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Book Review: The Last Ancient

Since I haven’t had much time to read the past couple of weeks as I am currently in the process of immigrating from Finland to Sweden, I thought I’d post a past review about a book I didn’t expect to enjoy nearly as much as I did…

ancient

Around Nantucket Island, brutal crime scenes are peppered with ancient coins, found by the one man who can unlock their meaning. But what do the coins have to do with the crimes? Or the sudden disease epidemic? Even the creature? And who–or what–left them?

The answer leads reporter Simon Stephenson on a journey through ancient mythology, numismatics, and the occult. Not to mention his own past, which turns out to be even darker than he’d realized; his murdered father was a feared arms dealer, after all. Along the way, Simon battles panic attacks and a host of nasty characters — some natural, others less so — while his heiress fiancee goes bridezilla, and a gorgeous rival TV reporter conceals her own intentions.

I might never have picked up this novel had I not had the pleasure of meeting the author in person. I met Eliot Baker at FinnCon 2014 where I was first introduced to The Last Ancient during a reading session. After hearing only a few excerpts from this book, I knew I had to read it despite my reservations about the treasure-hunting pirate-type cover and the fact that I’m not usually a fan of thrillers or mysteries or crime novels – and this seemed like all three rolled into one with a dash of the fantastic. Nevertheless, I bought the book and started reading it on the train ride from from the con, and? I couldn’t put the bloody thing down!

I love mythology and this book delivers it in spades! The blurb actually doesn’t do this book justice, in my opinion – a trend I’m discovering :/ This book is a lot less mystery thriller than it is dark urban fantasy. Baker has effortlessly woven together contemporary politics, environmental issues and economics into a story about alchemy, replete with snippets from history and a good deal of philosophy – in short, The Last Ancient is the perfect cocktail for anyone who prefers their fantasy delivered on the barrel of an automatic assault rifle instead of a broad-sword.

This is not my usual sort of read – being adult and a little too urban fantasy when I tend to prefer young adult and fantasy of epic proportions – and yet, I was enthralled from the very first chapter. I have learned so much from this book, particularly about ancient coins and numismatics, not to mention shale oil technology!

Baker’s writing is great too, delivering stunning metaphor while not getting bogged down in description. The book is ambitious though and it tries to cram a lot into its pages. I think Baker pulled it off but I can imagine some readers might find the multi-genre mash-up a little too much. The plot moves at a serious clip and if I have any complaints it’s that the ending – while spectacular – seemed a tiny bit rushed, so that by the time I reached the last line I felt out of breath and still wanting more. But when an author leaves me wanting more, that’s a job well-done.

This book seriously surprised and impressed me. I cannot wait to read more by Eliot Baker. 5/5 ink splats for this one.

5 inksplats

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2014 in Reviews

 

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Book Review: My Chemical Mountain

Sometime last year, I read a little known YA novel called My Chemical Mountain. To be honest, the title caught my attention because of its similarity to the band name My Chemical Romance. I wasn’t quite sold given the blurb below, but I loved the cover so thought I’d give it a try anyway.

mountain

Rocked by his father’s recent death and his mother’s sudden compulsion to overeat, Jason lashes out by breaking into the abandoned mills and factories that plague his run-down town. Always by his side are his two best friends, Charlie, a fearless thrill junkie, and Cornpup, a geek inventor whose back is covered with cysts. The boys rage against the noxious pollution that suffocates their town and despise those responsible for it; at the same time, they embrace the danger of their industrial wasteland and boast about living on the edge. 

   Then on a night the boys vandalize one of the mills,  Jason makes a costly mistake–and unwittingly becomes a catalyst for change. In a town like his, change should be a good thing. There’s only one problem: change is what Jason fears most of all.

While I have read many disaster-apocalypse novels and a good few dystopians, this was first foray into ‘ecopunk,’ in that the book explores the consequences of pollution, corporate indifference and the effects of industrial waste on the environment. This story has stuck with me not least of all because of the grim, gritty, dark world the story is set in. This is neither a true post-apocalyptic nor a real dystopian story, but rather portrays the reality for many existing industrial towns right now. This is a very scary reality indeed, albeit exaggerated for the sake of fiction, and in many ways reminded me of the Chernobyl disaster and how the surrounding area was and is still affected by radiation today. Oh how I’d love to read a novel set in that vicinity!

What I truly loved about this story, and found so refreshing, was the all-boy main cast when having a strong, female lead is usually prerequisite for any YA novel. Along with the all-male cast, the emphasis in this novel is most certainly on male friendship instead of romance, which is also rare in YA. While I did appreciate this different approach, I must admit that at times this book felt more MG than YA because it was lacking certain tropes I’ve come to expect from YA. I think this novel might appeal more to younger readers, especially boys around the 10-13 age, but can be enjoyed by adults as well. Not that who the target audience should be really matters given how engaging these characters are. There was something so charming about Charlie’s reckless confidence, something endearing about Cornpup’s righteousness and something just undeniably lovable about Jason’s compassion – these are all characters I’ll definitely have a hard time forgetting. While the plot is rather straight forward without many twists or turns, I found the boys’ struggle against their toxic environment and the corporations that govern their lives totally compelling and alarming.

If you’re looking for a short, sci-fi light read with a refreshing focus on boys, friendship and the power one individual can have against a tyrant, then I strongly recommend this book! My Chemical Mountain gets 4/5 ink splats from me.

4 inksplats

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Reviews

 

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