April 22, 2019

Book Review: Power Under Pressure

In Power Under Pressure, the third in Andrew P. Mayer’s Society of Steam trilogy, the steampunk super heroes known as the Society of Paragons is all but eliminated by Lord Eschaton and his growing army. The battle continues between good and evil in the forms of fortified steam and fortified smoke. Lord Eschaton is furthering his quest for the purification of mankind, starting with New York City residents, by use of fortified smoke. Evil has the decided advantage at the onset.

Sarah Stanton holds the heart of the Tom the automaton and represents the balance of the Society of Paragons. Her challenge — defeating Eschaton and his minions — is all up-hill and there is no shortage of obstacles in her way. Still, with a fantastic array of heroes and villains, old and new, Lord Eschaton and his Children and Sarah and her very slim entourage make for a compelling story.

Tom’s reappearance in the story line is timely and spectacular. The reader gains a deeper understanding of what he is, what Darby meant him to be, and what he could become. Will he be a hero? Or represent chaos? The answer to that question is well developed and completely unexpected.

I have really enjoyed this trilogy from onset to conclusion. The last 30 pages or so of this book are a roller coaster ride of story evolution. Nearing the end of this ride, I found myself wishing there were going to be a fourth book. I wasn’t ready to be done with these characters or Mayer’s steampunk New York City. Happily, I believe there will be more adventures with the Society of Steam. Mayer leaves us with a not-so-subtle indication that that is the case. A new leader for the villians is introduced, the Society of Steam is introduced as replacement to the Society of Paragons, and a third element is also waiting for action…’til mankind is ready and reaches out.

I, for one, cannot wait to see where Mayer takes this story.

 

Book Review: The Skybound Sea

Sam Sykes’ The Skybound Sea, Book Three of the Aeons’ Gate Trilogy, is a remarkable cap to an absolutely action-packed trilogy.

First, the title is very enigmatic. The explanation comes well into the book as our adventurers work their way — individually or in teams — to the island of Jaga to stop Ulbecetonth, the Kraken Queen, from returning to the land of the living. Jaga is where sky and sea have no boundaries. The action in the skybound sea with water plants and swimming creatures acting as though they’re in the sea tweaks the imagination. It adds another level of complexity to an already somewhat less than simple plot and cast of characters.

Our heroes/heroines continue their personal battles with internal and external demons throughout this book. What remains surprisingly intact is their dedication to the quest and, by extension, to each other. All are needed to make it happen, and each works to that end. The character development, interplay and evolution is fascinating and not so fantastic. At any point, dark or light could prevail. Sykes never really lets us know until it happens.

I was very taken with Sykes’ concise and still very descriptive depiction of beings, landscape, and combat. As I’m writing this, I can still see in my mind’s eye physical attributes of various characters, the essence of the skybound sea, and the ebb and flow of the several conflicts throughout this story. Description is always key to storytelling, but essential in a fantasy story. Until the author puts pen to paper, all the color lives only in the author’s mind. In my opinion, Sam Sykes nails it.

I’m thinking we’ve not seen the last of Sam Sykes; possibly not the last of the adventuring team that survives Aeons’ Gate, either. That works for me. I for one am anticipating whatever Sykes is serving up next.

Book Review: Quantum Coin

Quantum Coin the sequel to Fair Coin, by E.C. Myers, is a marvelously complex jaunt through the theories of quantum theory and the concepts of parallel universes.

In this sequel, our teen heroes — Ephraim, Jena and Nathan — and several of their alternate universe analogs, are called upon to save the multiverse. It’s been nearly a year since Ephraim ‘wished’ himself into a better situation and lived through the chaos that caused, and the quantum coin has been calm and hangs around his now-girlfriend Jena’s neck as a gift. Life has settled to relative normalcy.

Enter Zoe, Jena’s analog from a parallel universe. Her untimely entrance at senior prom challenges any conception of ‘normalcy’ for Ephraim and Jena, and her news about the unstable multiverse and Ephraim’s possible contribution to that status, completely dissolves the ‘normal’ concept.

There is some true science, as well as science fiction  in this novel.  There is a whole new spin on inter-personal relations when that other person  may be another version of oneself. There is complexity of the heart when one version of a girl is more attractive to a fellow than another version of the same girl. There is some mystery and sleuthing, a bit of subterfuge, and even a little social consciousness. What there is not is predictability.

I had great fun reading this book. It’s the sort of book that pulls one along as the next development is just around the corner. It’s a good premise and a good read.

 

Book Review: Fair Coin

Fair Coin by author E.C. Myers is a whirlwind of a tale. The story begins with teenaged Ephraim coming home from school one day to find his mother unconscious at the kitchen table. She’d attempted suicide. As if that weren’t disturbing enough, Ephraim discovers the reason. His mother has identified his — Ephraim’s — body at the hospital.  To her, he was dead.  She’d had his belongings to prove it.

As Ephraim was puzzling through his dopelganger’s things, he came across a coin with unusual properties. Each time he makes a wish and flips the coin, things are changed in unexpected ways. His mother, his love interest, and his best friend Nathan are the most — and least — constant in these changes.

Here’s the thing. The minute the changes start, and because the reader thinks they’re wishes, the impression is that this is more of a fantasy genre novel than a sci fi.  I don’ t know about anyone else, but that sets my perception of a novel. Then, several chapters in, the reader and Ephraim start gathering  information.  We learn through various and surprising human sources that we’re dealing NOT with wishes, but with science.

At that point, a whole new perception, vocabulary, and story begin.  Our main characters’ movements become deliberate and no longer random. Ephraim grows as a character in pretty profound ways, acquires ‘new’ friends, and comes to informed and intelligent conclusions.  A point of view very different from the Ephraim on page one, who wants to wish away the bad things in his life.

The element of the unknown, the suspense of who will do what with or to whom, and the eventual resolution of the story are engaging, interesting, and really fun to read.   It’s something of a cautionary tale with interesting cultural and scientific references lending substance.  Read and enjoy.

Book Review: The Rift Walker

If you think there cannot possibly be another good series with vampires at its core, you should have a look at the Vampire Empire series by Clay Griffith and Susan Griffith.  I began the series in the middle, because The Rift Walker came across my desk first. Although starting at book two works with this series — the book stands alone fairly well — I will definitely be reading the first book in the series, as well.

The series takes place in the world we know…geographically. The story and technology are in the steampunk style, however, and the history is a bit different from what we may have learned in grade school. Airships are key to the plot and steam driven machines abound; vampires do not live in secret but in clans with hierarchies and conflicts no different from their human counterparts.

The story, at its heart,  is a continuation of the tale of Greyfriar and Adele. Romance between a human and a vampire is never easy. Romance between a human Princess and a vampire Prince is just that much more complicated. The story is not just about romance though. There’s intrigue, politics, subterfuge, and battle.  The combination keeps the story moving at a pretty steady clip.  I never lost interest.

Fans of steampunk, vampires and fantasy all will all find this series a satisfying read.  Go get your copy today!

 

Book Review: Hearts of Smoke and Steam

I had a very difficult time putting down Hearts of Smoke and Steam, Book 2 in the Society of Steam and sequel to The Falling Machine.  The Paragons were not in such a great state at the end of The Falling Machine, and Lord Eschaton and his Children were making strides. Tom, The Automaton, was undone, and Sarah Stanton had had a falling out with her father, the Paragon known as The Industrialist.

The beginning of this book finds Sarah living on her own without the comforts she’d known her whole life; the greatly diminished Paragons are interviewing to expand their ranks; the Children of Eschaton are also growing in force; and our story is just waiting to unfold.

There is a struggle between good and evil in the beings of fortified steam (The Paragons) and fortified smoke (Lord Eschaton).  The Paragon team takes a whipping,  but does regain a valuable ally.  The Children of Eschaton don’t win the day, but they cause some serious mayhem.  The clockwork heart of Tom the Automaton is at the heart of the struggle.  Sarah has it; Lord Eschaton wants it.

In the early chapters, Sarah meets a Paragon enthusiast in an incident on a ferry. Emilio Armando helps Sarah in a epic battle against the Child of Eschaton known as Bomb Lance. The excitement of that battle, which starts on the ferry, has Sarah and Emilio traveling up anchor lines to the great blimp from where the attack is housed, and ends with the two crash landing the remains of the vehicle into the junkyard owned and inhabited by Emilio and his sister Viola, is a tenor carried throughout the book.

The cliffhanger ending and the mysterious protagonist known as Anubis call the reader to the next installment of the The Society of Steam as surely as a dinner bell calls family to meals.  One must respond, salivating en route. This is a great read.  Because the reader is now fully comfortable with the steampunk heroes and villains, I believe it’s an even better read than the first.

I applaud Andrew P. Mayer and his creation of superheroes and supervillains whose abilities are the result of science and mechanics. It makes them more plausible, in my mind, and even more possible.  As in real life, it is the nature and experiences of the people using the applications that decides if they’re steampunk alter egos will work for good or evil.  Also, as in real life, evil can be turned to a better way of living, and good can be made to step over the line to the dark side.

Book Review: Down to the Bone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a great way to end a series.  Down to the Bone is Book Five in Justina Robson’s Quantum Gravity series, and in my opinion, is the best of the bunch.  Lila Black — the sexy, shape shifting, polygamous, cyborg heroine — and her motley crew go on their final and biggest adventure to resolve personal and multi-dimensional issues.

There’s resolution of some sort for everyone, but only after heart-rending, life threatening tasks that give the reader no clear clue as to the direction the final hour will take. Our trio/quartet of main characters are themselves, but not.  Each has morphed to another level of being.  Lila is plugged into the Signal 24/7 these days. She has the ability to change her appearance at will.  Zal, the demon rock-star and one of Lila’s two spouses, lives as a shadow which is given form by firelight. Teazle, Lila’s other husband, is on his way to becoming an angel.

This trio and a good sized supporting cast must return the dead to their world, manage the ancient evils that are also attempting to enter this world, and deal with the personal revelations that come to each along the way. The journey is gripping for all, including the reader. I believe Robson chose the perfect exit for the Quantum Gravity group. It’s well written, plot rich, character heavy, and a heck of a ride.

I’m hoping Lila et al find their way into another Robson creation. I’ll miss them, and I still maintain that this series would really lend itself well to anime or graphic novel format.

Book Review: Black Halo

Black Halo is book two in Sam Sykes’ Aeons’ Gate Series.  If you’re looking for an easy going beach read with simple characters and a twist-free plot, this ain’t your story.  Also, I’ve made notes in past reviews about starting a series in the middle.  I have not read book one of this series, and with Sykes’ penchant for character depth, that made it slow getting into this book.  Still and all, the six companions specifically are memorable.

The plot is direct, but most assuredly not twist free.  That’s not a bad thing.  Things veer off course fairly regularly.  The point of this particular book is to get the tome retrieved in book one from the Kraken Queen successfully and completely away from her. Our six companions and their various inner voices (i.e., demons, ancestors, gods and the Kraken Queen herself) and a little shipwreck make for a complex and action-filled read.

Add to the mix a heretic hunting wizard, alien warrior women with a lust for killing, and other disruptive forces, and you can see where the story line might get jiggled.

Honestly, I had a rough start jumping cold into this story line.  Starting at the very beginning would be a good thing with this series. Things do clarify as the story progresses, however.  It is very well written, rich in character and detail and cannot under any circumstances be considered dull…  I suspect the first book is similar, actionwise, so jump in from the beginning and consume the first two books of the Aeons’ Gate series.

 

Book Review: The Falling Machine

The Falling Machine, Book one of the Society of Steam, is Andrew P. Mayer’s first novel, and I found it a really interesting read.  The story is set in 1880′s Victorian New York with a very industrial feel.  The story opens when Sir Dennis Darby, the head of the Society of Paragons — a gentleman’s adventure club — is surprised upon the frame of the future Brooklyn Bridge and meets with an untimely, but very dramatic, demise.

Witness to this assassination are this story’s unlikely heroes Sarah Stanton, a 19th century woman with a 21st century intellect and drive, and the Automaton (aka Tom), the mechanical man that is Sir Dennis’ greatest achievement.  With Sir Dennis’ death and no other alternatives left to him but to tend to himself, Tom grows into a most interesting character throughout the development of the story. He and Sarah team up to get to the heart of this heinous crime.

The Society of Paragons is a really interesting group of gentleman.  Each has an heroic alter-ego and each has a mechanical outfit appropriate to his name and particular skill. Sir Dennis was involved in creating each of the costumes.  At the heart of the functionality of these otherwise improbable outfits is a substance called ‘fortified steam’.  The Submersible, for example, a German gentleman of some girth, could not comfortably don the diving suit he wore while manning the submarine that gives him his name without the help of Fortified Steam.

One thing about the Society struck me. A gentleman must present an application for membership, including an heroic personna and a philosophy. Mayer himself makes a wonderful statement on the nature of heroes and, really, a statement on the philosophy of the Paragons. “Most heroes were simply people with one or two skills that, with training and focus, could undeniably put them in a better class than the average man.” I like that.

Sarah is herself a force to be reckoned with. She flies under the radar because she is a woman in a man’s world. She is intelligent and independent and a perpetual annoyance to her Paragon father. Although she is unlikely ever to BE a Paragon, she has been raised around them, understands what they are, and functions as one throughout the story. And Tom is the perpetuation of the ongoing conundrum that is mechanical beings. Can they think independently, or not? Can they be trusted, or not? Are they practical even to create, or not?

I like Andrew Mayer. His story made me think some, smile some, and scowl some, all by his design. His imagery was both industrial and post-industrial. His characters are fallible and heroic at once. His teaming up of a woman and a machine to be his heroes was genius.

I’m looking forward already to the next installment of The Society of Steam.

Book Review: Age of Misrule: World’s End

World’s End is Book One in Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule.  This is one roller coaster ride of a story with really interesting heroes and really terrifying villains.  Chadbourn has a seriously dramatic and memorable way of painting scary. It’s successful in showing the dire circumstances awaiting the world, if it’s champions are not successful in thwarting the plan of the bad guys.

The story takes place in England; begins under London Bridge when Jack Churchill and Ruth Gallagher see a large, horrifying creature take the life of a man.  What follows is a race across England, with heroes gathering to fight the menace, and the menace with the advantage of age (they come from Celtic mythology), strength and number.  It’s really a pretty amazing tale that pulls the reader along pretty easily. It was really tough to put down. The human race’s champions are mere mortals and everything that implies. The subtext of the human interaction of those champions is as interesting as the battle to save the human race.

When Book One closes, the reader is left wondering if good really is and also what the final twist means for the next part of the story. I am looking forward to continuing the journey and can easily recommend this first volume. Kudos, Mark Chadbourn!!

Book Review: The Ragged Man

The Ragged Man, published by Pyr Books, is Book Four in Tom Lloyd’s Twilight Reign series. I have to say that this is the best so far, in my humble opinion. The characters are developed, the stage is set, the story rolls. I had a hard time putting down this book.

Lord Isak the White Eye Farlan Lord dies at the end of the last book after killing the son of the series bad guy, Kastan Styrax. Not knowing there was to be a Book Four, I was a little upset by the development. The onset of The Ragged Man reveals that although dead, there is a plan to bring back Isak. Minh the disenfranchised Harlequin retrieves and revives Isak to fight in the ongoing battle between good and evil.

The tension building through the story is as tangible as spring fog in New England. There are several subplots building to the battle that is the climax and that ultimately defines The Ragged Man. Isak’s return and involvement in the final battle is brief but dramatic. Still, it makes the point.

I am waiting with bated breath for the 5th  and final book in the Twilight Reign series. Lloyd is not gentle with his characters and a happy ending will most assuredly be bittersweet.  I’m girding my proverbial loins for the mixed feelings I’m certain will come at the end of book five…

Book Review: Chasing the Dragon by Justina Robson

Chasing the Dragon by Justina Robson is book 4 in the Quantum Gravity series. The heroine, Lila Black, is back with her entourage, and is fifty years in her own future, but only 15 minutes later than the ending of Going Under (Book 3). The dimensions have melded into one. Demons, elves, faeries and humans are crossing back and forth with abandon.  Her rock star, elf husband is mostly dead. Her demon husband Teazle is caught up in a conflict in Demonia.

Lila is still figuring out who she is; is still contending with her cyborg self.  She is still both a victim of humman emotion and a machine that reacts appropriately to threats. She is still an endearing character.  The character development is ongoing and circumstances and learning progresses for Lila.

There is a plethora of characters of all races, living and not-so-living. The many changes between dimensions are not as confusing as they could be. It’s clear when the reader is on Otopia, in Demonia, or elsewhere.  My favorite things, however, are Lila’s morphing clothing – which dresses her as it wills, frequently inappropriately and often funny, and mostly not as Lila would prefer – and her sword, which is currently hiding as a pen.

It takes a little reading to get into the rhythm of this book and the real action begins roughly half way through, but it’s still an interesting read.

I still say these books would make marvelous graphic novels.

 

Book Review: The Silver Skull

The Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn is the first in the Swords of Albion series. It’s a spy thriller based in an alternative Elizabethan era. There are historical figures, such as the Queen, mixed in with the fictional characters. The combination is well done, and it adds a surrealistic level to the tale.

At the heart of the action is our hero, Will Swyfte. Will is unusual as spies go, because everyone knows who and what he is.  By design. His successful foray against Phillip of Spain made him a national hero, and his carefully crafted public personna helps keep the people of England feeling safe and secure. In reality, he is a key player in Walsingham’s (another historical figure) spy network.

There is a marvelous supporting cast in this novel.  Dr. Dee (Walsingham’s Q) provides tools and information to the team.  The mysterious Unseelie Court is an appropriately dark Enemy. Elizabeth I is formidable against said Enemy.  Grace, sister to Will’s beloved and disappeared Jenny, is a perfect damsel in distress. The Silver Skull itself is a nasty business that controls who wears it but is controlled by another.

As is appropriate, many things are resolved by story end, but there are open issues to be addressed in the future installments of The Swords of Albion. Chadbourn’s writing draws the reader through his complex tale with relative ease. The incorporation of historical stuff adds an element of possibility, and the inclusion of sorcery and mystical characters keeps it fantasy. It’s big fun to read. I am already ready to read what Will Swyfte and Walsingham’s crew will get up to next.

Book Review: This Crooked Way

Morlock Ambrosius, the focal point of this story, is an old, odd, bent over man, who is simultaneously mysterious and transparent; pleasant and gruff; helpful and in the way. Whatever one might say about Morlock, he does weave an interesting story around himself.

The Crooked Way is, I think, a description of how Morlock’s goal in this story is attained. It certainly is not a direct route, and he certainly does not get there alone or unaided. What’s wonderful about this story is the telling. It’s not all third person with Morlock at the center. It starts and ends that way, but in the middle are interludes, and chapters told from the perspective of those brought in to Morlock’s maelstrom.

This device is highly effective, because the plot goes forward as the narrator changes. So, we are not hearing the same moment in time from different perspectives, but different moments in time from different perspectives. I’ve not seen this done this way before, and I truly liked it.

Also, there are interesting roadblocks put into the plot; interesting antagonists; interesting settings; very interesting twists and turns.

In sum, I have not read the first Morlock book, Blood of Ambrose, but I am definitely going to have to go back to it. Morlock is an interesting character, and Enge’s writing makes him more so. If you’re looking for a new author to read, give James Enge a go. I’m betting you’ll enjoy the trip.

Book Review: Ares Express

Ares Express is Ian McDonald’s marvelous and long awaited sequel to Desolation Road.  Mars is still the setting, but a Mars far in the future from that in Desolation Road. The railroad is still key, but the story line is fresh. It revolves around the person of  Sweetness Octave Glorious Honeybun Asiim 12th, her (mis)adventures, and an unforgettable supporting cast.

Sweetness has an ethereal shadow who she’s always believed was the spirit of her dead twin. The truth is at the root of Sweetness’ mission to find Devastation Harx.

Devastation Harx, a metaphor for evil in a person representative of every false prophet that ever garnered a following, is appropriately devious and conscience free, stealing others’ souls and property from his airship over Mars.

Grandmother Taal, who’s successful betting in a game of chance took 15 years off her age, is another character of note.  It is she who heads out from the Ares Express to bring back Sweetness, whose ill planned escape from that train set the story in motion.

There are also cameo, but plot necessary, visits by Dr. Alamantando and the Green Man, both introduced in Devastation Road.

The sensual undertones throughout the book, the colorful characters, the wit, the Martian background, the fusion fueled trains, and the ongoing battle of good vs. evil all contribute to making this a great read. Thank you, Mr. McDonald!

Review: The Grave Thief

The Grave Thief from Pyr Books, the next installment in The Twilight Reign series, finds everyone in shock at the events in Scree and evaluating where next to go.

Another level of intrigue is added in this book as human/deity alliances are forged and broken and hard decisions are made and kept.  Magic is more prevalent, too.  Tom Lloyd’s ability to tie together intricate and various threads of plot is a wonder.  I assumed, wrongly I might add, that this was the third installment of three.  Based on the cliffhanger ending, that is not the case.

The long-term plan of Azaer, the big bad, is starting to be understood by the heroes and their troops, and the will of the good guys to stand to the death and succeed is more clear to Azaer.  Lloyd’s characters grow and change right before us.  Lloyd shares the challenges of their decisions and the pain of their growth through the eyes of those characters.  It is a very effective means of communication to the reader, and has me looking for more.

Tom Lloyd’s writing, the story and the characters themselves are all very good reasons to invest in this series.  I’ve read a lot of this genre in my time, and I am not at all disappointed by The Twilight Reign.

Review: The Twilight Herald

The Twilight Herald by Tom Lloyd is Book Two in the trilogy The Twilight Reign.  I read the first book in the series , The Stormcaller, several months ago and was immediately taken in.  I cannot say how thrilled I was to read the second installation in the same year!  I have been so looking forward to it.

And I have not been disappointed.  Lloyd continues building the tapestry with Isak, the young white-eye, at its center.   Isak is not a perfect hero, which makes him more relatable.  His learning curve is rapid, his skills prodigious, his friends and followers fiercely loyal, and his enemies and unlikely allies fascinating and memorable.

In this book, there is an malicious force at work in the city of Scree.  All manner of beings are drawn to the city and worked into the fabric of the drama –  figuratively and literally, as it happens.  We are led via these various characters to a dark and dramatic finale that is, at the same time, no finale at all.  Scree is returned to its residents, but at such high cost.  All are marked by the events at Scree.

The family Vukotic, the vampires in the weave, are painted as rather noble but tortured creatures and behave as such.  I am particularly taken with this derivative of vampire.  Each teller of vampire tales adds his or her own twist to the legend.  There are certain rules that follow the fictional race, but a conscience is certainly the exception.  It works well, here.

There are other things at play in the story that are of definite interest, as well.  There are magical skulls, each with a name and a different something to offer who holds it.  As with many magical artifacts, traditionally, the price of ownership and/or use of a skull is massive.  The deities, major and minor, are fallible and can be petty.  The populace is frequently pawns in the games of the mighty.  The white-eye race is developed with others beyond Isak.

I have nothing but high praise for Tom Lloyd and this series. The careful and rich development of plot and characters is exactly right, in my opinion.  As with The Stormcaller, I have no reservation in recommending this book.

Review: The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself  is the first book in Joe Abercrombie’s trilogy “The First Law” and is also Abercrombie’s amazing first novel. In April of this year, I came to have the third book in this trilogy, Last Argument of Kings, and I decided to read it as a standalone and not wait ’til I could acquire Book One.  It did stand alone…easily.  I had questions, however, and knowing that I’d started at the end, I went back to the beginning to see if there were answers.  When one starts at the beginning of a story, this is usually not an option, so I was happy to take the opportunity.

My curiosity was mostly about Glokta, the Inquisitor who’d once been a champion. Was he that champion in the first book?  Will we learn how he came to be who he is now?  Then, there’s the crew that went on the quest for ‘The Seed’.  How did their relationships develop and change?  What is behind the veiled references to past events in each of their lives?  How did these people all find each other?

I got answers.  Glokta is already his Inquisitor self in The Blade Itself, BUT there is considerably more back story on him.  The same is true of the other central characters.  Knowing already where they finish, I found it fascinating to see where everyone started in this story.  In many ways, there is a giant chess game played out over three volumes, and one could look at it in two ways.  Either everyone is a pawn….or no one is.  Well, that’s not entirely true, there is one person who is played from the beginning, and really, the reader is kind of happy to see it.  Even though all the characters are being played to some degree, each has his or her own self to put into play and that makes for somewhat unexpected outcomes.

Abercrombie’s visceral description of battle that I noted in Last Argument of Kings is no less so in The Blade Itself.  The entire story, despite the number of characters, flows easily and draws the reader from word to word.  The character development is wonderful; the story is dramatic; the details are relevant.  Abercrombie’s use of soliloquy offers insight that might otherwise not be offered.

I can easily recommend this trilogy to lovers of fantasy, as well as anyone who appreciates a good story written well. I was thinking to read this first volume and, having read the third, let it lie.  Now, I see I’m going to have to read Book Two, Before They are Hanged, as well… Such a sacrifice…