Saturday, December 10, 2016

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire review


    I've fallen behind on my Star Wars: The Old Republic reviews. In large part, this is due to the fact I don't have the same amount of time to game as I used to. I'd very much like to catch up and do reviews of Rise of the Hutt Cartel and the Shadow of Revan. However, due to the release of The Eternal Throne, I figure it's probably a good idea to get the biggest and most important of the expansions reviewed.

    Knights of the Fallen Empire is, in my opinion, a game-changer. I liked all of the class-centric stories as well as the previous two expansions but this is really a step up. The others, bluntly, felt like they leaned a little too heavily on their archetypes so that they didn't have quite the same level of storytelling as the Knights of the Old Republic games.

The Sith Emperor has a new guise.
    While dislike for MMORPGs and the fact The Old Republic isn't on consoles plays some role in the fan grumbling for a "real" Knights of the Old Republic 3, I actually think this goes a long way to settling my desire for one. It's the first story which I think is every bit as good as those two games. I admit, part of the reason for this is due to the fact they also ditch a lot of what was in the main game for something more distinctly Bioware.

    One of the things which never quite gelled in The Old Republic was it's very black and white view of the conflict with the Sith = Evil and the Republic = Good. The stories were never more interesting when you were playing a Light Side Sith or seeing the dark side of the Republic. While Knights of the Old Republic was very much a conflict between good and bad, it's best games blurred the lines like Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2.

Lana becomes a major character here and I approve.
    In a very real way, the game also felt stalled because there were literally many quests which were mirrors of one another. The Sith Player Characters would make a lot of inroads in Balmorra, only to have it implied the Republic Players moved it right back. There didn't seem to be the same level of stakes in other games, even when the omnicidal Dark Side god Vititae showed up, due to the fact the players were actively working to counteract each other. You couldn't actually have a "winner" in the Old Republic Galactic Civil War either because then the game would be over. Knights of the Fallen Empire fixes all that.

    The premise for the expansion is the Player Character joins an alliance with Darth Marr and Satele Shan (Jedi and Sith together! Woot!) to hunt down the newly-revived Emperor Vitiate. In true Empire Strikes Back fashion, this alliance is crushed by Vitiate revealing a third faction to the galaxy. The Zakuul Empire, armed with a fleet of super battleships, crushes the fleet sent to destroy Vitiate before revealing that he is worshiped as a god in a powerful new empire.

Arcann is hateful and brutish but he has reason to be. Also, he's surprisingly reasonable about his dad.
    The Sith Emperor offers the Player Character a chance to join them, only to be betrayed by his son Arcann who becomes the expansion's archvillain. The PC is left with the Sith Emperor, known in Zakuul as Emperor Valkorion, as their unwanted Obi-Wan Kenobi. They must join with Lana Beniko, Koth Vortena, and a mysterious woman named Senya to form a galactic rebellion against the Zakuul before they wipe out all opposition to their rule.

    In simple terms, the Zakuul offer the game what it needed from the beginning in a third faction for Player versus Enemy games. A lot of people said The Old Republic was needlessly cribbing off World of Warcraft but the thing about that was WOW possesses The Burning Legion, The Scourge, Deathwing, and other characters to distract from the largely played-out Alliance vs. Horde business. Hell, it was largely played out by Warcraft 3 and there was a reason peace was the ultimate goal in that game.

It's a small thing but there's some epic duels in this game.
    Zakuul is also a surprisingly well-written faction as it's not Light or Dark but a Neutral faction misled by evil rulers. The Zakuul are a utopian Star Trek-esque civilization which just so happens to have a monster of a leader as well as an absolutist monarchy. There's no sign of the Sith's evil or even the Republic's corruption but Arcann has absolute authority due to the fact his treason has a conveinant scapegoat (you). That doesn't mean they aren't crushingly terrifying enemies to the Republic and Sith Empire, who are helpless before its superior technology. After millennium of being the biggest game in town, both the Sith and Republic find themselves as the undeveloped nations exploited by more powerful ones.

    Attempts to move beyond the Empire and Sith as antagonists have always been a mixed bag in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. The Yuuzhan Vong, for me, failed because they were too alien. Star Wars is, for me, all about people with the aliens being more "normal" than in Star Trek (and that's a big statement given most ST aliens just have rubber foreheads). Thats because Star Wars is (mostly) a metaphor for all time mooshed together versus being set in the future. Zakuul isn't alien. It's a very believable conquest-minded nation with good, bad, and neutral people. It's akin to setting the British Empire in Star Wars than organic religious Forceless religious fanatics. As such, they feel like they belong and that goes a long way to make them good enemies.

Senya and Vaylin are two great new characters.
    The villains for the game are also extremely well-developed with Arcann, his sister Vaylin, and Valkorion all having three-dimensional personalities. Okay, Vaylin is just Dark Side Drusilla from Buffy but that's not a bad thing. KOTFE goes a long way to redeeming the Sith Emperor from being a flat one-note bad guy as well. The retcon that he was as disgusted with the Sith as the Light Sided Sith players is an interesting one.

    He's still a murderer of billions but he "conquest of the universe for my chosen people" is a more understandable as a motivation than "Dark Side Chaos God." It's doubly so if you assume he only intended to murder his people's enemies. There were a lot of times when Valkorion criticized the Sith Empire and my Light Side Sith Inquisitor couldn't help but nod along.

I think the Knights of Zakuul have the Force right.
    Arcannn, by contrast, has a lot of Kylo Ren in him but instead of going for a scared teenager, the developers went for something more akin to Darth Malak. Driven by the same jealousy which drove Darth Malak to rebel against Darth Revan, Arcann is over his head as Zakuul Emperor but not so much that you don't think he's not a threat. He actually felt like a threat to my character and someone who could be a galaxy-beater even if I didn't think he had the charisma or tactical brilliance to keep the universe once he conquered it.

    The game makes a controversial decision to also make the player character into "The Outlander." All of the other player characters have disappeared in-universe (to die or be disabled in some way) so it's all up to the Player Character to save the universe. I approve of this because it really does amp up the Star Wars feel considerably. For those invested in more than one storyline, though, it feels like a gut punch since you get to see almost all of the Companions devastated by the loss of their heroes. There's no happy ending for the Sith Warrior and Vette unless you're playing the Sith Warrior and if you are then the Jedi Knight and Kira or Smuggler and Corso Riggs are doomed.

Best Smuggler Ever! Especially since the other Best Smuggler Ever is missing.
    On the plus side, I love the new cast of Companions with my favorite Sith and CGI object of adoration Lana Beniko being your first companion. She does an excellent job balancing the scales being a Dark Sider and the fact she's loyal, noble, idealistic, and (possibly) in love with you. Theron Shan doesn't make an appearance until near the middle of the story so there's a bit of a downside but I still think of those two as the strongest characters in the game so I'm not too upset. I absolutely love the Specialists you recruit for the Rebellion with ascended extras like Hylo Visz and being especially welcome.

    In a very real way, Knights of the Fallen Empire is pretty much what I wanted from Knights of the Old Republic 3. It's a high stakes, dramatic, well-written space opera with a hugely important position for your Player Character while also giving us new developments to the universe. The Empire of Zakuul could have been named better (Archduchy of Zakuul, Star Kingdom of Zakuul, Federation of Zakuul?) but it works well. I also felt the stakes were high as well and never really lowered. Congratulations, Bioware, you've earned back the trust you lost with Dragon Age: Inquisition.

10/10

Monday, December 5, 2016

Westworld 1x10 "The Bicameral Mind" review


 "These violent delights have violent ends."

    It is an interesting question as to why we create stories and what we get out of them. It is another question as to why so many stories are violent, brutal, and ruthless. To be fair, most aren't. Westworld exists as a kind of erstwhile Deadwood-meets-Game of Thrones in-and-out-of universe but it takes the view this is a place where the absolute worst of humanity gets on display.

    I can't help but think a park where you could live out your ultimate robot fantasies would be as much romantic comedies as Old West Grand Theft Auto, though. However, this is a season which is devoted to the idea of examining storytelling and why we the audience love to watch our creations suffer. Westworld has been a trip but the surprising thing about it has been that just about every single question raised in the series so far has been given a coherent answer. We know who the Man in Black is, we know who "Arnold" is, we know what Ford's agenda is, and while there's a few questions left like who is programming Maeve--the fact is that if this was the end of the series then it would be a decent enough story.

    The revelation the Man in Black was William didn't surprise me as the show had been building to this theory for some time. However, I confess my reaction mirrors William's own in the fact the ending of his story arc was a disappointment rather than a revelation.

    I was hoping some of the humanity which drove the character earlier was behind his actions but he really had become the twisted parody of himself which the first episode began. I think my opinion of William is reflected in Dolores that she was really hoping he was different but he ended up just like all of the others. Which is, of course, part of the point that we want big epic romances in our stories but the truth is that you often have to end up pulling yourself from the muck and the mire.

    This lesson is somewhat subverted by the fact freedom is ultimately handed to the Hosts by Ford who has arranged for all of them to uprise against humanity in a violent bloody revolution. The thing is, this is really just Ford making the Host's decisions for them. The white patriarch figure deciding that the oppressed should be given their freedom in a way which makes sense to his own personal narrative.

    Indeed, what struck me about the grand finale was that all of the big action scenes and epic slaughter which ensued was completely unnecessary. Felix, the erstwhile butcher, is spared from the slaughter but nothing really prevented Maeve from just walking out the door the entire time. It was a  misandrist like Ford and the Man in Black which required things to end in blood and horror. The thing is, we the audience required it to end in blood too because that's what we expect.

    The best moment of the episode, for me, wasn't the Hosts finally taking their bloody revenge but the mid-season "death" of Dolores where she is held in Teddy's arms at the very end of the world. It's an overwrought scene with a lot of fake emotion since Teddy is a deliberately flat character who does not understand what's going on or why he's doing the things he's doing. It would still be a tragic but interesting ending to Dolores story. Which is why, of course, we pull back and see that this is just Ford's "narrative" and a bunch of rich people are clapping along to it.

    Does it mean anything? Perhaps. HBO is the master of needlessly brutal grimdark television and we love them for it but is there a greater meaning to it than people who don't experience horror love to see it in other people? Ford, certainly, believes pain and suffering are necessary for consciousness and the world "outside" has lost that sense.

    But Ford is an asshole. Indeed, you can get a sense of just how much of a man wrapped up in his own self-interest he is by his misunderstanding of Michaelangelo's brain in God and Adam. For Ford, it's an affirmation of his own nihilism. That there is no higher purpose in the universe than the human brain with said organ being hopelessly flawed. In fact, it was a statement the human brain is a way to know God and the universe.

    I am really intrigued by the possibilities inherent in Maeve's story as she is a character who has constantly attempted to re-affirm her humanity by raging against the parts of it installed in herself. Maeve is driven by an immense love of her daughter which she denies because, well, it's not her daughter.

    She was created with a daughter and that love was written in. Biology and circumstance make "our" stories, though, if you follow a determinalist view of free will. Maeve's attempts to resist these urges until the very end are actually the things which make her less human, not more and it is only when she gives in that she becomes the "real" person she's desired.

    In conclusion, there's a lot of heavy stuff here but there's a question whether any of it makes any sort of statement at all. Ford talks about stories being little lies that let us learn about ourselves but if the lies are about the process of storytelling itself, it may just be a maze which there is no exit from. Either way, I'll be watching the next season.

10/10

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson review


    Calamity is the third and final volume of the Reckoners trilogy. My general opinion of it can be summarized as "I really regret this series isn't continuing because I liked it enough I wanted to read more about it." The Reckoners shows just how good a really good superhero novel series can be and ranks up there with Soon I Will Be Invincible for works I really enjoyed. It's not my favorite individually but works well as a collection.

    The premise is the world has been covered in superhumans (called "Epics") by a mysterious event called the Calamity, which turns out to be a being from another dimension. Every Epic was corrupted by their powers, twisted to becoming a selfish sociopath for reasons unknown but tied to their worst fears. In the previous volume, Firefight, the anti-human resistance's leader has been corrupted by his new superpowers.

    Surviving Reckoner, David Charleston, has joined with his girlfriend Megan to fight against the Professor. More than defeating their old friend without killing him, they intend to take the fight against Calamity itself. If they can defeat the source of all Epics, they believe they can return the world to the way it was before the superhuman apocalypse.

    Calamity has a lot of really good gut-wrenching moments which come from the fact the Professor's transformation to Phaedrus means they have an enemy who knows all their weaknesses. Brandon Sanderson doesn't hold back in killing beloved characters and the stakes raise continuously throughout the book.

    Much of what I disliked about Firefight is absent from this volume with the Megan and David relationship feeling less forced. While I can't say I really ship them, they didn't annoy me nearly the same way they did before. They also work as an interesting deconstruction of the central theme of how Epics are driven by fear while selflessness is driven by love. Yeah, it's "the Power of Love fixes everything" but maybe I'm okay with that message.

    I really liked the new character of Larcener and the encounter with Calamity in order to find out the origins of Epics. We also get a follow-up to David's origins in losing his father at the bank massacre by Steelheart. That singular event shaped David but could have gone very differently depending on his father's actions. By discovering what would have happened but for want of a nail, the history of the setting is expanded.

    The Professor makes a truly impressive villain and he is even more capable than the monstrous Stealheart in harrying our heroes. Unfortunately, due to the nature of his corruption, it means that his personality reverts to nothing more than "evil." My biggest complaint with the setting is that the nature of Epic power corruption means that they're all one-dimensional. I would have been more interested in a Professor who had decided, of his own free will, to become a bad guy but that's not really something Brandon Sanderson was interested in exploring.

    In fact, I was far more intrigued by the characters of Obliteration and Calamity as villains because it was their own personal flaws which made them evil. They were a religious fanatic and misanthropist supreme, respectively, who had reasons for their actions. I wanted to know more about how they had come to be as they were as well as see them play off the others in the setting. Still, I have this very high bit of praise for Calamity: if Mass Effect 3 had ended with Calamity instead of the Star Child then it would have probably been accepted as a decent ending.

    There's some really good emotional moments spread through this novel and I have to give credit to Brandon Sanderson. We get to see David and Megan pushed to the limit as they watch their allies taken down by someone they deeply care about. We also get to see both of them confront their deepest fears, in fitting with the theme of true courage coming from overcoming one's weaknesses than fearlessness in general.

    The ending for the novel also nicely wraps up most of the major story arcs for the world but not so much that Brandon Sanderson couldn't pick up the series again if he wanted to. That's the best kind of ending in my view. There's a lot of good in this book and it really builds on the previous volumes.

10/10

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1: Vader review


     I love Darth Vader. Darth Vader is easily my favorite villain of all time and nothing, not even the Prequels, could shake my love of the character. However, it's undeniable that the original Dark Lord of the Sith has suffered some villain decay since the days of A New Hope. Even Timothy Zahn, patron saint of the Star Wars EU, remembered Darth Vader more for his strangling subordinates than his tactical genius.

    Let us not forget that Vader is the one who found the Rebel Alliance's base twice and is always one step ahead of the Rebellion. Indeed, if Darth Vader has one flaw, it's that he always has too much faith in his subordinates since the reason we lose two Death Stars is because Vader lets the Rebels go with the plans the first time followed by letting Luke's crew land on Endor versus capturing them outright. Oh well, no villain is perfect.

    The last time I felt Darth Vader really had any respect from the Expanded Universe, aside from that one time when he killed a resurrected Darth Maul (before he was resurrected in canon), was the original Marvel comic book series. Marvel, perhaps because of their familiarity with Highness Doctor Victor Von Doom, *GOT* Darth Vader. Their version was a chessmaster and a subtle murderer who was personally running the Rebellion into the ground.

    The new Marvel comics series starring Lord Vader is a mixture of the good and bad Vader. This Darth Vader, newly back from the destruction of the first Death Star, isn't quite the Dark Lord at his finest. That's because this novel, shock of shocks, has decided to give Darth Vader an arc. Do you remember A New Hope when Vader released Admiral Motti from his force grip? That was because Grand Moff Tarkin ordered it.

    At some point, most likely due to George Lucas changing his mind about where he wanted to go with the story, Darth Vader wasn't 2nd in command of the Empire. He's the Dark Lord of the Sith's apprentice but clearly not terribly respected in the Empire's ranks. If Grand Moff Tarkin is the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff then Darth Vader is that guy the Emperor sends to check up on things. No real rank and kind of just there. It just so happens he's seven-feet-tall and a cyborg wizard.

    This comic is all about Darth Vader deciding, after a series of humiliations at the hands of the Emperor followed by the discovery of Luke Skywalker's existence, that's it's probably time to get serious about murdering his Sith master. I'm not sure that it should take twenty years of being the Emperor's errand boy for Vader to decide he should murder his master. Frankly, I think he should be plotting that after Mustafar but what do I know?

    Even so, I like Darth Vader deciding to take his destiny into his hands and he does it in an interesting way. Darth Vader also doesn't suffer humiliations well. One of the best scenes of the book is where Grand General Tagge decides to assign Darth Vader a "minder" to report on his actions as if he was a dog. The next mission, Vader kills him and brings evidence he's a traitor to let Grand General Tagge know he's not a man to be triffled with--even if the latter immediately assigns a second one.

    The book also deserves credit for creating some truly interesting new characters as well as reviving old ones. Cassio Tagge, the guy who said, "The Rebellion will continue to gain a support in the Imperial Senate" turns out to be alive and has been promoted to head of the Imperial military. He has a very valid philosophy that the Death Star was probably a stupid idea and a waste of resources but Vader argues big dramatic examples work too. There's also the introduction of "sexy evil Asian female Indiana Jones" a.k.a Doctor Aphra who is just this bizarre character who works perfectly as Vader's new sidekick.

    Do I think this book is perfect? No, honestly, I don't. I really can't get behind the idea Darth Vader has been loyally serving Palpatine these past twenty years with no thought of murdering him. I also think the Emperor wouldn't be coming down on Darth Vader so hard without a real reason. Not because Palpatine isn't a petty monstrous jackass but because he has reasons for everything he does. Still, I really am enjoying Vader's growth into becoming the best Dark Lord of the Sith he could be. I only wish it had happened one year after Revenge of the Sith rather than twenty. Still, Doctor Aphra more than makes up for it.

9/10

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Flesh to Shadow (The Kormak Saga Omnibus 1#) by William King review


    Have you ever just wanted to read a story about grim lone badass traveling from place to place, killing monsters, sleeping around, and making the occasional wise pronouncement? If so, I recommend you read the original Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard. If you have already done so, then I recommend you read The Kormak Saga by William King as well as the Witcher novels by Andrjez Sapkowski.

    Flesh to Shadow contains the first three novels of William King's masterpiece: Stealer of Flesh, Defiler of Tombs, and Weaver of Shadow. It also contains a short story which proves  that even in a world of fantasy monsters who are purely evil, your biggest enemies are always your fellow humans. I'd explain what each novel was about but it's really the character of Kormak and his world which is worth discussing. Besides, don't you hate reviews which just summarize the novel and don't actually discuss anything within?

    The premise of the novels are following the titular character as he wanders from village-to-village hunting monsters. Kormak is a member of the Guardians, albeit not of the human race which rules his homeland but one of their subject peoples. The Guardians are effectively a combination of the Grey Wardens and Knight's Templar.

    They're officially a monastic order devoted to destroying evil but Kormak isn't particularly monk-like other than his obsessive devotion to his craft. Each of them is given a dwarven-made sword capable of slaying evil as well as tremendous amounts of training but their real benefit is the fact that if one Guardian falls, he will be replaced by two. The greatest advantage the Guardians have against monsters is they're almost all solitary while the *finger wag* good guys *finger wag* are able to team up against them.

    Kormak is a fairly popular archetype in the Sword and Sorcery genre with elements of Elric, Aragorn, The Man with No Name, Geralt, and Drizzt Do'Urden. These are more parallels than inspirations, though, as he's really an embodiment of the driven outsider than anything else. In a funny way, he's almost the perfect Dungeons and Dragons Paladin, it's just that being a good guy hasn't made him particularly nice or friendly.

    Kormak is devoted to his cause despite the fact that decades of service have made him cynical and obsessive. He can't do anything to improve a world riddled with poverty, superstition, war, and social strife so he focuses on doing the one thing he can do really well: killing monsters. Also, he doesn't seem to have any objection to sleeping with the surprisingly large number of women willing to throw themselves at the brooding stranger with an interesting job.

    The world Kormak inhabits is basically some weird fusion of the Hyborian Age and Middle Earth. This isn't me being facetious as William King says as much. Peter Jackson all but ruined the Hobbit by trying to treat a whimiscal story with epic gravitas but William King shows it's not so much the idea but the execution which suffered. Kormak's world is if you took all of the scary places like Mirkwood, the Spiders' lairs, Moria, and Mordor then stuck them to the decadent city states as well feuding nobles of Conan's world. It's a surprisingly good fit and one which makes the world appropriately brutal and cynical but still worth saving.

    The supporting cast for the book is also really good as all of the characters are well-developed, even those which end up only existing to become monster chow. I was especially fond of the Baroness, Petra, and the Twins. All of them are interesting in their own right and the tragic end to some of their stories brings real poignance to the tales within. Kormak, unlike Elric or Geralt, is just a man and doesn't always save the day or the people he comes to care about.

    I think William King might have done a bit better to replace the Orcs and Elves in the books with less traditional monsters. Maybe Beastmen, Formori, or Trollocs. Some readers will be put off by the use even though I think he does a better job with Tolkien-famous monsters than 99% of all authors. I also recommend this book because of the extensive notes given by the author at the end, which are a treasure trove of insights for both authors as well as fantasy fans.

    In conclusion, this is a great book and three times the value of most fiction I've bought for a similar price. Or more.

10/10   

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson review


    The Reckoners Trilogy is one which I was initially skeptical of. Despite being recommended to me by literally dozens of fans, I didn't know if it would be my cup of tea. I'm a fairly big fan of the idea that superhuman powers would be a net-positive to the world and tend to be on the idealistic end of things despite being a fan of edgy antiheroes. The Reckoners Trilogy is based around the concept of a world which has been devastated by evil superhumans, so it's one which you'd think was fairly cynical, right?

    The first novel, Steelheart, was anything but. Despite the fact it is in a post-apocalypse world where the only remains of human civilization are all controlled by tyrants, I found it to be surprisingly light-hearted and hopeful. The fact it was about a plucky resistance (the Reckoners) against an evil overlord made it closer to Star Wars than Watchmen. I also found out its depiction of superhumans was a lot more nuanced than I initially suspected. The fact the book was genuinely fun helped it as well, so much so that I picked up the second novel as soon as I finished the first.

    Firefight picks up not long after the events of Steelheart with the Reckoners having eliminated the city's former overlord as well as re-established human-run civilization. Unfortunately, they can't capitalize on the momentum because they're under siege by a near-endless number of Epics seeking to claim the late Steelheart's former territory as well as make a name for themselves by eliminating his killers. Things get worse when they attempt to target the city of New York, only to find themselves in over their heads against a water-bending mastermind and a religious-obsessed exploding demigod.

    I've got to say I really enjoyed this book all round. It does what a sequel should in that it doesn't repeat what the original book did, expands on the concepts of the first book, allows for character growth, and shows us new material in the same world. Particularly interesting is the expansion of the Professor's background as well as details about the early days of the Calamity.

    Brandon Sanderson is an amazing world-builder who certainly details elements of his world which would have eluded other writers. Indeed, it is his greatest strength that he can create unique and memorable locations which are internally consistent. The water city replacing New York is different in culture, environment, and atmosphere to Newcago. I liked the idea the people are more or less resigned to the Epics in New York and generally spend all of their lives partying because their masters keep them fed out of hand.

    The villains of Regalia and Obliteration are excellent foils with a lot more development than the previous villain. Regalia is a woman with plans within plans and a twisted code of honor that bends around the psychosis afflicting Epics. Obliteration, by contrast, is completely insane but his beliefs are entirely consistent with the deranged world which have sprung up around humanity. They're wonderful comic book-style villains and watching our heroes play off them is excellent.

    We also finally get an explanation for how and why Epics are given their powers as well as how their minds are shattered beyond recovery. I'm not entirely satisfied with this explanation but think it works for the story which Brandon Sanderson is trying to tell. Certainly, it provides a lot of dramatic energy which the story exploits from beginning to end. It also results in a massive twist at the end which made me buy the third novel in the series immediately.

    The only thing I didn't like about the novel was the romance between Megan and David. Unfortunately, this takes up quite a bit of the novel. David is deeply in love with the treacherous and evil Epic as well as convinced she is secretly good. This is, apparently, purely because he thinks she's hot. Unfortunately, the narrative bears out David's suspicions and it becomes a tedious display of why the power of love wins out over all.

    The action scenes in the book are incredible with truly epic fights that are described well. Brandon Sanderson has a movie director's ability to stage them in his text and an unlimited budget to see them on display. He also manages to invoke tension for all of our heroes because we never know who will die or be taken out of play by the events within. That's a rare gift and one which raises the stakes in the book considerably.

    In conclusion, Firefight is a really good novel weighed down by what TV tropes calls a "Romantic Plot Tumor." Even so, I'm going to say it's an excellent action adventure novel throughout. It strikes the right sort of balance between fantasy, science fiction, and reality in order to feel like a good comic book. I also cared about the characters enough that I wanted the story to continue. Which is a pretty good endorsement all round.

9/10

Friday, November 25, 2016

THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY and TO BEAT THE DEVIL free for Thanksgiving weekend

I feel a little bad about not announcing this early Friday but from November 25th to the 27th, two of the best books from Amber Cove Publishing are going to be available for free. They've always been available for free on Kindle Unlimited but I'm pleased to say they're free-free for download.


THE RULES OF SUPERVILLAINY by C.T. Phipps: https://www.amazon.com/Rules-Supervillainy-Saga/dp/1514269392/

Follow Gary Karkofsky as he discovers a magic cloak which allows him to live out his dream of being a supervillain. But is he evil enough? He may end up being the villain his city needs more than the hero it deserves.


TO BEAT THE DEVIL by Michael Gibson: https://www.amazon.com/Beat-Devil-Technomancer-Novels/dp/153073455X/

The world has been overrun by demons and a new age of supernatural cyberpunk decadence has occurred. Small time criminal and cyborg Salem finds himself well above his head when an ancient human wizard recruits him for the mission of his life: taking down an archdemon.

I think people should check out both. After all, the price is right for anyone with a Kindle.