May 16

The Traitor Queen by Trudi Canavan

9781841495965I can’t believe I have had this book as long as I have. Nearly a year before I finished it. This is partly because I had to source and read book two in the trilogy before continuing the journey, but still…

Like many fantasy authors Canavan has established in her mind a wonderful complex magical world. This is book seven told from this world, and it very nicely draws together several threads and still leaves room to continue the story again, perhaps picking up the next generation.

In a world full of magic, black magic is seen as the most powerful, and dangerous. Very few magicians can access that power and they are isolated and guarded. In one country, only three are allowed, all others are prohibited training. But in this trilogy, all those rules are tested. First when the son of an authorised magician discovers latent abilities he naturally possess. What can be done to protect him, but to send him off as an ambassador to a distant land. But then he is kidnapped and taken to a hidden city of Traitors. Here it seems everyone practices black magic, and society runs well. Now in book 3, this society of Traitors is determined to destroy a nation whose social order is founded on slavery and the acquisition of power with magic.

As always, book 3 of a fantasy trilogy will make little or no sense without reading books 1 and 2 first. Much of this book would seem to be political diplomacy, court intrigue and small skirmishes that eventually lead to one big decisive battle. Totally appropriate for the story. To me, the final resolution was just ‘right’. Realistic without going too far. Satisfying without closing doors on all future stories.

And now to open the Canavan that arrived last week.

May 16

Concealed in Death by JD Robb

9780749959401Book 38 of a series… How on earth can an author keep a story going? I will admit that I came to this series relatively late, only reading a handful of books in the last few years. But each one has been a fun read, and I look forward to the time when I can take the time to read some of the early books.

For those unfamiliar with the In Death series, the primary investigators are Eve Dallas, police lieutenant, and her wealthy computer whiz husband Roarke. The books are set just slightly in the future, but not enough to be scifi. This time the story depends on good old-fashioned police work. Roarke is renovating an old building once used to house homeless youth. During the grand project launch, he symbolically takes a sledgehammer to a wall, only to discover a skeleton. Eventually 12 skeletons are located, and Eve takes on the challenge of identifying each body and hunting down their killer.

I think what I liked best about this book is the traditional whodunit style. No fancy virtual reality suite, no super evil tech device, just simple gathering evidence and drawing conclusions. First the struggle to identify the victims, then find the links between them, if any. Some of the best scenes in this book are the moments when Eve breaks the news to the next of kin as each child is identified. And ever so gently she needs to ask about known friends.

I don’t think I have read a bad book in this series, but this one seems to stand out as just a little bit better.

May 16

The Valhalla Prophecy by Andy McDermott

9780755380664Ah, a good, old fashioned page turner. Airport novel, beach book, whatever you may call these guilty pleasures that you read when you just want to relax. You can count on McDermott to entertain without challenging your ‘little grey cells.’

In this installment of the continuing series, Eddie and Nina are helping friends chase down Valhalla, the legendary Viking hall of the slain. Runestones have been unearthed that seem to provide clues to the spot, naturally well above the Arctic Circle. As always, the bad guys are after the same thing because the structure is said to protect the most deadly poison ever. A single drop on your skin will kill you. It seems the Russians found the first location in the 60s and sealed it with a nuclear weapon. So the race is on for site number 2, literally.

These long series of similar books can present an author with a problem. How on earth do you keep readers coming back? McDermott handles this problem by creating interesting characters, and adding their backstory ever so slowly. This time it is Eddie with the big secret, so secret he can’t even trust Nina. Will he risk his marriage to protect this woman he knew years before? Read the book to find out. But be warned, we are all going to be hanging on the next book for Nina’s health check.

In large format or wait for the paperback edition due out in August, fans of this series will love this. If not already a fan, I suggest that you lay your hands on some of the earlier books to introduce the characters we all know and love.