zondag 28 april 2013

Review: Stephen Blackmoore, Dead Things

I’m writing this review shortly after reading a blogpost about how the line between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance is blurring more and more. I had to agree with said poster when she stated that it’s not for the good of the series – but it might be when it comes to the sales aspect – when the main focus of Urban Fantasy, being a tight plot filled with action and the supernatural, is being replaced by flimsy romance and way less plot than the amount of pages seems to suggest. If there are others out there who feel the same and are looking for a book that puts the Urban back in Urban Fantasy: meet Stephen Blackmoore and Eric Carter.

Necromancer is such an ugly word, but it's a title Eric Carter is stuck with.
He sees ghosts, talks to the dead. He’s turned it into a lucrative career putting troublesome spirits to rest, sometimes taking on even more dangerous things. For a fee, of course.

When he left L.A. fifteen years ago he thought he’d never go back. Too many bad memories. Too many people trying to kill him. But now his sister’s been brutally murdered and Carter wants to find out why.
Was it the gangster looking to settle a score? The ghost of a mage he killed the night he left town? Maybe it’s the patron saint of violent death herself, Santa Muerte, who’s taken an unusually keen interest in him.
Carter’s going to find out who did it and he’s going to make them pay.
As long as they don’t kill him first...
At times, blurbs can be deceiving and you end up with something totally different than what you had in mind. With Dead Things, you'll have none of that. The book is what the blurb sais it is. As it suggests, the plot is quite simple, but it’s tight and effective in its simplicity. There are not many different plotlines that can get you side-tracked and everything happens at a very high pace, so the book definitely keeps you engaged for the whole ride. This story is the perfect example how an Urban Fantasy/Fantasy Crime novel should be like. It does keep you guessing in between the numerous confrontations between the good, the bad and the ugly, and when you thought you got it figured out, the tables are turning. Near the end, some things do happen that thincken the storyline a bit and it'll be interesting to see how it all develops in future novels. The whole wrapping up of things might not be as mindblowing as it could have been, but the ‘final battle’ does deliver big time.
So it has quite a good main mystery and on the side there is some sweet little magic taking place. I thought Eric Carter was a very nice take on the necromancer aspect of things as a whole. The idea of Eric being able to cross over to the shadowside, along with the whole range of ghosts depending on how the person died brought something new and fresh to the table and the whole magic built around the ghosts is really fascinating. It doesn’t always have to be about rotting zombie when it comes to necromancy, right? But this is not all when it comes to the hocus-pocus; in fact, his little bag of tricks was the cherry on top. Especially the stickers/nametags he used to bespell things were genius and hilariously clever at the same time - I mean, the sticker on Vivian?!. The idea is just so simple that I’m quite baffled that I didn’t come across things like this in other novels, but Stephen Blackmoore and Eric Carter made the stickers really their own. Also, the tattoos. I won’t say any more about this, but just: the tattoos.
Eric Carter himself is quite the enjoyable main protagonist as well. He’s troubled, that’s for sure, but it gives him a certain je ne sais quoi that makes him likeable as a character, even though he’s not the most pleasant person to be around. Even more so, despite him being troubled and all, he doesn’t constantly remind us of it nor does he turn into a whining child. In that aspect, I found him to be more likeable than Harry Dresden whom I also like, but tends to stress his chivalrous qualities a little too often. The other characters do a good job of supporting him, but it’s Eric that’s shining bright.
The writing is how it should be is this genre. Tight, fast paced and a little rough around the edges. The pace is kept high by the usage of short sentences which are more a kind of spoken language rather than written language. Normally things like this would bother me a bit, but here it suited the pacing and feel of the book very well. Stephen Blackmoore isn’t afraid to make some tough decisions and is able to refrain from adding to much saccharine frosting – in fact he used bare to none – for which he earns a kudos.

To put it simply, I would love to read another Eric Carter novel. Especially after the ending of Dead Things, which made me feel uncomfortable, and that’s a good thing. Even though it’s a little rough around the edges and fairly straight on, I really enjoyed reading it. Dead Things showcases the potential of Mr. Blackmoore as a strong voice in the Urban Fantasy genre and I can only recommend it to fans of the genre.

Fancy a rough ride with a tattood guy? Pick up your copy of Dead Things right now! 

dinsdag 23 april 2013

Review: Lee Battersby, The Corpse-Rat King

Grace: I’m not mad. And I’ll tell you why I’m mad. Because I’m not mad!
Will: You’re not making any sense.
Grace: Oh and all of a sudden you’re the vice-president of things that make sense?
Will: Why vice-president?
Grace: Because Leo’s president. Deal with it.

This particular piece of dialogue – out of an episode that is absolutely hilarious – is not only pretty witty (even more so when you hear it in the context of the whole episode, I promise you), but it actually fitted my feelings upon finishing Lee Battersby’s The Corpse-Rat King very well. The Corpse-Rat king didn’t make that much sense in certain places, but it’s the kind of not-making-sense that just takes the book up a notch and makes it better than it would have been if it all made perfect sense. Do I still make sense?

Marius don Hellespont and his apprentice, Gerd, are professional looters of battlefields. When they stumble upon the corpse of the King of Scorby and Gerd is killed, Marius is mistaken for the monarch by one of the dead soldiers and is transported down to the Kingdom of the Dead.

Just like the living citizens, the dead need a King — after all, the King is God’s representative, and someone needs to remind God where they are.
And so it comes to pass that Marius is banished to the surface with one message: if he wants to recover his life he must find the dead a King. Which he fully intends to do.
Just as soon as he stops running away.
This is quite an accurate description of the main plotline, and thus of the first few chapters of the book. When Marius actually starts running from the dead, it get’s crazy really fast. The main plotline is always pulsing in the background of the novel, but what’s on the surface is at times completely weird. It’s like a pearl necklace; the main plotline is the string that keeps every single pearl of craziness together. The best part is, it actually works really well! In terms of craziness, there is a clear progressive line to be found here. At first, it’s all quite calm, but steady as a beating drum, Marius finds himself in the most impossible situations. Three scenes that really stood out to me were the cardgame, the sunken ship and the tomb of kings, with the latter two fighting for the top spot on my best-scene-of-the-book list. Whenever I say that there is a lot of craziness and not that much sense going on here, I mean that in the best of ways. The best comparison I can come up with, is the kind of craziness that’s going on in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. There, as well as in The Corpse-Rat King, the main character finds himself/herself in the most absurd of situations, but it’s those situations that make the book great. On top of that, Lee Battersby flavoured his novel with an interesting take on the dead. More in particular, the trick he pulled on Marius was something I found quite fascinating and I loved discovering what Marius's capable of, alongside him.
The plot might be good, but if there are no memorable characters to carry it, it won’t bring you all that far. Luckily, Marius is able to carry the plot and he does it with style. The way he was portrayed fitted the character of the corpse-rat really well and I liked him quite a lot. His comments, his personality and wit, it worked like a charm. And even though his sidekick Gerd was absent quite a lot, I kind of liked him too, especially the chemistry between both of them was just fun to read about. There are a lot of other characters, but they only make a cameo for a few chapters, only to never be seen again. Normally, I would mind, but surprisingly I don’t mind at all when it comes to this novel. There’s something about Marius being alone – and running away from his quest – that worked really well here. That's not to say I don't want the others around in future stories about Marius. Like I said, the chemistry between Marius and Gerd has the potential to be gold and Gerd's nan looks like a treasure in the making. Crossing my fingers and toes they stick around!
Another plus here is the writing. First of all, I felt like this book didn’t really take itself all to serious, which is a good thing. It's always appreciated when a book isn’t pretending to be something more than it is, and with The Corpse Rat-King, you get what you see. On top of that, Lee Battersby has a very nice and fluent way of writing, which made me able to breeze through the chapters whenever I had the time to read. Also, he was able to really bring across the voice and personality of Marius in a way I’d expected Marius to be. Fun, slightly gritty, not afraid to use strong language whenever it suits the occasion. As it should be.

Safe to say that, even though I bought this on a whim without knowing to much about it, I don’t regret reading it at all. If you’re into a light and hilariously fun and crazy read – and you’re not afraid of rotting flesh and talking corpses – I suggest you give this a try. I’m definitely looking forward to another novel from Lee Battersby’s pen.

Want to read it yourself? Buy your copy of The Corpse-Rat King at The Book Depository now!

vrijdag 19 april 2013

#FridayReads: April 19th, 2013

FridayReads is a hashtag over on Twitter where people share what they'll be reading over the weekend. I thought it would be nice to bring that hashtag over to my blog, so this way I can share what I'm reading and provide a little more text along with it.

A book I'll definitely be finishing this weekend is Laurell K. Hamilton's The Killing Dance. I started reading this series back in 2011 and with an installment every couple of months, I managed to get to the sixth part in the series by now.
I can safely say that this series will never be my top favourite urban fantasy series - perhaps I'll elaborate on those in another post - but it's enjoyable enough to keep reading. It's just one of those books/series that don't really require that much attention but just keep you entertained for as long as they take.
 At the moment, I do think I liked the previous novels a little better for I don't quite enjoy the atmosphere and the sentiments expressed in this novel (Spoilery bit: with a bit too much of a focus on the whole love triangly thing and as a plus, Jean-Claude is annoying the hell out of me), but it's not bad and with still a little over a hundred pages left for the weekend, who knows what'll happen?

Another book I'll be reading this weekend - but definitely won't be finishing, that's for sure - is Terry Goodkind's Stone Of Tears. I am reading this one in Dutch (titled: De Tweede Wet Van De Magie [Wizard's Second Rule]) and it's a monster of almost 900 pages in trade paperback. I'm almost at page 300, so still a long way to go there, but I'm very much enjoying this one. It would be a bit strange if I weren't enjoying it, since it's already the fifth time I'm reading Stone Of Tears. It's my goal - curious to see if I manage it - to reread the entire series this year. I wanted to do this because, evidently, I've read the first few books loads, but the concluding trilogy - which I adore - only once. So I just wanted to go through it and shelf them afterwards for quite a lot of years; cause over the last decade, reading the books five times (or less) makes you remember the story quite by heart.
Seeing as I'm only about 30% in, the story is still developing, but I'm enjoying every single bit of it. Richard is obnoxious as ever, but you just got to love what's going on around him, with Sister Verna and the others. This book is among my favourites of the entire series. Partly because the story if pretty cool, but mainly because of the introduction of the Sisters and of course Nikki. She's one of those characters you just love to hate and hate to love, but she's just so great that I sometimes, later on in the series, find myself wishing that Kahlan would be out of the picture - no offence girl - and Nikki could take her place... Anyway, here's to hoping I'll get to meet Nik this weekend!
If you would like a review on anyof these, please let me know in the comments below. Also, what are you reading?

dinsdag 16 april 2013

Review: Ben Galley, The Written

Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s something I’ve been taught and I try to apply that to my book buying as well – and judging from the monstrous covers that flourish on my shelves, I seem to do a pretty good job at that. However, when it came to the Emaneska Series, I let the cover seduce me into buying it. I first came across Mr. Galley’s novels on another blog and the beautiful simplicity of the covers for both The Written and Pale Kings stood out to me. The blurb seemed alright, so I just had to have those covers. The cherry on top, was that there was a great story hidden this gorgeous piece of artwork.

His name is Farden. They whisper that he 's dangerous. Dangerous is only the half of it. Something has gone missing from the libraries of Arfell. Something very old, and something very powerful. Five scholars are now dead, a country is once again on the brink of war, and the magick council is running out of time and options. Entangled in a web of lies and politics and dragged halfway across icy Emaneska and back, Farden must unearth a secret even he doesn t want to know, a secret that will shake the foundations of his world. Dragons, drugs, magick, death, and the deepest of betrayals await. Breathtakingly vast, chillingly dark, brooding and dangerous, The Written will leave you impatiently waiting for the next adventure. Welcome to Emaneska.

This might sound like your average cookie cutter fantasy plot, and as a whole is does resemble that in some ways, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I very much enjoy novels like these and it doesn’t always have to be new and ground-breaking to be enjoyable. While staying true to the classical Epic Fantasy novel plotwise, The Written incorporates some elements from the gritty fantasy that populates the bookshops in recent years. This gritty aspects returns in the character of Farden, as well as in the language used and certain scenes. On top of that, Ben Galley came up with some very nice little things to spice up the novel, such as the concept of the Written – which I found very intriguing – and things like a Tearbook and the Storm Giants. It’s things like these that take it a level above the Cookie cutterishness of other novels. The book managed to keep my attention throughout the whole story and even when my suspicions got confirmed towards the end, I still kept reading and rightly so, cause it held some surprises still.

The main character, Farden, is quite a bitter man and tends to act like an ass. However, compared to other characters with the same personality, I didn’t find Farden to be annoying or tiring whatsoever. I don’t really like him as a person, but I do like him as main character, if that makes any sense. Apart from Farden, I really took a liking to the dragons and I found the bonds between them and the Siren very fascinating. While I’m hot nor cold regarding Durnus and Elessi, I hope that they get some more time on page the next time around, for I do think they have potential to become quite interesting sidekicks to Farden. This is perhaps the ‘major’ issue I had with this book. The side characters just fell a bit flat, with the exception of Farfallen and Svarta. I would have liked some more in depth info on or interaction with the others. Speaking of the side characters, I liked how the world of Emaneska was richly populated by different species, but never felt overcrowded to me. Also a certain plus is the history of the world, which gave it all some depth. Hopefully the history of the land will be unveiled some more in the books to come.
Seeing as this is a debut novel, I was pleasantly surprised with the writing, cause despite the odd typo I found this to be a very pleasant and fluent read. The book starts with the theft and accompanying murders, after which there is a nice balance between action and the slower parts. As I mentioned earlier, I bought this book on a whim and only read some reviews after finishing, so I was quite surprised when I saw the critiques on the writing. Perhaps it’s due to me not being a native English speaker, but the writing never felt unhinged or forced to me, nor did the use of ‘all of a sudden’ and ‘suddenly’ bother me, as reviews on GoodReads tend to go on about – and I have not the slightest clue about why it should bother anyone, to be completely honest. Aside from that, I’m not one to make issues out of spelling where others - again, I'm looking at you, GoodReads reviewers - seem to have issues with the author having some fun with spelling. So as far as I’m concerned, Mr. Galley can spell Vampyre any which way he wants - even more so: Durnus simply deserves a 'y' instead of the 'i' other bloodsuckers are getting, just because. All in all, seeing as this is a debut and he will grow in his writing even more so, The Written only bodes well for the future.

So while I may have bought this purely based on the cover, I was pleasantly surprised by the actual novel. Seduced by the looks and charmed by the content, The Written was a very pleasing experience and if he keeps it up, Ben Galley might as well turn out to be the major discovery of 2013. Nice making your acquaintance, Ben and Farden. See you next time around.
Since The Written managed to tick off almost every box I wanted it to, I can't but give it a very hot rating.
Buy The Written at The Book Depository.


zondag 14 april 2013

The Paper Dragon

Hello dear browser of the internet,

I'm glad to welcome you to The Paper Dragon. Allow me to elaborate a tiny bit on where your surfing the web brought you.

This little piece of the internet is, from this day on, mine. Who am I? My name is Nick Reys, and I am a passionate reader and Fantasy lover in all - or most - of its forms. Foremost, I enjoy digesting my daily dose of wizards, witches, dragons and all that's magical with my eyes through the wondrous art called reading. Aside from the bookish part, I don't tend to turn down a nice fantasy-esque series (Game of Thrones, Heroes, Supernatural, ...) or some gaming (Final Fantasy, Zelda, ...).
As my peers will confirm when you ask them, I like to talk about these things as well... A lot. Hence the birth of The Paper Dragon.

On this blog, I will post mainly book reviews on whatever I've been reading. I won't promise this will be the newest of the new or any popular bandwagon that's going around at the moment. Basically, I just read what I want to read when I want to read it and then I'll do a review on it.
Apart from reviews, I'll post some other stuff as well, but we'll see when we get there. I'll just make things up as I go along.

Hope you enjoy coming to The Paper Dragon and stick around for some talk on all things books and fantasy.

Nick V. Reys.