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Archive for June, 2013

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Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley is based on a fascinating idea: What if queen Cleopatra did not die? What if she used ancient Egyptian magic to become part goddess, part vampire, part monster, and wreak vengeance upon her enemies? The cover and the description of the book sold me for sure, as I’m incredibly interested in Cleopatra’s story, and the ancient world in general. Fantasy mixed with history is a potent combination if done well, and Headley created a really intoxicating novel.

I enjoyed reading Queen of Kings and finished quickly, as it’s written like a thriller for the most part, with short, punchy chapters that pull you in and force you to keep reading. I found the writing to be quite good, though as a writer and editor myself, I could tell this was the author’s first novel sometimes. A little awkwardness crept into the prose on a few occasions, which was usually brilliant.

Headley chose to use the third person omniscient point of view, which is fraught with danger, and for the most part the author did a very good job with it. However, when you use that point of view, you generally sacrifice something as many of the other reviews of this book have pointed out. In this case, it was sympathy toward the major characters. The point of view shifted so often that it was difficult to really identify or get into any one character’s head and empathize with them. The Roman emperor, Augustus (Octavian), seemed to have the most page time, and I found him to be much different than I had imagined. I thought he was a very intelligent and strategic man in real life, but he was portrayed as a bumbling villain, rather than an astute politician.

Cleopatra herself was the most sympathetic, as was Mark Antony, but they did not have as much page time as I would have liked. The early parts of the book were probably my favorite, though the string of convenient coincidences bothered me a little, but fate was being manipulated the whole time by the gods, so I can forgive that. This is a big story that covers a huge amount of ground. Summarizing large events and time periods is good with the third person point of view, and to tell this story the author had to go in that direction.

I’m really interested in what happens next, and really enjoyed how the author used historical events and her own inspired imaginings to weave this fascinating tale. I loved reading about the witches that Octavian and General Marcus Agrippa recruited to fight Cleopatra: the Norse weaver of fate, the Greek witch who manipulated ghosts, and Usem, from the African tribe of the Psylli, who had power over the wind and snakes. Usem was married to the Western Wind, and she an awesome character as well.

Overall, this book is filled with unexpected and wild imagining, and you have to just buy into the crazy plot and not think too much about the decisions of the main characters. Most of the old myths read just like this novel, and the author was giving a lot of nods to the legendary stories of old, which don’t make a lot of sense if you look at them too closely. The author really went for it, and the plot evolved in directions I was not expecting.

I applaud the boldness of the author and will definitely read the planned sequels (it’s a trilogy according to the author’s note). If you love Greek myths, Cleopatra’s story, wild historical fantasy, and ancient Rome, this is a book for you.

Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley, 4/5 Stars

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series
Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

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Review of the World War Z movie

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I watched World War Z tonight and really enjoyed it. (4/5 stars–very tiny spoilers in this post). I love how the amazing book and movie actually go together. The book was impossible to film, and this story adds a really interesting thread to the overall event.

I listened to World War Z on audio book (the 14 hour version) three times (I’ve never actually read it), and I think the movie is a great introduction to the novel, as the movie happens earlier than the book, which is a retrospective look at the zombie war with Max Brooks (the author) traveling around the world interviewing people about what happened.

Anyway, the movie was scary, intense, emotional, action-packed, well-acted (Brad Pitt was awesome), and paid great tribute to the book. The book and movie are very different entities and I recommend that you watch the movie, and then get the unabridged audio book, which is voiced by A-List actors. If you’re a zombie fan, I think it’s better to see the movie before reading the book. I think this is a rare case where the book and movie go great together, rather than clashing so much. The book is better, but the movie was excellent.

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No spoilers.

The End of All Seasons by Russell Davis is a fantastic collection of 15 short stories and 5 beautiful poems. I love reading short fiction from master writers, as they take you on a journey using only a small amount of words, and really make you feel something: love, sadness, horror, fear, and espeically wonder.

The heart and emotion conjured up is impressive and inspiring in this powerful collection. Russell Davis is a poet-storyteller for sure, and the stories are like well-crafted sculptures, weighty and full of beautiful lines. Several of the tales left me gasping for air. My favorites were “The Angel Chamber” about a little girl in truly horrifying situation, “The Things She Handed Down,” “Scars Enough,” “Engines of Desire and Despair,” “The End of Autumn” and “The Little Match Girl,” a dark re-imagining of the classic tale in a modern setting. There’s something for everyone, especially for fans of speculative fiction and students of writing.

The End of All Seasons ($2.99 eBook)
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, 5/5 Stars

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series
Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

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Necessary Evil (The Milkweed Triptych, #3)Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review of Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis

AWESOME CONCLUSION TO A BRILLIANT SERIES

(No spoilers)

I really loved this series and it was fun to read the third and concluding novel of the Milkweed Triptych, Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis. The plot threads were nicely tied up, and I was constantly surprised with the direction of the book.

The first two, Bitter Seeds and Coldest War were amazingly good (see my reviews of both) and Necessary Evil kept up the tension. I won’t ruin the first two books here, as the beauty of the series relies heavily on not knowing what’s coming. Overall, I think the first two books had me more worried about the characters and their fates, but Necessary Evil was excellent. I still never knew what was going to happen.

Gretel, the character who can see the future is back and the interludes from her point of view were brilliant. The chapters when we get into her mind were my favorites. The turn her character takes later in the book was unexpected for me, but I can totally understand why it happened. I don’t know what else the writer could have done with a goddess like character to make the rest of the novel work, but I wasn’t expecting the series of events involving her shift. Never trust Gretel is still the best advice anyone can give.

This was a very unique and ambitious series, and book one, Bitter Seeds was an incredible achievement. Book two, The Coldest War blew my mind, especially the ending, and I wondered how the third novel would compare. For me, the second book was probably the peak of the series as far as high drama and tension, and Necessary Evil was not as epic in some ways, though it was a worthy conclusion. I think reading the three books back to back to back would be best, as there are clues in book one and especially two that will improve the experience of the reader in book three. All the books are so interdependent with each other it’s hard to separate them. Having book two fresh in your mind when reading book two would be best.

The author created such a complicated web that little things mean a lot, and small events change the course of history. Pulling it all together in the finale was a fantastic achievement and the epilogue had a lot of heart. I was so glad to read the last chapter, as some writers fail to deliver there, but Tregillis pulled it off perfectly.

If you’re a fan of alternate history, spies, characters with super-powers, and great writing, read this series for sure.

Highly Recommended 5/5 Stars

Paul Genesse

View all my reviews

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