Do you think there really is a creativity crisis in the cultural media? I have been hearing that for a long time and it is true that reboots, remakes, sequels and prequels are on vogue nowadays in movies, videogames and books. There is also a rise on adaptations from one media to another and not always of the best quality (Dragon age books and Death Island books? Anyone? No? Then stay away from them). On the other hand we have witnessed some original stories coming out lately: movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel or Gravity or books such as Apocalypse Now Now while some of the greatest classics of all time have been based on pre-existing works, such as the Godfather. I really don’t think it is a problem about creativity, it is about franchises, which is something entirely different: as a producer your wet dream is to find a franchise which interests the studios and that the public will like; it really has nothing to do with the lack of imagination of the script writer Association, it has to do with an effort to make a complicated sector safer for the investors.

ANN

Strong points: Originality, narrative.

Weak points: Tries to tell too much, some events feel forced.

Apocalypse Now Now, written by Charlie Human (Highly suspicious last name if you ask me. It is like when your roommate tells you something like “I didn’t have sex with your Teddy Bear” before you even go into your room), tells us the story of Baxter Zevcenko, a teenage kingpin who controls the porn market of his school’s yard. When his kleptomaniac girlfriend is kidnapped by a notorious serial killer Baxter hires the help of a supernatural bounty hunter, starting a series of events that will take him to places that he only expected to visit in his worst nightmares.

Apocalypse Now Now shines for its original setting. Everything that we find and feels as fresh air in an age when the risks of originality are not easily taken. This version of South Afrika exceeds in craziness, darkness and magic in an alluring way which will have you reading onwards just for the sheer strangeness you find. The criminal societies which populate the Westridge high school are built in a way by which every one of them is different and the monsters that populate Cape Town have unique qualities in their design and in how they integrate in the human society that surrounds them. The world that has been crafted in this novel is unique and highly enjoyable.

The narrative is both fresh and alluring, managing a fast and captivating pace which fits perfectly with the story at hand. The author manages to change the speaking patterns and the vocabulary used by the different characters, creating through the dialog itself very different personalities.

Sadly (and this is something I never thought I would say) the novel has too many good ideas, which results in the author not developing them to their fullest potential. For example, the idea of a high school dominated by gags which act as if they were corporations, mafias or even the Nazi Party is an alluring idea which has many narrative possibilities, but sadly as soon as the next plot starts it is all forgotten and falls into obscurity.

Some events feel forced and clumsily fitted in just as a way to advance the story: Like the conversation by which Baxter finds out Esme has been kidnapped, which feels awkward and unnatural to say the least.

Apocalypse Now Now is an original novel which I highly recommend to the fans of the urban fantasy genre and t those readers that are looking for something new and fresh. Maybe it ain’t perfect but it is enjoyable and will give readers a good time.

Ok, so book review: check! Next item in the list: investigate the author. If you don’t heard of me in the next two weeks, call the Men in Black.

ALien
too… human

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

I want to thanks Tor and Netgalley for the opportunity of Reading an advance copy

Gritty fantasy has always being a personal favorite of mine, at least since the moment I picked Game of Thrones and started to read it six years ago (I am going to stop pointing out how long ago things happened, because this is starting to get depressive). There is, in my opinion, something human in gritty fantasy; it has both faces of reality: the optimistic and the ugly one. That combination, I think, manages to offer a story where everything can happen, just as the real world. You are afraid your favorite characters aren’t going to made it but you still rooting for them anyway and that produces a mix of Agony and Emotion which gets addictive. (Yes, I am still mourning Oberyn Martell, that’s what all of this is about, and yes I had read the book, but it was nothing comparable to his death in the show).

Us

Strong points: The characters, the story development.

Weak points: some elements feel underplayed.

Unwrapped Sky, written by Rjurik Davidson (who also can boast of having the most fantasy character-like name ever), invites the reader to Calei-Amur, an independent city full of magic and mystery ruled by three merchant houses. From the points of view of Kata, a philosopher-assassin trying to escape her contract with one of the houses, Boris Autec, a once factory worker who finds himself rising to a position of power, and Maximilian, a young dreamer who is part of the rebel group known as the Seditionists, the reader will witness a story about change and revolution as a small group of people try to fight against the brutal rule of the three houses.

If there is something in this novel that really helps the readers to connect with the story is its unforgettable characters. Their complexities offer us an alluring game of lights and shadows within each one of them which will capture the readers pulling them into the pages. Possibly Boris is the most interesting and tragic out of the three main characters; his slow degeneration offers the reader a heartbreaking character development of a man who just wants to make the world a better place but finds himself overrun by the sheer pressure of the events that unravel around him . We witness an emotional journey that takes place step by step, almost unnoticed, until we are in front of a much changed character and we realize the subtle process that has taken him there. Kata and Maximilian also have their own share of complexities and internal conflicts that make the characters feel alive: Kata will do anything to escape her actual life even if it means to continue committing the crimes that have driven her to hate it. Finally Maximilian offers a lighter character but also marked by the fight between what he should be and what he is, being particularly interesting the fact that he is trying to ignore that his actions are driven by a desire of glory.

The story development is astonishing. The novel unravels itself masterfully driving us towards its climax while playing with the pace. The way Mr. Davidson has developed Unwrapped Sky manages to attract the readers and trap them in the book, making it increasingly difficult to put down (I read the last 40% in one go). The subtlety by which the author provides information is also a strong point in its development, managing to dodge the (personally hated) over explanation effect and allowing the reader to discover some answers through the hints he provides; one example being the true identity of the Elo-talern, which is never provided directly but is hinted through the book.

The story had an amazing start, an army of minotaurs marching through the streets of Calei-Amur, going to join an annual celebration where they are the guests of honor. Imagine my dismay when, after building my expectations, I find out the minotaurs are forgotten by chapter six. This is the weak point of Unwrapped Sky, some elements feel underplayed, not used to their full potential, leaving races such as the minotaurs or the new-men or even the Elo-Talern almost as side notes in the story when it was hinted they would be important on the story (There is a freaking minotaur on the cover, I call that a hint). Luckily, the ending suggest this won’t be a stand-alone novel, so in the future we can hope for some of this elements to become increasingly important.

I have really enjoyed Unwrapped Sky and I recommend it to anyone who happens to love interesting characters, political fantasy and gritty narrative. Mr. Davidson must be congratulated for this amazing piece of work and for having the most awesome name I have encountered. Now I am going back to listening “Let it go” while mourning Oberyn.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

My acting teacher once told my class “we live in a period in which is fashionable to acclaim the villain”. I believe that is true, since it started with Wicked several years ago (Years already? Good god) we have seen various examples such as Breaking bad, the internet musical Twisted or the upcoming Malefic movie starring Angeline Jolie (soon there will be a movie about the hunter who kills bambi’s mom. A poor, unfortunate soul who just wants to feed his ten children and make them coats. Let’s see how you feel about hating him now).

Now, in modern times, there is definitely one Villain/antihero who is raising above all others, and that is Loki. The Gospel of Loki has nothing to do with the watered down marvel version of the Trickster god; this is the real thing, the Nordic god straight out of the pages of Nordic mythology, as savage and merciless as the original one.

GoL

Strong points: writing style, Loki, narrative twists.

Weak points: story development.

The Gospel of Loki, written by Joanne M. Harris, is a retelling of the Nordic mythology, specifically of the events that led to Ragnarok, from the point of view of Loki, the Trickster God. From the consolidation of Odin as the King of the gods to the arrival of Chaos, going through Loki’s recruitment, his adoption as Odin’s brother and the breach between them, the story unfolds towards its tragic ending as the father of lies offers us his version of what really happened.

If I had to choose only one quality that made this book worth reading I would have a really hard time, but I would probably end up deciding it is the writing style. The work that Ms. Harris has produced can only be graded as astonishing. Following a first person narrative format the writer has managed to embody the character in such a way that it is absolutely believable that Loki is telling the story himself. Sometimes I feel that most of the time an author chooses to use first person narrative, he or she tends to “drop character” when it comes to provide description of events or explanations, producing then two narrative voices in one character (the “personal” one and the information provider). The Gospel of Loki manages an impressive feat: every little detail, every character, every action is presented from Loki’s point of view the whole time, producing a captivating universe full of subjectivism which manages to entrap the reader.

Loki himself is a rich and charismatic character full of lights and shadows who captivates the reader almost from the very first page. This is not a tale of how a good but misunderstood person is pushed by his peers to commit unethical actions in order to change the world for the better, as it happens in Wicked or Twisted. Loki isn’t particularly good or ethical; he is presented to us as a chaotic character, moved by his passions, his narcissism and his selfishness, effectively dodging all possible clichés and bringing us a fresh character full of mysteries and possibilities, surprising us at every step and keeping the audience on guard.

It has been a long time since I could put surprising story twists as a strong point in a book review, but this book manages a series of breath taking twists which leave the reader gasping for air. There is something wonderful on being surprised by a story nowadays and Ms. Harris manages it perfectly with her unique narrative skills.

Sadly the novel has a major weak point: a chaotic story development makes it difficult to understand what is happening. It feels as if the author couldn’t decide what events set Loki on movement, so every time the gods of Asgard turn against him Loki seems to decide for the very first time to betray them. This complicates the character development because every time Loki seems to take a step backward and then another one forward, which results in a lack of differences between pre-event Loki and post-event Loki. This results in over-repetition, which can be quite irritating and quite confusing.

Despite its disorganized development, The Gospel of Loki is a good book which will provide the reader with hours of enjoyment and a narrative to remember. I would recommend this novel to any person who enjoys a good fantasy book or who is interested in Nordic mythology. If you give it a try it won’t disappoint you.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

Disclaimer: I have read an advance reviewer copy, some details may change in the final commercial copy

I want to thanks Angry Robot and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

I have been wondering lately what makes a story good. In the Spanish film industry we are living right now a unique moment that no one saw coming, for the first time in Spanish history a Spanish movie has made more money than any American film has ever done (except for Avatar). This movie, 8 apellidos vascos (which in English has been translated as Spanish Affair), is a comedy about the cultural differences between the south and the north of Spain. It isn’t something entirely new and, while it is true is really funny, it is not one of those movies one would expect to do almost 50 million Euros in Spain alone (not even Titanic did that). So, is it the story itself? The actors (the Amazing Carmen machi, Dani Robira and the talented Clara Lago)? Or is it maybe the economic crisis and the social tension between the north and the south? I don’t know, I feel I need more beers in order to find the answer.

Peacemaker-CR

Strong points: the setting.

Weak points: Clichés, some events feel forced.

Peacemaker, written by Marianne de Pierres, tells us the story of Virgin Jackson, a ranger in the last natural landscape on earth. Now, her beloved Park has become a murder scene during her watch and is up to her and her new partner, the enigmatic Marshal Nate Sixkiller, to find the killer before the obsessive detective Chance manages to frame Virgin herself for the murder and to discover why Aquila, Virgin’s eagle-shaped imaginary friend from her childhood, has reappeared the same night said crime was committed.

If there is anything that makes Peacemaker a worthwhile reading it is, undoubtedly, its setting. Marianne de Pierre has managed to create a wonderful world which mixes science fiction and urban fantasy creating something unique: a society which mixes technology and shamanistic magic in a way that feels natural and is rapidly accepted by the reader. It is also worth it to note that the urban landscape where the novel takes place is varied and full of life, being similar to a real city in its complexity and social rules instead of the overly used clichés we find out in fictional cities such as “the zone where no one under any circumstances should enter which you know the hero will have to enter” or the “uppity zone where everyone is a heartless bastard”. Ms de Pierres manages to create a megacity which feels real and which serves as home to a group of unforgettable inhabitants.

Sadly, the story-telling fares worse. The novel goes from cliché to cliché and by halfway through the book it has lost its original flavor. The relationship between the characters is one big cliché, dividing the male group in two categories: those who are in love with Virgin and those who have a paternal relationship with Virgin. This makes the novel a highly predictable love pentagon (really?) between Virgin and her cohorts of male suitors, which works fine with her due to the fact that every one of her four admirers have a unique skill that gets her through the story: Sixkiller shoots things, Totes hacks things, Heart charms things and Hamish drives things (and runs them over). The events don’t escape this effect either and are soon a predestined chain of events which doesn’t manage to finish catching the reader’s attention, even the ending, unexpected as it is, seems borrowed from other books that come before it.

As a result of the story walking an over-used path, some of the events feel forced in order to create a result. The whole relationship Sixkiller-Virgin goes in a cycle distrust-trust-distrust-trust without any apparent motive as do their feelings, one moment they are colleagues and the next they are giving the other person “The Look”. Sometimes they feel more like puppets than actual characters, just fulfilling the necessary functions to reach a decided result.

While this may not be Angry Robot’s best book by a long shot (Age Atomic and The Lives of Tao hold that title for now and they are difficult to top) Peacemaker is not a bad book either if all you are looking for is to relax and enjoy your free time. After all, what makes a good story? Is it the story itself? Or is it the moment when you read it?

FINAL SCORE: 5/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

If you have read my early reviews (look at me, talking as if I had been doing this for years) you may know that, despite being a little too simplistic and predictable for my tastes, I loved Alanna: The First Adventure. Following the best of my traditions, I was a little bit distrustful about the second installment of the series because I had heard it was even more simplistic than the last, that’s the reason why it took so long for me to read it. I can assure you, dear readers that I have seen the face of this second installment and the Song of the Lioness quartet is still as enjoyable as the first day we met. (and I am still blaming Tamora Pierce for eating up all my free time with her book)

This review contains spoilers of Alanna the First Adventure.

IHG

Strong Points: The characters, the setting, the writing style..

Weak points: too simplistic sometimes.

In the hand of the Goddess, written by Tamora Pierce, the story starts one year after Alanna and Jonathan defeated the Ysandir in the dark city. Under the guise of Alan, the girl is now the squire of the prince and her Ordeal, the process the initiates must pass to become knights, is drawing near. This soon will become the least of Alanna’s worries for greater problems threaten the kingdom’s stability: from the outside a great army of turanians has been prepared to attack Tortall and every knight and squire is being sent to meet this threat; but there is a second internal threat only known to Alanna, the ambitious Roger of Conté is getting ready to strike against his cousin Jonathan, and take Tortal’s throne once and for all.

Alanna surprises us again for her depths and her internal conflicts, showing us that she happens to be a strangely complex character for a youngster’s novel. She is not a perfect model that some writer thought could serve as an example for children to live their life in a certain way, she is human being, a celebration to living your life however you seem fit but always accepting the responsibility that comes with that decision. As every human being she is burdened by indecisions, lack of self-esteem and doubts about herself and everything that surrounds her and that makes Alanna a rich and interesting character full of life that the readers will enjoy and with whom they will sympathy.

But when it comes to characters the greatest surprise is the way that some of them have acquired certain depth compared with the first book. Sir Myles has become even more likeable than before showing us certain complexity which goes beyond the paternal figure we have already seen or, better said, it goes deeper into the role. Tamora Pierce shows us a kind man who has learned of his limitations and the limitations of others, but also a clever man who knows how to play with the image he gives to the world. Jonathan and George Cooper go beyond their respective roles as friends to become two young men torn between the love they bear to Alanna as a woman and the friendship their beard to Alan the squire, in particular Jonathan becomes a personification of the storm of feeling that a teenager may feel when he is stroked by love (we have all been there, god knows we have all been there) and that makes his character a lot deeper, being in constant conflict with himself and Alanna.

The world that Tamora Pierce has managed to create with the Song of the Lioness is simple, but at the same time wonderful and full of magic. The society the author has built is like a well-oiled machine, it moves perfectly, there are not contradictions between the books and no weird rules destined to make the world more complex just for the heck of it. The kingdom of Tortall happens to adapt perfectly to the tone of the novel and, besides that apparent simplicity, it manages to pull the readers inside the pages making them become involve with the novel.

While the characters and the setting are the strongest point of the novel, there is something else that keeps you reading until the end: Tamora Pierce’s impeccable writing style. Not only are her descriptions simply amazing, but the language used to write this book is fluid and easy to read. It doesn’t feel simple; it is not a language that you would consider for younger audience as soon as you start reading, but she uses is with such normality, without attempts of showing off or creating a complex composition, than the effect invites you to go on reading.

Probably the greatest fault of this novel is its simplicity, but I don’t mean simplicity as a lack of complexity, which sometimes in this book is alluring, I mean it as a lack of depth and development. The book tries to tell too many things in too few pages which results in starting narrative arcs which suddenly finish without having been explored. The character of Delia of Eldorne is sadly underplayed, taking into account that at the beginning it looks as if it is going to be a central piece of conflict; the turanian war and the turanian commander Hilam of Keir are also underexploited, leaving a sour taste in the readers mouth when everything is said and done. Finally, some internal conflicts are not used to its fullest potential and are limited to two or three pages and then forgotten as the author moves on.

While sometimes it leaves you wanting for more, In the Hand of the Goddess is an amazing book aimed to young readers which I whole heartedly recommend for those parents or elder family members who want their youngsters to start reading and to everyone who loves fantasy.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

There seems to be a trend right now which consists in reimagining classical works of fiction to create a whole new novel giving a completely different point of view or a whole new setting to the story. I have talked with some people about this, and while some seem bothered by this apparent lack of imagination I don’t think it is a negative trend as a whole. There are some of these reimagined worlds which, in my opinion, show a real display of imagination both in literature and in movies (then we have “Hamsel and Gretel witch hunters”, I am still trying to figure out what the heck was that). While not exactly a reimagining of The Time Machine, Hollow World is heavily influenced by the classic novel, especially at the beginning of the story, but goes beyond it to create a brand new story that, even if it isn’t the best book I have read this year, it is quite an enjoyable one.

Hw

Strong points: The characters, the setting of the novel.

Weak points: the developing of the story

Hollow World, written by Michael J. Sullivan, brings us the story of Ellis Rogers, an average citizen obsessed by the theory of time travel who has built a time machine in his garage. When he learns he has a fatal disease he decides to use his invention to travel two hundred years to the future, hopping a cure would have been found by then, but nothing has prepared for what he will find: The Hollow World.

The strongest point of the novel is, undoubtedly, its characters. They are complex beings which offer a faithful reflection of their circumstances and their surroundings; they are a long way from perfection, each of them burdened by the ghosts of his past and the consequences of his actions. Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man, born in the fifties, who has been heavily influenced by his parents rigid education and his view of society his whole life. He is a man whose mistakes have taken their toll and is tired of his present existence, and who sees the time machine not only as a mean to reach salvation from his terminal disease but also as a way to scape his torturous life. He is not a hero, most of the novel he is moved by his own selfish impulses and that gives us a fresh character, an interesting creation who is really an ordinary man forced to do extraordinary deeds. His counterpart, Pax, is not less interesting himself; an asexual futuristic clone in a society where everyone looks the same, Pax’s obsession to be unique is understandable and well written, managing to transmit us a genuine need which will make us sympathy with him. Finally, Ren is also a product of his time and his circumstances, a man who sees his entire life as a failure, blaming those who have surrounded him for it, and who now finds himself with the power to change the world and mold it as it should be; though at some points he becomes superficial, he is able to pick the interest of the readers and sometimes even cause pity.

The future imagined by Mr. Sullivan can only be defined as magical. The Hollow World is a complex creation, product of two thousand years of human evolution, tragedies and historical moments, all of which have been meticulously created and recorded by the author. This social evolution is so well built that it manages to convince us that the Hollow World is the logical conclusion to the chain of events which Mr. Sullivan describes. This result is a completely different society with its own fashion, code, political system and behavior which I found rich and refreshing. It is something completely new, and that is hard to come by.

Some events in the story feel forced and out of place, as if the author had used them in order to create the drama and the suspense he needed and then had forgotten about them. For example, when Ellis Rogers first meet the Hollow World inhabitants they are terrified of him, even saying that some surface dwellers were cannibals; at this point it seems as if the Hollow World will be similar to The Time Machine, telling us the story of a cannibalistic society who preys upon their peaceful neighbors. The thing is that the cannibalistic surface dwellers are not mentioned again in the whole novel and other characters even talk about the surface as if it wasn’t inhabited. Then we have Pax, who has a gift that allows him to emphasize with people, understanding their feelings and how they think, but then feels lonely and is surprised when people tell him he is unique. How can he be surprised when thousands of people think that way and love him for it? There are some other examples which I can’t go into without spoiling the novel. As a result of these events the story is sometimes confusing and lacks sense and continuity, leaving us the feeling that we have read a brainstorm of plot ideas rather than the final product.

The Hollow World has some faults that make it a little bit dense, but in the whole is an enjoyable book which I would recommend to those readers that enjoy science fiction and modern reimagining of classical tales.

FINAL SCORE: 6/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

Two weeks ago I happened to be talking with a friend abut fantasy books (shocking!) when The Name of the Wind made its way into our conversation. I had read Patrick Rothfuss book two years before and, while I liked it a lot, I believed that people exaggerated a bit about how good it was until now. The next Monday she brought me a copy of The Wise man’s Fear. How much I liked it? Well it took me a week to read a thousand and two hundred pages and it was a busy week.

wf

Strong points: The characters, The setting, the development of the story.

The Wise Man’s fear, written by Patrick Rothfuss, picks up the story right where The Name of the Wind left it. Kvothe, now a broken man living the rest of his days as an innkeeper under the false name of Kote, retells his story to Chronicler, a man who has managed to find him. Kvothe will tell us about his years in the arcane university, his adventures serving under the maer Alveron, his romances, his triumphs and his failures all of which are tragically connected to the wars which are ravaging their world.

The characters are probably the strongest quality of this novel and that’s saying a lot for them. Every single one of them is unique and unforgettable, bringing something of their own to the story and making it richer by their presence and alluring personalities. Kvothe captivates the reader through his point of view of the events and his unique self, which sets him apart from other fantasy characters. As a young man, he is imperfect, full of qualities but also victim of the arrogance that comes from knowing how talented he really is, with a subtle greyness in him, a dark side hinted in some of his actions. As his older self he is pitiful, wise beyond his years but also depressed, full of cynicism and fragile as only a man who has lost everything can be. And between these two opposite poles we are witness to a slow transformation that will enthrall the reader as the character becomes more complex and more difficult to predict.

Denna is also a superb character full of lights and shadows that give her an incredible humanity, her desire to remind free from any bonds but her complete dependence to her abusing patron is just an example of how complex this character really is. Her relationship with Kvothe is difficult to define and is full of hues which add up to keep the reader wanting to know more about this mysterious girl and what relationship does she have with the events to come.

The rest of the characters, from the eccentric master Elodin to the evil Cthaeh, are full of twists and complexities that won’t leave you indifferent to any of them. The way they fit in the story and how they fulfill the roles they are given is simply masterful.

The world where the book takes place is rich and variable, full of cultures carefully built to the utmost detail. Patrick Rothfuss world reminds me to the worlds of masterpieces such as Conan the Barbarian, Hawkwood and the kings, Game of Thrones, Malazan Book of the Fallen and the Discworld. It is so vast, so well-constructed, that will keep you wanting to know more about its wonders and dangers. The game of the rings in the court of the Maer, the Lethani of the Adem and the marvelous world of the Arcane University are just some examples of the wonders a reader is going to find in the pages of this novel.

Finally we can’t forget to talk about the development of the story, which unravels with a sense of timing and elegance which feels incredible. While some parts of The Name of the Wind felt a little bit dense, I didn’t notice any dull moments in The Wise Man’s Fear which only by the size of the book is incredible. The adventures that Kvothe lives, even if out of context would seem as if they had nothing to do with one another, follow a rational path which perfectly connects one chapter after the other until the amazing and heartbreaking ending of this amazing book.

So finally someone got the maximum score in my humble blog. The Wise Man’s Fear is an amazing book which I would recommend to every living soul, even if the Kingkiller Chronicles it their first immersion into the fantasy genre. Mr. Rothfuss, I take off my metaphorical hat and raise a cup of (Spanish) beer to your health and to the third installment of the Kingkiller Chronicles, may it be as good, if not better. (Or I take off my metaphorical cup and raise a hat full of Spanish beer. Once you start drinking you never know…)

FINAL SCORE: 10/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

Ps. Thanks to the wonderful Nuria for putting this book on my hands.

Three months ago I started Thelordbaelish blog in what you may call a whim. For a long time I had contemplated starting a blog which specialized in Fantasy and Science Fiction books’ reviews and in the last days of 2013 I decided it was the time to do it. Today I happily admit that I just reached the first milestone of this journey, three months of writing reviews. So I want to use this paragraph in which I usually comment things that in my mind seem important and then in paper they look as interesting as Fireblood (still ranting, still ranting) to thank everyone for their reads, their likes, their follows and their support. Next milestone: January one of2015. Let’s go from a non-very ambitious goal to an ambitious one (middle ground? what is that?).

in

Strong Points: The main characters and their development, the writing style.

Weak points: some parts are somehow dense,some elements feel underplayed.

Innocence, written by Dean Koontz, tells us the story of Addison and Gwyneth. He is a young man who suffers from a strange condition by which when people look at his face they feel and uncontrollable need to kill him; she is a young woman whose social phobia has kept her alone and isolated. In a world that despises them they will have to trust each other, but a change is coming, and the signs seem only obvious for these two outcasts.

There are two points that in my mind make Innocence a novel worth reading and one of them is its main characters. We are told the story from the point of view of Addison, an extraordinary and complex character that will captivate the readers from almost the first moment. Addison has been forced to live his whole life away from other people and the author manages to personified all the innocence but also all the maturity that comes by the singular life style of this character. Addison’s vision of the world matches perfectly with the character himself and his circumstances, and his reactions to everything that happens around him are believable, making him humane and a character in which the reader may find him/herself reflected only because Addison´s depth make him feel like a real human being despite his extraordinary circumstances. On the other hand, Gwyneth hasn’t lived as isolated as her male counterpart, her reclusion being her own choice because of her dislike to directly interact with other human beings, and this shows in her vocabulary and her behavior. The author has perfectly represented a young girl who has lost everything and has been forced the mature faster than anyone around her and even if we see her always from Addison point of view she shares his depth and his complexities making her a very difficult character to predict.

Their development is not less perfect and beautiful than the characters themselves. The subtlety by which the author develops Addison and Gwyneth is astonishing to the point that it feels as the small changes that happen to a person we have been seeing every day for months: you don’t notice the changes immediately until the result is different enough but when you notice you recall the change step by step. The same happens in this novel, by the end you realize how much the characters have changed since the first pages. This development doesn’t feel forced and it seems to flow naturally as a sensible response to the events that occur around the characters. This development, so natural and complex at the same time, deepens the effect already created by the characters themselves in which we feel as if we were in the presence of real human beings opening their minds and hearts to us.

The other point that makes this novel a worthy read is the writing style of Dean Koontz. His timing and his grasp of the English language may only be defined as wondrous. Mr. Koontz’s prose is beautiful, completely poetical with a sense of style and a grasp of vocabulary which sets Dean Koontz as an example for any aspiring author at least where the use of prose is concerned. This beautiful writing style goes together amazingly well with the story, pulling the reader inside the story. I can only compare the author with film director Nicolas Winding, in Drive you get drunk with the colors that fill the screen while in Innocence you get drunk with the words that fill the pages.

Sadly, some parts of the novel feel too dense and slow paced to the point that it may lose the interest of the reader, especially at the beginning and at the very end of the book. The lack of action whatsoever in these parts make it feel as if you were reading a philosophy essay rather than a novel, making it difficult to go on when all you are looking for is a story. Once you get through approximately the 40% of the book, the story picks up in pace with astonishing speed and keeps you turning pages to see what happens next.

Finally, some elements of the story feel underplayed and leave you somehow of a sour taste in your mouth because of the unused potential. An example of this is the collection of marionettes, which are introduced with a dark and rather crude backstory which captivated me and left me wanting to see these terrifying toys play an important role in the story. Sadly, they are never fully explained and their exit is both too soon and too anticlimactic for my taste. There is even a mention that there is one more of their kind but then it is completely forgotten and has not weight in the rest of the novel.

Innocence has been a captivating story as soon as it picks its pace up, using it strong points to keep me reading for the first 40% of the book. I would recommend Innocence to those readers without any kind of prejudice to the urban fantasy genre, because Dean Koontz doesn’t follow any kind of established rule in this novel.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

There is a saying you have probably heard before: “never judge a book by its cover”. Well, I have heard it too but I always thought that its meaning was planned to be metaphorical, not literal. When I saw Fireblood’s cover I liked it so much I decided I was going to read that book. Two weeks later I don’t know whether to admire or to hate the cover designer, the only thing I know is that love is definitely not in the mix.

FB

Strong Points: the lore.

Weak Points: Story development, character development and over explanation.

Fireblood, written by Jeff Wheeler, brings us to a continent which is ravaged by a mysterious magical plague once every generation, decimating its population and leaving civilization on the brink of disappearance every time it strikes. The independent city of Kenatos, built by the joint efforts of every kingdom with the aim to create a place where all knowledge can be stored, has become a beacon of hope for all the races and is ruled by the Arch-rike and his rikes and Paracelsus. Now Paracelsus Tyrus, who failed in his quest to end the plague years ago, is trying to get support for a second expedition and his web will trap a group of unlikely heroes who will become the only hope to end the vicious cycle that the mortal races are trapped in. But in the Arch-Rike’s court no everyone is who they seem to be and soon the lives of everyone in the group will be endangered.

This is the basis of the plot of Fireblood and, in my opinion, it could have made for a story full of potential and unforgettable moments. Sadly, by the time you have managed to end the first three chapters the only thing you will be looking forward to are the small paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter which contain the lore of the world that Mr. Wheeler has created. Once you have finished it you will have read the best part of the chapter. The lore that the author has developed around the world he has created is complex, deep and alluring and helps us to understand the whole situation of what is happening from the point of view of an archivist of the city of Kenatos. These paragraphs are full of subtlety and, even when we know for a fact that the archivist is wrong, we can still find small clues about what is really happening.

Then you keep reading the chapter and you think “what the hell happened with the subtlety and the complex and wonderful world the author promises me in every chapter?” Well, your parents promised you a fat, white bearded man was going to bring you presents every Christmas and look how that turned up, this is very much the same case-scenario.

The story becomes a chaotic, badly pasted puzzle full of overused clichés and random events that would have worked in a RPG, but definitely not in a novel. That’s how it feels, that the author just kept throwing dices to decide what was going to happen next and didn’t bother to double-check the result to see if it made sense. There is not a construction towards a climax simply because there is not climatic event in the whole novel making this a slow and dense read. Finally, whenever a conflict appears that the group doesn’t know how to solve suddenly the author brings forward a new rule or just decides that one of the characters has a skill or magical hability which hasn’t been named before and that is perfect for the situation at hand. The story isn’t interesting because you know that the heroes will always overcome the odds without effort; they are too perfect and complement each other too well to keep the reader turning pages for any other reason than to finish the book.

The characters and their development don’t fare any better: Annon, who is introduced to us as a guy with anger issues, can control his anger quite well and is probably the calmest person in the whole group. Paendrin is wise, young, handsome and one of the best warriors of the kingdoms, he is also boring and doesn’t evolve in the whole book. Hettie is an unbearable spoiled brat which is introduced as fiercely independent but, just as Annon is as calm as a Buddhist monk who has reached Nirvana, she is useless and does everything her brother tells her to do. That’s it, these are the characters and that’s the way they stay for the whole book; no change, no evolution whatsoever neither in their relationships nor in their ways of life.

Over explanation is everywhere in this book and, at least for me, it kills the few good moments it may have, such as the twist concerning Hettie’s intentions which then the author proceeds to use a whole chapter to describe; meaning he repeats his explanation over and over again until the reader feels tempted to throw the book out of the window. Everything is explained, you know all the possibilities and, therefore, the book contains no mystery as it makes its way towards a predictable and uninteresting ending.

As you may have guessed, I haven’t enjoyed this book much and I am not ready to recommend it. Of course this is an opinion and I may have become a little pickier after reading The Postmortals, but Fireblood has been a huge let down almost from the first page, tempting me many times to put it down and forget about it. On the other hand, I have heard that it is probably the worst book written by the author so I will probably check more books from Mr. Wheeler in the future.

FINAL SCORE: 2/10

¡Hasta la próxima!

I admit it, I like depressing novels. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, the darker and more dramatic a story is, the more I like it, and maybe that’s why I love Game of Thrones so much. There is something about these stories that keeps you reading despite yourself, because if a dark story is approached right, it becomes unpredictable and that’s something that as a reader I appreciate. Let me tell you, The Postmortal is as dark and depressing as Science Fiction gets and I very much enjoyed that.

TPM

Strong point: Characters and their development, the setting.

Weak points: the ending felt rushed.

The Postmortal, written by Drew Magary, invites the readers to ask themselves a question: What would happen if everyone in the world had access to a cure against aging and, therefore, against dying of natural causes? From the point of view of divorce lawyer John Farrell we witness around 73 years of history in which the human race plunges in a world without morals, ambition, decorum and, finally, without resources.

John Farrell is an amazing character: complex, introspective and deep. The author has managed to create a personality so rich in fears and dreams that makes us wonder if we are not reading about a real human being. He is likeable, or at least charming, from the very first moment that we meet him and since then he becomes probably one of the most alluring characteristics of the novel. He doesn’t want the cure to make history or live an extravagant life, he is just terrified of the idea of death and this fear, along with his desired of being loved, are the main forces that move him through the story making each moment we spend with him a touching and unforgettable experience. The amazing cast of secondary characters who surround him is not less, they are excellently built, each of them with their unique charismatic personality that will either make you love them or hate them: Katy, John’s father and sister, Allison, even small characters such as Keith make this book a treat you will hardly forget.

John´s development is also quite interesting, following a well-built story-arc and having a cause-effect relation with the changes around him and the decisions he takes during the novel. From a naïve young man to a cynical old man living in a young body, John delights us with his story and his point of view´s evolution. Believe you me, rarely have I witnessed a character development so well defined and as intense as John Farrell’s, making me turn page after page to find out how the character would react to the different events the world had to offer.

And what a world, ladies and gentlemen, it is alive; there is no other way to put it really. Mr. Magary has not only created an space where the story take place, but he also have surround it with a complex net of side information that are told to us through newspaper headlines and blogs every few chapters, making us really el as if we were reading about a real event. But it goes beyond that, the changes on the cities and on the people are carefully described through the book, the idea of the evolution of trolling, for example, was interesting and terrifying, which starts consisting in blinding people or leaving marks they won’t be able to remove for their entire existence. The level of completion reminds me to Hawkwood and the Kings, the world didn’t begin with the story and neither will finish after the last page, is a world which we feel will live on.

The only downside of the entire novel is that after the even-paced narration we enjoy for almost the whole novel the ending is rushed and sometimes confusing. It doesn’t spoil the novel. I won’t go into detail in order to avoid spoiling the book to anyone who wants to read it, but suddenly we are presented with a fast chain of events which makes us lose perspective what is happening.

The Postmortal has been a real treat to read and I have enjoyed every single page of it. The ending, though a little blurry, doesn’t affect my opinion on a book which hooked me up from the first paragraph. The Postmortal, along with Emperor of Thorns, is undoubtedly one of the best books I have read in 2014.

FINAL SCORE: 9/10

¡Hasta la próxima!