Saturday, January 31, 2015

Tabula Rasa - Ruth Downie

    2014; 337 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book 6 (out of 6) in the Medicus series.  Genre : Historical Fiction; Crime Mystery.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Ruso must be getting old; he keeps losing things.  But this time it’s something really big – his clerk, Candidus.  Candidus is also the nephew of Ruso’s close friend, Albanus, who is on his way for a visit.

    Perhaps it is connected to the latest rumor that’s been spreading throughout the garrison like wildfire: that one of the native Briton boys claims he saw a soldier put a body in the wall which the Roman army is in the process of building.  But the rumor doesn’t say where or when, so even if it’s true, no one has any idea where in the wall to look.  And only a fool would want to start tearing down random parts of the emperor’s wall.

    Besides, Candidus wouldn’t be the first man to just up and walk away from the army.  Nor the first one to fall prey to the restless locals.  Heck, just recently they strung a soldier up by his feet, naked, and let the local bugs and critters nip at his flesh all night.  Hmm.  Someone’s gonna pay for that crazy bit of mischief.

    Still, Albanus will be sore disappointed if Candidus isn’t found by the time he arrives.  So Ruso better do some nosing around.

What’s To Like...
    Tabula Rasa is the latest installment in the Medicus series, and takes us to a new area of 2nd-century Roman-occupied Britain – the northern limit of the Empire’s reach in Britain - Hadrian's Wall.  As such, there is a greater focus on the life of the native tribes, which I liked a lot. Ruso (and the reader) are among Tilla’s people now, and we become acquainted with their gods, their psyche, and their way of life, even as they struggle to naintain their language and cultural identity.  The highlight of all this is the Festival of Samhain, which was a real delight to experience with Ruso.

    As a Historical Fiction novel, I thought this was Ruth Downie’s best book yet.  The linguistic modernisms (“mate”, “ain’t”, etc.) seemed “smoother” and less frequent, and if there were any anachronisms, I didn’t spot them.  A bunch of new characters are introduced, many whom I suspect will play recurring roles.  Senecio is particularly memorable.

    As a Mystery novel, this felt more like a Police Procedural than the other books I’ve read in this series.  Ruso investigates a pair of disappearances, and frankly, doesn’t have much to work with in either case. I l like Police Procedurals, so for me this was a plus.  But readers looking for a whodunit may find Ruso’s methodical ways, with the frequent red herrings and dead ends, feel like the story is sometimes spinning in its tracks.

    There’s still a decent amount of action, however.  And Downie’s trademark gentle-yet-wry humor keeps the storyline fresh and interesting.  Tilla is hit with some personal revelations, which was kewl and didn’t detract at all from the fact that I am not reading this series in order.  As always, this is a standalone novel, with an ending that wraps up all the plot threads quite nicely.

Kewlest New Word...
Hayrick (n.) : another word for “haystack”.

    “Candidus,” the watch captain repeated.  “Where is he?”
    “Haven’t seen him, sir.”
    “Not ever,” suggested the watch captain, “or just not lately?”
    The man scratched his head, as if this were too subtle a question for one who had only just woken up.
    “He arrived several days ago,” Ruso prompted.  “He was assigned to this tent.”
    “Ah,” said the man, apparently enlightened.  “Him.”  (loc. 1020)

    “Albanus knows nothing of people,” she told him, pointing one slender foot in the air and hiding it inside a sock.  “He spends too long with words and writing.  He thinks I am bad for you.”
    “I’m sure he’s never said that.”
    “He thinks I lead you into trouble.”
    “You do.”  (loc. 1855)

Kindle Details...
    Tabula Rasa sells for $9.99 at Amazon, and, since it is the newest release in this series, is understandably priced the highest.  The other Medicus books range in price from $1.99 (for the first novel) to $9.59.

“You’ve been so much more entertaining since you met Tilla and adopted the native tendency to overdramatize.”  (loc. 1658)
    I enjoyed Tabula Rasa as much as, if not a bit more than any of the other three books I’ve read in this series.  I can’t say whether this is due to the author's style and storytelling improving with each book, or if I’m just developing a better feel for what she’s trying to do with the series.  I will say that Tabula Rasa felt more polished, and that’s a good sign for things to come in this series.

    I admit it - I'm now hooked on Ruso and Tilla, and will probably read Terra Incognita (Book 2 in the series) as soon as it becomes available at my local digital library.  This whole series is highly recommended.

    8½ Stars.  Here's hoping Ruso and Tilla continue to find themselves moving to new parts of the Roman Empire.  It will be unsettling to them, but a treat for readers.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sims - F. Paul Wilson

    2003; 414 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Suspense-Thriller; Cri-Fi.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Oh, the possibilities of genetic engineering.  You can manipulate the genes of a chimpanzee to make something bigger, smarter, less hairy, and not so …well… chimp-looking.  But be careful to do these modifications to a limited extent so there’s no question that this new creature is still an animal, not a human.  To emphasize that distinction, let's call them “Sims”.

    At best, a sim will be a pet.  Or a work animal that can be trained to do certain menial jobs – maids, caddies, unskilled laborers, etc.  Since they’re less than human, they will legally be viewed as property.  Plus an exceptionally cheap labor source.  And since the company SimGen is the only company that knows how to make this "product", they are sitting on a corporate goldmine.

    But take care, SimGen.  Because for a new species in a new environment, adaptation can be a rapid process, no matter how much effort you make to keep every Sim docile, neutered, and identical.  You might be surprised at how fast your cranially-challenged critters can smarten up.

What’s To Like...
    The book is fast-paced, without any slow spots.  The requisite info dumps about genetic engineering are smoothly blended into the storyline.  The chapters are short, and the whole narrative is well-structured; the tension builds slowly and inexorably to a suspenseful conclusion.

    I liked the protagonist – Patrick Sullivan.  He is by trade a lawyer, but his simple legal motion pulls him into the violence and intrigue when things quickly escalate.  Yet his character is believable; when the rough stuff unfolds, don’t expect him to go all Rambo on the baddies.

    There are a bunch of mysteries for the reader to mull over.  What is SIRG?  What does “kree-“ mean?  Why is the one co-owner of SimGen acting so weird?  And most important of all, who the heck is Zero?  FWIW, I felt sure I had his identity pegged.  I was wrong.

    There are some cusswords and a couple adult situations, but nothing lurid.  The bad guys and the good guys play a keen cat-&-mouse game with each other, with each getting some surprise shots in.  There’s a smidgen of romance, but not enough to scare off male readers.  Sims is a standalone novel with a good ending.  There are a few loose ends that could be developed into a sequel, but frankly it’s not a necessity.

Kewlest New Word...
Pogue (n.) : military slang for non-combat, staff, and other read-echelon or support units who don’t have to undergo the stresses that the infantry does.  (pejorative, and pronounced "pog")
Others : Aborning (v.); Lumpen (adj.)

    “Life is chemistry, nothing more, nothing less.  When the chemicals are reacting, life goes on.  When the reactions stop, so does life.  That’s it, and that’s all it is.  I am a collection of reacting chemicals; so are you; so are sims.  To view existence as anything else is mysticism, romanticism, a myriad of other isms, but it isn’t real.  Only the chemistry is real.  Everything else is self-delusion.”  (loc. 764)

    “Duke?” Ponytail said.  He placed the inoculator kit on the coffee table next to the recorder and retrieved the pistol from under his suit coat.  “Duke, are you okay?”
    No answer from the bedroom.
    Ponytail edged toward the doorway, pointing his pistol at Romy’s head.  “I don’t know what kind of shit’s going down here, but if anything untoward happens, you go first.”
    The first thought that ran through Patrick’s mind was, Untoward?  Did he really say untoward?  (loc. 5408)

Kindle Details...
    Sims sells for $7.99 at Amazon.  F. Paul Wilson has dozens of other books available for the Kindle, ranging in price from $2.99 to $9.99, including a slew of novels from his Repairman Jack series.

“A sim union?  Have you been nipping at the aftershave, Tome?”  (loc. 210)
    Besides all the thrills and spills in Sims, there is a fascinating sociological question raised : How sapient must a given species be before we talk to them instead of killing and eating them?

   Science Fiction has looked at this issue as well.  H. Beam Piper made it the central theme of his Little Fuzzy books (one of which is reviewed here).  But it also applies in the real world with species like the dolphins, whom some researchers claim are just as intelligent and sapient as humans.  Indeed, since we continue to catch and dine upon them, a case may be made that dolphins are more highly-evolved than we are.

    Food for thought; pun intended.  Sims is a worthy addition to the discussion, and perhaps more timely than the Sci-Fi books, given that the field of genetic engineering is at hand and will offer us mind-boggling possibilities in the very near future.

    8 Stars.  I didn’t really resonate with the characters, but that’s just a personal reaction.  Add ½ star if Meerm’s travails get you all choked up.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Snow White and the Seven Samurai - Tom Holt

   1999; 308 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Humorous Fantasy; Mythopoeia.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    The Wicked Queen’s magic mirror (“Mirror, mirror, on the wall…”) has been hacked., and now her data is missing and the mirror doesn’t work worth a crap.  Not that the Wicked Queen would understand what a ‘hacker’ is, but she has caught one of the miscreants (they were all just kids), and the pair of them set out to make things right again.

    They’d better hurry though.  Some of the ‘real world’ seems to be seeping into the land of Fairytales.  And some of the fairyland characters seem to be not quite right.

     But who are those funny-looking men in black armor carrying big swords?  They go by some weird name.  “Samurai”, whatever those might be.

What’s To Like...
    The title gives you a good idea of what to expect in this novel.  There are a bunch of fairytale characters herein – Snow White, the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.  But Seven Samurai are pulled from a great 1950’s movie of the same name, and you will also find characters from Literature (Frankenstein’s monster), Nursery Rhymes (Jack and Jill), Disney flicks (Pinocchio), and real life (the Brothers Grimm).

    The storyline is more coherent than usual for a Tom Holt book.  This is probably because the reader will already be familiar with most of the characters.  That can be viewed as either a plus or a minus, depending on how much you enjoy Holt's standard plotline mayhem.

    Similarly, since these are for the most part already-established toons, there isn’t a lot of character development per se.  But it is fascinating to watch Holt gradually “twist” their personalities.  The Wicked Queen gets nicer; Snow White becomes a bit of a b*tch.  The Big Bad Wolf starts developing a heroic streak; the three pigs begin to squabble among themselves.

    The fable spoofery is seasoned by an underlying theme about computer geekery and what a PITA it can be.  “Mirrors” here is a spoof of "Microsoft Windows”, and when’s the last time you saw MS-DOS play a major part in a novel?  The ending felt a bit contrived, but it does tie things up nicely.  This is a standalone novel, and contains cuss words.

Kewlest New Word...
    Mimsy (adj., Britishism) : rather feeble; prim; affected.  Here, "a mimsy grin".
    Others : Wodge (n., Britishism); Trotter (n.); Specious (adj.)

    Once upon a time there was a little house in a big wood.
    Not all houses in big woods are quaint or charming, or even safe.  Some of them are piled to the rafters with stolen car radios, others house illegal stills used for making moonshine (so called, they say, because one carelessly dropped match could lead to a fireball that’d be visible from the Moon).  Some of them are the lairs of big bad wolves dressed as Victorian grandmothers, not that that’s anybody’s business but their own.  (pg. 1, and opening paragraphs)

    ”(T)he shadowy figure stepped out of the forest into the clearing.  Not an encouraging sight for a nervous pig; whoever he was, he felt the need to dress from head to toe in shiny black armour, wear a helmet with a mask visor and a huge neckpiece and carry a whacking great two-handed sword.  Either the Jehovah’s Witnesses in this neighbourhood had abandoned the Mr-Nice-Guy tactic, or here came trouble.  (pg. 172)

“Life (is) a bit like a frog sandwich; some parts of it (are) better than others.  (pg. 156)
    Those readers who are also Jasper Fforde fans will note a striking similarity between the templates he uses and the one Holt uses here.  Indeed Snow White and the Seven Samurai could be described as Fforde’s “Nursery Crime” series set in his “Thursday Next” world.

    While it is true that SW&TSS (1999) was published prior to any of Fforde’s books (his first one, The Eyre Affair, came out in 2001), I doubt this is a matter of literary plagiarism.  Injecting the real world into a fairytale setting is an obvious and time-honored literary device.  Who Framed Roger Rabbit explored it way back in 1988, and heck, if you’re old enough to have watched the Rocky & Bullwinkle show as a kid, you’ll remember Fractured Fairy Tales and Aesop and Son using the same motif.

    Snow White and the Severn Samurai, replete with Tom Holt’s wit, dry humor, and plentiful puns, is a light, enjoyable read.  There aren’t many storylines that can be described as both complex and easy-to-follow, but this is one of them.

    8 Stars.  Add ½ star if you know who Jasper Fforde is, and are hooked on his books.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Father Night - Eric Van Lustbader

   2012; 436 pages.  Book #4 (out of 5) of the Jack McClure series.  New Author? : No, but it's been a while.  Genre : Action-Thriller.  Overall Rating : 6½*/10.

    Oh to be able to be in two places at once!  Special agent Jack McClure’s protégé, Alli Carson, daughter of an ex-POTUS, has just gone missing in Washington DC, and at least one witness says it was an abduction.

    Jack should really drop everything and rush to DC to help find Alli, but he’s on assignment in Russia – helping to smuggle a top crime boss out of the country.  And that crime boss’s granddaughter just happens to be McClure’s lover, so he’s motivated beyond mere duty to see this job through.

    It would appear that the task of finding/rescuing Alli will have to be done by others.

What’s To Like...
    There’s action, more action, and no slow spots.  Eric van Lustbader hops between three main storylines – which we’ll call “Nona-Leonard-Alan”, “Jack-Annika-Dyadya”, and “Alli-Vera” – and it is easy to keep track of which is which.  The characters tend to be black or white but rarely gray, yet in fairness, a bunch of them flip from white to black and vice versa.  Also, a lot of them – both the good guys and the bad guys – get killed off, which I think makes the story more realistic.

    Father Night is book 4 in the Jack McClure series.  I haven’t read the first three, and this is one of those books where I felt I was missing a lot by not reading the earlier books.  The author does fill in some of the backstory, but it’s in piecemeal fashion.  Still this is a standalone novel, with a teaser at the end for book 5, Beloved Enemy.

    The color-flipping characters make for plenty of intrigue, and there are a number of mysteries and enigmas to entertain you, most notably the “spirit” of Jack’s dead daughter Emma, several sets of identical twins, the uber-secret “3-13”,  “KWIFA”, and “Ashur had a little horse”.  OTOH, the evil Nazi scientist with his evil Nazi experiments is an overused plot device, and the President of the United States attending a clandestine meeting in a Walmart parking lot is just not believable.

Kewlest New Word. . .
Tony (adj.) : fashionable among wealthy or stylish people; posh.
Others : Scrim (n.); Corniche (n.)

    The General regarded Waxman with carefully concealed distaste.  He seemed pale and weak, unfit for anything outside a well-ventilated room, but, as he had said, they all had their roles to play, all of them.  Each brought a different expertise to the enterprise.  They were bound not by friendship, but by need.  Better by far than friendship, the General judged.  It was unthinkable to betray someone you needed.  (pg. 18)

    “My enemies are extremely determined.”
    Kurin turned to him.  “What, now you’re trying to talk me out of helping you?”
    “We simply want you to be aware of the possible consequences of sheltering us,” Annika said.
    Kurin spread his hands.  “But you see, sheltering is what we do.  Without that, what are we?  A group of freaks, performing for the yokels.”  (pg. 122)

 “I don’t believe this.  How the fsck did I land in a Kafka novel?”  (pg. 168)
    Unfortunately, what Father Night lacks is a coherent and suspenseful plotline, and all the thrills, spills, and plot devices can’t cover this up.  When the dust settles and bodies bleed out, the reader has to ask “What was accomplished?”  And the answer, sadly, is “Not much.”  There was a sinister plan, but the bad guys aborted it themselves. Our evil Nazi scientist is stopped, but his nefarious work remains intact.  All of the Evil Forces are still functional, despite some casualties.

    There were too many WTF moments and they often felt contrived and/or pointless.  Emma-the-ghost shows up several times, but seems capable of giving only pep-talk counsel.  Alli and Jack have secret “code phrases” which can be used in a crisis.  One of them means “I’ve hidden something useful somewhere.  Go find it.”  Yeah, that’s gonna be real helpful when the baddies are chasing you through a warehouse.

    The endings (there are two of them) felt rushed and WTF.  A crack kill-team with superior weaponry and the element of surprise can take out a whole cadre of Secret Service agents, but not a couple of relatively inexperienced girls.  Wow.  Similarly, Jack succeeds against his highly-trained opponents with uncanny ease.

    6½ Stars.  I came away feeling like Eric van Lustbader’s main purpose for Father Night was to move some of his recurring characters around so as to set up the next book.  Other than that, there’s lots of action, but very little substance.  Yet who knows how much I’m missing by not having read the first three books?  Add 2 stars if you are tackling the series in order.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

God Emperor of Didcot - Toby Frost

    2009; 320 pages.  Book 2 (out of 5) of The Chronicles of Isambard Smith.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Sci-Fi Spoof; Space Opera.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    The 25th-Century British Space Empire is facing utter ruin.  A Ghast invasion of the planet Urn is imminent, and Urn supplies the empire with its most valuable commodity.  Tea.

    Tea?  Yes, tea.  For it, and it alone, is responsible for the very moral fiber of each British subject.  Cut off the supply, and the British Empire becomes just another tribe of savages.

    Someone has to be sent to resist the Ghastian hordes.  Someone dashing.  Someone resourceful.  Someone …erm… expendable.

    Someone like Captain Isambard Smith.

What’s To Like...
    If you read the first book in this series (reviewed here) and liked it, you’ll enjoy God Emperor of Didcot just as much.  There’s lots of fighting, blood, and insectoid gore, and about the same amount of jokes about pooping, peeing, sex, and body parts.  Somehow, Toby Frost manages to keep it from getting boringly repetitive.  There really aren’t any slow spots, and it gushes with wit and humor.

    All of Smith's crew are back, as well as a couple of the main baddies from the first book.  But there are also a bunch of new people and races to meet, plus several new planets to visit, including the world of Suruk’s people.  Suruk has been away for a while.  Things have changed.

    The plotline is a bit more focused and a lot more epic this time around.  But the humor still takes center stage.  And despite the abundance of laughs and snickers, a serious theme underlies the storyline: theocracies are never good.

    As in any Space Opera, there is some sex and some cusswords.  This is a standalone novel, although I happen to be reading the books in order.  As always, the standard “series caveat” applies.  The ending sets up the next book, wherein the Lemming men of Yull apparently will be spotlighted.

Kewlest New Word...
Nous (n.) : common sense; practical intelligence.  (a Britishism, and pronounced “noose”)
Others : Faffing (v.); Scag (v.); Louche (adj.); Chthonian (adj.)

    Carveth leaned over him and lifted the headphones away.  “Pink Zeppelin?” she inquired.
    “Mordor Woman Blues,” Smith said.  How’s things in the control room?”
    “Dunno – I’m not there, am I?”  She looked at the headphones.  “I never got prog rock.  Can’t see what’s so progressive about singing about a wizard for half an hour, myself.  If you ask me, anyone stupid enough to set the controls for the heart of the sun gets what he deserves.”  (loc. 186)

    He left the kitchen.  Another door branched off the corridor; it seemed to lead to a lavatory.  He approached the door.  There was a sign on the door.  It said, “Please leave this toilet in the same state as you found it.”
    How absurd.  What kind of fool would find a toilet, presumably needing a wee, and leave it still needing a wee?  (loc. 3187)

Kindle Details...
    God Emperor of Didcot sells for $4.99 at Amazon, as do three of the other four books in the series.  For some reason, Book 3, Wrath of the Lemming Men, sells for $7.99.

“Isambard," Rhianna said, …, did you just try to protect me from a dragon with a penknife?”  (loc. 3352)
    God Emperor of Didcot is an obvious spoof of the fourth book in Frank Herbert’s Dune series, God Emperor of Dune.   Here, tea takes the place of spice; and sun dragons take the place of sand worms.  There are probably more tie-ins, but thankfully I only read the first three Dune books before giving up on the series.

    The truth be told, I thought Dune was fantastic; Dune Messiah was somewhat boring; and Children of Dune was absolute drudgery.  I also read one of the spinoffs, Dune – Battle of Corrin, written by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson, and which happens to be the first book review I ever posted on a blog.  The review is here.

    I have no idea what Toby Frost thinks of the Dune books, but any spoof of it is a plus in my book, and I’m really enjoying his series so far.

    8½ Stars.  The series has kept its freshness and clever humor through the first two books.  We’ll see if that extends to Book 3 as well.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Hero of Ages - Brandon Sanderson

   2008; 724 pages.  Book #3 (out of 3) of the Mistborn series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Epic Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    The world is coming to an end, and there’s nothing to be done about it.  The only question is which unstoppable menace is going to deliver the actual coup de grace.

    At the top of the list is the ubiquitous and ever-falling black ash, which is choking out all plant life and fouling all the water.  Then there’s the mists themselves which are lingering longer and have started killing people.  Let’s not forget the thousands upon thousands of koloss, an endless wave of big, brutal, undead killing machines.  And last but not least, there’s Ruin Itself, released unintentionally by Vin, and probably more dangerous than the other three menaces combined.

    The world needs a miracle.  The world needs a Hero of Ages.

What’s To Like...
    The Hero of Ages is the concluding volume in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.  The other two books in the series are reviewed here and here), and there’s no let-up in the fighting, the politicking, and the end-of-the-world drama here.  Indeed, the whole series showcases Sanderson’s masterful writing style and excellent storytelling.

    The chapters alternate with four different POV’s – Sazed’s, Spook’s, Vin/Elend’s, and March’s.  I like this structure.  It makes for very few slow spots, and the storyline, while complex, is remarkably easy to follow.  The world-building is once again very detailed and convincing.  Some new characters are blended in with the surviving members of the gang of rebels.  All are richly developed, and none (with the possible exception of Ruin) are pure black or pure white.  Indeed, quite a few characters seem to ‘lighten’ or ‘darken’ as the story progresses.

    There is a handy “Names and Terms” section at the back of the book; I used it quite often.  This is not a standalone novel, but Brandon Sanderson once again provides brief summaries of the first two books.  These are stashed at the back of the book, but mentioned in the Table of Contents so that readers new to the series can get quickly up to speed about what’s going on.

   The climax is simply spectacular – being somehow both entirely logical and yet utterly unanticipated.  I am in awe of the author’s ability to avoid a lame or trite ending.  The storyline is completely wrapped up in a most satisfying manner.  Brandon Sanderson did write one more book set in the Mistborn world, The Alloy of Law, but it takes place 300 years later, so I doubt it impacts this plotline.

    “You know,” Elend added, “during those days when you refused to marry me, I constantly thought about how strange you were.”
    She raised an eyebrow.  “Well, that’s romantic.”
    Elend smiled.  “Oh, come on.  You have to admit that you’re unusual, Vin.  You’re like some strange mixture of a noblewoman, a street urchin, and a cat.  Plus, you’ve managed – in our short three years together – to kill not only my god, but my father, my brother, and my fiancée.  That’s kind of like a homicidal hat trick.  It’s a strange foundation for a relationship, wouldn’t you say?”  (pg. 239)

    ”Do you know why I dislike men like you, Venture? Yomen finally asked.
    “My insufferable charm and wit?” Elend asked.  “I doubt it’s my good looks – but, compared to that of an obligator, I suppose even my face could be enviable.”
    Yomen’s expression darkened.  “How did a man like you ever end up at a table of negotiation?”
    “I was trained by a surly Mistborn, a sarcastic Terrisman, and a group of disrespectful thieves,” Elend said, sighing.  “Plus, on top of that, I was a fairly insufferable person to begin with.  But, kindly continue with your insult – I didn’t mean to interrupt.”  (pg. 284)

 “In the end they will kill us, Elend said, voice loud, ringing in the cavern.  “But first they shall fear us!”  (pg. 701)
    Perhaps the most salient unique feature in the Mistborn series (and there are a lot of unique features here) is the role given to Religion.  Epic Fantasy and Religion are generally an awkward fit.  Most readers would much prefer the dragon to be zapped into oblivion by a wizard’s spell than for the heroes to pray it away .

    Although Religion plays a somewhat minor part in the first two books, it gets some center-stage time in The Hero of Ages.  I kept fearing that the story would degenerate into some sort of preachy sermon by Sanderson, but to his credit, this never occurs.  Furthermore, no particular Religion is heralded as being the One True Way.

    Instead, Sanderson contrasts the concept of Faith, inherent in any religion, with the Logic and Deductive Reasoning that are the bedrock for any society that relies on rational thought processes.  He seems to propose that the two can coexist.

    The reader can decide for himself whether he agrees with Sanderson's hypothesis.  To his credit, he tackles the difficult Fantasy/Religion issue with admirable skill.  Nevertheless, I hope this doesn’t become a recurring theme in his novels.

    9 Stars.  Add ½ star if you’re quite comfortable with mixing Religion with Fantasy, and wonder why more writers don’t combine the two genres.