Review: Morning Star

Morning Star Morning Star by Pierce Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Quick summary: if you enjoyed the first two books you should definitely read the conclusion. It is everything you enjoyed in the first two. If you had reservations with either of the first books however, the third book will probably provide you with those same reservations.

In my review of Red Rising I had some specific gripes, and many of them carry through here:

1) Knights of the round table....IIIiiin SPAAAAAAAaaaace! The institute taught the golds to fight as medieval knights do; with lances, swords, maces, and other hand to hand combat weapons. We even had bow and arrow thrown in. Honest to God, in the era of space exploration, bow and arrow fights. Cue Indiana Jones with his pistol against the baddie with scimitars. Golden Son addressed that a bit by giving the kids pulse fists, grav boots, and other techie toys, but height of battle is still waged with razors in close quarters combat. Morning Star doesn't really add anything new here. We see some larger fleet battles, but it all strikes me as very Flash Gordon. I mean, we even get freaking Valkyries on gryphons!

Kavax au Telemanus!!!

2) It's hard to feel any sort of real suspense when it comes to Darrow. He is the protagonist. He is telling the story, first person. Any time he finds himself in peril the sense of suspense is dispelled by the knowledge that there are pages after the current one, and I'm pretty sure we're not going to see a switch from the Darrow first person point of view. Darrow has the answer for every situation, either through cunning or might. If he falters, his friends help him, or his enemies fail. When the situation seems most hopeless, DEUS EX MACHINA! He actually planned for that six months ago and through a very chancy set of assumptions, guessed exactly what his opponents would do so that he could perfectly counter them.

3) Red Rising had a clear separation of the good guys and the bad. I'm thrilled to say that this is one area that has seen tremendous improvement. The characters morph through Golden Sun and into Morning Star to be varied creatures. Sure, we still have a few villains that are just plain bad, and we have some noble heroes, but Darrow, Sevro, Mustang, and the rest are no longer simply good or bad. They are forced to make decisions that they know have consequences.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. I really did! It put a nice tidy bow on the series. I think what rubs me wrong, and ultimately left me feeling like this was the least of the three book series, is how much this felt the same. The characters became very muddled for me. I felt myself caring less and less. Add to that my growing sense that this entire series was a monstrous bro-fest. I can't take another minute of Darrow looking longingly into Cassius, fist bumping sevro, or war crying with Ragnar. In many cases even the women are bro's. At points I started to mentally substitute Hulk Hogan into the narrative.

"What are you gonna do, brother, when Hulkamania comes for you?!?!?"

Sevro is something of a Macho Man Randy Savage and the Telemanus' are a clan of Hacksaw Jim Duggan's. Many conversations are just particularly wordy versions of:


Perhaps I'm being overly harsh. After all, I did enjoy the book. Maybe I just had bad expectations. I was entertained, and I would still recommend the series. I just can't be as enthusiastic about that recommendation as I hoped I could.

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Review: A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Monster Calls is a monster story. No, wait...that's not right. It's a fairy tale. Wait, that isn't quite it either. It wears the costume of those types of stories, but under that facade it is grief. You'll find this book in the YA section of the store / library, and the copy you pick up may even be filled with illustrations. Don't let that fool you. While it may be targeted at teens, the content will resonate with anyone who has loved someone with a chronic illness like cancer. Set aside a couple of hours in a quiet, comforting place and settle in with this book, that's all the time you'll need to finish it. Be prepared to have all of the ugly feelings associated with your grief bared before you.

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Review: Caliban's War

Caliban's War Caliban's War by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Caliban's war leaps ahead some period of time since the events of Leviathan Wakes. The protomolecule has been mysteriously active on Venus. Regardless of the number of eyes on the change, no one can determine exactly what is going on or the true intent of the alien entity. Of course, without a direct enemy to the whole of humankind humans are happy to continue fighting each other. Where Wakes was concerned with the mystery of July Mao, Caliban's War is concerned with the mystery of Mei Peng, a toddler with an immune deficiency who is kidnapped from a Ganymede nursery moments before combat erupts. Her father, Prax, is single-minded in his determination to find her. Holden and his crew meet with Prax by chance and decide to take up his cause.

If you are like me and have been watching the television episodes as well, you'll meet Avasarala here, who was introduced early as the assistant undersecretary in the show. It's nice to have that actresses distinctive voice in my head as I read that character.

Personally I really enjoyed this second volume in the series, and I'm sure I'll be reading more. There are lots of parallels between the first and second book. We have a missing girl, an unknown party inciting violence, and massive powers on the brink of all out war. There are subtle differences, though, that keep it fresh. Rather than dealing with organized crime the major factions of Mars and the UN are now directly involved. We're still not seeing much of the inner workings of Mars, but we do get another Martian main character in Bobbie. We get to see a different kind of battle with Avasarala and her work within the UN.

With regard to the characters, much of the book deals with the trauma that has damaged them, and how they deal with those wounds. It's refreshing to read characters that endure extreme events and come away changed. Holden, Prax, and Bobbie all take foolish actions driven by their personal traumas. Each finds a way to reach closure in their own way.

I'm eager to continue with the series, and I'm sure if you enjoyed the first book you will enjoy this one.

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Jade Mason