New Book Review 8: Demorn: Blade of Exile

The eighth book I am reviewing is Demorn: Blade of Destiny, the first book of the Asanti series by David Finn. This cross-dimensional dark modern fantasy adventure has the distinction of being both ridiculously fun and outrageously confusing. I read it all the way through, and to be perfectly honest I cannot recount the story’s plot trajectory at all. The only other story I’ve read that I can say that about it William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch, which is outrageously confusing for other reasons.

Here’s what I can say with certainty about the story. The protagonist is a young woman named Demorn, a master swordfighter endowed with biting wit and a sarcastic fatalism born from the fact that she has traveled through both the past and the future of the universe and has consequently seen how it all ends. She’s also a lesbian, but that’s not so crucial the plot. Although, I would say it served to avoid some of the clichés we’ve too often seen about female protagonists. Throughout the story we see different facets of Demorn’s identity as she appears as a bounty hunter, a devotee to an ancient religious order, an exiled princess, a time traveler, a loyal sister, and a queen. Demorn finds these identities as hard to keep track of as the reader does, because she seems to have some condition along the lines of amnesia. She doesn’t know exactly where and when she’s been (time travel, remember?) or what exactly she’s done in the places and times she’s been. As far as I could understand, this disorientation is never fully resolved.

Demorn’s confusion about herself is conveyed in the storytelling in that the scenes did not seem to be in a specific order. Perhaps if I reread the book I’ll find patterns, but on a first reading the order of the scenes seemed nearly random. Using such confusion to convey disorientation and amnesia is a rare but useful trope I’ve only seen once before, in the Christopher Nolan thriller Memento. If you have the patience to push through a narrative without always understanding what’s going on, the effect is actually quite engaging.

One aspect of the writing that really stood out in this was the texture of the story. That’s the most accurate adjective I can use. Throughout the book are ice and bullets and lasers and electric shocks and soil and water and a thousand other sensations, and the writing is of such a quality that the reader feels every single one of them. More than anything else the texture kept me interested in the story when the plot was too much to handle. This texture, however, is a double-edged sword (or in the case of this book, a two-edged burning-with-purple-flames katana). The level of detail was so engaging, but at the same time the level of worldbuilding was near impossible to keep track of. A glossary to the book would have helped, as Demorn’s path is impacted by a bewildering variety of spells, magical objects, aliens, monsters, historical events, deities, and characters who alternatively serve as either allies or enemies.

To keep this review from running too long, I’m content to stop here with saying that I enjoyed this book quite a lot, but I wish I understood it better. Fans of fantasy, science fiction (soft sci-fi, probably not hard sci-fi), sword-and-sorcery, and fast-paced action stories will take pleasure from this book.

Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here:

New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4

New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8

If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.

 

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List of free and 99 cent books

Featured here is a list of fantasy books currently on a free or 99 cent promo. I’ll certainly be snatching up some of them.

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CLICK HERE to Join my mailing list to be notified when the next list of free/99 cent books comes and also get “The Drabird” (worth $ 10 on amazon) for FREE!

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”Lameey Brox is the pilot of the Flyer, better know to the masses as the Drabird. Barely more than a kid, Lameey needs to keep the royal lot airborn…

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New Book Review 7: GrimNoir

The seventh book I’m reviewing is GrimNoir, a collection of seven short stories by Kevin Wright. Each of these stories is different, and while the genres of fantasy, epistolary,  detective, and steampunk were all present, the genre appearing in each story was horror. These are primarily horror stories.

Writing a review for this book without going into the strengths and weaknesses of each individual story is difficult, especially since there was so much diversity to this book. The characters of each story have different personalities and different values, the themes are wildly different, even the style of writing is wildly different. I do not know Kevin Wright personally, but I assume that the stories he put into this book were written at different times, perhaps at different stages of his growth as a writer. Some of the stories had a more mature feeling to them than others, but I am speculating. The nature of the horror varied from story to story. In some of them it was supernatural horror, the work of spiritual forces left deliberately mysterious. In others, the horror was in the bitter realities of human behavior, consequences of the vicious selfishness humans will resort to when struggling to survive. This was very well done.

One other unifying factor to these stories was, as the book’s title suggests, they are grim. They are unrelentingly grim. Through the first four stories, I was wishing for some comic relief, something to give contrast to all of the blood and fear and vindictiveness of the book. The fifth story, in which a poor boy in a medieval setting must go through with a duel against a noble whom he insulted while drunk, gave that comic relief. This story is quite grim in its conclusion as well, and it was the only story with comedy in it. There’s nothing wrong with the book being unrelentingly grim, but readers who are turned off by those kinds of stories will not enjoy this book. They are not the book’s target audience. The book’s target audience, I think, will love it.

The style and quality of the writing vary from story to story. In the first two, I was impressed with how tight and clean the prose was, but I was also put off a little by the frequent use of repeated two-word sentences for dramatic effect. This device was abandoned in after the second story, and following that the writing was for the most part excellent. The final story, ‘The Brazil Business’, is written as a series of letters between brothers in Massachusetts and Brazil during the 1930s, and the writing of those letters was very nearly flawless.

‘The Brazil Business’ was in my opinion the best story in the book, and it read almost like a pastiche of H.P. Lovecraft (of whom I have read ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ and a long anthology titled The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Tales). This is, for the most part, a good thing. The horror was well-executed, the descriptions were perfect, and the characters were quite believable. The only potential trouble I saw with the story was that the Lovecraftian characters and Lovecraftian setting also carried the racial ideas that permeate Lovecraft’s work. I wasn’t overly bothered by this, but I recognized that it was there, and I recognize that other readers might be bothered by it.

Overall, GrimNoir excelled as a horror anthology. I would recommend it to anybody who likes horror fiction.

Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here:

New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4

New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8

As a final note, my book of fantasy novellas, Tales of Cynings Volume I, will be available for just 99 cents on Kindle from June 12 to June 18. I am of course biased, but I recommend it to readers who like fantasy.

New Book Review 6: No Dogs in Philly

The sixth book I’m reviewing is No Dogs in Philly, the first book of the ‘Special Sin’ series by Andy Futuro. It’s written as a mix of genres, with cyberpunk, dystopian, Lovecraftian horror, and crime noir all represented in the story.  This is definitely one of the best indie books I’ve read, and I’d definitely recommend it to other readers.

The protagonist is a woman named Saru, a detective working in a future version of Philadelphia. In this world, most people have brain implants that allow them to have continuous internet access inside their brains (side-affects include getting your entire perception of reality taken over by hackers). The highest level of society is the Gaespora, alien-ish beings who are more or less benevolent but whose motives deliberately unclear. Somebody in Philadelphia is murdering girls with blue eyes, and the Gaespora put Saru on a case to protect one particular girl, Ria, a young woman who goes through her life protected by a dog-like entity who only she can see. As the story goes on, we learn of divine-ish forces controlling the all of the events, a concept fitting with the Lovecraftian horror concept of the story (the works of early 20th century horror writer H.P. Lovecraft featured god-like otherworldly beings who are either indifferent or antagonistic to our world).

It’s a pretty wild premise. The world of the story is dark and gritty as any noir story, with the addition of monstrous otherworldly threats lurking in the landscape. All of these different genres could clash with one another in really ugly ways, but in fact I was thoroughly impressed with how well the author blended them. In the world that he’s made, everything fits in. Every hallucination, every death-cult, every drinking binge from the protagonist, not one of these elements feels out of place.

The story does jump around some between points of view, and certain aspects of the story were deliberately mysterious for so long that I never really felt that I fully grasped everything that was going on. This may be a book that benefits from being read at least twice, as there were times when I felt really lost. This was not a matter of sloppy craftsmanship though. The pieces were all there. They were just difficult to understand in the first read.

Apart from the excellent crafting of the world, the story’s writing was superb. The sentences were clean and professional. The editing was for the most part flawless. I say “for the most part” because there were a handful of word choices which I found unusual. The author had a strange fondness for the word “tits” which never really made sense to me. It was very distracting. The rest of the writing was good enough that I’m willing to overlook the overuse of that word.

As I said before, I would definitely recommend this book. There is violence and profanity and horror themes, so readers who are sensitive to those things probably wouldn’t enjoy it, but I think fans of science fiction, horror, and crime fiction would enjoy it quite a lot. I certainly did. Andy Futuro published a sequel earlier this year, Cloud Country, which I will probably buy and review later.

Now, the plug. If you liked this book review, you can see my others here:

New Book Review 1New Book Review 2New Book Review 3New Book Review 4

New Book Review 5New Book Review 6New Book Review 7New Book Review 8

If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.