I didn't really know what I was getting into when I started this book as I was in a hurry and quickly selected what I thought was a fantasy book from my long list of pending reads. My expectations were initially satisfied as the book started with an assassin named Caine doing what assassins do and I started to get my bearings in this new fantasy world. However, upon completion of his mission Caine was suddenly transported back to a futuristic sci-fi world and I found myself being disappointed that this wasn't the fantasy tale I thought it was. Luckily though, Matthew Stover instead provided me with an interesting cross-genre story that successfully straddled two genres that I love and he won me over in the end with a compelling story.
Guy Gavriel Kay offers up a solid fantasy tale with plenty of plotting and intrigue from cover to cover. The 9 provinces of the Peninsula of the Palm are shattered by war and find themselves split under the rule of 2 sorcerers from foreign lands. Four provinces have fallen to each sorcerer with only one remaining independent, which makes this province the key to the fragile balance of power. This tenuous situation has gone on for almost twenty years and this story tells the tale of the spark that sets off the powder keg.
"Will the magic return?" is a question that has a dual meaning for me when it comes to this book as it applies to both the storyline and the series itself. Those who read the first book, Ice Forged, know that the main characters are on a quest to return magic to their homeland and this book follows through on the resolution of that storyline. However, for me the question also applies to the series itself as the first book started strong but did not maintain my interest level throughout. So I moved on to book two with the hope that the quest would be a successful one and that the magic of this series' strong start would return to my reading experience as well.
Velant is a penal colony hidden away in the frozen wastes of Edgeland, an inhospitable location on the edge of the world where the King of Donderath sends the convicted of his domain. Those banished to Velant never return, so it is a fate just short of death to be sent there, and for many it turns into a death sentence. The prison is ruled by an oppressive governor who uses his warden mages to keep the prisoners in line and ensure they continue working in the ruby mines. Those prisoners fortunate enough to survive their sentence of servitude in the mines still don't get to return home when they are done, instead they earn a ticket of leave which makes them a colonist in a small town near the prison that remains under the rule of the Governor. This town barely survives at the best of times and during the 6 month long dark season it must rely on the regular supply ships from Donderath to keep everyone alive. However, it seems that those ships have stopped arriving for an unknown reason, and the long dark is approaching...
The framework is purposely familiar but the unique setting makes this Arthurian based fantasy stand out. There's no evil half siblings and incestuous children here, only quality writing focused on combat mechanics, how the "magical" element works, and the value of self acceptance. Pal is an idealistic young man who dreams of becoming a Champion and performing heroic deeds. He is also a Maker, one who can mentally enter artifacts left from the Ancients and sometimes rebuild them with the necessary minerals. With his homemade Shield, based upon an umbrella, and Weapon, probably a mining drill, he sets off from the rural node of Breune for the capitol of Dun Add to join the Champions with his dog Buck. There has never been a Champion who is also a Maker but he sees that as no obstacle.
I don't ordinarily review books available that are available only in audio format, but since this one is offered up free direct from the Michael J. Sullivan's website, it seems worthy of being mentioned. The Riyria series of books is great Fantasy story telling and the audiobook versions are even better than the written word because Tim Gerard Reynolds does the narration. This short story may only be an hour long but it will certainly give you a taste of what this combination of author and narrator is capable of.
Royce and Hadrian are back and this time Royce's past actions result in a unique opportunity for the duo that is sure to put them at odds. The wealthy merchant Gabriel Winter has tracked down Royce (no easy task) because many years ago he experienced the "Year of Fear" when Royce terrorized his home city of Colnora. He has sought out Royce because he believes that his daughter is dead at the hands of her noble husband and he seeks retribution. He wants those responsible to pay in blood and offers up coin for every body that Royce produces; however, if it it turns out that she is alive then he is also offering a fixed sum for her safe return.
Brandon Sanderson finally delivered Oathbringer, the highly anticipated third entry in the Stormlight Archive, and amazingly this volume is even bigger than the first two. As the books get bigger so does the scope of the story being told and that is almost hard to believe. Each of these books would be an entire series for many other authors and the truly amazing part is that Sanderson has 7 more entries planned before he is done. This book focuses on Dalinar Kholin and the events throughout his past that shaped the man he has become. Dalinar bears the nickname Blackthorn and it is time to learn why that is.
Daniel Abraham does not disappoint as he delivers an excellent finish to his epic fantasy series The Dagger and the Coin. The war has raged on for 4 books and it is finally time for it to end, one way or the other. The spider priests have led Antea to the brink of destruction and their ability to manipulate the truth has most everyone in the kingdom blind to that fact. As the armies of Antea's enemies close in seeking retribution, Cithrin devises a desperate plan to save the day but it may be too late to pull it off. This one is full of build up that leads to one final gambit with the future of the kingdom of Antea at stake and Daniel Abraham delivers a clever and satisfying conclusion when it all finally plays out.
Daniel Abraham continues to deliver an engaging story as war rages on for Antea. As readers of the series will have guessed by the title, Clara comes to the forefront in this book and house Callium becomes the focal point. Clara has lost her husband to Lord Regent Geder's wrath, one of her sons to Geder's banishment, and a second son to the spider priesthood. The bottom line is that she has had enough and decides to take action to prevent Geder from ruining what little she has left. Underestimate Clara at your own peril.