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Book Review: Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

Title: Cibola Burn

Author: James S. A. Corey

Series: The Expanse #4

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule. But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.

The Review:

I love this series – the plot, the characters, the humor, the world building… all of it. I was excited for this one in particular because when I first started The Expanse a couple of years ago I thought it was only going to be a trilogy. Cibola Burn (and Nemesis Games) felt like bonus books. I’m super thrilled the story is not over!!!

As always, this Expanse book had an excellent mix of familiar and new POV characters – an element that has always kept these novels fresh and exciting for me. Of all the non-Rocinante crewmember POVs we’ve met, I unfortunately enjoyed the ones in this book the least. They just couldn’t compete with Avasarala, Bobbie, or even Bull… but they were still good because I don’t think these authors could write crappy characters if they tried. I’ve mentioned before that strong characterization is my favorite part about this series, in part because they always feel like real people, flaws and all. It’s fantastic.

Admittedly, I expected the story to go much broader from this point (it is, after all, The Expanse series), especially after the vast potential and new revelations discovered in Abaddon’s Gate. But the scope of Cibola Burn maintained a fairly narrow scope (not that it wasn’t just as enjoyable, mind you). Having it different than my expectations didn’t disappoint me like many other novels have, but instead made me appreciate how consistent these authors are. They don’t jump the story ahead of what is feasibly possible just to advance the plot. As a result, all of the progression the solar system makes feels natural and unforced. Human ambition never goes beyond what is technologically possible, and I love that consistency. Not to mention that it was still wildly interesting even without fast expansion.

As narrow as the story might have felt, the things that happened in this novel will definitely have galaxy-wide ramifications… I can’t wait to see how they’re going to cope next! The broadness of the concept (particularly involving the protomolecule and its origins) always makes me feel so immersed these books.

Overall, Cibola Burn was a great continuation of the story (the next book, Nemesis Games, was even better! Review to come…). If you are a Firefly fan, or if you’re even looking to dip your toes in the space opera genre, give this series a try!

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by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

The dragon's pathTitle: The Dragon’s Path

Author: Daniel Abraham

Series: The Dagger and the Coin #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: All paths lead to war…
Marcus’ hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody’s death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps. Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation’s wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords. Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become. Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path-the path to war.

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The Review:

While The Dragon’s Path was entertaining, I’m sad to say I didn’t like it nearly as much as the other two series I’ve read from this author (The Long Price Quartet & Leviathan).

Abraham has a talent for orchestrating multiple POVs. While it was especially brilliant in Leviathan and LPQ, it didn’t work as well for me here. I’ve been known to criticize authors who have more than two POVs because they run the risk that readers will have a hard time getting emotionally invested with so many characters (I know people who skip entire passages when this happens just to get back to the characters they like). Up to this point, I’ve used Abraham as a prime example on how to present multiple protagonists without losing any interest or momentum from the story. I don’t think what I read in The Dragon’s Path was necessarily poor execution, I just found myself much more interested in some characters over others. I often found myself hurrying through passages so I could get back to the perspectives of my favorites – which I’m sure didn’t help matters.

I will say though that by the end of the book all of the characters eventually caught my interest, but I wish that would’ve happened much earlier on. There’s a chance the reason I felt disconnected was because he introduced each character one after the other, so it was a good 80 pages before there was a repeat POV. In his other novels, he had just as many protagonists, but he started with one or two, letting us get established with them, and then moved on to introduce more as the story progressed.

Anyway, the book had sparks of the same originality as The Long Price Quartet, and the inclusion of original nonhuman races was probably my favorite element. Well, maybe “nonhuman” isn’t the right term – they were humanlike, but of a different variety or species. I thought they added an interesting dynamic to the story. I liked the ideas so much I wish there had been an even stronger focus on their differences – everything from mannerisms to physical attributes – because I found myself sometimes forgetting that some of the characters weren’t “human.” That said, there were definitely a few great drop-in references (I noticed more at the end than at the beginning), I just would have liked there to have been a little more.

So I’ve kind of established that I enjoyed the second-half of the book a lot more than the first, and part of that has to do with how well it ended. The ending offered a cool “reveal” – one which has me especially interested in continuing on in the series. This author has dazzled me so much in the past that I definitely have hope that the second book (The King’s Blood) will grab me where the first did not.

As you can see, most of my objections to the story are preferential, and I’d like to clarify that there really wasn’t flaw to the way the story was written – I just would’ve liked to see slightly different approach. Because of that, it would still definitely recommend this title to other fantasy lovers, but only after handing them A Shadow in Summer (LPQ #1) first. And for science fiction fans, you can’t get any more kickass than the Leviathan series.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: The Widow’s House by Daniel Abraham

The widow's houseTitle: The Widow’s House

Author: by Daniel Abraham

Series: The Dagger and the Coin #4

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: August 5, 2014

The OverviewLord Regent Geder Palliako’s war has led his nation and the priests of the spider goddess to victory after victory. No power has withstood him, except for the heart of the one woman he desires. As the violence builds and the cracks in his rule begin to show, he will risk everything to gain her love or else her destruction. Clara Kalliam, the loyal traitor, is torn between the woman she once was and the woman she has become. With her sons on all sides of the conflict, her house cannot stand, but there is a power in choosing when and how to fall. And in Porte Oliva, banker Cithrin bel Sarcour and Captain Marcus Wester learn the terrible truth that links this war to the fall of the dragons millennia before, and that to save the world, Cithrin must conquer it.

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Hosted by Breaking the Spine

I am a huge, huge fan of this author! I consider his Long Price Quartet to be one of the best new generation fantasies on the market and was also blown away by his science fiction Leviathan Wakes (cowritten under the name James S. A. Corey). The Dagger and the Coin series is the last unexplored territory and I admit I’ve been kind of saving them for a rainy day – I just know they’re going to be amazing! Any of you out there who love authors like Goodkind, Hobb, and Feist, make room on your shelves for Daniel Abraham – he’s a keeper!

 What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Coming Soon: Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey

cibola burnTitle: Cibola Burn

Author: James S.A. Corey

Series: Leviathan Wakes #4

Genre: Science Fiction

Release Date: June 17, 2014

The Overview: The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule. But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.

cibola burn

Hosted by Breaking the Spine

I included this title in yesterday’s TTT because Leviathan Wakes is still one of the best books I’ve read this year. So, even though I haven’t yet read the second or third in this series, I know by the time Cibola Burn is released I’ll be eager to get my hands on it. Daniel Abraham, one of the writers of this series has quickly become one of my favorite authors. His Long Price Quartet books blew me away, and I will definitely pick up anything he decides to write in the future. Incidentally, I read both the Leviathan and the Long Price books digitally, but loved them both enough to immediately go out and by the hardcopies for my collection. If you like fantasy or space opera science fiction and haven’t read these yet, you are sorely missing out!

 What book are you waiting on?

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

8855321Title: Leviathan Wakes

Author: James S. A. Corey

Series: Expanse #1

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, “The Scopuli,” they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why. Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to “The Scopuli” and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything. Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

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 The Review:

I want to thank these authors for rekindling my love for science fiction (yes, I said authors, see below)! Everything about this story had me frantically turning the pages to see what happened next. I haven’t been this excited about a sci-fi series since I picked up Aguirre’s Grimspace a couple of years ago. And you know what? I really missed it! There’s nothing like diving into the universe to give you that ultimate feel of adventure!

And adventurous it was – on a galactic scale (okay, maybe only on a solar system scale… It just doesn’t sound as cool). And it was a smart book – plenty of complexity, with interwoven plots that were just enough to keep me guessing but not so much that it was confusing. A book that is dynamic and well planned out gets my vote every time – and I probably appreciated the most because it’s something I don’t feel I could ever do in my own writing.

Another thing I loved about this book was characterization. I’ve been really lucky lately because I’ve picked up tons of books with exceptional characters (which means I’ve had some of the best reading in my life recently). Characters make or break books for me – I can put up with a lot of faults, but if I don’t like the people, I most likely won’t like the book. Leviathan Wakes had so many fantastic characters that I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which one I liked the most. Even the minor ones who only got a few pages were memorable… it blows my mind.

So far, I’ve mentioned great plot structure and characters, but I don’t think I’d be raving about the book as much if they hadn’t been combined with such killer pacing. Every moments was exciting and stressful… in a good way. It’s the type of exhilarating read that gets the adrenaline flowing and the heart pumping – I had to stop reading it before bed because it took me from drowsy to wide awake after only a few pages. It never slowed down, either. The whole book was just one big snowball ride all the way to the end!

Very few books max out my awesomeness scale in every category, but this one managed! It’s the perfect mix of science fiction, mystery, and romance (on a minor scale), and has turned me into an adoring fan of “space opera.” What’s more, after reading Leviathan Wakes, I discovered the author’s name is actually a pen for two collaborative writers: Daniel Abraham (who has quickly become one of my favorite new-generation fantasy authors with his Long Price Quartet series) and Ty Franck (who I’m told did some ghostwriting work for George R.R. Martin). I don’t know if it’s possible, but this discovery makes me love the book even more!

Recommended Reading: for any science-fiction lover (or for that matter, for anybody looking to give sic-fi a try). This book is also perfect for anyone looking for an exhilarating read – one that’s impossible to put down!

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham

a1Title: A Shadow in Summer

Author: Daniel Abraham

Series: The Long Price Quartet #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: The powerful city-state of Saraykeht is a bastion of peace and culture, a major center of commerce and trade. Its economy depends on the power of the captive spirit, Seedless, an andat bound to the poet-sorcerer Heshai for life. Enter the Galts, a juggernaut of an empire committed to laying waste to all lands with their ferocious army. Saraykeht, though, has always been too strong for the Galts to attack, but now they see an opportunity. If they can dispose of Heshai, Seedless’s bonded poet-sorcerer, Seedless will perish and the entire city will fall. With secret forces inside the city, the Galts prepare to enact their terrible plan.

In the middle is Otah, a simple laborer with a complex past. Recruited to act as a bodyguard for his girlfriend’s boss at a secret meeting, he inadvertently learns of the Galtish plot. Otah finds himself as the sole hope of Saraykeht, either he stops the Galts, or the whole city and everyone in it perishes forever.

a1

The Review:

I will be the first one to admit that the overview sounds a little boring and convoluted. The first time I picked it up in a bookstore, I almost disregarded it right away and put it back on the shelf. The reading gods must have been looking out for me that day because for one reason or another I cracked it open to read the first page… And didn’t stop for thirty minutes. It was fascinating and engaging – starting out by introducing a complex communication system that involves intricate hand gestures that conveys everything from emotion to social status. And you know what? It only got better! Abraham then went on to developed a mind – blowing magic system that was as dangerous as it was beautiful. These elements combined with an unforgettable writing style made for one of the most original stories I have ever read!

Both the communication and magic systems went a long way to build this world, but Abraham expanded on it anyway and created a stunning city that I can still remember vividly years later. Top that off with an incredible cast of characters (who will have you laughing and crying with them by the time the series ends) and you have one of the most memorable stories on the market. All of the characters were amazing and they only got better with each book.

I loved every minute, and I’ll say it again: this was easily one of the best series I’ve ever read. I will definitely be reading it again and will DEFINITELY be buying anything else this author publishes (be on the lookout for my review of The Dragon’s Path – the first book in Abraham’s latest series – hitting the blog sometime next month). Outstanding!

Recommendations: If you have read all the classics, from Robert Jordan to Brandon Sanderson, and are looking for your next great series, this is definitely the author for you! I recommend him as often as I can because of how profoundly his work affected me. Fantasy fans out there – this is a must-read!

by Niki Hawkes

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