, and so had to reproduce it from a lower quality copy.

The stories were strong and interesting, maintaining a old-school Star Trek feel while playing with the freedom of the format and the times. Early Voyages is based on the original Trek pilot, featuring a more contemplative Captain, Pike, who notably had a female first officer. This pilot was turned down by the networks, but no editor-producer types would still object to strong female crew members by 1997. The writers also use the flexibility of the comic format to add in more non-human crew members and antagonists.

It's a fun volume to read through: there are renegade Vulcans, a re-telling of “The Cage”, new species to discover, and even time travel into an alternate future. The only other real downside is that the series was canceled in the middle of the most interesting plot, so you never get the end of the story.

This has great moments, but enough shaky ones as well that I'll have to give it:

3 Stars – A Good Book

See Star Trek Omnibus Volume 2: The Early Voyages on Amazon.com