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S. D. Howarth

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A fun ride.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-01-20

A good laugh having come across G in the Supervilliany crossover. Plenty of nods to Bond, Hitman and Bladerunner and Altered Carbon... and pretty much every assassin film going (minus Leon).

A private conglomerate as murder for hire - where could that go wrong when taking on their mafia equivalent?

Everywhere really with a hefty mix of kiss kiss, boom boom and the odd Terminator vibe thrown in. It could do with a tad more backstory to the tech - eg where the black tech come from, beyond it being controlled and the dangle of memories for G to quest for among the carnage and betrayal.

You do wonder where the next blow will come from and it is a nice break from the tweeness of Alastair Maclean and the micromanaged detail of a Clancy brick. It straddled it well as an audiobook, cherry picked the good stuff and took the listener on a fun ride. Ideal for a listen at the day job.

A pacy ‘reversed’ Supernatural.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-12-19

Another trilogy and well produced series from the CT Phipps (and co) machine and I found Jane entertaining in her cameo in the recent Supervilliany audiobook.

I liked the reverse Supernatural twist that had an interesting vibe through the book. I also enjoyed the amateur detective sub-plot with the Dresdenesque peacekeeping storyline.

Unlike Jacob/Cassius/Gary I don’t think the character resonated with me in this story. The pop culture references worked, there’s a neat anti-climax and character development from naive teenager (to a point) but I didn’t feel the same amusement and emotional attachment. Perhaps influenced by other reads, but it could have gone a bit darker with what was available on the table.

U found it a good, solid start to the series, but for me a grittier story and beefier support cast would have elevated it a notch but that may depend on the market as it’s pretty teenager friendly.

Here lies the threads - well knotted.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-11-19

This series marks a jump in writing quality and it wasn’t as though the others are shabby in quality.

There is a weight to the prose that seems to make the story linger, without rushing headlong, or being dull.

This is where the threads come together and it doesn’t disappoint with an almighty character arc, tweaked by events and opportunity with enough turns to keep you guessing and await with anticipation.

If there was to be a gripe it would be that you are kept at arms length to the opposing forces with the conclusion. You may get a sword in the face, but nary a glimpse at who or what are driving the armies and Emperor’s sister.

Abbess Glass provides a beat touch to oppose war, without the need of Nona to become a Jorglike smarta***, which was especially neat.

That distance and in keeping events close allows Nona to fight and discover herself with a very deft touch. Other characters in the various trilogies may appeal more, but none are as well written, or cone from the page with the audio presentation.

A cracking series - and well finished in a not unexpected way.

Pacy earfodder. A solid and workmanlike production.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 30-10-19

I agree with the average of 3.5-4 stars as in effect it is a comparable yarn to a Dresden Lite. Audiobook provided for honest review and I enjoyed the vibe.

It is the ‘lite’ part that knocks it back as DeChance is an interesting enough character, but lacks a little depth. I’d personally have liked a bit more backstory with him and Amethyst. In concentrating early on with Jake and Snake I felt by the end an opportunity had been missed and one or the other of the bikers would have been preferable.

Martinez was enigmatic, and the most impressive character was Salvatore to my surprise. He seems a little naive, but the articulation of his skillset raised the storyline with its turfwar backdrop. That turfwar seemed to escape the muggles a little easily, but there were some entertaining chase sequences with the familiar stealing the show.

If you like urban fantasy, this is a solid and workmanlike production. It took me a while to connect with the narrator, although I got through the last half pretty quick when it came together at the end with a couple of neat twists and the potential to see the characters again. Pacy ear fodder.

A classy example in character torment.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-10-19

Audiobook provided for honest review (having sat on the ebooks). A solid continuation to the Rhenwars Saga while once again torturing reader and character alike with power plays and casual brutality with neat, fluent prose and a nod to the middle east.

Having read the arc of the new series it was interesting to go back and read the origin and backstory of numerous characters with their strong backstory and individuality - despite of a circular nature of events in the vein of WOT.

Of the three books I’ve read, I found this the weakest - more due to the prequel and book one being stronger stories and the ending here being an inconclusive pause after some drama.

Naia and Kyel are once again (hilariously) out of their depth and in effect they become a backstory to the evolved relationship of Meiran, Darien and Quinlan. They also need to learn the use of rope and chains...
Darien does remind me of Sam in Supernatural, but I think it’s the combination of floppy hair and not staying dead.

The last two are intriguing and thoughtful in deed and plot and complement each other on how to cope with the darkside. Meiran has a tasty moment of ruthlessness at the end to show her character, yet of the Rhenwars characters to date she’s my least favourite. It is easy to see why the mage class is now a triumvirate in the privvy as I find her a bit feckless and wait to see how she develops by the end of the series and in the next audiobook instalment.

The strong story and narrator once again work very well together and highlight the author’s ability to put together a tight package that does everything the tin says and leaves you happily wanting more and seeing if the curve balls twist or stick.

A brutal rollercoaster of rich imagery

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 19-09-19

4.5*

Rich with imagery and being the conclusion of the trilogy the strings weaved and wove together neater than the proceeding books.

It’s hard to pick a favourite character as Tara and Rill were outstanding and well worth their page time and enduring their misery with almost as much endurance as the characters in punchy driven writing.

As a reader I had a few niggles with book one where a great story felt patchy in places and any quibbles with prose were hammered down into a squidgy mess. I was also a tad cynical of Ash/Cry’s relationship with it being abrupt in book one. It feels like more work has gone into it and turning it into one of the cores for the conclusion was very clever in tone and character development and more impressive for it with gripping tension in wave after wave.

Not quite perfect. While Mace was forced to push and adapt, Corvus seemed to stand around for a fair portion of the book and see things crumble. I get he is exposed and overextended himself, but once he achieved his goal he seemed to switch off in an overly flawed way. Shenanigans aside, he felt a tad too much of a star wars villain, than a driven and brutal warlord.

A nice touch at the end in a not dissimilar way to Black Company and WOT and ended a classy listening experience that is a firm recommendation to any fantasy reader or listener.

A must for fantasy fans and anyone with a piratical heart

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-09-19

A really enjoyable read, just shy of topping out on full marks. More terrifying than a cat. Classic line.

Three solid entertaining characters and a raft of secondary characters who add life and body to the yarn, that is worth anyone's time to indulge with and some interesting concepts within the pacy delivery.

Fast and fluid, with some nice piratical nastiness and the threat of more and the inevitable squabbling to come - so little to dislike.

Personally I would have preferred to have had a little more backstory to the woven world building and I felt the ending was leaning towards a break point for the next book in the duology. It just didn't quite grab me at the conclusion quite as much as the myriad build up and tension. Perhaps because the action pulls away to secondary characters. Short and intense mayhem but as a reader/listener I prefer page time with the main characters.

I’ve not read the authors earlier books, so something to remedy and in particular I look forward to future audiobooks as the author elevated his later writing from mizzen to main.

I have a soft spot for pirate yarns and this landed better than grapeshot on a crowded deck. A fine introduction to the author. I look forward to the follow up as much as Sid Meier re-creating the old days and heartily recommend the authors following books, which are even better written.

Yarr god damnit. The audiobook format elevates the yarn and as a re-read it is still a stonking story and ironsides of solidity in narration. I wanted to give it five stars with the characters coming to life as they did on screen in Black Sails and I’m stingy... but the audio editing let down what would be a perfect audio production. Many audiobooks have a minor flaw, whether trad or indie - a duff word pronunciation, a botched name and the like and this one (via audible) could do with a number of duplicated lines being edited out.

Perhaps appropriate - would any pirate be perfect?

Submit to the inevitable...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-09-19

Submit to the inevitable. Nice line.

Of the current two books I’m not sure which I enjoy more with the nuanced differences.

Nebula’s backstory has a greater sobriety, with a more responsible Mass shouldering the fate of a species on his earlier planet/crew.

The authors’s humour is heavily present within the tangled plot lines of mistrust and inevitable betrayal, with the addition of a couple of new characters. Fade worked well with another tier of threat/humour of the two, namely due to having more page/ear time. I’ve imbibed ebook & audiobook in quick succession and the story stood up well in both, with an accomplished audio production.

The authors’ prodigious enthusiasm for the sci-fi genre is abundant in a downplayed vibe in marked contrast to the supervilliany series and is punchy as a result. You have a nod to Borg, a quazi death star and star destroyer and Dune combat sequences. They work well in a visual display without being trite and overwhelming. They work to points and not being a cheap gag as the conclusion revolves around Mass minus his crew. I enjoyed that, seeing him dig his way through a precarious number of situations, without being bailed out to sarcasm and gags. It could have done with a tad more pace after the nebula arrival as I felt that in both formats. Almost perfect to a trained cynic.

Arguably the best of CT Phipps (and co) work and if I have any complaint with the series it is the covers. They don’t do the story and characters justice. I look forward to the next story as the wrecking ball epilogue was a neat and confident touch and a pleasure to have upgraded the ebook on audible.

A huge covering of interstellar storytelling in a small tin.

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-09-19

A vivid and entertaining novel (and audiobook) that remains interesting and pacy while holding back on humour and pop culture references. Part of me thinks that must be hard for CT Phipps, but like Wraith Knight, there is a dry sobriety in places that allows an almost trademarked polyamorousness to cover a lot of ground with AI, cyborgs, synthetics a nod to alien races, interstellar war, servitude and lastly what next after losing an interstellar war.

The nods to Serenity and Guardians are there and William adds Jaynesque humour, especially around the prison break. It could have gone darker, there is enough mayhem to add in brutality, but on a Star Wars and not Grimdark level with rich world building. Part of me wishes it let the leash slip, but I understand the broad appeal.

Mass and Isla stand out for me and the Frozen twist is welcome for any parent with a little one of a disney age. The book and audiobook are tightly put together and the richness of story is truly impressive and could be a steadfast example for anyone interested in Sci Fi, space opera, or having a stab at having a go yourself. Mass sounding like Clint Eastwood in space on the audiobook was icing on the cake and I write that as a diabetic [final comment redacted].

Gary meets Wolfenstein...

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-09-19

As usual CT Phipps does what the tin says and delivers a welter of laughs with his prodigious work rate and deluge of pop culture references.

Gary survives being pounded and outmanoeuvred and it very interesting to see the characters from numerous series blended in a nerdy homage, yet still appearing individual and distinct. With said work rate you expect to see similarities, or avoidances. The author avoids that for the second time in as many books by throwing them together in an alternative universe of myriad timelines as used to great effect by Star Trek. A clever way of avoiding repetition while pointing out Wookie racism.

If anything, I think the ubernazi Wolfenstein vibe was too understated. I’d personally preferred an exploitation of that vein more than using them as flunkies for a known evil bod.

Excellent delivery as always and having a chortle at the day job is one way of getting through the day. Well recommended, especially for nerds.