Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On Hiatus

We've had a long lack of updates for several reasons. Mostly, I did not realize the time factor involved in writing reviews and the effort to be fair to everyone can be difficult when you've signed up to read a book (or books) that you aren't having that much fun reading. Kydona was just the start.

That said, not everything I've signed up for is bad! I still have a number of books on my e-reader that I'm working through, but other obligations are taking priority. I plan to review them eventually. Hopefully by the end of the year.

1. Iron Bonds by Billy Wong
2. Kingsblood by J.L. Ficks and J.E. Dugue
3. Shadows on the School Grounds by B.C. Roger
4. After The Darkness: Episode One by SunHi Mistwalker

I like the idea in Iron Bonds - the God-touched warrior woman who just wants peace, but some of the characters are frustrating to read about due to their unreasonable expectations.

Kingsblood appears to be continuing the entertainingly over-the-top action of the previous book.

Despite being a YA book, Shadows on the School Grounds is the hardest to read of them all. Bullying is not pleasant to read about.

And I actually finished the last one, so I'll review it soon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

[Review] The Machine God

by MeiLin Miranda

Verdict: Outstanding - I loved almost everything about it.

A floating island's dark past is uncovered in this first contact adventure.


Professor Adewole has a knack for languages, living and dead. An expedition to visit the flying island of Inselmond is planned, and he is invited in the hopes that he will be able to communicate with its inhabitants. No one has ever been to this island before; only now has technology been able to make the journey, so no one is sure what to expect. And science has been unable to explain the island's origins, or how it is able to stay in the sky as it has for centuries.

In the end, Adewole seeks to uncover the island's secrets from its residents, especially their strange oath: "Magic and Metal No More."


I signed up for this story because of the exciting cover. I will admit I did not have high expectations--the author's website indicates the author tends to write romance novels. But I was greatly surprised as to how it turned out!

Adewole is a great protagonist because he is a normal man. He's a bit unsure of his place in society--he's a Jerian who lives in Eisenstadt because he was granted a position at the college, but he's never felt quite at home there. The Dean has taken an instant dislike to him, and his only friend is his roommate, Professor Deviatka, with whom he shares a great love for music.

It's quite a surprise to him, then, when he's specifially recruited into the expedition to Inselmond, but his love of languages becomes an important asset when the expedition meets the natives on the island. From there, his own natural curiosity drives the story.

I don't actually want to say much about the story because I don't want to spoil it. But I will say this: don't let the talking birds turn you away--there is a reason for them. I really enjoyed the story and recommend it to any who like the idea of "magic and metal" and macabre science.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

[Semi-Review] Kydona

by Thomas Krug

Verdict: Not for me. I didn't finish it.

Marcus is the crown prince. On his mother's deathbed, he learns that there are dark plots afoot around him, and he should tread lightly and trust no one.


Since I didn't finish the book, what I've written above is the synopsis as I understood it from how far I read.


The story's synopsis was what made me sign up for this giveaway: the promise of a war-torn kingdom and a prince's struggles to overcome it. Unfortunately the book took a turn for the lewd and I did not want to continue reading it. I found Vernon a very distasteful character, and I stopped reading the book when he points to his groin and mentions how he missed having a "hard-on" when he was away at the Novitiate. Page 25/300, according to my e-reader.

It's disappointing that I'd drop it so soon, but I'd rather place my attention elsewhere.

Also, f-bombs are dropped far too often. Fantasy fictions allows for great variety in curse words and it's disappoining to me how fantasy authors seem to ends up using one or two common--and modern--curses.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

[Review] The Ghost of Sherwood

by Wilson Harp

Verdict: Good - a solid book.

A retelling of the Robin Hood tale in which Robin Hood is an invention of the Sheriff of Nottingham in order to protect his people and himself.


Robert Brewer is the current Sheriff of Nottingham, but with King Richard's recent death, he will likely fall out of favor and lose his position. In order to make a better future for himself, he's orchestrated the theft of tax money under the guise of a bandit attack. Things quickly spiral out of control as King John sends French knight Sir Guy to find these fictional bandits and bring them to justice. Robert and his allies must maintain the fiction and trick the knight or else hang for their crimes against the new crown.


It's a believable retelling of the Robin Hood tale. I found Robert Brewer a likeable guy. Even though some of his motives are selfish, I found myself wanting to see him succeed. Jack, his right-hand man, is also a sympathetic character. I like how his ingenuity and clear understanding of the situation surprises Robert at times.

I didn't find Maid Marian all that interesting, however. She's just a bit too silly and ignorant. Girlish, I suppose.

The story was slightly confusing in that there are two characters named Robert. Robert Brewer, our main character, the sheriff, who secretly loves Marian, and Sir Robert of Locksley, who is Marian's betrothed, although he's been away for half a dozen years and is unlikely to return. Mairan still pines for him, contributing to her youthful ignorance as a character flaw.

I think what's most interesting is what the author did with the other characters present in the folktale. Friar Tuck, for example, unwillingly knows all about the plot because he is the town's confessor. He does not like it, but due to religious teachings, he cannot use the knowledge earned under confession to turn them in. Little John and Will Scarlet are German knights who knew Sir Robert of Locksley when he went on a crusade. They join up in the plot because they don't want to return home so quickly.

Sir Guy was written specifically to be unlikeable, and I have mixed feelings on him overall.

A final, minor complaint would be the modernized language the characters use, but that's up to the reader's personal taste.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

[Review] Waiting Game

The Shade Chronicles series, book 1

by J.L. Ficks and J.E. Dugue (illustrated by Thom Scott)

Verdict: Great - a solid book and an enjoyable read.

A fantasy adventure concerning a Dark Elf assassin and his latest target. A start to a greater work.

Shade is a Dark Elf assassin. He's growing bored -- nothing is a challenge to him anymore. When a Shamite nobleman hires him to defeat Warlord Lewd, the 'king' of Kurn's underworld, Shade hopes it'll bring him the excitement he needs.

First, he'll have to survive the trip to Kurn. As skilled as he is, it shouldn't be much of a challenge. But on the way he must pass through a haunted ruin, a deadly swamp, and then he must enter the city in disguise because he is a hated Dark Elf. Then, finally, he must find this "Warlord Lewd" and defeat him.


I found this book on DriveThru Fiction when I was browsing there for the first time. I saw the artwork and was interested from there.

The book's afterword describes it as a labor of love, and it certainly is. Just look at the website. These two authors are very excited to put their work out. They are attempting to build their own high fantasy world along the lines of Dungeons and Dragons and Forgotten Realms. As such, there are myriads of races and lands to be explored.

Waiting Game, then, is just one story in this world.

I didn't think I would like Shade because he seemed like the typical cocky assassin character, but as he comes into different battle situations, we see that he's not always so sure of himself. He gives off the appearance of being calm, collected, and fearless because that is the reputation he's built up and must maintain, even when he is almost paralyzed by fear of a new major foe. Although he is an assassin -- and a Dark Elf -- he's not a cruel man. He doesn't agree to violence towards women, for example.

This particular volume feels like it is light on plot but big on action. Shade is an assassin, after all, so there are plenty of different peoples and creatures for him to have to fight and kill throughout the course of the story. The story seems to be meant as an introduction to the world, laying down the brickwork as a hint of things to come. I believe some of the characters mentioned may be recurring characters in the world - the Faun, for instance, since he didn't serve much of a purpose aside from some small comic relief.

We're shown snippets from Shade's past, a little of how he came to be so skilled. It was interesting to see what little we did of Dark Elf society -- I can see it growing in the series' future.

The action scenes can be rather long and fanciful, if you like that sort of thing. Some scenes are accompanied by artwork done by Thom Scott. I wish my e-reader had a bigger screen!

I admit I'm not so much a fan of D&D-style worlds - but it's certainly a promising start, to say the least. I can definitely see it going places as the lore gets fleshed out.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

[Review] Everwinter

The Wrath of the Northmen series, book 1

by Elizabeth Baxter

Verdict: Great - a solid book and an enjoyable read.

A fantasy book about a never-ending winter and the start of an adventure to end it.

It's been three years since the Everwinter began, and the city of Ral Tora is starting to run out of supplies. There's a plan to survive, though. The city's greatest engineers are devising a series of pipelines to run under the city's magnificent stone walls, and these will pump in fuel to defend against the cold.

Bram is one of these engineers, and the story centers on him as events unfold around him.

The great city of Variss to the north has been out of contact ever since the Everwinter began, and every expedition to reach it has ended in failure. One day, a survivor from Variss arrives in Ral Tora, half-mad from what he's had to endure, telling wild and horrifying tales that few want to believe. The city leader asks Bram to take care of this man, and thus Bram is sent on the trail to find the truth behind this unnatural winter -- and about himself.

But before he can make any progress, the warrior princess of Chellin, Astrid, arrives suddenly to propose an alliance with the Ral Torans. Astrid wants to begin her own expedition to the north. Bram is recruited, only to be embroiled in the strange politics of Chellin when they stop there to prepare their next move.

Everwinter starts slowly as we learn Bram's routine. He's an ordinary, likable guy. He doesn't want to cause problems for his boss, the head engineer, but his friends, of course, take him to the pub and he ends up drunk more than once despite himself.

The story entails much mystery. At first, I didn't like it because there was simply too much. In fact, there is even a "mysterious nameless librarian" character who knows more than she reveals. Although this particular character's role seemed superfluous and was never fully-explained, in the end, I admit that the mysteries come together cleanly and I was satisfied by their conclusion.

The story picks up in the second half of the book when the characters arrive in Chellin. Where Ral Tora is a society of science and man's ingenuity, Chellin is religious, all about the Goddess and Her laws. Astrid may be the princess, but the politics are cut-throat. Even she could be deposed if the senate decides that it is the will of the Goddess.

Astrid has been surviving Chellin's deadly politics all her life, but she finds herself behind in the game since her trip to Ral Tora. Machinations beyond her control have been set in motion, and split loyalties mean it might be a fight just to leave the city for her northern expedition.

Astrid is an interesting character. Sometimes it's hard to tell if she's a good person or a bad person. We know she wants to end the Everwinter, but the lengths she's willing to go to secure her success can be unsettling.

As for Bram, he's such a good-natured guy that sometimes I get tired of the way he's being manipulated by the people around him. I'm sure he will come into his own as the series goes on; there's plenty of potential.

Other things of interest in this series are giant sea otters used as horses and sea serpents that help the ships navigate. I haven't seen that before!

I'd definitely like to read the next in the series.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.

Monday, May 13, 2013

[Review] March of the Cogsmen

Galvanic Century series, book 8

by Michael Coorlim

Verdict: Outstanding - I loved almost everything about it.

A steampunk adventure story that doesn't waste words.

It's Alton Bartleby's wedding day, and he's spending the morning -- and much of the afternoon -- getting thoroughly wasted. One might think from his behavior that he doesn't want to get married, and, in fact, he has a reputation as being a bachelor-for-life. So when a mystery of missing people comes around, his detective instincts are aroused (despite his inebriation) and he skips out on his responsibilities at the garden party to investigate.

Meanwhile, his fiancée Aldora Fiske just wants the day to end. The marriage is one of convenience, a match made to keep the idle tongues from wagging. She doesn't hate Alton, but doesn't love him. Likewise his thoughts for her.

But Aldora's adventuresome past causes a stir as the missing people mystery is resolved quite suddenly during the garden party.

March of the Cogsmen synthesizes the story elements previously explored in the Alton Bartleby/James Wainwright and Aldora Fiske novellas. It is part of the author's plan to branch out into writing longer stories.

Unfortunately, I had not the pleasure of reading the previous novellas, and I admit I had no idea what to expect. I knew the story was "steampunk" and my only experience with the genre is Scott Westerfield's Leviathan trilogy, which I won't talk about here as it's beyond the scope of this review.

In Coorlim's steampunk world, clockwork devices and aeroships are the pinnacle of modern technology. Alton's partner, James, is an engineer, and in fact some of the previous novellas are written from his perspective -- perhaps a nod to Holmes's Watson. March of the Cogsmen is written third person, like the Aldora novellas.

In this world there also exist what are called "the Resurrected" -- cadavers brought to life through immoral technology. Without spoiling too much, this is what stole my attention. The wedding begins as a normal wedding, and Aldora struck me as a normal noblewoman worrying over her fiancé's antics, and the story suddenly takes a turn for the macabre that, having no knowledge of Coorlim's works, took me by complete surprise.

I will say this: I'm behind on my reviews and it's partly Mr. Coorlim's fault! After reading this, I had to drop everything and read all of his other novellas. Having done that, I can now say that I highly recommend reading his Steampunk Omnibus, which combines all of the previous novellas in chronological order, before reading March of the Cogsmen.

I do want to mention Coorlim's writing style. His stories are novellas because he writes succinctly. He gets straight to the point, which is both a blessing and a curse. He doesn't waste time describing mundane things, but at times it feels as though there could have been more development. The ending to March of the Cogsmen felt abrupt, for example, and I would have liked to have seen more. I don't think fans will be disappointed, however -- March of the Cogsmen is much longer than any of the novella stories, and it's exciting to the end.

I'm looking forward to see where he goes with this series.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

[Review] Dog Aliens 1

Dog Aliens series, book 1

by Cherise Kelley

Verdict: Good - a solid book but something keeps it from being marked as "Great" in my list.

A strange little book told from the perspective of a young dog alien who's trying to find his purpose in life.

Dog Aliens 1: Raffle's Name is told mainly from the first-person perspective of Clem, a dog alien. On this rendition of Earth, all dogs are aliens, and have been for centuries. They've infiltrated human society by becoming companions, but their overarching goal is the peaceful mining of some material in the ground called "jex."

There are two competing "factions" of dog alien -- "Big dog" Kaxians and "little dog" Niques. They are always fighting each other. Also, dog aliens are reborn when they die, although they lose their memories of past lives until they reach a certain age.

Clem is a Kaxian puppy and he works with a packmates to mine jex. But his human master abandons him in the woods, which starts Clem's adventure to find a new home.

I came into this book expecting it to be a cozy mystery series. I've seen the idea done before, that dogs (or cats) are telepaths or can talk with their humans and solve murders or what have you. That is not what this story is.

This story is strange. That's the word for it. I can't say I liked it or didn't like it. I'll try to explain.

Clem is a Kaxian, and all Kaxian dog aliens serve a deity known as "Kax." Clem is a special dog alien in that he can "speak" to creatures telepathically. With his psychic-like power, he can also "see" and influence a human's state of mind, which can help him calm someone down, for example, or also get him into trouble.

It's generally the story of how Clem comes to find purpose in life. After he is abandoned by his first human master, he needs to find a new human who will take him in. He also wants to keep in touch with his old pack mates, which his telepathy helps him with.

Clem's personality comes across rather well. We can see he's an immature puppy, fighting with the Niques when they taunt him, etc., but we also feel it when he's sad and afraid, when he feels he might be abandoned again, and when he's upset when he can't communicate well with the humans (it's part of Kaxian law that humans must never discover that dogs are aliens).

My problems with the book are:

It ends abruptly. Clem's newest owners suddenly adopt another Kaxian named "Oreo" and Oreo is a little bit of a brat and then that's it. I think the story should have stopped before this character was introduced, since it's obvious the story was meant to continue afterward.

There's also a few sections not told from Clem's perspective. In particular, there's a couple of scenes about Neya, a wolf whom Clem met in the woods where he was abandoned. They played together for a short time, and then Clem was driven away by her pack.

But Neya didn't forget Clem and even dreams about him. I assume this is the start of a romance that will be expanded upon in the future, but since Clem never thinks of her again, it's weird to see these small scenes in which Neya thinks of him. It was interesting to learn that wolves are not aliens in this world, and how they view the dog aliens as, well, aliens and not to be trusted. I must assume it will be a plot point later in the series.

Also, Clem finally bonds with a human family -- but he never refers to the humans by name. But he's referred to an earlier, ultimately unimportant human, by name, so it seems weird.

Finally, the religious undertones feel a bit out of place in a story titled "Dog Aliens."

In the end, it's a quirky story. It's not a bad story, and if the title interests you, I say go for it.

A copy of this book was provided in exchange for a review.

Friday, April 19, 2013

[Review] Gardens of the Moon

The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, book 1

by Steven Erikson

Verdict: So-so - I didn't enjoy the book, but there were parts or ideas that I liked.

Because the scope of the work is far beyond this initial volume, it is difficult to digest.

Nota bene: I have only read the first volume in this 10-book epic, so I cannot speak for the series as a whole.

Gardens of the Moon was hard to follow, so here is my understanding of its story. The Malazan Empire is ruled by Empress Laseen. To secure her hold on the throne, she wants to be rid of the old guard who supported or represent the previous incumbent. She also desires power, and sends her mighty armies out to conquer other lands and expand the Empire at all costs, making many enemies along the way.

Whiskeyjack and the "Bridgeburners" serve the Empire, but they are part of this old guard. An elite squad whose members have survived several dozen assignments that would normally kill others, they've now outlived their usefulness to the Empress, or perhaps they are considered too dangerous to be allowed to live. The majority of the army hails the Bridgeburners as heroes, and so, if potentially the Bridgeburners were to turn against the Empress, the army loyal to them would go into rebellion and a civil war would begin. And so the Empress assigns Captain Ganoes Paran to take control of the Bridgeburners.

However, it turns out that the gods have other plans for Paran -- literally.

The gods use the mortal world as their playground and battlefield. Any mortal's actions may not be his or her own. A god could be acting through them. And anyone touched by a god is left battered and bruised by their presence, and, in some cases, they end up seeking vengeance.

This book is also the story of Tattersail the cadre sorceress, who has the talent of a High Mage but refuses the title. After the expensive victory over the city of Pale, she is assigned to the Bridgeburners, but she must be wary of Hairlock, her insane mentor who escaped death at Pale by having his soul infused into a puppet.

It's also the story of Sorry, a young female assassin whom the other Bridgeburners consider a "recruit" even though she's been with them for over two years because to accept her as one of their own is to sanction her ruthless, arguably evil actions as their own.

It's also the story of Dujek Onearm, the army's High Fist. Beloved by the army, even though he serves the Empire, he is perhaps as dangerous to the Empress's rule as the Bridgeburners are. He is ordered to start a war campaign that can't end well for his men.

It's also the story of Lorn, the Empress's Adjunct, her right-hand-woman, who hunts illegal magic users with her magic-immune Otataral sword, and the story of her ancient guide, a powerful T'lan Imass, whom she refers to as "Tool" for short.

It's also the story of Gear, the massive Hound of Shadow, and his packmates who serve the will of the god on the Shadowthrone.

It's also the story of Kruppe, the portly wizard who talks about himself in the third person in Darujistan, the Empire's next target for attack, and his cohorts.

And there are several other stories, too, that twine together in this expansive tale.

The world is expansive and the gods are many and varied. I liked the idea of the Twin Jesters of Luck -- a brother and sister team in which one "pulls" and the other "pushes," and the spinning coin is their symbol. However, the author often fails to take the time to fill the reader in on the world's backstory, and so there's nothing to tell us what to expect. How the magic works, how powerful the gods are, who the gods are -- since the same god might have several names and can possess mortals -- which gods are allies and enemies and which ones are even in the field of play -- and there are several dozen god-figures in the book's glossary. These questions and many more are left for the reader to deduce as the story moves forward without sparing a word in explanation, and without giving us a moment to catch our figurative breaths. There is plenty of action and excitement, even if one isn't sure where it's going or where it came from.

The traditional dichotomy of "good" and "evil" is turned on its head as the characters deal with betrayal and trust and have conflicting loyalties. Sorry, for example, is perceived as "evil" by the other Bridgeburners, but she is someone to be sympathetic towards for once her mystery is revealed. The "cold-hearted" Adjunct Lorn is also one for whom the reader may have mixed feelings; a man she has some feelings for ends up wanting to hunt her down and kill her.

Magic seems to use "Warrens" that can be "opened" and also traveled into or through, as in something like parallel worlds or alternate planes of existence, and there are several different types of Warrens. Some are more powerful than others, and some are the realm of the Elder gods alone. Mages must tap into their associated Warrens to perform magic, an act that can leave them exhausted. If they enter or open a Warren, they also leave magic traces of their passing, like a scent, which enemies can use to find them.

I must say the world is very intricate, and I can see it becoming very involved once one understands how it works. It is perhaps like a table-top role-playing game, and after a bit of delving I've discovered that, indeed, the author was big into Dungeons & Dragons.

The book's main feature (and drawback) aside from the well-built world is its multi-faceted storytelling. Unfortunately, I like linearity, and this book meanders. You start with a character, and I get to know them and become attached to them. And then you put them through some exciting event -- for example, the sorceress Tattersail defending herself from one of the Hounds of Shadow -- and then you suddenly cut to some brand new character -- well, I don't care about this new character, I want to know what's going to happen to Tattersail! That's how I felt when reading this book. Every other chapter or section deals with a different set of characters, and when I favor one particular set of characters, I found it very hard to pay attention what the others are doing since it doesn't seem to have any relevance to the first set.

I'm sure this style will appeal to other people, but it did not appeal to me. I feel that when there are so many characters, there's less time to understand them. I felt that Whiskeyjack is built mainly from an archetype. He's the solid, reliable, sergeant-type character. His name kind of says it all. Don't get me wrong -- I liked him. In fact, I felt more at home with him and his group than with the other characters, and he's got a very wry sense of humor.

When looking at Whiskeyjack and his squad, the plot reminds me somewhat of Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards! but turned far, far darker than Discworld's overall "good guys always win" style of storytelling and involving a cadre of gods. In fact, summoning dragons is a plot point, although it ends up overshadowed by other events.

I've read from other reviews that the later books in the Malazan series are more focused. In fact, some people recommend reading the second book first. If that's true, then it seems to me that this book might be best read after one reads the other books. Then all of the little connections it makes will make clearer sense.


Hi all! Kathryn Rutherford here. I've started this blog to look at and review books in the fantasy fiction genre. Traditional or indie, I don't care, as long as it's fantasy!
(NB: not paranormal or urban)

Since Goodreads was purchased by the corporate giant Amazon in March 2013, I wanted to post my reviews elsewhere. I love Goodreads, and I don't hate Amazon, but I just don't like the idea of them  trying to push a Kindle on me.

So I've made this blog to be my new review platform.

Writing a book is an enormous accomplishment, so I try to be positive. Even if I didn't enjoy the book overall, I'll try to point out the good points along with the bad.

I'll use the following rubric in lieu of a "star" system.

Reviews will be marked:
1. Outstanding - a top-tier book. I loved almost everything about it. Or, perhaps, I love it despite its flaws.
2. Great - a solid book and an enjoyable read.
3. Good - a solid book but something keeps it from being marked as "Great" in my list [usually for books with poor endings, and the difference between "Good" and "Great" can be slight.
4. So-so - I didn't enjoy the book, but there were parts or ideas that I liked.
5. Not for me - I didn't like the book. Perhaps I wasn't the target audience.

And a short one or two sentence "verdict" paragraph will follow to summarize why I felt that way, along with a plot synopsis in my own words and maybe my ramblings thoughts.

That's the plan, anyway. We'll see how it goes!

About me
I don't like to talk too much about myself. If you want to contact me, you can find me at:

Or comment anywhere on the blog.

Review Archive


05-2013: March of the Cogsmen
06-2013: The Machine God


05-2013: Everwinter
05-2013: Waiting Game


04-2013: Dog Aliens 1: Raffle's Name
06-2013: The Ghost of Sherwood


04-2013: Gardens of the Moon

Not for me:

06-2013: Kydona