Reviews by eknapp
A guilty pleasure series.
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Briggs follows her tried-and-true-ad-nauseum formula: unstoppable terrifying supermonster comes to town and starts killing people, and Mercy and the pack heroically, nobly and suicidally attempt to kill the unkillable before it strikes again.

What's annoying is that the book discusses why the good wolves of the tri-city pack can't take on the local vampire seethe for unfortunate but practical reasons; then twenty pages later they go to certain doom against a volcano god that they know for a fact can't be killed or stopped simply because "he's killing innocents". Practicality be damned, it's the "right thing to do". Holy contrived, Batman!

However. Briggs puts her canned plot in a funny wrapper in which her husband's ex comes to the pack for protection from a stalker and subtly, skillfully tries to turn the group against Mercy. She's easy to read (I finished in four days what usually takes about two weeks) without feeling too YA.

I find myself enjoying this series over and over in spite of the predictability, the slightly-too-much romanciness, and the convenient-to-the-plotline coincidences.
Stupid, predictable book.
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Just another stupid superhero book with an insipid backstory and gorgeous art. An Afghanistan war hero comes home paraplegic. While he's having an uncomfortable discussion with his girlfriend, an alien symbiosis suit falls out of the sky and lands on him. Bam, instant superhero.

There were a couple feeble attempts at depth of plot. The protagonist is paraplegic so that the author can briefly wave his social conscience flag--it's not his back that's broken, it's the world! And the suit contains the mind of an alien rebel who uses Talibanish tactics against an alien pursuer; I think the reader's mind is supposed to be blown at the moral relativism.

Stupid, predictable book. I want my half hour back.
THAT came out of nowhere.
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A long con story set in a low-fantasy world modeled on Renaissance Italy. I think. The fictional city-state of Camorr is very watery, like Venice. The glorification of vengeance feels Sicilian to me. Interspersed with with the main story are chapters from the title character's childhood as an orphaned thief prodigy whose schemes are so brilliant that they spin out of control.

The Gentleman Bastards are a unique band of thieves who prey exclusively on the nobility of Camorr and are so wealthy that they literally can't spend all of their money. Rather than robbing or burgling, they run elaborately plotted confidence scams replete with disguises and acrobatics and multiple layers of deception. Very Danny Ocean. Very fun.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Then two-thirds of the way into the book the plot takes a hard turn and the conning and scheming become afterthoughts. A thief king comes to Camorr. In the process of taking over the city's underworld he cuts two of the Gentleman Bastards' throats, shoots a third, sorcerously tortures a fourth by sewing his truename onto a severed hand, and drowns the last Bastard in a vat of horse piss. In the immortal words of Seth McFarlane, “THAT WENT SOUTH SO FAST!"

It's a dense, wonderfully drawn world and some seriously great plotting. The author hasn't left himself much to work with for book two though.
Great world-building fantasy-political drama.
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A grand fantasy-adventure-political coup thriller with a couple twists. First the setting is more post-Renaissance than medieval: gunpowder, unions, populism, guillotines, fashionable agnosticism. Very French Revolution. Second, God ("Kresimir"), it turns out, is real; he created the world 1400 years earlier, he likes his monarchies, and if he comes back to find them toppled, he'll likely wipe the world clean and start over. Drama!

There are three magical classes in McClellan's world. The Privileged are just supercharged battle wizards. Ridiculously powerful fire-and-lightning-slinging dynamos. Powder mages have an affinity for gunpowder; they can sense it, detonate it with their brains, get high off of it ("battle trance"), and use it to guide bullets over long distances. The Privileged hate and fear powder mages for being the only real check on their power. The Knacked are the weakest but most interesting of the three: they each have one strong niche ability, like never needing sleep or being able to detect lies or magically pick locks.

Promise of Blood opens immediately after the overthrow of a corrupt king by a company of powder mages. They establish a series of kangaroo courts, execute pretty much the entire noble class, then try to save what's left amidst all the instability and chaos they've created. Complications arise with a series of assassination attempts, a massive invading army, a traitor on the newly installed ruling council, and a plot to summon Kresimir for the first time in 14 centuries to destroy the world. McClellan does not think small.

The author's prose is workmanlike, not remotely poetic, but serviceable. His world-building was stellar, with a great many interesting power factions: church, national union, organized crime, sorcerer cabal, army, mercenaries, royal accountancy, "powder mages", nobility, merchants, good stuff. It's no Tolkien but it's a lot of fun to read.
Lame characters but great fun anyways.
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In 2016, cancer has been cured, energy is cheap and abundant due to the harnessing of nuclear fusion, life can be extended indefinitely, and targeted AIs work miracles...but the world is unaware of any of this thanks to a rogue advancement-impeding government agency called the Bureau of Technology Control. Believing that ungoverned technological progress must result in global catastrophe (eg, curing cancer would cause mass extinction due to population explosion), they kidnap any modern Einsten/Da Vinci/Tesla who makes a great leap forward and erase record of his or her works. Having harvested and researched all these advancements since the Cold War began, the BTC now has godlike power and all the corruption and megalomania that comes with it. Influx is about a scientist--inventor of the freaking-awesome gravity mirror--who escapes and tries to out the BTC's existence to the unsuspecting public.

I enjoyed Influx enough that I ALMOST gave it a 5 but I just don't respect it enough to go all the way.

On one hand the science was really cool, very convincing, not generally obvious yet not contrived. Suarez doesn't talk down to the reader; I had to access parts of my brain that I haven't used since college physics to keep up sometimes. It was a lot of fun.

The author just sucked at writing people though. Characters facing imminent death go through the motions like they're reading from a bad script. Motivations often didn't make sense.

But what the hell, you probably don't read a technothriller for its insights into human nature. Influx was good times.