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Angry Robot Double-Review: Harbinger of the Storm (Aliette de Bodard) and Death’s Diciples (J. Robert King)

It’s been a while since I reviewed Angry Robot titles, and even though I’m way behind (as regards AR titles) I thought these two titles deserve reviews. 🙂

Harbinger of the Storm – Book 2 of the Obsidian and Blood Trilogy by Aliette de Bodard

Ever since I picked up the first book in this trilogy, Servant of the Underworld, I immediately became of fan of not only Aliette’s work but also a fan of Acatl, the central protagonist in the trilogy, so it was awesome to get back to Acatl’s world – that of the Aztec, albeit through a noirish, mystery-framed lens. 🙂

I had high hopes for book 2, and wasn’t disappointed!

In this book, Acatl is almost immediately put under immense pressure – not only has he earned the attention of some of the most powerful people in the Mexica Empire, but he is still dealing with the fallout of the previous book’s events.

Now he has to deal with a rising body count and incredibly powerful creatures that make the things he faced in book 1 pale in comparison.

Book 2 did much to flesh out Acatl as a character and person, even more so than the first book, because much of what Acatl had to do in this book had even more of a personal cost; without a doubt he was pushed further and harder than before, and by the end of the book I had the distinct feeling that even though Acatl had persevered the costs were heavier than before.

Action- and magic-wise, this book really kept me on the edge of my seat – as I said before, the creatures that Acatl and his allies (and even enemies) face in this book are damned powerful, but it doesn’t end there – deities enter the fray, and Aliette did a great job in layering them with incredible menace and danger; definitely not deities who sit back and move pieces on a board.

The rush toward the book’s climax held my attention all the way, and once again Aliette managed to beautifully bring together the myriad plot threads and mysteries to satisfying conclusions. I’m definitely looking forward to the last novel, and to more of Aliette’s work! 🙂

9 / 10

Harbinger

To order copies of Harbinger of the Storm, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa; you can also head over to the Robot Trading Company to purchase all the Angry Robot eBooks you need, including Servant of the Underworld and Harbinger of the Storm. 🙂 Also, check out Aliette’s website here.

Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King

I’ve been a great fan of Rob’s work since I read the incredible Angel of Death and stunning Suicidals Anonymous, and I was seriously looking forward to Death’s Diciples. His second Angry Robot novel turned out to be completely different to Angel of Death and Suicidals Anonymous, but as damned good.

The novel follows Susan Gardner, the only survivor of a terrorist bomb on an airliner, and how Susan discovers just how she’s tied into the terrorist-plot – or is it a terrorist plot?

The first thing about this novel that struck me was it’s relentless pace – from the opening scene (Susan in the plane, witnessing its destruction) right up to the climax, it felt like I was left with literally no right time to take a break from the book; every chapter drew me onwards, as if I had suddenly become some ass clomping after a juicy carrot. 🙂

The second thing was Susan herself – Rob did an incredible job of revealing her personality chapter by chapter, managing to play to my expectations of her and what I thought she would do (she is the central protagonist, after all), and surprising me constantly. For most of the novel we are in her head, immersed in her thoughts and reactions, and the ride is sometimes chilling, sometimes funny, always surprising and, at times, heart breaking. She’s a great character!

There are more characters, of course – Susan’s brother, confronted with the sibling he thought he knew as he tries to help her take her place in her life again; Krupinski, an FBI agent investigating the attack (and Susan’s miraculous survival), and Mr Nero, one of the coolest and most twisted antagonists I’ve yet encountered in Fiction.

The plot of this novel, the twists and turns it takes, is nothing I could have ever predicted – Rob manages to make you believe that this is a book about terrorism and the stress and trauma of surviving a terrible event, until the weirdness hits, and hits, and hits, in waves of relentless tension and kickass, surprising events. Where Angel of Death was measured, menacing, beautiful and tragic, and where Suicidals Anonymous was superbly satirical and darkly humorous, Death’s Disciples is a thrill-a-second ride, supremely plotted, exciting, hard-hitting, and definitely falls into the Twisted Blockbuster category – one hell of an awesome ride!

9 / 10

Death's Desciples UK

Death's Desciples US

To order your copies of Death’s Disciples, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa; remember, you can also get this novel and all of the published Angry Robot titles in various eBook formats over at the Robot Trading Company. 🙂 Check out Rob’s site here.

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2013 in Reviews

 

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Angry Robot Review: Obsidian and Blood Book 1: Servant of the Underworld by Aliette de Bodard

I finished Aliette’s debut (an what a debut it is!) a couple of days ago (as everyone who Follows me on Twitter can attest to), and have finally had some time to post this review – it would have been up yesterday, but problems with the internet on Monday pushed all my posts up by a day. 🙂 Anyway, into the review:

Servant of the Underworld is a murder mystery, a clashing of wills between mortals and immortals, and an example of world-remembering that astonished me. For a time, I was a willing visitor behind the eyes of a man that lived and breathed in the beauty and danger of Mexica (Aztec) Empire of the 15th century, and what a ride it was!

Servant of the Underworld follows a High Priest, Acatl, and his investigation into the apparent abduction of a priestess; Acatl has been tasked with getting to the truth behind the priestess’ disappearance at an extremely critical time in the Empire – even the myriad gods of the Mexica are taking an interest, and you just know that everything hits the fan when gods take an interest in mortal affairs…

The first thing that struck me about Servant of the Underworld was how utterly smooth it was; the tale flowed on and on without any jarring, which is no mean feat considering how well Aliette managed to keep up the pacing and intrigue, as well as the constant building of the narrative as more and more about Acatl’s world was revealed. It’s really subtle, the way Aliette reels the reader in, revealing the culture and beliefs and way of life of the Aztecs without once making you feel as if you’re reading an essay about them.

Another aspect of the tale that surprised me was how it was layered; I expected the first mystery -that of the priestess that had disappeared- to be the only mystery that would be dealt with and explained, but it was just the first of many mysteries that tie- together before climaxing in a weird, otherworldly confrontation, finally revealing all. I’ll also admit that I tried to figure out who was behind all the mischief -you know, sometimes you get an idea because you try and imagine the person who seems most likely and least likely- but I was dead wrong! 🙂 I don’t think anyone will make the correct guess! 🙂

The magic-system is refreshingly new and thoughtful; Aliette builds the magic that her characters use bit by bit, giving each spell it’s own ritual, words and effects, a job very nicely done since the tale takes place in the past of our own world and not in a different place entirely (ok, sure, artistic license and all that, but Aliette left me believing in the magic, thinking that it may just have been real).

If there’s one problem that I had with the book, it’s that I really struggled to believe Acatl’s gender; for the first 4 or 5 chapters, I believed that Acatl was a woman; I’m not entirely sure why – perhaps because of Jo Graham’s character from Black Ships, Gull – and I was a bit shook up when I realized my error. It didn’t affect the reading of the novel, though; it’s not like I was jolted out of it, it was more like a “Ohhh, okay, now I’m with you, now I understand.” moment. Anyway, I don’t think you’ll see a similar observation in any other review of Servant of the Underworld, so don’t expect this to color the novel in any way. 🙂

All in all, Aliette’s Servant of the Underworld is an incredibly strong and promising debut, showing her talents at full effect – she can create amazing, believable worlds; her characters are solid and relatable, and she knows how to do interesting magic, great action and creepiness in spades. 🙂 I’m definitely looking forward to Aliette’s next two books – now that the main players have been introduced and the scene set, I can’t wait to see what Acatl gets up to next!

8 / 10

To order your copies of Servant of the Underworld, click here and here for those of you in the UK; as soon as I’ve got an expected SA-release date, I’ll let you all know. 🙂

Also, follow this link to Aliette’s official website; not only will you find some free fiction to read, but Aliette also did a 4-part exploration of the Aztecs, giving readers more background to the Empire of that time (the link will take you through to part 1). Serving as another introduction, here’s the book trailer (yes, I stole it from Angry Robot) 🙂 :

Aliette also has a presence on LiveJournal, and click the links to check out her author-page at Angry Robot, as well as the Servant of the Underworld page, where you can get yourself an extract to read! 🙂

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2010 in Angry Robot, Reviews

 

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