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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Three Mini Reviews: The Woodcutter, Capitol Murder and Listening To Rain (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website 
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OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Woodcutter by Kate Danley is a book that slipped me by when it was originally self-published by the author in 2010. I happened across it recently when it was re-released by 47North. I was very much intrigued by the storyline as it reminded me of The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly which is one of my all time favorites.

The story is set in a realm wherein there are twelve kingdoms and all of them are either ruled by creatures of Faerie and humans. Surrounding all these kingdoms is the woods area, which is overseen by the Woodcutter. The Woodcutter is in a long line of woodcutters who have been adjudged to be the men who oversee the woods. He’s also tasked with keeping the peace between the twelve kingdoms however recently he’s been finding that events are taking a turn beyond gruesome. He finds a dead body of a girl who will be well known to readers of fairy tales. Tasked with finding the murderer and to stop the further division of the twelve kingdoms, the woodcutter will have to dig deep to stop the anarchy that is unfolding.

This book is a clever mix of fairy tales, classical fantasy and mystery. I enjoyed the author’s take on this world wherein fairy tale characters mingle with those from European mythology. The story really begins with a twisted opening and from then on we are constantly shunted from chapter to chapter with a new revelation about the world as well as the characters. I think the pace of the story helps quite a bit as well as the extremely short chapters. The story constantly keeps the readers on their toes with oodles of mystery in regards to what is actually happening as well who or what is the main protagonist’s role in the world.

The characterization is done very cleverly and gives the main character enough of a mysterious edge to be believable. The main plot thread is a very mystery laced one and has a slight noir-ish quality to it. The world building is rather strange and what I mean by strange is that the author combines various different elements into her story to make it a very different world. Lastly with all these dark elements to the story, I must say the story is kept on a YA level consistently and has some rather sweet moments to it as well. 

Combining a fascinating story within a hybrid world of mythology, fairy tales and fantasy, Kate Danley showcases her superb skills and its no wonder this book has won so many awards. I enjoyed the quirky storyline and thoroughly enjoyed the story all the way to its poignant end. Very much recommended for those who like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and John Connolly’s The Book Of Lost Things. The Woodcutter is an odd book but one that cherishes its oddness and makes you fall in love with it.

Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read Civilian Reader’s review of Executive Privilege 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Supreme Justice 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s interview with Phillip Margolin 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Phillip Margolin is a favorite of mine, I started reading his books nearly a decade ago and since then I have enjoyed his Amanda Jaffe books as well as his standalone titles. He began a trilogy with a set of characters in 2008 with Executive Privilege; he followed it up two years later with Supreme Justice and last year he capped off the trilogy with Capitol Murder.

Like all of his books, Capitol Murder has quite a few plot threads and a large character cast as well. The story begins after a few months after the events of Supreme Justice and Brad and Ginny are well settled of sorts in their routines. Dana Cutler is facing an ironic turn of events due to the newfound celebrity status that she has achieved. One of the main threads of Executive Privilege is carried forward in the form of Clarence little who is now obsessed with Brad as he owes him for his current situation. There’s also Ali who is a new migrant and planning to shake the USA by trying to be a jihadi martyr. Lastly there’s the plot-thread involving Jack Carson, the Oregon senator for whom Brad works for and is now undergoing quite a situation thanks to some shady dealing on his part. There’s a lot more but this is the basic gist of this complicated plot and once again Margolin proves why he’s one of the best thriller writers who’s is equally under-appreciated.

This book is more tuned to the events of the first book than the second one and I appreciated this aspect as we get to see a continuation of events that were such a major plot point in Executive Privilege. In this book the significant others to Dana and Brad get more page time as well and in Ginny’s case she actually plays a crucial role in the events that play out. With a such large character cast, the author’s characterization skills often come in to play and with a writer like Phillip Margolin, its almost second nature to him. The book’s pace and plot twists are top notch and keep the reader thoroughly engrossed. From the start the reader is introduced to a multitude of characters as well as multiple plot threads. Teach of the plot threads start separately and will have the reader vexed in trying to figure out how they all come together.

The plot is characteristically twisted and comes together in the end in a very cohesive fashion and in this category; it overshadows Supreme Justice by being the better thriller and possibly is the best one of this entire trilogy. Not having any drawback to it is another plus point and so this is another winner from the incredible mind of Phillip Margolin. This book comes very recommended for thriller fans and for those wanting to read a good story with terrific mystery threads.

Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Listening To Rain is the debut book by Albert A. Dalia and its blurb and excerpt chapters intrigued me enough to ask the author for a review copy.

The book begins in the past 607 AD wherein a young boy is taken from his ancestral home after it has been attacked. Twenty years later we are reintroduced to the child who is now grown up and is called Tanzong the Shaolin Blade. His legendary exploits helped the young emperor of the Tang dynasty previously in a time of need. The emperor then assigns his imperial commissioner Li Wei to accompany Tanzong and find out more about disturbances in the southern part of his empire. Such begins the journey that will see both of them travel far and wide in a mystical China and face many great adventures that will be captured by Li Wei in three great scrolls, the first of which is called “Listening To Rain”.

This new series book by Albert A. Dalia hearkens back to the classical mytho-fantasy tales by Barry Hughart. The story settings are similar and while Barry’s stories featured humor, Albert Dalia eschews the humor but does not skip the inventiveness showcased by Barry Hughart. The story begins in a typical fantasy style with a young child who will grow up to be the epic hero and he does however his journey is only just beginning. As the story progresses we find out that there are many more mysteries to be found in this China as imagined by the author. That’s what I liked about the story that it went all out on the magic and fantasy front without being apologetic about it. The characterization isn’t all that great but since this is the first volume, I’m always ready to give the benefit of doubt to the author.

The main character cast introduced isn’t a large one however they are quite easily placed in the good or bad category and that perhaps might be a drawback for several readers. The story has a good pace to it and follows a traditional fantasy route and in that regards it is predictable however the author does his best with some latter part twists to the story that liven up the tale and make the reader intrigued for the second tale. The fantasy settings of this story explore a bit of China’s history and mythology however I’m not an expert in either subjects and so I can’t vouch for the their accuracy. I did enjoy the author’s slant on these subjects as he seems to be genuinely interested in them and so it will be up to readers to decide how they find his efforts.

Listening To Rain is a story that showcases its flair by indulging the author’s interests and studies. It is a book that has flaws as well as fascinating facets to it. I think this was quite a different debut than I have usually read about. Give it a shot of you are interested in reading mytho-historical fantasy with a different slant than those found currently. I think Listening To Rain will find its fans should readers be willing to give it a shot.


bloger said...

Some science fiction is good why some is mediocre, but that's the same with any area of literature

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