Fiction this time. Because I went to RadCon and couldn't resist picking up a few new books I've been eyeing for a while. And then read because I really really really really needed a break from the non-fiction research books and articles.
Blame the Bearer by Frances Pauli
Book 4 in the Kingdoms Gone series, but don't let it fool you. Each book mostly stands on its own. This one gives us the story of Vane, chosen by the castle of prophecy to be the Bearer of the ring and sent to fetch the Heir. Only there are three heirs and only one can sit on the throne.
I'll insert my disclaimer here. Frances Pauli is a good friend and she gave me the book. We met over blog posts for our first books. She writes fun stories and lots of them. Blame the Bearer is another fun yarn with unexpected twists and turns. Her Kingdoms Gone world is rich with old magic that only exists in pockets, gangs rampaging through the villages and towns, goodmothers without the wings or magic wand but with plenty of magical meddling up their sleeves, and magical creatures like gargoyles and gobelins.
And plenty of interesting characters who aren't quite what you expect them to be. If you're looking for a different twist on medieval fantasy stories, check out the Kingdoms Gone series. This latest book is another fascinating chapter. I can't wait for the next one.
4 stars, PG for mild violence
The First Casualty by Mike Shepherd (aka Mike Moscoe)
I met Mike Shepherd a few years ago at either RadCon or SpoCon. He's a lot of fun. He writes space opera. I picked up three of his books because I've been meaning to for a while. His space opera is more military-flavored than mine, but delivers lots of action and explosions and fun characters. I'm eying the seventeen other books he has that I don't own yet. I need to save up my pennies for those.
The First Casualty was Mike's first book. The plotting is a little uneven and a few surprises happen out of nowhere, but those minor flaws are really easy to overlook. The story is just plain fun to read but with a depth to it that made me stop and think about some of the issues the characters are trying to deal with. They're in a war with supposedly clear-cut sides and issues, but as the book unfolds, those crystal-clear problems become murky and jumbled.
The book is told from two sets of main characters, one set from each side of the war. Mary, the miner conscripted into the military, was my favorite, but the others were great, too.
I really enjoyed it and don't want to spoil the surprise, so let me just say that if you like military science fiction with plenty of adventure, you'll probably love these books.
3.5 stars, PG-13 for violence, the occasional cussword, and a couple of mildly steamy scenes
The Price of Peace by Mike Shepherd
This is sort of a sequel to The First Casualty. It takes place shortly after the war ends. The main characters are minor characters from the first book. I really liked Trouble, the marine. He's not perfect, but he stands up for what he believes in no matter the price.
I loved the relationship between Trouble and Ruth, a farmer's widow. It's romance, not just lust. I enjoyed all the characters. The spaceships and explosions and fights were just frosting on the cake. I enjoyed this one even more than The First Casualty.
4 stars, PG-13 for violence, the occasional cussword, and a couple of mildly steamy scenes
I can't wait to dive into Mike Shepherd's first Kris Longknife book: Mutineer. It's calling my name, but so are my academic projects and papers. And my own books. Reading these books has made me want to dive into writing my own stories again. I forgot how much fun books like these can be, both to write and to read.