Books: Dawnthief

In Brief:  James Barclay’s Dawnthief features a band of mercenaries in sword-and-sorcery style adventure.  The characters are hard men (and women), loyal to each other first, who find themselves drawn into a great conflict with darker forces in the land.

Pros:  Barclay has a good command of military history, and his system of magic is consistent.  A good sense of history, solid characters, and an eye for avoiding cliches make this a an effective first effort.

Cons:  The beginning chapters are messy – perhaps due to a switching p.o.v. style that is somewhat troublesome.  The logic behind the penultimate spell at the heart of the story is a little sketchy.

Review:  Dawnthief introduces a band of mercenary soldiers known as the Raven.  A small but intensely loyal group who earns their money fighting the small wars between the nobles of Balaia.  Their code is simple:  they don’t do assassinations and they always put the members of the Raven first.

We meet them marshaling the defense of a small castle outpost – a simple enough mission that goes sideways when a mage from the College of Xetesk called Denser appears.  The mercenaries follow him in an attempt to stop him, losing one of their number in the process.  They find themselves in an alternate dimension, where Hirad, one of their leaders, confronts an ancient guardian and inadvertently helps Denser steal an important magic talisman – one of the key components for the spell, Dawnthief. Continue reading

The Young Poet

My son told his mother he was going to be a poet.  He explained how he was going to grow a goatee, wear his glasses, and always have his notebook handy for the writing.  I cannot confirm whether or not he intends to drape himself all in black; however, his current favorite jeans to wear are indeed black.  The boy is seven.

Now I thought this was a fantastic idea, other than the whole, “how-do-you-expect-to-make-a-living-from-the-humanities-in-the-21st-century” problem.  And this doesn’t come as a total surprise:  the boy likes Shel Silverstein and has had those books read to him and re-read them several times.  Like many, he was reared on Dr. Seus.

Also, he just likes words.  The telling of jokes, an early affinity for basics puns, etc.  We consider this a good sign.  His older sister has had a hand in this as well, having written (an illustrated) several stories for him and setting an excellent example as a constant reader. Continue reading

Books: Leviathan Wakes

In Brief:  Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey is good science fiction/space opera set in our solar system.  The first in a trilogy (naturally), this book provides strong characterization and a mix of detective fiction and military sci-fi.

Pros:  Corey’s two main characters are interesting dudes with problems who also give us a solid foundation of the book’s universe.  The belters vs. inner planet politics and conflict is very well done, and the pacing and basic writing are effective.  We also dig the old-school cover art.

Cons:  A couple of overly familiar themes lie at the heart of this book:  a first contact scenario (albeit a different take on it) and the evil and greedy military-industrial corporate antagonist.  However, these are relatively minor issues.

Review:  A reasonably plausible future setting with space travel, inter-planetary politics, ship-to-ship battles…  Add elements of mystery and possible extra-terrestrial contact.  Sounds like space opera, which is where Leviathan Wakes firmly plants it flag.  Along with time travel stuff, space opera is the subset of science fiction I enjoy most, but man, oh, man is this a subset that can be (and often is) done poorly.  Fortunately that doesn’t happen with this book.  James S.A. Corey (pen-name for the collaborative duo of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) knows the pitfalls of the genre better than most.

Continue reading

Pentagram: #1 De-Creaned

It’s been a rough 2013 for the Fighting Illini.  The promise of Nov-Dec. wins, surprising confidence and offensive execution, and a new uptempo attitude all slipped away as the Big 10 slugfest continued.  Realistically, the NCAA tournament has slipped off the radar.  Or maybe not…

Griff, the winner

One way to get over the hump is to end your home losing streak with a win over Indiana.  Who happens to be #1 this week…  On a last second shot…  After coming way back from behind in the last five minutes.

It just so happened that the Hoosiers were ranked at the top this week – a happy coincidence of scheduling and other teams losing.  They are not #1 (especially now), and certainly not the best team we’ve seen; that would be Michigan.  But we’ll take it.  If someone gets to knock the smirk of Tom Crean’s face, it might as well be Illinois!

Five points in the upset Pentagram…

Continue reading