Friday, April 30, 2010

Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

NOTE: Helsreach was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by the Black Library.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden has been getting some very spectacular praise lately, and quickly is becoming one of the favorite authors in Black Library’s stable. He burst on the scene with Cadian Blood, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and then started a new series of Space Marine novels. Now he has become the second author of the new line of books from Black Library, Space Marines Battles, which depict famous battles in the history of the Empire that involved Space Marines.

On the planet Armageddon, the citizens are recovering from a past ork attack on their ravaged planet, but are met with terrible news: another onslaught is on its way. They build up their defenses as best they can, and aid rushes to the planet, including the Black Templars Space Marines. The contingent on planet, lead by Grimaldus, are sent to Hive Helsreach, where the fight a seemingly never ending army of the greenskins, struggling, not to win, but simply to survive.

After my second Dembski-Bowden novel, I’m starting to wonder, can Dembski-Bowden write a bad book? Once again, he delves deep into his characters, from Grimaldus, who is mentally tormented at the loss of a father-figure, and at being sent to die in Helsreach, to the marines who rally around him, and the Imperial Guard that fight alongside them. Every character is full of depth, and very few are completely good or likable. Grimaldus is tempestuous to the extreme, with a very detached attitude at times, but at other times he reveals truly honorable characteristics. He is a fully formed character, rare in fiction. There is an occasional switch between third-person and first-person that I found odd at first, but as the book went on it made for a nice melding.

The war is sufficiently draining, as any siege warfare should be, but you never feel that all of the characters are safe. There are no fights that you know will be won without a price, and even at the end every thread of the plot may not end up happily. The full breadth of emotion is on display, played with in the brutal and violent setting to its maximum potential. For a very strong novel exploring the depth of war and the complex characters that fight it, this is an excellent place to go.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Black Library Previews Catalogue May-August 2010

NOTE: The Black Library Previews Catalogue May-August 2010 was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by The Black Library. However, they are always free of charge at Games Workshop locations, so go out and snag a copy.

Just like an earlier Previews Catalogue I received from The Black Library, this one is full of excerpts from upcoming books, and is a nice way to peek into each. It is also a fun way to while away an hour, and learn more about the exciting things up for the offering from The Black Library. Below I append the schedule so you can see what is to come. Look for all of these to appear here at Luke Reviews:


Redemption Corps by Rob Sanders (an Imperial Guard novel) [Warhammer 40,000]

Legends of the Space Marines edited by Christian Dunn (an anthology) [Warhammer 40,000]

Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (a Space Marines Battles novel) [Warhammer 40,000]

Brunner the Bounty Hunter by C.L. Werner (a Brunner omnibus) [Warhammer Fantasy]

“The Dark King” & “The Lightning Tower” by Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett (a Horus Heresy audio drama) [The Horus Heresy]


Courage and Honour by Graham McNeill (the fifth Ultramarines novel) [Warhammer 40,000]

The Chapter’s Due by Graham McNeill (the sixth Ultramarines novel) [Warhammer 40,000]

Bloodborn by Nathan Long (the first Ulrika the Vampire novel) [Warhammer Fantasy]

“Fireborn” by Nick Kyme (a Salamanders audio drama) [Warhammer 40,000]


Path of the Warrior by Gav Thorpe (the first Eldar series novel) [Warhammer 40,000]

Sword of Justice by Chris Wraight (a Warhammer Heroes novel) [Warhammer Fantasy]

Enforcer by Matthew Farrer (a Shira Calpurnia omnibus) [Warhammer 40,000]


Grimblades by Nick Kyme (an Empire Army novel) [Warhammer Fantasy]

Nemesis by James Swallow (the fourteenth Horus Heresy novel) [The Horus Heresy]

“Throne of Lies” by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (a Night Lords audio drama) [Warhammer 40,000]

Monday, April 26, 2010

Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum by Robert B. Wintermute

Quite a number of years ago, I had an interest in Magic: The Gathering. I collected the cards, but my favorite aspect was reading the novels. I read a number of them, and then moved on to other hobbies. However, as I have been looking at tie-in fiction since I started up Luke Reviews almost a year ago, and enjoyed some Forgotten Realms novels (published by Wizards of the Coast, same as Magic: The Gathering is), I decided to give it a go again. I picked up the brand new release and dove in.

The world of Zendikar is one infused with magic, and its inhabitants draw magic from the land. However, Nissa Revane, an elf from Zendikar and powerful with magic, and her town are under attack by strange creatures she has never seen before. As Nissa and a group of warriors press the creatures retreat, they are attacked again, and everyone dies except for Nissa, who is saved by a mysterious human. Accompanied by a vampire slave, the trio sets out to stop these creatures from destroying all life on the planet.

The premise of the novel is entertaining, and the characters aren’t bad. While every once in a while something grabbed me as a problem common to first novels, all in all what I read wasn’t bad. However, I didn’t finish the book. Why not? The back cover.

The plot of the book hinges on a couple of secrets. The bad news: these secrets are spelled out for you on the back cover. I don’t know if these count as spoilers, since I found them out from the back cover and not the novel itself, but there is the warning, just in case you don’t want to finish this paragraph: What is the secret that people try to warn Nissa about that involves the mysterious human? Why does he have an affinity for the vampire? Why does he smirk when Nissa cracks on vampires? Because he is, as the back describes him, an “ancient vampire” himself. So much for that surprise. Why does he know so much about these creatures? What is the secret of his past? According to the back once again: “He was among the original jailers of the æther-borne scourge.”

End of “spoilers,” if they are truly such. While the book isn’t bad, the back cover gives away the suspense that is meant to carry the reader along. It is hard for a story to recover from that. Not finishing the book wasn’t the story’s fault, so I’m not going to give it the low rating it would normally receive. And I will keep my eye out, both for future Magic: The Gathering novels, and work from Wintermute, who shows lots of promise.

My advice to you: If you are interested in this book, there is a lot to like, so give it a shot. Just don’t read the back first.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, Volume One by Chuck Dixon

It seems like it is my week for “[Author]’s [Title] by [Different Author].” This time around, it is Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, Volume One by Chuck Dixon. Dixon wrote this novel as an adaption of Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, a novel originally credited to Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson, but now credited solely to Koontz. This graphic novel is the first volume of a series that adapts the first novel in the Frankenstein series. As a fan of Koontz, the original novel by Mary Shelley, and graphic novels, I dove in.

In New Orleans, a chain of murders has detectives O’Conner and Maddison left with a puzzle, and things get no simpler when Deucalion arrives in town. It turns out that Deucalion has some ties to a famous monster, and that his creator is residing in New Orleans, looking to repeat his experiment. But when another creature goes on the loose, O’Conner and Deucalion may have to team up to stop the wave of murderers.

When it comes to adaptations of prose works into graphic novel form, the results vary. The graphic novel version of The Hobbit, also done by Chuck Dixon, was engaging, while Orson Scott Card’s Wyrms was okay in parts but wasn’t the greatest graphic novel to reach my shelves. So I was curious how this would turn out.

In this case, I hit the jackpot. Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, Volume One is one of the best adaptations since George R. R. Martin’s The Hedge Knight, also put out by Dabel Brothers Publishing, that time for Marvel, this time for Del Rey. From the moment you pick this book up, it is hard to put down. Dixon’s story flows through the pages with excellent art from Brett Booth, and the stories weave together wonderfully. The plot twists are masterfully executed, as I would expect from Dean Koontz, the characters are well-rounded, and the story is fun.

As a bonus, there is a short graphic story from Koontz, a look at a failed experiment from Victor Helios’ past. It is entertaining, if light fair.

This book will leave you begging for the sequel. If there is any single aspect of this work you think you could find yourself liking, go out and grab a copy. You won’t regret it.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gary Jennings’ Apocalypse 2012 by Robert Gleason and Junius Podrug

With all of the furor that has arisen over 2012 in the media lately, the thriller genre has taken the opportunity to put out a number of books that play with that theme. Among those is Gary Jennings’ Apocalypse 2012 by Robert Gleason and Junius Podrug. I had wanted to dive into Gary Jennings’ Aztec series, and never had the chance, so when I saw this new novel, I decided to give it a try.

In 1001, Coyotl is a slave who was found as an infant. He is on the way to being a sacrifice when a group of Toltecs attack the camp, and set him free. The party, along with Coyotl and another slave, Desert Flower, set off for the great city of Tula, which is on the brink of breakdown during the middle of a terrible drought. In the present day, a group has gathered to face an upcoming disaster. Could the two be related?

While the premise of the novel is entertaining, the execution is terrible. The large portions of the book are about Coyotl and his story, and they are dry and unengaging. I never would have imagined that ritualistic human sacrifice could be so dry and unaffecting. Desert Flower is a blank character who does nothing but get scared and act very stereotypically female, while the two named Toltecs, Stargazer and Smoking Shield, and the only ones with a hint of depth.

And then we flash to the modern day, where we are given a point-of-view character who is a perfect example of political vileness. She is, without an explanation, violently against anyone and anything that doesn’t think as she does, to the point of verbally assaulting over and over a man who she simply disagrees with. We are expected to revel along with her as she acts vile.

I might have been able to hold on and keep looking at the dry historical tale, in the hopes that it would get better, but after a couple of flashes of my modern day protagonist, there wasn’t nearly enough in the historical section to keep me reading.

While Jennings’ name is attached to the book, I hope that it isn’t remotely like what he actually wrote. This seems to be yet another example of people wanting to tack onto an author’s legacy, and wind up smearing it instead. Avoid this novel.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It seems like not too long ago that Luke Reviews hit its 100th post, but here we are again, with another hundred posts done. I really appreciate how this has been running along, gathering more and more speed. I’m picking up new publishers and keeping with old ones, and looking at even more books than ever. As always, thank you to the publishers and authors who trust me enough to send me copies of their works to be reviewed, and to all of the readers who keep coming back. I hope that some of you have found something on here that you didn’t know about or never would have picked up, and ended up giving it a try and loving it. Let me know what can be done to make Luke Reviews even better than before. My email is to the side, and don’t be afraid to use it! I hope you stick around, because there are some really exciting things on the horizon. Come on back, and tell a friend!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Flesh and Iron by Henry Zou

NOTE: Flesh and Iron was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by the Black Library

After the excitement that was built with Emperor’s Mercy last year, which earned him a Top 15 of 2009 spot, and the cliffhanger ending for one of the main characters, I couldn’t wait to dive into the sequel and see what was in store. Thus, I was a little disappointed to find out that the second novel in Zou’s Bastion Wars series was not a sequel, but a prequel novel. However, still excited, I dove into Flesh and Iron.

On Solo-Bastón, a local insurgency led by a group known as the Dos Pares is attacking the Imperial cities, and the Imperial Guard is called in to deal with the situation. However, Solo-Bastón has very little Imperial presence, and the insurgency is able to dig in and set up the best circumstances for their war. It is up to Colonel Baeder and the 31st Riverine to take a key gun emplacement and let the rest of the Imperial Army get into the mainland and root out the rest of the forces. However, as darker undersides to the fight begin to rise, the question of which side is right becomes murky.

The first novel in Zou’s series was very much in the vein of Inquisition novels, so it was a bit of a jump in the second to have what basically amounts to an Imperial Guard novel. However, Zou shows that he is just as adept at this segment of the Warhammer 40,000 milieu as with the Inquisition. He creates characters that feel very much alive, and he doesn’t just give one side. We see human characters fighting for both causes, and especially towards the end he drums up some substantial questioning of who is in the right, and the effects of corruption on those in power.

I couldn’t help feeling that this one was a little less engaging than Emperor’s Mercy in some way, but I couldn’t point to a cause of this. The action was hard and fast, and it didn’t let up. The only major issue I had was that the main storyline ended 100 pages before the novel did. The book kept on from there, in effect using the last 100 pages to tie this novel into the previous one and throwing twists at the characters. While that isn’t bad, the person who picks this up without reading the first book may not get much out of the end.

Pick up Flesh and Iron and it will be a fun ride. I wouldn’t suggest it quite as readily if you haven’t read Emperor’s Mercy, but I still think it would be enjoyable. One of the top Imperial Guard novels.


Friday, April 16, 2010

The Savages Tales of Solomon Kane by Robert E. Howard, Part 1

I am a fan of Robert E. Howard. He single-handedly pushed Sword and Sorcery out of the shadows and into broad daylight. He created a number of characters still heard about today, and with Conan, one that is commonly a household name. Del Rey is publishing “The Robert E. Howard Library,” a set of trade paperbacks that collects Howard’s fiction. The volumes are very nice, fully illustrated and well presented. As released, the volumes (so far) are:

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (the first of three volumes collecting the complete Conan stories)

The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane (the complete Solomon Kane stories)

The Bloody Crown of Conan (the second volume of Conan stories)

Bran Mak Morn: The Last King (the complete Bran Mak Morn stories)

The Conquering Sword of Conan (the final volume of Conan stories)

Kull: Exile of Atlantis (the complete Kull stories)

The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume 1: Crimson Shadows

The Best of Robert E. Howard, Volume 2: Grim Lands

The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard

El Borak and Other Desert Adventures (non-supernatural adventure stories)

Dark Agnes and Other Historical Adventures (coming out Spring 2011)

I picked up the second volume of the Robert E. Howard Library, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. I had read a few Kane stories previously, but this seemed like a good time to invest in the complete collection. As this is a substantial book, I decided to take a look at it in two parts. After a foreward by Gary Gianni, the illustrator, and a reprinting of “In Memorium: Robert Ervin Howard” by H. P. Lovecraft, we dive in. The stories reviewed in Part 1:

“Skulls in the Stars”: Solomon Kane is met with a trail that is haunted by a creature that lets no one passed. To stop it and allow passage, Kane must discover the secret evil behind the creature’s genesis.

“The Right Hand of Doom”: A man boasting of his capture of a necromancer is in store for a bit of revenge.

“Red Shadows”: Kane discovers a girl ravaged by the evil Le Loup and his band of thieves and marauders, and swears vengeance, following him all the way to Africa, facing both a tribe of men convinced that he is the evil one, and a primal evil that escapes the jungle.

“Rattle of Bones”: When Kane and a companion reach an inn for the night, Kane finds out the hard way what it is like to be surrounded by thieves and murderers.

“The Castle of the Devil”: A fragment that gives us the beginning of a tale, in which Kane meets a new companion and heads to fight an evil baron.

“Death’s Black Riders”: A very brief fragment in which Kane runs into a dark, ghostly rider.

“The Moon of Skulls”: The longest Solomon Kane story by quite a bit, this tale follows Kane as he journeys back to Africa, finding an ancient hidden city filled with people who worship a dark god, and have taken captive an innocent girl. Kane must stop the entire city if he is to rescue Marylin.

“The One Black Stain”: A poem in which Kane witnesses the execution of Sir Thomas Doughty, and sends Francis Drake a less than subtle message.

The first half of The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane proved to be a very compelling and exciting read. I will return soon to this volume and the world of the Puritan warrior, and I am sure it will be just as exciting.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Holler by Marge Fulton

NOTE: The Holler was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by BlackWyrm Books.

BlackWyrm has been batting .500 for me. Gram’s Secret was a wonderful fantasy tale, while The Hualapai Cycle just didn’t do it for me. However, the very short stories making up Marge Fulton’s collection of Appalachian horror stories, The Holler, looked very interesting, and I wanted to give them a look. Short bits on each story:

“Black Santa”: A girl’s stolen toy deeply influences her adulthood.

“Preying Hands”: A new “fat camp” that takes people into space is headed for some trouble of its own.

“Blood Bank”: ATMs begin giving far more than money.

“The Flock”: A dream-like tale of flight and job-hunting.

“In Line at Kingdom Come”: Plagued by guilt over his daughter’s death, a man waits in line to get into Heaven.

“At the End of the Day”: An old man gets revenge on the granddaughter of his abuser.

“Black Eyed Susan”: A marriage on the rocks meets Bigfoot.

“Bobble Head”: A small, human like creature helps a girl’s mother.

“People Eaters”: A victim of alien abduction tries to live a normal life.

“Blue Lips”: A dead wife refuses to go without some revenge.

“Recycling Ruth”: With a double-meaning title, this story follows Ruth, a recycling over-doer.

“Gather Round”: Art, cooking, and a near-death experience.

“Little Secrets”: A lady “adopts” the son she never knew she had.

“Mandy’s Mercantile”: A cheating husband becomes of more value to the store.

“Eye Box”: An artifact shows one woman a whole new world.

“Splinter”: The cost of stealing just went up.

“Wick”: One woman finds her soul mate selling candles.

“Bubby’s Brain”: Government conspiracy at the free clinic.

“Gunfight at the Goodwill”: One boy’s curiosity brings the Goodwill store to life.

“The Chosen”: The trees are tired of being abused, and one father pays the price.

“Hot to Trot”: A dead girl saves the living.

“Scary Perry”: A disturbed man explains how he didn’t kill his uncle, although if he had it wouldn’t have bothered him.

“Sow Belly”: A knife is the trigger to escape.

“When Your Ship Comes In”: One girl tries to leave her boyfriend behind and steal an alien spaceship.

These stories average 3-4 pages. In a way, they reminded me of The Twilight Zone, short glimpses into a world like our own, but altered in some subtle way. The good in that: each story was a neat little blip of something wrong, something under the surface of the world that was angry and ready for change. The bad: there isn’t space to get attached to characters, nor do most of the stories have much in the way of plot. Many of them are more scenes, a day-in-the-life style look at a crazy, Kafkaesque universe. Some of the stories are brilliant (i.e. “At the End of the Day,” my favorite of the collection), and some are odd and unaffecting (“Scary Perry,” my least favorite).

This book was a nice montage of steps out of the norm, away from a happy reality, and I think it was effective in some part because the collection itself is quite short. A large assemblage might have been too much of what Fulton is presenting, but this length worked perfectly for her short-shorts and short stories. There is an underlying mood throughout, as well as a lot under the surface of things that might take a second read to completely parse out. Easily read in an afternoon, and a bit of a change up from the usual horror genre in a sort of literary, highbrow way, this is worth sitting down and exploring, although if some of the stories don’t do much for you, I imagine that is the name of the game. I would be curious to see what Fulton would do with a longer piece, and extended narrative with characters in need of developing and a plot that needs to push things along. But until then, this piece of images into a darker parallel was a nice diversion.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Neverland by Douglas Clegg

NOTE: Neverland was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by Elena Stokes, Douglas Clegg’s publicist.

Last October Luke Reviews took a look at Douglas Clegg’s novella Isis, which turned out to be a wonderful piece of fiction and a welcome introduction to an author I had never had the opportunity to read before. So when I got Clegg’s upcoming novel in the mail, I couldn’t wait to dive right in.

Beau’s family travels every year to Gull Island, Georgia, for a vacation and to meet up with the extended family. While Beau doesn’t care about the rest of the family, his cousin Sumter is, if not a friend, an entertaining companion. And when Beau follows Sumter into the rundown shack on their grandmother’s property, he enters a world of dark forces and the supernatural, and a power within themselves that could wreak havoc on the whole world.

Clegg’s novel is very much in the southern gothic mode, with a very moody prose that fills every page. He captures the heat, along with the mood of the south. His character interactions are spot on as well, with complex people interacting in just the right way. While this occasionally led me to become a little frustrated with the incessant arguing and non-supernatural meanness and animosity between the adults, it certainly gave a solid reason for the kids to isolate themselves and enter Neverland.

The slow build up, while a little overlong at times to me, was for the most part very well handled. It made the moments of actual supernatural evil all the more powerful. Clegg shows in this novel that he has the ability to leave you with that heavy feeling in your gut of fear. Once the climax is reached, the book hits its full stride, and things come together in a way that is wonderful.

At times I wondered if this story would have worked better at the novella length, cutting out a lot of unnecessary arguing between adults that didn’t do much for the story. The book had the occasional habit of just being too cluttered with things that, while helping with the mood, didn’t add to the plot. Yet, all things considered, this was a good novel that isn’t a bad read, especially for fans of dark southern gothic literature, or a more literary take on the modern horror novel.


NOTE: For those of you interested in the book, or who read it and loved it, I thought I would pass this along to you, from Elena Stokes: “If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, it is fantastic! You can watch it at and please feel free to point your readers to Doug’s website to join the special Neverland contest and for the chance at the Grand Prize of either a Kindle or a Nook at A game based on the novel has also just launched at

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

After the brilliance that was The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (the sequel to which, Catching Fire, should be up here sooner rather than later, and the conclusion to the trilogy hits stands in August), I wanted to find another book in that same vein: the science fiction/action-adventure YA novel. And to that end I found The Maze Runner, the first in a series of five books by James Dashner.

Thomas wakes up in an elevator, and remembers almost nothing. However, after a group of boys pull him out, he discovers that he is in the Glade, a square of land in the middle of a complex maze where a group of boys, one new one each month, try to survive and escape. Yet, before Thomas can get used to his new situation, a wrench is thrown in the works by the arrival of the first girl to the Glade and the triggering of an ending sequence. Thomas knows that he knows more about what is going on, and how to save them, if he can only reach the memories in time.

The Maze Runner starts off very slowly. To the point that I was wondering if this was what I wanted to read. But once it gets past that initial hurdle, it draws you into a story that is involved and entertaining. The characters are developed nicely, and the environment is well constructed. As the book progresses, the better it gets, leaving you with an ending that will definitely have this reviewer searching for the sequel.

This book is worth giving it a chance. It succeeds admirably, if not nearly as powerfully as The Hunger Games. Get through the bumpy start, and you will find a book well worth reading, one that flies by.


Friday, April 9, 2010

The Breach by Patrick Lee

I am always on the lookout for a great new thriller, one that promises to be as entertaining as it is possible to be. I am especially a fan of thrillers that manage to combine the traits of the thriller genre with science fiction or fantasy elements, without crashing on the toes of either genre. Solid contributions to the sub-sub-genre include Temple and the Jack West series by Matthew Reilly, the Atlantis series by Thomas Greanias, the simply brilliant Deep Storm by Lincoln Child (which is one of my all time favorite thrillers), and Steve Alten’s Domain Trilogy. What new author Patrick Lee was presenting seemed to be right up my alley.

Travis Chase enters the Alaskan wilds to escape both the exterior and interior forces that are pushing and prodding at him. Yet, when he discovers a downed 747 that is more than it seems, he is thrust into an adventure that takes him to the edge and back, with an experiment-gone-wrong deep below Wyoming and a villain who knows their every move. Yet what is truly behind all of the danger and violence is even more mysterious.

Patrick Lee plays with some fun tropes, combining the pace of a thriller with the SF-nal element of some type of dimensional tear, with objects falling through from the other side. Travis Chase, along with secret government agent Paige, are fun characters to follow and get to know, even if their eventual role as a couple is a given from the outset.

One problem I had with The Breach was what I felt was a gap in logic. Travis Chase is taken into complete acceptance and confidentiality with little to no effort, on a top secret government project. No way does it work that easily. While I am willing to stretch my suspension of disbelief pretty far, this stretched it past the point that it was credible. Yet, if you get over that gap, a lot of fun can be had.

I won’t point at Patrick Lee’s first novel as the most original or credible of SF/F thrillers, but it isn’t bad.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Y: The Last Man (Complete Series) by Brian K. Vaughan

Early on in Luke Reviews’ history, I put up reviews of the first couple books in Y: The Last Man, then stopped. I had read through the first five, but for whatever reason never posted reviews. However, over spring break, I sat down and read all ten volumes, and I knew it was time to take a look at the series as a whole.

Y: The Last Man takes a look at a world where all the men are dead. All the men, that is, except Yorick Brown, escape artist and loser, and his pet monkey, Ampersand (i.e. &). As Yorick sets out to find out what happened, he picks up new members to add to his group, including 355, an agent of the Culper Ring, a secret government group, and Dr. Mann, a scientist tasked with creating male clones to let the human race repopulate the world. Travelling first across the country, then around the world, Yorick is on a quest to find his girlfriend, Beth, but has to help Dr. Mann save humanity first.

The series is absolute brilliance. From its early stages with the fights against the Amazons, to the quest to recapture Ampersand, all the way to the final denouement, every single part of this ten-volume saga is excellent. Yorick, along with 355 and Dr. Mann, become incredibly rich characters who show massive amounts of growth as the series progresses. The writing manages to touch on a number of very serious and sensitive subjects, along with hitting deep emotional cords, yet keeps its witty humor throughout.

This is the series for people who don’t read comics or graphic novels. It is the series for people who do. It is a story that, rare in this genre, has an obvious beginning, middle, and end, and fits the 60 chapters of story together in a very tight weave that makes a truly cohesive whole. If you read only one graphic series, read Y: The Last Man.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Belgariad: Volume One by David Eddings

Having just taken a look at the first three novels of David Eddings’ classic series, The Belgariad, it is time to look at the first omnibus as a whole. The Belgariad: Volume One contains the first three novels, which have their reviews linked to here:

Pawn of Prophecy

Queen of Sorcery

Magician’s Gambit

It also has a new foreword by David Eddings, which explores part of his reasoning behind writing The Belgariad, and how he feels about it. It is very short, but a nice addition.

Taken as a whole, The Belgariad: Volume One is one of those rare omnibuses that is far more than the sum of its parts. It is very hard to try to find fault. Little bumps are smoothed out, and the epic quest of Garion and his companions takes on a large-scale view that sweeps together. I would go so far as to say that one should read them all in a chunk like this, as it lets the series reach its true potential and sweep you along.

For fans of fantasy, especially classic tales of quests, destiny, adventure, and love, this is a must. Go out and get a copy.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings

Wrapping up my reading of The Belgariad: Volume One, I moved straight into Magician’s Gambit, the final book in the omnibus.

After the events in Nyissa seen last volume, the group moves on, not to follow the stolen artifact, but to answer the call of their patron god, who has called them to his protected area to give them new instructions. After a trip through a land of destruction and death, haunted by the ghosts of those citizens murdered in a raid, they arrive at the Vale of Aldur. After the two sorcerers talk with their god, the group goes to the land of UL, where the misfits not wanted by any of the other gods are kept. Barely escaping, the group has to travel into the land of the enemy, both to try to recover the artifact, and to fulfill a prophecy.

The previous books have always been a third person point of view that is very focused on Garion, with his thoughts, but this one begins with the focus on the princess from the second book, which threw me a bit, and wasn’t totally to my liking. However, the book eventually switches back to Garion, where we find the comfortable niche from the first books. The book flows through the next parts of the story well, including the adventure and almost debacle that was their trip into enemy territory. The characters always stay true to form, and their interactions continue to be one of the pleasures of reading The Belgariad: Volume One.

Things wrap up on far more of a cliffhanger than the first two books did, leaving you wet at the mouth for the fourth novel. While at times this one tripped up a little, it still was a solid addition to the series.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Queen of Sorcery by David Eddings

Continuing my reading of David Eddings’ omnibus The Belgariad: Volume One, after finishing Pawn of Prophecy, I went straight into the second book in the series, Queen of Sorcery.

After the events of Pawn of Prophecy, Garion and company continue their quest to find the stolen artifact, heading farther south in the Western Kingdoms. Along their travels they gather a few new members, including an archer with an overpowering prejudice against a group of his fellow countrymen, including a knight who also joins the party. And, as they travel through the kingdom of Tolnedra, a spoiled princess sneaks off and joins their group when they are too far away to return her. Meeting a number of different peoples, including an old enemy, they group winds up in Nyissa, the land of the snake-people(as in snake worshipers, as opposed to literal snake-people), who wish to use Garion for their own means.

Eddings strengths of style and character development continue. You get every detail of their plot, which at times might seem too much, but with Eddings at the helm it doesn’t falter, instead making every diversion and step on the path a new adventure to overcome, with repercussion for the rest of the series. There is no meaningless fight or adventure, as each one builds what must follow.

At first I was concerned that the new characters would mess up the chemistry built between the original party, but they instead integrate in time to fit just as well as the original members. Eddings deft hand at characterization made character conflicts realistic and inevitable, but they are all handled with an incredible realism.

As with the first book, Queen of Sorcery takes comfort reading and makes into a brand new thing, with solid literary style and a un-put-downable plot.