Musings on writing, lessons learned by an aspiring professional, book reviews, movie reviews, an occasional t.v. show review, and unashamed opinion.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mini Reviews #3

I've been so busy writing that I don't have a lot of time or energy to come up with creative blogs. So here are some more small reviews. If you're a fan of epic fantasy, or sword and sorcery, then you'll want to check out all of these books I'm reviewing this week. Onward!

First, I want to tell you a little about The Scar, a literary fantasy, by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko. It just came out (translated) from Tor last year. (I think it originally came out in the late 90's.) The Scar is an amazing book. It resonates well with classics like The Count of Monte Cristo, and Les Miserables. It is a beautiful tale about a man who must overcome the most despicable wretch he knows: himself.

Egert is the man. He is the most confident, the most skilled at arms, the best leader, and the best looking man in his city--a city in which physical prowess is admired and praised above all else. Egert always wins. Until a stranger with a sword comes to town, anyway. Egert loses his first duel and flees home in terror and shame. What follows is a redemption story full of poetic prose, deep insight into the human condition, love, and above all else, forgiveness.

The Scar gets 5 out of 5 stars. Don't miss this one!

Next up is The Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks. Weeks has been gaining popularity over the years and, rumor has it, will soon take over the world with his awesomeness. Awesomeness aside, TWoS is Weeks' debut novel, and my first taste of his writing. I have to say that it was one brutal, captivating, helluva story. It is not for the squeamish! (And young readers, you should probably avoid it.)

The only thing I didn't like about TWoS were some character names. I can honestly say I enjoyed every other part. The story is about a boy who grows up in the violent slums of a city, where the weak are ground into the mud and the strong rule without pity. He believes there is only one way out of his situation: apprentice with the city's most infamous and feared assassin. That is the basic plot, but the book is full of wonderful character development, tense action, political intrigue, and cool magic. This is one of those books that make me so happy I'm an epic fantasy fan.

Beware, The Way of Shadows is for adults. It is violent and dark, and unapologetic. That said, I don't want to overstate its content. I find it comparable to A Game of Thrones, or Best Served Cold content-wise. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars.

Lastly, I wanted to tell you about The Red Knight, by Miles Cameron. This too, is a more adult book worth your time if you love fantasy. It has some of the best battle scenes I've ever read in fiction. Cameron, who also writes historical fiction under his real name, Christian Cameron, is a medieval expert. His knowledge lends an authenticity to the TRK that is unmatched in fantasy. I've never read a fantasy in which the life of a knight has been so meticulously detailed. I was worried going in that this fact would bog the story down with boring, long-winded info dumps. This isn't the case. Cameron has a strong sense of pacing that keeps the story moving forward.

The Red Knight is about the leader of a mercenary troop, hired by an abbess to solve a monster murder. It soon turns into an all-out siege battle with the continued existence of a kingdom at stake. Monsters, mages, and men clash in this brilliant tale. This is the beginning of a five book series. Its huge scope makes it feel like the penultimate book in a series. I am eager to see where Cameron takes us.

I have some issues with the book. Its alternate Christian reality was a hard one to swallow at first. In a way, it felt like lazy world building. I've read on the author's website why he chose to use Christianity and am now okay with it. The good news is that the story overcomes my issues with it. Also, the frequent switching of points of view was annoying. I'd have preferred Cameron using George R.R. Martin's format of one pov per chapter. It would still allow him to tell a story with a large cast of characters, but also give readers significant chunks of time inside one character's head.

The Red Knight gets 4.5 out of 5 stars.

And there you have it. All good ratings this time around! I just wanted to add that I listened to all of these books through Audible. The narrators of each were superb. Now, try one of these out for yourself!

Friday, February 1, 2013

So... how's my goal of writing three novels this year coming?

It's only a month into 2013 but I think it's important to regularly review writing goals set after the new year. I had a huge goal this year to write three novels, the first due by March 31st. Well, so far I've written 24,600 words of this first novel. That's a little under a third of my 80,000 word goal. What does this mean? It means I'm on track to hit my goal by the end of March. It also means that I've got to stretch and get 30,000 words written during February. Can I do it? Sure hope so!

As to the rest of my three novel goal this year, I've already started pre-planning novel number two. It will be another YA fantasy, set in the same world as this first one, a generation later. I have dreams of several series taking place in this same world. You might call that cheating--to repurpose world building--but I call it being economical with my time! Book three is a vague idea in the back of my brain, so there's still some thinking to do for that one, but that won't even be started until Septemberish.

How are your goals going so far this year? I hope you're reaching and surpassing them!