Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review: "The Assassin's Curse" by Lindsay Buroker

Fans of Lindsay Buroker's "Emperor's Edge" series will be happy to hear she's released a short story featuring Amaranthe and Sicarius to keep her readers busy while she finishes the fourth EE novel.

It's a quick read. Amaranthe and Sicarius are in the midst of another grueling training session when they come across evidence of wrongdoing against the Empire. Amaranthe convinces Sicarius they need to investigate, and from there launches a Halloween-ish chapter in the daily lives of Buroker's biggest characters.

"The Assassin's Curse" reveals a bit more of Sicarius' back story, but mainly, it's just a fun read. If I had to quibble, I could wish for some indication of where in the series timeline the story takes place. After the first novel? Second? Third? Neither the dialogue nor the plot make it clear, and the answer would change the way readers interpret the scenes between Amaranthe and Sicarius.

If you've never read Buroker's work before, this isn't the place to start. Check out "Emperor's Edge" or "Encrypted" first. At the price point Buroker chooses -- free for the first, $3.95 for the second -- you can afford to take a chance.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: "This Brilliant Darkness" by Red Tash

I seem to be in the minority on "This Brilliant Darkness."

Red Tash's debut novel gets good reviews on Amazon. Four and a half stars by 21 reviewers, in fact. The description promises "a fast-paced thrilling tale of karmic struggle and suspense, magical supernatural beings, physics and sci-fi fantasy." Seemingly right up my alley.

The story is loosely focused on Christine, a university professor, as she begins experiencing bizarre, inexplicable phenomena -- hallucinations, time warps, electronic devices giving her messages, etc. Her live-in boyfriend, Tom, and her new officemate/love-triangle-third, Richard, get caught up in the weirdness. There's also a monk, a teacher's assistant, a mysterious student and a slew of ancillary characters.

Then there's the villain of the story, Greachin, who has to be read to be appreciated. Greachin is the highlight of the novel: He's part alien, part demon, part Christine's worst nightmare.

He would come at her with legends born of fear, generations of death, plague, mourning, loss, confusion. She would buckle like a stalk of dry grain in a storm. She might fight, but he'd convince her that she was overwhelmed by something evil and holy, if not by his physical prowess than with his gruesome logic. 

For reasons never clearly explained, Greachin is determined to destroy Christine. He lies in wait, stalking her, growing stronger. There is some back story for him involving a creature named Fengrid, but what I really wanted to know was, why Christine? Why is she so important to this apparently immortal force for evil? (For that matter, what was the point of the side plot with the monk who had visions of Christine and Greachin?) Few of the obvious questions in this book are answered.

Structurally, the book is all over the place. The timeline jumps back and forth, and while that may tie into the plot point of time travel, it made keeping track of the sequence of events challenging. It doesn't help that the point of view switches from character to character frequently, and it wasn't always obvious which character was serving as narrator. Having finished the novel, I'm still not clear on why the author chose to offer so many points of view.

On her website, Tash says, "It's a fast-moving story told from multiple points of view, and it doesn’t dumb itself down, so you need to be a top-notch reader to really enjoy this one, I think." I'll take exception to the implication that I'm not a top-notch reader because I didn't like her book, but Tash's statement is helpful because she makes it clear her authorial choices were intentional. As such, I would expect her subsequent work (she's planning a sequel) to have a similar style. I doubt I'll pick up any more of her books.