Random Review: Warbound by Larry Correia

This review does not contain spoilers.

Book Name: Warbound
Author: Larry Correia
Series: Book #3, The Grimnoir Chronicles
Publisher(s): Baen
Format(s): Hardcover/Mass market Paperback/Audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Historical fiction/Fantasy/Paranormal
Release Date: August 6, 2013

Rating: 10/10

When I started reviewing books I was told by a couple of other reviewers that many times the best books are the hardest to write about because the reviewer often tries too hard to tell how good the book was. This is the case with Warbound, Larry Correia’s third and likely final book in the Grimnoir Chronicles. Like Hard Magic and Spellbound Correia paints an incredible picture of his alternate history world of an Earth in the early 20th century where a small percentage of the population is suddenly endowed with magical abilities. Of that small group and even smaller group has powers that are pretty powerful.

The catch is those “gifted” by magic can do only one thing. The main character in the first two books, Jake Sullivan, is a Heavy that can alter gravity. There are others who are things like Torches (who control fire), Cogs (who build things), Crackler (who control electricity/lighting), and fades (teleporters). Warbound is centered around Faye Vierra, who is the “Spellbound”. As a child she was believed to be a fade, but now she can perform any magic she wishes. The previous two books of “The Grimnoir Chronicles” explain why people suddenly got magic and why Faye is able to absorb powers from others. I won’t spoil it, you should read Hard Magic and Spellbound to find out why.

Like many of Correia’s book there are lulls in the action where he fleshes out characters, which has sort of become his trademark. Nearly every character of meaning in his books at some point gets a well detailed backstory, and it’s obvious they are not just things suddenly thrown together. They are precise and well thought out, and really help bring out the story. Written in the old “pulp” style it would be easy to over do it, but in Warbound Correia’s backstories are written to near perfection.

If you’re into action sequences you won’t be disappointed as that is another of Correia’s strengths. Warbound has plenty of them, and in a fantasy setting it would be easy to way over board with some of the things the characters do Correia somehow manages to both be subtle and “in your face” at the exact same time. The battles between the Imperium of Japan and the Knights of the Grimnoir are written so well that, as funny as this sounds, because there’s no way effects can match the picture Correia paints they would probably make for a bad movie. What they do is make for an incredible book.

One of my favorite parts of Warbound (and “The Grimnoir Chronicles”) are the made up quotes from (mostly) famous people at the beginning of each chapter. My guess is that must have been one of the hardest parts of the book for Correia to write. There are a couple of misses among them, but for the most part they are really spot on as to what the person would have likely said.

All in all, an incredible finish to one of the best trilogies written in a long while.

Some random book thoughts for December 2013

So off we go on December’s book thoughts…

After a couple of starts and stops (some of which I described last month) I finally had time to restart King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels. It’s the conclusion of the “King Rolen’s Kin” series and picks up right where the third book, The Usurper, ends. It was three years between the release dates of the books and it was worth the wait. The ending is almost anticlimactic, with the final battle between the two main protagonists taking less than a single page. Looking back on the entire story the “winner” really doesn’t win anything he wants, which is what the four book series is ultimately about. Daniels ties up most of the lose ends of the story very well, although it wouldn’t take much for a new series taking place afterward to emerge. One can only hope…

Next up was Swords of Exodus by Larry Correia and Mike Kupari. It’s the continuation of the story they started in Dead Six, and while it contained much of the same flavor as the first book it was nowhere near as good. It was a no better than the average action-adventure story, and when you consider how good Correia’s other series are it really missed its mark. The plot was little more than an excuse to write about multiple killings by the heroes and brought absolutely nothing new to the table. To be blunt, I expected better from Correia.

Having finished Swords of Exodus I was looking for something quick to read while I waited for Tom Clancy’s final book, Command Authority, to come out (more on that below), so I grabbed Devil’s Bargain by Tony Daniel off the to-read shelf. It’s one of those Star Trek Original Series pulp-style novels so I knew it would be nothing but light reading. I laughed throughout the book, which is not a good thing considering it wasn’t written to be a comedic novel. It pretty much hit on every Star Trek cliché you could come up with: it mentioned Khan, it had Spock mind-melding with the Horta multiple times, and of course Captain Kirk having sex with a beautiful if only marginally alien woman. The only thing missing was Scotty yelling that The Enterprise “cannea take much more of this”, although I’m betting the original draft of the story contained that as there are two places where that would have fit perfectly. It could have been worse, I guess.

The book I just stated today was Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David, because after looking at my schedule for the upcoming week or so I don’t know when I’ll make it to grab the new Clancy tome. That’s the only book I know of that I’ll be buying this month, although one never knows what I might find. In November I finally grabbed The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu, but still have not picked up Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron). That one might get pushed off into the new year.

Other books I picked up last month were Himmler’s War and Rising Son by Robert Conroy, and A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin. I also bought a couple omnibus editions and The Ninth Circle by R.M. Meluch, which are the books of his “Tour of the Merrimack” series. The to-read shelf is started to grow wildly again. I guess I could pick worse things than books to be addicted to.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for October 2013

Looks like this is going to turn out to be a very long post, so let’s get right to it…

As I mentioned in last month’s posting 13 Million Dollar Pop by David Levien was the next up from the “to-read” shelf. Just like two of his earlier detective books books, City of the Sun and Where The Dead Lay, 13 Million Dollar Pop is a pulp-style story featuring detective Frank Behr. This novel is a little different in that Behr is no longer working on his own but is instead working for a top level detective/investigation agency. With plot points reminiscent of John Grisham’s The Firm Levien weaves and interesting story centering around a failed attempt on the life of someone Behr was assigned to protect. While the book probably won’t win too many awards it was an enjoyable read.

Next came The Keepers of the Library by Glenn Cooper, which is the third book in an (at least as far as I can figure out) unnamed trilogy centering on an ancient hidden library. It is a very good series that is unlike anything I’ve read before. The first two books, Secret of the Seventh Son (AKA Library of the Dead) and Book of Souls are pretty much “must reads” to understand what is going on in The Keepers of the Library because they whole theme of the trilogy is set up in the first half of the first book. Cooper tells a great tale here, and I’m hoping his other novels get released in the US soon.

Third up was Dan Brown’s Inferno, a book I wasn’t planning on reading for some time as I don’t buy Brown’s books in hardcover. I was lucky enough to arrange a “trade” of sorts with a friend who had purchased it. He took several of the paperbacks I’d already read and lent me his copy of Inferno. A “win” for both of us.

Like all of Brown’s books Inferno is about as improbable a story as you can get, but he still hooks readers in with his great high-paced storytelling style. Despite a glaring math error (saying what it is will spoil the book) Inferno still delivers on multiple fronts. His plot twist that sets up the finale might not hold up well on a second reading when one can read the story knowing the outcome, but it doesn’t detract from the book so much that it fails. Fans of Brown will not be disappointed with Inferno.

One of my much anticipated September purchases, W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton, interrupted the book I had started and the 23rd book in the “Alphabet series” featuring Kinsey Millhone was the best one yet. Grafton has really hit her stride the last few novels and despite writing for the same main characters for so long is still able to keep it fresh and manages to add so much more information about each of them without contradicting herself and her previous books. What’s really amazing is there has been no real duplication of major plot points in the 23 books except for the ones that were intentional. That in itself is an incredible feat. I gave it five stars on Goodreads.

The book I was briefly reading after Inferno that was interrupted by W is for Wasted was A Blight of Mages by Karen Miller. It’s the prequel to the four released books in Miller’s “Kingmaker, Kingbreaker” universe, and despite knowing where the book had to end up it was a great story told by Miller. Looking at many of the reviews afterward I think people really missed the key component of the story: that someone treated as a god in the later books actually lead a significantly “less than a god-like” life while they were alive. The only negative about the novel was brought up on a blog post I forgot to bookmark so I can’t reference it (sorry to whomever it was) that said like the other four books in the series A Blight of Mages could have (and maybe should have) been broken into two books. There was a lot more story to tell that Miller glossed over, and a second book would have been great for those things.

The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu was a book I picked off the shelf when it was released just because the cover caught my eye, and the details on the back sounded interesting and amusing so I bought it. The Lives of Tao is a very good story, but I can tell you for certain the blurb on the front by Myke Cole “…laugh-out-loud funny…” is absolutely untrue. There is nothing in the book that is laugh-out-loud funny, and I’m hoping that people looking for something like that and not getting it don’t overlook how good The Lives of Tao really is. It’s nothing new by any stretch of the imagination and has a well used plot device, but it’s a very good start to what could be a decent series.

After finishing The Lives of Tao I was in a little bit of a quandary. I didn’t want to start a long book because a couple days later a book I really wanted to read, King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels, was being released and I didn’t feel like doing what I did with A Blight of Mages and putting down one book for another so I was reluctant to start anything. As luck would have it while looking for something in some boxes still left unpacked from our move a year ago I stumbled into Casca: The Mongel that somehow ended up in a box with some other odds and ends. The book, like many of the others in the series before it, was credited to Barry Sadler (yes, that Barry Sadler) but was ghost written by others. It’s a very short book and I figured it was perfect for the time I had.

While I remember the other “Casca” books as being pretty good this one was downright terrible. Perhaps they were all this bad and in my youth I just thought they were good, but for whatever reason Casca: The Mongel is one of the worst books I’ve read in a long while. I gave it two stars, mostly because I did recall liking the earlier books. It should have been one star, but I can’t see anyone purposely going out to get the book over that one extra star so I’ll just leave it as it is and move on.

To make matters even worse, when I went out a week ago last Tuesday to get King Breaker my local Barnes & Nobel didn’t have it on the shelf yet and no one there could answer to me if they even had copies in the store (more on that later). So after ordering King Breaker I again was faced with what to grab next. I had recently picked up a few remaindered “Star Trek” paperback to have in the car in case I needed an “emergency book”, so I grabbed one of those. Weight of the Worlds by Greg Cox is an incredibly average book. It’s a stereotypical Star Trek original series story that brings nothing new to the table. After finishing it I could see why it was remaindered. Unless you’re a die-hard Star Trek fan don’t bother with this one. Of course if you are you likely already have it. I just hope you didn’t pay full price.

For books I picked up last month there was the previously mentioned W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton. Because I was unable to get neither King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels nor Swords of Exodus by Larry Correia & Mike Kupari on the day they were released I ordered both from Amazon. The real winner there is N.K. Jemisin, as for me to get to the $25 level for free shipping I went off my “get from Amazon when you need to” list and picked up A Killing Moon and The Shadowed Sun. As soon as I mash the “publish” button I’ll be starting King Breaker.

The list of stuff I’m looking forward to this month is pretty short, so far just being Chu’s sequel to The Lives of Tao called The Deaths of Tao. Last month Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Tony Venables was on my “look at” list, and as I didn’t get a chance to I’ll likely look for it on Friday.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for September 2013

With the unofficial end of summer just behind us we’ll jump right into this month’s random look at all of the books I’ve read since my last update. I guess by definition looking at something specific isn’t random, but that’s the motif I use here so we’ll just have to go with it.

As I ended last month’s post I had just started Crucible of Gold, the seventh book in Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series. The first five books of the series were really, really good and I gave each of them a four out of five rating on Goodreads. Unfortunately, just as her sixth book Tongues of Serpents missed the mark so did Crucible of Gold.

All fiction is contrived, that’s sort of the whole concept of “fiction”. But while Novik was able to have a rational basis for the actions of the characters in the first five books the last two were really about placing Captain Will Laurence and Temeraire in situations that didn’t really match what had come before. It was as if Novik had a bunch of cool ideas for stories but had no way to logically place either of them in the locations she wanted the action to take place. And for me that really detracted from the story.

Based on the ending of Crucible of Gold it appears Novik has done it again in the next installment, Blood of Tyrants. That won’t be out in paperback for a long while, but as I’ve hung on with the series this long I will undoubtedly be buying it. Who knows how long it will sit on the to-read shelf though.

I then moved on to the second book on the “Wayfarer Redemption” series, Enchanter. Just like the first book in the series I gave Enchanter five out of five on Goodreads because that’s the maximum it can be given. I’m kicking myself for not having read this series earlier. I bought both The Wayfarer Redemption and Enchanter years ago, an educated guess says it was in the fall of 2002. I got them at BJ’s Wholesale Club, along with the first two books in Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s Legacy” series, Kushiel’s Dart and Kushiel’s Chosen, off a paperback remainders table.

I started Carey’s books within a couple weeks (my to-read shelf was very small back then, just about always under 15 books) and my wife started reading Douglass’ series. I picked up the next two books in the series soon after and my wife raved about them, but for some reason despite seeing them sitting on the shelf all this time I never got around to reading them.

After reading Enchanter my plan was to read Power Down by Ben Coes and then jump right back to the third “Wayfarer Redemption” novel, but I was absolutely sucked in by Coes and his protagonist Dewey Andreas. Without a doubt Coes is not yet in the class of Brad Thor or Vince Flynn, but in Andreas Coes has created a superhero–literally missing only the cape–whose actions are so over the top and implausible that it reads more like a science fiction novel than thriller/action-adventure. And I loved every single minute of it.

Coes keeps the action up in Coup d’Etat, where Andreas–who technically isn’t even in the employ of the US or its agencies–is sent into Pakistan to topple their government. Oh yeah, and he has less than 48 hours to accomplish this. The story continues in The Last Refuge as Andreas is once again thrust into an unbelievable situation involving Iran, a kidnapped Israeli commando, and a nuclear weapon. That almost sounds like the beginning to a bad joke, but what it turns out to be is a page turner.

A fourth novel by Coes is out in hardcover, Eye For An Eye. It will be a long time before it hits a paperback release, but if Coes keeps the pace up like he did in the first three it will be worth the wait.

With the Coes three out of the way it was back to Douglass’ “Wayfarer Redemption” series and the final book in the first trilogy, Starman. This book is a little different from the first two as all the plot lines begin their convergence into a single story where eventually the Starman takes on his evil half-brother Gorgrael. What’s surprising about the novel is many things that seem like fantasy to the characters turn out to be reality, and vice-versa. Like the other two books it’s incredibly well written and once again I gave it five out of five. Starman is a great ending to a great story, a story that took nearly 2,000 pages to tell. And even down to the last page Douglass holds her readers’ attention.

It’s a shame that Douglass left us far too early because I suspect she had lots more great stories to share. And if I’d only started those books sooner I could have let her know how great they were.

And just before post time I finished The Last Man by Vince Flynn, another great author that was taken from us at a far too young age by cancer. From the press releases it sounds like this may be his last book as The Survivor, which was supposed to be released this fall, is incomplete. Presuming Flynn left notes about the ending of the book the number of thriller/action-adventure writers of his caliber is very, very small and I can’t see any of them taking the time to finish his book. It appears that the bad guys may have finally found a way to kill Mitch Rapp.

Sitting on my desk waiting to be cracked open is 13 Million Dollar Drop by David Levien. The first two by Levien, City of the Sun and Where The Dead Lay, were well done pulp-style crime novels featuring detective Frank Behr. Levien’s main character is a stereotypical detective working through his own flaws while solving crimes. We’ll see how 13 Million Dollar Drop works out next month.

After not buying a book for two consecutive months I more than made up for it in August by adding 13 books to the collection. I just about never order books from Amazon, but because I couldn’t find copes of some stuff elsewhere I decided to just bite the bullet and buy them online. I got the last two of Douglass’ second trilogy under the “Wayfarer Redemption” banner, Pilgrim and Crusader. Last month I mentioned my twitter conversation with Rachel Aaron about the last two books of the “Eli Monpress” series not coming out in mass market editions because they were so long, so The Spirit War and Spirit’s End both arrived from Amazon in the trade paperback format. Aaron wasn’t kidding, these books are HUGE.

A stop at BJ’s yielded four books; the previously mentioned The Last Man, Neil Young’s autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, and two by Simon Toyne, Sanctus and The Key. At Barnes and Noble I bought the first two in Mark Lawrence’s “Broken Empire” series, Prince of Thorns and King of Thorns. In another stop I saw a large amount of remainder paperbacks and grabbed three of the recent “Star Trek: The Original Series” novels, which I may leave in the car for when I need to kill some time waiting somewhere.

September sees four books being released that I’m looking for. King Rolen’s Kin: King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniels hits the shelves later this month and that will be a “must buy” for me. The rest of the series has been outstanding and I have little doubt this one will be great too. Once again Larry Correia hooks up with Mike Kupari for the second book in the “Dead Six” series Swords of Exodus. If you’re into the kind of books I read and are not reading Correia’s “Monster Hunter” and “Grimnoir Chronicles” series, you should be. It’s some of the best stuff out there.

In the mystery genre Sue Grafton has W is for Wasted coming out in hardcover next week. Grafton is one of the few writers that I buy in hardcover, so that will likely never hit the to-read shelf and will be next up after whatever I’m reading when it comes out. One other new fantasy book looks cool, Hunter of Sherwood: Knight of Shadows by Tony Venables. It’s not a guarantee I’ll be buying it, but I most certainly will be lifting it off the shelf for a closer look.

Until next time…

Some random book thoughts for August 2013

It’s funny when people talk about the summer months being the time they get a lot of reading done because, at least so far, the exact opposite has been true for me. After flying through the run of all the Michael Connelly books this spring I turned my attention to my biennial run of the seven seasons of The West Wing, which cut into my reading time somewhat.

In my last book posting I has just started The Wayfarer Redemption by Sara Douglass. I rated the book five stars on Goodreads because I couldn’t rate it any higher. The book, the first of a six book series that’s broken into two trilogies, was so incredibly well written it was easy to visualize every single action that takes place in the book. The book sat on my “to read” shelf so long my wife, who rarely reads the same books I do, has read the first four books of the series and said each one gets better than the one before it. I probably should have just run right into the second book of the series, Enchanter, but a few books at the top the shelf drew me in, so on to them I went.

I started reading Brad Thor’s books before anyone knew who he even was, and even though he’s not in the class of a Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn his thrillers are great page turners that have all been top notch. Black List is Thor’s twelfth novel, and while none of them would be considered Pulitzer or Nobel type fiction each has been a fun read. This one might be his weakest book, and it does take a significant amount of time for Thor to get around to explaining why everything is happening, but the non-stop action more than makes up for the slowness of the final plot developing.

Next up was Monster Hunter Legion, the fourth book in the “Monster Hunter” series by Larry Correia. The world the book is based on is a simple one–it’s right here, right now. The big problem is all those monsters you’ve read about since childhood are real but most people don’t know it because the governments of the world hide the existence of them. That’s where the monster hunters come into play. They’re contractors that kill these monsters to collect the PUFF (Perpetual Unearthly Forces Fund) and to keep the regular citizens safe.

It’s a great idea for a series of books, and while a little over the top they’ve all been really good. The one issue Correia is having with the series is the first book, Monster Hunter International, was such a great read that the other three that have come out in the series pale in comparison. I gave Monster Hunter Legion an easy 4/5 on Goodreads, but graded on a curve against the first book Legion would struggle for a three. I’ll still keep grabbing them as they come out (and you should too if you aren’t) but it will be interesting to see of Correia can come up with a story that was a good as the first book.

Now I’m on Crucible of Gold, the seventh book in Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series set in the Napoleonic era where both sides have intelligent dragons. It’s a well thought out series, and despite wishing that Novik had kept the action in Europe she’s had Temeraire and William Laurence traipsing around the globe. Crucible of Gold begins with them in Australia, which at this point in history is a penal colony they’ve been exiled to because of Laurence’s conviction for treason against the Crown. As the book begins the Crown has come calling on Laurence to reinstate him to the Air Corps for an important mission. Laurence has some doubts. We’ll see how it turns out as the book moves along.

If you scan through last month’s posting you’ll see I forgot to add in the books I was looking forward to seeing released. Turns out that wasn’t an issue because there wasn’t any. For the first time in a very long while I picked up absolutely nothing in my trips to the book stores of the area. A list of science fiction/fantasy books for August shows that may happen again this month.

There was some news in the book world I can share though. There’s a huge download on Tor.com of some great short stories. It will only be up for a few more days, but it’s well worth the time to check it out. After waiting for the last two books of the “Eli Monpress” series by Rachel Aaron to be released in mass market editions I decided to tweet at the author to see if/when they were coming out. Aaron shared with me that because of their size they wouldn’t be released in paperback. I laughed at her line “This was partially my fault, I wrote them too long for MMPB format”. I guess I’ll forgive her and it looks like it will be the trade format for those two.

Until next time…

The best reason to not rely solely on an E-book reader

Last night my wife and I made our normal Saturday evening trek off to a local mall, which we do to get out of the house and grab some fresh air while getting a little exercise. Inevitably one of our stops is Barnes & Noble where we go to, as I like to put it, “visit the books”. Because I read a lot it’s not too often that there isn’t a new release from an author I follow, although I do admit to occasionally just taking note of the title–especially if it’s a best seller–and waiting until I get to one of the discount chains to grab it. But many of the authors I read don’t write in genres that make best seller lists, so it is rare for me to go more than a couple visits without some sort of purchase.

Now I have nothing against the technology of E-readers per se, and can see how they might be useful for people that travel a lot and don’t want to lug around a bagful of books, but for up and coming authors or those “non best seller” folks E-readers won’t exactly be great news in the long run. And in a world where paperbacks don’t exist an encounter such as happened last night wouldn’t have taken place, and a couple of authors might not have made two new fans.

As is my custom I wandered over to the science fiction rack where I checked out the new titles. There were a couple of new ones, Kevin J. Anderson’s The Map of All Things and Jadi Jones & Danielle Bennett’s Dragon Soul (their website is so outdated I’m not bothering to link to it). While browsing the rest of their stock I saw a young gentleman (20ish) taking a look at Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International. Having read that I mentioned to him how much I liked it and that it was well worth picking up (along with the second book, Monster Hunter Vendetta). He did grab them both, and we talked about some of the other authors we liked (he also had Anderson’s new book in his hand). Listening to our discussion was another gentleman in the aisle, who tossed in some of his opinions of his own. He also ended up grabbing both of the Monster Hunter books.

While we talked the second gentleman continued browsing and picked up a copy of Rowena Cory Daniells’ The King’s Bastard, which I’ve also read and loved. After talking about the series he ended up grabbing all three books of the King Rolen’s Kin trilogy, and the first gentleman grabbed the remaining copy of The King’s Bastard. I made note of a few of the series they talked about and we all went off on our own ways.

So two authors I enjoy reading have added two potential new fans, who will (hopefully) continue to buy their books. That likely wouldn’t have happened in an “e-book reader” dominated world.