15 December 2011

The Time Hunters and the Box of Eternity by Carl Ashmore


Becky and Joe Mellor return to Bowen Hall for the half term holidays to find things are as unusual as ever. Of course, that's to be expected when you're sharing a stately home with a dinosaur, a winged horse, two sabre-tooth tigers, Will Scarlet and Bowen Hall's latest resident - a dodo named Deirdre. Things, however, get more intriguing when American time traveller, Bruce Westbrook, arrives with two gold doubloons that seem to possess strange, supernatural powers.

So begins a thrilling adventure that leads Becky, Joe, Uncle Percy and Will to 1920s Chicago, Victorian Edinburgh and the 18th Century Caribbean - battling gangsters, pirates, sea-monsters and zombie sharks on a quest for the legendary Pandora's Box ...

The clock is still ticking ...

Well Carl Ashmore has done it again! The Box of Eternity is a fast moving action packed story with everything that you could wish for and more in a sequel.

In the second book of the Time Hunters series, we see Emerson Drake enlisting one of the most notorious murderers of all time, George Chapman aka Jack the Ripper into his ranks. This time Drake and his gang are after an artifact with immense power known as the Box of Eternity and it is up to Becky, Joe, Uncle Percy and Will Scarlet to stop their nefarious plans.

This is a brilliant continuation of the first Time Hunters story. Not only is it an exciting swashbuckling adventure but we get to see how the pieces are finally fitting together. Without spoiling the story, I'll just say that you'll find out why Drake has kidnapped Becky and Joe's dad and what the connection between the Golden Fleece and the Box of Eternity is.

Another neat thing I enjoy is how Carl merges his world with real world events. It always brings a smile to my face when the story reveals how the time travellers' actions have led to the world we know today. Throughout the book you can tell that Carl has put in a lot of research and effort to keep the story as historically accurate as possible.

Just like the previous book, the Box of Eternity is a novel suitable for all ages. It has great characters that your root for and devious villains that you despise. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a fun book to read.

Click here to read my review of the first book, The Time Hunters

12 December 2011

The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams

The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams
There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike, marking each victim with a fragment of a greater pattern. Anyone showing the marks is put to death. That is Emperor Beyon's law . . .

But now the pattern is reaching closer to the palace than ever before. In a hidden room, a forgotten prince has grown from child to man, and as the empire sickens, Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, is remembered. He awaits the bride his mother has chosen: a chieftain’s daughter from the northern plains.

Mesema travels from her homeland, an offering for the empire’s favour. She is a Windreader, used to riding free across the grasslands, not posing and primping in rare silks. She finds the Imperial Court’s protocols stifling, but she doesn’t take long to realise the politicking and intrigues are not a game, but deadly earnest.

Eyul is burdened both by years and by the horrors he has carried out in service to the throne. At his emperor’s command he bears the emperor’s Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings.

As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence and rebellion, the enemy moves toward victory. Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who once saw a path through a pattern, among the waving grasses.

Mazarkis Williams pieces together a complex mosaic of personality and ambition in a brilliant work of magic and mystery set in a richly imagined world, the first book in a fantastic new series.

There's been a lot of praise for Mazarkis Williams debut novel The Emperor's Knife. It is a great book filled with political intrigue and unexpected turns told by Willams's wonderful prose.

The book is mostly told from the viewpoint of the following three characters. Eyul, an elderly assassin working for the Cerani Empire and the only one with the weapon to spill royal blood; Sarmin, a slightly mad prince who has been locked away ever since his brother has ascended the throne and Mesema, a girl from the Northern tribes who is on her way to marry the mad prince.

At the heart of it all, a disease known as the Pattern is spreading across the empire. People contracted with the Pattern lose their self identity and become tools of the Puppet Master. The general gist is that the Emperor is also a carrier of the Pattern and there are other parties who want to take advantage of this and put themselves in power. This brief summary doesn't do the book justice because there is so much more going on beneath it all and Williams managed to fit everything together within 300 or so pages.

It is a great story but at the same time I have trouble enjoying it as much as others. For one, no matter how I tried, I just couldn't connect with the characters. I understand Williams intended to leave his characters and their actions ambiguous and I am fine with that. It's just that jumping between three of these type of characters left me unsure as to who I should be routing for. Also parts of the story just feel unexplained, unfleshed and left me feeling bewildered. For example, why did Sarmin separate the efreet from the High Mage Govnan and the mage let him do it? Was it simply because Sarmin doesn't like other beings locked up like he is?

To wrap it up, I think the review by Ranting Dragon has captured my feelings nicely. Reading the book is like watching a chess match, the pace is slow and you don't always understand why the players made that move but at the same time, you're intrigued by the maneuvers and intend to wait out till a player pulls out a checkmate move.

4 December 2011

Awesome Artworks from Black Library and Early Christmas Presents

One of the reasons why I love Black Library books so much is because of their awesome covers and recently I spotted these great pieces by Jon Sullivan for the forthcoming novel Wrath of Iron. I think these are some fantastical pieces that realy capture the mood of epic battles led by the superhuman Space Marines.



While browsing through Jon's gallery, I realise that he is also the artist behind many of the book covers that have caught my eye in the past few years, such as The Sea Watch by Adrian Tchaikovsky and The Technician by Neal Asher. He surely is a very talented and busy man.

And today I received some early Christmas presents from my fiance and surprise surprise, they are all Black Library books!


I've heard a lot about the Night Lords series from Stefan at Civilian Reader, and I'm looking forward to reading these. As for the Nagash books, these will be my first foray into the Time of Legend series, hope they'll be a good start for me.

I'm really excited about these presents. Will you be getting any books this Christmas?