Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dragon Haven

Title: Dragon Haven
Author: Robin Hobb
Series: Rain Wilds Chronicles, vol 2
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2010

Recommendation: A fitting continuation to the Dragon Keeper's adventures.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: The dragon keepers, hunters and the ship continue up the Rain Wilds river looking for the long-lost city of Kelsingra, overcoming trials, and learning more about each other and the dragons.

Reactions: Dragon Haven is the second part of Dragon Keeper, which I read and reviewed in February. I've been looking forward to seeing some of the plot threads resolved in this book. The results are somewhat mixed. Some of the secrets became known and relationships evolved, but far from everything got resolved within the book. In fact new conflicts have been introduced and clearly there are more books coming in this series.

The most enjoyable part of Robin Hobb's books for me is not the plot, but rather the character development within each book. Her ability to introduce a character and then keep making subtle changes to them until at the end of the book they've changed quite significantly is remarkable. I've seen this happen in her previous series and The Rain Wilds Chronicles is no exception. I enjoyed following Alice's and Sedric's transformations in particular, though the dragon keepers undergo a number of changes as well.

Following character development and changes in their relationships with each other and the dragons kept me engrossed throughout this tome. I wish more got resolved at the end, but nevertheless the book was enjoyable with some interesting twists and I am looking forward to seeing where this series will be heading next.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Song of Scarabaeus

Title: Song of Scarabaeus
Author: Sara Creasy
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2010

Recommendation: Solid sci-fi adventure with a strong heroine to boot.
Rating: 7.5/10

Summary: Edie is a cypherteck, a person able to interface with biocyph technology that controls terraforming of new planets for humanity. The technology allows to create habitable worlds and is controlled by the all-powerful Crib. A band of rovers kidnaps Edie to steal some of the technology from Crib and attaches a bodyguard to her who is leashed to her side. Together they will travel to her first mission world, Scarabaeus.

Reactions: I received Song of Scarabaeus from Carl, who kindly offered to send me a free copy of the book. I rarely pick up books I haven't heard much about, but the description sounded sufficiently interesting to give the book a try. I am glad to report that this debut didn't disappoint.

I like picking up books with strong heroine leads and this one certainly fits the criteria. The main character is smart, resourceful, strong, and likable if naive at times. Getting ahead of bad guys by outsmarting them rather than by brute force is certainly something I like to see. The male lead is a somewhat stereotypical bad-ass on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside, type of guy. The author does a pretty good job with the fairly minor romance portion of the novel, so overall interaction effect is quite enjoyable.

The book is plotted fairly well. I had some trouble putting the book down and going to sleep last night and I finished it the first thing this morning. Throughout the author keeps the action going fast and there is a pretty good twist towards the end of the book. It also becomes apparent at the end that this is planned as a first book in series. There is some feeling of closure, but plenty of things are left unresolved and I expect there will be more action to come.

Overall, Song of Scarabaeus is an enjoyable space opera with plenty of action and a compelling main character. It's entertainment pure and simple, but of good quality. I will certainly watch out for Sara Creasy's future novels.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Title: Changeless
Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Alexia Tarabotti, book 2
Genre: Steampunk
Published: 2010

Recommendation: An easy read for those who enjoyed the first book.
Rating: 6.5/10

Summary: Something strange is happening in London, where part of the city turns all supernatural creatures into humans. Alexia and Conall Maccon travel to investigate the strange occurrences.

Reactions: I imagine most readers who enjoyed the first book of the series would also enjoy this one. The atmosphere, humour, and characters are mostly unchanged and a few interesting additions have been made. There is adventure, Alexia solves a mystery (though a rather obvious one) and there is a resolution.

There were two things I disliked about the book. The first was that throughout the book Alexia and Conall call each other husband and wife as part of the dialogue. It's like they forgot each other's names upon getting married. There's plenty of: "What are you doing here, wife?" or "Husband, don't be alarmed" style dialogue that I found pretty irritating. My second gripe with this book is its ending. Firstly, I dislike that the author felt the need to start a new story at the end of the book. Secondly, Conall's reaction to the event is poor and there's quite an obvious explanation to the phenomenon that someone should have thought of pretty much immediately.

Changeless is a quick and entertaining read, but somewhat formulaic and predictable overall.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Title: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Author: Stieg Larsson
Series: Millenium Trilogy, book 3
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2010 (US)

Recommendation: Vivid. Gritty. Intense. Will not disappoint.
Rating: 10/10

Summary: Lisbeth Salander and her father Zalachenko are both brought to the hospital in critical state. Blomkvist and other friends of Lisbeth group together to prove her innocence at the upcoming trial, while a group at Sapo, Swedish secret police works very hard to cover their tracks and send Salander back to a mental institution. Who will prevail?

Reactions: I have been looking forward to this book ever since reading the first two books of this trilogy in February. There are many ways to describe this book, but disappointing isn't one of them. In fact, Larsson makes a come back and I would call this the strongest book of the whole series.

For one, the ends get wrapped up to my satisfaction, but at the same time the plot doesn't sizzle out early the way it happened in book one of the series. My only disappointment is that there aren't any more books with the same characters I grew to enjoy so much.

There are a few new players in this book, but mostly we see the characters we've met before. There are large parts of the book devoted to Mikael Blomkvist, Lisbeth Salander, Erika Berger and other major players we've met in The Girl Who Played With Fire. Their interactions with each other and the connected whole they create in this book made for very fun reading.

The plot follows the steps of two factions. One faction trying to tell the truth about Lisbeth, and The Section who are trying to clean up after themselves and Zalachenko. There are a few unexpected twists and turns the story takes early in the book that I very much enjoyed. There are several major surprises towards the end of the book as well. I had trouble putting the book down and finished all the reading within a couple evenings of reading late.

Overall, I really wish I could pick up more books by Stieg Larsson, but sadly this is all there is. I do encourage everyone to pick up this book or the first book in the series if you haven't read it yet. Stieg Larsson will blow you away.