The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth

How does an Investigation Man find a murderer in Hell? That question alone drew me into this novel following Thomas Fool, an information man (i.e. detective) for Hell. And the ride was really quite wonderful.

We’re introduced to Fool as he welcomes a delegation of four angels from Heaven, who have come for the regular Elevations in which souls are taken to Heaven. Unfortunately, he has to split his time between escorting them places and investigating a new murder, where a demon is devouring the souls of humans rather than just killing them. Fool tours all of Hell in his search for the culprit and we as readers are shown all the horrors of a Hell that has evolved from the Hell we normally think of.

Devil's Detective book cover

Hell is a very chaotic place and as the reader, you are really left floundering trying to figure out just what is going on, especially in the first few chapters. How the society is set up and how people and punishments for sins are decided are never fully explained. But once you kind of get your bearings and get used to the fact you aren’t going to know everything, then it gets a whole lot better. Unsworth parses out the necessary information for understanding Hell and its workings in such a way that you can really let go and enjoy the story.

 

Now, this novel falls in the realm of Horror for sure and that’s apparent. But it is also equally a mystery novel, which I don’t have as much experience in reading. With that being said, I found myself suspecting the actual murderer early on and then confirming it long before Fool did, which was cool in one sense but also a bit of a letdown in another. I wanted to be left guessing a little longer and needing to go back and see all the hints and clues I missed along the way. But maybe that’s just my personal preference.

My favorite aspects of the novel revolved around Thomas Fool and his character development. The word “fool” is used repeatedly by the author as a way to show how little Fool knows. And once Fool has actually started to get the hang of investigating, it shows his lack of confidence in himself. Fool as a character experiences growth throughout the novel, going from kind of an annoying character to one that is inspiring and a leader. It’s really intriguing watching this guy who starts out wanting to just fly under the radar and not be noticed to a true detective trying to find answers and eventually to a leader of both humans and demons.

In some aspects, this story really blew my mind and in others, I was a little less than impressed. But for a first novel, all in all I enjoyed it. And by the time I got to the end of the book and saw the big reveal, I was definitely taken by surprise and will request the second book through my local library.

I give it a solid 3.5/5 stars.

Anne Rice’s Prince Lestat

prince-lestatIt’s been a little while since I did a book review. I’ve read several novels over the past couple months. My second son was also born and work got crazy busy with the start of the semester. But things have finally started to calm down a little and I was able to finish Anne Rice’s newest Vampire Chronicles novel, Prince Lestat.

I grew up reading the Vampire Chronicles. In fact, I believe Anne Rice’s Louis and Lestat were the first vampire novels I had the joy of reading as a kid (read as 6th grade). While it might not have been the most appropriate reading material for a 6th Grader, I enjoyed these novels so very much. The intricacy of the stories, the emotional states of the characters, the brutality with which they drank from the evildoer. All great stuff that sucked me right in.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, Prince Lestat was a little different than the other Vampire Chronicles, at least for me. It was told in this rolling, POV hopping format that was unlike the other Chronicles I had read. Of the ones I had read, they always stuck to either Louis’ or Lestat’s (Or whoever’s biography the book focused on) POV, with slight shifts every once in a while. And I never read Queen of the Damned (which I need to do now, as a lot of the info plays into this book) so it may be written in this fashion. And while it was different, it wasn’t unsettling, just worth noting.

What did take a little getting used to was that when we were in Lestat’s POV, everything was written in first person. He was telling us the story. Everyone else’s POV was written in the third person. The first time this happened, I was a little confused. But once I got used to the form, it was fine. It also helped that Rice had headed each chapter with the name of whomever’s POV we were going to be in.

This book was a little slow getting into. We are bouncing around all over, with no idea who the Voice is or what he wants, and meeting several characters we’d never even heard of before. I almost set the novel down a couple times for this reason alone. But I trusted Anne enough to pull off a great story in the end. This trust only comes from many books of successful storytelling before, a fine example for the rest of us writers. Once you have dedicated readers, you can experiment a bit more and try new things. And boy, did it all come together in the end.

I’d say I devoured the last 150-200 pages. The pacing picked up. I was once again locked into the mysterious, brooding, thoughtful immortal mindset that encapsulates these vampires, some of whom have been alive for six thousand years. And when the ending rolled around, I was left satisfied.

The resolution was a little underwhelming. I would have liked something a bit more exciting. But it wasn’t disappointing. Definitely worth a read and I will be reading her next novel, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis. I’ll give it a shot.

All in all, I’d give Prince Lestat a 3/5 stars for taking me back to some of my favorite characters, but also for being a little slow to get into and having a somewhat underwhelming ending.

Salvatore’s Streams of Silver

So, I’m a few days late on this review, but it’s been a little hectic. See my post next week about my new writing schedule. But I’m happy to be able to talk about Salvatore’s Streams of Silver.

Streams of Silver, for me at least, seems like the typical second book in a trilogy. I’ve seen this a lot, where the second first book stands alone pretty well. Then the second book happens and draws you in to where you want to read the third book. Often times, the plot carries over, we meet more characters who will eventually carry onwards. And that’s totally okay. Just wanted to point that out.

The two best aspects of this book revolve around two characters, and since characters are the most important aspects of any novel, this makes sense.

The first is Cattie-brie. If you read my review of The Chrystal Shard, you’ll see I was a little (maybe more than a little) disappointed with her passivity and lack of agency in the first novel, being that she’s the only major female character. However, we see Cattie-brie coming into her own here in the second novel, no small part due to Artemis Entreri (I’ll get to him momentarily). While Cattie-bri doesn’t set out on the quest for Mithral Hall, she is dragged into it and finds that inner strength that makes her such a formidable and compelling character later in the series. So, I encourage any readers to power through the first novel with the understand that the contrast from where she starts to where she ends up is worth it.

The second character is Artemis Entreri. When someone asks me what my favorite part of a book is, I will often times say it was the villain. A strongly crafted antagonist, with just as many nuances as the protagonist, always catches my eye. And Artemis Entreri is just that. He is the mirror opposite of Drizzt, a warrior just as skilled with the sword but lacking the dark elf’s passions. And the great thing in the end is that they are nearly equally matched. Not to spoil too much for later books, but Artemis is constantly able to hold his own against Drizzt, which goes against the cliche good morals winning over bad ones.

The book, like I said, sets up for the third novel, with Drizzt and Wulfgar chasing after Entreri and Regis while Cattie-brie seeks to reclaim Mithral Hall in honor of her (believed) dead father, Bruenor.

I give this book a solid 3.75/5

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss-Peregrine-Home-Peculiar-Children-Ransom-RiggsThis was an interesting book that I actually got from Facebook. A friend of mine posted the trailer for the movie that’s coming out, so I figured what the heck, I should try reading the book first. (It’s my general policy to read the book before I see the movie, as all book lovers know the book is always better than the movie.) Well, I can honestly say I was pleased with it.

The book tells the story of Jacob, a boy who’s just seen his grandfather get murdered by some three tongued monster. Or he thinks he did? Maybe it was just a pack of dogs? Jacob travels to Wales, where his grandfather grew up, in an attempt to dispel the fantasy of the stories his grandfather told him as a child. After all, his grandfather was a Jew who lived through World War II. It makes sense for him to create some white lies about his past, right?

As it turns out, everything his grandfather said was true. There really were kids with peculiar abilities like super strength, invisibility and the ability to control fire. And they’re still alive now. Jacob even has his own peculiar ability, one that will help keep everyone else alive.

The story is a great coming of age story, with Jacob learning what is real and what is fiction, who to trust and who to stay loyal to. It’s a solid young adult novel with some great action and mystery. While Jacob isn’t the strongest protagonist I’ve ever read (he kind of gets swept along with everyone else) he does have some great internal conflict that redeems him in the end.

I’m definitely interested to see the movie, although it looks like they changed Emma from the fire-wielding hottie she’s supposed to be to be more like Olive, who is able to float and control the air. It should be a good flick to watch. And I’ll definitely be reading the second novel, as soon as my wife finishes it.

This novel gets a 3/5. I’ll be moving on to Salvatore’s Streams of Silver next, the second book in the Icewind Dale Trilogy.

Want to see me review a book? Send requests to kristopherlcampa@gmail.com

The Crystal Shard

crystal shardI just finished Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard. I have to be honest, and you all know I’m a

huge fan of Salvatore from my previous reviews, but this book was a little less than what I remembered. But, I understand it in some sense. Here’s why.

The Crystal Shard was Salvatore’s first published novel. And like any author will tell you, that first book is always the worst. You can only go up from there and improve your craft. So it’s understandable that this book didn’t wow me as much as the Dark Elf Trilogy (the first three chronologically but published after The Icewind Dale Trilogy). The writing was eh, okay. The action was good but it lacked that polish and flash that I’ve come to expect from Salvatore. The plot was a little basic and predictable. But the novel did have a few redeeming qualities.

We get to meet some of the greatest characters we will ever see in Salvatore’s writing. We meet Bruenor, the battle tested dwarf king. We meet Wulfgar, a barbarian who’s life is spared by Bruenor and who learns the meaning of tolerance (more on that in a moment). We meet Regis, the halfling who at times holds everyone together. And of course, there’s Drizzt and his cat, Guenhwyvar. Although, word to the wise, when writing a series make sure that gender pronouns are consistent. Guen is referred to as a he in this novel, and a she in nearly all the others.

The character development is probably one of the better aspects of the novel. We see Bruenor growing fond of Wulfgar, who he will eventually adopt as his son. We see Wulfgar growing from his barbarian prejudices and becoming a strong leader. We even see Regis learning to trust his friends to an extent. Definitely helps pull the story along.

You may think I’ve forgotten a very important character – Cattie-brie. She is the warrior woman of the group, adopted daughter of Bruenor, who plays a large role in later books. I left her to the end because I was a little disappointed in this novel. She plays almost no role in what goes on, other than to tease Wulfgar and get her hurt during the battle for Ten-Towns. I was a little disturbed by the only significant female character in the novel playing such a small role. I’m excited to watch her character develop and look forward to seeing how Salvatore brings her to life like he has his male characters.

All in all, I say a 3.75/5. I’m taking a break from Salvatore for a moment to read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children next. Stay tuned.

Is there a book you want to see me review? Submit a request at kristopherlcampa@gmail.com

Sojourn: A Story of Acceptance

Sojourn2Well, I finished the third book in the Dark Elf Trilogy – Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore. And I have to say, once again, I forgot how much I enjoyed this series and it feels so good to come back to it.

However, coming back this time around has brought many new revelations. As we as readers experience life, it undoubtedly changes the way we experience novels. We learn from our interactions with people and form new ideas and beliefs. That alone should be all the reason to support rereading books. You never know what will speak to you.

Sojourn details Drizzt’s first years on the surface. He wanders around, not knowing the language or the region. Heck, he doesn’t even know about seasons and nearly freezes during his first winter. He also makes new friends and learns how to be a ranger. And by the end of the novel, he comes to a semblance of truce with Bruenor Battlehammer, who is one of the main characters and one of Drizzt’s best friend.

But at heart, this book is about acceptance, both of self and from other people, something that appeals to me greatly as I focus on similar topics within my own writing. Drizzt wants nothing more than to be accepted on the surface world and have a place to call his own, friends to call his own, and a life of meaning.

He says:

It would happen suddenly, I imagined. I would approach a gate, speak a formal greeting, then reveal myself as a dark elf… Suspicions would linger about me for many months, but in the end, principles would be seen and accepted for what they were; the character of the person would outweigh the color of his skin and the reputation of his heritage.

This is a powerful passage in the novel. It’s something that Drizzt greatly desires and something that we all want as well. At least that’s what I hope. But in the light of recent events in our country, from police brutality to violent protestors to the bigotry and racism of certain political figures, I think we could all hope for a little more compassion and understanding. There’s more to Drizzt Do’Urden than his skin tone and there’s more to the people around us as well. We just need to take a moment to put aside our prejudices and listen a little.

Once again, a great novel. I give it a 4.5/5.

Coming up, I’ll start on the Icewind Dale Trilogy, the next three books in Drizzt’s journey.

 

The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Part 2

Well, folks, when I left you last, we were about halfway through Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass. You can read my review of the first half here. Now that I’ve finished the second half, I can say with absolute certainty that I will be keeping up with this series.

The second half of the book was a lot of investigation into the enemies of Albion. Characters are running around, looking for clues and fighting monsters. And it’s all well paced, so that you are wanting to keep reading at the end of the chapter.

The romance sub plot develops and has an excellent ending. We also see Gwen finally mature a bit. And we get a hint at some far greater evil enemy that will no doubt come to bear in the sequels.

But the best part for me, and perhaps the part I was most looking forward to, happens at the climax. We finally get to see an aerial battle. I’ve always enjoyed reading these and would have been very disappointed if Butcher hadn’t delivered on the unspoken promise to feature one. There’s lots of cannon fire and aerial acrobatics to keep you intrigued for the last fifty or so pages. It was exhilarating and I found my own heart speeding up with the ebb and flow of battle, a difficult task with the number of battle scenes I’ve read over the years.

And Butcher ends the novel well, which is a difficult task to accomplish. We are left knowing that evil is coming and that bad things are going to happen. And because we are connected to  the characters now, we will have to follow them into their futures. Very excited for the sequel when it comes. I give this novel a solid 4/5.

The next read will be Salvatore’s Sojourn, Book 3 in the Dark Elf Trilogy. Stay tuned for a review.