Sunday, July 27, 2008

Prince of the Blood by Raymond E. Feist

Link to synopsis:Prince of the Blood, 15th Anniversary Edition

So in my posting about The King's Buccaneer I ranted about reading books out of order, and this is the one that I should have read first. Oh well. After reading both, the only thing I really missed out on was some character background. The main story is still intact, but without the background you miss out on some of the subtle tie-ins. As I said, oh well.

Other than that this was another win for Feist. In my mind he still takes a hit for excessive graphic scenes, but he definitely has a lot of a skill.

Date Completed: 7/27/08
Rating: 3.85

The King's Buccaneer by Raymond E. Feist

Link to synopsis: The King's Buccaneer

Maybe I am a little bit of an organizational freak, but if I have one hard and fast rule about reading a series, or even books connected by the same setting, I have to read them in order. I get frustrated every time an author writes a prequel, forcing me to make a judgment as to which order to follow, the order they were written, or the order of the storyline. It just interrupts the flow of the story to read it out of order. Well, for the first time that I can remember I read a series out of order. I was going on vacation, so I picked up the next two books by Feist from our local library, but when it came time to pack I realized that I would only get to read one of them, so I grabbed The King's Buccaneer thinking that it was next. I was a third into it before I realized that I was out of order. Dang.

It was still a good book in most respects. I like the way that Feist is digging into his setting and coming up with more an more plausible branches to his setting. In fantasy, setting is super important, and to carve off too small of a world up front makes writing hard, as does carving off a world too big. Back in the RiftWar series I noticed that the setting already spanned worlds, which is pretty big. By the end it had spanned many, many worlds, and the amazing thing is that he did it all without so much as sticking a big toe over the fantasy/scifi line. That is saying something. So now the story continues, and we explore the home world even more. The storyline is nicely linked to previous conflicts and the characters are either old characters being developed or resolved further, or new characters altogether. It is well done.

Now for a bit of criticism. As I have said before, I am in it for the light entertainment value, which is why I prefer juvenile fiction at the end of the day. One thing I have noticed in Adult Fiction writers is that they often start out low key, not too much violence, sex, etc., but once they get a series going that sort of stuff starts to increase. I wonder why that is. Do publishers think that that stuff is needed to sell books? I doubt that, since the first book is relatively clean and yet sold enough to justify the rest of the series. Do authors think that in order to add a dark dimension to their books they have to resort to graphic scenery? I don't get it. Anyway, I am noticing that trend in Feist's book, although it is a slow increase, which is saving the books from real disaster, still those are the parts that brought this book down from a 4+ rating in my mind.

Date Completed: 7/11/08
Rating (1 - 5): 3.85

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Book of Lies by James Moloney

Link to Synopsis: The Book of Lies

As I often do, I was wandering around in the juvenile fiction section of our local library, waiting for my 6 year old to finally pick which easy reader we would suffer over for the next week, and I happened on to this book. I will admit, I am a sucker for great cover art and a catchy font on the spine. There are some fonts that just ring true to the type of book I like to read and this was one of them. Anyway, I chucked it in the basket and after retrieving the 6 year old (just get both of them, it doesn't matter!) and the 4 year old (why did you get a science book about mars?) and the 8 year old (go look for that book again, I'm not going to find it for you) we checked out all 22 items, paid the $17.86 we owed in fines and headed home.

Overall, this is a great read. While I don't know anything about James Moloney, I would guess that this is a first book for him, and that he should keep after it. The overall story is good, the beginning was great, the ending was great, but the overall rating is drug down by a few unfortunate scenes/plot choices in the middle. To be specific, there is a point when he introduces elves into the story, and for a few chapters the plot seemed off. I don't know if corny or cheesy are accurate descriptors (or acceptable reviewing language) but lets just say it was very predictable and a bit contrived. The right people showed up at the right times, the dialogue was flat and the characterization was a bit off. I should establish myself as an expert on these matters, since I am being pretty specific: Those chapters sounded a lot like something I would have written, for those are all some of my favorite writing-sins.

Don't let that candid review discourage you from picking this book up, however. The beginning and end were pretty good, and he has set himself up for a good series. While the plot is not quite as deep as Fablehaven (which if you read my last review you know I am a huge fan of) it does have a lot of room to develop in the next book. I give this one a solid 3.75, and I look forward to the next release.

Date Completed: 7/2/2008
Rating: 3.75

Fablehaven: The Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

Link to synopsis: Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague (Fablehaven)

I am a huge Fablehaven fan. When I talk about how and why I like juvenile fiction, I am talking about books like this. Don't be fooled, this is not some cutsie little story meant to replace Saturday morning cartoons where no one gets hurt and the dialogue is limited to an occasional three-syllable word here and there. No, this is a great storyline, bringing action, strong characters and complex themes to the table. Yes, it was written for a younger audience, but when you have a great author putting it together, anything that would be missing from an adult version would only be a distraction in this story. The length is perfect, the story moves along at a good clip and in the end you can't wait for the next book in the series. I am rambling, yes, but this book deserves a little positive rambling.

Another thing I love about this book is that it is an all-out success story for a fairly new writer. While I have never met him, from the description on the dust jacket Brandon Mull lives relatively close to my current home. I would love to shake his hand and congratulate him on breaking into the big time. If I were to pursue my writing dreams I would be aiming to duplicate what he has done, and it is always a positive thing (to me) to see someone else succeed in that path. It more or less validates that it can be done, and it takes away any cheesy excuses I may have about why I haven't done it. I am my only barrier.

Well, this isn't a journal entry, so I will wrap it up with a big round of applause for the Fablehaven series. I look forward to the next installment.

Date Completed: 6/27/08
Rating: 4.1

EDIT: I reread this book in 2013 and wrote another review...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E Feist

Link to synopsis: A Darkness at Sethanon: Volume IV in the Riftwar Saga

Unfortunately I am behind in my reviews here. I say unfortunately because I think that this book would have gotten a much better review (which it deserves) if I had done it right away. In short, a series that I had serious reservations about after the first book came to an awesome conclusion in A Darkness at Sethanon: Volume IV in the Riftwar Saga.

The characters and conflict were all building throughout the last book, and yet I can say that I had no idea how Feist would tie it all up. The breadth of the story was manageable, so I wasn't concerned that it could be wrapped up in one volume, more I was concerned that it would be another unsatisfactory finale. Well, Feist delivered for me. He took the characters and the plot and developed them even further and still brought it down to a solid conclusion, giving us closure on where the characters were at as well as the plot. Yes, the story is still peeking open a little for later books/series to tie into. Overall a very satisfying read, earning one of my highest ratings yet.

Downside: A lot of metaphysical action that happens inside people's heads. I generally dislike this because it is a lot of action that isn't really action. Of course, that is probably one reason why I often prefer juvenile literature over adult material, which this series is.

Date Completed: 6/21/08
Rating: 4.1