Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Seven Forges

Seven ForgesSeven Forges by James A. Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charged with mapping the land beyond the Blasted Lands, a frozen wasteland devastated by a cataclysm centuries past, Major Merros Dulver encounter the Sa'ba Taalor, the denizens of the Seven Forges. The Sa'ba Taalor are a society of warriors living in a fertile valley amid the Seven Forges, seven volcanic mountains. A small group accompany Merros back to the empire. Can they co-exist with the Empire in peace or will war destroy them all?

I got this ARC from Angry Robot. All hail our ill-tempered robot overlords!

Much like Three, I initially became interested in Seven Forges because of the cover. The cover is pretty impressive and the book beneath it is even more so.

While it seems like a pretty straightforward fantasy tale at first glance, it's a lot more than that. It's the tale of two very different cultures coming together and trying to co-exist. However, the people of the Empire have gotten soft after years with no enemies and the Sa'ba Taalor are a race of fighters living in the most inhospitable habitat on the planet, trained to fight from birth. Yeah, this meeting isn't going to go well.

Moore does a great job contrasting the warrior culture of the Sa'Ba Taalor and their seven gods with the politics and religion of the empire. The warriors are frighteningly competent but still well-rounded characters, particularly Tusk and Drask. Merros and Wollis know they're out of their depth most of the time but keep trying to hold up their end of things. Desh, the emperor's wizard, was also quite interesting, forever scheming behind the scenes. I thought Andover would wind up being more important but his thread was also an interesting one and served to reveal more of the Taalor culture.

Speaking of the Sa'Ba Taalor culture, Moore does a hell of a lot of worldbuilding in 330 pages without bogging down the rest of the book. The culture is fleshed out quite a bit but still remains mysterious enough for further books. Hint!

Without spoiling the ending, it reminds of an episode of the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits with a kick in the crotch twist right at the end. Richard Matheson would have been proud.

James A. Moore's writing was a notch above what I was expecting, although I shouldn't have been surprised. Where does Angry Robot keep finding these writers?

That's about all I have to say. James A. Moore entertained the hell out of me with Seven Forges and also made me think. If he writes more books in this world, I'll definitely read them. Four easy stars.

Also on Goodreads

Clean Burn

Clean Burn: Introducing Detective Janelle WatkinsClean Burn: Introducing Detective Janelle Watkins by Karen Sandler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

P.I. Janelle Watkins left finding missing children behind after a failure that led to her leaving the San Francisco PD. Or so she thought. Now she's back in the town where she grew up, on the trail of two missing boys. Can she overcome her personal demons long enough to find the boys and bring their abductor(s) to justice?

I got this courtesy of Angry Robot/Exhibit A and Netgalley.

Karen Sandler has been around for a while but this is her first detective novel. I hope she sticks to writing detective novels from now on.

Janelle Watkins won me over right away, from her injured leg, to her dysfunctional childhood and subsequent psychological issues, to her sassy black secretary. About halfway through the first chapter, I started measuring Janelle Watkins and Clean Burn against Carol Starkey and Demolition Angel. Janelle held her own.

The comparison to Demolition Angel proved to be an apt one. Watkins and Starkey are both damaged heroines, Watkins from her dysfunctional childhood and the accident that saw her get chained to a desk with a bum leg and Starkey from the bomb blast that killed her partner/lover and left her off the bomb squad. They both also have bad coping mechanisms: Starkey loves the sauce and Watkins burns herself with match heads. They're both strong ladies when the chips are down.

Watkins' cases take her to her old home town of Greenville and back into her past, confronting both memories of her childhood and the sheriff, her old partner on the SFPD with whom she had an affair. Ken, the sheriff, is working on arson cases. The two inevitably team up and find themselves up against a serial kidnapper/nutcase called Mama.

Things develop along the usual thriller-y lines, chasing down leads and moving closer to the inevitable hookup, a standard trope for the genre. It all came together at the end and the last 30% was nearly impossible to put down.

It was right on the line between three and four so I gave it a four, the same rating I gave Demolition Angel. When's the next Janelle Watkins book coming out?