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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Three Mini Reviews: The Coldest War, Shadows Before The Sun and The Corpse Rat King (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order "The Coldest War" HERE 
Read an excerpt HERE

ANALYSIS: The Coldest War is the sequel to Ian Tregillis’s brilliant debut Bitter Seeds, this book opens up nearly twenty years after the events of the second world war that took place in this alternate historical world. I was very much intrigued by this book and dove in based on Liviu’s excellent review of the first book.

The story begins in 1963 and we are introduced to a Europe wherein a cold war is on but the payers aren’t the same and the rules differ wildly. In this one Europe is over run by the Soviets and the lone country challenging them is Britain. The USA is not mentioned much and its not clear where they are in the pecking order. The British are trying their hardest to cope up with the tactics used by the Soviets who have been bolstered by the German experiments that they have managed to inculcate within their own.

The tale opens up and shows what has been happening with those that survived the events of the first book. Almost all of them have lost something of themselves in the past and nowhere near what they expected themselves to be. Raybould Marsh is barely able to hold onto his jobs and his marital and personal lives have become a mentally excoriating hell from which even alcohol holds no escape. Klaus and Gretel, the German siblings have become lab rats for the Soviet regime and are forced to endure many experiments. Will Beauclark has ascended highly on the social scale however his past actions with the Eidolons have left a bitter aftertaste in his mind.

The actual plot begin with Britain’s security net, its wizard force slowly and surely being depleted. Somebody is killing them and soon the British authorities are told of an escape from the mainland of two siblings that are thought to be very dangerous and should be returned if captured. Thus by Gretel’s machinations and with Klaus’s help Raybould is invariably sucked back into the Milkweed operations. This time he’s doubly determined to make sure nothing threatens Britain’s survival as defeat means that all his losses so far have been rendered null and void.

This novel was a terrific thriller and it definitely is going to end up in my yearend lists. Beginning with its characterization and then on to its zany plot, which mixes prescient beings, cold war era spies, mysterious extra-dimensional beings and much more. The author admirably mixes all these elements to concoct a story that is in parts a thriller and in parts a fascinating story of what happens to soldiers when their war is over. The characterization is one which nails the story whether be it Raybould with his stodginess, Gretel with her ultra-creepy prescience, Klaus with his helplessness and other characters with their own quirks. The author’s skills invariably draws the reader in and make them invested in this story.

The plot twists and pace are kept at a level that makes this book very very hard to put down at all. Beginning with Britain’s newest magic protection net to the ultimate aims of Gretel’s plans, nothing is too superfluous or too obtuse. The author has done some intense planning in regards to the overall story and it will be apparent to the readers once they get to the end of this book and a particular event in the first book makes so much sense. There’s an aspect to the plot wherein certain things are foreshadowed or atleast hinted at, this I found to be a fascinating thing wherein I went and reread certain parts of the book.

This book for me has everything needed to be called a terrific read and it is criminal how under appreciated Ian Tregillis is as an author. Do yourself a favor and grab Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War and read them back-to-back to understand the awesomeness of this story so far. I can’t wait to see how the author ends the story with Necessary Evil, the third book in the Milkweed Triptych series.

Official Author Website 
Read an Excerpt HERE 
Order the Book HERE 
Read my review of The Better Part of Darkness 
Read my review of The Darkest Edge of Dawn
Read FBC's review of The Hour Of Dust and Ashes
Read FBC's Interview with Kelly Gay

ANALYSIS: For a while I was thinking that Shadows Before The Sun would be the last Charlie Madigan book and after the events of the last book, anticipation was high in regards to how it would all end. The author has been kind enough to point out the egregious nature of our assumptions and this helped a bit.

The premise of this book needs a brief recap of the events of The Hour Of Dust and Ashes, wherein Charlie, Rex and Hank had to go to Charybdon and figure out a way to save Charlie’s sister life. This trip while being utterly dangerous was doubly difficult due to actions of the jinns. While the book had an explosive climax, a particular event left Charlie and the readers severely troubled. This book deals with Charlie’s efforts to go to Elysia and figure out a way to get someone back. Thus after their hellish ordeal Charlie will have to find her strength and gather her friends and make an attempt to enter Elysia and find out what is going on there. Her first attempt goes wrong thanks to the bureaucratic nature of relations between her world and Elysia however she soon discovers new allies in the form of an oracle and makes the trip to save her friend from his ultimate fate.

Where do I begin with this book, only does it outdo the events and excitement caused by its predecessor, it also sets up some terrific things for the future books. While The Hour Of Dust and Ashes was my favorite book so far, it easily gets displaced by Shadows Before The Sun. Firstly lets talk about the unique nature of this book, for the first time ever we get a POV other than Charlie and it’s a third person narrative from Hank. This move makes this book even more unpredictable and adds in a unique look into the actions occurring in the story. Secondly the action and violence in this book makes all that has come before truly child’s play, this book seriously has some dark corners and the twisted imagination of the author inflicts heavy loads on all characters especially on the major duo.

We get a resolution in Hank & Charlie’s relationship status and that heralds a different direction from the next book and also the reader gets a resolution to the plot arc about what was found beneath the lake a couple of books ago. With so many character and plot arcs being resolved, this book can be said to an end of the first series arc in the Charlie Madigan world. The author plans to write another book with Charlie and Hank and perhaps a one from the Druid King’s perspective. That is something that makes me giddy with anticipation.

Shadows Before The Sun is a cracker of a book and easily the best of the series toppling The Hour Of Dust and Ashes. For all readers shying away from urban fantasy thinking it to be too much like paranormal romance, give Kelly Gay’s dark series a try, you surely will be surprised by the violence and lack of sparkly vampires ensconced within these pages. How can I be so sure, simply because I was a skeptic like you a few years ago before I read the first book!

Order “The Corpse Rat KingHERE 
Read an excerpt HERE

ANALYSIS: The Corpse Rat King is Lee Battersby’s debut and one, which intrigued me strongly with its blurb. The story seems to be a curious mix of dark humor and even darker shade of fantasy. In the end its an odd book to describe but not hard to review thankfully.

The story begins with Marius don Hellespont who is a person of considerably shaky morals. Currently looting a field of corpses along with his apprentice Gerd, Marius is almost done with his picking when Gerd mistakenly alerts the soldiers to their misbegotten activities. All things aside things turn horribly wrong and Marius end up in a place unknown to mankind. He is then offered a choice of sorts; to find a king for the dead as was promised in the holy books or die instantaneously and join the dead. Marius chooses to hold on to his soul and is set free with a chaperone. His onerous task being to find post haste a dead king or otherwise he might have to join the dead congregation rather unpleasantly as well as unwillingly.

This book is a very quirky one; the narrator of the tale is a vagrant, an outright liar, a petty pickpocket and an unscrupulous grave robber. His actions beginning from the start reveal not a single bone of integrity to him. Plus after being saddled with such a task, Marius’s sole intent is to fool his chaperone and alleviate his troubles by disappearing off somewhere where even the dead can’t find him. Thus Marius then leads the reader through a series of incidents as well travels to most of his previous haunts in trying to figure out a way to end his predicament. The humor showcased within the book is what can be considered its best shiny side as it is quite dark and funny thereby showcasing the quirky nature of the characters and the situations they get in.

Also the story is quite unpredictable, beginning in the middle of a battlefield and from then onwards to all the places its goes, it is like a fairytale but darker than any imagined by the Grimm brothers. Capricious and at times horrific, the story simply is very hard to pin down and can be simply described as weird. The plot while seeming very straightforward is anything but that. The author has some sharp twists lined up and from the beginning of the story the reader will be uncertain where the story is going next, what Marius will do eventually and how will it all end. This originality of the premise is what helps the story, as readers will be compelled to flip pages to see what happens next.

The only downside to this entire story (atleast for myself) was the narrator. I hardly felt any sympathy for him or any emotional connection and that perhaps robbed the fun of the story to a certain extent. He’s an insincere excuse of a human being and one who hardly inspires any confidence in his acquaintances. Perhaps that was the author’s intent of exploring the story through such a narrative voice and if that turns out to be the case then kudos to the author for nailing the voice down so precisely. Marius is exactly the person you wouldn’t want to be saddled with if your life depended on it.

The Corpse Rat King is an odd book but it is not a bad one. It promises a different sort of read and delivers exceptionally on its word. The Corpse Rat King seems to be a dark imaginative collaboration between Joe Abercrombie and Jesse Bullington but its not! Its Lee Battersby’s debut and one that will leave a mark on the reader’s mind, though it depends on the reader’s prerogative whether it will be a remarkable one or not.


Bastard said...

Enjoyed as you know Kelly Gay...

I just received The Coldest War, so probably will be reading it soon.

Been hearing quite a bit about The Corpse Rat King lately, will look into it.

The Reader said...

Yeah SBTS was a great read and now I want to see where KG goes next. The Coldest War is just too awesome to be missed. I want to see how you find The Corpse Rat King, as its hard to say whether you would like it or not.



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