Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan

Blood of Empire wraps up what was really an enjoyable, entertaining, and compelling trilogy.  Even though the novel was quite long, there wasn’t much fluff to it.   There was a strong buildup, both in this third entry and the series as a whole.  For the first time, the trilogy goes to Dynize, which I thought was an interesting change, since the reader was able to see not just the Dynize invaders but also their homeland.  It gave these invaders a more human aspect.

 

This novel and series has a little bit of everything.  There was lots of fighting, magic, spycraft, treachery, and the threat of a formation of a new god.  I think one are where this story suffers is that there is a very large cast of characters, and although most of the main characters are well done, some of the secondary characters are far less well developed.  The novel builds well to a climax, but the finish and the actions described were a bit confusing.  I didn’t really quite follow what happened toward the end.  The last part could have been improved, but overall I was pleased with not just this novel, but the trilogy as a whole.  I especially liked the setting and the whole powder mage thing, which was quite different.  I would recommend this trilogy to anyone who enjoys fantasy. You can purchase a copy on Amazon.

Movie Review: The Tomorrow War

 

The Tomorrow War first intrigued me because of its premise—that time travelers come from the future to recruit people to fight in a future war against aliens.  I’m not entirely sure that the movie lived up to my expectations.  It had some good things going for it.  There was action galore with lots of good fighting scenes and some cool special effects.  The cast was strong led by Chris Pratt.  The movie did a good job of getting you to care about the characters beyond just the overall fight of humanity against the aliens.

 

Where it went wrong was some parts of the movie stretched the believability aspect too far and the movie didn’t always do a good job of explaining what was going on.  The military sent ordinary people out to fight these nearly invulnerable aliens with no training and just carrying a powerful weapon, as if this would somehow be an effective tactic.  It’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t set up a proper training program.  They only sent the people for a week, as if they could accomplish very much in a week.  It wasn’t often easy to figure out what was going on in the movie because they did a poor job of conveying information.  And the finale was a stretch, when they figure out a way to kill off the aliens and a group of civilians had to do it on their own because none of the governments were willing to do anything to help.

 

In summary, this was an entertaining movie with some flaws but enjoyable all the same.

Movie Review: Black Widow

I had such high hopes for Black Widow but in retrospect, I should have known that it would be disappointing, after the disaster that has been Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki.  It is very clear to me that the Marvel franchise in steep decline and is working its way into extinction (at least as far as my interest goes).  If you were looking for a movie with pure entertainment va;ie filled with lots of action, special effects, and explosions, than this movie will work for you.  If you are looking for a compelling story that makes sense, than you will leave disappointed.

 

Spoilers ahead so be warned.  First off, I am supposed to believe that in a world with crazy advanced technology including alien technology, that the big, bad Russian villain couldn’t be detected in his space station in the clouds.  Give me a break.  Second, in a world that has Shield, Hydra, and superheroes like Hulk and Thor that could turn the widows into dust in a blink of an eye, I am supposed to believe that because this Russian has a group of highly skilled female fighters, that he control all of the world’s leaders, can cause the stock market to drop in half in a day, and starve a quarter of the world’s population.  It’s not like these widows have superpowers.  At best, they are the equivalent of Navy SEALS and even that’s a stretch.  These are just two examples of the sheer ridiculousness of this movie.  Not to mention that Black Widow used to be a really cool character.  Sure, she didn’t have super powers, but she had great moves and a captivating personality.  She lost her mojo in this movie.  In fact, she was the least compelling of the main characters.  Her sister, Yelena, was far more interesting.  The star of the movie was David Harbour, who played the Red Guardian.  He stole the show whenever he was on the screen, but unfortunately he had such little screen time.

 

Save your money.  This movie is not worth paying for.

Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

In the sequel to Sins of Empire, the novel opens up with the Dynize Empire invading Fatrasta in a full scale war.  I had the impression that the entire novel was going to be one battle after another.  Fortunately, that was not the case.  What made the first novel so good was how it combined strong world building with great characterization and political intrigue.  Although I certainly don’t mind a battle scene here and there, it’s not this writer’s strong suit.  There was plenty in this novel that made the first novel such a good read.

 

The novel was told through the viewpoints of the three main characters: Lady Flint, Michel Bravis, and Mad Ben Styke.  One of the strongpoints is the characterization.  Besides these main characters, there are numerous side characters that are colorful and add depth to the novel.  There were strong side plots along with the main plot and various twists and turns along the way.  I also liked that that of the two sides in the war, neither of them were either all good or all bad.  Like in life, there were positives and negatives on both sides.  What set the protagonists apart was that regardless of nation, they had their own sense of morality and justice that they stuck with consistently.

 

This was a strong novel, perhaps not quite as good as the first book in the story, but it was definitely a worthy follow up.  This is definitely one of the better epic fantasy trilogies that I have read and I looked forward to completing the series.

Movie Review: A Quiet Place Part II

It’s rare to see a sequel in the horror genre that is as good if not better than the first movie in the series.  As much as I enjoyed A Quiet Place, the sequel is just as good.  It’s also unusual to see a horror movie that can be provide scares and chills without the use of gore, and in general is family friendly.  In fact, this is the first horror movie that my entire family went to see in the movie theater (and our first since the start of the pandemic).

 

What A Quiet Place II has in abundance is tension.  From the opening scene, which is a flashback to day one of the apocalypse and one of the best scenes in the entire movie, where they introduce the invasion of the creatures, to the following scene where the family is fleeing from their home with a baby in tow, all the way to the chilling ending, the movie had tremendous tension throughout.  It doesn’t rely on cheap scares or blood and guts to deliver this, and it doesn’t even rely on dialogue.

 

What I also enjoyed about this movie are some of its central themes—faith, family, and community—things that are important especially in the most dire of circumstances.  To me, the most tense scenes in the movie involved the baby, which added an incredible quandry to an already dire situation just trying to survive against these creatures.  This is a movie that lived up to my expectations, and I highly recommend it.