Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Demon Cycle: The Daylight War, a review

Peter Brett’s TheWarded Man was the kind of book that was filled with wonders.  The world was rich with history.  The magic was unique.  The enemies were fascinating.  And the protagonist, Arlen Bales, was a man to be reckoned with.  The sequel, The Desert Spear, took a side-step to the series, switching primary POVs for several hundred pages, re-hashing events from The Warded Man only from a different perspective.  Despite some hesitation, I still rather enjoyed The Desert Spear.

The Daylight War, the third book in Brett’s Demon Cycle, again side-steps, though thankfully less robust this time around.  The book focuses a lot on Krasian culture through Inevera’s POV, and the Reader gets to see the her life from childhood to becoming the most powerful woman in Krasia.  Sporadically the POV switches to Leesha, Rojer, or Renna.  Less frequently we get a scene from Arlen’s or Ahmann’s POV.  Throughout all the shifts we see how different people react to the rising demon threat.

This threat is imminent.  The book begins with a countdown.  There are 30 days until New Moon, when the demon minds rise and cause substantial damage.  The bulk of the book culminates to the night with a small epilogue to the action that offered more enjoyment than the majority of things beforehand.  (Please excuse any ambiguity.  I’m trying to remain as spoiler-free as possible.)

It’s difficult to say whether or not I liked The Daylight War.  As a Reader I felt both excitement and boredom.  The book was hefty and I felt like a lot of it could be trimmed down.  I, for one, didn’t think Inevera needed such a detailed background.  I wanted more “present-day” action, and instead I got a lot of transitional scenes and character musings.   I also felt like Arlen’s character arc took a wompy loop, as his choices were either meticulously planned or off-the-cuff.

One major disappointment with this book (major enough to deserve its own paragraph) was just how sexual it was.  I understand that Krasian society is structured the way it is, but Brett seemingly turned a spotlight on the stuff.  He was explicit for no reason other than being explicit, and this just seems adolescent to me.  

Despite my difficulties in assessing the book, the strong points of The Daylight War were indeed strong.  Brett’s world continues to be unique and rich.  His action scenes continue to be entertaining.  I’m definitely interested in reading more of The Demon Cycle, but I’m okay with waiting a few years, too.  Hopefully with the next book we’ll actually progress the plot a bit more, but who can say.  If you’ve read the first two books in this series and enjoyed them then you’ll likely find things you like in The Daylight War that you like, too.  If you’re looking for the plot to take a giant step forward, steel yourself for some minor disappointment.  The Daylight War is readable and entertaining in parts, but it’s easily the weakest installment of Brett’s growing catalog.

As a side note, I was mildly embarrassed to be seen in public with this book.   The cover looks like it belongs on a Harlequin romance novel or something.  It does fit the pattern established by cover art, but it's still rather weak, I think.  Of course, I'm not a big fan of photo-realistic art for covers anyway.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Dresden Files: Grave Peril, a Review

Folks say that The Dresden Files really picks up steam with the third book.  Heck, even Jim Butcher himself said that at the beginning of the audio version of the thing.  Grave Peril, as it turns out, does indeed amplify the series, throwing the Reader into an even wider world than previously imagined.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only practicing wizard, has survived some hairy situations.  Storm Front had a power-hungry psycho using storms to murder people.  Fool Moon introduced a gang of werewolves and an ancient curse.  In addition to the supernatural disturbances, Dresden is forced to work around the vampires of the city, the mafia, the police, deranged faeries, and many other affiliates.

Grave Peril introduces a brand new character into the mix.  Michael is a Knight of the Cross, one of three legendary knights that wield swords forged with a nail from the Cross of Jesus.  Michael—happily married, loving father—is helping Harry—happily dating, pet-owner—clean up the spiritual world of Chicago.  Ghosts are going berserk and attacking.  And after a mysterious girl claiming to have visions of the future turns up in Harry’s office, things get interesting.

Part of the intrigue of Grave Peril is the opening up of Dresden’s world.  The Reader finally gets a glimpse of the Nevernever.  More about Harry’s background is revealed.  More magics and wonders crop up.  The world that Jim Butcher has crafted is deep and wide, and where he’s going with the story is still undecided.  If the girl’s visions of the future have anything to say on the matter, the remainder of the series could be most interesting.

Another large difference between this book and the previous two is the formulaic is (relatively) tossed aside.  Detective Murphy doesn’t come to Harry with a crime for him to solve.  No, Harry mostly takes it upon himself to dive deeper into the spiritual chaos.  This subtle change of motive offers a more rewarding experience.

Butcher’s writing continues to be smart.  Humor comes natural and there were times when I cackled like a loon.  Butcher is also adept at being serious when the need arises, making Dresden a rich character to explore, as well as the other characters in the novel.  No one seems to be flat.  As for pacing, the book starts out in medias res and doesn’t let up.

The first time I read Fool Moon I shrugged my shoulders and thought it was okay.  The second time had me more interested in Harry, and I immediately picked up Grave PerilGrave Peril is an exciting and entertaining novel that absolutely pushes The Dresden Files up a notch or two.  I have no doubt in my mind that I will be reading more books in this series, if only for the chance to explore the world Butcher’s created.  I easily recommend reading this book.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Son is Born

Callum Reid Stewart.

His coming into this world was an adventure fraught with metric tonnes of ennui and kilo-hours of hospital lounging.  Keisha developed really high blood pressure (like she did with Avonlea) and was admitted to the hospital for monitoring on February 22.  She stayed there for 18 days or so.  I stayed pretty much there with her every night, except on the weekends, when I picked up Avonlea from Mimi's and we went home.

Then, on the morning of March 11, Keisha was taken over to surgery where they performed a natural C-section.  The OR was sterile and cold.  The blood and fluids were all around.  The numbing agent dried on her stomach at 6:33am and surgery commenced.  At 6:37am the sounds of a baby wailing were heard.  He weighed 7lb1oz and measured 18.5" long.  Huge to Avonlea's 4lb9oz weight.

Having a son is totally different than a daughter.  Avonlea is 21 months old now.  She's very interested in Callum.  "That's a baby," she says.  Indeed, that's a baby.  That's my baby.

And we're home, resting, tired, busy.  The life God has blessed me with is wonderfully exciting.  I look forward to the future of the Stewart Family.


Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Promise, a Review

Avatar: The Last Airbender is probably one of the finest cartoons ever created.  The show was smart, beautifully illustrated, funny, and it told a heck of a story.  Aang, the fledgling avatar, is learning what it means to be the Avatar.  The world is a harsh place and war is continual.  After the series concluded there were a few plot pieces left to be fleshed out.  Additionally, Nickelodeon announced a sequel (The Legend of Korra) to the show that took place about a century later.

The Promise begins shortly after the conclusion of Season 3 of The Last Airbender.  Zuko is Fire Lord now, and he’s concerned about following down his father’s path.  Zuko and Aang meet and Zuko extracts a promise from Aang, that if ever he does act like his exiled father then would Aang kill him before he does something terrible.  This is the crux of The Promise.  While the world is at relative peace, there is conflict still.  What is the price of harmony?  When a city is inhabited by both Fire Nation citizens and Earth Nation citizens how can there be peace?

Aang and Co. wrestle with these questions.  The comic reads exactly like an episode of the series, light-hearted but serious.  Aang and Katara develop their relationship that was just budding in the show; Sokka wise-cracks to a few literal laugh aloud moments; Toph teaches a trio of inept students the art of metal-bending.  Momo and Appa weren’t too visible throughout the story, but other familiar characters returned.

The Promise offers everything an Avatar fan wants.  I have not watched The Legend of Korra, but I imagine the plot and conclusion to The Promise plays nicely into the show.  The ARC I received is a collection of all three parts to The Promise combined in a single book with commentary on the side panels.  Various contributors offered insight to why certain scenes look the way they do, going into Chinese history and folklore, etc.  This commentary was pretty interesting and definitely would be appealing for people wanting to go deeper into the Avatar mythos.

Overall The Promise was a quick, fun, and intelligent read.  Reading was a cinematic experience, one that drew me back into Aang’s world.  For fans of the television series, I definitely recommend reading The Promise.  I look forward to exploring these characters in future adventures. 

FTC Thingy: I received this book as a digital ARC through NetGalley's book reviewer program.  They didn't give me anything other than the digital book and I was not obligated to review this.