Fifth Ward: First Watch by Dale Lucas

This novel was so different from any epic fantasy novel I have ever read.  It was refreshing to read a novel that featured orcs, dwarves, and elves but didn’t involve some massive quest with the fate of the world at stake.  That’s the blueprint of the overwhelming majority of epic fantasy, and although that’s enjoyable to read, this offered something unique and interesting.  The premise follows Rem and Torval, two members of what amounts to the police force of the city.  They stumble into a major crime spree involving important members of their city.

 

Beyond the premise, the execution of this novel was top notch.  The writing was strong with some modernization and grittiness in the language that reflected the hardboiled crime story involved.  The characterization was top notch, both with Rem and Torval as well as some of the side characters.  I read a great many thrillers, and the plot unfolded in a well thought out manner with suspense but without plot holes and gaps in logic.  I really don’t even have anything to quibble about.  The length was about right for the story, and there was not a massive bloated backstory or unnecessary writing that often plagues the genre.

 

This is a novel I recommend and look forward to reading the remaining novels in the series.

The Gathering Storm by Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan

I had really soured on the most recent books in The Wheel of Time series.  The books had gotten long winded.  They meandered aimlessly and seem to be leading nowhere.  There were a million characters that I could no longer keep track of, let alone care about.  I strongly considered giving up on the series even though I was so far into it, but I had heard to stick with it because the series got better after Brandon Sanderson took over, and I definitely concur with that sentiment.  Sanderson has given this series the shot in the arm that it badly needed.

 

Although the novel was long, and there were storylines that seemed to be going nowhere, the writing was vastly improved, and, by the end of the novel, those wandering storylines came together more cohesively.  The Egwene storyline was an example of one that had been really dragging but came together strongly at the end of this book and was a real highlight.  I also liked the villain turn of the Daughter of the Nine Moons.  The writing was tighter.  The plot and progression was more focused.

 

There were still some issues with the novel.  The biggest problem that I see is that Rand Al’Thor has become a completely unlikeable character.  He started off the series as a character that you could root for, but now it’s like, yeah I suppose the world needs him to defeat the Dark One in the final battle, but he has become a complete bore.  He barely even feels like a real person any more.  I am hoping in the last couple of novels they fix his character, because it’s hard to truly enjoy a novel when you don’t like the main protagonist.

 

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and remain optimistic for the final two.

Beyond the Ice Limit by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I wanted to like this novel because I found the concept to be interesting, but there were too many hurdles to leap over to actually find it enjoyable.  There were problems with the characterization and the writing, which weren’t particularly well done, but the biggest problem was believability.  And the lack of believability had nothing to do with the concept of an alien tree-like creature being launched somewhere from deep space in an impenetrable pod before landing on the sea floor, growing into a structure that was miles long and was going to then destroy the planet.  And yes, that does sound a bit far-fetched but I was willing to go with that.  It was everything else that was a problem.

 

For starters, the team was able to get a nuclear weapon placed on a ship with the intent to destroy this alien life form without any government in the world noticing them.  Things like the obtaining of nuclear weapons typically doesn’t go unnoticed by government agencies.  Not to mention this type of voyage would have possibly cost into the hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars, but funding and resources seemed to be no problem for these folks.  The science in the novel was preposterous and turned me off because it was almost silly at times.  The way the characters acted on the crew did not come off as realistic, but what really lost me was the ending.

 

Without spoiling the ending, to kill the alien creature and have the characters actually survived would have been a one in a trillion shot, and that’s being generous.  Yet, somehow they threaded the needle so that everybody could live happily ever after.  Except that it wasn’t remotely satisfying since it was so preposterous.  For me, this novel is a pass.  I think you could do much better.

Long Live the Queen by Kate Locke

Long Live the Queen by Kate Locke

This series started off so strong with God Save the Queen.  I enjoyed the concept, the writing style, the characters, and was digging the novel.  I was lukewarm about the second entry into the trilogy, but still had hopes for the final addition.  Unfortunately, it only got worse with Long Live the Queen.  The series kept losing steam and then ran out of gas at the end.   There was a lot not to like about this novel.  The one thing that really bothered me is the illogical treatment of technology.  So, the series sets up as not quite being a steampunk novel, but with technology that is considerably behind our technology.  But somehow we are supposed to believe that their cloning technology is light years ahead of ours.  Somehow they are not able to just clone a human fetus (which would be a serious stretch given the disparity in technology), but they can clone a fully grown were/goblin.  They also have extremely advanced bioweapons.   It also felt tired.  The storyline never advanced from the first novel.  It just felt like more of the same.  The fight scenes were poorly described.  The author just kind of skimmed over them, even during climactic fight scenes.  Xandra is a very generic character, the type that has been done to death in this genre.  If you have read the first two novels in the trilogy, you will probably want to finish it, but I would not bother.

The Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon

The Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon

I was glad to see Robert McCammon return to Matthew Corbett and his circa 17th-century novels.  I’m both a fan of historical fiction and McCammon, who is one of my all-time favorite writers, making his mark in the horror genre.  Making it even better, I had a chance to meet McCammon, and he signed a copy of this book for me.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the other two Corbett books prior to this one, and The Queen of Bedlam did not disappoint.  The prose is rich in this novel.  The pacing worked out great.  The character development and the array of characters were really strong.  There were some very memorable characters, including the villains, which mostly consisted of some strange individuals.  The backstory behind this when it got revealed was compelling.  The elements of mystery were well done.  There really wasn’t much that I can complain about, except that I thought there some parts that were perhaps a bit too long-winded, and some of those sections could have been trimmed to make the novel better.

The novel concluded nicely.  The final action sequence was strong, and it left itself open for additional novels in the future, as Corbett now has a job as a private detective and has made some really serious enemies.  I look forward to reading more in the series.