Tag Archives: political intrigue

Review of Library book The Defiant Heir – Book 2 of the Swords and Fire series by Melissa Caruso #Brainfluffbookreview #TheDefiantHeirbookreview #LibraryLoveChallenge

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This is the sequel to The Tethered Mage – see my review – which so very nearly made my Outstanding Reads list for last year – I loved the idea that mages with their magical power needed to be contained. While it isn’t a new idea, this version where each mage has a minder who can release their power or shut it down works very well.

Across the border, the Witch Lords of Vaskandar are preparing for war. But before an invasion can begin, they must call a rare gathering of all seventeen lords to decide a course of action. Lady Amalia Cornaro knows that this Conclave might be her only chance to stifle the growing flames of war, and she is ready to make any sacrifice if it means saving Raverra from destruction. Amalia and Zaira must go behind enemy lines, using every ounce of wit and cunning they have, to sway Vaskandar from war. Or else it will all come down to swords and fire.

Thoughout the book, we stay in the viewpoint of Lady Amalia, whose mother, La Contessa, rules Raverra with a canny intelligence. Right from the beginning, Amalia knew she was destined for a life in politics, despite her interest in studying forms of magic as an academic subject. And then she inadvertently ends up in a situation where that academic interest suddenly becomes far more practical when she crosses paths with a mage with a rare but lethal talent. I think it’s a clever move to make Amalia bookish and rather shy at the start of the series – her character progression is noticeable from The Tethered Mage through to this book.

However the political crisis, where Raverra is threatened by the terrifying Witch Lords who rule Vaskandar, now needs her to represent her mother on a diplomatic mission where thousands of lives are at stake. The gathering sense of danger and sense of fear at what the Witch Lords are capable of doing, with the hideous beasts they are able to enchant, is palpable. From the first page, I was snagged by this one and found it difficult to put down. While I thoroughly enjoyed The Tethered Mage, I think The Defiant Heir is even better. The supporting cast are all well written and nicely three-dimensional – particularly Zaire and the unpredictable Kathe, who controls the crows…

The pacing is beautifully judged throughout, so that by the end I stayed up waaay later than I should to discover what happens at the end and found the conclusion completely satisfying – though leaving me with a real hankering for more from this world. Thank goodness I shan’t have to wait too long for the next book, The Unbound Empire. Highly recommended for fans of well written swords and sorcery with a splash of romance.
10/10

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Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 19th September, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’tWaitWednesday

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t-Wait offering – The Consuming Fire – Book 2 of The Interdependency series by John Scalzi

#epic science fiction #political thriller #space travel

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken.

Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but then so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy… and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre.

I have read the preview chapters, provided by Netgalley and mostly enjoyed them, after loving the first book. Scalzi uses omniscient pov in this book, which gives it a slightly old fashioned feel, harking back to those epic adventures written in the last century. He manages to pull it off successfully, which isn’t all that easy to do. That said, there is a rather indigestible info-dump in the first chapter. Fortunately, it doesn’t last all that long, because Scalzi’s more usual, bouncy, irreverent voice punches through and whisks us up into this unfolding catastrophe. I’m really looking forward to getting hold of the whole book…

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Wolf Moon – Book 2 of the Luna duology by Ian McDonald

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I thoroughly enjoyed McDonald’s depiction of this aggressively capitalist society in the first book, Luna: New Moon set in a near future where an exhausted Earth is relying on the Moon to keep the lights on. So it was a no-brainer that I was immediately going to request this sequel when it appeared on Netgalley.

Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed. The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward – virtually a hostage – of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished from the surface of the moon. Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and – more to the point – that he is still a major player in the game. In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war between the families erupts.

What the above blurb may not make clear is that Luna: New Moon left the story on a major cliffhanger – nothing at all was resolved. So if you haven’t read it, then my firm advice would be to go away and track down the first book before tucking into this one, because there is no ‘Story So Far’ and with the large cast of characters, multiple viewpoints and odd names, I think anyone coming cold to this world is going to flounder.

The gamechanger that flung everything up in the air at the end of the first book continues to have consequences. Major consequences. And as ever, when turmoil and catastrophe occurs, it is often surviving children who suffer more than anyone else. McDonald is very good at showing rather than telling and in this fast-moving, action-packed epic, he starkly portrays the ravages of war and violence. I could see this being made into a cracking film.

And there would be nothing wrong if he left it at that, but what elevates this book to something more than a slice of escapist enjoyment, is that he continues to show what happens after the initial violence dies down. Because the people involved don’t forgive and forget. That drive and aggression that drove them to forge industrial empires on the Moon morphs into something a lot darker and vengeful when their own families are attacked and their homes and businesses gutted.

Inevitably, in such a wide-ranging story with a scattered cast of characters, this is more of an action-driven story. However there are a handful of protagonists who have lodged in my head – Marina, a ‘Jo Moonbeam’ who came up from Earth in the first book to make her fortune gets pulled right into the heart of the conflict and then has to make an agonising decision. Does she stay on the Moon for the rest of her life, or return to Earth? There is a window in which she can return – but after then, her body will have adapted to the lighter gravity such that it will be impossible without massive and expensive medical intervention. Two children particularly tugged at my heart – Robson, who ends up living on the streets and Darius, another boy caught in the middle of the ruling family feuds, is manipulated into perpetuating their ongoing war…

Apparently McDonald has described this epic political power struggle set in space as the ‘Game of Domes. I’ve found myself often thinking about the first book and the brilliant, fragile infrastructure he wrought – and this book is every bit as thought-provoking and disturbing. Highly recommended.

While I obtained the arc of Wolf Moon from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook novella The Imlen Brat by Sarah Avery

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I saw this offering on Netgalley and was attracted by the intriguing title and blurb – although I hadn’t appreciated it was a novella when I requested it.

theimlenbratStisele of Imlen knows she’s in trouble, but not how much. The young adopted daughter of Beltresa’s sovereign longs to be a weapon in her mother’s service — even against her birth family, should Utroneth ask it. If only Stisele could master the temper that drives her to pepper the royal heir with petty kin-curses. But Stisele’s dreams are bigger than the balance of intrigues that keeps her alive and captive in this perilous royal court. She can be more than a speaker of kin-curses. She deserves a life beyond the palace islet she’s never left. Her two imaginary friends, if indeed that’s what they are, tell her so. If Stisele is to make her own life in a world that’s not ready for her, she must regain the trust of wary allies. She must begin to control the power of the kin-curse — her imaginary friends are as much hindrance as help. And she will have to give up her place in the only home she’s ever known.

Stisele is a hot-tempered, impetuous child who comes across as just that, which is very refreshing. It is very difficult to write convincingly as a child without appearing to be just that bit too wise and self-aware – and Stisele isn’t either. She is also in a very difficult place and I enjoyed the fact that we appreciated her precariousness well before she did. Her two imaginary friends also produce a nice plot twist near the end of this story.

The cast of characters – from her spoilt step-sister who is to be the future ruler, to her loving and very concerned step-mother  – all jump off the page, giving us an opportunity to view them both through Stisele’s eyes and gauge our own opinions about them. This is far harder to accomplish than Avery makes it look and for me, this was a large part of the joy of this novella, also providing some welcome shafts of humour, even while I was wincing.

Overall, this novella is a delight. But the moment I completed it, I went looking for more from this talented writer and found nothing else, which was quite frustrating as this clearly reads as an opening salvo to a longer adventure in a politically complicated, well depicted world with clear magical rules. I  hope that Avery has plans to release a full-length novel in this world soon – I for one, will be only too pleased to scoop it up and become engrossed once more in Stisele’s adventures.

My copy of The Imlen Brat was provided by the publisher via Netgalley, which has not affected my unbiased review of the novella in any way.
9/10