The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp

I don’t know what in the wide wide world is going on but I seem to be on a roll with good books at the moment and Ben Tripp’s Fifth House of the Heart is no exception.

The story revolves around a central character known as Asmodeus Saxon-Tang – thankfully everyone calls him Sax for short!  Sax specialises in obtaining and selling antiques.  This is a business that he not only excels at and has a huge store of knowledge that guides him to pick and choose which pieces are the best to acquire but he’s also grown filthy rich in the process and has gained a certain level of fame (or notoriety).

At the start of the story Sax is bidding on an antique clock, a clock which whilst he started with fairly ambivalent feelings towards it is now growing in interest as he is matched bid for bid by an attractive newcomer who seems very anxious to make it’s purchase.  Of course Sax wins the lot but in doing so he may have just bought himself some very unwelcome attention.  Nonetheless he’s a bit puzzled as to why this rather unassuming clock seems to have generated such interest – well, he’s puzzled right up until somebody breaks into his warehouse and steals it from him, killing his night watchman in the process and giving him an unwelcome trip down memory lane and a cold jolt of realisation!

Basically Sax is in danger.  This is definitely a world in which monsters go bump in the night and the monsters in question are vampires.  Fortunately – most people remain blissfully unaware of their existence as death usually follows swiftly on the heels of those who get wise to their existence.  Vampires are solitary creatures.  They tend to live very isolated existences locked in their mansions and chateaus, brimming with antiques and antiquities many of which are believed to have been lost to the world.  They put you in mind of dragons, sitting atop their wealth, sleeping but always keeping one eye alert to possibilities.

Now, realising his predicament Sax decides to take action – action being the best form of defence.  He’s going to search out his predator but before doing so he pays his favourite niece a visit.  He’s feeling a little guilty about potentially leaving her unprotected and wants to give her the heads up.  Obviously she thinks he’s a little crazy but she listens to his stories and I’m so glad she did because they make for interesting reading.  I won’t elaborate on them here other than to say they’re both different, set in different environments, totally compelling and both with vampires that appear to be entirely different in nature.  The vampires here are unlike those in the myths we already know of.  There is a thin veneer of similarity but there are also some very intriguing new developments – the biggest of which is that vampires are not the undead!   Having regaled his niece with stories to give her nightmares and gifted her a strange object that turns out to be a vampire weapon he leaves.  Sax is gathering about him a crew of mercenaries and having been granted permission by the Church and accompanied by a priest the ‘hunted’ is about to become the ‘hunter’.  At least that’s what he hopes!  Vampires tend to be one step ahead usually, they have all the time in the world so the end game is their ultimate goal.

I really found this an entertaining read.  I liked the characters – well, Sax in particular just steals the show.  The surrounding cast are a little more flimsy but still provide good support and anyway it would be impossible to upstage Sax.  Put simply he’s a flamboyant, outrageous and self absorbed man and an unashamed coward to boot.

So, what did I really enjoy.  Well, the writing is really good.  Tripp manages to set the scene perfectly either from dusty chateau, damp and creepy cave to vampire laboratory!  Yep, be intrigued.  There are some great scenes where the mercenaries hide from hideous vampire hunters and a grand finale where the tension mounts and on top of this Tripp manages to inject humour here and there which prevents things becoming too heavy.  Plus a twist at the end that I certainly didn’t see coming.

A great mash up of olde worlde vampire a la Dracula, meets Indiana Jones (albeit wickedly flamboyant) surrounded by evil and assisted by a motley crew of odd misfits.

There is definitely potential for more from this world and I seriously hope there will be further additions.

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan

I recently read an excerpt of Dinosaur Lords which was great.  I really enjoyed it and will definitely pick up and conclude the story.  I can’t deny that the cover grabbed my attention – it’s amazing and what’s not to love about the notion of knights racing into battle atop dinosaurs.  I love it and the fact that each chapter starts off with a dinosaur sketch and a rough description – colour me happy.

Anyway, to the story.  We kick off to an immediate start with a huge scale fight about to break out.  We flit about from person to person sharing their thoughts and comments before the action begins and you can practically taste the tension in the air.  I’m going to be honest and say that the start could be a little bit confusing as at this point you have no notion of what the fight is about or who are the main parties, for that matter you have very little time to become attached to anyone before the fighting beginnings.  But, the action begins and is terrific with Triceratops standing stoic in defence and T-rex rushing into the fray.  Tell me this isn’t exciting.  I was quite giddy!

Now, yes, the start could be a little bit confusing with all the introductions but believe me when I say this is fairly quickly resolved.  The dust settles and the day awakens over the bloody battlefield and this is where, for me, the story really came into its own and all the characters started to become more defined.

We start with the noble captain Karyl.  He awakens to a desperate scene and things quickly go from bad to worse for him!  He meets with an entity of sorts who predicts his death, he’s chased by dinosaurs and he takes something of a tumble.  Enough said for now other than that I can assure you this particular character has not seen the end of action and in spite of having a tough time somebody is clearly looking out for him.

We are then introduced to the court and the character Melodia.  Melodia is a princess but rather than lolloping around on cushions and eating peeled grapes Melodia is bored.  She wants more involvement and I have a feeling she may see more action along the way.  For the present time she eagerly awaits her true love’s return.  Jaume, the lover in question is the returning hero.  Victorious and loved by all.  Shortly before Jaume arrives we meet Falk.  A huge knight who fought on opposing sides but has apparently now seen the error of his ways and pledged his sword in allegiance to the Emperor. Frankly – I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him – which wouldn’t be far because he’s a bit of a huge so and so.

The dinosaurs – well, they’re like the icing on the cake really.  They’re used for battle and to hunt as well as for food and they’re a major part of this world.  I was particularly intrigued to read a short chapter which seemed to be the thoughts of one of the defeated dinosaurs from the battle – unless I’ve just gone a bit crazy and dreamt that part up!  Somebody correct me if I’m wrong.  Very intriguing and I want more of that.

Anyway, I’m not going to over elaborate here as this is an excerpt and I don’t know whether I’m potentially spoiling anything – so,  Synopsis.  Very intriguing.  So far a great world set up with the potential for court intrigue, plots and back stabbing.  Captivating writing with no insufferable info dumps – you’re kind of thrown in and expected to swim really but I liked that approach.  Characters that you can get on with, particularly Karyl, and, of course, dinosaurs.  What’s not to love?

Well, I must admit that being an excerpt I wanted to scream at the point at which it concluded – but frankly that will just make me pick up the rest of the story that much quicker.

What are you waiting for!

I’ll be back… (and he really meant it!)

This week over at the Fantasy Review Barn Nathan is taking us Tough Travelling through the tropes of fantasy and this week we are looking at : MIDDLE AGE HEROES

This hero stuff is usually a young person’s game.  And, occasionally, a grizzled old veteran can get involved.  It is a true rarity for someone to join the good fight for Fantasyland living in that in between ground.

Dug from Age of Iron by Angus Watson.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Thoroughly.  And, Due was one of the main reasons why.  He’s no longer a spring chicken and he tends to groan a little bit – yes, his bones ache every now and again, he’s sometimes a bit selfish and old enough to have forgotten how to woo a woman.  Middle aged he may be but he’s still a hero.

Brodar Kayne from The Grim Company by Luke Scull – Broadar is one of one two Highlanders on the run from the Higlands magelord. He’s a tough old dude with creaky knees and a filthy mouth – but don’t underestimate him. He’s tougher than leather and very entertaining.

Roen Tan from The Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu – even as early as book 1 Roen was one of the most unlikely heroes ever.  His character grew throughout the series and he was one of my favourite characters of the year.

Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones by GRRMartin.  He’s a bit middle aged and grizzly but I thought he was a great character.

Dalinar Kholin from Way of Kings and Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson.  A great character – definitely middle aged but a man of his word who earns great respect from all those around – and what a hero!

Join us next week for ‘Flying Rides’.

I couldn’t resist adding this picture:

As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary – Ernest Hemingway

Iron and Blood by Gail Z Martin and Larry Martin

Iron and Blood is a fun, steampunk adventure involving vampires, ghosts, witches, magic and madcap inventions.

The story gets off to an immediate start with an explosion of action!  Jake and Rick, accompanied by their cousin Veronique (or Nikki) are returning from what should have been a fairly small scale smuggling excursion.  Jake and Rick are heirs to the Brand and Desmet Import Company which specialises in acquiring goods for their customers, sometimes using slightly less than conventional techniques in order to do so.  Unfortunately their latest mission ends up with a shoot out above the clouds as they attempt to return home.  From there onwards it seems that their every move is dogged by wannabee assassins – perhaps the package they carried has generated more interest than they expected!

The main thrust of the story involves our trio trying to discover the identity of their would-be murderer, using whatever means they can, before they end up, well, being murdered.  Alongside this element of the story is the revelation of a mystery killer.  A vicious individual with out of control tendencies in the vein of the Ripper.

I don’t really want to give away too much plot.  Suffice to say there is plenty of action with shoot outs and would be bombings, attempted abductions and almost zombie-like people poised to attack around virtually every corner.

New Pittsburgh is the main setting.  A hub of engineering excellence with new fangled contraptions and steam driven inventions positively running amok.  The year is 1898 and whilst modern engineering is reaching the pinnacle of it’s success with virtually anything and everything being a possibility, the means to power such inventions needs to also be brought up to speed with the times.  Mining is a major industry, although prone to disasters at the best of times and the authorities controlling the digging need to pay heed to the darkness that seems to be growing in certain areas.  The digging may be uncovering more than simply the potential means of powering these new gadgets. (I can’t help thinking at this point ‘the dwarves dug too deep’ – and of course you have to read that with the voice of Gandalf running through your mind).

In terms of characters, as above we have Jake, Rick and Nikki.  On top of that we have Drostan Fletcher, an early days type of detective who is investigating the murders and Adam – the special inventor who seems to be able to make just about anything.  If you think it – he can build it.  Our intrepid trio, well, they’re fun up to a point and they bring with them a feeling of ‘jolly japes’.  You can imagine one of them blurting out ‘oh, what fun’ during a chase and shoot out and you can definitely imagine one of the baddies saying ‘if it hadn’t been for those darn kids’!  If you want a bit more emotional depth then you may not like the three of them.  Personally, they weren’t my favourites but I think they fit well with this story.  Adam, is the geeky inventor a bit too immersed in his latest project to even notice as things go pear shaped around him.  Drostan is a little bit of a show stealer.  I enjoyed spending time with him and found his particular scenes very entertaining and a bit difficult to be torn away from.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, nothing really too harsh.  As the book felt more like a tongue in cheek comic style adventure I would have preferred a few more cheesy witticisms.  It definitely could have used a little bit more humour in the dialogue I felt.  Also there was a change of tack in the narration towards the end which I felt was a bit incongruous or jarring and I wasn’t sure of the necessity for the switch.  It also began to feel a little repetitive in that every time we opened a new chapter there would be a shootout but as the story progressed I can’t really say that I felt there was any real threat and I became a bit complacent about them.  That could have been the lighthearted way that the main protagonists dealt with each new threat but it came to feel that the villains were bungling things massively.  There was an element of each of the gadgets becoming more over the top or outrageous as the book progressed and the attempted murders escalated but I think that could all be put down to the  ‘tongue in cheek’ element to the story.  I think the enjoyment from this novel will be very much based on what type of feel you decide to go with – if you want something deep and meaningful then probably best to avoid.  If you want a book that’s borders outrageous and silly with lots of action then this could be perfect.  For me, it felt like the sort of book that I like to read in between huge chunksters – the kind of book where you feel like your brain can take a breather.

Overall this is a fun, easy, quick paced read.  It has all sorts of fantastical elements that I didn’t really expect to see, with magic sitting comfortably alongside scientific invention and it ended on a note that is a perfect setup for more adventures – which will all no doubt be more crazy than the last.

I received a copy of this from the publishers through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Kushiel’s Chosen Read Along – The Schedule

Posted On 21 July 2015

Filed under Book Reviews

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Kushiel’s Chosen readalong – all welcome!!

Originally posted on Dab of Darkness:

Tofu kitty with a very good book. Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey(of which Kushiel’s Chosen is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Book 1 was so much fun and I am ever so glad so many folks wanted to continue with Book 2.

Here is the current schedule:
Week 1: August 2, Chpts. 1-14, hosted by FaeStruck Review
Week 2: August 16, Chpts. 15-26, hosted by Books Without Any Pictures
Week 3: August 23, Chpts. 27-36, hosted by Tethyan Books
Week 4: August 30, Chpts. 37-49, hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow
Week 5: September 6, Chpts. 50-61, hosted by Dab of Darkness
Week 6: September 13, Chpts. 62-72, hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 7: September 20, Chpts. 73-END, hosted by Emma Wolf

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the…

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