The Seven Stars, Joshua Hampton

The Seven Stars, Joshua Hampton

The Seven Stars (Crowns of Silver and Ash Book 1)

Written in the style of an epic fantasy, The Seven Stars introduces us to a tale of war and adventure peopled with an intriguing mix of races. There are the mysterious Sons, with their warlike abilities; humans; the dhoglers; and the Eirkfolk, mute without their musical instruments. The development of these races was honestly probably the part of the story that came across as the strongest for me.

However, I found other aspects less well-developed. The centre of the story is the Sons’ attack on the Silver City, and their crusade to destroy all Seven Cities; aside from a general understanding that the Seven Cities had done something unmentionable to the Sons’ ancestors, I found myself at the end of this first book still somewhat unclear on the cause of the conflict, the exact properties of the various relics guarded by the cities, and, to be honest, even on how long ago said atrocity took place. The Seven Cities were apparently at peace plenty long enough to let their guard down, but the Sons were clearly polishing some serious revenge meanwhile.

There is also a mystery around the topic of music; the Sons despise and avoid it, except when they themselves sing; the Eirkfolk require music to speak, and there’s a strong implication that music carries some power in the world of Crowns of Silver and Ash that doesn’t come completely clear. While this book is the first in a series and ends abruptly enough to qualify as a cliff-hanger, I would have appreciated a few more hints on this to hook me into a second book.

Overall, there were most certainly strong points in this book, and the author clearly put a great deal of thought into his creation, but I didn’t find that the story really drew me in. Some of that is because of the vagueness I mentioned above, and partly because the pacing in some areas had me resisting the urge to page-flip; there was no one thread or character that really pulled me into the story and held me there.

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.

Eye of the Storm, Frank Cavallo

Eye of the Storm, Frank Cavallo

Eye of the Storm

Gathered in the wake of a series of reports of odd weather and odder events in one of the most remote areas of Kyrgyzstan, a group of scientists, TV personalities, and mercenaries hope to establish the truth – or the lie – behind the stories of Neanderthals in armour attacking army and air force detachments in the area. On the other hand, no matter how prepared, no team is ready for chasing a flight of pterosaurs into the eye of the storm in a helicopter – and that’s not even the strangest thing Dr. Fayne and Eric Slade will face in their adventure.

Frank Cavallo’s Eye of the Storm offers an adventure of peoples and creatures caught out of their times and worlds; a fantasy take, if you will, on Arthur C. Clarke’s Time’s Eye. Anna Fayne’s ill-fated group is merely the latest of a series of unfortunates and adventurers who have been caught up by the storm, and now they share a world with everything from completely alien species to mammoths, ancient Etruscans, and pterosaurs. I found this was by and large an enjoyable read; some of the characters and interactions felt to me as if they would have benefited from a little more polishing, and the overarching aim of the plot took a little while to come clear, but generally the story hung together well. Definitely worth the read.

Telonaut, Matt Tyson

Telonaut, Matt Tyson

Telonaut (Teloverse Series)

In a future where income is capped, religion is largely under control, and the majority of the population works to improve humanity’s lot, a scientific breakthrough allows space travellers, telonauts, to be transmitted across vast distances of space in years, rather than centuries. In the business of reviewing these societies planted across space is Sero Novak, Telonaut Lead Auditor. Fresh from a personally challenging assignment on Rigil Kentaurus, he arrives on NineDee to find an strangely decentralised society and a series of oddities that refuse to quite add up…until his audit uncovers something stranger than he’d ever dreamt of.

Telonaut is a well-structured sci-fi adventure. With two main protagonists, the interweaving of the plot is smooth and the pacing maintained at a steady pace that compliments the final twist. Sero Novak made for an interesting read; I didn’t get on quite as well with his fellow-protagonist, Mbeki, and especially Mbeki’s wife, who appears to revolve around her husband and his work in the TeloSpace program, but both Sero and his side-kick Prim were well-developed and thoroughly plausible. I also had to give a bow of admiration to the ending plot twist; quite brilliantly set up throughout the story, and handled for maximum impact, author Matt Tyson deserves a round of applause. All in all, a very readable start to the series – highly recommended.