April 9, 2020

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: 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: 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.