Backlist Burndown: California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout

Backlist Burndown

As a book blogger, sometimes I get so busy reading review titles and new releases that I end up missing out on a lot previously published books, so one of my goals for this year is to take more time to catch up with the backlist, especially in my personal reading pile. And it seems I’m not the only one! Backlist Burndown is a new meme started by Lisa of Tenacious Reader. Every last Friday of the month, she’ll be posting a review of a backlist book and is inviting anyone interested to do the same. Of course, you can also review backlist books any day you want, as often you want, but be sure to watch for her post at the end of the month to link up!

For this month’s Backlist Burndown, I’m reviewing…

California BonesCalifornia Bones by Greg Van Eekhout

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Dystopia

Series: Book 1 of Daniel Blackland

Publisher: Tor (June 10, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have I mentioned how much I love a good heist? I definitely would have jumped on this book a lot sooner had known the treat I was in for. But there’s also a lot more to California Bones aside from being the ultimate fantasy crime caper novel. Author Greg Van Eekhout also wraps it all up in a cool package featuring some amazing magic, setting his story up in a savage dystopian world.

The magic system is based on osteomancy, the drawing of energy and power from the bones of humans, animals, and even mythical creatures. Fossilized remains of extinct animals are the rarest of all, worth vast fortunes on the black market. But the users of bone magic – called osteomancers – who can get their hands on them are capable of the most powerful spells. A chunk of sabertooth can grant great speed and agility; a bit of sint holo, the ability to turn invisible; some essence of firebird can allow the user to breathe flames; and so on.

The most straightforward way to extract magic from a piece bone is to consume it – literally. Our protagonist Daniel Blackland was only six when he ate his first bone fragment, a piece of kraken spine fed to him by his osteomancer father. Little did young Daniel know, Sebastian Blackland was already preparing his son for survival against his enemies. After the elder Blackland was murdered by the brutal Hierarch of the Kingdom of Southern California, Daniel is forced to go into hiding, eking out a living with petty thievery…until he and his friends are offered the job of a lifetime. The score? Caches of untold osteomantic treasures in the Heirarch’s heavily guarded storehouse, including a magical sword that holds immense personal significance for Daniel.

So yes, California Bones has everything I want in a heist novel: a diverse crew with each member equipped with specific, specialized talents? Check. High stakes? Check. Innovative solutions to get around alarm systems, physical barriers and other security measures? Check. And last but most importantly, lots of plot twists to set up an explosive final act. Double check. This book was plenty of fun to boot, with great characters and great dialogue infused with plenty of humor. But that’s also counterbalanced with some pretty dark, nasty stuff. I mean, we have cannibalism and examples of human beings butchering other human beings to ingest the magic in their flesh and bones. An interesting idea, but also icky and horrible.

Van Eekhout also makes his novel special by setting it in a version of Los Angeles where we have canals and waterways instead of streets, and everyone gets around in boats and barges. The world of this alternate southern California is revealed gradually, letting the mystique of it filter through to us little by little. For example, the Hierarch’s allies include historical figures like Walt Disney, but instead of being the creator of cartoons beloved by children everywhere, this world’s Disney is an evil bastard whose corruption knows no bounds. The fossil record is also replete with all manner of legendary creatures, as varied and fantastical as any medieval bestiary. From phoenixes to venomous seps, you never know what you’ll be exposed to next.

That said, there are a few things that didn’t fully work for me. I mentioned earlier that I like heist stories, mainly because I enjoy reading about the entire process of theft, from planning to execution. There’s a lot of problem solving involved for the characters, learning the layout of the location to be robbed, figuring out the best way past seemingly insurmountable defenses, etc. Hence in a way, the richness of the magic system in this book is both a positive and a negative. What happens when there are a countless number of creature bones that can endow an osteomancer with a countless number of abilities? Well, that means no barrier is impossible. Granted, there are a lot of neat problems that the thieves in the novel have to overcome, and plenty of awesome ideas. But still, I knew that anything the author could throw at our characters, there’s bound to be some sort of magical solution. It takes a lot of the challenge and excitement out of the heist, as a result.

The second half of the novel also doesn’t read as smoothly as the first half. This might be due to the shift in story focus, because the plot does progress from the heist to something much bigger by the end. The climax and conclusion felt a bit rushed, and I can’t really put my finger on why, but the characters didn’t feel as natural or fleshed out either. All told, however, I want to stress that these are rather minor quibbles in the greater scheme of things.

In the end, I thought California Bones was a great book and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. This is a fun, inventive and very clever series that holds lots of potential, and by all accounts the second book is already living up to expectations. I’m definitely going to make the effort soon to tackle the sequel Pacific Fire so I’ll be all caught up, because I hear there is already a book three (Dragon Coast) on the horizon.

4 stars

Sci-Fi Short Story Review Bites

22578294Glitch by Hugh Howey

“I remember holding Sarah for the first time, marveling at this ability we have to create life where before there was none.” 

In a world that craves the brutality that come with robot bouts (basically brutal cage fights between robots), Sam, Peter, and Greenie investigate why their prize fighter, Max, refuses to obey their orders. Their future depends on him being combat ready since these bouts seem to determine what contracts they land with various companies who want the best tech their money can buy. However, Max refuses to comply with their orders. Is it a glitch or is it pointing to something more?

This story seems to be a hail to stories like Asimov’s I, Robot, and much of the story is a matter of philosophical debate where Max is concerned. However brief, you still get some sense of who the characters are, particularly Samantha, and because the story is told from Sam’s point-of-view, you see how her experiences, especially her motherly feelings, which I related to so much, shaped her feelings for Max and what she feels must happen now.

Much of the story puts a more human slant on robots, describing the thirst for violence the spectators have and the viciousness of these fight in terms that makes you feel sorry for the combatants, even though they’re only machines. A scene with Max brings to mind a fighter whose instincts have kicked into survival mode, making him hard to bring back to reality once the threat is over:

As I looked over Max, his wounds and welds provide a play-by-play of his last brutal fight–one of the most violent I’ve ever seen […] Max had to drag himself across the arena with the one arm he had left before pummeling his incapacitated opponent into metal shavings. When the victory gun sounded, we had to do a remote kill to shut him down. The way he was twitching, someone would’ve gotten hurt trying to get close enough to shout over the screeches of grinding and twisting metal. The slick of oil from that bout took two hours to mop up before the next one could start.

This was an overall excellent story, and my first real taste of Hugh Howey. I have other books of his on my reading pile, but I took a chance with this one because it would be a quick read.

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24439769A Whimper by Will Swardstrom

“Thomas was wrong. The human race didn’t rage against anything in the end.”

Sometime in the near future, a future where Jennifer Lawrence may or may not sill be alive, humanity is on the verge of extinction. Technological advances have gone beyond smartphones and even smart glasses. 99% of the world has had Personal Chips, known as PIPs, implemented into their brains which gives them the power of the internet right in their head. Many of these people have had them since birth. However, a price comes with something so invasive as the PIPs, including your expected government invasion veiled under “safety” measures, but other moral and technical complications arise as well with the invention of the PIP.

A whimper is a cautionary tale. It’s not just a “technology gone bad” story, but one that warns of human complacency as well. With the rise of technology, there’s less empathy in the narrator’s world. If it’s not a Facebook notification or a retweet, what does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? If something doesn’t have a “use” technologically speaking, then when it disappears, even in the most violent of ways, it’s seen as a tragedy, but not a loss. This includes human lives as well.

The technology itself doesn’t turn on its users, per se. This isn’t a rise of the machines type story. The chips don’t suddenly become these sentient parasites living in their brains. Human manipulation, the need to create better and better technology, the (supposed) need to help third-world countries catch up with the rest of the world, is what taints the technology, the need to institute so-called pragmatic safety measures, is what eventually corrupts the technology. Competing “apps” eventually just cause people to shut down completely, leaving them aware but unable to do anything to survive.

In the beginning, this story is told with a sort of cool detachment from the narrator as he makes blasé statements like: “I haven’t heard from Kit in over a year. I think she’s dead.” Kit is his sister. He continues to narrate the fall, and as the story goes on more and more emotion begins to show through in his words. At first, I didn’t think I’d rate this as high as I did, but there’s was something in those last few pages and his desperate plea that made me rate it higher.

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oldequationsThe Old Equations by Jake Kerr

Let’s get the science-y portion of the review out the way before I review this novelette, and I’m trying to simplify this as much as I can, so you get a general idea. The basis of this story builds on the idea that Albert Einstein died before he could put forth and advocate his complete theory of relativity. Because of this, in the year 2193, he’s considered a minor thinker who had ideas that stimulated scientific thought, but didn’t challenge thought. Some people even consider Einstein a bit of a crackpot. (Nerd note: Einstein’s teacher, Hermann Minkowski, actually put forth the theory and Einstein built on it.)

You’re asking: “What’s the point, Tiara?” The point, my friends, is this. Without the theory of relativity, you don’t get space-time continuum. Without space-time continuum, you don’t get the theory that time slows for people as they approach the speed of light. That means, without the theory of relativity, a person wouldn’t be aware that time is progressing much, much slower for them in space than it is on earth because they’re traveling at such an immense speed. For a rough example without any mathematical basis and just to give a general working idea, 8 hours on earth would be only 1 hour for a person moving in space. This is also touched on in the story just not in as much detail as I gave you.

This short story follows an astronaut known as James as he embarks on a 10 year space voyage. The story is told through a series of transmissions over about a year or so between James, his wife (Kate), and a few of his coworkers. In the beginning, they keep their transmissions limited so they don’t stress the communication links. However, as the story goes on, the realization that James is losing time as time progresses normally on earth becomes a pressing matter. They revisit Einstein’s old theories and figure out that the mission will only take James 5 years, but 41 years will have progressed on earth by that time. They refuse to about mission.

It’s funny to think a story like this one would be so utterly heartbreaking, but it is. James and Kate begin this story with Kate trying to reassure herself that 10 years would be no time. However, even in James’ first year away from earth, he managed to miss so much life as seen when Kate updates him on their friends and family. They believe they’d get to live all the life James missed once he returned, but then, science happens. I actually teared up a little bit reading this as James and Kate tried to exchange their last messages to one another on a communication system that had been giving them problems since the beginning of the mission and was rapidly breaking down.

There’s just so much going on emotionally in this little story that hits hard and fast. Kate’s desperate need to “see” James’ words while he reassures her that he’ll always love her no matter what, that he’ll still want to hold her and be with her despite the fact that he’ll only be in his mid-thirties and she’d be nearing her 70s when he returns. The grim explanations from his coworkers on what was happening and how he’d just become a sort of focus point for this “new theory.”

My main problems come from the science part of the story and having a little trouble suspending belief where it’s concerned. While Einstein’s early death certainly presents an interesting conundrum, I don’t know if I can truly believe that no one at all in the scientific community couldn’t have come up with the theory by 2193, especially working on the fact that that theory wasn’t Einstein’s in totality and apparently, there was enough data out there on it for someone to have expounded upon earlier.

Also, it’s a little unclear whether space travel, even short space travel, has happened before this point. I’m going to assume it hasn’t since they still haven’t figured out time-space continuum, and it seems like, if space had been traveled even briefly before this point in the story, they’d have some working idea that something was going on with the time stream before sending James into space.

Despite that, this is one of those stories that will stay on my mind for quite a while as I contemplate James and Kate’s future. Can you even begin to imagine coming home after spending 5 years in space to an earth that has aged 41 years in your absence?

I read this through Kindle Unlimited, but it’s available to read for free on Lightspeed Magazine‘s website here.

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Tough Travelling: Chessmasters

3bfd8-toughtraveling

The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information.

This week’s tour topic is: Chessmasters

A true master knows where all the pieces are at all times.  Others may think they have taken control but alas, the master knew their last move before they played it.

Mogsy’s Picks:

This week is dedicated to all the lovely schemers!

Half the WorldHalf the World by Joe Abercrombie

Prince Yarvi is now Father Yarvi, serving as minister to the king of Gettland. He may be royalty no longer, but his new position behind the scenes allows him to wield even more power. To broker political deals and form alliances, you have to plan well ahead and be able to predict the most likely outcomes.

Kushiel's DartKushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

The primary antagonist of the story, Melisande Shahrizai loves manipulation and playing games. This makes her a deadly opponent to anyone who challenges her. Fellow Unseen Guild member and constant rival Anafiel Delaunay learned that the hard way.

79a3b-redrisingRed Rising by Pierce Brown

Fitchner, the proctor of House Mars, doesn’t appear to have much status among the Golds but he is a lot more than he seems (but no spoilers here!) During the academy war games, he plays the mentor and the trickster, being only helpful to Darrow when he asks the right questions, but in truth he knows more than he lets on.

7496e-theemperor27sbladesThe Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

As kenarang, Ran il-Tornja may be Annur’s highest-ranking general, but his talents extend beyond the battlefield. He’s also suave and charismatic,  manipulating Adare Malkeenian while acting as regent in the wake of her father the Emperor’s death. As it turns out, there’s a big secret about him that gives him a huge advantage as a chessmaster.

Caliban's WarCaliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

No list of chessmasters would be complete without Chrisjen Avasarala. As the United Nations Assistant Undersecretary of Executive Administration, she is privy to a lot of political secrets and intelligence. She also maintains a network of spies and is instrumental in the outcome of a lot of major events, including elections and important diplomatic negotiations.

 Wendy’s Picks

AcaciaAcacia: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham 

Leodan Akaran thought he had everything going for him in his empire of Acacia, but perhaps it was his arrogance and his ignorance that allowed Hanish Mein to sneak in and take it all away. And Hanish just might get away with it too, if it isn’t for those pesky Akaran kids.

The Great Book of Amber (The Chronicles of Amber #1-10 ) by Roger ZelaznyThe Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny

The princes of Amber vie for the throne their father left behind. The brothers scheme and manipulate each other and the very threads of Amber itself–but who’s really pulling the strings?

1497b-harrypotterHarry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Nope, not that conniving Voldemort. I’m talking about that jerk Dumbledore who has played Harry against Voldemort for all the years of his young life, honing the young boy through abuse and abandonment until he was ready to face down the ultimate evil.

aabe7-steelheartSteelheart by Brandon Sanderson

How do you defeat an invincible epic? Well, David has seen Steelheart bleed once, and is determined to do just that, with the help of the Reckoners and his extensive research.

711bd-agameofthronesA Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Oh that Littlefinger. He’s so crafty that he can even predict people’s emotional reactions and thereby manipulate them into starting wars and getting their husband’s heads chopped off. There are many other chessmasters playing the Game of Thrones, but the one Littlefinger really needs to watch for is the Spider.

Comic Review: Silk #1 by Robbie Thompson

I’m doing something a little different here in lieu of my usual comic stack, and  you’ll see this from time to time. My intention was to make this a post all about books with leading ladies, but once I got around to writing about Silk, it become so wordy that I decided it merited its own post today.

Silk1Silk #1 by Robbie Thompson

Genre: Superheroes, Leading Ladies

Publisher: Marvel (February 18, 2015)

Art: Stacey Lee  | Cover Art: Dave Johnson

Tiara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

When I first started back to doing these little comic blurbs on Wednesdays, I mentioned that I probably wouldn’t do too many mainstream books unless I felt they warranted a mention. Silk #1 is worth a mention. There are too few mainstream books with women of color placed squarely in the center. (Cindy Moon is Asian-American.) Not only do I feel this book is important for that reason, but this is really a good female-led comic despite a few bumps I’ll talk about later.Screenshot_2015-02-24-15-40-28

Before I talk about the book itself, here’s the gist of how Cindy Moon got her spider powers. I apologize that this is probably not going to sound like the greatest story when condensed down to these few lines, but it is what it is. The spider that bit Peter Parker also managed to bite another person, Cindy Moon, giving her the same powers. (More importantly, she can weave clothing from her fingertips. Aesthetics.) Instead of having the free range that Peter Parker had, a man named Ezekiel Sims kept her in isolation for 10 years until Peter found her. Yes, that’s a fairly small view of what happened, but to talk about this in any more detail will require an aside just for this purpose.

This book starts with Cindy fighting a fairly cartoonish villain, named Dragonclaw. She equates to a Pokémon. (Side note: I freaking love Pokémon!) While fighting him, her powers begin to short out whether this relates to her decade in isolation or not is unknown, but things start to go downhill from there. She’s helped by your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man who jokingly accuses her of not calling, but their interactions say there was something there and something might still be there.

2015-02-24
“Good talk…” seems to be a running gag between them because of their strange “something.”

I enjoyed this book, especially that I’m usually not the biggest fan of Spiderverse, but I almost always love the Spider-Women of that verse. Cindy joins Jessica Drew and Anya Corazon (Araña) in my heart. Her story focuses a bit on her past and her present, giving readers a brief glimpse of who she was before she became Silk and who she is now, shifting between a brilliant, headstrong teenage girl on the edge of adulthood and a socially awkward adult woman who’s trying to find her place as a person and a superhero. Despite the funnier moments in the book, Cindy is a woman lost, a woman struggling with her past for various reasons, a woman who wishes things were “quiet,” and a woman who still doesn’t completely understand her own strength. I’ll pause to compliment Thompson for managing to catch the nuances of a teenager butting heads with her parents over love, sports, and school without seemingly being over-broody or over-cheesy. There is a fair bit of cheesiness in this book, though, but Cindy even mentions that she’s got to work on her quips.

Screenshot_2015-02-24-16-04-50-picsayPop culture features prominently in this book. That can be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. However, much like the pop culture Marvel has used in other newer titles, I find it chuckle-worthy and well-timed while being a tad more finely clever (if such a statement can be used with memes) in terms of wit with this book. We don’t get doge memes here, which many people don’t know, instead we get my personal favorite #AskingForAFriend, which is easily understood in the right context because we’ve all had those “asking for a friend” moments. Not that I’m downing the doge meme. Sure, some of it won’t stand the test of time when my kids read this 20 years later, but it adds a little fun to the book. Also, kudos  to this book for that Sleepy Hollow/Supernatural mash-up shout out.  Robbie Thompson writes for Supernatural, and Orlando Jones, one of the stars of Sleepy Hollow, is known to tweet avidly about Supernatural and mashing the two shows up.

Next up: I loved the art in this book. It’s fun. There’s an anime-ish quality about it while making me think of the Teen Titan cartoon (the 2003 show, not Teen Titans Go to be clear). Yes, I can accuse it of being a little “girly” at points, but it’s not done in a way that makes me feel like someone went heavy on the glitter because this is a girl (and all girls like pink and glitter, duh). It’s subtle, it’s pretty, and it fits the feel of the book. It manages to be both bright and dark, if that makes any sense, and it’s so busy. Okay, maybe “busy” isn’t what I meant. I mean, the panels feel like they move and flow with their actions. It feels active.

Now, to get the “bad” out of the way. One thing that sort of bothered me is that, while Peter definitely doesn’t overshadow Cindy in her book, I didn’t really like her following in Peter’ footsteps by working for JJ (okay, she’s technically not working for him, but you know), using her own secret identity for stories. I understand why they did it in context of the story, but it felt like they could’ve given her something more unique than that. It’s a small complaint really.

Next, I will concede that Silk might be a little confusing for newcomers because it does require some knowledge that you’ll likely have to Google for (or ask me!). It’s not nearly as new reader friendly as Squirrel Girl. It was a little disjointed for me, so I can only imagine how it might make someone new feel. However, I think this book is still worth the effort of reading after you have a grasp of her background. I just feel like they were just trying to cover a little too much ground this issue. I’m hoping subsequent issues will be less harried.

Overall, did Tiara love this book? I think one panel can sum it all up my feelings:

Screenshot_2015-02-24-19-03-04-picsay

Okay, no… that doesn’t really sum things up. But she loves punching things, and I love her.

Waiting on Wednesday 02/25/15

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick:

End of Days by Susan Ee: May 12, 2015 (Skyscape)

It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this finale to Penryn and the End of Days, but I’m also sad that yet another one of my favorite Young Adult series is coming to a close later this year. “End of Days”, what a great title with an apt cover image to match.

End of Days“End of Days is the explosive conclusion to Susan Ee’s bestselling Penryn & the End of Days trilogy.

After a daring escape from the angels, Penryn and Raffe are on the run. They’re both desperate to find a doctor who can reverse the twisted changes inflicted by the angels on Raffe and Penryn’s sister. As they set off in search of answers, a startling revelation about Raffe’s past unleashes dark forces that threaten them all.

When the angels release an apocalyptic nightmare onto humans, both sides are set on a path toward war. As unlikely alliances form and strategies shift, who will emerge victorious? Forced to pick sides in the fight for control of the earthly realm, Raffe and Penryn must choose: Their own kind, or each other?”

Tiara’s 2015 Audiobook Challenge

2015 Audiobook Challenge

Hanging on to the coat tails of my fellow co-blogger, Mogsy, I’m entering a 2015 reading challenge a bit late. I didn’t really want to commit to any challenges for 2015 because 2014 turned out to be quite a year for me, which ended up with me going on semi-hiatus for most of last year as I dealt with life issues. I said that this year was going to be the year of buddy reads, classic reads, and chopping down my TBR pile instead of focusing hardcore on any challenges. However, there are a few challenges that I’ve unofficially joined because they coincide with my reading goals for this year, but nothing major.

I chewed on this for a while before deciding to take the plunge on this one. During the time that I was just thinking about it, I’ve managed to finish 3 audiobooks already.  I’ve started listening to them more when I’m doing my daily commute, working out, or roaming the fields of the Hinterlands in Dragon Age: Inquisition or slumming around force-choking things with my Sith/Jedi in Star Wars. I also spend a fair amount of time doing  some immersion reading particularly before bed.

This challenge is hosted by by The Book Nympho and Hot Listens. It’s going into its third year, but this will be my first year taking on the challenge. Right now, I’m going to be lazy and just copy and paste the rules and challenge levels from Mogsy’s post.

The challenge details are as follows:

  • Runs January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015. You can join at anytime.The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2015 than you did in 2014.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Shelfari, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc. – I’ve created a Goodreads Group for the challenge, feel free to join.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweeting about the challenge.

Levels:

  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multi-tasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30-50
  • Marathoner (Look Ma no hands) 50+

My official goal is Stenographer for the challenge, but my unofficial goal is Socially Awkward. I’ve set up a Goodreads shelf and joined the Goodreads group and added an update post, so we’ll see how I fare.

Audiobook Review: The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories by R.A. Salvatore

legend of drizzt dungeons and dragonsThe Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories by R.A. Salvatore

Genre: Fantasy, Gaming

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (February 2011)

Author Inforasalvatore.com

Wendy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I call myself a geek, and yet, up until last year, I had not watched any Doctor Who. Similarly, I play roleplaying video games, but I have never played Dungeons and Dragons and know very little about the vast lore behind it. Thanks to this book, I have since remedied both of these problems and can now truly fly my geek flag high.

The Legend of Drizzt is a collection of Salvatore’s early works, read by a star-studded cast. It is introduced by Salvatore himself, who recognizes the flaws of his earlier writing, but none the less presents these stories proudly as part of the continuing process required of a writer. For this intro alone, I give the book four stars, and will be lenient on the stories themselves because they are his early works, and because they are pieces of a much greater whole.

Still, not knowing much about the greater world of DnD did not preclude me from understanding and enjoying the tales. The characters were all unique, interesting, and memorable, and I am sure I would easily recognize them if I did ever sink myself into this world.

Perhaps the more frustrating part was the fact that each story was delivered by a different narrator, with varying success. This first came to my attention when the internet got wind of Ice-T’s complaints about all the fantastical names, and while he probably had the toughest time of it, everyone stumbled or at least differed on the pronunciation of the legendary Drizzt Do’urden’s name.

If I have to choose, I will say that Felicia Day did the best job in her tale, and of the stories, my favourite is “Guenhwyvar,” which tells of how the deadly panther companion came into existence.
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