Monthly Archives: December 2010

Nicked mercilessly from Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review:


Believe it or not, those two covers (each with its only wildly different title) are for the same book. See, here’s the synopsis:

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying.

It’s funny. I’d never in a million years pick up Midnight Riot if I saw it on the shelf—it looks like some sort of lame crossover between Harry Dresden and Jason Bourne; but Rivers of London catches my attention right away. I bet you can’t guess which cover belongs in the US and which is from the UK.

Just kidding.


Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong Country Returns — It’s not often that a non-RPG will top my Game of the Year list… but Donkey Kong Country Returns, developed by the out-of-left-field Retro Studios (developers of the Metroid Prime series), is an easy pick for me in an RPG-light year.

From the charming art direction (Those silhouette levels? Gorgeous) to the tight, responsive controls and top-notch level design, Donkey Kong Country Returns hit all the same buttons as the original SNES entries in the series and blew other recent platformers (like New! Super Mario Bros. Wii and Kirby’s Epic Yarn) right out of the water. Another classic in the long-running Nintendo franchise.

Honourable Mentions


Limbo — A stylish puzzle/platformer unlike anything I’ve played before. A testament to small development teams with big vision.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 — Improved over the first game in some ways (atmosphere, graphics, cast), downgraded in others (exploration, RPG-elements, story). A good-but-flawed sequel to one of my favourite games of this console generation.

Dragon Quest IX

Dragon Quest IX — I had huge hopes for this game (being an enormous fan of the earlier games), but was left both satisfied and disappointed by the ninth entry in the long-running series. The gameplay was addictive, but the story just didn’t grasp me in the way that Dragon Quest V did.

Civilization V

Civilization V — What is there to say? As a casual fan of the series, I love the streamlining of the game systems and the new combat mechanics. Just as addicting as the previous Civilization games, with an added layer of pretty graphics on top.

Biggest Disappointment

Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII — It’s hard not to put Fable III in this spot… but at least I managed to finish that one. Unlike Donkey Kong Country Returns, Final Fantasy XIII was missing absolutely everything that make the early entries in the series so important to me as a gamer. It’s incredibly linear, the characters are under-developed, the scenario is contrived and poorly directed, and the writing… oh god, the writing.

Embassytown by China Mieville

Embassytown: a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe.

Avice is an immerser, a traveller on the immer, the sea of space and time below the everyday, now returned to her birth planet. Here on Arieka, humans are not the only intelligent life, and Avice has a rare bond with the natives, the enigmatic Hosts – who cannot lie.

Only a tiny cadre of unique human Ambassadors can speak Language, and connect the two communities. But an unimaginable new arrival has come to Embassytown. And when this Ambassador speaks, everything changes.

Catastrophe looms. Avice knows the only hope is for her to speak directly to the alien Hosts.

Very sharp. I like the way the alphabet is raining down on the city, an obvious nod to the importance of language and communication in the novel. You can also never go wrong with red, black and white.

My biggest nitpick is that the city is clearly a manipulated photograph, and while the background buildings look suitably SF, the foreground (along with the use of the Roman alphabet) is too familiar. Would Embassytown, ‘a city of contradictions on the outskirts of the universe,’ really look like Shanghai?

Still, a nice cover in my books.

The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

So, I’m a little late to the party with this one, but better late than never, right?

One of my favourite aspects of the originally leaked cover was the red tapestry background. It gave the novel a more historical feel and felt confident. The new version feels more generically Fantasy (though that font still belongs on a John Grisham novel…) which will likely help it find a broader audience, but won’t look quite so dignified on my shelf. The new dagger is much better (and more believable), too. Oddly, the new cover seems like a crossover between the covers for the UK paperback and US Hardcover editions of Richard Morgan’s The Steel Remains.

And the official synopsis:

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.

Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead — and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords.

Cithrin has a job to do — move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank’s wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she’s just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?

Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path — the path of war.

I’ve made my excitement for this book pretty clear… and this synopsis changes nothing. As much as I adore the unique setting in The Long Price Quartet, Abraham playing in a familiar playground is a dream combination. I will admit to having a problem with the name ‘Cithrin’, but that’s a small niggle amongst my general enthusiasm.

Spellwright by Blake Charlton (Hilarious French Edition)

Oh my.

Now, France has been producing some sublime cover art over the past few years (see what I mean?)… but this is not one of them.

I guess they got the book right—there’s a grimoire or two in the novel that are rather important to the plot; but casting a smoke shrouded, over-aged children’s entertainer in hooker eye shadow as (assumedly) Nicodemus, Dyslexic Wizard Extraordinaire? Not so much. Charlton actually points out that in France Spellwright is being marketed as a YA novel, which explains some of the cover’s kitsch (and is actually a decent idea from a marketing perspective, given the strengths of the novel), but, still, it’s good for a chuckle.

If you’re interested, Charlton talks about the French cover, plus shows off the UK paperback cover, over on his blog.