Thursday, September 28, 2017

Answering Review Request: Light of the Radiant

Light of the Radiant by Matthew Ward. I very much enjoyed the previous book in The Reckoning series, Shadow of the Raven (you can read that review here) and I eagerly waited for the second book to come out. I even jumped on a short prequel as an appetizer ("A Matter of Belief"; it was also really good). Did these two build up my hype too much? Nope!

It has an engaging start using In Media Res. Edric, Cal and Jamar are investigating a cult but got caught instead. The reader joins them as they are being escorted to a sacrificial alter. Everything flows smoothly from there to the very end. It's remarkable how what can look like a Deus Ex Machina is actually a heavy clue to The Reveal.

Indeed, there are a lot of hints about The Reveal before it comes out and even before it becomes obvious. It's a "snapping into place" feeling meant to be shared with the protagonist.

Whereas the previous story was heavy on mystical mystery, stealth, and fighting Things-That-Go-Bump-In-The-Night, this is more of a political conspiracy story. There is a lot of wheeling n' dealing; "political theater" is what Edric calls it. Investigation is here too but it is more uncover-corruption than find-the-arcane-secret. Indeed, Edric treats Azyra more like the mortal/human ruler of a foreign country than some fey overlord. Certainly, he does it more for her than Malgyne or Jerrack.

I find the Serathi's society and history interesting. The world building of it and how it relates and interacts with what is known from the previous book has this wonderful building-up effect. This rich mythology is one of my favorite parts of this series.

Overall, I would say this story is a different experience from the previous one. There are mysteries and narrative twists but it feels like the world has been sketched out; the highest level borders are in place. More than that, the story is more....straightforward than the previous. The bulk of the plot concerns the Serathi and their preparations for The Reckoning. Perhaps what I mean to say is that there are fewer factions and the motivations between each faction is less opaque. There are lots of factions but they have more minor roles. SERATHI is everywhere in a way neither the trees nor the ghosts of the last book were.

The ending is fantastic. It is a neat trick to close one book's conflict and threats while simultaneously shifting weight to set up the next with a sequel hook.

CHARACTERS

Edrin has much lasting great development. Most importantly, he is no longer a depressing mope. Now it's more like snark and Heroic Self-Depreciation. The relationship upgrade with Arianwyn has done wonders for his mood and outlook. His character arc has moved on towards the future instead of dwelling on the past but it is clear that the past still influences him.

Also, he is moving towards Seen It All. The events of the last book have left him unimpressed by further supernatural happenings. For instance, when he meets the Serathiel, the ruler of Sky Haven and leader of a race of angels, he interacts with her like he would any human ruler (i.e. politely but suspiciously).

Arianwyn is now a Defrosted Ice Queen. The couple-y scenes she has with Edric are cute and romantic but not overwhelmingly so. She has a new character arc as well, and also rooted in the events of the previous book. Namely, it is a tug between doing what she can for the people of the republic, which she wants to stay a republic, and resisting the urge to become queen so she doesn't have old and stubborn upper class twits sitting on their hands and obstructing her. It contrasts nicely with a Scared of Her Own Strength subplot regarding her magic.

Calda has a more substantial role in this book, and, wow, it is more dynamic than Edric's. There's enough fuel for an interquel. She is the one who thought up the idea for the misadventure that became the Media Res start, something big happens to her and then she goes drastically off the rails. In some ways, it is a foil for Edric's response to the same, and underscores how different they have become culturally.

Azyra the Serathiel. She is Imperial, Proud and Mighty. She's also not as clever as she thinks she is. It's basically favorable circumstances (i.e. she is The Spook and has a Bigger Stick than anyone else). What likes Beneath The Mask is both egoistical and tragic.

Elynna is adorable. I'm not sure if this is accurate, but I picture her as this little child-like cherub. She's likely much older than that but that's the impression I get because she's so friendly and cheerful and lacking in guile.

Elspeth is another new character. Her introductory big moment was executed well. I also liked the Fair Folk part of her personality. It is clear that she is not human but equally clear that is she human-like, if that makes sense. I loved her banter with Edric. In retrospect, it makes the bombshell she dropped make perfect sense. The way she describes her connection with the Palace of Dreams was interesting world building.

POLISH

It looks good. I think I saw a handful of errors over the course of the book. It happens when books are of a sufficient length.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Light of the Radiant" an A+

This has been a free review request. The author requested an honest review of their book.

Click here for the next book review (for fun): The Journal of the Two Sisters

Click here for the previous book review (for fun): Doctor Who - The Secret Life of Monsters

Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Read for Fun: Doctor Who - The Secret Life of Monsters

This book is half in-universe bestiary and half behind-then-scenes extras. I mean that literally. Half of each chapter is one and half the other. Each chapter focuses on one species: Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, Judon, Sontarans, Silence, Silurians. It looks as though all of them are New Who species or ones that were carried over from the classical series to the revival.
 
The framing device for the first half is that someone in the Doctor Who universe put together information on the species in question and their encounters with humans. This takes the form of publicly available information, observation from eye witnesses, hacked documents from UNIT or Torchwood etc. It presents an outside and rear-view-mirror of the events, like someone investigating after-the-fact. This includes "speculation" that is often correct and used to contrast the official/cover up story. There's also a running gag of the person doing the investigation failing to recognize the importance of the Doctor. It's interesting to see this perspective because we, the viewers, have a front-row seat that someone else in-universe would not.
 
The behind-the-scenes stuff talks about the creation and conception of the aliens and monsters. This involves how the props are made, the real life circumstances that affected their portrayal, and excerpts from scripts saying how the writer wants the creatures to move and appear.
 
This is definitely a book written for fans because there's jokes/references/bonus understanding for those that have seen the episodes alluded to here. I've only seen part of the First Doctor's run so much of the Classic Who stuff went over my head.
 
This kind of book is further outside my norm than I usually go so I'm not sure what grade to give it. I'll just say that I enjoyed reading it and I'm going to keep it and let you decide from there.
 
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Doctor Who: The Secret Life of Monsters" a +

Click here for the next book review (a request): The Light of the Radiant
 
Click here to read my previous book review (for fun): Assassin's Creed (2016 movie Novelization)
 
Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Read for Fun: Assassin's Creed (2016 movie) novelization

I watched the Assassin's Creed film shortly after it came out last year (you can read that review here). Amazed, I bought other Assassin's Creed media, such as the first game and the first movie's novelization. After reading the latter, I'm off the opinion that the movie is an adaptation of the book instead of the other way around because it provides the kind of context and character information that is typically excluded from movies that are made from books by nature of the medium. Whether this is a good point on the book or a bad point on the movie I'm not sure. Perhaps it's both. In any case, this is a great book.


It provides a great deal of backstory to the characters that would have been difficult to put in the movie for reasons of pacing and length. Sofia Rikkin, for instance, is apparently a Friend To All Living Things as she has flashbacks to how she adopted an utterly filthy and flea-ridden stray dog and takes great care of it and also tried to befriend a squirrel by sitting outside with nuts in her hand for a prolonged period of time. This feds into and validates the compassion she shows to the "patients" at the Abstergo Rehabilitation Facility; she sincerely believes that they are patients and not "prisoners". She is not the only one to get this treatment and this adds a good deal of emotional heft to the storyline.

 
There are a number of viewpoints in this novelization, rather than focusing on Cal/Aguilar's point of view like the movie does. I typically don't like this technique because it leads to a bloated narrative and less development, but in this case it works. Why? Because everyone is in the same location and everyone is viewing the same events. This has a concentrating effect. It also helps to flesh out other characters because they get the sympathetic POV and internal narration. Moussa, for instance, has this scene where he messes with a guard using a shell game that provides info on him and the state of the proto-Assassin Cell inside the Abstergo Facility, and what he intends to do about the new "pioneer".


Another thing that I like about this novelization is that it fills a vexing narrative hole that the film doesn't address. While it doesn't provide many details, it confirms how many allies and resources Cal has going into the final scene which implies why he took the action he does.


Also, there are bonus chapters at the end of the book. Each one focuses on one of the other Assassins and their ancestor, framed as one of their Animus regressions that took place before Cal arrived. All of them fill in information from characters that were introduced in the games. For instance, Nathan's ancestor is Ducan Wapole, an Assassin turncoat from "Black Flag" and it shows the moment where he decided to become a turncoat. It is a nice treat.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Assassin's Creed (novelization" an A+

Click here for the next book review (for fun): Doctor Who - Secret Life of Monsters

Click here for the previous book review (for fun): How To Cheat Your Friends At Poker

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).