4 out of 5
Red Country is a standalone novel set in a fantasy west. Shy South, her stepfather Lamb and her brother and sister work a farm outside of the frontier town of Squaredeal. Returning from a trading trip into town Shy and Lamb find their hired helper dead, all of the buildings burned and the children missing. There is nothing to do but follow the trail to get them back. Temple, a lawyer for a mercenary army led by the aging Nicomo Cosca finds he can no longer stomach the horrors of assisting the Union Emperor in his quest to eradicate the rebels hiding in the Far Country. So he does what he does best, he runs. The children find they have not been stolen to be sold into slavery but rather to a strange centuries old cult that wishes to raise them as their own. All of their paths cross in a small mining town that has been inundated by a gold rush.
While technically a fantasy novel Red Country is more a western with crossbows and swords. Outside of being set in an alternative world and hints of a past glorious empire with metal dragons there really isn’t much fantasy here. There is a great deal of blood, guts and depravity. The whole story could easily be transported to an old west gold rush setting and still remain true to itself. The story is well written and Abercrombie is obviously a skilled writer. The characters are well developed and as a standalone it works well. Unfortunately westerns are of much interest to me so I found I had to force myself to finish. The ending was also a bit rough. Just when you thought it was done there was more. If you enjoy westerns or extremely real fantasy you will enjoy this novel.
4 out of 5
A main theme throughout the Collegium Chronicles series has been Mags’ mysterious origins. Orphaned in a bandit camp raid he has never been sure just who his parents were and why they were in that camp. This, the fourth book in the series begins to answer these questions. A new group of assassins manages to subdue and kidnap Mags, taking him across the border in to Kardite territory. Confused, his mind speech blocked, Mags still manages to escape. In the process he befriends one of the Kardite red priests, Franse and his Sun Cat, Reaylis. With Reaylis’s help Mags regains his mind speech only to be recaptured. Through the assassins he learns of the country he came from and realizes he much prefers Valdemar.
Lackey gives the reader the opportunity to see just how much Mags has matured and moved past the horrors of his youth by separating him completely from Dallen and forcing him to survive once again on his own. This time though he has well developed skills that allow him to begin to take control of his own destiny. It also allows him to realize just how much he loves and cares for his new family in Valdemar. He is able to trust that they are doing everything to save him while also taking advantage of every means possible to escape. It is unusual for Lackey to continue one character’s story for this many books. While I am looking forward to the 5th book in the series I hope she is planning on bringing Mags’ story to a conclusion.
5 out of 5
Pratchett comes through again with this Discworld look at the music industry. A dwarf and imp and a troll walk into the Music Guild and walk out a band. Death’s granddaughter Susan is forced to take over for him when Death disappears. This is our first glimpse of the young Susan, a completely rational young woman forced to confront the irrational. A mysterious shop opens just in time to replace a harp with a magical guitar. Wizards start wearing leather. A sausage vendor becomes a band manager and Ankh-Morpork has it’s first free rock and roll concert.
As always Pratchett manages to put a wonderful twist on Discworld’s interpretation of the real world. Definitely a fun read.
4 out of 5
Changes continues the story of Mags the Herald-Trainee and his best friends Lydia and Bear as they navigate the world of the Collegium. New assassins have been sent and Mags, spending his nights as a deaf and mute helper in the pawn shop set up by the King’s Own must ferret them out. Mags and the King’s Own daughter Amily are targeted by the assassins while Lydia and Bear are still working through family issues. All this while balancing becoming a Kirball star and his school work while the whole city teeters on madness they think is caused by a heat wave.
My only complaint about this book is the emphasis on Kirball. I tend to get tired of the detailed explanations of each game as they really don’t have a great deal to do with the plot. Otherwise it is an average addition to the series.
4 out of 5
Intrigues is the second novel in the Collegium Chronicles. Mag’s has saved his friend Bear and helped expose the spies that have infiltrated the Palace but the last words of a madman combined with the visions of the farseers have cast suspicion on the young Herald Trainee. Added to the family problems of both Lydia and Bear the stress starts to get to Mag. It seems impossible for Mag to defend himself against a crime that hasn’t even happened yet. Mag pours himself into his school work, Kirball and spending nights in Haven working with the King’s Own and hopes what that the farseer’s are misinterpreting their visions. Fortunately he is no longer completely alone and with the help of his friends and team he once again diverts a catastrophe.
This novel digs deeper into the family problems of Lydia and Bear and Mag’s own lack of family. Once again the the focus is on the characters with the storyline helping to move their problems along. Very enjoyable story that allows the reader to see just how much Mag has matured.
4 out of 5
Foundations is the first in Lackey’s The Collegium Chronicles part of her Valdemar series. Chronologically it falls about 50 years after the story in the Last Herald-Mage series and there are many references to Vanyel. This story concerns a very young Mag, a mine slave, chosen by the Companion Dallen. Mag’s upbringing causes him to lack even the most basic social skills or knowledge. Having been raised with only his literacy to bring to a level slightly above an animal, Dallen is forced to create special shields to protect him and basically force feeds him basic knowledge of the world and it’s people. Dallen also helps him find his two best friends Lydia and Bear keeping him from being a complete outcast. Yet Mag’s upbringing gives him special skills that make him valuable to the King’s Own and the King himself as a spy. These skills allow him to not only break up a spy ring but save his best friend in the process.
Like many of the Valdemar novels the story is told from only one point of view which allows the reader to see the world only through the main characters eyes. While helping develop the main character it does exclude some parts of the story. The fact that the building of the Collegium does not please all of the older Heralds is seen only through Mag’s experiences and I would have liked to have seen it expanded upon. As always the climax is secondary to the characters development and almost slips by. Lackey has created an interesting world and I enjoy watching it’s history being developed. She reminds me of Modesitt in this. This is an enjoyable addition to the Valdemar series for fans although those new to the Valdemar world might want to start with the Last Herald-Mage series.
3 out of 4
The Shadari lived peaceful lives between the desert and the sea until attacked and conquered by the Norlanders. The conquerors are called the Dead Ones by the Shadari as their pale skin and cold body temperatures cause them to be nocturnal. Forced to mine a special ore that is mixed with Norlander blood to create magical swords, the Shadari dream of freeing themselves. This novel follows various members of each group as both of their ways of life are threatened. The ruling Governor is ill and gives leadership to his second oldest, Frea, by passing his oldest son, Eofar. While the Shadari Daryan is forced to work as a slave in the palace that was once the sacred home of their religious leaders. Both men have important secrets that will change the delicate balance of their peoples. The Mongrel also has a secret and it’s release destroys Frea and Eofar’s family forever. Mixed in to all of this is the Shadari mysticism and the conflict of knowing bits and pieces of the future.
Not exactly sure what I think of this book. On one hand it is technically well written but on the other hand I never developed a connection with any of the characters. Other than Frea, who goes mad by the end, most of the characters are a bit wishy washy allowing events to carry them along without really stepping up and taking control. Daryan’s story line is supposed to show him growing into the role of a leader but he never quite makes the leap. The Mongrel is the most confusing character. She is a Norlander disfigured by contact with the sun, who should have been left to die but her mother attempted to raise her in secret. When discovered she is put out into the desert to die only to be found by the Nomas, a desert/seafaring clan. The Nomas accidently consecrate her to both their gods, one of the day and one of the night, creating a serious conflict within her that causes her to feel extreme pain at sunrise and sunset. This is also supposed to explain why she can see out of only one eye at night and the other during the day. It just becomes way to complicated. In the end I really didn’t care what happened to any of the characters and even the loss of major characters evoked no feeling.