Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Dark Tower: The Long Road HomeThe Dark Tower: The Long Road Home by Robin Furth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is so much to love in these Dark Tower comics, and while I've only read two at this point, the artwork is absolutely brilliant. Shocking, evocative, colorful, crazy, and simply gorgeous.

The stories have so far retold and filled in aspects of Dark Tower #4, Wizard and Glass, which is Roland's young days and his initial tragedies, but I should point out that there is MORE story and less. Aspects are filled in that are freaking amazing while a lot of the palaver and mystery from the original book are streamlined nicely in the comic. :)

That's all great. No problems here. I would, however, recommend reading these AFTER you've read the original books. The spoilers are mild for the most part, EXCEPT in one specific way.

After the comic, proper, there are short stories. These shorts carry us back to the days of Eld and give us a glorious look into Arthur, his Ka-Tet, the birth of the Crimson King, and even some rather fantastic insights into the North Central Positronics Corporation. The bestiaries are quite nice, too. :) In other words, we are glutted with great information. It really DEEPENS your understanding of King's worlds. :)

I am tempted to say that these extras are somehow more important and impressive than the glorious artwork.

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The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower, #4.5)The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/28/20:

Reading this in the official order of the Dark Tower series is a smart move. While little in Wizard and Glass or Wind Through the Keyhole can be appropriately called Plot Forward, the tales and tales and tales within tales across campfires are freaking appropriate. Murder and evil dudes are not all that a western is. :)

It helps that the tales in-between are pretty awesome, and these in Wind fit the bill perfectly. I think I liked Tim's tale more than the Skinwalker tale that framed it, and Roland's Ka-Tet was just another frame, but a pleasant one. :)

Original Review:

I've been a long-time fan of the Dark Tower series and I admit I was hugely curious to see a "middle" story pop out, long after the last book had been written. I was pleasantly surprised to find fully fleshed and embedded stories, three deep. It could have turned very complicated and burdensome, but it just worked. I really wanted to see a novel, even a 4.5 novelette, deepen and expound upon Roland's strange "more real than real" land, but while I was disappointed in that regards, what I did find were characters I really enjoyed and a "soft" exploration of the world and its honor, (or lack of).

It was a fairy tale (for a kid who's Pa had been gored by a shapeshifter) within a fairy tale (to pass the time while weathering a hellish storm) within a fairy tale (for us). It was by no means a series of epic tales, although it was still couched within the longer progression of the Dark Tower, so you could make the argument.
Could someone enjoy this book without reading the rest of the series? I think they can do so, very much. There was little enough spoilers for the rest of the tale, nor elements that needed to be built up and explored very thoroughly indeed or it loses the climatic flavor.
The novel was simply fun and enjoyable. :)

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, #4)Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Upon re-reading this novel, I feel like I have become Susan Delgado, trapped behind the glass. Mayhap I'm banging my hands against the walls of the thinny, mayhap I'm rustlin with some of the timbers just whispering to a spark.

I love and hate this book.

The first time I read it when it came out, I was like... GREAT! We get to see what happens to Blaine and the Ka-Tet! How far do they get to the Tower before all turns to Ka-Ka? After 500 pages, I knew. After 700, I despaired. After 1,850 pages, I just wanted to click my heels and go the f*** home. Is this an end? Is this a GOOD end? I leave that determination up to all you good folk on the outer edges of Mid-World.

Me, however, I DID NOT like what I did for the Dark Tower. A little bit, yes. Some parts were fantastic and necessary and a real wooo-wooo moment for fans of SK in general. But let's just say you probably should start out a big honker of a tale like this at the BEGINNING of a big honker of a bigger tale. Instead, we have 10% story progression and 90% flashback.

Don't get me wrong, however! The 14-year-old Roland and his youthful Ka-Tet is a great story all on its own, ushering forth a doomed romance, gunslinging, magic, a LoTR Palantir, and enough WWII machinery to burn away Mid-World. This is the time before the World Has Moved On and the conflagration that set this choo-choo a-humping.

For itself, the tale might have been better at the very beginning, or better yet, spread throughout the first book of the DT, giving us a back-and-forth of young-man Roland and Terminator Roland as he hunts down the Man in Black. Yes, the first book would be huge, but at least things would be in their proper places.

As for Roland's later Ka-Tet? Sure, we could have another campfire story, but it would be a LOT shorter and we wouldn't have to rely on the Thinny to spread a week's tale into a single night. And also that... thing... that Baum thing... wouldn't feel like such a fizzled bomb.

Good, fun writing, all told, never boring, but the structure of this... well... I think Stephen King forgot the face of his father.

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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3)Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Better. This book turns the series from a near-UF clone (with easy-pacing and even easier (read: cardboard) characters) into something with REAL MEAT.

Celaena, now having left the Kingdom of Evil to regain her lost past and the Words of Power to save everyone, period, finally grows into her own. Not just an investigator and reluctant killer and former slave... but we now we get the OTHER trope mentioned at the end of the second book. No, no. Don't sigh. Yes, she's a princess. Yes, most of her family is dead. Yes, the remaining family is pretty nasty.

Fortunately, the way it is revealed and the full story surrounding it happens to be INTERESTING. Involved. Detailed. This is where the series falls into line with all the other Epic Fantasies I've known and loved. I want to be immersed in the worldbuilding, shocked by the reveals, impressed by the convoluted plots, and wow'd by the impressive new learned skills.

And you know what? I was. To all the above. And now I actually feel satisfied with my investment in Celaena. Not so much with the lite Celaena from the previous books, but the deeper, more angry and pro-active Celaena in book 3. I LIKE her. A lot.

And all the magic stuff works, too. Fire? Yep. Wild magic? Yep. Even the princeling parts are rather interesting. I'm on the fence about Manon. Might be a real interesting mirror. Maybe antagonist. Maybe ally. So why do I just think this is How To Train Your Dragon?

This is definitely the best out of the series. So far. Good payoff.

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Better. Better than the first book. By a lot.

Yes, the first one is perfectly decent and FUN when it comes to the whole mystery subplot, physical competitions, and a BIT of the romance angle, but the second pushes most of that aside. It focuses, instead, on INTRIGUE. Court intrigue. Celaena is kinda weak in that, as an assassin, she does remarkably LITTLE killing, but I can appreciate how she sticks it to her prig of a King and does everything she can to subvert anything he cares about.

That's FINE. Entertaining, even.

And on top of that, the whole magical subplot gets better. More interesting. And the mild reveals about Celaena's history continues to slowly trickle out pleasurably. Did I mention that it happens slowly? Yes, well, that's okay. The pacing is just about perfect across the board. More, pacing is super important for any UF book.

Huh? Was this supposed to be a UF book? Nope! But it has ALL the hallmarks of one aside from being fantasy in a fantasy realm. YA feel and trademarks, first-person snark and Mary Sue, and a continuing three-way romance undergoing some strain. EVERYTHING here is familiar. Old School. Not even the magic is all that impressive.

But the writing flows. The writing flows well. It's fun and thanks to the new reveals and the history that came before in the first book, it's starting to get some real meat. Hell! Celaena finally broke down with ugly tears! We all love it when Mary Sue shatters into a million pieces. :)

Oh. And that cliffhanger. M***er****er!

Yeah. Well. I guess I could have seen that coming. Dock me a few points here.

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I came into this series feeling a bit grudgy, a bit squinty, and a bit tapped out on the whole YA Mary Sue kick-butt fantasy angle. Of course, I probably should have started HERE with that and saved myself a lot of hassle.

So, yeah. I read it. Was constantly annoyed with the old, super-tired tropes trotted out for the runway, or rather, the clown prince's ball, and here I am, nit-picking the whole "how the hell is an 18-year-old gorgeous woman who has been in back-breaking prison for a year considered to be the MOST SUCCESSFUL ASSASSIN"? You would think that the most successful assassin would have a few years on her and WOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN CAUGHT in the first place. But I'm setting that whole thing aside for now. Perhaps permanently. I will hand-wave it away.


Because the text is fun. The whole thing about being the clown prince's champion in this big incomprehensible but visually spectacular contest of assassins and thieves IS FUN. Getting cool digs and even a CUTE PUPPY from the clown prince and having the obligatory romantic triad between our uber-assassin and the clown prince and the captain of the guard might SOUND trite, but Maas writes it so it IS fun.

Total popcorn UF-style. And it doesn't hurt that all these gruesome murders are taking out the contestants. Or that friendship is sooo key, or that a big magical evil is on the rise. I even mentioned to a friend that it had that FEEL of early Harry Potter. You just want to see what horrible, albeit mild, thing is going to happen next... and will the clown prince kiss her?


I ADMIT I had a FUN TIME. I don't LIKE to admit it. I can't see WHY I should have had a fun time. But I did.

*hangs his head in shame*
*picks up the next book in the series*
*salivates a little*

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Shorefall (Founders, #2)Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is AWESOME!

No spoilers, no matter how much I want to go on and on about all the great things in this sequel, but I can say a few things.

If you loved how so many wonderful magical goodnesses came out of the magic system in Foundryside, how they could all argue reality out of commission, find new loopholes, reprogram it again, and do it all while being one of the biggest magical heists in modern fantasy, you will totally FREAK OUT when you see Shorefall.

Foundryside was all kinds of awesome and I just re-read it with great joy before picking up this ARC, but I have to admit that Shorefall totally runs with all the implications built up there and gives us DREAD and eventually FIREWORKS that put all that happened in Foundryside to shame.

The big boys (and girls) are back in town. No one is safe.

This book, for all its steampunk feels, is a programmer's dream. The rules make everything shine. But you know what is brighter than this?

The characters.

What a fantastic book! I'm giving it all the praise! :)

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