Monthly Archives: December 2012

Review of Marie Harte’s Tip of the Spear

I grabbed Marie Harte‘s novel, Tip of the Spear from the Amazon KDP free list recently. Who wouldn’t want to read something called an Amazon Western? It could have been anything and I was intrigued from the get go.

Description from Goodreads:

After people polluted the planet beyond recognition, the sky rocks came and reduced the world to rubble. Yet mankind refused to die, and the world was reborn. Welcome to the New West, where the Nature Laws rule.

1. Procreation is necessary, not optional
2. Women are a precious commodity
3. Harm the earth, lose your life
4. If it can eat you, it will

Welcome to the New West, where the Nature Laws dictate who lives and dies by the way they treat the land, carnivorous horses and blood trees are accepted mutations courtesy of the sky rocks, and the Impact Zone separates the earth-friendly territories of the West from a more sophisticated, steam-powered East. Women are rare commodities, living in extended families with more than one husband, and children are a necessity in a world where sterility is often the norm, not the exception. Life is full of challenge, romance and adventure. Something one courageous, wounded Amazon will find out first-hand.

Thais (Tay-iss) lost her mother, her queen, and most of her tribe at the hands of brutal foreigners, all while she enjoyed a respite from duty. But the young Amazon with vengeance in her heart refuses to lose anything else. She’ll bring back the queen’s stolen crown or die trying. Life in the Territories has its perils: the Nature Laws, carnivorous beasts, and treacherous men who survived the Time of Dying. One man in particular, a warrior in his own right, has an odd effect on her senses. She comes to desire him, to trust him, and she doesn’t like it. Men are good for war and breeding, neither of which Thais has time for, not when she’s so close to finding those responsible for the crown’s theft. In the course of her quest, Thais finds much more than atonement for her troubled past, but a pure and lasting love, if only she has the courage to accept it.

Review:

I’m really torn about how I feel about this book. On one hand I really liked the story and the characters. Thais was strong and independent. I loved every one of the Dakota clan and the bad guys were all suitably evil in their own unique ways. I even appreciated the dystopian world building that Harte did. The environment was distorted and appropriately foreign, while still being geographically recognisable.

However, on the other hand, I had a really hard time actually reading the book. I’m not a prude and I like a smouldering sex scene as well as the next reader. Hell, that’s why I picked up a book by Harte in the first place. But while I get that this is a predominantly male, post-apocalyptic culture and language may have taken a resultant nose dive, the language in the book is really coarse. I mean like “I want to fuck you,” “fill you pussy,” “pound your cunt,” kind of crude (even when speaking to women who are apparently adored). What one likes or dislikes is, of course, an individual preference. For me this was not sexy, not sexy at all. It grated on my nerves endlessly that a strong Amazonian woman would allow herself to be spoken to in such a degrading manner, even if she didn’t really know any better.

Further, before reading the book, the synopsis’ rule number 2 (Women are a precious commodity.) made me think women might have a respected place in this society. That’s actually a large part of why I chose to read the book now instead of letting it rest in the TBR list. I was disappointed. They were almost exclusively raped, shared, or whored. Unfortunately rule number 1 (Procreation is necessary, not optional.) might better read, sex is necessary, not optional. Women really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Every single one of them felt like a sexual victim.

Now, there was plenty of sex to be had here, but there was plot too. So while I was uncomfortable with Hinto’s language and the treatment of women in general there was quite a lot I liked about this book too. Hinto, was pretty darned sexy (pending he kept his mouth shut). He was big, strong, talented, kind, honorable, and falling hard for the girl whose independence he respected (even as his actions sought to hobble her). His internal dialogue as he tried to come to terms with his own complicated feelings for Thais were the best part of the book, followed closely by his interactions with his family. I also liked Beast a lot. You wouldn’t expect a ‘horse’ to have much of a role to play, but he did.

There was a general theme of loyalty and the importance of honour and duty. This is something I always enjoy in a book. Tip of the Spear didn’t disappoint in this regard. Those who were honourable took their responsibilities seriously. How could you ever fault someone for that? This extended to the importance of bearing children. I liked that the men were all really excited about the thought of fostering offspring. Sexy daddies…yum. 

I wish the next book (Bite of the Blade) was out. I’d give it a read. Once I’ve walked away from the series, however, I seriously doubt I’ll ever remember to look for it again. Oh well, my loss I guess. 

 

Review of Justin Calderone’s LARP: The Battle For Verona

Author, Justin Caldrone, sent me an e-copy of his novel LARP: The Battle For Verona.

Description from Goodreads:
Dennis and his friends have been LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) since high school. Now, in his 20s, Dennis is seriously considering giving up LARPing for good. He’s tired of dealing with his overzealous friend Mark; he’s tired of his older brother Brad’s constant put-downs; and he’s tired of the fact that he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Check that. Not a girlfriend, but the girlfriend. Alyssa—the one woman he’s been pining over for years.

Dennis and his fellow LARPers have never been considered cool, in their small island community of Verona, located off the coast of Washington State.

But all of that is about to change . . .

While Dennis and his friends are attending a big LARP tournament on the mainland, a rogue terrorist group of Mongolians in medieval garb, led by an American madman, invade Verona and take its citizens hostage—including their families and friends.

When the LARPers find out what’s happening in their home-town, they do what any dedicated LARPer would do: they put on their armor, strap on their swords, and fight their way home—LARP-style!

Review:

Larp: The Battle For Verona is utterly ridiculous. 🙂 A small island off the coast of Washington State is occupied by an invading horde of medieval Mongols…riiighhhtt. Then a group of local Live Action Role Players ride in to save the day, not the US military, militia, or even the freakin’ Boy Scouts, but LARPers….Ooookaaay. But all of that is written on the back of the book, so you know going in exactly what you are going to get. This is the type of book you pick up because of the absurdity of the story, not in spite of it.

For me the whole point is being able to abandon myself to the unpredictable nature of the characters who find themselves in a completely unforeseeable circumstance. LARP doesn’t let you down in this regard. Dennis, Freddy, Mark, and Jen a good fun. As semi-professional twenty-somethings they each embody their time. Dennis is stuck. He can’t seem to find meaning in his mundane life. Freddy is struggling with an ethnic identity. Mark hasn’t quite managed to grow up and Jen is determined to find respect as a ferocious woman (as opposed to a pretty lady, or worse, Daddy’s Little Girl). These are characters you recognise from life. You see them day in and day out. Watching them each overcome their own uniquely modern problems has a certain gratifying feeling to it, as does seeing them concur the external problem.

I did find that the book repeated itself a lot and this got a little tiresome. It also felt like everything wrapped up a little too well. I’m all for a happy ending, but it all became so hunky-dory that it felt a bit like a veneer. This was only a small irritant on an otherwise really enjoyable read however.

Review of Dream Song, book II of the Songs of Talmanor series

On finishing Selarial’s Song (which I reviewed here)  I raced right out and bought the sequel, Dream Song.

Description from Goodreads:
Selarial is trapped and injured on the distant planet Taledra. Alcar, now on Sorth, finds himself in a conflict with the Singer Council over a rescue expedition. At the same time, the need to discover who betrayed his former command in the Fleet gnaws at his conscience. Both goals drive him to perfect his psychic abilities, establish a new Istari Order to help protect the Coalition from the increasing Thess’n threat and find a way to expose the traitor in the Coalition. 

Hostilities increase on both fronts. The Thess’ns attack Sorth directly and the Singer Council place psychic bonds on Alcar to prevent him from going after Selarial. After the attack, Lord Nafron (Selarial’s father) and Alcar increase Sorth’s covert ops with the Trader’s Guild aimed at intelligence gathering and destabilization of the Thess’n Empire. Nafron works in the Coalition Assembly to pass a Declaration of War. Alcar, with Selarial’s team, leaves Sorth to join the Traders in operations inside enemy space.

On Taledra, Selarial lies in a coma from both physical and psychic trauma. It takes a desperate effort on her mother’s part to heal the psychic damage and wake her. As Selarial recovers, she joins the rest of her crew in exploring the remnants of Tarkus’ beginnings. Disturbing clues appear that point back to the far past in an unexpected direction.

Events draw Alcar into a position he never wanted, but must take up if the Coalition is to survive. The only way to get to Selarial is to first get the Coalition’s house in order.

Review:
Like it’s prequel, Dream Song contains an interesting account of the accord that deep understanding of one another can produce. Here of course it is possible because of some individuals psychic abilities, but I think the lesson could be taken as a general one. I appreciate that. The story itself is an interesting one and I also really enjoy Brewer’s writing style and use of language.

Unfortunately I don’t think this book quite reached the high standard of Selarial’s Song. For one, it isn’t as well edited. Granted the book hasn’t even been out a month yet. Hopefully the author will take the opportunity to give the text one more pass and put out a 2nd version. For another, it is quintessentially a middle book. The beginning of the story had already been established but no true conclusion is reached by the end. While Book One chronicles the universe’s acknowledgement that they are at war, this book sets the stage for that war. There is a lot of strategizing, team building, discovery of new talents, etcetera, but very few game changing events. Even the passing of some of the main characters or the reunion after years apart of others wasn’t given any real weight.

Lastly, and a personal irritant, Alcar was simply too good at everything. More than once he offered advice or instruction in something he recently learned to others who would have been previous experts. No matter the specialty he was deferred to. He was accepted as leader of Sorth and the coalition (and by extension the Fleet) without any real descent. Could it really be so easy? I have a hard time accepting that. His mere presence completely eclipsed Selarial, who was hardly in the book until the last 15% or so. Even then he, not her, was the leader. Correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t Roth and Kirrlea HER team?

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the story. It is a lot more intellectual than its description lets on. I always like that in a book. I’ll almost certainly read the next one when it comes out. But if the pacing is anything to go by The Songs of Talmanor is going to be a very long series.