Posts Tagged: Review

Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 336 - Buy: Book/eBook
Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Tell if you’ve heard this one before:

A young, perky college student — a little lost as they search for a purpose in their terrifying maturation from youth to adulthood — is whisked away to a fantasy world, thrust into the middle of a crisis that, if they’re not complicit in finding a solution, will be disastrous for their newfound friends. By leveraging their otherworldly knowledge (and modern technology/understanding of medicine/science), they’re able to triumph over the bad guys and restore peace to the troubled fantasy land.

Got it?

You might be thinking of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry, or Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, or Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland. You wouldn’t be wrong, all of these are popular examples of “portal fantasy.” Unlike protagonists in traditional epic fantasies, who at least understand most of the overarching societal values and some of the physical/metaphysical rules of the world, portal fantasies allow the author to cast a character who has no more understanding of the laws and societies of the fantasy land than the reader themselves (and often less, if the protagonist isn’t an avid fantasy fan who’s probably seen it all before). Over the course of the novel, the reader discovers the world, magic, etc. at the same rate as the protagonist. It’s a tried-and-true formula, but therein lies the issue with most portal fantasy: we have seen it all before. Read More »

Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

Publisher: Orbit Books - Pages: 560 - Buy: Book/eBook
Thief's Magic by Trudi Canavan

The first book in the Millennium Rule trilogy, Thief’s Magic is set in a different world – or worlds, rather – to Canavan’s previous works, and as such makes a good entry point to her writing for any new readers. In the interests of full disclosure, Trudi is a friend, which means I’m potentially biased; that being said, Thief’s Magic is definitely a book which kept me engrossed on its own merits.

When Leratian history student Tyen Ironsmelter discovers Vella, a sentient, magical book, while on an expedition with the notorious Professor Kilraker, he knows he should turn such a valuable artefact over to the Academy. Instead, rather than see Vella doomed to decades of neglect and obscurity by those who don’t appreciate her – or worse, destroyed – Tyen keeps her for himself. But Vella, as the creation of a legendary magician, knows magical secrets, and when her powers are discovered by Tyen’s masters, their treachery forces him to flee. Meanwhile, Rielle, a dyer’s daughter from the city of Fyre, struggles to conceal her ability to see Stain, the shadowy absence of magic. Men who can see Stain become priests, using their powers to serve the Angels, but for women, such work is forbidden. After being attacked by a tainted, an illegal magic user, Rielle is pushed into the company of Isare, a handsome artist, and exactly the sort of person her family doesn’t want her to marry. But as her connection to Isare grows – and as her ability to see Stain forces her to keep secrets from him – Rielle’s position becomes more and more dangerous. What is the true nature of magic? What does it mean to travel between worlds? And how does it change those who do? Read More »

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

Publisher: Tor Books - Pages: 480 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

As epic fantasies so often do The Emperor’s Blades, a debut novel from Brian Stavely, begins with the death of a ruler, and continues to follow the fall-out as it consumes his realm and children. This pattern should be familiar to readers of everything from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, to David Anthony Durham’s Acacia Trilogy. In this case, Staveley begins with three children — two male heirs, Kaden and Valyn, and a daughter suited to rule in all ways but her gender, Adare. The boys are gone from court, sent away by their father to learn at the feet of other masters, both to groom them for rule and protect them from the court’s conspiracies. Kaden, first in line for the throne, is a monk. Not the sexy D&D-type, with fists of stone, but rather a contemplative ascetic seeking to understand the world from a different perspective. Valyn lives a different life among the Kettral, the Empire’s special forces. Most of the Staveley’s narrative is concerned with the brothers’ conflicts: Kaden to realize a state of mind his father sent him to learn, and Valyn to find acceptance in an elite brotherhood. Of course, the impact of their father’s death resonates throughout their stories, but only in an overarching way. The Emperor’s Blades is very much a coming of age story, and less about the epic struggle for the Unhewn Throne and the fate of the world. Read More »

The Martian by Andy Weir

Publisher: Crown - Pages: 384 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Martian by Andy Weir

I have a confession to make.

I read Andy Weir’s The Martian because of the cover. It’s shiny and dramatic, features an astronaut, and, well… it’s really shiny.

Earlier this year, I read An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, the autobiography of Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut and former commander of the International Space Station, and Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, a non-fiction examination of what it takes to survive in space. So, after two non-fiction books, The Martian seemed like the perfect cap-off to my mini-tour of our solar system.

The difference between the three books is obvious from the get-go, most notably the backgrounds and first-hand experiences of the three authors. Hadfield’s book draws on his own personal knowledge of being an astronaut, including a harrowing tale of a time when he was literally blinded while doing a spacewalk. Roach’s book is a well-researched examination of the amusing and relatable aspects of human life in space. Weir, on the other hand, is an admitted hobbyist, and his novel combines Roach’s obsessive level of research with the a mile-a-minute plotting of Michael Crichton’s best science thrillers.

“I’m the sort of geek who will stay up all night to watch the news and see a Mars probe land,” Weir told Shawn Speakman, in an interview with Suvudu. “So I started out with a pretty heavy hobbyist knowledge of the material. Then, while writing the book I did tons of research. I wanted the science to be as accurate as I could possibly make it.” Read More »

child-of-light-banner-2

Child of Light

Publisher: Ubisoft - Genre: RPG - System: Multi-platform
Buy: PC Download

Child_of_Light_art

tl;dr (spoiler free)

Child of Light, a side-scrolling JPRG developed by Ubisoft, features gorgeous 2D visuals (complete with great use of parallax scrolling of multiple layers), a beautiful and very non-traditional musical score, and fun strategic combat heavily inspired by the Grandia series. I didn’t like the story or the writing, but I enjoyed the game otherwise.

Full Review

Child of Light uses a modified Grandia combat system. For those unfamiliar with the system (and who haven’t played our own Penny Arcade RPGs which use a similar system), the core is that by hitting enemies right before they make their next move, you interrupt them which knocks them back on the time bar, essentially stunning them briefly. Child of Light makes a few changes to the basic Grandia system: your party consists of only two characters at a time (Grandia had a four person party); you can swap characters in and out mid-battle with ease; there is no positioning aspect (in Grandia, allies and enemies moved around the battlefield and different attacks had different ranges and areas of effect); all attacks can interrupt enemies (in Grandia, only specifically marked interrupt abilities did this); and you have a firefly friend, Igniculus, who can slow down enemies. Read More »