Seeds of Hatred, Christian Nadeau

Seeds of Hatred, Christian Nadeau

Seeds of Hatred (Scions Awakened Book 1)

Marac is an assassin, and unlike most of his previous colleagues, not a dead one. Alex is a Lightbearer, one of the rare, gifted members of a cult that the Brotherhood reviles. Soren is a Brotherhood soldier, one of the few born of the nobility that the Brotherhood seeks to control. Each, in their own way, has been affected by the rise of an ancient enemy, and each, in their own way, has chosen to fight something that most of society doesn’t believe still exists.

Seeds of Hatred is written in the classic epic fantasy style; ancient enemy awakening, chosen few leading the fight, unexpected allies, magic that no one has seen in generations, you name it, the book has it. The world-building is solid, with a magic system that supports the plot, and an interesting take on a type of magic that requires drinking blood, as opposed to the classic vampire. For me, the characters were the weak point in the story; while some of the back-stories were very strong, on the whole the gender stereotypes were so ingrained that some actions and reactions were regrettably predictable. Alex was the only character who managed to partially break free of the mould, and even she was gifted early on with a male protector to explain the world to her. There are also quite a few viewpoints, leaving me in a few spots having to flip back to check whose story I’d just arrived in. However, I have to give this book points on pacing: I didn’t find myself fading out or being tempted to skip parts – the various plot lines were well-maintained and the continuity was good. This is a book that epic fantasy fans will find worth the read.

Stolen Ink, Holly Evans

Stolen Ink, Holly Evans

Stolen Ink (Ink Born Book 1)

Dacian’s a tattoo magician. He’s got a business that pays well enough to let him put his feet up and keep the door closed every so often if he wants to, and a good business partner. Going unnoticed is exactly what he likes best. Unfortunately, it looks as if the gods aren’t content any more with merely raining on him; his tattoos are collecting strays, and someone else is apparently collecting other peoples’ tattoos. The words ‘ink magician’ are flying around a lot more than Dacian’s happy with, but when the tattoo thief strikes close to home, any choice Dacian can live with is going to get him noticed…

The first thing you’re going to notice about Stolen Ink is its strong, unique, cynical voice, and that it’s laugh-out-loud funny in places. The second thing, probably, will be that it’s a couple of hours later than you expected. Author Holly Evans has created a deeply-detailed fantasy world with a rich variety of species and magic types loose in it, and all the conflict points you could want to spark a story. The characters are memorably individual, and, impressively, the author manages to include companion animal spirits without in any way coming off as a Philip Pullman impression. This book truly puts the ‘fantasy’ in urban fantasy – highly enjoyable.

White Out, T.N.M. Mykytiuk

White Out, T.N.M. Mykytiuk

White Out

The energy industry has plans for the Arctic, and leading those plans, using a ground-breaking airship and an exploratory submersible, is a mixed team of geologists, Rangers, and marine salvage experts. However, when a mysterious hot spot shows up during the exploration of the lake bottom, matters get complicated; the hot spot is located in the wreckage of a Cold War-era Soviet bomber. Every department of the US military wants to get its hands on it, and the hell with national jurisdiction. Add to that a Russian exploratory team that’s more than happy to boost good core samples or any experimental weaponry from the Unified Drilling team, and the stage is set for an explosive conflict.

White Out is an engaging, well-paced thriller that takes the stark, beautiful setting of the far North, and adds international crime rings, military secrets, and an experimental blimp to the mix. The cast of characters, featuring the obligatory set of not-very-ex military, in this case working the marine salvage angle, not to mention the crooked Russian and his gorgeous secretary, are well-handled and develop their own individual quirks as the story progresses, adding depth and colour to the book. The action sequences weave neatly into the storyline, avoiding getting bogged down in pseudo-military jargon or superhuman action stunts. Author T.N.M. Mykytiuk has created a plot guaranteed to please readers of classic adventure thrillers; a highly recommended read.

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.