Antioch, Gregory Ness

Antioch, Gregory Ness

Antioch: The Sword of Agrippa Book 1

Antioch follows the story of Roy Swenson, a scientist in an age where science has become reviled by extremists and scientists are hunted and killed on the streets; and in another incarnation, the story of the young Marcus Agrippa, following his Caesar to Alexandria to start a series of events that will echo through history. Other events in that time, less public, still shadow Roy’s life two thousand years later, as he struggles to find support and funding for a ground-breaking research project in one of the few remaining oases of education – the ancient city of Prague. Somehow, the two lifetimes are inextricably linked…

Author Gregory Ness has created a compelling contrast between the two timelines; Egypt in the time of the Caesars, and a close-future society where the vogue for denying science has become even more fashionable. The talking points of Swanson’s research offer interesting food for thought – I would have been happy to see those storylines developed a little more; in this first novel, Agrippa’s timeline dominates the story, and interesting as it is, I felt it rather overshadowed the other. The book is also clearly preparing the way for the next in the series, with a cliff-hanger of epic proportions to lure the reader on. That said, the book was a pleasant read, offering a tempting mix of myth, mythology, and science to pull a reader into the plot.

Fly by Night, Cris and Clare Meyers

Fly by Night, Cris and Clare Meyers

Fly by Night (Criminal Elements #2)

Rook is screwed. His ex-boss burned him so thoroughly that most of his contacts won’t even give him the time of day, the team said ex-boss hoped to kill with him hold him responsible for the mess, and he’s methodically experimenting to see if life looks any better through the bottom of a bottle. That’s before the voices in his head decide to bitch-slap him from halfway across town and someone tries to blow up the one person still willing to speak to him…

Fly by Night is an excellent sequel to Playing with Fire, with the main focus passing to the maverick hacker and shape-shifter, Rook. While Rook manages to rub everyone the wrong way in the first novel, authors Cris and Clare Meyers have done a lot to make the character more easy to get along with in the first person view of him, and his malfunctioning magical gifts make an entertaining side-show to the main action.

A second book in a series isn’t always the easiest thing to pull off. However, this sequel manages to avoid inconsistencies in plot and characterisation, and pulls together an entertaining and action-filled story that gives tantalising glimpses of the likely series story arc moving forward. These books are also by and large well-edited, which I always deeply appreciate, and the magic system has some convincing and occasionally hilarious downsides. Definitely something worth picking up for anyone’s urban fantasy collection.

Exodus ’95, Kfir Luzzatto

Exodus ’95, Kfir Luzzatto

Exodus ’95

Exodus ’95 follows the entrepreneur Dan Ze’evi and a woman known as Claire Williams on the treasure hunt of a millennium; one fraught with factions desperate to get their hands on the final prize and either exalt it or destroy it. Between them, Dan and Claire hold all the pieces of the puzzle. Whether or not they’ll survive long enough to attempt to put them together is a whole other question; one which everyone from Egyptian nationalists to Russian industrialists are eager to test.

Kfir Luzzatto’s novel will delight thriller fans. The settings are brought alive by little details and evocative description, forming an engrossing backdrop for the plot, and the adventure, while extraordinary, is well-paced and plausible. I did find that the Mossad involvement acted as something of a Hail Mary save – they swoop in, pull our protagonists out of trouble, and then really fade out of the story. As one of the premier global intelligence agencies, I would’ve frankly expected them to be much harder to shake, once they had the scent of the case. Aside from that, I found this read to be truly excellent – unique, peopled with a strong cast of characters, and technically excellent, which I deeply appreciate. Definitely a highly recommended read.

The Bones of the Past, Craig A Munro

The Bones of the Past, Craig A Munro

The Bones of the Past (The Books of Dust and Bone #1)

Craig A. Munro’s The Bones of the Past  was one of those books where I seesawed on my final ranking for quite some time, which is unusual for me. Part of my trouble was that the individual storylines were perfectly readable fantasy, even if none of them really had me fixated to each new page. A little more depth to the character development might have helped pull me into the book; Salt, particularly, went from a nobody sailor with a whore fixation to a commander of an elite anti-magic unit who never so much as glanced at another woman in a matter of months, which was a noteworthy accomplishment.

My real challenge came in when I took the book as a whole. The individual storylines were fine, but I could find very little linking them all together. Salt’s story and Nial’s had clear links, and towards the end of the book, you start to get the link between Salt, Nial, and the Tolrahkali. I still wasn’t precisely sure where the Sacral storyline fitted in when I closed the book, over 500 pages later. In addition to the fact that the storylines just never meshed for me, there were consistent grammatical issues throughout that kept grabbing my attention away from the characters’ predicaments. I couldn’t help but feel that this book would have merited a much higher ranking after a really strong developmental edit and a copy edit; the elements were definitely there, just not in its current form.

Feel.It, Ian Wingrove

Feel.It, Ian Wingrove

Feel.It

Roxanne Payne is one of the longest-surviving Tournament Knights, a legend to her fans and a popular icon. She’s also desperate to escape the image that Feel.It has created around her, and live as her own person. Knights attempted to break their contracts in the past, and people died because of it. Now those same killers are threatening Roxanne, and Feel.It’s security is part of the problem. Roxanne has to look to an unlikely source of protection to keep her alive outside the arena – a man with a past nearly as well-buried as her own.

Feel.It creates a backdrop of decadent dystopia, where the masses chase the sensations of the contestants’ physical pain as a distraction from their own lives in a virtual-reality take on the gladiatorial contests of Ancient Rome. Drawing on themes of identity and individuality, author Ian Wingrove has developed a convincing, original cast of characters, embroiled in a morass of lethal company politics and complex personal allegiances, who raise social deception to the status of an art form. With good pacing and intense cameo scenes with the protagonists interleaving with the main story action, this book was a definite page-turner, guaranteed to entertain those looking for something beyond the ordinary.