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Mar

18

Review: The Time of the Transference

By pcurd

The Time of the Transference
The Time of the Transference by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the last of the original Spellsinger books and actually I enjoyed it quite a lot. Some of the story didn’t make much sense, and the entire ending is just mad but I came out of it with a positive feeling. The onward marching plot from the first few books is now well and truly replaced with “books in a bottle” where a fresh calamity is created and resolved within one book. This was one of the more believable plots, although some of the sub plots make very little sense – in typical style for the Spellsinger series.

There continues to be a seemingly never ending cast of new characters and species to introduce but for once I wasn’t entire put off by any of the characters.

As a finale of a series it’s disappointing but considering two more books were published I assume Foster felt the same way and perhaps his second chance at a finale will be better.

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Feb

27

Review: The Paths of the Perambulator

By pcurd

The Paths of the Perambulator
The Paths of the Perambulator by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my favourite Spellsinger book so far. The story is a little mad but it has a good premise and allows Foster a lot of freedom to try things out. The titular Perambulator is a well conceived “big evil” character and all the way through I was wondering what beast from Jon-Tom’s world it would be. It made it clear to me what the earlier stories were missing – something that I actually care about!

My biggest issue with this book is a bit of blatant sexism about half way through which is handled quite poorly – there is an attempt to deflect it as being “oh, it’s just his way” but that is then undone by another set of comments later. Perhaps this was acceptable at the time, but it’s unpleasant now.

I overall enjoyed the story and whilst it is definitely not worth reading all the books just for this one (as it might be for, say, the later Harry Potter books) it’s a nice joy to have it appear in the middle of the series as a reward for (suffering?) coming this far.

I’m a big fan of the John Wayne-alike that appears too..

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Feb

20

Review: The Moment of the Magician

By pcurd

The Moment of the Magician
The Moment of the Magician by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story did drag a bit for me. The travelling became the entire story – the actual plot was resolved within a couple of chapters at the end – and left all sorts of holes open.

You know how in a good story there are loads of tangential bits that don’t make sense on their own but then – boom – everything is revealed? Well The Moment of the Magician does the bits, but forgets the boom. None of the odd little side plots are resolved and it just becomes a walking story. Most of the Spellsinger books fit this description but this is by far the most blatant and most unoriginal yet.

The characters stayed a little more fixed this time without new “leads” appearing all over the place, which was nice, and we got some nice scenes with JonTom and Mudge doing things together which threw me back to the first book and happier times (for me, as the reader).

I am running out of things to say about these books, they are all very similar and writing this a few days later I find it hard to remember what happened and what was in the next book (yes, I’ve dived straight into number 5. 6? I’ve lost count) but I could be anywhere or anywhen in the timeline and be equally confused.

They are fun enough but I don’t feel like I’m learning anything!

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Feb

4

Review: The Day of the Dissonance

By pcurd

The Day of the Dissonance
The Day of the Dissonance by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

STILL nothing is happening in these books.. why am I so dedicated to finishing them! I don’t know! I just know they go past quickly and I’m happy.

Yet. More. Characters. I’ve already forgotten who was in the first book, the entire menagerie of a troop that counts as the cast of these stories blurs into one. There is the fighty one, and the other fighty one, then the mouthy one, the reluctant one, and the wise one. I wonder if Foster picked out of a hat who would fill each role before writing the books. Still, the world building continues to be good, there were one or two events in this book that actually impressed me – I couldn’t help visualising a few of them as the descriptions, whilst simple, really help get across detail rapidly. It’s a definite skill of Foster’s, and I think it comes from his screenwriting experience. A scene unfolds cleverly and succinctly and before you know it, the action is roaring ahead.

I couldn’t stop myself starting on the 4th one immediately after finishing this one, which, as before, is my entire recommendation. Also less animal sex in this one, that’s nice.

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Jan

25

Review: The Hour of the Gate

By pcurd

The Hour of the Gate
The Hour of the Gate by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well I was right, this is the second half of the first book. I have no idea why they were separated, they aren’t even that long! 600ish pages combined.

It just roars along as a story though, the pace is high all the way through making it a very easy story to get caught up in. The characters don’t expand much, and the world building is enhanced only by a few new animal types being introduced. This left more time for plot.. but most of the book is concentrated on travelling so really all we get is more of a travel documentary of a strange land.

I immediately started into the third book so I suppose that tells you something, but really I’m still not impressed. There is less hidden racism in this story than the last and the characters begin to feel more alive.. but I still don’t understand why there are 8 of these books!

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Jan

13

Review: Spellsinger

By pcurd

Spellsinger
Spellsinger by Alan Dean Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads pops up the question “I would recommend to:” when you fill in these reviews and I usually start there whilst my review forms in my head. Today, however, I really can’t decide if I would recommend this book or not. First, because of what it would say about me and my tastes (such as they are!) and second, because of what it would say about this book.

I really dislike that it’s half a story – without giving spoilers, the book leads up a big plot point that hangs over into (at least) the next book – and this isn’t clear from the beginning. I dislike being duped into reading more of a series, even if I would probably have done so anyway.

I dislike some of the framing, not so much the “world of animals” but the “xx creature is xx type of person” lazy writing style. It’s not used as a complete crutch, but it is a little annoying.

I do enjoy the characters, each has something unique about them which rounds out the group, although new characters keep being introduced right up to the final chapters – my first clue the story wasn’t going to resolve itself was a new main character around the half way mark – and my attention (and care) is split a little too far I think.

The nebulous evil introduced on the first pages is fairly well done, not too hard on the fantasy tropes, and would serve a good few stories (there are 8 books I think..).

One early scene has the human avatar character watch (with rapt attention) a strip tease performed by a mustelid – this isn’t to say the entire book is one big animal-human romp, but if you’re put off by that I’d stay clear.

Overall it was quite fun, and I have dived into the second book straight away but I can’t help feel like I’m being forced to rather than wanting to.

Oh, and the “I would recommend to”? I’ve left it blank. You’d better make your own decision.

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Jan

3

Review: Caliban’s War

By pcurd

Caliban's War
Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I stopped reading this over Christmas but not because the story is bad, because I was listening to the audio book and not commuting as normal. When I got back into it in January I devoured (with my ears) the last third – the ending is fast, exciting, and much more like the first book. This part of the series is slow in my mind, there was a lot of characterisation and scene setting which definitely at times took away from the pace of the story. The plots are well intertwined and the suspenses created by the swapping between characters were well executed and (almost always) worth the wait.

The saga of James Holden and his crew continues forward and the politics of the Sol System continue to be the main focus of the overall story – with an ominous threat at the back of everyone’s mind – told through a variety of different perspectives ranging from high politics to grunt soldiery. I enjoyed the new characters for the most part and hope many of them continue into the next book. The main driver of the plot was.. dull, unfortunately. I think Corey wanted something believable, human, and easy for the audience to latch on to but to me it took away from the wider story, the human story being faced by everyone. I’m sure you could rewrite the plot to change the MacGuffin and it would change nothing of substance. I did sense some foreshadowing though so it may turn out to be important later – but I don’t bet on it.

Overall a good story, I will definitely dive into the next one after a suitable pause.

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Dec

22

Review: Grave Peril

By pcurd

Grave Peril
Grave Peril by Jim Butcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve been using this book as a go-to audio book for long drives so my “read” has been spread over maybe a year. This is also my second go through so I do have memories of the later stories and how characters turn out after more development.

Butcher sidelines a main character for most of this story to allow some new ones to be introduced, and it feels like lazy writing. Later on he gets better about changing the dynamics but right now I think the story was complex enough to have allowed a better approach. Still, the characters enlarged (and introduced) are good, different (from each other and from existing), and interesting. I don’t think the dialogue that, for me, marks the series is fully developed here – one more book and Butcher’s skill begins to shine through.

Harry faces one of his many Superman moments (having his powers disabled), which is a common theme in all modern supernatural books, through this story and instead of being boring it shows his fallible, human side. Perhaps overplayed but never out of place, his ignorance of the wider magical universe is well handled – Bob remains an important source of world building and exposition without being an overwhelming info dump.

Overall, not a bad story but I fear too many ideas are jostling for time without there being any real clarity on what Butcher wants you to focus on.

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Dec

22

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

By pcurd

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the best Harry Potter book I think, although Half Blood Prince is a strong contender. Once I got to 80% through I couldn’t help but read the rest, the ending is so good. There are no sub plots in this book (which is why it went to two movies I guess) and there is almost no filler.

There are a few things I’d change, and some areas I’m desperate for more information about, but it’s a compelling story with a few twists to give older readers and invested fans alike something extra.

Harry is miserable in this book, for all of it. You can understand why – gone is (most of) the teenage angst from the early books, instead we have grown up problems and grown up reactions. The story peaks as the battle between good and evil meets head on – it’s classic stuff but the story doesn’t have to be complex to be enjoyable. The main thing I disliked was the cheapness of some of the deaths in the story – to give the world a grim sense of fatalism I think they should have been spread out across more of the story and even over the earlier books rather than chucking a bunch in at the end.

But the story would have no payoff if you haven’t read the earlier books, you do have to stick with Harry through most of it to really benefit – which is a shame as some of the early ones really aren’t as good.

One day I’ll get the urge to re-read them again and it will be this book, and the memories of power reading the last few chapters, that convinces me to do it.

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Dec

14

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

By pcurd

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The opening chapter of this book is possibly the best J.K. Rowling has written – it’s an excellently composed scene which fills you with excitement for the upcoming story and covers all the back story you need. It’s a marvellous introduction to a great story. Sadly the next few chapters slow down, and the middle of the book isn’t as compelling. I probably binged the first third in a few hours, but the middle third took a week at least. The last third picks up again and is almost un-put-downable.

The darkness of the plot really marks this as the turning point, it’s no longer a children’s book series and becomes a young adult series. Evil is rife in Harry’s world and everything is changing. After spending so much time in these stories (6 years by this point) it’s interesting to see how different the same people and same locations can become.

I really wish the middle had been edited tighter, the entire Quidditch sub plot feels unnecessary for example, but it’s still a good story.

The final few scenes are powerful, and I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t leave themselves enough time to read the entirety in one go!

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