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Saturday , 12 November 2016 , 06 : 43 PM
Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Review by Adrian Collins   Spoiler alert: If you haven't read Six of Crows, don't read this review. After enjoying Six of Crows so much, I leapt straight into book two. With what I do here at GdM meaning the series on my to read list are often broken up by ARCs, it's a rarity that I get to do it, but I couldn't help myself on this occasion. I'm so glad I didn't wait. We pick up almost immediately where Six of Crows left off. Inej is in trouble. Kaz is trying to pick up the pieces of his last failed heist and get his crew together to get her back. Jan Van Eck has put a target on Kaz's head and is leveraging Inej's imprisonment to get Kaz to hand over Kuwei Yu Bol and the secret to Jurda Parem so he can control the grisha (mages), the farms that make Jurda, and hit new heights of power in the economic instability he will create in Ketterdam. The story once again jumps between Kaz's crews' points of view, giving us insight into each character's view of the world, hiding and revealing plot points to some and not others, and--importantly, as a point of difference between Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom--delves far deeper into the lives of our protagonists than previously shown. This, I think, is where some readers will be irreversibly hooked, and where others who loved the relentless pace of Six of Crows may find themselves not as engaged in the reading experience. For me, I found myself in the "irreversibly hooked" camp as we found out more and more about why these broken people are who they are.  This slight change of pace peppered throughout provides some breathing time for a longer read than Six...
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Friday , 07 October 2016 , 08 : 59 AM
Review: Cthulhu Armageddon by C.T. Matthew Cropley To begin the foreword to Cthulhu Armageddon, C.T. Phipps poses the question ‘what would you get if you crossed Mad Max with the Cthulhu Cycle?’ The book to follow well and truly delivers on the answer. Cthulhu Armageddon follows the story of Captain John Henry Booth, a world-weary ranger in the ‘United States Remnant’ some two-hundred years after ‘The Rising’, the event in which the Great Old Ones such as Cthulhu rose from their ancient slumber beneath the Earth, ushering in the fall of civilisation and a new age of horror and magic. The world is a blasted desert, filled with mutants, gods and monsters, and Booth braves it all for vengeance upon the dark sorcerer that stole his life. Booth is accompanied by a reformed torturer, a little girl, a tribal priestess, and a trusted comrade.  It feels a lot like an old western, or King’s ‘The Gunslinger’, and there are clear influences from the Fallout and Wasteland game series. The post-apocalyptic world, inhabited by the biggest and baddest creatures H.P. Lovecraft ever dreamed up, is definitely dark and hopeless. The nihilistic, horrifying reality of the Cthulhu Mythos has burst forth from the deeps and squashed humanity underfoot, and seeing the way in which the world has dealt with that is compellingly grim. There’s a lot of grit, and the level of violence feels appropriate. However, while the larger cast have their fair share of morally ambiguous traits, Booth himself is actually quite morally upstanding and righteous, despite his claims to the contrary. He’s the type of hero who seems to be the last good man in a world gone mad, and while he’s certainly violent and aggressive when prompted, he always tries to do the right thing, and values friendship, inclusiveness,...
Wednesday , 04 November 2015 , 06 : 00 AM
  The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi Review by Jeremy Szal An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. According to William Gibson, the future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed. According to Paolo Bacigalupi, the future is right around the corner, and there’s very little left to distribute at all. In the future portrayed in The Water Knife (2015), there’s only one form of currency that really matters: water. The American Southwest is parched dry, the bickering states of Nevada, California and Arizona all fighting for the dwindling commodity that is the Colorado River. The federal government still exists, but is unable to control the feuding states from tearing each other’s throats out. It’s a harsh landscape of dust and grime and blood, where the poor will do anything to scoop up a tiny sip of muddy water and the rich lounge next to their water fountains and sit in air-conditioned coffee shops. When you dig deep enough to the core, it’s possible to sum up The Water Knife in a single chilling sentence: 'Some people had to bleed so other people could drink.' It should come as no surprise to anyone that Bacigalupi’s bleak future has a strong environmental bent, filtered through the lens of a very plausible future. His masterpiece of a debut, The Windup Girl (2010), revolved around similar topics, focusing on genebanks and GMOs in a 23rd century Thailand where corruption, greed and violence ran through the city like the Chao Phraya River, bleeding into everyone’s lives as they struggled to stay afloat. But unlike The WindUp Girl, The Water Knife takes a sharp left and slowly rolls away from science-fiction territory. The novel takes place in the near future, and there are a smattering...
Monday , 11 May 2015 , 05 : 37 AM
Blood Song by Anthony Ryan I've read a bit of criticism out there about this being a pretty simple troped recreation of so many previous fantasy novels. To that, I say, yes, it's a well-known set of ingredients: a group of young men forced together, a linear plot line through more difficult and more fantastical challenges, protagonist becomes an almost invincible swordsman as his friends are picked off one by one. He then challenges the authority over him as he learns all is not courage and honour, then comes out the hero, all the while getting the girl and protecting her. However, I'll also say that the recipe uses these ingredients so well that I really don't care.  Before I continue, I'm gong to say one more thing at the risk of blitzing my credibility two paragraphs in: this is the book that I, and so many others who have failed to write this trope well, wish, to all the literary gods, we had written as our first book.  Blood Song is the story of Vaelin Al Sorna, a boy given to the militant Sixth Order to be turned into a weapon to defend the faith. Vaelin gains himself a group of brothers sharing their hatred of Master Sollis and the majority of the other hard - or slightly loony - task masters. They face brutal test after brutal test until the test of the Sword, where Vaelin first really discovers what it is to have his ideals betrayed.  His heroics and idealism lead him to military command and a pact with King Janus. Here's where it starts to get really interesting. Although not playing a huge role in page-time, Janus is the spider who weaves the web of intrigue that creates political depth in the plot. He is the one...
Tuesday , 16 September 2014 , 10 : 55 PM
Wentworth (Season 1) Review by Adrian Collins Brutal. Bloody. Deep. Sad. Grey. All of these things make Wentworth an unbelievably addictive piece of Australian television (and I'll tell you right now they are few and far between).  Set within the violent and emotional walls of a prison, Wentworth tells the story of Bee, a new inmate imprisoned for the attempted murder of her husband  after trying to end the abusive relationship. She enters a world of power struggles, corruption, treachery, fear, and friendship. The story twists and turns through shadow after shadow, dark as night and at times cheeky as hell. The twists, when they come, hit like gut punches. I found myself standing with my hands on my head multiple times throughout the series, grasping with the implications of what I'd just seen. Every character, from the villains to the guards, all have deep and harrowing stories that make you understand why they are the way they are. The stories of the guards are especially interesting: a woman in an emotionally abusive relationship with her mother, an ex soldier dealing with the aftermath of East Timor, a man whose wife was murdered and then the woman who connived her way in to replace her. However, what I really loved, of course, were the inmates: failures, drunks, addicts, the unfortunate, the unlucky, the depraved, all with a story worth exploring and all with a direct or indirectly vested interest in power within the walls of Wentworth Women's prison. Nobody gets to just do their time.  Something that really appealed to me was that there are no sex bombs or six packs. The actors look real. They've been brilliantly cast for their roles and to provide a show that feels like it could be real. Jax, the villain, is so smug so manipulative. So awesome....
Wednesday , 22 October 2014 , 06 : 02 AM
The Blinding Knife Brent Weeks Review by Adrian Collins Where The Black Prism was a bit slow to kick off and sometimes got bogged down in explaining the magic system, The Blinding Knife floors the accelerator from the starting line. Before you get a moment to take a breath you're already 200 pages in, forgetting to go back to work after your lunch break, wondering just how the bloody hell it got to 3:00am on a work night. Weeks makes the right assumption that most readers will have read the previous book and doesn't get bogged down in magic system details, yet provides enough that new readers can pick up fairly easily on it without getting lost. We get to find out more and more about the possibilities of luxin and the drafters that use it as Weeks keeps expanding his magic system, not getting stuck on previous laurels, keeping old readers interested.  Weeks delves deeper into the twisted world of lies that Gavin lives in and explores his relationship with Karris further. Looking into the Blackguards through Kip and the Colour Prince's army through Liv provides some brilliant perspectives to lend the book the term 'epic' without much effort. At the same time, Liv's perspective provides some very interesting and very real feeling religious questions that resonate with any reader who has any link to a modern religion. The political power plays - especially a scene with the Spectrum and Gavin - are well thought out, brilliantly written, and choc full of built up pressure and the promise of a darker future. This book is an absolute cracker. I couldn't put it down. I give The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks 4.5 Grimdark Lords out of five.      Support Grimdark Magazine and order The Blinding Knife from: Amazon: The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer) iBooks: The Blinding Knife -...
Monday , 13 October 2014 , 06 : 27 AM
  Prince of Thorns Mark Lawrence Review by Jeremy Szal   Hang onto your intestines; it’s going to get ugly. From the opening chapter, from the very first paragraph, you’ll notice two things. The first one which is that you’re walking into a brutal fantasy world filled with violence and sorrow. And the second? That Mark Lawrence is one of the most skilled fantasy writers working today. Prince of Thrones was unleashed to the world back in 2011, only to be met with severe controversy from social justice warriors and thin skinned reviewers pandering the book for it’s allegedly jumping on the grimdark bandwagon and promoting misogyny. Some of the bloggers and reviewers themselves admit to not reading the book before criticising it, and others slam it for copying Game of Thrones and accuse Lawrence merely acting upon his sick little fantasies. (I actually bought the books based on this controversy, so thanks for the reviews.) Suffice to say that none of these baseless accusations are true. Love and detail went into creating this book, a love of fantasy and a love of well-crafted prose, a brilliant execution and control of the English language. It’s difficult to read at the best of times and questionable in others, but that makes it much more of a rewarding challenge. Our main protagonist, Jorg, is a butchering, murdering, spiteful little bastard that we all love to hate. But Lawrence is skilled enough to make us still interested in his predicament, make us drawn to the character, despite his callous cruelty. It’s by no means an easy feat, but Lawrence has done it with a natural grace. Through an incredible story that jumps back and forth in time, we learn to understand Jorg as we delve into his twisted little psyche. With every second...
Monday , 06 October 2014 , 12 : 36 AM
Shatterwing Donna Maree Hanson Review by Cheresse Burke Warning - Spoilers Below   From the outside, Shatterwing seems to be an appealing dark fantasy story. Atypical fantasy world? Check. Intriguing plot? Check. Strong heroine? Sign me up. Unfortunately, appearances often differ from reality and despite a unique setting, Shatterwing’s characterization and narration left me cold. What began as a potentially interesting journey got lost in the quest to fulfill plot point after plot point, followed dutifully by characters in whom I had no real investment.   Wasteland under a Broken Moon Shatterwing is, for me, more about a place than the people in it. A once peaceful land, Margra, has been torn apart - physically, morally and politically - by the catastrophic explosion of the planet’s moon. Part of the moon has become a small cluster of asteroids, dubbed Shatterwing, and occasionally meteors fall to the planet’s surface. In addition to the meteors, Margra’s inhabitants must beware of dragons, who in this world are brutal beasts, interested in humans primarily as a food source. They have the run of the wastelands that stretch between the few cities or towns that we see in the book. The setting intrigued me, and my favorite parts of Shatterwing focused on the new world and how it worked. The author comes at it from both the present and the past, spending a small part of the book on the last member of a lost race who has survived by accident, only to discover that the shining civilizations of the Margra he knew have been replaced by ghost cities and backwards towns. I considered it a nice way to show the reader how the world used to be and to set the juxtaposition between the two periods. The world is also sufficiently dark for those...
Tuesday , 16 September 2014 , 10 : 48 PM
THE BLACK PRISM By Brent Weeks Review by Adrian Collins Warning - Spoilers below Brent Week's The Black Prism is an enjoyable kick-off to the Lightbringer series. Those who love an in-depth and original magic system, coupled with politics and religion are really going to get a kick out of this one. The magic system is one of the best things about this work. It's original, well thought out, detaied, and grows wonderfully as you read. Readers who loved Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn will absolutely froth over this one. My personal tastes are for the magic to remain more of a mystery, so I found that the descriptions of the uses of luxin and the breaking down of light and magic classes slowed the first two-thirds of the book down. Having said that, I must admit that putting in the hard-yards on the magic system really pays off later in the book when the action and luxin are coming fast and furious. What really appealed to me in this book was the history of the Prism's War and the fallout of Gavin and Dazen Guile tearing each other apart. The manner in which Tyreans are treated, from the lowly peasant to the entire nation, rings true with history. The role religion has to play in that violence also rings true. The politics that flowed from there - such as where the great families loyalties lay - were also really enjoyable. But, as usual, what really shone in this book, as in most popular grimdark works, were the characters. Gavin and Dazen Guile were brilliantly written, with the twist really providing the punch that "that moment" has to have to make a book matter. Kip's internal monologue is funny, sad, annoying at times, but I feel like his thoughts would really resonate...