Tuesday, October 23, 2012

REVIEW: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone

Three Parts Dead Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review

Three Dead Parts defied my expectation. I took a risk on this seemingly boring book and it paid off!

I thought it was Urban Fantasy because of the blurb and cover.... Okay, mostly because of the cover. And technically it wouldn't be inaccurate to say it is because there were vampires and Craftsman (mages), a kick-ass heroine and a chain-smoking hero among many parts of the book.

However, the book was Fantasy. TDP was set in a completely different world where gods and godly Craftsman rule. From the world-building to the plot to the character, everything was intricately and deftly developed. This book wasn't a typical fantasy, it had layers enough to arguably proclaim it as epic.

Fantasy. Urban Fantasy. However you personally classify it, TDP was a damn good book.

Slow Beginning

The beginning was slow and sort of confusing; the book relied on action and dialogue for the world building. Truth be told, I would have liked some info-dumping even though that is lazy writing. Scenes didn't connect, their purpose wasn't revealed, till the characters met and gathered in one place, the city of Alt Coulumb, where the story took place.

Multiple PoVs

The multiple 3rd PoV was another big reason for the slow beginning. Just when things started getting interesting, the story switched to another PoV to another part of the plot. Fortunately, the switching ceased to be annoying once I grasped the plot and I warmed up to the characters.

The Characters

+++ the protagonists

Tara and Abelard’s PoV were the dominant PoVs, and I enjoyed reading their side. Tara was everything I want in a kickass heroine: confident but not conceited, courageous not foolish, smart but not a know-it-all. Tara had none of those negative traits so frequently inflicted on Urban Fantasy heroines to make them flawed and real. Not to say Tara was perfect, but she was refreshing to follow.

I expected Abelard to depress and annoy me because his god died at his watch. Talk about a crisis of faith, especially when Abelard is fresh into the priesthood as a novice. The man had all the wrapping of a self-tormented, emo hero thrust into a situation beyond his capability. In short, a typical Urban Fantasy hero. Yet Abelard took actions on his own initiative. He helped Tara; he learned about the world beyond and the things in his city he never noticed before; he fought the bad guys when the bad guys ambushed the good guys.

+++ the side characters

It wasn't just Abelard; everyone had the potential to be emo. There was the pirate dude who didn't became a vampire by choice, the junkie who was addicted to the rapturous bite of a vampire because she was supernatural police for a pale imitation of dead Goddess, the Cardinal whose God died and religious order was dying. Apparently, the loss of the connection to the divine messed up most of the characters in the book.

The one character I didn't care for was Shale. His PoV could have been done without because it was confusing and seemed to be mere filler. Not that his role in the plot wasn't important, but his part would have made the same impact if it was observed or discovered by one of the dominant PoVs.

My favorite character was Kevarian, Tara’s boss, because, beside being a powerful Craftsman, she was one of those people who plan many steps ahead and well.... Suffice to say I was very glad she was one of the good guys. She is not a person to trifle with. If you think you won against her, think again... that is if you even have the luxury of minutes to reflect on where you failed before you die a horrible horrible death.

+++ the bad guys

The book had two villains. One villain was unknown and our protagonists had to discover who it was. And it wasn't a big surprise when I found out at the end. That villain was a cliché.

The other villain was introduced in the middle of the story and he was scarier and more powerful than the unknown villain. He was a manipulative deceitful megalomaniac who wanted to be the ruler of everyone and everything he could grasp. No surprise that it was Kevarian’s ex-boyfriend and present nemesis.

The Writing

The writing was little too elaborate for my liking because sometimes the imagery was overwhelming and I skimmed to get to the action or dialogue part of the scene. Thankfully, the prose was pretty clear so I always knew what the characters were doing even if I didn't know why they were doing it.

+++ the pacing

The pacing eventually picked up by a third of the story. Once Tara and Abelard started their investigation, I had a good grip on the plot. The story picked up more speed once the Megalomaniac Mage (my nickname for him) came in and the characters were in a rush to solve the mystery before Megalomaniac Mage thoroughly trapped them in his schemes.

+++ the ending

The story didn't fail to give me a satisfactory ending after an awesome climax. No sireee. It was satisfactory. Very satisfactory. I especially loved what Kevarian did to the Megalomanic Mage in the end. Let’s just say there were no loose ends left to be resolved.

Smorgasbord of Genres

When Tara and Abelard examined the fire god’s body, they gave me the impression that the story was CSI, an American TV crime show. Then in the middle of the story, it became like a lawyer show, except everyone could use magic and play underhandedly. It was essentially a fight for survival.

There was a religious element to the story but it wasn't overbearing. It was, however, a cliché that a big religious order was suffering corruption and opulence. But then again so was every big organization that existed in the story. From the magic school that didn't do expulsion so it graduated Tara and kicked her ass out literally from the sky, to the powerful firm of cutthroat Craftsman who handled cases of god-related matters. The book had themes of power, bureaucracy, and corruption.

In Conclusion

I rate Three Parts Dead 3-stars for I liked it. I’m glad I kept reading the book despite its slow and confusing beginning. The ending left me with a glow of joy. I would look forward reading a sequel if there was one.

Recommended for readers who want an urban fantasy to be heavy and epic on the fantasy side.

Amazon GoodReads

Monday, October 1, 2012

REVIEW: Pressure Head by J.L. Merrow

Pressure Head Pressure Head by J.L. Merrow
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Characters

+++ The Protagonist

I liked Tom but I found it hard to keep liking him, because his people-pleasing personality tired me. Despite considering his personality, I was still flabbergasted at how quickly Tom agreed to help Phil, Tom’s teen crush turned bully. Phil nicknamed Tom Poofski (Tom’s last name is Patreski) and was one of the bullies who chased Tom into a car accident which gave him a lifelong hip injury. Tom’s personality didn’t meld perfectly with his past; he got along with Phil too quickly to be believable.

Another issue was how Tom jumped into the investigation with Phil without serious consideration that they were hunting a murderer, that what they were doing was dangerous. Not to mention that Tom had a job as a plumber with appointments, which he missed intermittently. Tom essentially put his life on hold and in risk for an ex-bully. Yes, the ex-bully was still handsome as ever... and gay... and single, but still. Tom needed to re-prioritize.

Tom may have a preternatural talent for finding things and the natural charisma for easing people, especially women which induced jealousy from Phil, but investigating a homicide was beyond his capabilities. He didn’t even bother to carry a weapon at the ending in his rescue attempt.

+++ The Love Interest

Phil suffered a severe lack of character development. His attitude was distant, but that was no excuse. I knew more about Tom’s flamboyant best friend, Gary, and his ex-porn star little person lover, Darren; Gary and Darren were not suspects whose background needed to be told and had around 4-6 scenes total in the story.

There’s something wrong when I know more about minor characters than a major character who is the main character’s love interest and appears all the time in the story. The story left me annoyed with a bunch of questions about Phil.

The Writing

+++ restrictive PoV

The story was told exclusively in 1st Pov from Tom’s side. I generally prefer 1st PoV from the protagonist’s side, but it felt restrictive in this story. Tom’s obliviousness to Phil’s romantic interest, among other things, was mind-numbing.

+++ slow mystery

The red herrings were great, but the mystery could have used some speed. To be fair, the mystery was one of the faster ones I have read, and I was thoroughly engaged. The pace eventually quickened, but it felt late to me.

+++ the ending

Since not much was said about Phil, the romance was sparse. The fact that Tom and Phil only had one date didn’t help, nor did the slightly abrupt ending. I wasn’t fully convinced in their HEA as I wanted.

In Conclusion

I rate Pressure Head 2-stars for it was okay. The book was fairly well-written and engaging; its British aspect was authentic and endearing. Nevertheless, the book had a couple issues that stopped me from liking it.

I recommend the book to readers looking for a good, British mystery with a small paranormal influence.

Amazon GoodReads