Friday, July 13, 2018

Short Book Reviews: Definitely Not "The Princess Bride"

Kill the Farm Boy, by Kevine Hearne and Delilah S. Dawson, Del Rey

These days I’m on a Kevin Hearne reading spree (see my reviews of A Plague of Giants and The Squirrel on the Train) so I dove into Kill the Farm Boy, discovering to my delight that Hearne’s co-author, Delilah S. Dawson, is none other than another of my recent favorites, as Lila Bowen author of the excellent “The Shadow” series. Delight rapidly gave way to hilarity as this story unfolded, tackling one fantasy trope after another, turning them on their heads and planting petunias between their toes.

The titular farm boy is Worstley, younger brother of Bestley, who had been stabbed in the heart by Lord Ergot (if you don’t know what ergot is, pause now and look it up) for being too handsome. When a malicious pixie named Staph (aureus?) casts a spell to change Worstley into the Chosen One (and gives Gustave the goat the ability to speak, which he does in smart-ass style), it does not set well with The Dark Lord Toby (whose most powerful spell causes baked goods to rain from the sky). Opposing The Dark Lord Toby’s nefarious, yeastly plans are Fia, a 7-foot tall barbarian warrior, and her sweetheart, Argabella, a woman enchanted to be a half-rabbit, who incidentally is the world’s worst bard:
She … sang an improvised song of obfuscation:
We are not food
No sir Mister Monster
We taste super bad
Oh gods we are not food
Really really really
You gotta believe me
It’s hard to beat that.

The silliness isn’t restricted to spooks of characters from pose, verse, and film (although familiarity with J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, The Princess Bride, The Wizard of Oz, Grimm’s fairytales, Conan the Barbarian, and Norse mythology, to name a few, enhances the humor).

I found that I couldn’t read too many chapters at a sitting, but the play of tropes, not to mention the puns, kept me coming back for another fun visit to the Lands of Pell.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Update on The Laran Gambit

I just finished the first draft of The Laran Gambit, the next Darkover novel. Whew! Now to take a little time off to play and then dive into re-reading it and the first revision (which will include making sure the characters' names and eye colors are consistent, that the same conversation doesn't occur 12 times in as many chapters, that there aren't too many plot idiocies and so forth).

I am majorly proud of myself at the moment.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Short Book Reviews: More Steampunk Airship Adventures

By Fire Above, by Robyn Bemis, Tor

In this sequel to The Guns Above, Robyn Bemis continues the steampunk adventures of a woman airship captain.  Once again, Josette Dupree, captain of His Majesty’s Signal Airship Mistral, along with her intrepid crew and not-so-intrepid supercargo, aristocrat Lord Bernat Hinkal, have been given an impossible mission: with glamorous but woefully inadequate repairs to the airship, she is to play a largely ceremonial role at the capital city. None of the real damage the airship sustained in the last batter has been repaired, including the “steamjack” engines. The bags are filled not with expensive, inert luftgas but explosive “flammable air,” a very bad combination with an engine apt to throw off sparks. Needless to say, Josette is unprepared for the courtly intrigues into which she is suddenly propelled (and with which Bernat, who grew up in such a milieu, is happy to reverse roles and become her guide). In the air, conducting a battle in three dimensions, Josette is as cunning as she is courageous. But thrown into the viper’s nest of courtiers or forced to face her own romantic feelings for Bernat’s brother, she finds herself all too fallible.

Josette has no intention of becoming a trophy hero and soon maneuvers to lead a mission to free the border state where her estranged mother (and Bernat’s lover) lives. From there, one mishap after another balloons (excuse the pun) into disaster.

As in the first adventure, I was impressed by the detailed construction of the airships, as well as the scientific (hooray for physics and chemistry!), mathematical, and engineering principles involved, as well as the strategies when battles are fought in three dimensions (up/down as well as side/side and forward/backward). The action sequences were breathtaking. My reservation, as before, pertains to the creation of a political geography so akin to Western Europe that it made no sense to not use the actual nationalities and thereby avoid reader confusion with made-up names and cultures. That reservation aside, I heartily recommend the series and hope to see more Josette’s unfolding stories (and I expect to see her, like Horatio Hornblower, become admiral one day).