Book Review: ‘Herald of the Storm’, by Richard Ford

HeraldOfTheStorm_hb.inddHerald of the Storm was one of my first purchases by Kindle, but unfortunately I haven’t managed to get around to reading it until now. It got off to a good start, with an immersive world and good back-story. While there was a good deal of world-building, it was done well, and seeded throughout. Perhaps this is why there are so many characters in the opening chapters. At this point it wasn’t an issue, but they remained a somewhat disparate group for at least the first 40% of the book. While the group was disparate, it was all set in the same city (Steelhaven), which is almost reminiscent of the Song of Ice and Fire, for all the best reasons.

Even if I couldn’t see the story coming together for a while, I found it at the same time complex and easy to read, which made it a very interesting read. I’ve struggled to isolate what exactly it was about the book that made it so readable. Part of it is that while reading it, I found that it precipitated a lot of questions from the reader, not all of which are answered in the course of the book (as might well be expected of a series). There were however a good deal of action sequences, and a worthy climax. The band of characters come together nicely, and the next book in the series is set up nicely. The best way I can characterise my experience with this book is that it felt like going over the crest of a roller-coaster: I could feel it building up for the first 60-70% of the book, but I wasn’t quite sure what would happen when I got there. Then when stuff happened, it happened fast. I would certainly recommend both this book and this author.

‘Herald of the Storm’, by Richard Ford is the first in the Steelhaven series.

Book Review: ‘The Crystal Shard’, by R.A. Salvatore

51VY1C606GLDespite saying that I’d take a break after Sojourn, I ended up moving straight on to The Crystal Shard and the Icewind Dale Trilogy. I have to say, I’m glad I stuck with it. The opening sequences worried me a little, partly because of the narrator (I was listening to the audiobook again). She was not necessarily bad, just very different to the narrator of the Dark Elf Trilogy, with different pronunciations for the names of different places and people. What did annoy me was the mispronunciation of the word ‘lich’ (or what I think was supposed to be lich). The set-up also initially seemed very derivative, with the big bad enemy in his tower, and the good guys blissfully unaware. It was very reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings particularly, even with the imagery of the evil tower falling at the end.

There was initially a wide and seemingly disparate cast, but Salvatore managed to bring them all together well by the end, even if there were a few character inconsistencies, and somewhat jarring switches of point of view. As well as this, it suffered from perhaps my biggest bugbear, which is an unnecessary propensity for throwing weapons. It makes literally no sense, essentially throwing away a weapon. I will concede that there are times when throwing a weapon of a certain type might make sense, but the way it seems to happen as a matter of course really annoys me. I mean Wulfgar literally just seems to be Thor. (Rant over).

In spite of these, I did enjoy the story massively, and enjoyed the slightly bigger cast that the Dark Elf Trilogy. Having experienced all three of them, I’m not sure I’m really a fan of books with just one central character. I also very much enjoyed Drizzt taking more of an auxiliary role in the story, again probably because I’ve just spent three books with him and very few others. The story in general was on a much larger scale, and much more like the traditional epic fantasy that I love.

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‘The Crystal Shard’, by R.A. Salvatore is the first in the Icewind Dale Trilogy.

Book Review: ‘Stranger of Tempest’, by Tom Lloyd

strangerPicked this up on a whim in a Waterstone’s, having seen considerable praise for it on the internet. New and shiny as it was, it obviously shot to the top of my TBR pile, and I started it in the next few days. In short: I read it in about 3 sittings and absolutely loved it. The very first page pulled me in and made me laugh both, to an extent unmatched by any book I’ve read up until now. Hot off having finished Glen Cook’s The Chronicles of the Black Company, I’m enjoying reading about mercenary companies. Thinking about it, I’ve always enjoyed reading mercenary stories: as noted in an earlier review, I massively enjoyed The Deed of Paksenarrion, and the following Paladin’s Legacy, though my love of mercenary companies can be traced (I think) back to Stan Nicholls’ Orcs, and Raymond E. Feist’s Serpentwar Saga. The bonus of using a mercenary company as the central group of characters is that there is more license to be crude and more overtly humorous. In Stranger of Tempest, this is achieved incredibly well. I’m unsure as to whether or not it is my specific sense of humour or not, but I found the dialogue in particular to be very funny, bordering on hilarious, throughout the book.

The world of The God Fragments series is wonderfully thought out as well, with an interesting history and some amazing twists, such as the way the company is based on a deck of cards. I also love the premise of mage-guns; the way they are dropped into the story as if they are nothing out of the ordinary and only later examined in detail. The one thing which would have improved it however, would have been a map.

The plot did not give me any respite. The story moved incredibly fast, and it was only once I had had a few moments to consider did I realise that not much actually happened. Without giving too much away, the plot works up to a central event by the clever (and effective) use of flash-backs and flash-forwards, which occurs in the first half of the book, and is then followed by a thrill-ride/horror type story, punctuated by some fantastic actions sequences. The space which might have been spent on more major events is, in my opinion spent more wisely on a greater volume of snappy dialogue and world-building. Overall, I didn’t find myself able to take enough of a break to question it during reading, and even having observed it since, I still don’t find myself at all disappointed with the book.

‘Stranger of Tempest’, by Tom Lloyd is the first in The God Fragments Series.

Book Review: ‘Sojourn’, by R.A. Salvatore

sojournDespite struggling a little with Exile, I decided to carry straight on to Sojourn, given the improvement between Homeland and Exile. With a much wider world to explore in this volume than in any of those previous, I was eager to explore it with Drizzt. I very much enjoyed the book in some aspects, but also found myself despairing of others. For example, I very much enjoyed Drizzt’s internal monologue and his examination of morals and ethics, as well as his interactions with other races. After a few encounters however, I found it all too repetitive. I understand the reasoning for such encounters, but it all got quite ‘samey’ very fast. Not until the latter half of the book was there true variation, and unsurprisingly that was the half I far preferred.

Overall, I thought that the language lacked some finesse, and came off rather blunt, though this is most likely a reflection of the age of the book. As well, there were slightly jumbled points of view in places, and a few consistency issues, most notably regarding the size and strength of giants, and human ability. Having said that, it was very nostalgic, and easy to follow, with a refreshingly small-scale cast.

‘Sojourn’, by R.A. Salvatore is the third in The Dark Elf Trilogy.