Shift by Hugh Howey [Book Review]

Shift by Hugh Howey Silo Series

Shift by Hugh Howey is an excellent prequel book to Wool, the first book in the series that details a world that’s been reduced to a dangerous wasteland that no one can survive.  People are confined to underground silos and are humanity’s last hope.  Of course there’s a dark conspiracy from the past that threatens to kill just about everybody if not discovered.  

This book serves to introduce you to the world before the disaster and the people who were the cause of it.  It does a fine job too.  Even if you never read Wool you won’t be disappointed with Shift either.  

The Good

The Characters:  They are deep and complex.  They are full of failings.  The main point of view character Donald Keene is a man who wants to do good but ends up being the architect of humanity’s demise.  

He’s a man who loves his wife and builds the silos on the orders of Senator Thurman.  There’s a complex game going on between Thurman (Thaw Man), Donald and Anna (Thurman’s daughter).  Donald is played for the naive fool that he is in more ways than one and loses everything he cherished.  

Much of the story is devoted to the time before the apocalypse and after.  You see how Donald, Anna and the Thaw Man change.  Donald is guilty, Anna wants to do the right thing (after screwing Donald over) and the Thaw Man is more ruthless than ever.  

In Book 8, Pact, you get the full re-telling of Solo’s back story (Julie’s friend in the last part of Wool).  It was a nice touch to be sure even if Solo wasn’t the most interesting character to me.  

The Plot:  The story’s before and after timeline set up does a good job of explaining the past through action and staying in the present.  Much of Book 6 deals with the before timeline while Book 7 and Book 8 deal with what happens in the present before the events of Wool (Books 1-3).  

It’s a dark, gritty post-apocalyptic world where people die in tragic ways and for sad reasons.  Rebellions happen.  The status quo quashes them.

Entire silos vanish.  It repeats.

All the while Hugh unravels the true purpose and conspiracy behind the silos.  

The World:  Hugh does a great job of giving you enough detail to understand life in the Silo even if you never read Wool.  You can imagine the porters climbing the central spiral stairs, passing through hundreds of levels to get to the top.  You see the farmers growing their food underground under extremely hot sun lamps.  

You learn about the culture and the way people act in such confined situations that the silos present.

The Bad

I found little if anything to dislike about this prequel.  It filled in the gaps about the world’s history that wasn’t or couldn’t be explained in Wool.  I thought it might be the typical nuclear war before but it turned out to be something else entirely.  

I won’t spoil the surprise for you.

The Verdict

Shift is an excellent prequel book to Wool.  If you like deep characters, conspiracies and survival in a post-apocalyptic silo then you can’t go wrong reading this.  You’ll find yourself wondering what happens next as you turn the pages and ask, “Will they ever figure out what’s really going on?”  

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A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brian Sanderson [Book Review]

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

A Memory of Light was written by Brandon Sanderson based off of Robert Jordan’s notes after Jordan died.  It got so huge that it was split into The Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight and finally “A Memory of Light”.  It was an epic finale to an otherwise rich and action-packed fantasy series that was long overdue.  

The Good

Epic:  Gathering Storm, Towers of Midnight and Memory of Light was a grand, epic and sweeping tale.  Major battles were fought between men and the Trollocs.  The action was gritty, detailed and explosive — literally.  

Aludra’s Dragons (cannons) came to mind.  

Everything in the previous ten or eleven books was leading up to this finale and it didn’t disappoint.  It really felt like Tarmon Gai’don arrived in force.  The only other epic fantasy stories that matched or surpassed this was Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (or Peter Jackson’s movie re-make of it).  

Characters:  The old favourites were the same as they always were — full of life and depth.  Perrin continued to wrestle with his wolf brother nature.  I thought it was a little overdone though it resolved itself in the end.  

Matt was Matt — the same trouble maker as he always was.  The fun, danger and jokes involving him and Tuon were quite amusing.

Sanderson and Jordan also threw in some interesting minor character stories around Pevara, Logain and Androl Genhald.  The Black Tower minor storyline was quite a scary one because the characters were faced with the prospect of being turned into Dread Lords.  

I thought it was a nice touch.  

The romance aspects between Min, Elayne, Aviendha and Rand seemed downplayed or muted.  Then again they were all separated by huge distances even though they had gateways.  Apparently saving nations and preventing Tarmon Gai’don was bigger than their love for each other.  

Pacing:  As I said above, the action was fast-paced.  There were moments of quiet but they were few and far between.  Everyone in the story on the side of Good fought for their lives.  

Good people died and not everyone got away unscathed.  

Character Deaths:  Brandon Sanderson wasn’t afraid of killing off some of the characters we’ve come to know and love.  I won’t spoil it for you if you’ve skipped finishing the Wheel of Time series so far.  Depending on who you rooted for in past books you may be disappointed or you may appreciate the fact that the world was changing.  

Not everyone was going to make it to the new one.  

Some of the bad guys you loved to hate finally got their just rewards as well. 

I thought all the deaths fit and were realistic.  They were the ones you didn’t expect.  

Tying Up Loose Ends:  Brandon did a great job of tying up all the loose ends and stories of the major characters.  From Nynaeve to Perrin, everyone got some sort of resolution to their tales.  That included Rand Al-Thor and that pesky Padan Fain.  

The End:  This links back to the “Character Deaths” aspect.  I thought Rand’s ending was the most unbelievable one but it did come at a price for the character in question.  To Rand himself it might have been a blessing.  

It did leave the possibility of further novels set in the Wheel of Time universe despite the Dragon’s Peace.  After all, Rand realized that imperfection was necessary.  If you read it, you’ll understand what I mean.  

Frankly I think Brandon pulled a Tolkien in this regard.  Think Dark One equals Sauron.

The Bad

To be honest I didn’t really feel there were many issues at all with the finale for the Wheel of Time series.  Let me see what kind of gripes I can come up with…

The End:  Personally I thought the strike at Shayol Ghul and the Field of Merrilor battle could have been more dramatic.  The battle at Merrilor ended before Rand finished up with the Dark One at Shayol Ghul.  If they finished simultaneously it would have heightened the tension.  

Would Rand’s success or defeat not only determine the survival of all existence but also affect the life-or-death battle at Merrilor and in Shayol Ghul’s valley in one deadly stroke?  

Well, Sanderson didn’t do it that way.  I really can’t fault him — he did such a great job on everything else.  

The only other thing I thought was weird was that Rand left his “wives” Min, Aviendha and Elayne at the conclusion.  It struck me as out of character for him despite the hardships he went through.  Truly it did.  

The Verdict

A Memory of Light was a great finale to an otherwise timeless and amazing series.  Sanderson did Robert Jordan’s memory justice in my opinion.  When I finished the last book I was quite sad that it was over.  

If you’ve absolutely never read The Wheel of Time series you’re missing out.  If you have, then you have witnessed the end of a piece of fantasy history.  Then again, maybe someone will come back to it again?

After all evil never dies — even Rand accepted that.

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Tripwire by Lee Child [Book Review]

Tripwire Jack Reacher

Tripwire by Lee Child is the second book in the Reacher series that I recommend you read because of the depth of the characters.  Reacher is more emotional and mistake prone, which makes him more human and relatable.  The climatic final fight between Reacher and villain “Hook” Hobie is unforgettable.

The Good

The Characters:  This is one of the few novels in the series where Reacher is more emotional and prone to mistakes.  The only other book (that I’ve read so far) where he’s like that is Die Trying.  Here the depth of his character is on display — not only is Reacher dealing with someone trying to kill his former boss’ daughter (Jodie Garber), he has to deal with issues of settling down, holding down property and loving someone he formerly saw as a niece.  

The dilemmas that Reacher grapples with make for an interesting read.  You know he’ll have to deal with these issues at some point.  You just don’t know how or when.

The minor characters of Chester and Marilyn Stone show a couple that ran out of luck and got into a bad situation.  It was a reminder that even the best of people can get in over their head when they least expect it.  I like how their story finally collides with Reacher’s by the end game.  

Victor Truman “Hook” Hobie, the villain of the story is also complex — he isn’t just some scumbag loan shark.  No, he’s a former Vietnam veteran who was severely scarred by a helicopter crash and lost part of his arm.  He’s amoral, intelligent and a survivor.  

Don’t get me wrong — he’s an absolutely bad guy.  Lee however makes him more than your usual one dimensional crime boss.  

The Plot:  Like many of Lee’s books, the story appears straightforward at first but I thought the twist near the end was the best of all:  it caught me partly off guard.  I had an inkling that something might happen but apparently I missed an earlier clue.  

I think you might run into the same thing.  This is one of the big points for this book.

The Climax:  When Reacher finally confronts Victor it ends up being quite a violent finale.  I liked the fact that Reacher didn’t get out of it unscathed.  In these scenes he showed just how tough he really was.  

In later novels (so far as I’ve read), Reacher is never as messed up by the end as he was at the end of this book.

The Bad

The “Action” Pacing:  The book was entertaining though if there was one thing that might have slightly irked me it was the pacing.  There was very little “action” through most of the story.  Everything came rushing at you at the very end.  

It was all investigation into Victor’s past and the build up towards the violent and painful fight in the climax.  

There were no hills or valleys.  Just one massive climb…

There was violence and scuffles but nothing extremely heart pumping until the end.  You are left dealing with the suspense of whether Reacher figures out Hobie’s game before time runs out for Marilyn, Chester and… Jodie.  

The Verdict

Tripwire was definitely one of my favourite books in the Jack Reacher series.  It was almost on par with Lee’s first book “Killing Floor”.  The detail of Reacher’s relationships, the background on Victor and Chester as well as the climatic final battle were all memorable.  If there’s a second book in the series you should definitely read, Tripwire is that book.  

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown [Book Review]

Red Rising Pierce Brown Red Rising Trilogy

Red Rising by Pierce Brown is a tale of revenge, war and conquest.  It has a “pauper becomes king” theme mixed with “The Count of Monte Cristo”.  Maybe Brown was partly inspired by the latter classic?  

You’ll find interesting and unique characters, a plot filled with intrigue and betrayal plus a fair bit of decent world building that might remind you of Hunger Games or Divergent.  

 

The Good

The Characters:  Pierce has created a compelling cast of characters.  The hero Darrow is a balanced blend of both weakness and strength — he struggles to keep his softness and morality while trying to achieve the power needed to realize his wife’s dying wish (and dream).  As he describes himself once in the story:  “I’m a sheep in wolf’s clothing.”  

Later he becomes the teenage conquerer.

By the end, Darrow achieves the first step of his plan to gain the power to reform society:  graduate from the Institute and get noticed by the Peerless Scarred (the elite Golds).  He learns a lot about himself during the story and seems to come to terms with some of his decisions by the end.  

The minor characters are no less interesting.  There’s Darrow’s love interest Virginia of Tribe Athena who is smart and wise.  She’s also got a secret that gives the book its final twist.  

There’s the Goblin, Svero who becomes Darrow’s most loyal ally despite being shunned by every other snobby Gold in the story.  The Gold is more like a savage wolf than a man.

Cassius is like the Gold brother Darrow never had.  Too bad it wasn’t meant to last in this story.  He’s also an excellent duelist.

I could go on but you’ll find that each and every one of the characters stands out in their own way.  

The Plot:  Darrow gets a makeover so he can get into the Gold’s “Institute”.  He is given the class project of helping Tribe Mars defeat all the other tribes.  

There’s a number of betrayals and upsets along the way that keeps things exciting.  The one involving Cassius isn’t a surprise at all — let’s just say it’s a family related matter.  The twist at the end involving Virginia keeps you on edge almost to the very last chapter.  

The story ends with the question:  “Now that he’s gotten his sponsorship can he avoid getting caught when he’s promoted to a lancer (knight)?”  That question is left for the next book, Golden Sun.  

This is very much a tale of revenge though it’s written in a way where Darrow is patient about it.  It very much reminds me of the Count of Monte Cristo.  I look forward to seeing how the final book of the trilogy will wrap up Darrow’s revenge against Augustus, the Governor of Mars — the man who killed his wife.  

The World:  At the start of the book, Darrow the Helldiver is the lowest of the low.  His world involves his wife and mining.  Later on, Darrow enters the world of the Golds and discovers that his people, the Low Reds, are nothing more than slaves.

The tech level at this point is dismal.

You are introduced to a fairly high level of technology somewhere in the first half of the book after Darrow is found by the Sons of Ares revolutionary group.  People fly around like the elves of Myth Drannor (a DND Forgotten Realms reference) or butterflies using grav boots.  They have weapons that can shock enemies and hurl them aside like rag dolls.  

Plastic surgery is done with nano-surgery.  People can have wings grafted onto them.  One can get whole body makeovers or more.  

Then Darrow gets thrown into his class assignment at the Institute and everything’s back to the Stone Age level of tech for the rest of the book until the final act.

In terms of the Society, Brown has built a very stratified one that’s similar to the kind you might find in The Hunger Games or the Divergent series.  Instead of twelve districts or four or five Factions, it’s separated by coloured castes (using much of the rainbow).  The Golds are at the top while everyone else falls below.  

The Reds are the lowest and the low Reds are the slaves.  Each colour has a role to play.  The Golds major role is domination and power over all others.  

One might say their role is to enslave and conquer.

The Bad

It’s weird but there’s little I can say that’s bad about this book.  It has the right mix of revenge, intrigue, action and drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat — making you want to keep reading.  There wasn’t much development on the romance side of things between Virginia (of Athena) and Darrow but it’s there.  

Virginia and Darrow’s romance story may be explored more in Golden Son.  I’m sure it will be quite complicated given Darrow’s true goals and identity.  The two however share similar views, however.

The Verdict

Red Rising is a top notch book that might just rank up there among the classics like the Count of Monte Cristo (a favourite of mine).  It has a cast of interesting characters, the plot has enough surprises to keep you on edge and Brown does a great job of world building.  

This book is definitely worth a read and I think you’ll find yourself looking forward to Golden Sun as well.  

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Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey [Book Review]

Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey is the sixth book in the Kushiel Legacy series and the final book in the Imriel Trilogy.  It focuses more on a sword-and-sorcery plot line plus the romance between Sidonie and Imriel.  You won’t get much in the way of high political intrigue though.  

The Good

The Romance:  This is the highlight of the story.  Imriel’s going to have to woo his lover Sidonie all over again.  He goes to desperate lengths to save her when she gets married to the villain.

The sex scenes were well-written though there were far fewer than in Kushiel’s Justice.  Sidonie shines in this final book of the Imriel Trilogy in terms of her actions for Imriel and the nation of Terre D’Ange.  Jacqueline really brings home how star-crossed these two lovers really are.  

The romance was neatly tied with the overall plot development.  

The Plot:  It felt like your classic fantasy storyline.  You’ve got mind-bending, nasty magic at work.  There’s an evil sorcerer and a warlord hell bent on taking over the world.  

Imriel must find a way to break the sorcerer’s spell before his homeland is plunged into civil war.  Of course his lover Sidonie is mixed up in this business.  I won’t go into great detail because I don’t want to spoil things for you but the Sidonie romance is definitely a key part to breaking the spell over the City of Elua.  

There are one or two major and surprising plot twists in the story.  These twists really ratchet up the suspense.  Near the end, you wonder if Imriel will succeed in saving his foster parents, save Sidonie from losing herself forever and stop the start of a civil war in Terre D’Ange.

It all hinges on one final moment that depends in part on a stroke of divine aid (hence the title “Kushiel’s Mercy”).  Well, you might call it divine inspiration.

The Bad

The World:  Imriel travels to Carthage, Cythera and a few other places.  The most detail goes to Carthage where Imriel spends an interesting time wooing Sidonie back into his life — without realizing he’s doing so.  Suffice it to say, the world’s descriptions and cultures took a bit of a back seat in this novel.

The Characters:  It felt like Imriel hit the end of the road of his character development.  There’s not much going on for him except coming to terms with his feelings for his mother, Melisande Shahrizai — who he turns to for help despite promising to bring her to justice at the start of the novel.

Sidonie changes in this novel too.  Most of the story is told from Imriel’s point of view so it was tough to appreciate her feelings after what happened in Carthage.  

There are some minor characters introduced and used but they weren’t as entertaining as characters from previous books in the series.  Kratos was key to helping Imriel with the Carthage situation but then takes a back seat in the last quarter of the book.  

The Intrigue:  If you’re expecting a whole lot of cloak and dagger intrigue you’re not going to find it.  There really isn’t any.  There’s politically charged situations but nothing like what you saw in Phedre’s story (Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen).  

 

The Verdict

Kushiel’s Mercy by Jacqueline Carey is strong on the steamy romance and its two major plot twists will keep you glued to its pages.  For a finale of Imriel’s trilogy it does a pretty good job of tying everything up.  If you’re expecting much in terms of world building, character development or cloak-and-dagger intrigue you won’t get it, however.  

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Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey [Book Review]

Kushiel's Justice Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey is the fifth book in the Kushiel Legacy series (second in the Imriel Trilogy).  It has great character development in terms of the hero Imriel, the romance storyline is quite steamy and the adventures Imriel goes on will leave you wondering “what next?”  Don’t expect much political intrigue or surprising plot twists, however.  

The Good

The Characters:  The character development in the second book of the Imriel Trilogy stays focused on Imriel de la Courcel, Prince of the Blood and son of the traitor Melisande Shahrizai.  In Kushiel’s Scion, Imriel came of age and returned to Terra D’Ange to “do his duty”.  

That duty means marrying Dorelei, Drustan’s niece in order to secure political advantage for his homeland in Alba.  Much of Imriel’s development as a person is linked directly to the romance with Sidonie de la Courcel, his distant first cousin and the heir to the throne (discussed below).  

Ultimately, Imriel comes to love Dorelei differently compared to Sidonie. Imriel however learns how not to be self-absorbed and to be more mature as a man. He almost learns what it’s like to be a father.  

With Sidonie, he learns passionate love.  I think Carey did a good job of comparing and contrasting these feelings of Imriel’s.  You really see how obsessed he is with Sidonie yet still cares for Dorelei.  

The minor characters feel a bit less memorable than in other books.  Not really as entertaining…  They do their job.  

Maslin of Lombelon appears in the final quarter of the book and feels more like an afterthought.  

Of the minor characters, the tragic “villain” of the story Berlik and Dorelei herself are the ones that stick out the most.  

The Romance:  Most of the romance is between Imriel and Sidonie in the first quarter or so of the book.  It’s steamy and forbidden.  Sidonie’s mother the Queen would never want her daughter to be with the son of a traitor.  

Imriel and Sidonie don’t know if their feelings are genuine either.  Is it a desire for the forbidden or is truly lasting love?  Anyway the sex scenes between those two are well written — without being brutally over the top like Fifty Shades of Grey.  No BDSM however…  

You don’t get even a hint of that until Kushiel’s Mercy.  

The romance then switches from Imriel and Sidonie to Imriel and Dorelei.  Imriel does come to love Dorelei in a kind of solid, steady way. It’s only thanks to the magic curse that Imriel gets to explore that path.

The World:  Much of the book’s middle zone involves Imriel being a Prince of Alba.  Alba is Jacqueline’s version of Ireland or Scotland or both.  The descriptions of the rituals, people and culture are detailed and of course based on the real world Ireland or European past.  

Sure makes Carey’s job easier.  She made it come alive for me and I appreciated that.  The use of the Maghuin Dhonn reminded me of the Sidhe or “fey” creatures of Irish, Scottish lore.  They might also have been her versions of druids.  

After all they could shape change into bears.  

Adventure:  Imriel really gets to travel in this novel.  Carey gets to showcase more of her version of Europe, the Netherlands and Russia.  The hero travels all the way to Vralia where the Yeshuites are trying to establish their “Kingdom of God”.  

Imriel hangs out with Eskimos, gets shipwrecked and all sorts of things happen.  He slogs through the frozen wilderness in search of revenge.  It’s all described in heart rending detail.  

You really feel for poor Imriel who is pushed to his limits and beyond.

The Bad

The Intrigue:  If you were hoping for a lot of political wheeling and dealing, betrayals and backstabbing then you will be disappointed.  There’s not much of it.  Imriel himself states in the story that he prefers to get away from court politics and intrigue.  

I think it’s a bit of a recurring theme for Imriel.  This story is more about magic and adventure — something Phedre only touched on in Kushiel’s Avatar.

The Plot:  It’s fairly straightforward and revolves around Imriel’s romance segments.  He’s in Elua and he falls madly in love with Sidonie.  They sleep with each other, etc.  

Then Imriel must marry and go to Alba to do his duties for the Crown.  He learns to be a lord and how to love Dorelei in her own way.  He gets wrapped up in the Maghuin Dhonn’s magical sort of intrigue.  

A tragedy hits.  

Imriel must carry out Kushiel’s justice.  He reunites with Sidonie.  Things go to hell in a hand basket, which sets the stage for Kushiel’s Mercy.

I wasn’t surprised by the plot milestones to be honest.  I didn’t think it was a serious issue however as the romance and the rest of the story was excellent.  

There was one moment I thought especially contrived but it was near the end of the story.  It was also necessary I suppose.  Let’s just say it involves horse thieves.

The Verdict

Kushiel’s Justice is another page turner you won’t be able to put down.  The romance (plus steamy sex scenes), Imriel and the adventures he goes on is a bombshell mix.  If you looked for high espionage, intrigue and plot twists you might be slightly disappointed though the rest of the story is good enough as it stands.  

This is another fiction romance you will definitely want to read. 

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Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey [Book Review]

Kushiel's Avatar by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel’s Avatar is the third and final book of the Phedre Trilogy in the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey.  Carey’s characters entertain, the world is vivid and alive and the romance story between Phedre and Joscelin reaches its conclusion.  At its heart it feels more like your usual adventure quest as it has a straightforward plot and less intrigue from the earlier novels.  

The Good 

The Characters:  Phedre and Joscelin continue to shine in the final book of the Phedre Series.  Carey really goes the extra mile to explore the darker side of Phedre’s soul when Melisande Shahrizai asks her to find her missing son, Imriel de la Courcel.  It’s a journey that takes Phedre across two or three different lands to Carey’s version of Egypt by the end of the book.  

Phedre travels all the way to Daršanga as a tool of Elua and her gods.  Without spoiling what happens, she is subjected to such extreme pain and suffering that it changes her.  It puts a strain on Joscelin and their relationship.  As Joscelin puts it, “It was like hell.”  

In terms of the minor characters, Carey does a great job portraying a wide number of them.  There are notable ones like Kaneka (a survivor of Daršanga), the Pharaoh, Nut and several others.  You may not remember all of them by the end but they will still make an impression.

They are certainly lively and entertaining.  That’s what I felt anyway.

Imriel, the son of Melisande is a minor character that becomes an important one in the last half to quarter of the book.  You learn that he’s been scarred by his experiences in Daršanga and you watch him recover from those scars.  Likewise, that recovery also mirrors the repaired relationship between Phedre and Joscelin.  

I like the fact that Carey sets up Imriel to be the major character of her next trilogy in the series.  

The World:  The detail Carey puts into the world and its people is quite impressive.  You really do feel like you’re in all of the places she mentions — from the chill and deathly Daršanga, to the torrential rains and muddy paths of Jebe-Barkal to the deserts that lie between those lands.  She describes the villages, the weather, the culture and the food.

She certainly knows her geography. 

The Romance:  The romance remains firmly rooted between Phedre and Joscelin.  They’ve reached the mountain top of their journey.  It really can’t go any further.  

The sex scenes are few but they are integral to the plot (i.e. the healing of Joscelin and Phedre’s relationship after Daršanga; the abuse at the hands of The Mahrkagir).  

The Bad

The “bad” points weren’t really that bad but are worth mentioning in passing.  

The Intrigue:  If you were expecting a lot of intrigue, you won’t get it.  Any intrigue there was involved people trying to kill Imriel de la Courcel because he was the son of Melisande. 

The subtle intrigue of the book is the fact that Elua and his Companions use Phedre as a kind of weapon to defeat the major evil in Daršanga.  It brings back Hyacinthe’s prophecy in an earlier book:  That which yields is not weak.  

That which yields can also be used as an assassin’s knife.

The Plot:  It’s a fairly straightforward plot compared to the earlier books.  It focused more on the adventure/defeat the great evil/save the friend aspects more than the romance or political intrigue.  For a finale to Phedre’s story I still felt it was fitting.  

I didn’t feel there were any super-surprising twists to be honest though.

At least Phedre finished what she set out to do:  free Hyacinthe from his eternal imprisonment.  

The Verdict

Kushiel’s Avatar is a fine finish to the Phedre Trilogy portion of the Kushiel Legacy series.  It ends on a happier, lighter note and the characters, world descriptions and romance — all the things Carey does well — are there.  The plot is straightforward and you won’t get as much political intrigue in this book compared to the first two.  

Is it still worth reading?  Absolutely!

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Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – Force War [Comic Book Review]

Force War - Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi

Star Wars:  Dawn of the Jedi — Force War by John Ostrander is a wonderful finale to an entertaining comic book series.  The plot twist in this arc is a nice touch and the development of Xesh as a character reaches the final stage.  I think you’ll find the finale to be an acceptable end to this series.  

The Good

The Plot:  Daegan Lok, the insane Je’daii from The Prisoner of Bogan arc has been proven right:  the Rakata did come bearing swords of fire. He’s appointed a general of the Je’daii and Settled World forces.  

That’s a rare twist of fate — seeing your villain from before become one of the good guys.  

Xesh is a vital part of the plot twist that comes about three-fourths of the way into the final arc (book three).  Let’s just say that the Rakata are more cunning than we give them credit for.  You’ll have to read it to find out what happened.  

There was a serious reversal of fortunes for the Je’daii.  You might wonder whether they’re going to win.  Of course if you’re a veteran Star Wars fan you know they do.  

You just don’t know how.

The Characters:  There isn’t a huge amount of development in this area.  Xesh and Shae Koda admit their romantic feelings for each other.  Then everything goes to hell the next day.  

Shae is left picking up the pieces and wondering what went wrong — with Xesh.  That’s all I can say without giving you a complete spoiler.  

The Bad

Again I don’t have any new criticisms of the arc outside of those mentioned in my Force Storm review.  Well, maybe one.

The Star Forge:  The Rakatan Empire had the Star Forge.  That thing could produce an unlimited number of ships, weapons and droids.  With that kind of power is it really possible to lose?  

Most wars are won by numbers and force of arms.  The Rakata had the highest level of tech among all of the races of the time.  Anyway, if you think about that, it’s a wonder the Rakata ever lost against the Je’daii.  

I’ll admit that Ostrander mentioned they were already being wiped out by the Rakatan force plague at the time.

The Verdict

Star Wars:  Dawn of the Jedi — Force War is a great ending arc for the standalone comic book series.  The plot twists and characters reach their climax.  I think you’ll be suitably satisfied with the finale.

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Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi – The Prisoner of Bogan [Comic Book Review]

Prisoner of Bogan Star Wars Dawn of the Jedi

Star Wars:  Dawn of the Jedi — The Prisoner of Bogan is the second arc in the comic book series by John Ostrander.  The development of the characters continues apace, the plot twists are intriguing and you learn a new piece of Star Wars history.   

The Good

The Characters:  You are introduced to Daegen Lok a former Je’daii hero who went mad from visions of dark warriors carrying blades of fire. That was a vision of the Rakata invasion to come and served as a nice piece of foreshadowing.  What makes him amusing is that he wants to conquer the Je’daii to prove he was right about those visions.  

Xesh’s story gets more fascinating as you find out that his brood mate Trill is also in the Tython system.  Apparently Xesh doesn’t realize that he’s a pawn for Predor Skal’nas.  You’re left wondering whether Xesh is all he seems to be.  

The Plot:  The heroes of the story are trying to figure out who and what the Rakata are.  They’re trying to free Xesh but don’t realize that he’s joined forces with the insane Lok.  Xesh’s brood mate and fellow Force Hound Trill is also working an angle of her own on behalf of the Rakata.

There’s enough betrayals to make things engaging.  

The History:   The history of the Rakata in the Infinite Empire was explored in the game Knights of the Old Republic.  Here Ostrander explains the origins of the Rakata through an ancient holocron with a Kwa gatekeeper named A’nang.  This sets the stage for the heroes and their home system coming under attack by the Rakata in the third arc, Force War.

Unless you’ve been reading the Star Wars wikis, the story of the Kwa will be something new.  

The Bad

I didn’t have any extra criticisms of this arc outside of those mentioned in my review of Force Storm.

The Verdict

Star Wars:  Dawn of the Jedi — Prisoner of Bogan is a nice segue way between the Force Storm arc and the Force War arc.  You meet an interesting new hero/villain, the plot thickens and you get another tidbit of history on how the Infinite Empire of the Rakata was formed.  

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Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi Force Storm [Comic Book Review]

Force Storm Dawn of the Jedi Star Wars

Star Wars:  Dawn of the Jedi (Force Storm) is the start of an ongoing comic book series by Dark Horse, John Ostrander and Jan Duursema.  John and Jan are the same guys behind Star Wars:  Legacy (which I’ve read but never reviewed).  This comic arc shows you the beginnings of the Jedi Order, has interesting characters and a decent plot.  

Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you can pick it up and enjoy it since it doesn’t reference any other material.  It’s pretty standalone.  

The Good

The History:  It’s nice to learn more about the origins of the mythical Jedi in the Star Wars universe.  Even back then the Je’daii as they called themselves were embroiled in conflict.  

It’s nice to learn about their philosophy of balance regarding the Force.  They name the two sides after the twin moons of Tython:  bright Ashla and dark Bogan.  The names add a bit of spice to your typical Light side, Dark side titles.  

The Characters:  The main characters are Xesh, Shae Koda, Sek’nos Rath and Tasha Ryo.  As characters go, some are unique — most Jedi from the modern era have less interesting backstories.  

Tasha Ryo, the Twilek for instance is the daughter of a temple master Je’daii and a crime lord.  She finds herself torn between the duties of the Order and the demands of her father, who wishes she joined his criminal empire.  

Sek’nos is a ladies man, son of diplomats and a lover of weapons.  

Shae is Xesh’ main love interest.  She was orphaned at an early age when her parents were killed during the Despot’s War.  She’s a rancor-dragon tamer (i.e. beast rider).  

Xesh was a slave who killed his master.  He doesn’t know what he’s doing on the planet.  He strives to make contact with his masters but a part of him yearns for freedom.  

His story gets better in later arcs of the comic.  He is only introduced in this arc.

The Plot:  As plots go it’s fairly decent for a Star Wars story.  The Je’daii live in an isolated part of the galaxy away from the ever hungry Rakata of the Infinite Empire.  Suddenly one of their Force Hounds, Xesh, locates the planet, kills his master and crash lands. 

Will the Rakata find Tython?  Will Xesh contact his masters?  What will Xesh do with his newfound freedom?

These are the big story questions of the Force Storm arc of Dawn of the Jedi.  

The Bad

The following are more like minor criticisms than anything else.  I personally didn’t much to hate in this arc.  

The Je’daii Order:  This is less a criticism of Dawn of the Jedi Force Storm than it is of the overall history of the Star Wars universe. The Order is founded by a mysterious pyramid starship buried in the mountains of Ando Prime.  It gathers people from all across the galaxy from most of the known races.  

All of these individuals are Force sensitive.  

It is never explained about how Force sensitives came to be in the first place.  Maybe that’s part of the unanswered mystery?  That means there were force users even before the Tho Yor gathered them.  

So why do it now?  Maybe it’ll be explained later.  Maybe not.  

Force Sabers:  Force sabres do exactly the same thing as light sabres except they run on dark emotions.  Was this technology lost forever after the death of the Rakatan empire?  They never appear again in later eras of the Star Wars Universe.  

Rancor-Dragons:  This almost reminds me of Sith alchemy.  How is it that rancor-dragons never appear in later eras?  Were the Tython rancor-dragons wiped out?  

I mean if the Je’daii Order predates the modern Jedi Order you’d think the secret of making Rancor-Dragons would exist.  Maybe it got transferred over to dark side alchemy?  I don’t know if this will get explained at all.  

The Verdict

Star Wars:  Dawn of the Jedi Force Storm is a great start to another comic book series by Dark Horse Comics and John Ostrander.  It was an excellent introduction to the era before the Republic, the characters are generally interesting and the plot is intriguing enough to make you want to read the next arc.  

It’s definitely worth picking up if you’re a Star Wars fan.  Even if you’re not, it’s a good start to a standalone series.  

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