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Brett Weeks

Lightbringer, Book 2

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 978-1-84149-906-2

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Kip Guile, bastard son of the Prism everyone in the Seven Satrapies thinks is Gavin Guile, has been thrown into a world of intrigue and power he is in no way prepared to handle. Despite his perceived shortcomings, however, Kip is determined to make his way in the world, even though his grandfather will do everything to stand in his path, and everyone else thinks Kip’s only chance of getting ahead is by using his father’s influence. At the same time, Gavin’s power is crumbling, at the time when his world can least afford to lose him – and the horrible secret he has kept for the past sixteen years is escaping…

Sequel to 2011’s The Black Prism, this book continues with the same frenetic action and colourful characterisation as its predecessor, rollicking from battle to battle on both small and large scales. While this series doesn’t have the polish or pace of Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy, it is still an enjoyable read, with an interesting magical premise, strongly written action scenes and thoroughly engaging characters. The worldbuilding of the series is of particular interest; far-reaching, yet well-contained and realised. The lead characters, and those in supporting roles, flesh out this world with great variety, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how the plot threads are pulled together in the final book.

Weeks’ novels are intimidating in size, but so readable that within a few pages you forget how much there is to read and simply become caught up in the story. Recommended to read in series order for best effect.

Joe Abercrombie

Gollancz (2012)

ISBN 978 0 575 09583 0

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

It’s no surprise that this latest novel from UK author Joe Abercrombie is dedicated in part to Clint Eastwood. Nominally a fantasy novel set in Abercrombie’s world established in the First Law Trilogy, it is quite the western homage, where quick swords, daggers and crossbows replace six shooters.

Abercrombie conjures a world in which magic is fading – he portrays berserker rage a la Dungeons and Dragons very well, but there are no Merlins or Gandalfs here – and an industrial revolution is around the corner – there is gunpowder, printing presses, early signs of steam power. There is a real sense that the practitioners of unmitigated violence who stride this stage, mostly veterans with more regrets than ambitions, have had their day.

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Kristen Britain

Green Rider, book 4

Orion (2010)

ISBN: 978-0-575-09998-2

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

I’d put off starting Blackveil, as the cover suggested it was book four in an extended series, and I generally don’t enjoy coming into a series so late. My misgivings were unfounded; although it comes late in the series, it is remarkably easy to get sucked into the world of Blackveil and become totally absorbed in the problems of the characters. Blackveil is not the last of the series; although it has many satisfactions it ends on a cliffhanger, so there is clearly at least one more volume to come.

Karigan is a Rider, one of a small band of messengers magically called to serve the King. Not only are the Riders magically called, each has a (generally small) magic talent which they deploy in the service of their King. They keep the magical part of their job quiet, though, as the Kingdom at large is fearful of magic and antagonistic towards the mere idea of people using it. As the novel opens, Karigan is carrying messages which indicate that the King is preparing for war – he doesn’t want it, but he fully expects the Kingdom to shortly be assailed by magical forces from behind the magical D’Yer Wall and mundane forces from another kingdom. So he is prudently preparing; building up his army and seeking to strengthen those who are trying to repair the damage done at the wall. Read the rest of this entry »

Trent Jamieson

The Nightbound Land book 2

Angry Robot (2012)

ISBN 978 0 85766 187 6

Reviewed by Jason Nahrung

This is the second, concluding title, of the story that began with Roil. And what an intriguing read The Nightbound Land duology has been.

Thing is, from the first few chapters of Roil, we know what’s going to happen at the end. You can’t have those excerpts from various histories and memoirs of the unfolding action without someone surviving, can you? And this is the key to the books’ tension: who survives, and how? And what shape is the world in when the dust settles?

Jamieson’s hero is David, drug-addicted and now somewhat possessed by the spirit of an immortal, on a mission to save the world from the Roil: an all-consuming wave of darkness inhabited by wonderfully fantastical creatures including a version of zombie. Elsewhere there are analogues of vampires and dire wolves, romping through a landscape of steampunk technology enhanced with the likes of organic and jet-powered aircraft. It’s a fascinating and well-drawn world, and in this second volume the truth of its creation is revealed – I wasn’t carried away by the deeper cyclical nature of it all, but the promise of being able to break the cycle adds interest to the final denouement.

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Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Assassini, book 2

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 9780316074421

Reviewed by Ben Julien

Spoiler alert!

The Outcast Blade is the second of a trilogy (Fallen Blade being the first book), an alternate history set in late medieval Venice. A fantasy novel, its focus is the city itself, the imagined politics of the ruling Millioni family (scions of Marco the Polo) and its Council of Ten and the Assassini, a secretive brotherhood of agents run by the Duke’s Blade – his spymaster, master assassin and bloody go-to guy.

The lead character is Tycho, described as a fallen angel, of the first race who shun the sunlight and drink blood from their victims to satisfy their hunger and enhance their considerable abilities. Yes, this is a vampire story, though not overtly and Tycho’s genetic heritage isn’t the only focus of the narrative, though the inclusion of other fantasy tropes (werewolves (krieghund) and witches (stregoi)) did jar a bit at first.

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Jo Anderton

The Veiled Worlds, book 2

Angry Robot (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-85766-156-2

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Lorraine Cormack is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

Suited is the second in a trilogy, the sequel to last year’s Debris. It continues a strong story and good character development, as well as significantly expanding our understanding of the world in which it is set. It’s a strong novel; like its predecessor, it is something of a cross-genre novel, although Suited skews more towards science fiction than the first novel did. Unsurprisingly, it has most to offer people who have read the first novel, but many readers new to the series will also enjoy Suited.

In Debris, Tanyana fell from her privileged position as a talented and strong pion builder. Well respected and financially well rewarded, she had a comfortable life with access to the higher echelons of society in Movoc. When a dreadful accident robs her of all this, she discovers undercurrents to her society she had previously been unaware of. Specifically, she discovers that not everyone can see pions, the elements of matter that everyone manipulates without a second thought every day. Except not everyone can; some people can’t see pions and thus can’t use them; they can see only the waste they leave behind. And although these people are vital – if debris collectors don’t do their job, the unseen debris builds up and causes all kinds of malfunctions – they are nevertheless despised. Scorned by society, paid barely enough to live on, treated as little more than slave labour.

And now Tanyana is one of them.

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Stephen Deas

The Memory of Flames, book 2

Orion (2011)

ISBN: 978-0-575-08378-3

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

The King of the Crags is an awkward book to review in that it sits right there in the middle of the road; a good enough book, but not anything very special.  It was an entertaining enough read, but not particularly memorable. There’s not really a lot wrong with it, but it doesn’t stand out in any way either.

One difficulty with The King of the Crags may be that it’s the second in a trilogy; these often don’t stand alone very well, and it’s not fair to expect them to do so. However, I haven’t read either the first or last in this trilogy, which means that for me The King of the Crags had to stand alone. It was reasonably easy to pick up on the plot, and to some extent on the cast of characters; but I did feel that the characterisation in particular probably suffered from the fact I hadn’t read the first. Many of the characters seemed a little sketchy and it was hard to care about their dilemmas to any extent. Given that Deas is a reasonably good writer, I have to conclude that this is likely, at least in part, to be due to the fact I was unaware of the character establishment and development of volume one.

NM Browne

Bloomsbury (2011)

978-1-4088-1255-6

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

Wolf Blood was one of those novels that sounded as though it should be good, but which failed to ever engage my interest. I was largely bored while reading this, and was quite pleased when it ended. I think it may be the first of a series (it isn’t labelled as such, but the ending is suggestive), but found I didn’t care at all.

Trista is a Celtic warrior girl, captured and enslaved in battle. She has endured her captivity stoically, despite her eventual realisation that there is no real honor in it. When the only person she cares about dies, she escapes. And promptly finds herself recaptured by two Roman foot soldiers. The soldiers have their own problems though; and before too long Trista is on the run with just one of them. A werewolf unaware of his own nature, the Roman soldier must come to terms with who or what he is – and then decide what side to fight on. Trista and Morcant (the soldier) have a chance to save the Celtic tribes from Roman invasion. Will they act on it? And if they do, will they succeed?

Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

Allen and Unwin (2012)

ISBN: 978-1-74331-092-2

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Between the Lines is the sort of book you can hold up to people who say, “Print is dead!” and poke your tongue at them. It’s a lovely package (and it should be noted I’m talking about the Australian/New Zealand Allen and Unwin printing), with gorgeous full colour artwork at the chapter breaks, clever silhouette illustrations popping up on the pages, and a variety of font colours and types used to denote point of view in different chapters. It is pretty, and the pictures are worth poring over – it’s great to see publishers investing in the printed book like this, because it is an edge that regular (ie: e-ink) e-readers cannot match.

Delilah is pretty much an outcast at school, and would rather read than anything else. Her new favourite book is one she can’t even tell her best (only) friend about though – it’s a fairytale, and Delilah finds herself very intrigued by the main character, the prince Oliver. Little does she know, Oliver is intrigued by her as well, and yearns to escape the confines of the story for a bigger world outside. But is that even possible?

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Sam Bowring

Strange Threads, Book 1

Orbit (2012)

ISBN: 978-0-7336-2812-2

Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack

I’d never heard of Sam Bowring before this book crossed my desk, although he’s an experienced Australian writer; and I can only say that I was clearly missing out. This is an extremely good novel, which drew me in quickly and held my attention. It’s the first in a trilogy, and I’m looking forward to reading the remaining books. Although Bowring writes with a relaxed style that makes it easy to devour the novel, there’s quite a lot of depth to this. Obviously, a certain amount of the novel is spent on set-up. Bowring weaves the history in quite cleverly and provides an eventful novel while still leaving a lot to be addressed in books two and three.

Rostigan is a wandering warrior – not exactly a mercenary, as he seeks only enough money to keep himself and his companion, the Minstrel Tarzi. He will undertake ridiculously dangerous tasks for no better reason than that someone should help. It soon becomes clear to the reader that this isn’t the only thing that differentiates him from other mercenaries – he’s also one of the legendary Wardens. Centuries ago, these Wardens saved the world by destroying Lord Regret and his rogue magic. In destroying Lord Regret, each of the Wardens took on some of his magic. Some were turned towards their baser instincts and wreaked havoc on the world; others responded to better instincts and brought good. Eventually, the Wardens disappeared or died, sometimes at the hands of each other. The better among them are still revered as saints.

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