Robert Batten

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Author

Tag: recommendations

Recommendation: The Falcon Flies Alone

Disclaimer: I read a free review copy of this book.
The Falcon Flies Alone is a supernatural science-fiction novel set in Switzerland and Germany during the 1950’s. It follows the fraught tale of Peppa; the recently orphaned daughter of a respected chemist who is a skilled scientist in her own right. When we join her, however, she is far from the halls of Radcliffe where she had expected to be studying. After the death of her father, she was left in the care of her Aunt until she came of age at twenty-one — a situation she couldn’t stand, leading her to flee and hide in the country until her birthday when she could claim her inheritance. Unfortunately, things spiral out of control when she is implicated in a violent and deadly incident in the town, one that unleashes a falcon spirit inside and leaves her questioning her sanity as she flees the authorities.
The story is interesting, deliberately keeping the reader guessing as to whether Peppa has really transformed into a giant raptor, or whether the drug she was tricked into ingesting cause a psychotic break. The novel is well-written, and I enjoyed it, though there were a few elements that held me back (all subjective).
My biggest problem was Peppa. She’s a naïve character who has grown up submersed in science, leading her to interpret the world and events through an almost purely clinical eye. She goes through a great deal in the book, and is undoubtedly the victim, but at the end of the day I just couldn’t bring myself to like her. It’s not always necessary to want to be friends with the protagonist in a novel, but in this case, I struggled a little to care about her future. This is definitely my subjective experience, and I have no doubt others will love her. She just wasn’t the style of character I’m drawn to.
Mathieu has done a lot of research for the book, and it shows. While there are supernatural elements to the story, it focusses on its science-fiction basis, and there is a lot of science to unpack. In places I found it a little heavy handed, but throughout most of the book it flows well. Some people will love the detail provided, others perhaps not so much. You’ll know if you like your stories with a heavy dose of science — I again present this not as a criticism, but as a subjective experience.
The Falcon Flies Alone is the first book in a series, the book nicely closes the primary story arc while opening into the next. The novel is action-packed with rolling twists and turns. Gabrielle Mathieu is strong writer who has delivered an interesting period science-fiction which will be loved by those who connect to the main character.
You can pick up a copy from Amazon here, or read more reviews on Goodreads here.

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Recommendation: Cassandra Palmer Extended Universe

My “what I read” segments are short book (or series) recommendations based on the books I enjoy. They generally aren’t designed to be a detailed review — you get a basic summary of what the book / series is about, and why I like it.

The CPEU

As far as I know, the “Cassandra Palmer Extended Universe” isn’t part of the official lexicon, but it should be. This recommendation is really for two series that take place in the same universe: the Cassandra Palmer series and the Dorina Basarab series (a spin off). Both are written by Karen Chance and are accompanied by a series of fun novellas in addition to the main novels.
(more…)

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A God in the Shed by J.F. Dubeau

Before I drop into my review, I should note I don't normally read horror.
"If that's true, why did you read A God in the Shed?"
Because the idea of accidentally trapping a god in your backyard shed is awesome, and because I loved JF Dubeau's previous book, the sci-fi The Life Engineered.
The good news, despite straying from my usual genre, is I enjoyed AGITS and plan to read its sequel when it comes out. This is a dark supernatural thriller with a high (and gruesome) death count, but that's what happens when dealing with a god of death and hate. Dubeau has hit on a brilliant concept in this book and he executes the premise well. The story moves smoothly from revelation to revelation and the complex web of interrelated characters and plot points converge.
PS: If you do plan to pick up this book, I recommend getting yourself a physical copy. Inkshares have done an amazing job with the design and production of this — the cover looks great, and the pages are rough-cut, giving the book a glorious on-theme feel.
PPS: I won't be booking a ticket to Saint-Ferdinand any time soon.
You can buy AGITS from:

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Recommendation: The Innkeeper Chronicles
Clean Sweep is Book 1 in the series.

I became hooked on Ilona Andrews through the Kate Daniels series, then discovered the Innkeeper Chronicles, and my addiction grew. This series has a very different vibe to Kate Daniels, but it still packs the Ilona Andrews punch. There are (at the time I'm writing this) three novels out in the series: Clean Sweep, Sweep in Peace, and One Fell Sweep.
The novels are science-fiction with a dose of urban fantasy. They tell the story of Dina, an Innkeeper who caters to non-human clients. In this universe, the Earth exists on an interstellar crossroads, and humans are the smallest fish in a big ocean. To prevent humanity's inevitable enslavement or extermination by another race, a great treaty was formed to establish the planet as a neutral zone and safe haven. Innkeepers provide accommodation and protection to those who come calling and ensure the great secret is never revealed.
The best way to describe this series is FUN. The blend of science and magic is perfect for the tone of the books, which are action packed, humorous, and touching. The Inns themselves are incredible, and the eclectic cast of characters are delightful (and yet another reason real-life social interactions can feel so tedious).
If you enjoy a fantastical sci-fi adventure, or are an urban fantasy fan looking for a new take on things which go bump, I highly recommend these books. They aren't hard sci-fi, so readers looking for an explanation of how the Inn's technomagic works are going to be disappointed, but that doesn't mean the world-building is lacking, just that the explanation of how magic and technology mix isn't relevant to the incredible stories packed into each instalment.
You can find more information on goodreads here, or buy the books at:

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Recommendation: Bones of the Past

The Night Guard walk the streets of the old kingdom of Bialta seeking out threats that are beyond the abilities of the common soldier. Nial is one such threat a girl changed into something other and on the hunt for human souls. Salt, a sailor recently rescued by the Night Guard, has been inducted into their ranks. He s a quick study, but as new threats multiply all around them, will he have what it takes to survive?
Bialta is not alone in its woes. Sacral, a city that vanished in the distant past, has reappeared where it once stood at the heart of the Wastes. Like many of Sacral s people, Maura is content living a quiet life, ignoring the outside world. But she finds herself desperately fighting to save her home as war comes to the city returned.
Meanwhile, across the Great Desert, creatures are stirring. Carver, the last living master of the magic known as fleshcarving, has won the support of the tyrant of Tolrahk Esal. Together they will unleash his twisted creations to sweep across the land and forever disrupt the balance of power.
In this epic tale, there is no good and evil. Armies march, demons feed, and deities unleash their powers on a world that will never be the same.

Bones of the Past is the first installment in a new epic fantasy series by Craig Munro. It tells a sprawling tale weaving together stories from dozens of characters across an entire continent in a high-fantasy setting. The novel strongly reminded me of the Book of the Malazan Fallen series by Stephen Erikson, and is a powerful debut novel from Munro.
I enjoyed this novel and devouring its pages felt effortless. The characters are all well-realised, and the world-building is impressive. Munro has created an enormous world with a deep history. He has invested the time to provide us a fresh fantasy landscape, without relying on the cliches some fantasy series fall back on. This is a world that lives and breathes, unencumbered by stereotyped races coughpointyearedelvescough.
Munro does a good job of weaving between his various plot threads and POVs, setting the stage for his different pieces to coalesce into a cohesive whole. However, he's playing the long game, and many of these threads remain separate at the end of the book. He doesn't completely abandon us here, with the stage primed for those pieces to come together in the next book, but it is something to be aware of going in — when you finish Bones of the Past, you'll be left wanting the second book (not yet out) in order to find satisfaction for some of those stories you've become invested in (for me, it is mostly to experience the rest of the Zuly / Nial arc).
Bones of the Past is a great novel for those who enjoy gritty, sprawling high fantasy such as that produced by Stephen Erikson.

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Recommendation: A Court of Thorns and Roses (series)
A Court of Wings and Ruin

I've just finished reading A Court of Wings and Ruin, book three in the ongoing A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas (I've previously written about Maas' Throne of Glass series). I love this series — the latest instalment knocking it out of the park. Again.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is a fantasy series set in a world of fae and humans. A little reminiscent of Garth Nix's Abhorsen series, this world is divided by a magic wall, with lands to the North controlled by the fae and lands to the south controlled by humans. It follows the story of Feyre, a young woman who's actions inadvertently result in her being trapped on the wrong side of the wall, where things are... not great.
Feyre is an awesome protagonist. She's strong, self-sufficient, and doesn't take shit lying down. She's beautifully realised throughout the series, as are the rest of the cast.
The setting and plot draw from a wealth of existing tales, but Maas puts a strong stamp on it and isn't afraid to smash our preconceptions — often turning our understanding of situations and characters on its head. She's also a master of Chekhov's Gun — returning to earlier books reveals a wealth of clues which add to the re-read value.
Book three brought with it an epic conclusion to key plot-points, and the series could stand proud as a trilogy, but there are more books planned. The world certainly has scope to keep me enthralled, so I'm looking forward to book four.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

If you haven't started the series yet, I recommend you grab a copy of book one: A Court of Thorns and Roses.
 

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