Review: Sailing to Sarantium & Lord of Emperors

The Sarantine Mosaic, a Duology

By Guy Gavriel Kay

I’ve read nearly every book that Kay has written and never been dissapointed.  This series was no exception.  The first book, Sailing to Sarantium, is a bit slow, but once you’ve finished the series, you see the necessity of it.  And once you’ve finished Lord of Emperors, I think you’ll agree with me that the series is one of the great masterpieces of literature in our time.

First, Sailing to Sarantium.  This first book serves mostly as set up for the second book.  Which isn’t to say that it doesn’t stand on it’s own merits.  It’s chock full of the usual impeccable literary skill of Guy Gavriel Kay.   The story is intricately weaved together and leads us from a small chapel into the metropolis of Sarantium.  All the while, we learn about Crispin the mosaicist and follow him on a journey that is filled with beauty, intrigue, and mythos.  This is a wonderful book, with the only detraction being the fact that it is almost entirely a character build for the second half of the duology.

The second half, Lord of Emperors, makes it all worth while.  What was already a great work in character developement becomes a masterpiece.  We continue the journey of Crispin as he learns the subtleties of the courts of Sarantium and the intricacies of the personal relationships outside of those courts.  Tragically, Crispin gets drawn into a story that far exceeds his desires to create his masterpiece and becomes a key player in a story of much grander scale.  Tragic and devine at the same time, Lord of Emperors comes to a conclusion that will leave you wondering how you could have thought it would end otherwise.

If you have ever read any of Kay’s work, and not this series, do yourself the favor and pick it up today.  You can pick it up used off of Amazon for an extremely fair price.  And if you haven’t read any of Kay’s work, what are you waiting for?

Review: The Protector’s War

The Protector’s War

By: S.M. Sterling

I generally wait until I’ve read the last book in a trilogy of books before I review the middle book.  Such is the case with The Protector’s War.  If I had not waited, you would now be reading about a book that meandered off from the superb plot and story of the first book and managed to lose you in a sea of medieval meanderings.  In fact, I might have encouraged you to not even read the book.

But, I did wait until I had read the last book before writing this review.  For that, you will eventually thank me.

After reading Dies the Fire, I couldn’t help but want to read the rest of the series.  Left alone, Dies the Fire has a horrible ending.  It’s only when you begin reading the following books that you really have the completed story.  With that being said, there is still a lot of excess baggage in The Protector’s War.  In fact, if I had been the editor, I would have trimmed it down far enough that the second and third books could have been merged.  It would have made for a larger book by about half again what the final book was, but the series would have been about half a book shorter.

In any case, The Protector’s War does little more than bridge the gap from Dies the Fire to the final book A Meeting at Corvallis.  I really found most of it to be excessive.  Several times, I found myself wondering why there needed to be such intricate detail for the Wiccan ceremonies.  I realize that the religion of Juniper plays a very central role in the series, but the two and three page relatings of the ceremonies could have easily been shortened by half and still conveyed the same plot points.  I failed to find the plot point at all in several cases.

I really don’t want to get to down on the book, however.  There is much of it that is necessary to the plot and to the continuation of the series.  And there are several things that happen that play rather large parts in the final novel.

I wouldn’t give the book much more than 3 and a half stars.  4 if I’m having a good day. 😉  It’s not a terrible book, but it doesn’t really serve for much more than a bridge to A Meeting at Corvallis.  If you liked Dies the Fire as much as I did, you’ll want (need) to read The Protector’s War.  It’s well worth it once you get to the final book.

Books in the Dies the Fire (Emberverse) series:

  1. Dies the Fire
  2. The Protector’s War
  3. A Meeting at Corvallis

Review: Dies The Fire

Dies the Fire by S.M. Sterling

Dies the Fire

By S.M. Sterling

I’ve always been a sucker for the history changers.  The people who forged a path that changed the world.  Martin Luther King comes to mind.  All the way down to that darn butterfly in the Amazon that everyone is so fond of talking about.  When you’ve changed the world, you’ve laid a path, woven a tale, and made things different.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that I like alternative history fiction.  What little of it I’ve read at least.  I cut my teeth on S.M. Sterling’s work with a novel of his called Conquistador.  It was a book that I had a hard time getting into, but it quickly became a page turner and was a great book.  Given that I liked Conquistador so much, I though that I’d give another book of Mr. Sterling’s a try.  This time around, a truly alternative history fiction.

Dies the Fire is a novel of The Change.  A singular event that changes the way the world works.  Combustible materials such as gas and gunpowder no longer combust with the same intensity that they did before.  What this accomplishes is to render useless all cars, guns and all electrical devices.  Consider that for a moment.  All cars, guns and electrical devices are rendered useless.  What would that mean for your everyday life?  Likely, the same things it meant for the characters in Dies the Fire.

The world is turned upside down, and is thrown into chaos.  As they people begin realizing what is going on and accepting that it might not change back, a few make the best of it and begin to gather the pieces.  Dies the Fire follows three groups of these people either directly or indirectly.  As we follow them through the first few days post-change, we begin to see a new kind of world emerge.  A post-modern world that has been thrust back hundreds of years into a new dark age.

Dies the Fire is a thrilling tale from start to finish.  The concept is pretty good, and the writing is also quite good.  But what really makes the novel, for me at least, is the way that S.M. Sterling has captured the interactions between the survivors of The Change.  Not only does he catch their struggle to deal with the new world, both emotionally and physically, he also catches the changes that occur as they begin to adapt to their new life in their new world.

If you’ve never read a novel by S.M. Sterling, this could be a good one to start on.  Beware, however, that it’s the first of a trilogy that has spawned a second trilogy and an upcoming third trilogy.  If you fall for the tale and the characters the way I did, you could be in for a 9 book journey.  They do read fast though, so it won’t be all bad.  Especially if you’re an alternative fiction fan, you should pick up Dies the Fire.

Review: Heart-Shaped Box

Heart Shaped BoxHeart Shaped Box

by Joe Hill

This is a book that I might never have picked up if not for one little secret that got “revealed”. Joe Hill, the author, is really the son of Stephen King. Yep, his real name is Joe King. One look at the artist portrait on the back inside cover will assure you of that. The family resemblance is pretty strong. Knowing that, I put this book at the top of my list.

And I couldn’t be any more happy that I did. Heart-Shaped Box is an absolutely amazing book. It reads quickly and easily. And best of all? It’s extremely reminiscent of an early Stephen King work. And I’ve gone on record as saying that the newer King works lack something that the early works had. Joe has picked up on that (undoubtedly from years of hanging out with his dad) and made it his own. In fact, I still harbor a few suspicions that the book was really written by Stephen King about 20 years ago. There are too many new references for that to be true, but it’s that close to the original writing style of the elder King.

The book follows a hard rocker named Judas Coyne. Get it? Judas Coin. Well, I didn’t get it until about half way through the book, but I find it very clever. It seems that Jude has a bit of a reputation as being a dark fellow a little bit like Ozzy. His assistant finds a genuine dead man’s ghost for sale on a “eBay knockoff” auction site. He buys it, and then all hell breaks loose.

The spoilers begin about here, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, you should probably stop reading.

When the ghost arrives in a heart-shaped box, some funny things start to happen and Jude starts seeing the ghost at night. After a little bit of looking into it, he finds out that the person that sold him the ghost was the sister of an old girl-friend that he kicked to the curb and the ghost is her step father out for a little afterlife revenge.

Joe takes us on several twists and turns throughout the book and by the end of it, I had to struggle to put it down and not finish it in one session. I nearly did anyways.

It’s an amazing story and I couldn’t recommend it any more. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next Joe Hill novel. Now, I’ve got a few of his fathers books that I need to read. 😉

You can buy Heart-Shaped Box at Amazon!