'Writing for me is not about speeling, grammar or punctuation – that’s why we have editors.... No, writing for me is the ability to capture a story and put it in words.' - Fantasy Muse

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Last Praetorian

The next book in my fantasy blog review is 'The Last Praetorian' by Mike Smith.

Front Cover




Synopsis

Commander Jonathan Radec is a man desperately trying to escape from the mistakes of his past. 

Now the owner of Vanguard Shipping, his primary concerns are trying to keep his ships flying and his crew alive. However, the shadowy Syndicate organisation has set their sights on the Commander and his business, having sent a beautiful assassin to kill him. To make matters worse, she’s become the target of his infatuation, much to the dismay of his ex-girlfriend. Recently elevated to President of the Confederation, she’s still very much in love with him and capable of making his life a living hell.

Surrounded by a galaxy beginning to tear itself apart, with enemies on all sides, he’s now also unwillingly tasked with trying to save the Confederation – for which he has little regard. Jon has little going in his favour, except a crew consisting of the elite of the old Imperial Navy, all of whom would fight to the death for him, and a past that possibly makes him one of the most dangerous men alive.

The Last Praetorian is a Science Fiction adventure/romance, which tries to answer the question: “Can you ever find redemption for the mistakes of your past?”

My review


First of all this is a sci-fi book. I know lots of non-fantasy people find a hard time differentiating between the two but for me there's a clear divide and it does annoy me a little when I walk into a bookstore and find the fantasy section invaded by sci-fi books and vice-versa.

I do read the occasional sci-fi book if the plot is interesting. Most times I find when reading sci-fi, is that my level of concentration has to be notched up another level than when I’m reading fantasy books. I’m not saying fantasy books are simple, it’s just that sci-fi by their very nature it seems; have to be overly complicated with their terms and definitions. So often I’ve found myself lost in the description of a space-particle jump or terraformation. While reading sci-fi I need to be able to take in every page so that I’m not struggling to understand the next one, and that can be tiring if all you want to do is sit back and relax. I guess that’s one reason why I tend to be selective when it comes to reading sci-fi books.

Anyway, moving on....

What caught my interest in this book was that it was going for free - and I'm always one for reading a free book. My interest was further cemented by the amount of positive reviews it had garnered on Amazon.uk and Amazon.com. It had received 313 reviews from amazon.com with an average rating of 4 stars. To say my expectations were high would be an understatement. However, I did try to dampen my excitement, as in the past I’ve found books that were positively reviewed by so many people but left me disappointed and wondering what they saw and what I saw (actually maybe it could just be me).
Well, I’m glad to say the book met my every expectation.

Brilliant.

That was the first word that entered my mind when I finished the book. The book is based around the principle character, Jonathan Radec, who is part of an elite group of soldiers, whose task it is to protect the emperor. The books starts of well, not dramatic, but enough to draw me in. It only got started when a certain person is killed. I'm not going to say who it is, but it's kinda obvious.

There are two storylines in play while reading this book. One, recalling the past and the other the present. Normally I'm not a fan of flashbacks, as I mentioned in my previous post but its done well in this book.

The pace of the book is great. It moved from one scene to another at the right time and there was enough action scenes in it to keep hold of readers who are into that. What I did enjoy above all else was the interactions between the characters. Several times I found myself smiling at how characters played off each other. It felt natural and not awkward.

One aspect of the book that I was intrigued in was the romantic part of it. I enjoy reading romance in a book, as I find it brings another dimension to a story. Most are tacky, and others are too sappy, but this one was done right. It was believable and endearing.
There is a love triangle in the book, which I  felt was a bit forced.

One minor point of criticism I found, is that it divulges into too much politics and I did find myself glossing over those parts.

I'm now scratching my head trying to think of anything else I didn't like.

I guess the action scenes were not your - edge of the seat type action - but it was still done brilliantly and got me turning the pages swiftly, eager to find out what happens next.

In truth, I couldn't find a lot of negatives to say about the book, and I’m lucky that I got it for free.

The book finishes on a cliffhanger, and the author, Mike Smith, has done a great job in not only finishing the book on a high but writing an ending that won't fail to draw in readers into buying the second installment.

Conclusion


A great book that lived up to my expectations and I would not hesitate at all to recommend it to others. If you enjoy a good action book intertwined with romance, then this is definitely one for you. 

My rating out of 10 stars:



High 7 - A book that I thoroughly enjoyed and would have received an 8 if not for some minor points highlighted above.

***

Give it a go, I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much I did. Here's the link for Amazon UK and US.

Until my next post, have a great day.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Servant of Steel


It has been a while since I last posted. Due to work I haven't really found the time to read many books, but a few days ago I stumbled upon a book that immediately caught my interest called:
'Servant of Steel (Chaos Awakens)'by Heath Pfaff.

Front Cover:





Blurb:


‘Having two of his fingers cut off at an early age hadn't done much to make Xandrith an agreeable fellow. Besides marking him as a pariah and having him shunned by even his own family, it had also hurt. A lot. Being stripped of a few of his fingers and cast out of the Order of Mages had left him bitter and angry, but if there was any consolation to be had it was that he was doing rather well in his new line of work. While perforating people for money might not have been the most noble of callings, it was quite lucrative. Well, it had been quite lucrative.

In a conspiracy of fate seemingly beyond his control, Xan soon finds himself facing a dilemma of conscience, and that isn't something he's familiar with. One dilemma leads to another, and before long the mage-turned-assassin finds himself performing more and more honorable deeds. Worse yet, without even attempting to do so he manages to acquire friends and to develop a sense of compassion.

As Xan struggles with his burgeoning humanity, a terrible darkness begins to wake in the world. The Order of Mages, once an overbearing power of control, seems to be losing its grip as a terrifying doom of their own creation rises in the north. As if that wasn't enough, the horror brought upon the world by the folly of the mages may only be the precursor to something far more sinister.’



My opinion 


The covers a bit quirky and while it drew my interest in initially, it was the blurb that hooked me in, enough to pay a relatively princely sum of £4.66 or $7.10 for a self published kindle. Normally I shy away from self published books that cost that much but I could obviously see that the author had invested a lot of care into the book. And if I need to pay a bit more for a crisp, carefully put together book, then that's fine with me.

One thing I hate is an author who half-heartedly slaps some words together to form a ‘book’ - and I use that term loosely - so that they can make some quick money. If an author isn’t willing to invest enough time and effort into a book, then why should readers be willing to pay for it?

Anyway, onto the book....

It has been some time since I’ve read a book with an assassin as the main character. The last one I believe was Brent Weeks, since then I’ve stayed away from those particular story lines, as I felt they’ve been done to death (no pun intended).

The novel starts of with our protagonist, Xandrith or Xan, for short heading of to meet a client, who seeks the death of a mage. And from here the story takes off. The book starts off with a  pace to it that immediately drew me in and got me turning the pages, eager to read on.

The author, Heath Pfaff, has created a character in Xan that I instantly came to like. He wasn’t your typical silent, broody - mood killer to be around - type of character that you normally find in assassins. Instead what Pfaff gave us was an intelligent, thoughtful and more importantly realistic character. Someone who you can imagine being a killer, an assassin born out of necessity from his environment.

It was only during the middle section of the book did my thoughts begin to wander. The storyline almost abruptly changes and without trying give too much away, a major character in the book suddenly becomes obsolete and fades to the background. Which I found a great shame as I really enjoyed the character. And from there on, the book failed to grip me with the same intense fascination as the beginning did. I found myself almost hesitantly drifting through large sections of text, ploughing on with the hope that the story might pick up.

Which it did, I'm glad to say, but not until the last few chapters. The book ends with a cliff hanger, not a dramatic one in which I'm agonising over the days until the next installment  but one in which I'm curious as to see what happens next.

You my be reading this review and think that I didn't enjoy the book, which couldn't be further from the truth. This is a fantasy book that doesn't follow your typical assassin storyline and there were some elements in the novel that was new. And if you're a regular fantasy reader, like me, then you will know how hard that is to achieve.

The book is rather costly as I've mentioned at the start and I can imagine that putting off quite a few perspective readers but the author has clearly invested a lot of energy into producing a book that can rival published books in terms of cover art, editing, grammar etc. At no point in the book did I stop to re-read a sentence because it didn't flow or look right and I certainly didn't find any glaring spelling mistakes.

So what I'm trying to summarise is that Heath Pfaff has created a book that would not look out of place in a bookstore and that is a compliment I would imagine most self published authors would hope to inspire to.

In conclusion, while this book hooked me in from the start with an irresistible bait, it kind of lost its way through the middle and only drew me back in at the very end. I'm in two minds as to whether or not I would recommend this book at the price it's selling at currently. However, I can say with almost certainty, that if the price was a bit lower than I would implore fantasy readers to buy it.

But, saying that, the price as it stands now, I would say give this book a go if you're not short on cash and are looking for a book that offers a bit of a twist to the normal convention. Otherwise, wait and see if the author lowers the price.



My rating out of 10 stars:


6 Stars – I was tempted to give it a 7 but in the end opted for a 6. If I had gone into decimals then I would have given it 6.99. I will be keeping an eye out for the sequel, but more out of curiosity than anticipation. 


Until then, have a great day and to keep up to date on my next post, follow my twitter account.