Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Swept Away by the Tide - Backburner Books/Series

One thing I think people like myself who read review books regularly experience is that the more we read, the more we want to read. Despite Sturgeon's Law, there are indeed a fairly high percentage of good books being published.  At least from what I've been reading in the SFF realm of things.  To that point, keeping up with the new releases from popular authors and the hot and flashy debut authors can be a challenge. As my blog, review activity at SFFWorld and the SFFWorld Blog, as well as recent reviews at, attest, I read a lot. I read, on average, about a book per week.  In more realistic numbers, take that "about one per week" to its annual conclusion, I've been averaging reading between 60 and 70 books read per year.  Even with that number, I feel like don't get to all the books I'd like to read.

One side effect is that focusing more on the newer releases of a given year means that a fair number of series I enjoy and have read over the years have tended to fall by the wayside. This is unfortunate, because at one point I enjoyed the authors a great deal. The evidence of my enjoyment of these books & series can be seen in the positive reviews I've posted to SFFWorld, discussions I've had in the SFFWorld forums,  or the posts I've made about those books/series/authors here on my blog.

Some of these series I feel guilty for not continuing because I did enjoy the books in the series; I want to support authors who have connected with me and entertained me. On the other hand, I’m curious if my lack of finishing them/continuing on with the series speaks to the quality of the series and my overall enjoyment of them rather than the annual, continuing tidal wave of new releases pushing them into more unreachable slopes of Mount Toberead. 

In the summaries of the series below, I assess my enjoyment of the books in the series and determine if I will (ever) forge ahead with those series. The reasons will be a mix of both of these eventual outcomes, because for some of these series, I will catch up with them and others the chances of that happening aren’t quite as good.

A last bit of preamble, these are series in which I’ve ventured fairly significantly. At the very least more than one book/the first book, none of these series “falloffs” involve me just not reading the final book, nor will any of the series be those where I’ve totally given up on the series, nor will these be series I am plodding forth (Dresden Files, Vorkosigan Series, etc). So, without further ado, here are the books/series that were swept away by the tide of review/current year releases.

Wess’har by Karen Traviss
I really enjoyed the first three installments of this Military SF series for a lot of reasons. From reading the first three novels, I felt Traviss had great POV characters, interesting alien cultures and overall, just entertaining stories.

Proof is in the pudding: My reviews of City of Pearl and the sequel Crossing the Line.  Books remaining to be read: Matriarch, Ally and Judge.

Chance of returning to this series? I'd say dead even at 50% mainly because I’ve gone 50% through them, they are relatively short and I recall them being fairly quick reads.
Side note, Traviss has a new novel, Going Gray, publishing in 2014 seemingly unrelated.

Marla Mason by Tim Pratt
I first read about Marla in The Solaris Book of New Fantasy edited by George Mann (2007) and was very intrigued.  I read the first two books back to back.

Proof is in the pudding: My reviews of enjoyed the first three novels Blood Engines and Poison Sleep. I’ve had a copy of the third book Dead Reign on Mount Toberead for nearly five years in what is one of the books I’ve had for the longest amount of time. Since reading the second book, I’ve noticed that Pratt has been self-publishing these books, including (I think) at least one of them through Kickstarter.

Chance of returning to this series - Better than 50%, I’ve got the third book and loved the world Pratt created around Marla, particularly the Lovecraftian feel. The nature of Urban Fantasy novels such as these seems more conducive to being read as standalone and might work with such a time lapse. 

Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont
Yeah, this is a big one, right? I’ve read the first seven by Erikson (up to Reaper's Gale) and Esslemont’s first. For the most part, I enjoyed them a great deal, but reading Forge of Darkness last year really soured me on attempting to finish out either the mainline series by Erikson or the books Esslemont’s been writing. I've also seen less than positive response to the series' conclusion.

Proof in the pudding: My blog post and reaction to The Bonehunters (also here) and my review of Night of Knives. It has now been 5 years since I last read a mainline Malazan novel and I’m concerned about the challenge of remembering past elements of the series were I to pick up book eight, Toll the Hounds.

Chance of returning to this series - Less than 50%. Even though I have the final three books in physical form, they are huge books and as I’ve said, Forge of Darkness was such a difficult book for me to read.

Crown of Stars by Kate Elliott
I loved the first four King’s Dragon, Prince of Dogs, The Burning Stone, and Child of Flame, giving them (in my personal spreadsheet/reading log) scores ranging from 7 to 8.5, but this series really suffered from the Wave of Review books/reviewing.  My concern with this series, even more so than Malazan is just how much I likely have forgotten since reading Child of Flame back in 2003. Also, these books tend to be on the doorstopper side of the fence. I loved the worldbuilding in these books, but my other concern is how much my enjoyment dipped on her recent series Spiritwalker, enjoying the first Cold Magic but not quite so much with Cold Fire, book 2 to the point that I didn’t and don’t plan on reading the final installment. 

Proof in the Pudding: No reviews on this series as I read through the first four before I started writing book reviews for SFFWorld.

Chance of returning to this series - I’d say dead even at 50% because so much of the feel of these books still rumbles around in my head and I am more than 50% through the series, with only 3 of the remaining 7 books yet to be read.

Vlad Taltos by Steven Brust
I had been catching up with this series through each of the omnibus editions released The Book of Jhereg, The Book of Taltos, The Book of Athyra, and Dragon & Issola (one of many, many great Science Fiction Book Club Omnibus editions that make SFBC worth joining, quitting, and rejoining) and up to Dzur

Proof in the pudding: No reviews except for, like The Bonehunters, a blog post professing my enjoyment of the book and series as a whole.

Chance of returning to this series - This is probably the series I’m most likely to pick up again as the Taltos books, of those mentioned in this post, are the books I’ve enjoyed the most. I’ve read 10 of the 13 books published and only have three to read to be caught up, or four if you count the forthcoming Hawk publishing in 2014. I also happen to own book 11, Jhegaala, so if Tor decides to omnibify books 12 and 13 Iorich and Tiassa, my decision to jump back into the world of Vlad Taltos would be even easier to make.

So, am I the only reader/blogger/reviewer who has experienced this Sweeping/Backburner effect?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-08-23)

A sparkly new space opera (first in a new series) arrived this week, though the name isn’t familiar the writers is…along with the third installment in a popular author's fairly new series.

Fortune’s Pawn (Volume 1 of The Paradox Series) by Rachel Bach (Orbit, Trade Paperback 11/05/2013) – It is somewhat of an open secret that Bach is a pseudonym for Rachel Aaron, author of the very entertaining Eli Monpress fantasy novels. I’m really looking forward to this book.

Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day - but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.

Monsters of the Earth (Books of the Elements #3) by David Drake (Tor, Hardcover 09/03/2013) – Drakes third installment in “a series of four fantasy novels set in a city and empire named Carce, which very similar to that of Rome in 30 AD.” Drake mixes myth and magic with history, and based on the title, this one has monsters in it.

Governor Saxa, of the great city of Carce, a fantasy analog of ancient Rome, is rusticating at his villa. When Saxa’s son Varus accompanies Corylus on a visit to the household of his father, Crispus, a retired military commander, Saxa graciously joins the party with his young wife Hedia, daughter Alphena, and a large entourage of his servants, making it a major social triumph for Crispus. But on the way to the event, something goes amiss. Varus, who has been the conduit for supernatural visions before, experiences another: giant crystalline worms devouring the entire world.

Soon the major characters are each involved in supernatural events caused by a struggle between two powerful magicians, both mentored by the deceased poet and mage Vergil, one of whom wants to destroy the world and the other who wishes to stop him. But which is which? There is a complex web of human and supernatural deceit to be unraveled.

This new novel in David Drake’s ongoing chronicles of Carce, The Books of the Elements, is a gripping and intricate work of fantasy.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-08-16)

Just one book this week, a crime thriller.

The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi (Mulholland Books, Hardcover 11/19/2013) – Carrisi was one awards for his fiction in his native Italy, this is his second novel to appear in the US through Mulholland Books.

A grieving young widow, seeking answers to her husband’s death, becomes entangled in an investigation steeped in the darkest mysteries of Rome.

Sandra Vega, a forensic analyst with the Roman police department, mourns deeply for a marriage that ended too soon. A few months ago, in the dead of night, her husband, an up-and-coming journalist, plunged to his death at the top of a high-rise construction site. The police ruled it an accident. Sanda is convinced it was anything but.

Launching her own inquiries, Sanda finds herself on a dangerous trail, working the same case that she is convinced led to her husband’s murder. An investigation which is deeply entwined with a series of disappearances that has swept the city, and brings Sandra ever closer to a centuries-old secret society that will do anything to stay in the shadows.

The Grim Company by Luke Scull (Hardcover 09/03/2013 Roc) – Scull’s debut reaches US shores. My colleague Mark had good things to say when it was released in the UK through Head of Zeus.

The Gods are dead. The Magelord Salazar and his magically enhanced troops, the Augmentors, crush any dissent they find in the minds of the populace. On the other side of the Broken Sea, the White Lady plots the liberation of Dorminia, with her spymistresses, the Pale Women. Demons and abominations plague the Highlands.

The world is desperately in need of heroes. But what they get instead are a ragtag band of old warriors, a crippled Halfmage, two orphans and an oddly capable manservant: the Grim Company.

Friday, August 16, 2013

SFFWorld Weekly Round up featuring Wendig, Star Wars, and Pern

Three new reviews at SFFWorld the past week, two from Mark and one from me.  First off, is Mark's review from earlier in the week.  A book which pays tribute to Anne McCaffrey's fiction, primarily her Dragonriders of Pern.  The book, Dragonwriter, sports a beautiful Michael Whelan cover

As the sub-title suggests, Dragonwriter is a biographical tribute to Anne. It contains essays from many of those who knew her personally and worked professionally with Anne. These include David Brin, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Wen Spencer, David Gerrold, Elizabeth Moon, Lois McMaster Bujold, Mercedes Lackey, Jody Lynn Nye, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, artist Michael Whelan, songwriter Janis Ian and her children Todd and Georgeanne (Gigi) McCaffrey.
McCaffrey tales are often ones where the relationships between the characters are primary, whether the characters are human or dragon. She was a writer not afraid to write about relationships or sex, and her books are seminal examples of what we now see as ‘soft-SF’, dealing with relationships and personal issues rather than the previously more typical Hard SF, with its (usually) male-scientist, can-do-anything type of role. Anne’s female characters are strong-willed and very different from the women-as-victim stereotype often seen in SF’s early days. The societies are cooperative and designed for the good of the Hold rather than individual gain – something which no doubt also made the stories popular.

My review this week is from an author whose fiction I first encountered earlier in the year and loved.  Chuck Wendig's first young adult novel, Under the Empyrian Sky is also the first installment of his Heartland Trilogy:

Wendig infuses this novel with a great deal of despair and anger, but lifts it up with small tent poles of hope and allows his characters to funnel their rage towards potentially positive goals. All of the characters seem to have varying levels of desperation, even the so-called villains in novel like the aforementioned mayor’s son and the mayor himself. Rigo’s father is a drunk, Cael’s father has strange tumors as a result of the corn, and his mother is bedridden. So yeah, not many smiles to go around. But what makes the novel so damn readable was the drive fueled by Cael’s anger. As I said, he manages to funnel it towards positive ends (most of the time), but of course, the anger does get in the way.
I couldn’t help but continually draw comparisons between this book and the game Bioshock: Infinite, in terms of the feel of a frontier America mixed with some vaguely steampunk technology and settings both evoked. While Under the Empyrian Sky might not have the Vigor-enabled powers and some of the time-travel elements, the idea of revolting against an imperial overlord and even a city in the sky are similar.

Lastly (and actually yesterday), Mark had a look at one of those "Technical Manuals" of fictional constructs, Star Wars Blueprints - Inside the Production Archives by J.W. Rinzler:

Star Wars Blueprints is a book that covers all six movies to date, in production order: so from Star Wars A New Hope, (Episode IV) to Revenge of the Sith (Episode III), which will be a nice closure before the new Disney/Lucasfilms appear in 2015. For each film Rinzler gives the reader a potted background as to how it came about from a production point of view.
Of the blueprints themselves, some are excellent: some just made me go “Huh?” We have a nice range of set blueprints – the Millennium Falcon hangar at Mos Eisley and the Death Star Trench from Star Wars (Episode IV), to the Hoth Command Centre and the Reactor Control Room (Empire Strikes Back, Episode V) to Jabba the Hutt’s throne room and barge from Return of the Jedi (Episode VI). It was also pleasing to see some of these still labelled ‘Blue Harvest’, the secret name for Jedi’s early production drawings. Of the omissions, I was surprised not to see more drawings of the iconic Death Star or the Imperial Cruiser here, although they have been covered elsewhere.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-08-10)

Just one book this week, this time from the fine folks at Orbit.

A Dance of Cloaks (Volume 1 of Shadowdance) by David Dalglish (Orbit, Trade Paperback 08/06/2013) – Following in the footsteps of Michael J. Sullivan, David Dalglish makes the leap from success in the self-published arena to traditionally published thanks to the fine folks at Orbit Books.

The Underworld rules the city of Veldaren. Thieves, smugglers, assassins... they fear only one man.

Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. All the thieves' guilds of the city are under his unflinching control. If he has his way, death will soon spill out from the shadows and into the streets.

Aaron is Thren's son, trained to be heir to his father's criminal empire. He's cold, ruthless - everything an assassin should be. But when Aaron risks his life to protect a priest's daughter from his own guild, he glimpses a world beyond piston, daggers, and the iron rule of his father.

Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.
Fantasy author David Dalglish spins a tale of retribution and darkness, and an underworld reaching for ultimate power.

Billy Moon by Douglas Lain (Hardcover 08/27/2013 Tor) – The first novel from Lain after many acclaimed short stories.

In Douglas Lain's debut novel set during the turbulent year of 1968, Christopher Robin Milne, the inspiration for his father’s fictional creation, struggles to emerge from a manufactured life, in a story of hope and transcendence.

Billy Moon was Christopher Robin Milne, the son of A. A. Milne, the world-famous author of Winnie the Pooh and other beloved children's classics. Billy's life was no fairy-tale, though. Being the son of a famous author meant being ignored and even mistreated by famous parents; he had to make his own way in the world, define himself, and reconcile his self-image with the image of him known to millions of children. A veteran of World War II, a husband and father, he is jolted out of midlife ennui when a French college student revolutionary asks him to come to the chaos of Paris in revolt. Against a backdrop of the apocalyptic student protests and general strike that forced France to a standstill that spring, Milne's new French friend is a wild card, able to experience alternate realities of the past and present. Through him, Milne's life is illuminated and transformed, as are the world-altering events of that year. 

In a time when the Occupy movement eerily mirrors the political turbulence of 1968, this magic realist novel is an especially relevant and important book.

Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe edited by J.E. Mooney and Bill Fawcett (Hardcover 08/27/2013 Tor) – Many have called Wolfe not just the greatest living writer of SFF, but the greatest living writer, full stop. Thes stories are in honor of his best known work.

Perhaps no living author of imaginative fiction has earned the awards, accolades, respect, and literary reputation of Gene Wolfe. His prose has been called subtle and brilliant, inspiring not just lovers of fantasy and science fiction, but readers of every stripe, transcending genre and defying preconceptions.

In this volume, a select group of Wolfe’s fellow authors pay tribute to the award-winning creator of The Book of the New Sun, The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Soldier of the Mist, The Wizard Knight and many others, with entirely new stories written specifically to honor the writer hailed by The Washington Post as “one of America's finest.”

Shadows of the New Sun features contributions by Neil Gaiman, David Brin, David Drake, Nancy Kress, and many others, plus two new short stories by Gene Wolfe himself.

Friday, August 09, 2013

SFFWorld Round-up (2013-08-09): AJ Smith, Joe Hill, Neil Gaiman, Michael J. Sullivan

Another round-up of the week's postings at the SFFWorld blog.  New additions from Mark and I, plus some interviews Dag (the esteemed site owner of SFFWorld and man in the shadows) at the main SFFWorld site.

First up, Mark just posted his review of AJ Smith's debut novel, The Black Guard, which is the first installment of his Long War sequence:

It must be said that are many similar debuts out there at the moment. In my opinion, The Black Guard is one of the better ones. What works here for me more than other recent debuts I’ve read is the characterisation. Generally the characters are recognisable and yet different enough to be entertaining. The reader will identify with the good guys and hiss mightily at the bad, though there’s a nice touch of greyness in there too. In particular, their dialogue is appropriate to the setting and worked for me, a problem I’ve had with many recent debuts. One warning: there is profanity and rather bloody mayhem here (it’s not really a Young Adult tale) but it was refreshing to find that, unlike some ‘Grimdark’ books of late, it doesn’t reduce the overall impact by overdoing the violence or the expletives.


Before I get too carried away, it must be said that the book isn’t entirely perfect. We could quibble about the huge dollops of set-up dialogue in conversations at the beginning of the novel, a slight lag in pace in the middle of the novel and the occasional over-the-top Conan-esque moment, but generally what happens works well and keeps the reader’s attention over a 600+ page book.

My big review of the week is (so far, and likely to remain) my favorite novel published in 2013.  The novel is the third from Joe Hill and is a masterpiece of horror / dark fantasy, NOS4A2:

For my tastes, a villain is much more terrifying if he is calm and calculated rather than a slavering creature who shouts. On this count, Joe Hill’s creation of Charles Talent Manx is one of the creepiest individuals in modern Horror literature. In interviews with Joe Hill (particularly this great one which first aired on The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast), he’s mentioned getting Manx’s voice right was a challenge. The hard work paid off because the character, conversely, seems effortless and a fully-formed creation. The man speaks as if he is of a different era, does not use contractions (is not v. isn’t; do not v. don’t) and abhors curse words, is quite concerned about what is proper, and loves Christmas. Well, concerned about what is proper aside from abducting kids, turning them into monsters, and feeding off their life force. In other words, Charles Talent Manx is a prime example of the Affably Evil character.


The structure of this novel is quite powerful and epic. We are introduced to Manx (the villain), we then meet Vic. They have an encounter that leaves them both scarred, which is only a precursor to their return match-up. In many ways, this reminded me of an Epic or Heroic Fantasy where the hero gets a measure of their enemy and defeats that enemy at great cost with a knowledge that a final encounter looms. Throughout the novel, this tension (added by the build-up to the Christmasland reveal) is so thick and absorbing that not reading NOS4A2 was a painful thing for me.

Sunday, Mark had a look at one of the biggest releases of the year, Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane:

The tale is told with a combination of Gaiman’s typical lyricism and deceptive simplicity, giving the story a dreamlike quality that makes it at times both real and unreal. The narrator seems a likeable sort who is drawn into events beyond his ken, and as a result we are sympathetic to his rather confused viewpoint. It also means that we side with him when an accident on his part leads to an opening being created between ‘here’ and ‘there’, and consequently ‘a baddun’, taking the form of attractive Ursula Monkton sets up in the narrator’s world. ‘Ursula’ is referred to as ‘a flea’, vermin that need removing from the world. Here she entices the narrator’s parents into events, and so secures a hold in the present world.

The narrator’s allies are Lettie Hempstock, the narrator’s friend, Mrs Hempstock, Lettie’s mother, and Old Mrs Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, who live in the cottage at the end of the lane. They are not what we seem, but instead seem to be some sort of guardians between this world and what lies beyond, something which may be to do with Lettie’s duckpond, her ‘ocean’, which suggests, in a very Dr Who-type moment, that at one point the narrator is suspended between all time and space, accessing something much bigger. 

Lastly, Michael J. Sullivan provided a guest post to the SFFWorld blog, in which he discusses the notion of bringing secondary characters more fully into the spotlight:

Dag also posted his interview with author Douglas E. Richards.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-08-03)

Just one book this week, another novel in the successful line of Pathfinder Tales novels

King of Chaos (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Dave Gross (Paizo Mass Market Paperback 07/02/2013) – This is Gross's third Pathfinder novel after he launched the novel line with Prince of Wolves

After a century of imprisonment, demons have broken free of the wardstones surrounding the Worldwound. As fiends flood south into civilized lands, Count Varian Jeggare and his hellspawn bodyguard Radovan must search through the ruins of a fallen nation for the blasphemous text that opened the gate to the Abyss in the first place-and which might hold the key to closing it. In order to succeed, however, the heroes will need to join forces with pious crusaders, barbaric local warriors, and even one of the legendary god callers. It's a race against time as the companions fight their way across a broken land, facing off against fiends, monsters, and a vampire intent on becoming the god of blood-but will unearthing the dangerous book save the world, or destroy it completely?

From best-selling author Dave Gross comes a new adventure set against the backdrop of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Friday, August 02, 2013

SFFWorld Review & Interview Round up: Micahel J. Sullivan, David J. Peterson, Heinlein and Hearne

Here's a gathering of recent reviews and interviews that we've  have posted to SFFWorld over the past few weeks. Recent interviews include:

David J. Peterson, who created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones

SF Said author of Phoenix.

Most recently, I reviewed Michael J. Sullivan's The Crown Tower (Volume 1 of The Riyra Chronicles.  I found this to be a successful prequel to his Riyria Revelations

Hadrian Blackwater is a former soldier and arena fighter wandering the world, looking for purpose. Hadrian is on his way to meet with his father’s old acquaintance at Sheridan University, when a young boy known only as Pickles encourages Hadrian to board a boat. Along the way, several people are killed on the boat, almost including Hadrian himself. When Hadrian finally arrives at the university he discovers his father father’s old acquaintance is Arcadius, the Professor of Lore at Sheridan University. What’s more surprising is that the mysterious hooded man whom he suspected of killing the people on his boat is waiting in Arcadius’s office. The man, of course, is Royce Melborn whom Hadrian’s father’s friend pair up and assign a mission of stealth – to steal a book from the Crown Tower.

Running parallel to Hadrian’s storyline is that of Gwen DeLancy, the “hooker with aheart of gold.” [WARNING: Clicking that link will send you to the rabbit hole known as TVTropes] As much as The Crown Tower is an origin of sorts for the Riyria (Hadrian more so than Royce), Sullivan devotes nearly as much narrative to Gwen’s story. Here, Sullivan gave the novel its truest villains in the drunk, violent customer Stane and Gwen’s boss, Raynor Grue. When Stane kills a prostitute in The Hideous Head Tavern and Alehouse (Grue’s establishment) and gets away with it, Gwen decides she needs to leave Grue’s employ to start her own brothel, Medford House.

Mark's re-read of Heinlein's classic novels as part of the Virginia Edition. The latest is for Farmer in the Sky:

There’s some nice links to some of the earlier novels and stories. The Space Patrol (see Space Cadet) is mentioned, as too the song The Hills of Green Earth and its blind composer Rhysling. Colonies on Mars and Venus, briefly mentioned, relate to Heinlein’s other tales. Heinlein was clearly starting to make his stories of the future interrelate. He even introduces the idea that there has been in the past a space-faring race that has left their mark in space.

So, what does Heinlein bring to the table that is new this time around?

The first shock is that the first part is written from the point of view of Bill. After the previous books were traditional second-person perspective, this is a bolder stylistic move, and one that creates a more personal standpoint. The second shock is that from the start the book does not read positively. This is a surprise, as the juveniles were stories written predominantly for boys and meant to highlight the virtues of the Scouts, and yet from the beginning this is not the positive characteristics you expect from a Scout. On the first page Bill has to deal with a trainee Scout who he calls a twerp from the outset. There is an argument between Bill and his widowed father George over George’s decision to embark on the Mayflower. The world around them is clearly not good, with food rationing in place and rations often cut, George going without meals to ensure that their nutrition intake is sufficient.

Last week, I reviewed the fifth installment of Kevin Hearne's entertaining Iron Druid Chronicles, Trapped:

Five books deep into a series that appears as if it can go at least double that number provides a writer with a certain level of comfort, as it can for the readers of that series. After all, that’s part of why readers return to successful series and why authors continue to write them. On the other hand, progression and stagnation can enter as the series progresses. Not so with Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles, each book builds on the predecessor and most importantly no action Atticus or any other character takes is without consequences. Atticus killed possibly the most recognizable Norse god and two books later, the ramifications of that action (and Atticus’s actions in early novels) and the events surrounding it are plaguing the last Druid. In short, Hearne continues to admirably walk the fine line between safety/comfort and progression/consequences.

An element that’s always been an undercurrent of these novels is Hearne’s reverence for storytelling.  Whether in the backstory of Atticus or the short mythic stories other characters tell to Atticus (the stories Väinämöinen’s told in Hammered, the ‘truth’ about the Svartálfar Norse dark elves revealed here in Trapped), the past always ties into current events and provides powerful, resonant, and layered storytelling. Again, the idea of consequences as a powerful theme in these novels becomes more apparent.