Twelve

TwelveTwelve

By: Jasper Kent

www.jasperkent.com

(History/Vampires)

447 pages

I would like to introduce to you the Vampire Spectrum. This is something I invented while trying to figure out how to best describe the vampires in this novel.

The Vampire Spectrum

Romantic————Cool but Deadly————Gruesomely Monstrous

The Vampires in Twelve fall under the monstrous category, a bit like those in Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, only I think they were a little worse. This book definitely had its gory moments, but not just for the sake of it. The violence is there to make a point, since for a while in the story there is a question of whether or not the vampires are really all that bad. Certain unpleasant moments answer that question nicely for both the reader and the main character.

This novel utilizes real historical events as its backdrop, and I always like a little bit of realism in a story. The idea of taking known history and filling in the blanks with something completely fantastical is not only fun, but it can allow you to appreciate a period in history that you otherwise might have overlooked. I admit, I didn’t really know much about Napoleons invasion of Russia in 1812 — other than it happened — so this story, regardless of its vampires made that history come to life just a little bit more.

The conflict between Alexei and Iuda was the most fascinating part of the story. I could really see him shaping up to be the perfect nemesis for Alexei over the rest of the series, and judging by the book covers I’ve seen, it seems rather likely. Iuda is an amazing character, and despite how truly twisted I believe him to be, I look forward to seeing more of him, if that is indeed the direction the sequels will be taking. The twist at the end was an interesting surprise, and made me that much more interested in his character.

I will most likely be reading the sequels at some point.  Overall, it was a pretty good book, even if it was a little heavy. I’ll take a little break, read some lighter fare and come back to this series later on. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Shadowmancer

ShadowmancerShadowmancer

By: G. P. Taylor

http://www.gptaylor.info/

(YA/Historical/Fantasy)

How do all the Christian books keep finding me? Yup, that’s right, I did it again. I really need to be a bit more careful at book sales, but how could I pass up something called Shadowmancer? It certainly didn’t seem Christian to me at first glance. It also happens to be a young adult novel, which I also happened to overlook, since I only read the back cover and not the inside jacket. I really need to be more discerning in my book sale choices. While it is tempting to grab anything that looks at all appealing, maybe I could rein it in a few notches.

The tale of an overzealous Vicar, evil by nature, and willing to go to any lengths for absolute power, was appealing at first. Classic good versus evil. Taking place in the eighteenth century also added a nice twist, and overall it was a perfectly decent story, but not quite what I was looking for.

The religious aspects of this book were not nearly as preachy as Ted Dekker’s books, or a retelling of biblical stories. At first I didn’t mind it. G.P. Taylor’s version of God, known in this story as Riathamus, was more on track with the kind, but powerful entity I had in mind. It was all about the support and force of God in the face of evil. I can work with that. But once it was suggested that anyone worshiping pagan gods were essentially worshiping evil, or that tarot cards were the tools of the devil, I lost some of my interest. My mind is just a little too wide open for that.

The two main characters are thirteen, so it’s on the young end of the YA spectrum. It felt a little more like a children’s book to me. It had its charming moments with a connection to the folklore of the time and the area, but in the end, the plot seemed to work out a little too simply in places. Now, that’s perfectly fine for this book’s target audience, but I would have liked something a bit more complex.

Ultimately, this was just the wrong book for me. Wrong age group, wrong religion. Christian, YA, fantasy novels are just not my thing, but I think, with the right audience, this would be an enjoyable read. I certainly didn’t hate it. From now on though, I will be checking a book’s religious affiliations before I grab it…even if it is only a dollar. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Black Order

Black Order

By: James Rollins

www.jamesrollins.com

(Thriller)

I don’t read thrillers very often. In fact, despite their title, I don’t usually find them to be all that thrilling. They are the action movies of the literary world, and for me, while action movies are fun and I thoroughly enjoy them from time to time, I quickly forget them. Thrillers tend to be somewhat predictable, and the characters can easily be a little too cookie cutter. I like complexity in a book, interesting environments (historical or imagined), well developed characters, unexpected plot twists, etc.  Although few books manage to live up to this standard that I’ve developed, it’s OK because it makes it all the more exciting when one does.

While I don’t read a lot of thrillers, this is my second James Rollins book (Deep Fathom being the first), and it was pretty good. These days the plots of so many thrillers tend to revolve around either the Vatican or the Nazis. While it’s a little weird having those two topics occupy the same sentence, they are probably the most mysterious things in our history, which makes them easy plot devices. It’s natural to be curious about the history of the world you live in. This book chose the latter subject, and managed to combine just the right amount of history and real science to make it plausible. The characters are decent, with Painter Crowe being my favorite, but maybe I just really like his name. There is even a section in the back addressing the science and the history, and even lists some of the books the author used most when researching.

If you are a fan of thrillers I would definitely recommend it or really any others by this author. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Tuck

Tuck

By: Stephen Lawhead

www.stephenlawhead.com

(Historical Fiction)

Although entitled “Tuck” this final installment of the King Raven trilogy isn’t narrated from the character’s point of view like it was in “Scarlet.”  Where in that novel Will Scatlocke was directly relating his misadventures to the monk/scribe Odo while he was imprisoned, here the story takes place vaguely from Friar Tuck’s perspective and highlights his influence in the conclusion of the conflict that began in the first book of the series.

I always enjoy Bran’s plots and clever disguises.  This character is fearless and gets away with quite a lot, but there is always just the right balance of success and failure.  While one scheme goes to plan flawlessly, something new and unexpected might pop up.  Bran is a quick thinker, and always manages to come up with something even when the situation seems impossible.  I admire that about him and it makes him a good leader.  The conflict between Bran’s band of rebels and the Ffrenc continues to escalate and in the process there are a few casualties.  I have to say I didn’t entirely agree with the author’s choice in the death on one character in particular.  I thought it was just needlessly tragic, despite not being a main character.  I suppose without a few losses, it wouldn’t be sufficiently realistic, but I still didn’t like it.  Casualties and all, I did still liked the ending.  There were a few unexpected twists, although I did guess one of them, so maybe it wasn’t hugely unexpected, but it was enough to keep things interesting.

With the epilogue, the author finally ties the Robin Hood myth to Sherwood forest and wraps up the whole trilogy quite nicely.  It seems I liked these books more than I realized, because now I find I’m a little sad that it’s over.  This series slowly snuck up on me in a way.  When I first started reading it, I didn’t expect too much to be honest, but Bran’s righteous quest and band of wily Welsh rebels really grew on me and I think I’m going to miss them.

 I never expected to like Stephen Lawhead so much, and after looking into his other books I’ve added quite a few to my reading list.  I’m sure it won’t be long before I review another of his books.  Until then…

 Happy Reading!

*** Just for fun…I noticed a flaming typo on pages 80-81 in the hard cover edition, where they repeated an entire paragraph! (giggles)

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

By: Seth Grahame-Smith

www.sethgrahamesmith.com

(Historical Fiction/Horror/Vampires)

After seeing a title like Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter how could I  possibly pass that up?  Twisted history is one of my favorite genres of fiction, if it counts as a genre at all.  Regardless, I just really love it when an author takes high profile historic events and tells you the “true story” of how it all happened, and that is exactly what this author does.

This book follows the fascinating, if fictionally embellished, life of Abraham Lincoln, his encounters with vampires, the tragic wake they leave behind in his life, and his vow to kill every last one of them.  One of the things I found refreshing in a world where vampires seem to everywhere in movies, books, and TV, is that this is a book about vampires in historical America.  These days most people would expect to find them in Europe, or more recently in the pacific northwest (which is still America, but I think you get my point).  The book also goes on to portray the Civil War was as being as much about vampires as it was about slavery, and that they even took part in the fighting.

Overall it is a fascinating story told like a biography, with Lincoln’s own journal entries telling most of the tale and even photographic evidence of the vampires themselves.  I found it really interesting (just repeating the title alone is fun), if a bit gory, but vampires just aren’t very threatening if there’s no violence.  Following a similar theme is the author’s first book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I won’t be reading anytime soon, on account of my serious dislike for zombies (I think I’ll write a blog entry on that in another category soon).  He also has a new book coming out soon entitled Unholy Night, about the three wise men, that I’m looking forward to checking out.

So, if you like history or vampires, and don’t have a problem with a little violence and gore, I highly recommend it.  Until next time…

Happy Reading! 🙂

Scarlet

ScarletScarlet

By: Stephen Lawhead

www.stephenlawhead.com

I’d like to apologize first and foremost for not reviewing the first book in the series, Hood, since it’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I will mention a few things about it in reviewing Scarlet.

The first thing I have to say about this book is a big THANK YOU! to Mr. Lawhead for providing an extremely useful pronunciation guide at the front of the book.  In a story with so many Welsh/Celtic names, it’s nice to be able to pronounce them at least somewhat properly in my head rather than butchering them completely.  I absolutely hate it when I can’t figure out how to say a name, and I find it makes it more difficult to remember the character.

This series, starting with Hood, is a more historically realistic retelling of Robin Hood, or Rhi Bran Hud, as he is called in this story, which translates to King Raven the Enchanter.  This telling is set in Wales in a forest known as the March, rather than Sherwood Forest.  Merian, Friar Tuck, and Little John are represented, if not with those exact names.

Now, onto the story.  I was a little surprised at first how this story focuses on the trials and tribulations of one Will Scarlet and his association with Bran who we met in the first book.  I was expecting this story to be a continuation of Bran’s story, but I really liked this different point of view.  We are introduced to Will, in his prison cell, as he relates his tale to a priest while awaiting his execution.  The more he relates the more you really want him to make it out of this alive, even if it seems his fate is sealed.  I found I liked this story a bit more than the first for some reason.  Perhaps it had a bit more action.  I thought Hood was a little slower than I anticipated, but I think that comes primarily from comparing it to fantasy novels.  This series is essentially historical fiction with only the slightest touch of the supernatural in the form of Angharad, a bard and adviser to Bran and his group of refugees.  Since this is not a fantasy novel, there aren’t countless monsters and supernatural challenges to face, only mortal, flesh and blood, people, so that can slow things down just a bit.  That being said, I really liked it.  I like this history and the medieval politics.  The characters are like able, except for the ones not meant to be, and those are as infuriating as possible.  I look forward to the conclusion of the series, Tuck.  Hopefully everything will turn out well for these poor people and Bran will get his land back.  It’s unlikely, but I can hope.

Happy Reading!

The series is as follows: Hood, Scarlet, Tuck