Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Strategist by Gerrard Cowan

Review by The Mole
(The Machinery Trilogy, Book 2)

(Book 1 - The Machinery)

"Ruin is coming.

For ten millennia, the Machinery Selected the greatest leaders of humanity, bringing glory to the Overland. But the Machinery came with a Prophecy: in the 10,000th year, it will break, and Ruin will come.

Now, the Prophecy is being fulfilled. The Machinery has Selected a terrible being to rule the Overland, an immortal who cares little for the humans she governs. Some call her the Strategist. Others call her the One. Everyone knows her as Mother.

Mother will do anything to find the Machinery and finally bring Ruin. But only one creature knows where the Machinery is – the Dust Queen, an ancient being of three bodies and endless power.

And if Mother wants the Dust Queen’s help, she must ready herself for a game. A game from older times. A game of memory. A game in which mortals are nothing more than pawns."

Book 1 left us on a cliff hanger ending and, as with all such books, it's difficult to précis the next without including spoilers. It would be simple to say that the immortals are going to play a game where some of our mortals from The Machinery are pawns and this book sets the game up - but that sounds dull and boring while the action is anything but.

It appears that no-one is who they seem and this comes as a shock to them while we also meet a whole raft of new characters in engaging action that has you not wanting to put the book down. Once again the author leaves us on not one cliff hanger, but several as each character moves closer to the game. It's very much a story of 'pick your hero', particularly amongst the mortals.

I really loved this book and had forgotten how much I enjoyed the first one. Bring on book 3 (The Memory) please and let's see if the game starts and who actually gets to play.

This is classified as science fiction/fantasy but still carries a strong steampunk feel.

I read The Machinery 2 years ago and the paperback of The Strategist is only out in January 2018 (although the Kindle version has been available quite a while) but I found that picking the cliffhanger up after so long a little difficult - as well as remembering each of the characters etc. But the good news is that The Memory comes out in Kindle form in June 2018 so picking this up (or starting the trilogy again) now would be a good time to do it.

An excellent read for SF/Fantasy/Steampunk fans of all ages.

Publisher - Harper Collins (Harper Voyager)
Genre - Fantasy 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Darien by CF Iggulden


review by Maryom
Conn Iggulden is well known as a writer of historical fiction, but here he's taking the first steps into the world of fantasy, under the slightly different name of CF Iggulden - and although Darien is only the first book of a trilogy, it certainly bodes well for the stories still to come. 
To be honest, apart from the addition of a sprinkling of magic, there's often little difference between fantasy and historical fiction set, as Iggulden's novels are, in the ancient world - the story will generally be set at a time of upheaval, armies will march across the land, battles be fought over thrones, and sometimes there's one special character with a special skill - whether magical or merely the charisma to influence others - around whom the plot turns. Basically it's the stuff of legends, whether set in our own world, or one of the author's imaginings. In outline, I'd say Darien falls pretty much under that synopsis.

Darien itself is a huge city-state, nominally ruled by a king but the real power is held by twelve families, with their own armies to back them if necessary. The King's most experienced and feared general, though, holds the belief that he would be the fittest person to rule - and is about to act on that, with a plan to assassinate the king and seize power in the chaos that follows; caught up in his schemes are Elias Post, a hunter with special Neo/Matrix-like sword-dodging skills, and Vic Deeds, a master of the new martial art of gun-fighting. As the general's forces advance on the city, life is continuing as always - elderly ex-swordsman,Tellius, sends his gang of young pickpockets out into the streets and takes a new one under his wing, while Daw Threefold, always looking out for ways to get rich, finds Nancy, a girl with a special gift which might make him a fortune.
It's a really enjoyable read - not too violent considering the amount of bloodshed of a civil war, and with great array of characters, each with their faults and foibles to make them rounded and more human than some rather 2D fantasy hero. It's especially nice to see among them, in Nancy and Lady Sallet, strong female characters with interests beyond clothes, jewels and men. They're not all necessarily likeable (after all that would be stretching the imagination too far), and you're bound to have favourites among them, those you hope will win through and live happily ever after (though this is book one of three, so don't be too relieved even if your favourite made it to the end of this story). I, for one, will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - 
Michael Joseph
Genre - Adult fantasy fiction