Goodreads Review – The Shepherd’s Crown

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld, #41; Tiffany Aching, #5)The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fifth and final Tiffany Aching book and final Discworld novel is all too short due to the passing of Sir Terry Pratchett, my favorite author, in 2015. While it does tell a complete story, many elements are severely shortened and underdeveloped, leaving to an unfortunately underwhelming final tale.

Although I adored the first novel in the Tiffany Aching series, the rest of the series has been very up and down. I love Pratchett’s humorous and insightful writing style, but the series is less about Tiffany dealing with fun fantastical threats (as in the first novel), and more a series of coming-of-age teenage dramas.

The Shepherd’s Crown seems to even lack that, as by the fifth book Tiffany has come into her own as a witch of The Chalk. The passing of a major series character is a pivotal moment that’s done very well, but everything else falls a bit flat, including an all new side character who’s kind of pointless (yet given a lot of pages on his own), and the return of the elves which is resolved way too neatly. At under 300 pages it’s clear the book was left unfinished in many areas, and I suspect much of the novel’s praise was given due to the finality of the series and Prachett’s lifetime of amazing work.

Even so, I enjoyed The Shepherd’s Crown more than the second and third novels. Pratchett still makes me grin like nobody else, and finishing this book made me sad all over again that the world lost such a treasured soul.

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Goodreads Review – The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3)

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3)The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Phenomenal. The conclusion of The Broken Earth trilogy was everything I wanted and more. The emotional, epic climax between mother and daughter. The fate of the world. The history of the stone eaters. The slow-burn of the second book developing the relationship of Nassun and Schaffa paved the way for an emotionally-gripping finale.

I adored the intimate glimpse into the far-flung past (which is still our future) that sets up the cataclysmic world, how it broke, and how to fix it. Jemisin is an expert world-builder, yet always remains focused on the few but fantastic characters.

Every SF/F fan needs to read The Broken Earth trilogy, and I look forward to reading more of her work.

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Goodreads Review – The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2)

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2)The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish Goodreads allowed half-stars. As much as I still adore Jemisin’s writing and world-building, I didn’t quite love the second novel in The Broken Earth trilogy as much as the first.

*VAGUE SPOILERS BELOW*

I was fascinated with the character evolution of Schaffa, but his (and Nassun’s) storyline plods along slower than I would have liked. Likewise I didn’t expect Essun to remain in Castrima for the entirety of the novel, though I enjoyed the socio-political developments, interesting minor characters, and the climactic battle. The best parts were learning about the fascinating world and history, and a much deeper dive into the stone eaters, as well as the awesome and satisfying reveal of the first-person narrator.

Make no mistake, this is still a 5-star series, and an incredible blend of apocalyptic sci-fi, fantasy, great characters, and excellent world-building.

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Goodreads Review – Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4)

Cibola Burn (The Expanse, #4)Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth Expanse book almost has the opposite problem of the third book, it sets up the characters, setting, and conflict in an exciting way, then drags on for most of the second half of the book.
Cibola Burn tackles early settlement of the first of the new worlds opened up by the gates at the end of the third book. A renegade group of Belters were the first through the gate, and by the time a giant corporation ship from Earth arrives to document, research, and set up facilities, the squatters/settlers are already entrenched, leading to political conflict, especially when the squatters sabotage the newly arrived ship.
In comes James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante to mediate. The human drama take precedent over the exotic alien planet, but the new characters (including a returning old one from the first book) are all solid new additions, particularly the villainous Murtry and passionate scientist Dr. Elvi Okoye.
A cataclysmic event separates the two halves of the novel, and the second half slows to a crawl as we transition into man vs nature. There are two main storylines, and the orbiting ships in space becomes way more interesting and action-packed than the plodding survival story on the planet’s surface.
I still love this series and the characters are fantastic, but so far most of them could benefit from better pacing and about 100 fewer pages.

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Goodreads Review – The Brightest Night (Wings of Fire #5)

The Brightest Night (Wings of Fire, #5)The Brightest Night by Tui T. Sutherland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More than the other books in the Wings of Fire series, The Brightest Night has a distinct three act structure. The first act is lame, as Sunny is separated from the others in an incredibly stupid way. The entire plot is ramping up from the last two novels with the RainWings and NightWings but Sunny’s tale begins to feel like an annoying side jaunt that we shouldn’t have time for.
Act 2 picks up as we get a deeper look at the Sandwings, and Sunny’s unique family, including the return of old characters and a nifty Game of Thrones style battle.
Act 3 suddenly thrusts the overarching plot back into the lime light as our heroes decide how to stop the war. Everything wraps up a bit too neatly, yet I also appreciate that the entire SandWing Civil War
and Dragonets of Prophecy plot is solved, not dragged on through book after book.
Ultimately it’s a satisfying conclusion to these characters and the first series arc, and landing somewhere in the middle of my ranking of the first five novels.

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Gaming Backlog Final Thoughts – Rise of the Tomb Raider

Playing through all the Uncharted games last year may have ruined Tomb Raider for me.

Adventuring through my backlog of games, one game at a time. 

Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Played On: PlayStation 4

A funny thing happened on my way to playing the second game of the rebooted Tomb Raider trilogy: I played all five Uncharted games. Particularly Uncharted 4 and The Lost Legacy have set my personal standard for cinematic third-person action games. I couldn’t help but constantly compare them to everything that annoyed me about Rise of the Tomb Raider, resulting in an experience that is middling at best.

The Uncharted comparisons are not entirely fair. Rise of the Tomb Raider precedes Uncharted 4 by a year, but such is the curse of backlog gaming!

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Goodreads Review – The Dark Secret (Wings of Fire #4)

The Dark Secret (Wings of Fire, #4)The Dark Secret by Tui T. Sutherland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coming off the strongest book of the series thus far is the weakest. The Dark Secret picks up on the interesting major plot thread left dangling at the end of Book 3 and explores the mysterious Nightwings, whom we know nothing about.

The problem is we’re left with only the PoV character, Starflight, completely separated from the rest of the dragonets for about 90% of the book. The Wings of Fire books are best when the diverse group can play off each other, and this one suffers for almost completely lacking that interplay. It doesn’t help that the neurotic hand-wringing (talon-wringing?) Starflight is one of the weakest and least likable characters.

The actual secret is disappointingly predictable and Nightwing society isn’t nearly as interesting as others we’ve seen. Yet even a weak Wings of Fire book is still pretty good; it’s well written and well paced, and the climax is suitably exciting. But compared to the first three it’s definitely a small step down.

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