New Book Review 11: Obsidian Son

The next book I’m reviewing is Obsidian Son, the first book of the ‘Nate Temple’ series by Shayne Silvers. The books is billed as a supernatural thriller, but it was more of a modern/urban fantasy thriller with some overtones of detective drama and comedy. There were aspects of the book that I really loved, and some other aspects that I really hated.

But first, the premise. The protagonist, Nate Temple, is a tough, wisecracking, handsome bookstore owner whose parents owned a multi-billion-dollar tech company. He also happens to be a wizard. In this world there are wizards, werewolves, living gargoyles, the monsters and gods of Greek mythology (albeit quite a ways past their prime), and all kinds of magical shtuff. The story takes off shortly after Nate’s parents die under mysterious circumstances. Soon Nate’s bookstore is being attacked by strange incendiary women, Nate’s magical powers start going haywire, and everybody in town is in search of an ancient book about dragons. Nate’s investigations lead him into the thick of a plot by scheming, shape-shifting dragons to establish the Obsidian Son, a kind of dragon übermensch who will usher in an age of dragon world domination.

It’s a fun concept, made even more fun by the comedy delivered by the book. There’s great banter among characters and great wisecracks from our hero, but even apart from that the situations and scenarios in many cases are genuinely hilarious. Saying too much about them now would spoil the jokes for potential readers, but the jokes are definitely a strength. The action is written as it should be in a thriller. It’s fast, it’s vivid, the details are all there, it’s all working great. There’s only one thing about the action that doesn’t work so well: Nate Temple is so powerful that he never seems to be in any real danger. The reader never has to wonder if he’ll survive a fight. With his plot armor securely in place, the fights have a somewhat cartoonish quality to them. His absolute wealth also allows many problems to be resolved simply by throwing money at them. That’s not so bad though. It’s entertaining anyway. It bothered me a little that there really wasn’t really any character development in the book, but it’s a thriller. It’s entertainment. I can accept that.

There’s one big thing that did bother me about the book: the majority of female characters in the book served the primary purpose of being (to use Nate Temple’s term) “eye candy”. Every single female character has supermodel looks wear skintight clothing, when they wear clothes at all. The dragons vying for domination consist of a kingpin-like figure and his “harem” of females, all of whom appear as usually-naked supermodels when they are in human form. Nate Temple’s love interest (whom he doesn’t mind forgetting about when he’s ogling the other female characters) does literally nothing in the entire book except be sexy and serve as the love interest. The story could follow its exact same plot without her ever appearing. As far as I remember, the only exception to the every-woman-is-a-sex-deity rule was one elderly Christian secretary who was just in the story for one comedic scene in which she reprimands Nate for being too sinful. Now, I’m not about to try and be the moral arbiter of the genre. And, there’s nothing wrong with a character being attractive. But with the exception of the elderly Bible-thumper, every woman in the story has sexiness as their first and most defining characteristic. Their value to Nate starts with their sex appeal. It bothers me. As I said, the book is just entertainment. It’s not going for anything profound. Still, it bothers me, and I can certainly see it bothering other readers.

So, I can recommend this for fans of action and thriller novels, and for fans of modern fantasy, and for readers who live in the common ground between the two. The writing is not at all bad and I had a lot of fun reading it. I’d like to hope that if I read any of the author’s other books, I won’t find in them the same issues that I found in this one.

And 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 8New Book Review 9 –New Book Review 10

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.

New Book Review 10: Incanta|Soul-Catcher

The tenth book I’m reviewing is Incanta |Soul-Catcher, the first book in the Lost Souls series by Avie Adams.  The genre is dark fantasy, which tends to mean fantasy with strong elements of horror. Now, for this particular book I was almost too skeptical to start it. I’m afraid that I judged it by its cover, which in my digital edition depicts a teenage girl with white skin, black hair, and red lips in front of a background of mountains and fog. It looked too much like YA goth supernatural romance, something like Twilight (not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not my taste). But, once I started reading this book, I quickly found that it wasn’t like that at all. It was more serious, more ominous, and far more engaging.

The book’s world is utterly alien, and adjusting to it takes some time. The protagonist, a teenage girl named Cytriah, lives on an island where the buildings are molded from obsidian. She is an Incanta, a low-level acolyte in a religious order that specializes in something similar-to-but-never-outright-named necromancy. The society is ruled over by (get ready for the moral panic!) snake-like and spider-like Daemons. Within the context of the society, everybody thinks this is normal. Cytriah has a hard life, but it’s the life she knows. Intimidation by Daemons is a common threat, the cruelties of her superiors are a common threat, and it’s a fact of this world that if she fails in her role she will be condemned as a ‘Promise-bearer’, an imprisoned bearer of children. That’s her world. Cytriah’s world falls apart when she obtains new knowledge about the way it works, and why it works the way it does. That’s where the plot gets moving and the threats against her become more tangible.

The level of detail in the story is great. The world, the magical processes in it, even the gritty and foul aspects of the necromancy, are described credibly and with powerful texture. Besides this Cytriah and the secondary characters have complexity which manifests in various ways throughout the story. The only contention I really have is that in a few crucial points in the plot, there were some logical stretches. Characters took actions which were crucial to the development of the plot, which I didn’t see clear motives for. There were only two points in the story where I saw this, and it’s not a huge problem. Many stories have done this far worse.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I was worried that this would turn out to be a poorly-written supernatural romance story. There was a romance aspect to it that didn’t manifest in the plot until quite a ways through the book, but it wasn’t anything like the helpless-infatuation romance stories you expect of the genre. The romance in this story is dangerous, with consequences as ugly as all other consequences in this hideous world.

To wrap this up, I do recommend this book, though with discretion. Fans of horror may like it. Readers with qualms about blood and violence and that sort of thing will certainly not. I enjoyed it.

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 8New Book Review 9

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.

New Book Review 9: Letháo: The Secret King

The ninth book I am reviewing is Letháo: The Secret King, an excellent science fiction novel by Dawn Chapman. It’s a space opera, within the same genre as books, films, and television shows like Star Trek, the Star Wars saga, Dune, and Battlestar Galactica. In some of the Amazon reviews for the book I saw claims that The Secret King follows a plot very similar to Battlestar Galactica. I’ve never seen the show so I couldn’t say. The Secret King was originally conceived as a thirteen-episode TV series (doing some research on it, I get the impression that a show might be coming in the future), and this comes across in the writing. Chapters feel episodic, so the book contains multiple small situations of conflict and resolution within the framework of a large conflict.

The overall story is this: the population of the planet Letháo must evacuate their world. These refugees are led by Kendro and his wife Mika, the king and queen of their world. The monarchs are supported by the captains of the ships and by Kendro’s trusted second-in-command or Ainoren, Octav. These people, a race called the Aonise, are mostly humanoid but have limited abilities involving telepathy and a physical mechanism called ‘croex’. This is a soul-like energy which can allow one Aonise to share strength or the burden of intense pain with other Aonise, among other functions. Some Aonise also have visions of the future. As the refugees seek a new safe haven, they are plagued by attacks from aliens called the Zefron, schemes and power plays from the captains, and human drama around relationships between crew members. Each of these conflicts influences the other conflicts and leads to shifts within the power dynamics of the ship. With the book’s primary focus on the personal interactions rather than the spectacle of the alien attacks, I can certainly see this book working as a character-driven TV series.

The writing was very good. At spots the sentences were rather choppy and there were spots where I noticed misplaced punctuation marks or sentence fragments, but none of it was enough to pull me out of the story. None of it was enough to cringe over. And I promise, I have read books with errors that made me cringe. I don’t like cringing while reading, especially not when the author didn’t mean for the reader to cringe. Not once did I cringe over Dawn Chapman’s work, instead I spent a lot of time genuinely marveling over the quality of the dialogue, setting, and pacing. If she is reading this, then I say to her, nicely done. Very nicely done.

For all its good qualities, there were also a few points of contention I had with it. The timing of events was difficult to follow, because there weren’t many indicators of how many days or weeks passed between events. There were also some events that really strained credibility, particularly regarding the way visions operated in the story. I won’t go too much into that though, as I’d prefer order to avoid spoilers. The way the book ended, it seems that there will certainly be a sequel, so the questions of credibility may be answered in the future. If there is a sequel forthcoming , I look forward to it.

So, to wrap this up, I highly recommend this book for sci-fi and space opera fans. It’s a strong addition to the genre, and I’m really excited to see where else the story may lead.

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.