Thursday, August 28, 2014

Under A Colder Sun (Khale the Wanderer #1)-by Greg James

Under A Colder Sun (Khale the Wanderer #1)-by Greg James

5 of 5 Stars

Writing 4.5/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 4.5/5 Setting 4.5/5
Characters 4.5/5
My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 5/5

Blurb from Manderghast Press

Khale the Wanderer: dark warrior of legend, a reaver with a demon’s soul. King Alosse: ruler of Colm, willing to risk everything to save his city and its people. Princess Milanda: an innocent, kept pure since birth, unknowing of her fate. Neprokhodymh: the cursed city of sorcerers where Khale must make a sacrifice that will scar him for life, or fall into darkness forever.  

Right out of the gate, I have to say I loved this book. I thought it was tremendous. It had everything I love in a fantasy story. It's self published, which has the potential to cause some hesitance but I assure you this is a wonderfully written dark fantasy novel. This is not the author's first book, he has over a dozen others and I am anxious to start them.

The inspiration for this book comes from Robert E. Howard's Conan and Karl Edward Wagner's Kane. Not only did Greg James nail the tone and atmosphere of their style, I also saw some of Moorcock's Corum and Elric characters as well as Gemmell's Druss. I rank this with any of those stories as a favorite. 

Briefly mentioned already, the first thing that impressed me was how atmospheric this book was. I walked where Khale walked, felt what he felt, saw what he saw. This is a short book but it is packed with vivid descriptions and encompasses a huge world and although we get a nice glimpse of it here, you can see that there is much more going on here. We are fed deep and dark mysteries about the past as well as Khale's history, which is still a mystery to me, especially after reading the two very short stories included at the end. Khale is similar to Conan and Kane in that he is a badass but make no mistake, he is his own character, possibly more brutal than either. The world is harsh and cruel as are the characters and magics. There are horrific elements in the story which fit in so well in the setting he has created.

The plot never stopped advancing, there were no lulls in the action or unnecessary conversations for "character development." I never wanted the book to pick up the pace, or get to another scene or character. I was genuinely shocked multiple times by plot events and character deaths as well as their decisions. Being thrown way off from what I suspect is a highly pleasurable reading experience for me because it is so rare.

If Greg James continues to write such well-written and engaging stories, he should gain a large following. Based on this book, I can confidently say I will be picking up his next Khale the Wanderer book and hope he writes many. I think that will be easy to do as his style of writing leads to short but fulfilling and action packed sword and sorcery tales. It was a huge hit for this long time fan of the genre. Great introduction to a great series.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Review of A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons
by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 5/5
Imagination 5/5
Plot 5/5
Setting 5/5
Characters 5/5

My Overall Enjoyment (Not an average) 5/5

I came late to the ASoIaF party, having read A Game of Thrones for the first time in 2013, but better late than never so they say. I have not previously reviewed any of these books and being the quintessential grimdark blog, it is time to remedy that. In my notes about A Game of Thrones I said it was "epic, multilayered, with great dialog, characters, plot, action scenes, suspense, and the writing is beautiful with moments of brilliance." About the second book, A Clash of Kings, I said "it's very dark, gritty, violent, unpredictable, bloody." Next up was A Storm of Swords, about which I noted  "almost everything about this book is amazing! Its really the largest scope and scale of fantasy I ever remember reading." I was hesitant to start A Feast for Crows because I heard a lot of negative things about it. But I was still excited and based on the first read first 3 books, George R.R. Martin could do no wrong in my eyes. At 350 pages I gave up. I read chapter summaries to prepare for book 5. About A Feast for Crows I said "compared the the first 3 books this was a huge disappointment. While it may be necessary for the overall story I just felt this was too long and there were way to many non-essential characters and places to keep track of and remember. Some of the main story pov's were just not interesting. There was too much dialog and beating around the bush. Not terrible but just not what I expected after the first 3 amazing books." I really felt the magic was lost. I was very nervous to start A Dance with Dragons. I am happy to say, I was not disappointed this time!

Everything to me about this book was solid. The pacing, history, magic, plot, writing, dialogue, and especially the increased character development. What stands out to me is that I was intrigued and captivated by almost every POV character in this story. Whenever I read multiple POV books, there are usually more characters I don't care about than that I do. So reading this, I was so blown away by the depth which I cared about the fates of so many characters.

There was also a humorous element I began noticing in this book. I don't recall much in the other books but perhaps I just didn't notice. It was really surprising and refreshing here mixed in with the horror and bleak atmosphere so pervasive throughout this book.

As mentioned above, I believe this is the most epic, ambitious fantasy story ever written, certainly that I have ever read. There are so many layers and so much depth to each layer that it is nearly overwhelming, but in a satisfying way. This is not a book you can read once and put it on the shelf. To grasp it as intended,  it needs multiple reads. At a bit over 1000 pages, it read more like 2000 to me. I had to read slowly and cautiously, paging back at times and consulting Wikis. But it never seemed like a chore and I never wanted it to be over.

There is nothing about this book I didn't like. I am dying for The Winds of Winter, book 6. There is so much going on plot-wise that I don't see any possible way book 6 won't be amazing, maybe the best of the series. If you haven't read this series, you need to begin it next.