Blog Archives

#CBR5 Maneuver #20 – The Rithmatist

The RithmatistTarget: Brandon Sanderson’s The Rithmatist

Profile: Young Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk

After Action Report:

Oh thank god.  A Sanderson book.  I was beginning to get the vapors.  Except these reviews are STILL running about two months behind my reading schedule, so it’s more like I’m starting to get the vapors again…

So Brandon Sanderson took a break from his endless list of epic fantasy projects in order to dabble in the ‘Young Adult’ fantasy market.  The result is, in many ways, a well-written subversion of the Harry Potter books.  Of course there’s more to The Rithmatist than that, but it does seem that Sanderson was aiming to distance himself as much as possible from the story of a kid chosen by fate to save the world from evil.  Unfortunately, it’s still the story (and the characters) he ended up writing.

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#CBR5 Maneuver #17 – Secrets of the Fire Sea

Secrets of the Fire SeaTarget: Stephen Hunt’s Secrets of the Fire Sea (Jackelian #4)

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Mystery

After Action Report:

The fourth book in Stephen Hunt’s Jackelian series is a marked improvement on the third, but doesn’t quite recapture the energy or creativity of the first.  However, the actual narrative line of Secrets of the Fire Sea is surprisingly clean and easy to follow, a vast improvement over Hunt’s pervious stories.

If you haven’t been following my various Cannonball blogs, Secrets of the Fire Sea takes place in Hunt’s steampunk/fantasy/sci-fi setting that started with The Court of the Air. And it is honestly one of the best steampunk settings out there, and continues to be wonderfully creative sometimes even surprising.  I would go so far as to say that the setting is the reason these books are worth reading, as the stories tend to be retreads of obvious tropes and are only interesting because of the set pieces that make up the world.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #44 – The Falling Machine

Target: Andrew P. Mayer’s The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam #1)

Profile: Steampunk, Superhero Fiction

Summary: Taken from the back cover, “In 1880 women aren’t allowed to vote, much less dress up in a costume and fight crime…

But twenty-year-old socialite Sarah Stanton still dreams of becoming a hero. Her opportunity arrives in tragedy when the leader of the Society of Paragons, New York’s greatest team of gentlemen adventurers, is murdered right before her eyes. To uncover the truth behind the assassination, Sarah joins forces with the amazing mechanical man known as The Automaton. Together they unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the Paragons that reveals the world of heroes and high-society is built on a crumbling foundation of greed and lies. When Sarah comes face to face with the megalomaniacal villain behind the murder, she must discover if she has the courage to sacrifice her life of privilege and save her clockwork friend.

The Falling Machine takes place in a Victorian New York powered by the discovery of Fortified Steam, a substance that allows ordinary men to wield extraordinary abilities, and grant powers that can corrupt gentlemen of great moral strength. The secret behind this amazing substance is something that wicked brutes will gladly kill for and one that Sarah must try and protect, no matter what the cost.”

After Action Report:

Confession time.  I accidentally left my Kindle at home over the Thanksgiving vacation and was forced to pick up some reading material in the airport.  I wasn’t super excited about The Falling Machine, but it had a pretty cover.  And I was in a hurry.  Publishers, take note.

There is very little of substance to Falling Machine.  It is a wannabe comic book that draws so heavily on its inspiration that there isn’t much left for the reader to discover.  If you’re at all familiar with the steampunk genre, or the plot of Watchmen, you’re already covered most of the territory.  What fills in the gaps is bland but inoffensive writing.  On the plus side, there’s not much in the way of technobabble, but the science is so flimsy it might as well be a fantasy.

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#CBR4 Maneuver #41 – The Alloy of Law

Target: Brandon Sanderson’s The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4/ex)

Profile: Fantasy, Western, Steampunk

Summary: Taken from goodreads.com, “Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.”

After Action Report:

Waxillium is a stupid name.  Okay, so you wanted to call your protagonist Wax.  Fine.  There are better ways to get there.  Ways that don’t leave the guy sounding like a posh hair-removal process.  Uh… where was I?

I’m developing problems with Brandon Sanderson.  Yes, I really enjoyed The Way of Kings and the first two Mistborn books, but The Hero of Ages left me with a really bad taste in my mouth.  The biggest problem was that Sanderson had padded out the last book with reused scenes from the first two, and spent more time re-telling the history of the world he had built than he spent moving the story forward.  Now with his fourth Mistborn book, one separated from its predecessors by three hundred years and a canonical world reboot, Sanderson is STILL using the same damn ballroom scenes!

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#CBR4 Maneuver #25 – Salute the Dark

Target: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt #4)

Profile: Alternative Fantasy, Steampunk, Epic Fantasy

Summary: From the back cover, “The vampiric sorcerer Uctebri has at last got his hands on the Shadow Box and can finally begin his dark ritual – a ritual that the Wasp-kinden Emperor believes will grant him immortality – but Uctebri has his own plans for both the Emperor and for the Empire.

The massed Wasp armies are on the march, and the spymaster Stenwold must see which of his allies will stand now that the war has finally arrived.  This time the Empire will not stop until a black and gold flag waves over Stenwold’s own home city of Collegium.

Tisamon the Weaponsmaster is faced with a terrible [future]: a path that could lead him to abandon his friends and his daughter, to face degradation and loss, and probably bring him before the Wasp Emperor with a blade in his hand – but is he being driven by Mantis-kinden honor, or manipulated by something more sinister?”

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#CBR4 Maneuver #22 – Phoenix Rising

Target: Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris’ Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1)

Profile: Steampunk, Mystery

Summary: From goodreads.com, “Evil is most assuredly afoot—and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade . . . and a librarian.

These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing, then reappearing, washing up as corpses on the banks of the Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—the Crown’s clandestine organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling—will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza D. Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and a disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest . . . and she’s prepared to drag her timorous new partner, Wellington Books, along with her into the perilous fray.

For a malevolent brotherhood is operating in the deepening London shadows, intent upon the enslavement of all Britons. And Books and Braun—he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices—must get to the twisted roots of a most nefarious plot . . . or see England fall to the Phoenix!”

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#CBR4 Maneuver #15 – Blood of the Mantis

Target: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt #3) 

Profile: Alternative Fantasy, Steampunk, Epic Fantasy

Summary: From the Back Cover, “Driven by the ghosts of the Darakyon, Achaeos has tracked the stolen Shadow Box to the marsh town of Jerez, but he has only days before the magical box is lost him forever.  Meanwhile, the forces of the Empire are mustering over winter for their great offensive, gathering their soldiers and perfecting their new weapons.  Stenwold and his followers have only a short time to gather what allies they can before the Wasp armies march again, conquering everything in their path.  If they cannot throw back the Wasps this spring, then the imperial black-and-gold flag will fly over every city in the Lowlands before the year’s end.  In Jerez there begins a fierce struggle over the Shadow Box, as lake creatures, secret police, and renegade magicians compete to take possession.  If it falls into the hands of the Wasp Emperor, however, no amount of fighting will suffice to save the world from his relentless ambition.”

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#CBR4 Maneuver #7 – Dragonfly Falling

Target: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt #2)

Profile: Alternative Fantasy, Steampunk, Military Fiction

Summary: From the Back Cover, “The armies of the Wasp Empire are on the march, and first to feel their might will be the city of Tark, which is even now preparing for siege.  Within its walls, Salma and Totho must weather the storm, as the Ant-kinden take a stand, against numbers and weaponry such as the Lowlands have never seen.

After his earlier victory against them, the Empire’s secret service has decided that veteran artificer Stenwold Maker is too dangerous to live.  So disgraced Major Thalric is dispatched on a desperate mission, not only to eliminate Stenwold himself, but to bring about the destruction of his beloved city of Collegium, and thus end all hope of intelligent resistance to remorseless imperial advance.

While the Empire’s troops are laying waste to all in their way, the young Emperor himself is treading a different path.  His thoughts are on darker things than a mere conquest, however, and if he attains his goal he will precipitate a reign of blood that will last a thousand years.” Read the rest of this entry

#CBR4 Maneuver #4 – The Rise of the Iron Moon

Target: Stephen Hut’s The Rise of the Iron Moon (Jackelian 3)

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Alien Invasion

Summary: From the Back Cover, “Born into captivity as a product of the Royal Breeding House, friendless orphan Purity Drake suddenly finds herself on the run with a forgone vagrant after accidentally killing one of her guards.

Her strange rescuer claims he is escaping from terrible forces who mean to enslave the Kingdom of Jackals as they conquered his own nation.  Purity doubts his story, until reports begin to filter through from Jackals’ neighbors of the terrible Army of Shadows, marching across the continent and sweeping all before them.

Purity may have little love for her government, but she chooses to fight to save her homeland and people.  The thing is, she hasn’t a clue how to do so.

As Jackals girds itself for war against an army of near-unkillable beasts serving an ancient evil, it soon becomes clear that there is more to Purity than meets the eye.  The kingdom’s only hope may be a strange little royalist girl and the last, desperate plan of an escaped slave.” Read the rest of this entry

#CBR4 Maneuver #3 – The Kingdom Beyond the Waves

Target: Stephen Hut’s The Kingdom Beyond the Waves (Jackelian 2)

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Adventure

Summary: Adapted from the Back Cover, “Professor Amelia Harsh is obsessed with finding the lost civilization of Camlantis, a legendary city from prehistory that is said to have created the perfect pacifist society.  Without official funding, Amelia is forced to accept an offer of patronage from Abraham Quest, the man she blames for her father’s bankruptcy and suicide.  Quest has evidence that proves that the Camlantean ruins are buried under one of the sealike lakes that dot the murderous jungles of Liongeli.

Amelia will blackmail her old friend Commodore Black into ferrying her along a huge river on his ancient U-boat.  With an [untrustworthy] crew of freed convicts, Quest’s force of fearsome female mercenaries on board, and a lunatic steamman acting as their guide, Amelia’s luck seems to be going from bad to worse.  Her quest for the perfect society has a good chance of bringing her own world to the brink of destruction.” Read the rest of this entry