Kobold Press
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Review: The Grudgebearer by J. F. Lewis

GrudgebearerThe members of the race called the Eldrennai have pointed ears and live a long time. They created a race of warrior slaves called the Aren and then they crafted a plant-like race called the Vael, who were designed to appeal to the Aren. The main reason behind the creation of the Arens was to defeat a race of magically resistant lizard people named the Zur. The Eldrennai held the Aren captive for thousands of years, forcing them by oath and magical compulsion to serve their whims and fight their battles for them. All this was just fine for the Eldrennai until the Sundering, when the Aren rose up and fought for their freedom.

Now, after the Sundering, all three races meet every century for the Grand Conjunction to renew their peace treaty. This novel takes place six hundred years after the Sundering. Kholster the Aren is still the first of the original one hundred Aren created and still the leader of his people. He has not forgotten the shackles of slavery placed on him by the Eldrennai and has vowed an oath to kill every Eldrennai who was alive during the Aren enslavement. Kholster has also vowed to attend the Grand Conjunction to listen to the peace overtures of the Eldrennai. This conjunction is different since an Eldrennai prince has broken the treaty by unearthing sentient suits of Arenese armor that were sealed away as terms of the treaty. With yet another oath broken by the Eldrennai, Kholster must find a way to protect his people and fulfill his own oaths, even if it costs him everything.

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Book Review: The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder

Return of the Discontinued ManIt’s 9 p.m. on Feb. 15, 1860, a point in time that will change the course of the future—or at least this future, because you can’t change the past. Or can you? Spring Heeled Jack is back, and he is looking for Sir Richard Burton. Not only is this mythical being back from the future, but a blood red snow is falling on London. Meanwhile, while getting assaulted by multiple Spring Heeled Jacks, Burton is hallucinating and he believes someone from somewhere in some time is trying to send him a message. When Burton figures it out, he and the Cannibal Club must organize an expedition through time itself to save the British Empire! God Save the Queen!

Hodder has shown a propensity for blurring the lines between historical fiction, steampunk, and the writings of HG Wells. The Return of the Discontinued Man takes all of the blurring and creates a steampunk mash-up of the movie THX, Pink Floyd’s the Wall, the entire Harry Potter series, and a little Animal Farm into one story. If it is starting to sound confusing and a bit complicated, it is, and it takes Hodder the first hundred pages of the book or so before he actually starts making sense. I have read the other installments in the Burton and Swinburne series, and even with the pervasive theme of time travel, Hodder held things together, but he was very close to losing it on this one.

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Book Review: Desert Moon

Desert Moon
Novel by Mark Walker

The year is 2341, and Earth has formed a multi-planet confederation. As part of this confederation, Earth is now known as Terra and they have a defense force known as the Terran Defense Force (or TDF). The TDF consists of modern weapons including power-armored tanks and vehicles, which are called CATs. Most of these are manned by genetically engineered troops called Purebreds. These troops are made to be faster, smarter, and bigger than normal humans. Combined with this arsenal of equipment and super soldiers are the Assassins. Surpassing even the Purebreds, the Assassins are faster and stronger, and they have their sense enhanced past their peers. Oh, and there is one other catch: They are vampires. Their need for blood drives them to be some of the most feared killers in the confederation. The only weakness these vampires have is that they crave blood; stakes, garlic, and sunlight mean nothing to them unless the garlic is on bread—then they will eat it.

Sediana, the setting for the novel, is the future’s version of a Native American reservation, and it has vast amounts of bauxite, which is a key component in the manufacturing of things like space ships. The TDF wants to protect the resource, but the locals are getting restless and they have just found an ancient stash of M1A4 Abrams tanks, Bradley IFVs, M-4 carbines, and attack helicopters.

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Book Review: Fool’s Assassin

Fool's AssassinFitzChivalry is a bastard! I mean, technically he is a royal bastard, but a bastard nonetheless. Not only is he a bastard, he was once the king’s royal assassin. He thought he had left that life behind to pose as a country squire named Tom Bagerlock. He married his childhood sweetheart Molly, and things were going great until a strange messenger showed up at his doorstep with a message that is only for his ears. Fitz, who is so wrapped up in his masquerade, has the messenger wait until the morning and finds out that not only is the messenger missing, but presumed dead. Now to protect his new life, he must start reliving his old one.

From the description, this book sounds like it could be really good, but, in reality, it is mediocre at best, and by Hobb standards, it borders on sub-par. Like many before me, I fell in love with Hobb with the Fitz, the Fool, and the rest of this cast of characters through several previous series. Granted, some of the stories were better than others, but, like Star Wars, you don’t have to like every movie to love Star Wars. I’m going to have to guess that Ms. Hobb has long-term plans for this story, and that this book laid the foundation for the rest of this part of Fitz’s story. I have to believe that because if I don’t, then one of my beloved authors has sold out to the evil publishing gods for the seductive lure of the almighty dollar.

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Book Review: The Leopard

The LeopardA Novel by K.V. Johansen

To say Ahjvar the assassin leads a rough life is an understatement. You would think that being an assassin was a tough job, but try being an assassin who doesn’t die. Then try being an assassin who can’t die but wants to—not my idea of a good time. Even further, imagine being good enough at killing people that you have a title like Leopard. Ahjvar, the Leopard, is given an offer from the goddess Catairanach. She wants him to kill a prophet known as the Voice of Marakand. If he kills this prophet, his curse will be lifted and he can die like everyone else.

Like all good assassins, Ahjvar has a problem dealing with people—except his trusty sidekick Ghu, who is much more than he seems. Additionally in this book, a Northron wanderer arrives in Marakand with her demon lover and a magical sword on a mission to bring justice to seven devils that played escape from Alcatraz—only they escaped from hell. Confused yet? I was!

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