The Fireman

Published Post author

The Fireman Book Cover The Fireman
Joe Hill
Horror
William Morrow
May 17, 2016
Hardcover
752

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

 

The Fireman was more of a 3.5 star book but managed to hold my attention through its lengthy page count. Enough that the half star deserves to be rounded up instead of down. That being said, the book is a bit of a mixed bag. Some things are good, others are bad. On the whole, the good does outweigh the bad. The extent to which that is the case (if it is) will vary from reader to reader.

This is a sort of post-apocalypse story. A fair amount of time passes over the course of The Fireman, carrying the story from the start of the disaster to its aftermath. It is not so extreme that humanity is facing its end, but modern society certainly changes forever. That being said, the book only highlights the big picture of how things are changing from time to time. The main characters are fairly isolated for most of the story, giving things sort of a Walking Dead vibe. But the level of devastation is more on the level of the Black Plague than a true apocalypse. Compared to life before everything is terrible now, but the human race is not completely doomed.

As far as real-world comparatives go, The Fireman is probably more similar to The Stand than any other book. Both books involve a new super-disease that runs rampant and devastates society. In the aftermath, the survivors largely find themselves in one of two camps that are ultimately set against each other. The body count from the disease is not quite as high in The Fireman, but its effects are still similar. Another common factor is the fact that both books are fairly slow.

If The Fireman had one weakness, it is that is was a slow burn. This is not a story that skips around between major events. Those moments of danger are certainly more intense, but just as much page space is given to the characters living their new lives as well. There are some time skips here and there, but the story features as many slice-of-life sections as anything else. It would be a little extreme to call this a bad choice. But parts of the book just crawl. To the point where readers feel a little thankful when something bigger starts happening again. For people who love horror/thriller, The Fireman is a recommended read. For people who do not care for longer stories, not so much.

January 13, 2019

Airframe

Published Post author

Airframe Book Cover Airframe
Michael Crichton
Thriller
Ballantine Books (originally Alfred A. Knopf)
September 28, 1997 (originally November 27, 1996)
Paperback
431

At a moment when the issue of safety and death in the skies is paramount in the public mind, a lethal midair disaster aboard a commercial twin-jet airliner flying from Hong Kong to Denver triggers a pressured and frantic investigation in which the greatest casualty may be the truth.

 

Airframe is one of Crichton’s better books, but for different reasons than most of this other work. Without spoiling it, the book does not follow the same format as many of his other books. On one hand, that wound up being a little off-putting. On the other hand, it made the read a bit more exciting. It was like watching an M. Night Shyamalan film and there is no twist, which for people familiar with the style is more of a twist than any twist that could have been written into the story.

That is not to say Airframe does not have any parallels with other Crichton novels. Like in his other works, Crichton takes a scientific topic and builds a story around it. In this case, commercial airplanes are the subject. Going in knowing a bit about aircraft helps but as per usual Crichton works explanations into the story. Also, like his other works, something goes wrong with the science and people get hurt. Some characters are trying to fix the disaster while others try to twist it for their own purposes. The sense of mystery behind these events leads to a story best described as a thriller.

On the whole, Airframe is one of Crichton’s best novels. The thing that sets it apart is a greater sense of realism. For the most part, his books take a scientific topic and stretch it just enough so that it is still believable. In Airframe, the events still have a scientific basis, but this is something that could really happen. That added sense of realism makes the danger hit closer to home, as well as the consequences following the accident. Just that sense of “this could really happen, this could happen to me” makes the story particularly terrifying.

Characterization is not exactly Crichton’s strong suit. The central character here is well developed while the rest are as 2D as B-movie characters. There is also a sense that Crichton may have had some biases that bled through to Airframe. Largely the sense that he dislikes lawyers and hates TV people. Now maybe that was just for the sake of this particular story, but it came off more intense than that. In a thrilling mystery like Airframe, it is hard to review it too deeply without spoiling anything. On the whole, it would probably rank as my favorite Crichton book (thus far) if I did not have such a positive bias towards Jurassic Park. If you care for Crichton or thrillers in general, Airframe is definitely worth the read.

January 6, 2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse"

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

More Than One Wears The Mask

20181 h 57 min
Overview

Miles Morales is juggling his life between being a high school student and being Spider-Man. However, when Wilson "Kingpin" Fisk uses a super collider, another Spider-Man from another dimension, Peter Parker, accidentally winds up in Miles' dimension. As Peter trains Miles to become a better Spider-Man, they are soon joined by four other Spider-Men from across the "Spider-Verse". As all these clashing dimensions start to tear Brooklyn apart, Miles must help the others stop Fisk and return everyone to their own dimensions.

Metadata
Director Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Runtime 1 h 57 min
Release Date 7 December 2018
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Excellent

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse can be summed up with one word: wow. Go in expecting a good movie and be blown away by a great one. The standout thing about this film is that it just does everything right. Into the Spider-Verse is not a live-action Marvel film; it knows this and does not try to be one. Watching this film feels very much like reading a comic book. From the art style to the story layout, Into the Spider-Verse is very much a comic come to life. While it may be a stretch to call the film perfect, it comes very, very close.

At its core, Into the Spider-Verse is an origin story. Thankfully, it breaks the mold of superhero origin stories in film. Anyone who keeps up with comic movies even marginally knows Peter Parker’s origin story. A radioactive spider bites him, Uncle Ben gets shot, and so on and so forth. This story is centered on Miles Morales, the second Spider-Man originally introduced in Marvel’s Ultimate comic series. Miles’ story is not identical to his comic origin but shares some similarities, making the film both old and new for existing fans.

Focusing on a different Spider-Man is great and part of what makes Miles story so invigorating is that he is not the first Spider-Man. Far from it; there are many other Spider heroes who have come before him. And like him, most of his predecessors started as average people. Peter Parker and Miles both stand out among other heroes by being normal people. They did not start out as world-class scientists, billionaires, or gods. They were just normal kids who suddenly had this power fall in their laps. And despite their hard lives, they never hesitated to do the right thing with their powers.

This is a movie that breaks the mold for what an origin story can be. Miles is not alone, but his journey is still a hard one. With not even a day’s worth of experience under his belt, he is thrown into a high-stakes adventure. Other, more experienced people are there but if he does not rise to the challenge everything could be lost. He learns more quickly than some others that superpowers do not put you above others. You can still get hurt, the people you care about can still get hurt. But despite all that, you have to persist. You have to carry on. Because everyone has the potential to be a hero.

December 30, 2018

Old Man’s War (Old Man’s War #1)

Published Post author

Old Man's War Book Cover Old Man's War
Old Man's War
John Scalzi
Sci-fi
Tor Books
December 27, 2005
Paperback
313

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce—and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity's resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don't want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You'll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You'll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you'll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine—and what he will become is far stranger.

 

Old Man’s War does quite a bit for a single, short book. Not a lot of material here is necessarily new and that is fine. Sci-fi is a tried and tested genre and most readers should not expect anything too radical. We all go into books like Old Man’s War expecting to see spaceships with some kind of faster-than-light travel, laser/energy guns, etc. As far as military sci-fi goes there are two main types; stories about either the Space Army or Space Navy. Old Man’s War falls into the former, focusing on boots-on-the-ground soldiers.

It is hard not to compare a story like this to similar books, and Old Man’s War is more reminiscent of Starship Troopers than anything else. The military aspect is largely the same. New troops spend a lot of time training, feeling like badasses, to go fight aliens. But once the fighting starts, they are fully exposed to the horrors of war with staggering casualty rates. Unlike Starship Troopers, mankind does not mainly fight a single species of alien. The galaxy is basically a free-for-all with hundreds of different aliens involved. Everyone fights everyone; no species are truly allies. At best, there are some temporary “not enemies”.

There are a few other staples of sci-fi in Old Man’s War as well. Most species are roughly on the same technological level. The sole exception being the “one-above-all” species who could wipe out everyone else if they really felt like it. Like in most Army-type military sci-fi stories, the spaceships do not really do much. On the rare occasions they engage in combat, ships seem to turn into burning wrecks after taking a few hits. It is mentioned that ships have shields, but they do not seem to offer much in terms of combat protection.

For all the tropes, there are a few different things the book does extremely well. Case in point, habitable planets are rare. To the point where hundreds of alien races are in a constant state of war over them.  Unlike most other series where every second or third star system can support life. Granted, Old Man’s War gives the sense that on a galactic scale, ships cannot travel that far. So, the limited distance does somewhat explain the scarce real estate. And, of course, the base premise of 75-year old people becoming soldiers. That was definitely a new one with the way it put older, more experienced people in boots normally reserved for young soldiers made for very interesting characterization.

December 23, 2018

The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book

Published Post author

The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book Book Cover The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book
Carolyn Wyman
Cookbook
Countryman Press
October 7, 2013
Paperback
208

Forget apple pie and ice cream--chocolate chip cookies are America's favorite sweet and also one of its most interesting, as this one-and-only complete chocolate chip cookie history, guidebook, and cookbook proves. The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book's six highly engaging and entertaining chapters include:

-The long-overdue, never-before-told true story of the cookie's invention 75 years ago by Ruth Wakefield at her Toll House restaurant in Whitman, Massachusetts, straight from Wakefield's former employees and her daughter (despite what you might have read on the Internet, it was no accident)

-A chronicling of the cookie's 1980s commercial heyday under Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos to the rise of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in the early '90s to today's internet phenomena, cookie dough-stuffed cookies and cookie cake pie.

-Artistic and event tributes to the chocolate chip cokie, including its starring role in that famous episode of Friends

-A state-by-state survey of bakeries and restaurants known for their chocolate chip cookies creations, including a Boston cookie store started by now-Secretary of State John Kerry and the Chicago-area bakery whose chocolate chip cookies are so prized that there's a per-person daily limit

-Recipes for sour cream, pudding, kosher, vegan, and gluten-free chocolate chip cookies; instructions for replicating Mrs. Field's, Tate's, Hillary Clinton's, and Momofuku Milk Bar's chocolate chip cookies; and fun chocolate chip dessert variations like chocolate chip cheese nut ball and Toll House truffles--more than 75 recipes in all--and tips for taking your favorite recipe to the next level.

 

Stumbling onto The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book at a used book sale was a happy little accident. My personal option of this book may be a little biased because I LOVE chocolate chip cookies. They are a simple yet legendary dessert (when prepared properly, as this book covers). And like most recipes, even small changes can drastically change the outcome of the food. On top of that, there is a surprising amount of history behind the chocolate chip cookie stretching back decades.

Being a pseudo-cookbook, The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book contains many different chocolate chip cookie recipes. Some of these are traditional recipes, like the Toll House cookie recipe that can be found on the back of any Toll House cookie package. Others are a bit more obscure, such as recipes that have won big chocolate chip cookie competitions across America over the last several decades. All-in-all the book features dozens of recipes for anyone with any level of interest in chocolate chip cookies to try.

While reading this book, I was surprised at the level of history behind the chocolate chip cookie. Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the cookie at the Toll House back in 1938. As the cookies became more popular, Nestlé began marketing them as the cookies used their chocolate. Originally, bits off chocolate were chipped off whole chocolate bars (“chocolate chips”) to make the cookies. Their popularity particularly soared during World War II when chocolate chip cookies were commonly sent overseas to US soldiers in care packages.

After soldiers returned home with a craving for chocolate chip cookies, more brands started to develop. Which makes sense, when you think about it. Picture the cookie section on the shelves at a grocery store. Ignore other types of cookies like Oreos and imagine all the different brands of chocolate chip cookies. Chips Ahoy, Keebler, Famous Amos, Mrs. Fields…the list goes on and on. Even within the same brand, original crunchy cookies and soft chewy cookies are usually both available. With so much history (and delicious recipes, so far I’ve tried 5), this book is a great read for any cookie connoisseur.

December 16, 2018

A Plague of Swords (The Traitor Son Cycle #4)

Published Post author

The Plague of Swords Book Cover The Plague of Swords
The Traitor Son Cycle
Miles Cameron
Fantasy
Orbit (originally Gollancz)
October 25, 2016
Paperback
512

One enemy has fallen ... a greater one remains ... now it's war The Red Knight withstood the full might of his enemy and won the day. In a victory which will be remembered through the ages, he brought disparate factions together and turned them into allies against a more powerful foe than they had ever seen. Now, he will need his allies more than ever. Because behind one adversary hid another--one with allies of their own--whose goal was never to destroy Alba, but to distract the Kingdom while achieving his true aim. And whatever it is, it's probably not in the Red Knight's interest. With one army defeated, now the Red Knight must fight again--and for every one of his allies there is a corresponding enemy. Spread out in different lands, and on sea, it will all come down to one last gamble. And to whether or not the Red Knight has guessed their foe's true intentions. With each throw of the dice, everything could be lost.

 

The Plague of Swords was a bit slower than the other Traitor Son Cycle books but still entertaining. The story follows up the big battle from the end of The Dread Wyrm almost immediately. The war is fully underway, but Plague of Swords feels more like the middle ground of the story. With the precedence for big battles set by the first three books, Plague of Swords felt slow. For the chain of events necessary to tell this story, seeing what are essentially board meetings makes sense. War requires a massive amount of planning and maneuvering. But comparatively, it made Plague of Swords feel slow.

As the previous books have already demonstrated, Miles Cameron is a master at applying his historical knowledge to his writing. If you take out the fantasy elements, the story plays out like a real medieval war. Whereas many other writers have the two sides just show up and fight, Cameron displays the planning and strategies implemented long before the battles begin, as well as the logistics required to pull them off. Cameron’s mastery of history also shines through once the battles commence. The details of how the characters use their weapons are second to none. Each soldier fights using different weapons for different scenarios; people are not just flailing swords or fighting in ways that look cool to the audience.

Most of the characters are already established at this point in the story. Character development is something else that Cameron is no slouch at and that continues in Plague of Swords. A few new characters do crop up as well, as more major powers enter the war. Some of these feel a bit underdeveloped since they do not have the previous three books backing them up. However, everything ultimately fits as each new variable is worked into the Red Knight’s plans and gambles.

This is the only book (thus far) in the Traitor Son cycle that I merit 4 stars instead of a full 5. Mainly, that was due to the pacing. Despite the awesome page count of each book and all that affords the story, Plague of Swords was the first time in the series I found myself thinking, “Ok, let’s pick up the pace here.” Despite that, it is still several steps ahead of many other fantasy books and a little slowness can be expected since this is the prelude to the finale. The fifth and final book in the Traitor Son Cycle will be shocking if it is not 5/5.

December 9, 2018

Spinning Silver

Published Post author

Spinning Silver Book Cover Spinning Silver
Naomi Novik
Fantasy
Del Rey
July 10, 2018
Hardcover
480

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth--especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

 

Going into Spinning Silver, all I knew was that it was a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. It would be more accurate to say that the story incorporates elements of Rumpelstiltskin. While Spinning Silver is certainly a fairy tale with similar elements, it is very much Naomi Novik’s own story. Key elements are reused, such as turning objects into gold and names having power, but the plot and characters are substantially different. These elements both old and new are woven together for a fantastical, second-to-none modern fairy tale. The characters provide an extremely diverse cast, with a plethora of different actions leading them to each other as the story unfolds.

Our lead character is Miryem, daughter of an unsuccessful Jewish moneylender who takes her family’s fate into her own hands. But in the process of doing so, she unwittingly sets herself on a much different path in a world of magic. Then there is Wanda, daughter of an abusive drunk who struggles to help herself and her brother survive winter. Finally, there is Irina, daughter of a duke who sees her as a means to an end rather than a person. Some portions of Spinning Silver are from the POV of other characters, but these three women are the catalysts whose stories will change the fates of two kingdoms.

The world in Spinning Silver has a bit of real-world basis, such as Miryem’s family being Jewish. The age seems equivalent to medieval Europe, but with the people knowing full well that magic exists. Most hope magic does not impact their everyday life, for it is a thing of mystery and fear. This holds true for the powerful noblemen in their walled cities as much as the peasants in their small villages. As the Staryk arrive with the winter, the people cower for their gold and their lives.

So much can be said about Spinning Silver, and this short review certainly will not do it justice. This is not a simple black and white tale of good versus evil. The characters all exist in shades of gray, albeit some are darker grays than others. Each character changes over the course of the story, as will the opinions readers hold for them. But these changes are never stale, never boring, as Spinning Silver remains enchanting throughout. If you pick up any fantasy book this year, if you have any interest whatsoever in fairy tales, or if you want a book captivating enough that you will binge it in a day, then there is no better pick than Spinning Silver.

December 2, 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody

Published Post author

Poster for the movie "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Bohemian Rhapsody

Fearless lives forever

20182 h 15 min
Overview

Singer Freddie Mercury, guitarist Brian May, drummer Roger Taylor and bass guitarist John Deacon take the music world by storm when they form the rock 'n' roll band Queen in 1970. Hit songs become instant classics. When Mercury's increasingly wild lifestyle starts to spiral out of control, Queen soon faces its greatest challenge yet – finding a way to keep the band together amid the success and excess.

Metadata
Director Bryan Singer
Runtime 2 h 15 min
Release Date 24 October 2018
Details
Movie Media Cinema
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Not bad

Bohemian Rhapsody was a little bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, Queen. Finding someone who does not like Queen and also does not have questionable tastes in music is next to impossible. If nothing else, 99% of people will likely agree the film has a great soundtrack. On the other hand, this is a biographical film. While a good biographical film is always entertaining, they are a bit different than other forms of media. Things can tend to get muddled when transitioning from the real world to Hollywood. And covering a large amount of time can make the film feel a little too light.

The film covers Queen’s formation in 1970 and runs up to their Live Aid performance in 1985. 15 years is a long time for a single film to cover and the details felt sparse because of that. Taking a 15 period and cramming it into a movie is a lot harder than a short event like Sully. Most of the film jumps between key points in Queen’s history, such as the recording of their major hits. But as much as Bohemian Rhapsody was marketed as being about Queen, it focused mainly on Freddy Mercury.

While the rest of Queen was in the film substantially, Freddy was easily the main character. Which is an understandable Hollywood decision, since he was the lead singer. He was also the member of the band with the craziest stuff going on. Freddy Mercury was eccentric (rich person word for ‘crazy’); he led the life of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll on top of being bisexual in a time when that was not ok in the public’s eyes. To the world, he was a rock star, but the portrayal of his private life in this film holds reminiscence to Michael Jackson (crazy Michael Jackson, not on-trial Michael Jackson).

For any biographical film, the devil is in the details. Some details in Bohemian Rhapsody were great. A prime example is the Live Aid stage, which was an exact replica from the actual event back in 1985. They honestly could have just played footage from back then for the last 20 minutes of the movie and it would have been close to the same. But in other areas, mistakes were made.

The opening made it seem like Freddy had never performed and only dreamed of it before joining Queen. Freddy Mercury was in two bands before he joined Queen. The movie shows Queen performing in Rio in 1977, but their first real show there was not until 1981.  A montage of Queen’s first American tour showed them playing in Cleveland, Houston, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh (none of those were in their first tour). And this list goes on and on. For a biographical film light on other details, much of the included information is simply wrong.

November 25, 2018

Alliances (Star Wars: Thrawn #2)

Published Post author

Thrawn: Alliances Book Cover Thrawn: Alliances
Star Wars
Timothy Zahn
Sci-fi
Del Rey
July 24, 2018
Hardcover
368

Grand Admiral Thrawn and Darth Vader team up against a threat to the Empire in this thrilling novel from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

"I have sensed a disturbance in the Force."

Ominous words under any circumstances, but all the more so when uttered by Emperor Palpatine. On Batuu, at the edges of the Unknown Regions, a threat to the Empire is taking root--its existence little more than a glimmer, its consequences as yet unknowable. But it is troubling enough to the Imperial leader to warrant investigation by his most powerful agents: ruthless enforcer Lord Darth Vader and brilliant strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn. Fierce rivals for the emperor's favor, and outspoken adversaries on Imperial affairs--including the Death Star project--the formidable pair seem unlikely partners for such a crucial mission. But the Emperor knows it's not the first time Vader and Thrawn have joined forces. And there's more behind his royal command than either man suspects.

In what seems like a lifetime ago, General Anakin Skywalker of the Galactic Republic, and Commander Mitth'raw'nuruodo, officer of the Chiss Ascendancy, crossed paths for the first time. One on a desperate personal quest, the other with motives unknown . . . and undisclosed. But facing a gauntlet of dangers on a far-flung world, they forged an uneasy alliance--neither remotely aware of what their futures held in store.

Now, thrust together once more, they find themselves bound again for the planet where they once fought side by side. There they will be doubly challenged--by a test of their allegiance to the Empire . . . and an enemy that threatens even their combined might.

 

Thrawn: Alliances further fleshes out Thrawn’s backstory in addition to further implementing him into the main Star Wars story. The previous book dealt with Thrawn’s introduction into the Empire and rise through its ranks. Alliances touches on that by showcasing his encounter with Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, mentioned in the first novel. This book flips back and forth between those flashbacks and a team-up between Thrawn and Vader occurring shortly after Star Wars: Rebels Season 3 finale. Both stories involve the same planet and hold memories for both Thrawn and Vader.

The two stories flip back and forth fairly frequently throughout the novel. In the Clone Wars era story, Padme goes missing and Anakin sets out with R2D2 to find her. Along the way, he encounters Thrawn, on a mission for his own people and willing to work with Anakin to achieve both their goals. This was one of the darker, Rogue One-esque, stories that Disney has written into their continuity. The implications of the plot Padme stumbles upon are obvious to anyone who knows how the Clone Wars end. But the real horror comes from seeing how often and how tragically civilians were caught in the crossfire.

The more modern story involves Thrawn and Vader investigating a disturbance in the Force felt by Emperor Palpatine. The most interesting parts of these bits were the parts from Darth Vader’s point-of-view. With the past-present story swapping, it was very interesting to see Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader in the same story. The flashback story takes place near the end of the war, so readers see Anakin’s anger the ultimately creates Vader. Vader in a book is very different from Vader in the films since his emotions are easy to see. Sections of the book from his point of view display him as clearly angry even though other characters can only see his faceless mask.

On the whole, Thrawn: Alliances does more for Vader as a character than Thrawn. Throughout the book, Thrawn continues to be a patient, almost impassive, but extremely efficient military officer. He is more integrated into Imperial society, no longer the newcomer he was in the first book, and better at playing politics. Even with someone as unforgiving and dangerous as Darth Vader for an opponent. Despite both being high-ranking Imperial characters, Vader and Thrawn’s personalities and command styles clash immensely. Seeing them put as a pair was interesting and some of the world building here opens the Star Wars universe up to many more future adventures involving the Chiss.

November 18, 2018

The Dread Wyrm (The Traitor Son Cycle #3)

Published Post author

The Dread Wyrm Book Cover The Dread Wyrm
The Traitor Son Cycle
Miles Cameron
Fantasy
Orbit (originally Gollancz)
October 20, 2015 (originally October 15, 2015)
Paperback
608

Some are born to power. Some seize it. And some have the wisdom never to wield it. 
The Red Knight has stood against soldiers, armies and the might of an empire without flinching. He's fought on real and magical battlefields alike, and now he's facing one of the greatest challenges yet. A tournament.

A joyous spring event, the flower of the nobility will ride against each other for royal favor and acclaim. It's a political contest -- one which the Red Knight has the skill to win. But the stakes may be higher than he thinks. The court of Alba has been infiltrated by a dangerous faction of warlike knights, led by the greatest knight in the world: Jean de Vrailly -- and the prize he's fighting for isn't royal favor, but the throne of Alba itself...

 

Note: This review will contain some spoilers regarding the first two books.

The Red Knight and The Fell Sword were a strong start and The Dread Wyrm turns it up to 11. Readers are now in the thick of this fantasy epic really reads like one giant book. Think of the Traitor Son Cycle as more Lord of the Rings then Narnia, as far as structuring goes. The previous book was a bit slow with a lot of planning and politics stretched out between the major battles. In The Dread Wyrm, the war begins in earnest and there is little rest for the characters between each battle.

A lot of questions begin to be answered in The Dread Wyrm. As with the previous books, the world building is expanded quite a bit throughout this novel. Readers learn more about the various races and the major powers at play in the war. As battles begin to break out in various regions, it becomes more and more apparent that all these conflicts either are or will soon be connected. Some will live, others will die, and all will continue to fight until only one side is left standing.

The action sequences are plentiful in The Dread Wyrm, to say the least. After the slower pace of The Fell Sword, it was nice to have the action ramped up. The action sequences are not limited to big, Braveheart level battles either. The story includes one-on-one duels, surprise attacks, and magical combat on the level of the Battle of Hogwarts. There are still slower points here and there for exposition and character development, but these sequences feel fairly limited compared to the immense amount of action here. Miles Cameron has already shown that he can write a siege, from both inside a fortress and outside it, and he has now shown he can just as effectively write a war.

On the subject of war: war is hell and people die. And my goodness does Miles Cameron make that apparent here. He is by no means afraid to kill characters off and does so increasingly as The Dread Wyrm moves forward. Spoilers suck, but I cannot review this book and do it justice without saying that two of my favorite characters die in a single battle alone. And that constant stream of death makes the war feel all the more real. No one is safe, any character can die at a moment’s notice because that is how war works. And the pain of that loss affects the survivors, empowering them with rage on the battlefield and hampering them with grief when the fighting is over. This story is far from over and the war has just begun, with more losses sure to come until the final battle is over.

November 11, 2018