50-Word Reviews – December 2015

Despite holiday insanity and going to see Star Wars twice, I got a lot of reading done last month. Some of it was great, some of it not so much.

Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel by Glen Cook

The first Black Company omnibus was awesome, and I loved the continuation of the story of Croaker and the surviving mercenaries in Shadow Games. The focus on Croaker and Lady figuring out themselves was particularly well done, and the new world and characters added were deeper, I think, than some of the previous characters.

Sadly, Dreams of Steel was much, much weaker. Cook changes the first-person narration to Lady, while keeping Croaker in the story – a decision that made no sense to me, when continuing to focus on Croaker would have been much more interesting. Several key characters are missing, and overall this is a much weaker story.

Extended side note: I didn’t finish the third book in this omnibus, which is a flashback to previous characters – I’m not a huge flashback fan, especially for an entire book length. Having read the description for the next omnibus, which focuses on another narrator while keeping Croaker and Lady in the story, I think I’m done with the Black Company series.

Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann

This is a very tight, very well-done fantasy horror with a clear mythos, a flawed character, and several neat twists on dragons, substance abuse, family tradition, and the idea of hunting monsters. Yes, it’s all in there, and it’s brilliant.

chasing-the-dragon

Second Contacts, edited by Michael Rimar and Hayden Trenholm

Bundoran Press has put together an excellent collection of stories focused on what happens after first contact between species, sometimes involving humans and sometimes not. There’s a wide variety of stories here, and not one left me thinking, “Well, that one was so-so.” My personal favorites: “Free Radical” by David Tallerman, “As Above, So Below” by Matt Moore, “Grief” by K.G. Anderson and “Look, Don’t Touch” by Holly Schofield.

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Turn Coat and Changes by Jim Butcher

I’m a huge Dresden Files fan, but so far Turn Coat (#11) is the weakest entry in the series, for me. Though there are some good character points, I feel like this novel was a service piece, moving characters into their necessary places to set things up for future books. Particularly Changes (#12), to which I have to say this:

Fuck you, Jim Butcher, you fucking talented bastard. How dare you get me so attached to the characters in this series that I spent the entirety of Changes with my heart in my throat, desperate to see what was going to happen. And fuck you for that final scene between Harry and Murphy, and then what happens on the next fucking page – because that is the best possible way to have written that scene, as much as it drove me fucking crazy.

Okay, I feel better now.

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