The Crystal Shard (Icewind Dale Trilogy #1/The Legend of Drizzt #4)

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The Crystal Shard Book Cover The Crystal Shard
The Legend of Drizzt
R.A. Salvatore
Wizards of the Coast
January 1, 1988

Akar Kessel, weak-willed apprentice mage, starts events that find a magical device, the crystal shard. Dwarf Bruenor rescues barbarian Wulfgar from the ruins of Ten-Towns, for 5 years of service - and friendship. With help from renegade dark elf Drizzt, Wulfgar becomes a warrior with brawn and brains. Can the trio stave off the crystal shard forces?


So, for the uninitiated, The Crystal Shard is the 1st published book in the Legend of Drizzt series but the 4th chronologically. One of the key characters in this book, Wulfgar, was originally intended to be the main character of this trilogy. But Drizzt being skilled, dark, and mysterious made him the more popular character, so the series focused on him later. I can’t help but think grimdark stories becoming more popular in the late 80s/early 90s played a role there. Not that Drizzt himself is really grimdark, but the drow being…well, drow, make his stories swing more that way.

Anyway, I read The Crystal Shard chronologically, after already picking up Drizzt’s prequel trilogy. So, the whole “dark, mysterious elf” thing was a bit lost on me since I knew his backstory already. That being said, I think it actually helped to read the books that way because Drizzt doesn’t get much characterization. But then, he has about the same amount of character development as the rest of the cast. If you’ve ever played D&D or just like fantasy, picture a stereotypical barbarian, dwarf, etc. and you have the characters.

Now, as far as plot goes The Crystal Shard isn’t bad. It isn’t great either, but it’s a fairly standard fantasy adventure for its era. Think about 80s fantasy stories like Beastmaster or He-Man and you’ll have a general picture here. An aspiring evil overlord comes conquering and a group of unexpected heroes must band together to stop him. And while the party does finish the quest, enough plot threads are left loose to keep things open for the next book.

The only thing that bugged me about The Crystal Shard, as someone who runs D&D games, is how randomly the monsters were used. Granted, this story was written way back in the day when the rules of D&D were very different from the version of the game I learned to play just a few years back. But monsters seem to be as weak or strong as the plot requires at any given time. Characters might struggle against weaker monsters in one scene, then solo something that should require the whole group to take down in the next. Also granted, it’s not like characters in a novel have levels because this isn’t a game setting. And some of their magic items are pretty kickass anyway, so that helps justify it.

Anyway, it would be a stretch to call this great literature. If anything, it is very much a product of its time. But if you like fantasy, and especially if you like D&D, you could do a lot worse. And if the quality of Drizzt’s backstory is any indication (since that trilogy was written later), Salvatore’s books do get better as time goes on.

December 13, 2020

Distant Thunders (Destroyermen #4)

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Distant Thunders Book Cover Distant Thunders
Taylor Anderson
June 1, 2010

After the battle in which the men of the destroyer Walker and their Lemurian allies repelled the savage Grik, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy is shocked by the arrival of a strange ship captained by one Commodore Jenks of the New Britain Imperial Navy-an island-nation populated by the descendants of British East Indiamen swept through the rift centuries before.

With the Walker undergoing repairs, Reddy already has a great deal on his hands. For the Grik will return, and Reddy will need all hands on deck to fight them off when they next attack. But Jenks' uncertain loyalties make Reddy question whether he can trust the man.

As tension between the Allies and the Imperials mount, Reddy will come to realize that his suspicions are not misplaced-and that a greater danger than the Grik is closer than he ever suspected...


It’s a pretty big staple in any war series that more factions get involved as the conflict goes on. Up to this point, the Destroyermen series was in a weird place because there were no other factions. It’s not that they were there but neutral, they just did not exist. For the first few books, it seemed like the Lemurians and Grik were the only ‘people’ in this world. But that was pretty blatantly proven wrong at the end of Maelstrom. Now we know that not all of the humans who came before were slaughtered by the Grik and some of their descendants have their own New Britain. And this lets us get away from the simple ‘Lemurians good, Grik bad’ black-and-white morality since it’s no secret that human morality is all over the place.

So, there is less action in Distant Thunders. Given the massive battle at the end of the last book, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the protagonists need some time to recover. But while that battle was won, the war is far from over. In the meantime, we’re going to get to know the new characters from the Empire of New Britain Isles. Largely making Distant Thunders less about action and more about worldbuilding.

There is a lot that can be said about the introduction of new human characters, particularly human antagonists. First off, it removes the simple ‘kill them before they kill us’ type of conflict. Here we have antagonists that can be spoken to and (potentially) reasoned with. It opens up so many more narrative options to have villains who aren’t largely hordes of mindless, rampaging monsters. But the villains being human does not necessarily make them less wicked. Easier to understand or even relate to, perhaps, but certainly not in the right.

All this also gives us the first hint that there is more to this world than the Lemurians and Grik. Captain Reddy and his crew are clearly not the first “otherworlders” to have a profound influence on this new world. Plus, it’s interesting to see how a society like the Empire has evolved and progressed when on their own. They have been in this world for many, many years but are basically still just Great Britain. Their technology has lagged behind a bit since, again, they were on their own, but wow are they British. “Spot of tea” and all that.

Anyway, this next little story arc is still very much ongoing by the end of Distant Thunders. Pretty obvious where it is headed next but the journey there could still unfold in many different ways.

December 6, 2020

Solomon Kane

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Poster for the movie ""

Solomon Kane

Fight evil... With evil.

20091 h 44 min

A nomadic 16th century warrior, condemned to hell for his brutal past, seeks redemption by renouncing violence, but finds some things are worth burning for as he fights to free a young Puritan woman from the grip of evil.

Director M.J. Bassett
Runtime 1 h 44 min
Release Date 16 September 2009
Movie Media VoD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good


I consider myself a fan of pulp magazine pre-superhero superhero characters. Older characters like Zorro, John Carter, and Conan who were all basically superheroes before superheroes were a thing. Heck, a lot of early superheroes were based on the earlier pulp magazine heroes. But while a lot of these old characters have gotten movies, not many of them have gotten good movies. Even the ones that are good are niche enough to be cult classics rather than cinematic masterpieces. That being said, Solomon Kane, a character I had never heard of before randomly stumbling across this film, was just as solid as any other good pulp magazine movie.

So, an objectively good movie in this sub-genre is going to be something like the 80s Conan the Barbarian or The Mask of Zorro. This is the bar we’re comparing Solomon Kane to here. And it met that bar in general quality while still being its own thing. Now one thing to keep in mind is that this was supposed to be the first entry in a trilogy. Unfortunately, it made less than $20 million on a $40 million budget so that didn’t happen. Given the intentions, it should come as no surprise that Solomon Kane the movie is Solomon Kane the character’s origin story.

Let’s compare Kane here to other pulp magazine characters. For starters, this is a much darker story. It is full of witchcraft and black magic representing the forces of evil Kane is fighting. But despite that, Kane’s status as a hero is not cut and dry. By the start of the movie, Kane’s already a badass; he knows how to fight. But he has committed acts of evil himself and his past haunts him. He comes to terms with the fact that evil can be used to fight evil but struggles as he questions the weight that such actions will place on his soul.

All these struggles make the film slow and it is great. The characters have time to breathe and do character development instead of jumping from one action sequence to another non-stop. Kane spends most of the movie fighting his inner demons as much as the external ones. By the end, Kane has become the man the world needs him to be and the man he needs himself to be. The day gets saved and the battle is won, but the war is far from over as Kane’s journey begins. Damn shame we’ll never get that sequel.

November 29, 2020

The Blood Mirror (Lightbringer #4)

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The Blood Mirror Book Cover The Blood Mirror
Brent Weeks
October 25, 2016

Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he's dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape. But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen... and only he can save it.

As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: Who is the Lightbringer?


In a lot of fantasy series, the 2nd-to-last book is usually the weakest one. Most of the time, it’s more of a preamble for the final book than its own thing. That was not 100% the case with The Blood Mirror. While it does heavily focus on setting up the 5th and final book, it’s not boring. There’s not as much pause in the drama and action as expected. Yes, (some) characters focus mainly on making plans and putting them in motion but there’s a war on; everything can’t just go on pause. And with the characters as scattered as they are at this point, who’s where and doing what is a major element in The Blood Mirror.

So, we’ll start with arguably the main character, Kip. Clearly the person who’s had the most character development in this series. He’s gone from a smart but unwise village boy to an accomplished military leader. And it actually works. His plot (mostly) doesn’t feel contrived and it very easily could have. Of course, now he has Tisis to balance him out a bit and she steps up a lot after being relatively undeveloped in the last book. Their relationship seems kind of forced but fits everything else well enough that it can be looked over.

Gavin…well, if you remember how he spent the last book it’s more of the same here. His contributions to the story are more about the past than the present. This helps but considering where Gavin started, the shift in his role has been almost the opposite of Kip’s. Maybe that was the point.

Karris, like Gavin, is delegated to “keep doing what you were doing” in The Blood Mirror. Her storyline marches forward at a slow and steady pace. Although she does get a few cool moments, namely the points where she interacts with Teia.

And on that note, Teia. Oh, my goodness, poor Teia. Her storyline has probably become my favorite in this series. It’s so refreshing to see a character brought in after book 1 who becomes central to everything. The things she has done and keeps doing have far greater consequences than this young woman could have ever imagined. Consequences that will change her forever as she further explores the web she’s caught in.

Polar opposite to Teia, even more so than how Gavin sort of reflects Kip, is Liv. She really seemed like the female lead way back in book 1. And it kind of feels like Brent Weeks just suddenly decided, “Nah” and popped Teia in as Liv’s replacement. Liv’s whole Join The Dark Side story would feel a lot more impactful if she’d actually done stuff before switching teams.

Anyway, everyone spends the whole book moving their pieces into place for their final game. And no one is going to play fair. With one book left, it’ll be fun to see who’s left standing and who ultimately wins by the end.

November 22, 2020

The Short Victorious War (Honor Harrington #3)

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The Short Victorious War Book Cover The Short Victorious War
Honor Harrington
David Weber
April 1, 1994

The proles are revolting.
The families who rule the People's Republic of Haven are in trouble. The treasury's empty, the Proles are restless, and civil war is imminent.

But the ruling class knows what they need to keep in power; another short, victorious war to unite the people and fill the treasury once more. It's a card they've played often in the last half-century, always successfully, and all that stands in their way is the Star Kingdom of Manticore and its threadbare allies.

Only this time the Peeps face something different. This time they're up against Captain Honor Harrington and a Royal Manticoran Navy that's prepared to give them a war that's far from short...and anything but victorious.


I’ll preface this review by saying I’m a sucker for space operas. If I wasn’t, this would probably only be a 3-star book.

So, in any military series there comes a point where the books start to be less about the main characters and more about the conflict. The Short Victorious War is only book 3 is a very long series (and that’s not even taking all the spin-offs into account), but we already see hints of it here. Now, Honor is still the main character. But there is not as much focus on her here as in the last two books. The reason is that this is where the war actually starts. There were military conflicts in the previous books, but there wasn’t an active state of war. This is where that kicks off, so the book leads into “the conflict is the main focus” territory kind of by necessity.

Aside from the shift of tone, this book is very much your dictionary definition of space opera. Honor is the epitome of a badass, which we know from books 1 & 2. So, we know what to expect from her in that regard. That same sentiment is true in pretty much all other regards to her personality. And the story. Basically, if you’re familiar with how space operas play out, there are no great surprises here. Characters and plot all head in the direction you would expect.

Another big thing for David Weber is the worldbuilding. My god, there’s a lot of worldbuilding. Every piece of sci-fi technology and military protocol gets explained. Which I, personally, love. I’m totally into that stuff. But for readers who aren’t, it seems like it can get repetitive fast. If you just want to see the good guys win and don’t care too much for a detailed explanation into the why and how, that aspect of The Short Victorious War is probably going to be a turn-off.

Like the previous books, there is a lot of borrowing from real-world history. Manticore is very much just Space Britain. Haven is Space France. And the vast distances of space, coupled with how the sci-fi tech works, essentially turns spaceships into old wooden navies in terms of function. And that’s fine. They say history repeats itself so it’s not really that much of a stretch.

In conclusion, The Short Victorious War is a solid entry in a great series for lovers of military sci-fi. And space operas (especially space operas). I’ve heard kind of mixed things about where the series ends up further down the line, but so far it seems solid so I’ll keep reading.

November 15, 2020

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 6

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That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 6 Book Cover That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Vol. 6
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
Light Novel
Yen On
August 20, 2019 (English) | October 30, 2015 (Japanese)

A meeting of demonic minds!

Newly minted demon lord Rimuru has received word of a special assembly of all ten demon lords known as the Walpurgis Council. It just so happens that the topic of this particular meeting is how to best punish Rimuru for assuming his new title without their permission. Fortunately, he's got friends in high places who are willing to vouch for his authenticity, and this council could be the perfect opportunity to get revenge on the demon lord Clayman for the violence he brought to Tempest. Is this blobby big shot cunning enough to kill two birds with one stone?


Ok, so Volume 6 is kind of part-two of Volume 5. While that’s not technically how this book was marketed, it’s truer in a narrative sense. Volume 6 starts with the characters right where they were when Volume 5 ended, in addition to some neat little behind-the-scenes moments for us readers. This is basically the culmination point in this series. Every conflict that the characters have had to endure up until now is part of a greater plan. There has been a puppet master behind it all and the time for their endgame is now.

Now there is a lot more to this book than just the plot coming together. Before that starts to happen in earnest, we’re clearly shown how personal the situation has become for the characters. Their home has been attacked. Their friends have been killed. Someone is out there trying to use everything they’ve put their sweat and blood into building as a disposable tool. Rimuru and his friends are new players on the world stage and the old hands view them as pawns to be moved about and sacrificed. Understandably, they do not take kindly to this and have no intention of going down without a fight.

As is the case in many light novels (this series in particular), the first half of this book is the set-up. First, the book deals with the fallout from Volume 5’s events. Some of these are personal issues but others are political now that the characters are running a country. It’s a stretch to say this part is uninteresting, but it feels more like prep work than what comes next: the action.

The 2nd half of the book is where it shines. Again, everything in the series so far has led to this point. This is the end of the first major story arc. Which for any action-anime type series means a really big battle. More than one, in fact. And while I did complain in my review of Volume 5 about the power creep in this series, it thankfully gets toned down a bit here. Rimuru and co. aren’t depowered or anything like that, but we’re given a pretty clear demonstration that there’s always a bigger fish.

It was an extremely satisfying conclusion for the first arc. While How I Was Reincarnated As A Slime feels like it’s directed at a younger audience than most of the other light novels I’ve picked up, I continue to enjoy it just for the sheer quality of the story, characters, and writing. Hats off to the quality of the English translation too. And with the conflicts essentially resolved at this point, I’m excited to see how life shapes up for Rimuru and his friends going forward.

November 8, 2020

Opening Shots (Fierce Girls at War #3)

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Opening Shots Book Cover Opening Shots
Fierce Girls at War
Mike Adams
February 6, 2018

“OH, MY GOD! Do you have any idea what it’s like to be trapped in a restroom doorway on a 850-ft long cargo transport flying sideways through the mountains after being hit by plasma bolts from alien ships way down on the ocean and think you’re gonna die, and it’s a good thing I finished or I would have had my pants down around my ankles, and ha ha very funny, and then and then to be picked up and carried like a rag doll with a broken wrist and then thrown into a crash couch and then have a really handsome naval officer that you know your mom would like jump on top of you just before you crash into a mountain with your nose and mouth full of crash gel foam? OH, MY GOD!”
Ruby McCarthy, age 14, 2nd year student from Canada, New Hope Academy, New Hope Colony, Tau Ceti 4

“Take a breath, blondie! You know you hammered my eyeball with your elbow, right? You’re welcome anyway.”
Commander Rick Cassidy, Director of Logistics, Colonial Ranger Regiment, New Hope Colony

Opening Shots Book 3 of Fierce Girls at War
The Rift are ready to strike. They’ve had to wait until after winter and for Amundsen to depart before their waterborne invasion can begin. They have been covertly landing their mercenary troops on some islands 300 miles south of the southeastern coast. Reluctant to endanger their handful of orbit to ground airships they plan to attack the eastern settlements by sea using The colony ship Amundsen had brought thousands of new colonists plus 500 Rangers under Colonel Colin Fox. Among them is Major Naomi MacCaffrey who is unaware of who she would be really be working for.

A group of fifty female students and interns from the New Hope Academy prepare to leave on their internship tour of the colony’s eastern settlements with Veronika Tchachenko in charge of getting them where they need to go. Some of the girls chosen for the internship tour are members of a female protection group that deals with male students who create sexually harass the girls. First stop is New St Louis where they will put on concerts for the residents. Some of the girls visit with their parents who live in the various settlements.

When Colonel Fox returns to New Hope Town with his Rangers he wants to take them to New Cancun early. CDR Rick Cassidy is asked to arrange that for their earlier departure. Their cargo containers can’t go with them. Cassidy and GSGT Molly Pickford will have to travel with the Rangers’ equipment including their weapons and ammo on the transport Cairo. The Regimental Commander General Jamison receives a report from the starship Asia message to informing him about the incident on Asia and learns that Rick Cassidy’s daughter was involved.


A copy of Opening Shots was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

So, I’m going to start by saying I haven’t actually read the first two books in this series. Normally I wouldn’t skip over books like that, but Mike Adams was kind enough to send me summaries of those two. After reading those summaries and Opening Shots, the best way I can describe this is the end of the prologue. Up to this point, the stage is being set for bigger and better things in future books.

Now, this is a fairly basic sci-fi setting. Humanity is just starting to colonize their first not-Earth planet. The colony has been established by this point in the story, but it’s still small. Unfortunately for humanity, aliens staked a claim on this real estate before they showed up. And instead of chasing humans off with a cease and desist order, the aliens plan to do it high powered weaponry. It reminds me a little bit of Halo in that way, but without all the religious overtones.

While the premise of Opening Shots is solid, the execution was a bit mixed. I, personally, am used to reading novels much longer than this one. Books where there is a higher page count to establish worldbuilding, develop characters, and all that good stuff. The faster pacing just threw me a little but that’s more of a personal pet peeve than anything else. But the thing that really stuck out was the characters. More specifically, the amount of named characters. There are points in here where 6 or more new characters might get introduced, by name, in a single chapter. It was just too much too fast to keep up with.

The limited page count made it hard for each character to do anything meaningful enough for me to remember who everyone was. And some characters are more significant than others. While there isn’t really a main character, some people are just name-dropped a few times while others are making major plot decisions. The one who stuck out the most was really the main male character, who seems to have gone through the same military graduating class as Zapp Brannigan. To the point where he casually suggests he was ok with sleeping with a minor. It was creepy.

Anyway, overall Opening Shots seems like a decent enough starting point but that’s really all it is. Just the preamble to the main performance. Not 100% my usual pick for a sci-fi series (I’m more for space operas) but there’s some potential here.

November 1, 2020

Ready or Not

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Poster for the movie "Ready or Not"

Ready or Not

In-Laws Can Be Murder

20191 h 35 min

A bride's wedding night takes a sinister turn when her eccentric new in-laws force her to take part in a terrifying game.

Director Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Runtime 1 h 35 min
Release Date 21 August 2019
Movie Media VoD
Movie Status Available
Movie Rating Very good

Somehow, I 100% missed this movie when it came out last year. I don’t remember it being in theaters and none of my horror movie buddies were familiar with the film when I brought it up. Man, did I miss out. What a fantastic horror-comedy this is. Ready or Not is somewhere in-between You’re Next and The Babysitter, with a bit of Get Out sprinkled in there. Or just a more well-made version of Satanic Panic. What’s not to love about a film where the crazy killers have no idea what they’re doing against a “helpless” protagonist who turns out to have the survival instincts of Laura Croft?

While Ready or Not can clearly be compared to a lot of other movies, the most obvious is The Babysitter because of Samara Weaving. If all you’re reading is the cast list, you might be thinking this is the start of her being stereotyped. You would be wrong. I can’t think of another movie off-hand that puts an actress/actor in the same situation but flips their role. It’s not just that she’s the protagonist now either; her new character’s personality is completely different. And Weaving just nails it.

Now I will say that Ready or Not leans a bit more towards horror than it does towards comedy. This is more in line with something like Tremors than Tucker and Dale. But the thriller aspect is incredibly well balanced with the funny bits. Yeah, there are laughs in a dark humor type of way, but the sense of danger is still there. It all fits together nicely like a puzzle box.

The fact that some of the antagonists are skeptical about this whole thing but still go along with it is just icing on the cake. “Murder? Sure, why not.” There’s something to be said there about people are who born into privilege not being willing to do real work. Get Out pretty clearly established that cultural critiques can make films like this one much more impactful. And there’s certainly a lot that can be said about crazy rich people. And in-laws.

Anyway, fantastic film. If you’re looking to fill out your Spooktober watchlist, Ready or Not is a solid flick to pick. And a kickass female protagonist is always nice to see, we still need more of those.

October 25, 2020

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer #3)

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The Broken Eye Book Cover The Broken Eye
Brent Weeks
August 26, 2014

As the old gods awaken, the Chromeria is in a race to find its lost Prism, the only man who may be able to stop catastrophe, Gavin Guile. But Gavin's enslaved on a galley, and when he finally escapes, he finds himself in less than friendly hands. Without the ability to draft which has defined him . . .

Meanwhile, the Color Prince's army continues its inexorable advance, having swallowed two of the seven satrapies, they now invade the Blood Forest. Andross Guile, thinking his son Gavin lost, tasks his two grandsons with stopping the advance. Kip and his psychopathic half-brother Zymun will compete for the ultimate prize: who will become the next Prism.


Holy infodump, Batman. The Broken Eye is not a short book. Despite that, it never feels slow. The massive page count notwithstanding, a LOT happens in this book. This isn’t some Shyamalan story where there’s just one big twist near the end. No, readers are constantly fed new information. And it’s not necessarily new information to the characters. It’s new to some characters; the ones whose POV we get throughout the story. So, young people. All these older folks who have been playing the Game of Thrones for a long time are already aware of this stuff.

It’s honestly kind of hard to review this book spoiler-free because of all that. So, let’s carry things over from my review of The Blinding Knife and talk about the characters. Everything The Blinding Knife did, which it did well mind you, The Broken Eye does better. With all the different perspectives, it’s really hard to nail down a single person as the Main Character. First, it seemed like it was Kip, but then Gavin started being a badass, and now we’ve focused more on Kip again. Plus, Teia’s time and influence in the story continues to grow.

Like I said last time, Kip’s character arc is very much a coming-of-age story. He started this series as a somewhat bright but uneducated and untraveled village boy. Now we’re starting to see what the clay that is his childhood will be molded into. A soldier, a warrior, a leader. And thank Orholam he got more mature. It becomes pretty clear throughout The Broken Eye that Kip has the potential to be a great man. He just needed the experience to grow into one.

Teia, on the flipside, goes through her own struggles. While Kip’s problems are mostly physical and emotional, hers are more mental. She’s living in the same world as all these other characters, but at the same time, she’s not. There are aspects of what’s happening only she can see. Dark secrets she stumbles into that could hurt her friends if they find out. And all the stress that comes with keeping such secrets.

While all this is going on, the other characters are still getting developed too. Some had more or less facetime than in the previous books, but no one gets neglected. Every character is just that, a character. Nobody gets demoted to being a background piece, which is fantastic.

This is the best book in the Lightbringer series so far. A very powerful middle point and one of the best in any series I’ve read to date. I’m a little skeptical about the next book because the 2nd-to-last entry tends to be the weakest in series like these. But it’s come a long way from the initial skepticism the first book gave me, so we’ll see.

October 18, 2020

The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 5: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat

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The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 5: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat Book Cover The Saga of Tanya the Evil, Vol. 5: Abyssus Abyssum Invocat
The Saga of Tanya the Evil
Carlo Zen
Light Novel
Yen On
March 19, 2019 (English) | January 30, 2016 (Japanese)

Winter is roughly two months out. The time limit has been set. But the Empire's military leaders are fiercely divided on what to do. Should they conduct aggressive offensives in hopes of a breakthrough, or should they weather the winter and use that as a chance to reorganize, restructuring the lines of battle? In the end, they decided that while they gather supplies for a theoretical offensive, they would conduct an investigation to collect intelligence. Naturally, Tanya's Salamander Unit was the first candidate for the mission. Should they push ahead, or should they hold their ground? There's no time to hesitate. As the hellish conditions worsen, the war shows no sign of slowing down or becoming any less brutal. Everyone has no choice but to keep what they hold dear close to their hearts as they march ever onwards toward the battlefield. Everything for the sake of the motherland, for the fatherland.


Abyssus Abyssum Invocat. One misstep leads to another. Literally translated as “hell calls hell”. A very appropriate title given this is the point where Tanya’s actions come back to bite her personally. The longer this war goes on, the worse things get for every side involved. But up to this point, Tanya has been fairly lucky. Volume 5 even pokes fun at this at one point, with the enemy believing they have intelligence leaks because no one is lucky enough to ruin as many of their operations as Tanya has. But the last book showed us that Tanya’s ego is starting to have consequences for the Imperial Army. Now those consequences affect her personally.

One of Tanya’s core flaws is failing to put herself in other people’s shoes. Now, this is not always a bad thing. Because she has knowledge of Earth’s military history, she is able to examine the current war with a unique viewpoint. But the flipside of that is assuming her preconceived notions are correct. When something happens that utterly and blatantly proves one of her assumptions wrong, it blindsides her.

Tanya has put trust in her instincts and experience up to this point, and for good reason. It can’t be said that she’s had zero setbacks before, but she has always come out ahead. Improvise, adapt, overcome. No matter what’s been thrown at her, she always manages to keep moving forward. But this time, she hits a wall. No one wins forever; everyone makes a mistake eventually. For someone like Tanya, who fears failure on an extremely personal level, having to confront that becomes a devastating challenge.

War is hell. Well, actually, war is war. Hell is hell. Tanya has never been disillusioned enough to not believe that. But success after success has conditioned her expectations. Volume 5 gives us the first time she experiences not a setback, but a complete and utter failure. It brings her to an absolute low point, the type of crippling negative emotion that can break people.

This is (most likely) the point in the series where the protagonist is at their lowest. They’ve been kicked down into the dirt and it will take everything they have to rise up again. But Tanya is as stubborn as she is anything else. And this being a war story, when she comes back with vengeance you know it will be bloody.

October 11, 2020