Category Archives: Adult

The Steel of Raithskar (The Gandalara Cycle #1)

Title: The Steel of Raithskar

Author: Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron

Series: The Gandalara Cycle #1

Ricardo is a university professor nearing the end of his life. A terminal diagnosis has led him to take a cruise around Europe, but his planned vacation ends with the fiery impact of a meteor. But he wakes up, on another world, in another body. Another life. A second chance. But living means taking on the identity of Markasset, the former owner of that body, and Markasset had problems of his own . . .

I read this once years ago and never got around to finishing the series, so I thought I’d give it another go.

The characters can be pretty thin. Illia, Markasset’s girlfriend, is probably the worst drawn of the main cast. She’s beautiful and interested in Markasset, and that is the extent of her characterization. Zaddorn, the police chief that Ricardo inadvertently crosses, is better but still fairly straightforward: he wants to recover the stolen jewel and thinks Markasset either did it or has answers about what happened. Thanasset, Markasset’s father, has the most depth. He recognizes immediately that his son is not the same, although he’s also remarkably quick to come to terms with his son’s death.

The plot is a bit better. Ricardo tries to analyze the new world in which he finds himself, piecing together what clues he notices to try to figure out who he is supposed to be, and later on, what happened to the jewel that was stolen. He can’t even say with any certainty that the body he wears now DIDN’T do it. And I liked that although Zaddorn is an antagonist, Ricardo has a great deal of sympathy for the man, as he’s only trying to do his job.

I also liked Keeshah, the gigantic cat that Markasset had bonded. In this dry, desert world, the cats are used as mounts by those who have bonded them (everyone else goes on foot). It’s a little strange to me that a meat-eater would be the largest creature in the desert, but I do like the relationship between him and Keeshah. The cat, of course, knows that Ricardo is not Markasset. But Keeshah’s trust opens a number of opportunities for Ricardo, not the least of which is the ability to get from place to place much faster than anyone else.

Overall I’m ambivalent on the series so far. I’m not particularly fond of any of the characters except Keeshah, but the plot was decent, and the book is short enough that it’s not a slog. I rate this book Neutral.

 

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The People’s Necromancer (Age of Magic #1)

Title: The People’s Necromancer

Author: Rex Jameson

Series: Age of Magic #1

Content warning: rape, incest, and violence against children

Ashton is grieving the loss of his best friend Clayton when the unthinkable happens: a hand pressing up from the dirt. Apparently his calls to Clayton to come back actually woke something up. Necromancy is only a vague legend, and Ashton has no idea why the dead respond to his call. But when tragedy strikes, his power offers the perfect opportunity to even the scales . . .

I could have done without the incest. I never liked Julian and his self-hatred doesn’t make his actions any more palatable (his sister’s even worse). Things like this are why I avoid Game of Thrones (and probably this is what prompted the comparison in the blurb.)

The other major weakness is that Ashton doesn’t actually have a method or a cost associated with his raising the dead. He can pull one person or hundreds with no effort. Speaking to them is fine, but he has no idea what in his words is actually working. Given that necromancy isn’t something just anyone can do, I would find it more believable if there was some kind of cost or ritual associated.

I did find the whole situation between Ashton and Clayton amusing. Ashton, having no idea why Clayton came back or what his now-dead friend might want with him, can only flee in terror. Which gets him into deeper trouble. And I like how this ties into the larger political situation between the two nobles, though I find their lack of willingness to be political with each other and cut a few deals a little puzzling.

Overall this was mostly entertaining, except for the incest. And it’s mostly due to that I’m not interested in pursuing this further. I rate this book Neutral.

As the Crow Flies

Title: As the Crow Flies

Author: Robin Lythgoe

Crow was all set to steal one last big job and get out, retiring in luxury with the woman he loves. But it all goes wrong and he finds himself imprisoned, then coerced to steal a dragon’s egg for a wizard. Oh, and he has to travel there with Tanris, the guard who’s been his nemesis for ages. Crow doesn’t even believe in dragons. But if he wants to stay alive he’s going to have to figure something out . . .

This had some big flaws but was still mostly enjoyable.

The thing that dragged the book down the most for me was Crow’s imprisonment. He spends about a month in total darkness and solitary confinement. First, if you’ve spent a month in total darkness, coming out into the light would NOT be a moment of “I’m so glad to see the sun,” it would be a moment of “I’m blind because my eyes haven’t had to process light in ages.” Second, for someone who spent a month in solitary, Crow’s WAY too composed when he finally has other people to talk to—bluffing the baron just like he would have before he got caught. And the whole being-poisoned thing made me roll my eyes…. you’re stupid enough to accept the wine even suspecting poison? Why not just have the poison applied as a spell while he’s still locked up? Finally, the whole imprisonment should have impacted him very badly when he runs into situations later that call it back to mind—dark rooms, underground tunnels, and so on. But the actual impact in the story is minimal enough that I feel it would’ve made more sense to go with a normal imprisonment instead of a month in solitary in the dark.

There’s also a bit too much attitude sometimes. On the one hand, Crow’s obviously selfish, egotistical, and flawed, but there needs to be a lull in the snark every now and again so that it can be more impactful.

I did like seeing Crow’s almost hysterical dislike of wizards, especially since he’s been subordinated by one wizard to go take on another wizard. And even the journey over has him stumbling into ancient magics of uncertain effect on his person. The ending amuses me because by the end Crow is so firmly embedded in magical dealings that he’s never, ever going to be able to get out.

Crow and Tanris have a mostly adversarial relationship. Their slow respect transitioning to friendship could have done with a bit more friendship, but I did enjoy the times Tanris surprised Crow. The cat also made me laugh—a murderous animal indeed, and very much out for its own best interest.

I also quite liked Egg, although the nicknames should probably have gone away at some point. Girl, at least, seemed a bit too comfortable with such a generic name.

Overall, although I couldn’t quite get over the imprisonment bit, I did mostly enjoy the story. I rate this book Recommended.

Dragon Lost (Dragon Thief #1)

Title: Dragon Lost

Author: Lisa Manifold

Series: Dragon Thief #1

Aodan just wants to complete one final job, get paid, and get out. Unfortunately, a heist with a reward this lucrative is bound to have a catch. He just didn’t realize the catch would be his own unusual ties to these events. Like him turning into a dragon. Now he’s determined to do whatever it takes to get away from all the drama . . .

I liked this a lot, although I think it’s a little hampered by the way the end kind of drops off. It feels like just the end of one chapter, instead of the end of the book. Basically there’s not enough sense of conclusion. (This would bother me less if the next book was already here so I could just keep going.)

Aodan was a fun character. I liked how he reacted (badly) to his new ability to shapeshift. He likes being good at what he does, but he likes even more having as trouble-free a life as possible. And being a dragon, and having mystical bad guys after him, is way more trouble than he ever wanted. But since he’s stuck with it, he’s trying to figure out the best and fastest way he can deal with it and get out.

I liked Margrite too. I liked that she and Aodan are best friends without a trace of romance (former siblings, even if not by blood). I liked the way they understand each other, and can communicate without talking, and how they’re always on each others’ side.

I also really, really liked the dragons. Their culture is in ruins, thanks to a war that wiped most of them out, but they’re an interesting species. There’s a lot of little details I appreciated, like how color works, or the way mental speech plays into who they are.

I didn’t really care for the psychic reading, though. That whole scene felt like an extended hint about what’s going to happen, and an obscure way to express some of Aodan’s backstory.

Overall I’m looking forward to the next book, and I hope it comes soon. I rate this book Recommended.

Never: Prequel to the Amber Isle (Book of Never #0)

Title: Never: Prequel to the Amber Isle

Author: Ashley Capes

Series: Book of Never #0

When an attempt to earn some money via forgeries goes bad, Never finds himself caught in other people’s schemes. All he wants is answers about who—or what—he is. Since modern knowledge has drawn a blank, he’s turning to ancient history. But the types of relics he’s going after have attracted more than just his interest.

This novella is a better introduction to Never than the first book. It showcases what little he does know about himself, his abilities, and shows how he ends up in the situation that started the first book.

I enjoyed the caper because Never isn’t quite in control, even when he tries to be. Despite all his attempts to stay on top of things, life keeps throwing wrenches in the works. And it was nice to see how he reacted to one boy with kindness, and how that ended up blessing both of them.

All in all, this is a good one to check out if you were curious about the series. I rate this book Recommended.

The Hidden Fire (Knights of the Flaming Blade #2)

Title: The Hidden Fire
Author: James R. Sanford
Series: Knights of the Flaming Blade #2

Kyric is discouraged from his failure to reach the castle, to start down the path to becoming a true Knight of the Flaming Blades. But Aiyan reappears in his life, and offers a chance at a new adventure: finding the Spice Islands that were marked on the map Aiyan stole previously. And, possibly along the way, Kyric might learn a little more and get one step closer to his dream of Knighthood . . .

This was kind of odd, because I liked the dream portions much better than the waking portions. The whole book, Kyric is following a series of dreams that are part adventure, part danger—and enough of it follows him to the real world to be concerning. He isn’t sure what they’re about, or where they’re leading him, but there’s something about them that captures his attention.

The waking adventure isn’t bad, just not as bizarre as the dreams. I don’t like how the introduction of the book is Kyric falling into a slump and deciding to lose his virginity with a random girl. He seemed to have more sense than that in the previous book. Similarly, his attempts at relationship later feel like they move really fast.

Action-wise, both segments have some good moments. Aiyan starts to show more humanity in the way he deals with some old comrades. The journey may be long, but most of the story doesn’t take place on the ship.

Overall this was a decent followup to the first book, although I wasn’t quite as fond of it due to Kyric messing around. I rate this book Recommended.

The Amber Isle (Book of Never #1)

Title: The Amber Isle

Author: Ashley Capes

Series: The Book of Never #1

Never is searching for answers—about his mother’s refusal to name him, about the strange curse on his blood. Having recently come into possession of a map of the Amber Isles, he sets out. Unlike the other treasure hunters, he doesn’t want gold, just answers. Ancient ruins may be the only chance of a clue, when modern libraries have failed him . . .

This was good, although it was lighter than I liked on character development. It’s mostly how Never gets to the island and then navigates through the ruins depicted on his map. The end doesn’t tie anything up conclusively, so it’s on future books to push the adventure forward.

I liked Never as a character. He’s a bit snarky, but also clearly desperate. He can’t just accept the mysteries in his life. Given how hard it is for him to avoid accidentally killing people, though, it’s not hard to see why. And the curse backfires on him in some ways, besides the obvious.

The problem for me, though, is that this is such a small fragment of the adventure. The action is nice but it would’ve been good to get either character growth or some solid answers and not just teases. It was a nice read but I finished feeling ambivalent about continuing.

Given the shorter length, I would recommend reading this as part of a collection with the first couple of books. That way it won’t feel like it ends when it’s just getting started. I rate this book Neutral.