Monthly Archives: May 2012

Pierced by the Prince of Thorns

Prince of Thorns
Mark Lawrence
Ace,  324 p., hardcover $25.95, Kindle, Nook $12.99

Prince of Thorns is the first novel by Mark Lawrence and the first in a projected trilogy.  If you like your fantasy dark and brutal, but with a sympathetic antihero, it’s definitely a book for you. 

This is the story of Prince Honorious Jorg Ancrath.  When he was 10, he saw his brother brutally killed by the men of Duke Renar, along with his mother, who was raped first.  Jorg himself had been thrown into a patch of hook thorns, where he remained unnoticed (it was dark) until some of his father’s men found him the next day. Jorg, however, was aware of everything that went on around him.

The hook thorns latched into his flesh and held on.  This book has a similar effect.  It gets inside your head and doesn’t let go easily. 

Instead of seeking revenge, his father the king makes a deal with the Duke Renar for trade concessions.  Upon learning this, Jorg soon leaves home after he recovered, freeing a group of deadly prisoners and rising to become their captain. 

He sets out for revenge, but along the way, for reasons that only become clear near the end of the book, Jorg sets his sights on pillage.  Now he’s set his sights on home.  He’s coming to claim what is rightfully his.

It won’t be as easy as he thinks.  His father has taken a new (and young) bride, who is pregnant with a new heir.  And there are subtle forces at work intent on seeing Jorg fail, forces of which Jorg is unaware.

Like I said, this is a dark book, and the violence is brutal and bloody.  Jorg appears to be more than a little crazy.  Keep in mind that not everything is as it appears.  Lawrence does a great job of letting us inside Jorg’s head.  The book, after all, is told in first person, meaning it’s Jorg’s voice we hear.  And a wonderfully hard-bitten voice it is, full of pain and rage and cynicism.  Lawrence balances the brutality with a compelling voice and he never lets the violence sink down to the level of gratuitous violence for its own sake.  While Jorg may at times revel in the crimes he commits, Lawrence never does.  All through the story there is the voice of conscience and good speaking.  Sometimes it only in a soft whisper, but it’s there.

The setting is also intriguing.  On the surface, it appears to be your typical medieval fantasy world.  But the more you read, the more you realize that’s not actually the case.  Rather than spoil some of the surprises, I’ll just say that you should pay close attention to any references to the Builders, especially if Jorg is discussing the things they built.  It puts a whole new spin on things when you realize what he’s actually talking about.

This novel is a finalist for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Debut.  It’s easy to understand why.  I can certainly understand why Prince of Thorns made the final ballot, and I think it will be a strong contender.  Regardless of which book wins, this is an outstanding debut.  If you haven’t read it, check it out. 

Long Looks at Short Fiction: Severence by Tom Doolan

Tom Doolan
Kindle, 0.99

Tom Doolan is a busy man.  In addition to working full time, taking classes, maintaining a family life, and playing a weekly game of D&D, he also finds time to write.  I get tired just thinking about it.  Maybe he’s younger than I am, I dunno.

What I do know is that I like his work.  This is the third story he’s published himself (reviews of the other two here and here). Each of them is well-written, exciting, and a lot of fun.

“Severence” is about a young girl named Severence, who has trained herself to become an assassin after her father was murdered.  While it’s not clear if she actually did the deed herself, his second wife, Severence’s step-mother is responsible.

Severence is getting into position to kill the woman as the story opens.  Someone has decided the woman needs to die and has chosen Severence to fulfill the contract.  Fine with Severence.

There’s just one slight problem.  The target has a bodyguard who is nigh unto indestructible.

Severence thinks she has a solution to this problem.  There’s only one way to find out…

This one was fairly short, so I’m not going to give any further details.  The pace was relentless; you won’t get bored.  Severence’s plan was a complicated one, and it would have been nice to see it run into more problems than it did.  However, given the ending, one I should have foreseen and didn’t, I’m more than willing to let that point slide.

I have no idea if this is a stand-alone or the initial entry in a series.  I’m hoping it’s the latter.  Either way, check this one out.  Once again Tom Doolan has produced a short ebook with a good cover, good formatting, and most importantly, a good story.

A Look at Rick Hautala’s Four Octobers

Four Octobers
Rick Hautala
Cemetery Dance
various ebook editions, $4.99
(print edition is out of print)

Cemetery Dance had a special earlier in the year in which, for a fee, you could get any (or all) ebooks in print or any forthcoming this year.  I decided to take advantage of the offer; this is one of the books I’ve gotten so far.  It’s a collection of four novellettes and novellas.  I’ve been reading them one at a time between novels.  Now that I’ve finished it, I thought I’d pass on my thoughts.

Hautala has developed a reputation for being one of the top horror writers working today, both under his own name and his psuedonym A. J. Mattthews.  Earlier this year he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the HWA.  I’d read one or two of his short stories, but none of his novels, although I have one of the one bylined as by Matthews.

“Tin Can Telephone” tells the story of what happens when a boy mysteriously vanishes, and his friend begins to get calls from the future over their tin can telephone.  It’s something of a science fiction piece, but rather than stressing the sensawunder aspect, Hautala emphasizes the fear of the unknown, bringing out the creepiness factor.

The next offering is “Miss Henry’s Bottles”, a coming of age tale in which a boy finds himself, not entirely willingly, doing chores for the creepy old lady everyone is scared of.  In the process he learns some startling things about himself.  While Miss Henry turns out not to be so scary after all, what he eventually learns about her turns his world upside down.

In “Blood Ledge” a middle school student makes a startling discovery when he finally works up the nerve to jump off the highest ledge at the swimming hole.  This one derives its impact from what he decides to do with this information. 

The first three stories are set in the late 50s through the early 70s and concerns children and teens.  The final tale, “Cold River”, takes place in the early 00s.  A widower suffering from insomnia discovers there are worse things at night than not sleeping.  This was a ghost story, with lots of creepiness.  This was also the story that left me somewhat unsatisfied, primarily because Hautala doesn’t explain everything.  While I don’t expect every aspect of a ghost story to have an explanation, the motivations of some of the haunts need to make sense.  Perhaps I missed something, having started this tale late at night not being able to finish it for two nights due to fatigue, but I was left with more questions than answers.  I find that somewhat unsatisfying.  Your mileage may vary.

Overall, this was a quality collection, with plenty of creeps and chills.  Hautala does young protagonists well.  Many of the characters were about the same age I was when I first started reading scary stories, and these tales brought back memories.

I’ve got a collection of Hautala’s short stories somewhere.  I think it’s in storage, but if it isn’t, I’m going to get it out and read them.  One a night.  After everyone’s asleep and the house is quiet.

Long Looks at Short Fiction: "Maze of Shadows" by Fred Chappell

“Maze of Shadows”
Fred Chappell
Fantasy and Science Fiction, May/June 2012
258 pgs., $7.50

This story got the cover of the current issue of F&SF, which gives the impression that it’s a sword and sorcery tale.  Turns out it’s a high fantasy set in a Renaissance style world much like Italy.  It’s also part of a series.  I’ve not read the other installments, but since I have a complete run of the magazine going back to the early 70s, I’ll look them up.  Time constraints have kept me from reading every story in every issue for the last few years, something I’m trying to correct.

But I digress.  “Maze of Shadows” was not quite what I thought it was, but it was still an enjoyable tale, a complex mystery that should not be read near bedtime or when you’re tired.  You’ll need to be alert for this one.  That’s a good thing.

The story concerns one Falco, an apprentice shadow master.  He and his fellow apprentice Mutano had been set the task of creating an shadow maze in a small mansion owned by a nobleman.  The nobleman wants to protect something of great value, and the shadow maze is supposed to do just that.  The way it works is the shadows make things appear different than they are.  For instance, what appears to be a stairwell hides a precipitous drop.  In order to test the maze, Falco’s master, Maestro Astolfo, had him leave a ring on a table in one of the inner rooms.  The story opens with Maestro Astolfo giving Falco the ring and introducing him to a blind healer named Veuglio, who was the person who retrieved the ring with the aid of a young girl called by the name of his daughter, Sybilla.

Of course, there is more going on here than is visible on the surface, much more.  Relationships exist between Maestro Astolfo, Veuglio, Sybilla, and the nobleman that Falco is unaware of.  As he tries to piece things together, he realizes there are hidden depths to Maestro Astolfo.

One of the subplots, which will turn out to be intricately entwined with the main plot is that concerning Mutano’s voice.  It’s been stolen by a cat, so that the cat now speaks with Mutano’s voice, and he with the cat’s.  This may have happened in a previous installment of the series.  Like I said, I’ve not read any of them. 

Now I am not a fan of the subgenre of cat stories, wherein cats solve crimes, combat wizards, or take over the world (they’ve already done the latter).  So this part of the story was a bit of a challenge for me to buy into.  However, once I thought about the setting (a pseudo-medieval Italy or something very like it), and the types of stories and folktales that would have been common in the real medieval Italy, I found that it actually fit.  There could have been a little less emphasis on the cat subplot for my taste, but it did turn out to be crucial to the story.

This was a dense mystery, with much misdirection and seemingly unrelated details scattered throughout, key word being “seemingly”.  Falco says in the opening scene that “Shadow mazes are designed to deceive the eyes.”  Chappell has created a literary shadow maze, with much deception.  While it may not be for everyone, if you have the patience, it’s worth the read.

A Brief Look at the May Issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine

A couple of months ago, I looked at the March issue of Swords and Sorcery Magazine, a new online magazine  that so far has succeeded in publishing two stories a month every month.  That’s better than some semi-pro zines do.  Hopefully, this will continue.

I thought I would revisit the publication this month.  Both stories are well-done, although the execution of one is superior to the other.

The first story is “Royal Steel” by Leigh Kimmel.  It concerns Ashkhen, the orphaned daughter of a discarded courtesan who is living by her wits on the streets.  The former king is dead, a diabolist rules in his place, and Ashkhen and her grandfather do what they can to survive.  Her grandfather is a former soldier, and he doesn’t think much of the thugs who now make up the army.  When a group of them destroy his shashlik stand, Ashkhen comes to his aid and gets chased by the soldiers.

Running through a broken doorway, she finds a means of not only defending herself, but of avenging the former king.  This part of the story is logical, and Kimmel sets it up so that it makes sense.  The only problem I had was that a door that leads into the palace was hanging shattered and open, completely unguarded.  There is a possible explanation for this, one I’ll not give details about because I don’t want to give away that much of the plot.  I’ll just say that it’s the same explanation for Ashkhen finding the means to avenge the king.  This stretched my suspension of disbelief to near breaking.

Other than this point, I enjoyed the story and would be interested in seeing more from Kimmel.  The setting isn’t your typical European medieval fantasy world.  The backstory is handled well, and Ashkhen is a sympathetic heroine.  The author gives a bit of the story’s history here.

The second and considerably longer story is David Turnbull‘s “There Might be Giants”, a delightful coming of age tale in which a young boy much face his own personal giant.  The boy, Henry, is the son of the abusive jailer, and Jack the Giant Killer has been condemned to death for crimes against the people, naming being in the employ of the deposed Duke and accepting the tax money of the people in payment.  The dialogue crackles, and there’s an undercurrent of socioeconomic commentary that really appealed to me, best summed up in Henry’s father’s salute to the Great Comrade, whose portrait has replaced that of the Duke:   “Here’s to the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Jack may or may not be a liar, and there may or may not be real giants.  I hope Turnbull never writes a sequel in which he lets us know the truth.  The uncertainty was one of the strengths of the story.  On the other hand, a sequel would be appealing.  This one I highly recommend.

I’ve not had a chance to read the April issue (yet), what with a health scare and end of semester crunch hitting.  I intend to read the stories in the near future.  I will say that I thought this issue was a strong one.  If editor Curtis Ellet can maintain this level of quality, this will be a publication with the potential to become a major source of sword and sorcery.

Echo City Reverberates Through the Mind Long After It’s Finished

A slightly different version of this review appeared on at David Gemmell Awards.  Since this novel didn’t make the final ballot, and my review at the DGA has been up for about two months, I’m going to post a modified version of it here.
Spectra, mmpb, ebook, $7.99
Tim Lebbon’s Echo City is a dark, dense novel full of wonders and terrors and many things made up of both.  The novel starts out, not really slow, but at a more restrained pace.  Lebbon has a number of characters in different locations he needs to bring together, and once they start to join up, the pace is relentless and the suspense nerve-wracking.
One of the main characters is the city itself.
Echo City is ancient city.  No one is sure of its age, but the city is thousands of years old.  Over time the city has been built up atop the previous cities, and the lower levels are called echoes, giving the city its name.  Whole buildings still exist in the echoes, along with ghosts and other more unpleasant denizens. 
Echo City is quite large, with walls separating the different districts of the city known as Cantons.  I seem to remember Lebbon mentioning the city was either thirty square miles or thirty miles across.  I don’t recall which and can’t find the reference.  Anyway, the city is large enough that portions of it have been parceled off as parks and others as farmland to feed the population. 
This is important because Echo City sits in the middle of a vast, toxic desert.  No one has ever crossed the desert, although many have died trying, their bones littering the landscape.  That changes when the book opens. 

 Peer is a former Watcher, a political and religious dissident who was tortured and exiled to Skulk Canton, a disreputable part of the city used as a penal colony, a few years earlier for the belief that something could exist on the other side of the desert.  One day while looking out over the desert she sees a figure stumbling across the sands towards the city wall.  Descending to the base of the wall (there are holes), she helps the man in and takes him home to nurse him back to health.  She soon discovers he’s not a traveler who left the city and turned back.  Instead, he’s a traveler who just arrived, as evidenced by the weapons and other devices he carries with him.  And he has no memory of where he came from. 
The stranger’s arrival sets in motion a series of events will change Echo City forever.  One Canton, the Dragerians, believe he’s their god, returned in the flesh to lead them out of the city to the northern darkness.  The ruling Canton, the Marcellans, see him as a threat to their power and an affront to their god, Hanharan.  And one woman, the Baker, who may be as old as the city itself, sees him as the only hope of saving Echo City from the doom that is rising through the echoes. 
Soon everyone is trying to gain control of the stranger.  Peer, her former lover and betrayer Gorham, and the Baker, along with some of the Baker’s twisted creations, find themselves in the middle of a brutal war, where violence is swift and betrayal is always a possibility. 
The Baker is one of the most interesting and at times disturbing characters in the book.  She practices a type of genetic engineering called chopping.  She’s not the only practitioner, but she’s by far the best.  The things that come out of her vats lend the story a sense of wonder, terror, and menace.  It’s here that Lebbon’s background as a horror writer makes the story rise above the typical dark fantasy. 
In addition to mastering plot and setting, Lebbon is also skilled at characterization.  There are a number of viewpoint characters, and we see them through their own eyes as well as the eyes of others.  We spend time with each of them, knowing their innermost thoughts and sharing their regrets and secret fears.  And when they die, as some of them will, we feel their loss.  The end result is fully realized individuals, ones the reader can care about, even if at times the things they do may be repulsive.  And they are individuals, each with an agenda.  While that agenda includes saving Echo City, they aren’t always in agreement on how to go about saving it. 
Echo City is a breathtaking novel, well worth the time investment.  I’ll be reading more of Lebbon’s work in the future.  
Here’s where I add to the review I posted on the Gemmell Awards.  I’ve found from time to time that my mind keeps going back to this book.  It’s that well written.  I’ve read a few short pieces set in Lebbon’s world of Noreela.  He’s written several epic fantasy novels.  They’re going in my TBR stack, either in dead tree format or electronic format.  Although his work is darker than I usually review, I think he would appeal to some of you who check in here on a regular basis.   Check him out.  
I’d like to thank the Gemmell Awards for sending me a review copy.

More Wit, More Charm, More Snark, More Theft, and a Lot More Fun

False Covenant
Ari Marmell
Pyr Books
Hardcover, $16.95, release date June 2012

I think I’m a little in love with Widdershins.  It’s perfectly understandable really.  She’s beautiful and clever, with a sharp blade and a sharper tongue.  And I’m not the only one in love with her.  There’s…come to think of it, much of my competition is significantly better with a blade than I am.  Perhaps I should forget about her.

Besides, she’s a fictional character.

Why are you people looking at me that way?

False Covenant is the sequel to Thief’s Covenant, the inaugural volume in Ari Marmell’s new YA series.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  I detail my reasons here.  Don’t let the fact that these books are marketed as YA deter you from reading them.  They’re better than the bulk of what’s published as “adult” fantasy these days.

False Covenant opens about six months after the close of Thief’s Covenant, and things are not going well in the city of Davillon.  The Church blames the city for the death of Archbishop de Laurent and is actively doing what it can to punish the city by openly using its influence to redirect trade away from the city.  This isn’t exactly popular with the populace, and relations between parishioners and Church are continuing to deteriorate.

Everyone is feeling the pinch, including the aristocracy, the Finder’s Guild, and Widdershins, who is trying her best to honestly run a tavern.  Enter the new Bishop, who sympathizes with his adopted city and hatches a plot to try to improve relations between the Church and the citizens by scaring them back into the pews.

I read a quote recently (don’t ask me where) that basically said if you want to commit great evil, attempt to do great good.  That’s certainly the case here, and the other, more familiar quote about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions applies as well.

If you’ll forgive a small spoiler, what the Bishop does is enlist some men to impersonate a character out of fairy tales named Iruoch to create an atmosphere of fear in Davillon.  Initially the plan works, no one is seriously hurt, and worshipers return to services.

Until the real Iruoch shows up.  He’s a nasty piece of work and really creepy.  His fingers are unnaturally long, and he can walk on them like a spider.  He can also walk up walks and across ceilings.  He drains bodies of their blood and life essence, leaving dry husks.  The fact that much of the time he tends to talk in a sing-song nursery rhyme cadence and is accompanied by a chorus of giggling children’s voices only adds to the creepiness factor.

Meanwhile, Widdershins has a new man in her life.  And not in a good way.  He comes out of nowhere, knows far more about her than he should, and makes it clear that his intention is to cause her serious problems.

How Marmell weaves these two plots together is an example of a writer at the top of his game.  I wasn’t expecting the approach he took, but I have to admit it made perfect sense.  And the epilogue was unexpected, although again perfectly logical, setting the stage for many more adventures.

The voice Marmell uses is wonderfully snarky and at times downright hilarious.  I’ve said a time or two before in these reviews that it’s hard to get me to laugh out loud.  This book did it twice.  I’m not sure, but that might be a record.

And the humor is needed.  This is in many respects a very dark book.  It could easily have sunk to a level of bleakness that would make A Song of Fire and Ice look like Pollyanna.  And yet it doesn’t.  Marmell doesn’t shy away from the emotional effects of what happens, but he doesn’t revel in them, either.  Another quote I’ve seen recently is that good sword and sorcery has a strong infusion of horror.  Marmell writes that type of sword and sorcery, and he writes it well.  The humor helps to alleviate the horrors.  Striking this type of balance is tough trick to pull off, but the author makes it look easy.

All of the major supporting characters from Thief’s Covenant, including Widdershins’ personal deity Olgun, are back.  At least all the ones that survived to the end of that book.  Their relationships will continue to grow, although not all of them will survive to the end of this book.  If you read it, you’ll understand what I mean when I say I have a bone to pick with Marmell over the permanent change in Widdershins’ relationship with one of these characters in particular.  (No, I won’t tell you which one.  Read the  book yourself.)  But the characters are fully realized, three dimensional people, not archetypes or stock characters.  Even most of the “villains” are sympathetic and act with understandable motives, Iruoch being the exception.  They don’t all get along, they don’t all like each other, and those interactions raise this book above your standard, generic fantasy.

I haven’t read all the fantasy series Pyr has published or is in the process of publishing (but I’m working on it, Lou).  Of the ones I’ve read, my two favorites until now have been Jasper Kent’s Danilov Chronicles and Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy.  Add to that list Ari Marmell’s Widdershins’ Adventures or whatever the formal title is. I’ll continue to read about her adventures as long as Marmell continues to write them.  There’s not another title scheduled that I know of, but I hope that will change soon.  In the meantime, I’m going to read the rest of Marmell’s work, starting with The Goblin Corps.

As I said at the beginning of this review, don’t let the YA label deter you from reading this series.  It’s one of the freshest, darkest, funniest, and best sword and sorcery series being written today and should appeal to readers of all ages.  It’s great fun and reminded me of why I like fantasy, and sword and sorcery in particular, in the first place.  I hated to reach the end of it.


In the Merry Month of May

Finals are now over, and with a handful of exceptions, I’ve got my grades in.  That means I can get back to doing what’s important, as opposed to what’s necessary. I’ll be posting more updates, starting later tonight, with a review of Ari Marmell’s YA novel False Covenant, one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Some of those updates will be over at Futures Past and Present.  It’s been about six weeks since I posted anything there, and I’d like to make the site more active. I’ve got novels by Trent Jamieson, Mary Sisson, and a space opera by Eric Brown I’ve had on  the shelf for over a year that should be reviewed within the next three or four weeks.

I’m needing to take a break from several things for a few weeks, work being one of them and fantasy being another.  There are novels by David A. Hardy, Anthea Sharp, and Keith Baker that are in the queue.  I’m going to bump those back a bit.  I’ll be reading mostly the above mentioned science fiction for the rest of the month.  The fantasy I’ll read will be a couple of nominees for the Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best debut Fantasy.

I’ll also be reading short fiction across a variety of genres and posting reviews where and when appropriate.  I haven’t abandoned the Conan series and will try to post at least once in that series.  I’ve got a number of commitments to review books, and I want to finish most of them up by the end of June.  I’m thankful for all the review requests I’ve gotten, and I’ll continue to accept them.  Probably just not many over the summer.  They’re starting to feel like work, and reading fantasy, science fiction, historical adventure, horror, and detective/crime novels should be fun.

Summer should be a lighter schedule than spring was, for one because I’m not teaching, and two because soccer will be over after this week. There are some things I’ve not gotten to that I want to fit in, both in the fantasy and historical adventure fields.

Anyway, those are my plans for the next few months as far as reading and blogging are concerned.  Thanks to everyone who follows either of my blogs or just checks in from time to time.  April had the most traffic ever, and I appreciate all the page views and comments.

Shadow Ops: Control Point by Myke Cole Defies Expectations

Shadow Ops:  Control Point
Myke Cole
Ace, 389 p. mmp $7.99 US, $8.99 Can
ebook $7.99  Kindle Nook

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a publicist at Ace Books asking me to review Myke Cole’s debut novel, Shadow Ops:  Control Point.  I’d seen the book on the shelf in the bookstore and thought it looked interesting, so I agreed.

I’m glad I did.  It’s a military fantasy, but it’s not your typical military fantasy.  It’s got a good blend of superheroes thrown into the mix.

The story takes place in a world slightly different from ours.  At sometime in the recent past (Cole is vague on the chronology), during an event called the Great Reawakening, people began to develop magical powers.  Or at least some people did.

This, of course, upsets the government, and the government does what governments tend to do:  they try to legislate and control the magic.  Only certain types of magic are allowed, and if you practice in one of those schools, you’re allowed to live.  You just have to work for the government in a military type outfit called the Supernatural Operations Corps.  It’s either that or be executed.  If you manifest in a prohibited school of magic, well, you’re just out of luck.

Of course there are rumors of a secret program involving the prohibited schools and of covert operations involving practitioners of those schools.  The government denies this, but of course the rumors turn out to be true.

Oscar Britton is an army officer who manifests in one of the prohibited schools, portamancy, or the ability to open a portal to anywhere he’s ever seen.  Initially he goes on the run, but when he’s captured, he’s given the chance to join one of the cover covens.  To use his powers for good.  Or be killed.

When put that way, how can he refuse?

Only it’s not that simple.  The government defines what is good.  And it doesn’t exactly meet Oscar’s definition.  This is one of the books greatest strengths and where it departs from your typical military fantasy.  A great deal of the central portion of the novel involves the training Britton undergoes.  While some of this follows the predictable pattern of recruit grows and learns and becomes a better person with a more balanced outlook through his training, the growth and learning aren’t necessarily in favor of the establishment.  Britton is a conflicted character.  He wants to do good, but so much of what he sees around him and what he’s forced to do clearly isn’t good.  He has some real struggles over what is the right decision in some situations.

As a result, he’s very much a flawed hero, one who makes mistakes.  Costly mistakes, that result in people dying.  He’s also one I could sympathize with, even when I wouldn’t have made the same choice. 

There are plenty of fight scenes, especially as Britton completes his training and he and his team begin to be sent on missions.  Good, fun superhero style action.

But Cole doesn’t just leave us with another superhero novel.  He surprised me several times with the direction he took things, including the ending.  Especially the ending.  This is the first book in a new series, and I’m not sure where he’s going to go from here.  I can make some guesses, but I’d probably be wrong.  He’s recruited me for the next book.

Cole is former military, and it shows in the detail.  There were times when I felt I was right there.  This was not always a pleasant sensation.  The writing is smooth and powerful and propels you along.  Join the ride.

RIP, Maurice Sendak

I just learned that Maurice Sendak, best known as the author/illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are, has died of complications from a stroke.  That was my son’s favorite book when he was four, and we read it together so often that I could quote almost the whole thing.  I’ll not write a lengthy obituary because I never met the man, and anything I say will pale besides the tributes that will be written over the next few days.  I always enjoyed his work.  He will be missed, but that work will live on.  And really, isn’t that what any artist in any field would want?