Tough Traveling: Law Enforcement

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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: Law Enforcement

Seems odd to think that in fantasy cities in which entire economies revolve around crime there is room for the men in blue (or crimson, or whatever). But the law does the best it can, even when faced with magic, mystical creatures, or rogue deities.

Wendy’s Picks

three parts deadThree Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Shove over Judge Dredd, when Justice calls her Judges to order, they are unstoppable, bound wholly and unquestioningly to the will of a goddess who sees only black and white.

dragon age asunderAsunder by David Gaider

Mages are a danger to themselves and to the people, which is why the Chantry has placed them in the care of the Templars, though many of those abuse their power out of fear and hatred. Above the Templars stand the Seekers of Truth. But who seeks the Seekers?

Museum of ThievesMuseum of Thieves by Lian Tanner

To Goldie Roth and the other children of Jewel, the Blessed Guardians are anything but blessed, and Guardians Comfort and Hope offer anything but.

mistbornMistborn by Brandon Sanderson

The Lord Ruler’s order is kept by the Steel Ministry, a priesthood that is less about the spiritual matters than it is about the policing. At the forefront of their enforcement are the fearsome Steel Inquisitors.

Comic Review: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1

sgThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1 by Ryan North

Genre: Superhero

Publisher: Marvel Comics (January 7, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Tiara’s Rating: 4.5 of 5

 

Doreen Green, better known to readers as Squirrel Girl, has decided that it’s time for her to stop living in the Avengers’ attic and forge her own identity in the world as a person and a superhero. This starts creating her own theme song, which she’s sure will catch on eventually, and enrolling in Empire State University where she’ll build on her awesome by amassing more knowledge. This also means learning to balance her crime fighting with her new life on the outside.

The readers are given a general overview to Squirrel Girl and her powers through the aforementioned introductory theme song performed by Squirrel Girl herself as she wrecks a group of muggers. This is great for old fans and new readers alike. It doesn’t require that readers be well-versed on her history and gives people who are reading about Squirrel Girl for the first time a quick foundation to build on without being overwhelming.

sg2

Initially, when I heard there was going to be a book about Doreen, I was excited and a little apprehensive. I was all in for a book featuring the little known, plucky heroine whose claim to fame is beating some of Marvel’s toughest heroes and villains. Apprehension stemmed from the fact that I was afraid that they might not capture the spirit of what was endearing about Doreen. I set my bar for this book low just in case it did turn out to be a disaster. However, it was far from that.

This turned out to be exactly the kind of book that I’d expect for Squirrel Girl. North’s writing is light, fast-paced, and largely tongue-in-cheek–perfect for a story of this nature.  Henderson’s art punctuates the fun vibe by being cartoony, animated, and bright. Squirrel Girl is a “glass half full” kind of girl. This is shown well through her interactions with the world as both Doreen Green and Squirrel Girl. Everything is a learning experience for Doreen, and no matter how the situation may seem, Doreen looks at the it with the thinking that there’s something positive to be gained and learned from it.

As an added bonus, this is a comic I’d be very comfortable with my son and daughter, aged 9 and 5 respectively, reading. It has the kind of youthful appeal that younger readers will appreciate and relate to, but it doesn’t alienate its older readers. It’s not just the fun tone that makes me say that. This book is positive and bubbly, extolling the things that make people different. It doesn’t ridicule eccentricities, but instead has its characters own their quirks and not allow anyone to give them hell for it. It shows that, sometimes, there are different ways of viewing and solving problems that work for everyone if you only take time to asses the situation. It reinforces the idea that first solution might not always be the best solution more so than being the easiest. These are important lessons for kids.

sg1If you’re one of those comic book readers who think all comics should be serious business, this is the last book you should pick up. You can’t help but smile while reading about Doreen’s antics. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl never takes itself seriously, and it does so without insulting its readers. It celebrates quirkiness and asks its readers to join it in this celebration.

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Waiting on Wednesday 01/28/15

“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:

Cold Iron by Stina Leicht: June 23, 2015 (Saga Press)

As you may recall, a couple weeks ago we posted a list of our 2015 Most Anticipated Science Fiction & Fantasy Books Written by WomenCold Iron really should have been on there too, but I found out about the book only a short time before the post went live and didn’t get the chance to update the list! That just won’t do, so I’m featuring it today as my WoW because this great looking book certainly deserves some attention. Stina Leicht is an author who has been on my to-read list for a while. And flintlock epic fantasy? Sounds right up my alley.

Cold Iron“Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.

Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.

Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world.”

Tour Review and GIVEAWAY! Master of Plagues by E.L. Tettensor

GIVEAWAY!
*** Be sure to check out the end of this review for details on a chance to win a copy of MASTER OF PLAGUES! *** 

Master of PlaguesMaster of Plagues by E.L. Tettensor

Genre: Fantasy, Mystery

Series: Book 2 of Nicolas Lenoir

Publisher: Roc (February 3, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Author E.L. Tettensor has been on my radar ever since reading her excellent debut Darkwalker and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to find out in the summer of 2014 that she will be returning to the world of Nicolas Lenoir with a fresh new sequel featuring the eponymous detective.

Having been given a new lease on life following his harrowing encounter with the grim spirit Darkwalker, Lenoir is back to work with a renewed energy. But his resolve is tested almost right away when a disturbing new case sets the entire Kennian police force on alert. A deadly new disease is ravaging the city, inflicting fever, vomiting, and massive internal and external hemorrhaging on its victims. The symptoms and mortality rates are bad enough, but then comes irrefutable evidence that the plague was ruthlessly unleashed on purpose. But by whom?

In this incredible follow-up, Lenoir and his partner Sergeant Bran Kody are racing against time on the trail to find a mass murderer in the midst of widespread fear and panic. City resources are stretched to the limits and still more people are dying by the day, and it’s a whirlwind of suspense as all those trying to hold things together find themselves torn between finding the culprit, or finding a cure.

I can’t tell you what a joy it is to be back in this world reading about these characters, especially since they’ve grown so much since the first book. Inspector Lenoir is a no longer the jaded curmudgeon he once was, and now that his apathy has lifted we can finally see his brilliance shine. That’s not to say his personality has done a complete one-eighty; he is still the fastidious detective with a tongue as sharp as his mind. And as Sergeant Kody is so often reminded, the inspector is not given to coddling himself or anyone else. However, that has not stopped the two men from becoming closer as a unique working relationship develops between them. Kody’s character is also explored a lot more in this installment, with his perspective given plenty of page time. The sergeant starts coming into his own, taking the lead on some parts of the investigation and standing up to Lenoir he feels are important. It’s good to see these two evolve together, as it’s clear they can learn so much from each other.

The world of this series is as rich and evocative as ever, even in the grip of a deadly disease. It’s interesting to note that the fantasy elements are not as strong in this book as it was in the first. Aside from the involvement of Adali healing, Master of Plagues is relatively light on magic and the paranormal. In spite of this, I think this makes the novel even more engaging. For one thing, it would be impossible to read this story without pondering its parallels to current events, in light of the Ebola outbreak in Africa and the fear that it sparked across the globe in 2014. Not only are the symptoms of Kennian’s plague disconcertingly similar to those of Ebola, social effects like mass hysteria and the discrimination against a specific group of people are also themes that will ring all too familiar. It’s not surprising, since Tettensor has stated that she draws a lot of her inspiration from the real world and her own experiences living and working in Burundi. The basis for the fictional Adali culture, for example, has some of its roots in the pastorialist societies of northeast Africa and elsewhere on the continent.

All told, Master of Plagues is another deftly written novel, a worthy sequel that is every bit as good as its predecessor. Both books have gotten 5 stars from me, and I don’t have to tell you how rare that is. But that’s what I like to see! Like Darkwalker, this book takes the reader on a delectable journey to get to bottom of a grand mystery, and there are plenty of plot twists and surprises along the way to keep you on your toes. Nicolas Lenoir is a character that has quickly grown on me, and I can’t wait to see what he’ll get up to next.

6deec-5stars

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Roc Books!

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MASTER OF PLAGUES GIVEAWAY

Master of Plagues

The publisher has very generously offered The BiblioSanctum an opportunity to host a giveaway for one print copy of Master of Plagues! With apologies to international readers, this giveaway is US only. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to bibliosanctum@gmail.com with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “MASTER OF PLAGUES” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Tuesday, February 3, 2015.

Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends all entry emails will be deleted.

So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! Good luck!

Book Review: Dragon Age: The Last Flight

dragon age last flightLast Flight by Liane Merciel

Genre: Dark Fantasy, Gaming

Series: Dragon Age #5

Publisher: BioWare (August 2014)

Wendy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 9:41 Dragon, the continent of Thedas is in turmoil, with the templars waging war against the mages who have rebelled against their oppressive guardians. A small group of mages has sought refuge at Wiesshaupt, hoping the Grey Warden’s neutrality will protect them from the templars, even though becoming a Grey Warden is a deadly risk in itself.

This is as close as Dragon Age fans will get elements of the game they are most familiar with. Unlike its predecessors, Last Flight steps away from the immediate lore of the game by having Valya, a young elf mage, research historical records. That seems like a pretty dull concept, but at the crypt of Garahel, the elven hero of the Fourth Blight, Valya finds clues that lead her to the diary of his sister, Isseya, which goes into great detail about the struggles of the Fourth Blight.

Wiesshaupt has been mentioned constantly throughout Dragon Age games, but players have yet to see the fabled Grey Warden headquarters. This book provides that opportunity, and more importantly, lets readers see the griffons that Wynne so cruelly denied us in her storytelling.

Isseya’s journal tells of the many years of hardship that the continent of Thedas suffered as the Darkspawn ravaged the land with their poisonous existence. The Fifth Blight, as experienced by players during Dragon Age: Origins, was nothing compared to this, having lasted only a year. Last Flight shows us the true hardships of war, and the horrible decisions that its leaders and heroes have to make. While players — unless they wanted to be jerks — could mostly play their game with minimal losses, making more friends than enemies, Field Commander Garahel and his sister had to make choices that often meant sacrificing the few to save the many. And some of those choices involved the dreaded blood magic.

As enjoyable as it is to see all of our friends and experience the events of Thedas as players currently know it, the step into the past was a welcome change. With all the different choices available to players, current stories might not reflect our expectations and experiences. Last Flight is freed from these trappings, and is able to present us with all new and interesting characters upon whom we have no expectations, much less background information.

I really liked the fact that, while her brother is the famed hero that has gone down in history, the story is told entirely through Isseya’s eyes. That’s not unusual in itself, but Garahel actually isn’t involved much in her storytelling, save where necessary. His charm and bravery are evident through her words, and we already know that he is the one to defeat the Archdemon that controls the Darkspawn, thus making him the Hero of the Fourth Blight, but seeing the Blight through Isseya’s eyes was very interesting, and at times, heartbreaking, especially when it comes to the now extinct griffons.

The action and emotion ranges all over the place, as is to be expected in such a long, seemingly hopeless war. Merciel is merciless in her battle scenes, wasting few words on the fallen. This is a harrowing book, and perhaps a difficult read for those who enjoy happy endings. While it does offer a significant amount of hope at the end, a victory during a Blight can only ever be Phyrric, at best.
ab28c-new4stars

Audiobook Review: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

8440e-firefightFirefight by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Series: Book 2 of The Reckoners

Publisher: Audible Studios (Audiobook: January 6, 2015)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Brandon Sanderson, and I admit I usually go into his books with higher than average expectations. Still, I rarely find myself disappointed. There’s just something about his style of writing and storytelling that really appeals to me, and the truth is, the man is a font of utterly amazing and creative ideas.

In 2013 Sanderson brought us Steelheart, the first book in The Reckoners series about superheroes gone bad, and I loved every moment of it. So you can imagine my excitement when I received the Firefight audiobook for review! This book is the highly anticipated sequel, and I couldn’t wait to get back to David Charleston and his fellow freedom fighters, joining them on their continuing mission to neutralize Epics and end their oppression. After destroying Steelheart and freeing the city of Newcago from his reign of terror, the Reckoners are headed to Babylon Restored, formerly New York City, to seek out more High Epics to defeat.

Their latest target is Regalia, a High Epic with water-based abilities who rules Babylar (Babylon Restored, or Babyl-R, hence Babylar). Sanderson once again proves he is the master of world-building the instant we enter the city by way of a boat, because most of what used to be Manhattan is submerged. If I had any reservations at all about the story and characters leaving Newcago for another setting, they were dashed as soon as I encountered Babylar’s watery landscape – er, seascape. Regalia has crafted hills and valleys out of the surrounding ocean using her Epic abilities, and what’s more, there’s a mysterious power in Babylar causing strange things to happen, like graffiti to glow and luminescent fruit to grow in abundance in what’s left of the skyscrapers visible above water. The result is this mind-boggling tableau of a post-apocalyptic city with an otherworldly, almost magical quality to its appearance.

In departing Newcago for Babylar, we’re also leaving a couple of characters behind, namely Cody and Abraham. However, the story makes up for that by introducing us to several new faces as Prof, Tia and David team up with the members of the Reckoners cell in Babylar. Val, Exel and Mizzy are all fascinating additions to the book, but I have a feeling it is the latter who will steal the hearts of many readers, due to her perkiness and loveable personality. Indeed, Mizzy was one of my favorites.

Obviously, a big part of this book also involves David’s conflicted feelings about Megan AKA Firefight, the girl who infiltrated the Reckoners and stole their secrets along with David’s heart. What I really thought was great is that David’s soft spot for Megan is more than just a typical vapid “forbidden love” side plot; besides causing friction with Prof and his new Babylar teammates, David’s relationship with Firefight also serves as the catalyst for huge things to come at the end of the novel.

When it comes to our main man, David is his entertaining, goofy yet charming self. I know some readers have expressed annoyance at these books so far because of the horrible metaphors David makes or the absurdity of some of the Epics’ weaknesses, claiming that these factors weaken the series by making it seem ridiculous. It’s a fair point, though on some level I think you have to see them as the running gags they’re meant to be. David’s attempts at metaphors may be cringe-worthy and pathetic, but they add some much needed humor to this otherwise very bleak world where Epics who by all rights should be humanity’s heroes turn out instead to be our worst nightmare.

This is probably also a good time to mention how much I enjoyed Firefight in audio format. Initially, I had qualms about tackling the audiobook – after all, a bad narrator can ruin the whole experience. This was absolutely not the case here, however. I believe I actually have narrator-extraordinaire MacLeod Andrews to thank for feeling a lot more connected to David’s character in this sequel than I did in Steelheart.

I’ve heard of Andrews before this; he has narrated a number of books and I’ve listened to a few of his performances. Still, I don’t remember being as blown away as I was with his work here. You can tell with some audiobooks when the narrator is really enjoying themselves, as they add their own inflections and other nuances as they’re reading, becoming the character. This is definitely one of those situations. For me, Andrews became David. Reading the character’s silly jokes on paper might fall flat for some readers, but the lines come to life when delivered by MacLeod Andrews. David is no doubt meant to be a little awkward, and somehow Andrews is able to convey that while still managing to sound very natural and real at the same time.

All told, I would say Firefight is another winner from Brandon Sanderson. New setting also means new heroes and new villains, and I’m glad things like that are keeping the series fresh. Arguably, there are even more twists and turns here than in Steelheart, with Regalia and her Epic minions like the wily Newton and utterly psychotic Obliteration mercilessly playing cat-and-mouse with the Reckoners. I loved the unpredictability of the plot, since it’s so rare that a Young Adult novel can capture my attention and keep me in suspense from beginning to end. The YA categorization is debatable though, as these books can most certainly be enjoyed by a much wider audience. I for one would recommend this to young adult and adult readers alike. Seriously worth your time.

6deec-5stars

A review copy of this audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Audible Studios!

Click below to hear a sample of the FIREFIGHT audiobook, narrated by MacLeod Andrews. With thanks to Audible Studios.

YA Weekend: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

lily blue blue lilyBlue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic

Series: The Raven Cycle #3

Publisher: Scholastic (October 2014)

Wendy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.”

I really don’t care of Blue, Gansy, Adam, Noah, and Ronan ever find their Raven King. In fact, I’d rather they didn’t. Just keep giving me wonderfully painful stories about the Raven boys and their bittersweet friendship.

At the end of The Dream Thieves, Blue’s mother had ventured into the dangerous and unpredictable realm of Cabeswater alone. Her sisters and Blue want to find her, but nothing is ever easy when it comes to Cabeswater. Meanwhile, Blue continues to struggle with her curse and her attraction to Gansy, and Adam comes to terms with his reality and his connection to Cabeswater.

And then there’s Ronan. There can never be enough Ronan, though the majority of his story was told in the previous book when it was revealed that he is able to pull things from his dreams, making him the target of the cruel and ruthless man who had Ronan’s father killed.

The only thing this book was sadly lacking was more Noah. The poor undead boy had very little to do, save to provide a kind of warning signal for Cabeswater’s antics. Blue remains a bit sidelined as well, though less so than in the previous book, where I felt she existed only as a bouncing point for advancing the plot. Events and clues founds in Blue Lily, Lily Blue — and the title itself — imply that there is far more to Blue than just a conduit for amplifying psychic magic.

I don’t fault the book for not giving more face time to these characters. There are so many of them, and each book has served to magnify a group of them. While one or more may play less of a role here, Stiefveiter firmly establishes their importance to … to whatever will come. And they are all so unique and intriguing in their own ways, that they are hard to forget.

But it’s the relationship between Adam, Ronan, and Gansy that really and truly gets to me. The depth of their love for each other and their struggles to understand each other, and come to terms with who they are and what their friendship means. Gansy remains the glue that holds them together, and his stability serves as a buoy to the troubled boys, but Gansy has his own issues, that have been slowly unravelling every time he lets his Bruce Wayne-like mask dissolve. The trio, with Noah and Blue drifting along in the currents, is what truly makes this series my most favouritest YA series ever. All my feels. All of them.

6deec-5stars

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