The Ink Bridge by Neil Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a book I had been looking forward to reading very much, and as I read the first part of the novel, focussing on Omed and his story, I thought it would live up to my expectations. Omed’s life is a dangerous one, full of violence and uncertainty. The scenes where his tongue is cut out were among the most emotionally effecting I have read. I was enjoying Grant’s writing style and flourishes of prose. Then I started reading Hec’s story…and then the story of Hec as an adult trying to reconnect with Omed and it lost me. I found Hec a difficult character to like. I found it difficult to picture him in the situations he found himself. I found it even harder to connect with him as an adult character as I did not know enough about him as a child (in the middle part of the book). Even the ending felt incomplete to me. I was surprised to find myself not really caring whether the two were reunited. It just felt like the story had lost momentum for me and resorted to some cliched media-driven vignettes. My favourite part was the section about Omed and his situation in Afghanistan. To me, that is where the story was and for that I give this book 3 stars. I am disappointed I can’t give this a better write-up, because I certainly expected a lot more.
Wild Card by Steven Lochran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
First off, let me say I was all set to be disappointed by this sequel. Second books and movies in a series can be notoriously bad (except if they are Star Trek movies or The Empire Strikes Back). I am pleased to report that I thought this was better than Goldrush (Vanguard Prime #1). Our hero, Sam, (aka Goldrush) is still settling in to his superhero life and in this adventure is thrown in the deep end with the mysterious and awesome Knight of Wands. After Goldrush and the Knight take a trip to Chicago to hear the Knight’s mentor speak, there is an attempt on the Knight of Wand’s life. Goldrush discovers he can run up walls (cool!) as he races to save the Knight. Into the picture comes Solitaire – a shadowy figure of unknown loyaties who assists and then informs them that the Major Arcana (the bad guys) have put a kill order out on the Knight of Wands. What follows is a roller coaster ride through the history of the Knight and an education for Goldrush on just how manipulative Major Arcana agents can be. No spoilers here (as is my policy), but I will say that the dreams Sam was having in Book 1 are still with him in Book 2, and I suspect we are approaching a point in Book 3 where they start to come true. “He will wake in darkness. And into darkness he will cast you all…” Sounds like book 3 to me! I can’t wait to read it.
Ages 10 and up.
The Bridge by Jane Higgins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Bridge was an interesting book which left me a little empty at the end. I was surprised by this because it had all the right ingredients for me to absolutely love it. A war pitting one one side of a bridge against another. A secretive organisation that selects and trains the best minds to keep the “hostiles” on their side of the bridge. A central character with a mysterious past who is rejected by that organisation, despite his obvious potential. I don’t know precisely what went wrong for me reading this novel, but it felt cold. Perhaps that is what Higgins was shooting for, perhaps it was because I was reading it as an ebook on my iPad for the first time. I feel like I am shortchanging the book because I never really engaged with it. It is possible that a second reading would serve me better, so I won’t write much more here now. I really hope I can read it again at some stage and post a more illuminating and helpful review. Sorry this one is such a dud, but I have to call ’em as I see ’em at this moment!
Would suit ages 12 and up.
Goldrush by Steven Lochran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There is never a dull moment in this first book of Steven Lochran’s Vanguard Prime series. From the outset, as Sam Lee is dropped off by his parents to join the ranks of Vanguard Prime as its youngest-ever member, we know we are in for a ride and a half. We get to know Sam, piece by piece, and little by little we understand he is a reluctant recruit, totally overwhelmed by the prospect of being “Goldrush” and in the company of his childhood idols, Agent Alpha and Gaia. Sam’s superpower is supersonic speed, but he tries very hard to avoid using it because of a horrific event in his recent past.
We follow Sam as he becomes Goldrush and learns what is expected of him as a member of Vanguard Prime. Lochran gives us great details here, and the sequence where Sam learns what NOT to do with his uniform brought a smile and a chuckle to my face.
The book switches between following Sam, and following those around him. This takes a little getting used to, but by chapter four I had my had around it.
There are villains too (of course) and Cronus and The Overman are formidable ones. When they escape from “The Gallery” all hell breaks loose and Goldrush and the rest of the Vanguard Prime team are in a fight to the death for control of the planet.
Along the way we discover some really cool superpowers. Machina, shaping up to be a close mate to Goldrush, can manipulate electronic devices; Gaia, who can control the elements; Agent Alpha, who can channel energy and is able to fly and heal himself quickly. These are some awesome superheroes, up against some truly scary villains. I will not post spoilers, except to say that there is an epic conflict in the closing stages of this book and there IS a second (and I believe a third) book in the series. You can take what you will from that. A terrific SciFi/Fantasy series from an Aussie author who clearly has many more stories to bring us. Can’t wait to read Book #2, Wild Card. Review to be posted soon.
The Invaders by John Flanagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This second instalment in the Brotherband series just makes me hungry for the next book, The Hunters!
John Flanagan has an easy, descriptive, exciting style that makes it very easy for the reader to be transported to the land of Skandia and the seafaring crew of the Heron. Hal Mikkelson and his crew of outcasts are hot on the trail of the pirate ship Raven, after the pirates stole the precious Andomal – an important relic from their village of Hallasholm. Hal and his Brotherband are seeking redemption after allowing the theft to happen under their noses. Accompanied by the crusty former warrior, Thorn, the crew find refuge during a storm cycle in a sheltered bay and start the process of getting themselves prepared for the conflict to come. This allows us to get to know the characters more, and particularly for Thorn to be fleshed out a bit more. He is a great character, with depths that Flanagan has only begun to plumb. Hal and Stig continue to prove themselves a great team, and the large, short-sighted and gentle-natured Ingvar finally gets to shine – thanks to a weapon innovation of Hal’s (The Mangler). Old foes are reunited and there is an epic battle for those who like such stuff. Me, I prefer the character interaction and the introduction of a new character, Lydia, into the mix has added some spice. Will the Herons get the chance to avenge themselves against the Raven? What will happen when Svengar and the crew of Wolfwind catch up to the outcast Herons? Will Lydia change the dynamic of the Heron crew for better or worse? As usual no spoilers here, but I will say fans of the first book will not be disappointed. I throughly enjoyed The Invaders and I can’t wait to start The Hunters (as soon as it is returned to the Library!). A great series going from strength to strength.