Archive for November, 2012

Sasha now lives in the Torrovan port city of Petrodor.  This is a city with several political factions squaring off against each other.  These are the powerful and rich merchant families, the nobility, the clergy, and the “talmaad” – serrin agents living in Petrodor.  The common folk are torn between the predominant Verenthane religion and the serrin-influenced Nasi-Keth.

Sasha’s sister Alythia is married off to the noble Halmady family. This political allience marriage beings a power struggle among the other noble houses.  This includes Steiner House, which Sasha and Alythia’s sister Marya was married into.  The politically minded archbishop sets in motion bloody events that turn allies into enemies.  Sasha and Alythia, along with their allies, struggle to survive.

The sub-plot follows Jaryd, hell-bent on revenge for the murder of his little brother.  He is now training with the Goeren-yay in Sasha’s old village after abandoning his Verenthane faith at the end of Sasha.  Sofy hears of a plot to murder his surviving brother and warns him.   With some village men, they charge off to rescue him.

The characters and factions also avoid being black-and-white stereotypes – not all Verenthanes are evil, not all nasi-keth are honorable, and the serrin aren’t quite as unified and angelic as they seemed at the end of Sasha. Everyone tries to look out for their own interests as best as they can. The political set-up is once again very complex, with factions within factions depending on or plotting against each other.

Petrodor is an exciting fantasy with a complex world.  It is an interesting focus on power, politics, and religion, with memorable characters.  There’s a bit of romance at the end but is minor.  The story is action-packed and exciting.  The second Trial of Blood and Steel is an excellent read.  You should read Sasha first, it will be  confusing otherwise as you won’t know the cause of the seemingly coming war or the many characters.

Orbit

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

Lenayin is a land divided by two religions.  The Goeren-yai faith is a bit pagan, guided by spirits and focused on strength and honour.  Followed by most of the common people, it is the original Lenayin religion. The Verenthane faith is a more organized religion that has the majority of Lenayin’s nobility amongst its followers. When the sole remaining Goeren-yai High Lord kills a neighboring province’s Verenthane leader, a complex conflict begins that threatens to tear apart the fragile balance keeping Lenayin together.

The heroine, Sasha (short for Sashandra), is a daughter of the Lenay king.  She has abandoned her royal privileges to live among the Goeren-yai and study fighting techniques.  Her  tutor (uman) is Kessligh, former commander of Lenayin ‘s armies and hero of a past war with neighboring Cherrovan. Kessligh has adopted the Nasi-Keth, a third belief system that follows the teachings of the non-human serrinim.

Sasha is a supremely talented sword fighter as well as being temperamental and  stubborn.  She is torn in different directions, her desire to lead a simple life studying swordwork battling with the call of history and duty.  The Goeren-yai believe she is guided by the Synnich spirit that will liberate them from Verenthane oppression.

The book starts off slow, with the first half introducing the world of Lenayin.  There is a lot of talking, with characters being introduced and giving a good grasp of who’s who.  The political manipulations of the court are introduced and the laying out of events sets the scene of complex family and clan interaction.  The second half has more action, marching off to war, alliances built, battle scenes.  Characters are introduced who will play a major role in future books.

This is the start of an exciting fantasy quartet.  I’ve got the next 3 on my desk and can’t wait to start them.  They show the heroine as someone tough who turns her back on privilege and can be the best in a man’s world.  She doesn’t sit around waiting for rescue.  Her sister also appears and shows her strength in a different way.  I look forward to seeing more of Sofy.  Sasha is an excellent epic fantasy novel that promises great things for the rest of the series. I highly recommend this for fantasy fans.

Orbit

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

petrolheads in shedsAnother awesome book with slices of Kiwi life!  This one features blokes who collect cars and motorbikes, and usually other things as well, such as tractors, Tiger Moths, Bren gun carriers, and model railways.  The author goes into shed and garages all over New Zealand as he talks to these owners and learns about their collection.  A couple of them have even opened up their collections as museums!

The stories are usually about a page and accompanied by a good number of photos.  Well composed and attractively laid out, it’s the contents of the photos that will make petrolheads drool.  A brief look at the contents of each garage has some interesting shots of some of the objects within.  These will delight motor enthusiasts everywhere.  There are some really unique people out there in New Zealand.  This book shows some really fascinating characters and they love they have for their passion.  A recommended read for anyone bitten by the motoring bug.

HarperCollins

Supplied by HarperCollins

Reviewed by Jan

The Witness – Nora Roberts

Posted: November 14, 2012 in Review, romance
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Elizabeth Fitch was raised by an emotionally remote mother to be a perfect daughter who never puts a foot wrong.  But one night she decides to rebel.  After forging fake ids, she and a friend, Julie, get into a trendy club to party and met he owners of the club, Ilya and Alexei.  The girls leave the club with Alexei, to go back to his place, with Ilya meeting up with them after he finished some business.  They two men are Russian mafia though and the business is Ilya killing Alexei.  Julie is caught in the crossfire and Elizabeth runs, contacting the police and agreeing to testify against the shooters.  Placed in the witness protection programme, she is betrayed before the trial and two FBI agents are killed defending her.  So she must run again.

Abigail Lowery is a mystery.  Buying a house in a small town in the Ozarks, she keeps to herself and rarely goes to town, causing the residents to be insanely curious about her.  She designs security software and by hacking, keeps tabs on the Russian mafia, FBI, US Marshals, and anyone connected with the Fitch case.  Oh, and she has a fierce guard dog called Bert who is adorable.  Brooks is the police chief of the town?? and interested in knowing more about Abigail.  The subplot involved the son of the town’s wealthiest man vandalising the property of a well liked family  The father was trying to buy the sons way out of trouble and it was interesting to view his frustration and escalation as he didn’t succeed.

The beginning was interesting but the middle dragged, with the last third of the book being interesting again.  I love the ending, though it would have been brilliant to see the reactions of the bad guys as justice found them!  I didn’t like how Brooks wouldn’t take no for an answer, pushing his way into Abigail’s house and life after being told no, because he ‘knew’ what she secretly wanted.  Things worked out ok because it’s a romance book, but no means no.  I also found his mother, Sunny, to be pushy and annoying; pushing her way into the house of a woman her son was interested in.  It worked out ok but you can see she’ll be interfering in the future.

This turned out to be a good read, perfect for a lazy day.

Piatkus

Reviewed by Jan

Royce and Hadrian are back!  Riyria perform a last job before Hadrian decides to retire and take a new path.  Hadrian sets out to find the Heir of Novron and takes Royce with him, having thrilling adventures along the way.  We met new characters, get reacquainted with old ones, see where they each grew up, and undertake a wild ride.  The author isn’t afraid to kill characters off either.

Wintertide is the first volume, where Riyria attempt to free Degan Gaunt, the Heir of Novron, from the palace dungeons in Aquesta.  They discover Princess Arista is being held there too and attempt to free her as well.  The second volume is Percepliquis, which has Hadrian and a reluctant Royce leading a party of familiar characters on a quest to find the Horn of Gylindora, thought to be in the ancient city of Percepliquis which had vanished.  While they’re away finding the city of Percepliquis, Empress Modina has to protect her people from a war with the elves.  Along the way Hadrian and Royce face more ‘certain death as prisoners in dungeons’ situations.

This one book holds all the missing pieces we didn’t realize we were missing, yet piecing all the secreted comments throughout the series together to complete everything. Michael has taken a series to all different levels throughout this series, and this book is a fabulous ending to it all!

The ending was very grownup with the realistic planning for the future but with lots of ‘wow, that was unexpected’ moments, ‘ah yes, that makes sense’ realisations, and the very last page was ‘light bulb moment!’  Perfect!’  All loose ends were neatly tied up though I’d love to read more history of certain characters.  I highly recommend the Riyria Revelations series to any fans of fantasy adventure novels.  Michael J Sullivan, please keep writing.  Your talent for producing awesome characters in exciting stories is wonderful.

Orbit

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

Royce and Hadrian are back!  Riyria perform a last job before Hadrian decides to retire and take a new path.  Hadrian sets out to find the Heir of Novron and takes Royce with him, having thrilling adventures along the way.  We met new characters, get reacquainted with old ones, see where they each grew up, and undertake a wild ride.  The author isn’t afraid to kill characters off either.

There are two stories in this book.  Nyphron Rising shows the rising power of the church and the ordinary people fighting against the New Empire.  Princess Arista hires Riyria to escort her to meet with the rebel leader and along the way we find out how Hadrian learnt his amazing fighting skills and see where Royce grew up.  The Emerald Storm takes place in the jungle (with cannibals everywhere), on the ocean in a sailing ship (lots of pirates), and in the Imperial Palace (intrigue, magic, hidden rooms).

The stories are action packed and full of lots of action, as Riyria battle everything from religious zealots to goblins.  There is also complexity with castle intrigue, court politics, secrets, threats and traitors.  You never know who to trust or can anticipate what’s happening next.   The relationship between Hadrian and Royce is constant and enjoyable and fun, after some of the backbiting and betrayals of others.

This book can be read as a standalone; a brief explanation of previous events is given and there is a helpful glossary.  I recommend you read Thief of Swords first though, mainly because it’s such a fun read.  The last few pages had a ‘didn’t see THAT coming’ revelation.  The Riyria Revelations series is a must read.  You won’t be disappointed.

Orbit

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan

Royce and Hadrian are known as the Riyria – successful and daring thieves who managed always to escape. Thieves for hire, they have been known in the past to be assassins. Royce was once a member of a well known thieves’ guild. However his successes made someone jealous and fearful so they set him up and got him banished.

“Hey man, wanna go steal a magic sword?”
“Awww, do we have to?”
“Well, I already signed us up. So yeah.”
“Alright.”

This book actually contains two stories in one.  The first story is titled “The Crown Conspiracy”, where Royce and Hadrian have just returned from a successful job.  They normally wouldn’t undertake another assignment immediately but Hadrian gets talked into stealing a famous sword.  Unfortunately, when they enter the chapel to get the sword they find the King murdered and are captured and sentenced to execution by the Prince.

An unexpected person helps them escape if they kidnap the Prince, for his own protection. Hunted criminals, they go on a quest to find a powerful wizard incarcerated in a secret prison, before returning to unmask the King’s murderer.

Avempartha is the second story in the book, taking place two years after the first story.  Royce and Hadrian are sought by Thrace, a young farm girl who hires them to save her father and village by slaying a beast no one has seen.  This takes them on an adventure where a lot of the characters from the previous book return and they finally end up defeating the monster with their friends’ help.

This story is packed with action and has a clever plot with many twists, but without being too complicated.  The characters are interesting without there being too many to comfortably remember, and their names don’t sound similar. Elves, a wizard, prines, princesses, a gnome, stereotypical villains, loveable rogues as heroes, political intrigue and villainy as nobleman and church leaders battle for power.

These books are addictive; once you start you don’t want to stop.  First self-published on e-book, Orbit has recognised what an enjoyable read they are and published them.  This book begins a series with treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend.

Orbit

Supplied by Hatchette

Reviewed by Jan