Shastrix Books

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A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

7th September 2017

This collection features the three novellas also known as the 'Tales of Dunc and Egg' - 'The Hedge Knight', 'The Sworn Sword' and 'The Mystery Knight', all previously published in various anthologies, but in this edition illustrated throughout.

Thy are a good and very readable collection. It's nice to dip my toe into a good story or three based in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. The setting is some 200 years prior to the main series, which means there's nothing here to spoil the main storyline, and so they can be read at any point. In fact, this collection would serve as an excellent place to start and see if you would enjoy reading the vastly longer novels.

While the illustrations are in themselves impressive and give a good view of the characters and the action, I found that quite often what was depicted didn't quite match the action described in the prose, which was a bit disappointing - for example in one place Dunc is shown with sword drawn while in the text he explicitly doesn't draw it.

Overall though a really enjoyable set of tales and I'd love to read more adventures of this pairing if any more appear in the future.

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On the Loose

On the Loose

7th September 2017

The seventh novel about the Peculiar Crimes Unit opens with the interesting twist of the unit being disbanded and its staff sent on their merry way. This is of course followed by the discovery of a peculiar crime, and the investigation is off.

Like many of the previous novels, the interesting content is not so much the plot or investigation, but the details that it uncovers about London, specifically in this case Kings Cross, and its history, as well as the interaction between the characters, which has both a comedic and a slightly dark edge.

I'm still not entirely sure I've got a grip on what the series is meant to be about. But I don't think it really matter as it keeps me entertained and wanting to pick up the next book.

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The Skull Throne

The Skull Throne

7th September 2017

The fourth novel in the Demon Cycle sees us rejoin the characters of the first three stories (and indeed the novellas) as they deal with the events that concluded the third novel, and the absence of two of their number.

It's... different. It's a while since I read the other books, but while they spent a lot of time world building from different cultures and different points of view, that almost felt like a secondary aspect here - touching only briefly on the backgrounds of new characters, and in one part featuring an extended (but shorter than usual) flashback recalling life so far.

Most of the narrative then is taking up with fighting. Indeed, apart from a brief pause in the middle of the book for some politics, almost the entire 750 pages is taken up with some sort of fight. I found this tiresome - action sequences in books rarely work for me as my imagination isn't amazingly visual, and slowing down to try to absorb what was happening blow by blow interrupts what for me is the enjoyable part of storytelling.

So overall a bit disappointed in part four. It feels a little like it's just shuffling pieces into place ready for the finale, and I hope that when it comes in a few months' time it's able to bring the series back up to its original high standard.

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No Middle Name

No Middle Name

7th September 2017

Twelve novellas or short stories from the world of Jack Reacher - only one is completely new, and many of them I’ve read previously in ebook form. That said, I still feel this was a good purchase, and I enjoyed reading through the short adventures either again or for the first time. My thoughts on the 12 stories can be summarised as:

A short, sweet new story. An interesting incident (felt targeted at an older audience than on first reading). A bit of a rollercoaster. A good simple story (liked it better than last time). Really good little investigation. Slightly weird and disturbing, much like the earlier novels in style, not sure I like it. Very short, very nice. Short quick read that feels like a failed novel idea. Filler. Interesting. Possibly the most pointless short story ever. Quick and dirty.

So a bit of a mix, but overall a nice diversion.

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Enigma Tales

Enigma Tales

26th July 2017

Una McCormack, probably my favourite of the current crop of Star Trek authors, returns to Cardassia for this excellent and deliciously Cardassian tale.

Doctor Pulaski is visiting Cardassia to receive an award, but events start to unfold in interesting ways as Garak moves toward retribution for the crimes his people committed during the occupation of Bajor, and new details about those crimes start to come to light.

I can hardly believe how complex this story is, weaving in threads from across DS9 and earlier novels with the richness of Cardassian society. Both drawing on previous adventures and doing some worldbuilding of her own, McCormack paints an amazing picture of a world growing form its past. I love some of the clever symbolism that weaves in around flowers, art and literature, particularly the focus on the enigma tales, and how these reflect back into the plot. I also loved the setting in a Cardassian university, clearly something the author is well aware of herself, and this really comes across as something there's a deep understanding and appreciation of.

The presentation is good too. The chapters are long, and interspersed with letters written by Garak, which serve to develop both character and, subtly, plot. The tone is quite casual in places (especially the start) which gives another feeling of Cardassia, as it's reminiscent of Garak's storytelling in the TV series.

In case it's not clear, I think this book is great, and I hope for many many more from McCormack. I would strongly recommend reading David Mack's novel 'Control' first though, as one of the plot strands here follows on directly from that novel.

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Nomad

Nomad

26th July 2017

I've read several of James Swallow's tie-in books for Star Trek and Doctor Who before this, and have enjoyed all of them. This is the first stand-alone novel of his that I've read, and again I enjoyed it very much.

The story follows an MI6 computer geek - part of the support group for a small tactical assault group - who accidentally escapes a situation he wasn't meant to, and goes on the run in an attempt to prove his innocence and get revenge.

It's a good thriller, with all the key elements. The characterisation is what you'd expect - there but not too deep, and the plot contains sufficient twists to keep the pages turning.

There were moments where I felt the pacing was off, where my thoughts drifted and I had to jump back and read bits again, but these were mostly in the first half and stopped once I'd got more into it. The only other thing that felt a little off was the way it cut between scenes mid-chapter, which while totally acceptable and normal seemed to give quite abrupt jumps.

Overall, a good thriller, and I'll certainly be picking up the sequel soon.

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Hearts and Minds

Hearts and Minds

19th July 2017

A new entry in the Next Generation continuation series, this follows a long line of novels taking the story of the Enterprise and her crew forward several years from the last time we saw them on screen. Despite that, this does serve as a pretty stand-alone story in the classic style.

The Enterprise is exploring and comes across a planet that nobody’s made contact with before, but then strange orders arrive from Starfleet Command, and Picard is left to investigate without really understanding.

It’s a great mystery thriller, with a new premise that harkens back to some of the classic tropes of the series. It’s also the third entry in the author’s pseudo-trilogy featuring callbacks to the 20th & 21st Centuries - though having not read the first two (they are Original Series novels which I generally don’t read) I can’t comment on how it fits into that.

An enjoyable adventure, and one that mostly stands alone. But if you are reading everything, I’d recommend this is read after David Mack’s ‘Control’, as there are some references.

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The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow

Reading soon

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  8. Dissolution
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  14. The Left Hand of God
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  16. Death is Forever
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  18. Research
  19. The Whole Truth
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  25. The Wheel of Time Companion
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