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spalanzane (North Wales)

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The Dweller in the Deep Novel
The Dweller in the Deep Novel
Price: 5.34

4.0 out of 5 stars What a finish!, 8 Mar 2014
Dweller in the Deep is the third and final book of the Dark Waters trilogy, a trilogy of novels set in the Arkham Horror universe from Fantasy Flight Games. I suppose as many people did, I came to these books for the 'exclusive' cards available from FFG through the form in the back of them, but to be honest, they've actually been really entertaining! I should also point out that this third book does not have an exclusive card in the back.

The book picks up immediately following the second, with Oliver and co hot on the trail of their nemesis, as revealed at the end of Bones of the Yopasi in a shock twist. Their adventure takes them across the USA from Arkham to San Francisco, to the Great Hall of Celeano, and back. The final showdown takes place in Arkham, and the shocking end was really unexpected! Along they way they pick up some old friends, which was a nice way of drawing the trilogy together. We even see Lovecraft himself very briefly in the prologue!

I have really enjoyed these books, not least because of my love for the boardgame itself, but I found this one to be a bit plodding somehow. I suppose, as the main villain of the piece had been revealed in the last book, along with his plan and his likely method by which he intended to bring it about, I expected this one to be a sort of race-against-the-clock to stop him. Instead, it felt a bit too mellow, for me. While I liked seeing the old faces who were absent from book 2, I felt some of the cameos and nods to the Mythos to be a bit too gratuitous - did we really need to see HP in the prologue? I don't know. It doesn't really detract, but I did find myself rolling my eyes as time went on.

But it is a good adventure style story, the trilogy has a definite air of Indiana Jones about it, but I think perhaps the 'gentlemen adventurers' of Jules Verne are a closer model. The end was definitely not what I expected, I have to say. The fates of two characters, at least one being very major, are left a bit too cliffhanger-y for me! I finished the book a couple of days ago, and I still can't decide if I think it's a stroke of genius or a terrible miscalculation (or a set-up to a fourth book). There were also less typos in this one, though my copy had some badly printed pages.

All in all, if you want to sit back and enjoy the ride, without thinking too much about it, the Dark Waters trilogy is a great read. For fans of the Arkham Horror boardgame, it's doubly worth it!


Arkham Horror: The Dark Waters Book 2 - Bones of the Yopasi (Arkham Horror - the Dark Waters Trilogy)
Arkham Horror: The Dark Waters Book 2 - Bones of the Yopasi (Arkham Horror - the Dark Waters Trilogy)
by Graham McNeill
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A great sequel!, 10 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bones of the Yopasi is book two of the Dark Waters trilogy, a trilogy of novels set in the Arkham Horror universe from Fantasy Flight Games. I suppose as many people did, I came to these books for the 'exclusive' cards available from FFG through the form in the back of them, but to be honest, they've actually been really entertaining!

The trilogy follows Oliver Grayson on his adventures to stop the cult of Cthulhu from raising the age-old star god from his slumber under the ocean, and along the way he comes across some familiar faces to fans of the boardgame. The story takes him from Arkham, where the first book was set, to the town of Kingsport, which also forms one of the major big-box expansions to the game, where Grayson and his allies, armed with the knowledge of the Cthulhu cult learnt from the pages of the dreaded Necronomicon, attempt to gain the upper hand in the battle for the fate of the world. There's a pretty shocking twist near the end that I must admit, I was totally not expecting, that really propels the action into the third novel.

Bones of the Yopasi, like Ghouls of the Miskatonic that preceded it, is a great adventure romp set in the boardgame's universe. It's just really enjoyable stuff, the sort of book you can kick back with on a Saturday afternoon and enjoy for what it is!


Star Wars: The Old Republic - Deceived
Star Wars: The Old Republic - Deceived
by Paul S. Kemp
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm, 21 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've been a longtime reader of Star Wars novels, from the glory days of the Bantams right through to the present day. There are a fair number of turkeys in the run, and while I wouldn't necessarily say this should be among their number, I did find it lacking in some respects.

As a standalone novel, Deceived is largely okay, but there are a lot of good points that make me like it, but I couldn't help thinking that it was somehow flawed. Set in the Old Republic era, the novel ties into the MMORPG "The Old Republic", and the opening sequence of the novel has already been seen in one of the trailers for the game. That was a nice touch. However, I do have a slight issue with the Old Republic novels (that isn't limited to Deceived alone, I should add), insofar as they reference events that it is assumed we, the readers, know about, but which have not been "seen" by us, the real-world public. Fatal Alliance had the same problem, and I was left feeling a bit lost, like I'd missed something important, when things like the Battle of Alderaan were mentioned. I assume, though, this is nothing to do with the author, but by design of the publisher. I'm sure someone who has played the game would not have these same feelings, either, but nevertheless it did make me frustrated whenever such references cropped up.

The story is basically about one Jedi's desire to avenge the murder of her master during the sacking of Coruscant. Now, Star Wars fans the world over know that Jedi do not seek vengeance, etc etc, but this seems to be a disturbing trend of a lot of the EU literature to try to make Jedi more "human", but this is misplaced, to my way of thinking. I accept that it was the whole point of Anakin's fall to the dark side, and as an isolated incident I have no problem with it per se, but we now have so many others doing the same thing as to make it a regular occurrence, and to an extent, the story of Anakin's fall has lost a lot of its force because of this. Personally, I would like to see a story about a really ascetic Jedi who was completely dispassionate in the face of personal loss - that would be really different!

There is, of course, a smuggler character, who is again a distressing stereotype of "the noble rogue". There is a sort of romance between the Jedi and the smuggler, which is so under-developed that it completely surprised me when I got to the end because I genuinely didn't see it happening! The smuggler storyline is, for me, one of the absolute worst parts of the book. There is a long sequence where he goes to visit his daughter on what I think is supposed to be his homeworld, and the location is described in such terrestrial terms that it doesn't feel like Star Wars at all. For pages of the book I felt torn out of the GFFA setting by this effort to depict normality.

And on a side note, I thought there were entirely too many instances where people jumped out of moving vehicles!

But I do find myself liking this book. This is in part for the sections dealing with Darth Malgus, the bald chap on the cover. I felt it was a really intriguing character arc, in particular his relationship with his servant Eleena. While attachment is forbidden for Jedi, I'd never really thought it would have been a problem for the Sith, but it turns out that they weren't too happy about it, either. The dynamic between the two was really interesting. Of all the characters of the novel, Malgus is probably the most three-dimensional.

I also felt that the novel had the feel of a first part of a trilogy. Much is made of the sack of Coruscant, and the subsequent peace treaty between the Republic and the Sith Empire, and of Malgus' attitude to the latter. In the epilogue, we see Malgus in a sequence that strongly reminded me of the opening sequence of the Elektra movie (bizarrely enough!) that I felt was setting the stage for where he will be going next. In the classic hero stories, once the hero has come to a personal epiphany, he sets himself firmly on his path ready for the next phase in his journey, and while it is probably a stretch to characterize Malgus as a hero, this is nevertheless the feeling I had from the ending (before the saccharine "final ending" on Dantooine). Maybe we'll see more though...

I'd not previously read a Paul S Kemp novel, despite having two more of his Star Wars novels on the shelf, but thought he definitely had the right kind of pacing needed for a Star Wars novel. Despite an overly-long first half of the novel, which apparently takes place over one day, the action was kept hurtling along quite well, which is always to be appreciated.

It's good, don't get me wrong, but I'm just overly picky at times when it comes to the dearest franchise to my heart!!!


Sojourn (The Legend of Drizzt)
Sojourn (The Legend of Drizzt)
by R. A. Salvatore
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.64

3.0 out of 5 stars Drizzt on the surface!, 16 July 2013
I adored Homeland, and I loved Exile. There was something about Sojourn, however, that I felt made it fall short of the other two. You know, at the end of book 2, that he is finally going to emerge, and I found myself saddened by that prospect. Drizzt is an interesting character, but I find that most of my interest in him lies in the juxtaposition between him and the rest of the drow. The prospect of a book without the rest of the Underdark did not thrill me, I have to admit.

That said, I found this book to be enjoyable, all the same. After beginning with his adventures in the first few tendays on the surface, the book seems then to begin a long journey to bring Drizzt to where he is when he is actually first met in The Crystal Shard. Knowing that the majority of the book is therefore merely providing a lead-in for yet another book does make it somewhat ploddy, but it was still enjoyable. The blind ranger-guru he meets was a particularly interesting part of the book.

For me, though, it has 'bridge syndrome', where the book needs to take someone from A to B and does so methodically, gets the job done, but that is all. It is an essential read of course, but I didn't think it was as good as it could have been.


The Poisoned Chalice (Crowner John Mystery)
The Poisoned Chalice (Crowner John Mystery)
by Bernard Knight
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Crowner John is back, 2 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The sequel to The Sanctuary Seeker (Crowner John Mystery), book two in the series picks up almost where book one left off, just a week or two lapsing between, it seems. It's not a bad second book, either - very often a slackening off occurs in such ventures, but here we have a new case for the coroner to investigate, which in many ways I find better than the first. There was a lot more mystery around the culprit of the crimes under investigation, and I found myself changing my mind as the story went along as to who was guilty. The eventual end was quite unexpected, but not entirely so.

There was very little development on the first book, however, which makes it somewhat dissatisfying. We meet John de Wolfe's family at their manor (very briefly) and Thomas is now riding a pony, but that is all the character development we seem to get. The coroner and his team are still very much the same as they were in the first book, and relations with the wife are still fraught.

The most irritating thing, to me, was the relationship between the coroner and the sheriff - we're set up to have the squabble between the two from the last installment, about who can do what legally, all sorted when the Chief Justiciar arrives. After a couple of pages of discussion, nothing is really resolved, and while it's true that this did historically happen, it felt like a plot device to ensure the dynamic between John and his brother-in-law would remain to be exploited by further entries in the series.

Interestingly, though, Sheriff de Revelle actually has the best character development of everyone, I felt. While he is still ambitious and power-hungry, he became the most rounded character to date with his scenes showing the delicate line he was walking between personal advancement and law enforcement.

I was initially going to give this three stars because it is, essentially, just another entry into the series where the characters are the same as they were last time. But the execution of the story was plotted well enough, which tips the balance for me.


The Sanctuary Seeker (Crowner John Mystery)
The Sanctuary Seeker (Crowner John Mystery)
by Bernard Knight
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars A marvellous start!, 19 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was really impressed with this! I've read a few historical fiction books in the past that I've always found to be off the mark, usually because they bend history too much. Having a degree in medieval history will make one notice flaws like this. But this story has a very strong historical footing, which means one can just sit back and enjoy the story!

It's a very interesting story, as well. It's a sort of procedural in plate armour, I suppose, with "Crowner" John and his team working together to solve a series of grisly murders like a medieval CSI. You can really see that Professor Knight knows what he's talking about forensically, as well - nothing is overdone, the grisly descriptions are matter-of-fact and exactly enough to get the job done.

However, I found the book to plod a little at the beginning. Whether this is by accident or design, it's hard to say - the investigation does seem to plod for the characters at the beginning. The last 100-or-so pages do tend to pick the pace up, however, which mirrors the pace of the in-story investigation.

But don't let that put you off, it's a real gem of a book.


Homeland: Bk. 1 (Legend of Drizzt) (The Legend of Drizzt)
Homeland: Bk. 1 (Legend of Drizzt) (The Legend of Drizzt)
by R. A. Salvatore
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking!, 19 May 2013
I was a bit wary coming to this book. I had kept my distance from D&D for years, thinking it too unwieldy a beast to access after the decades of development it has been through. My eventual introduction came through the Adventure System boardgames, and I picked this up wondering just what on earth this legend of Drizzt actually was. Well, was I in for an experience!!

I'm a very big Star Wars fan, so RA Salvatore is a name that is familiar to me. However, because of that I was doubly wary of this. Vector Prime and the Attack of the Clones novelization were both overly-verbose for me, and made for difficult reading. This, however, is quite the breeze! It's not simplistic, but it's infinitely readable, which is always to be commended.

The story is quite hackneyed for the most part, a single character who doesn't conform to his society and fights the norms etc etc ad nauseum. However, the execution is really quite excellent, making you not care whether it is hackneyed or not. There is mystery and intrigue, and from the off Salvatore pulls us along on an awesome adventure. The characters are also great - so many drow elves, all of whom are said to be the same evil backstabbers, and yet we have a decent cast of credible people littering these pages.

Most importantly of all for me, however, is this book doesn't presuppose you know anything about D&D, as it is all laid out for you as part of the story. I imagine you would get more out of it if you've been roleplaying for years, of course, but as a newcomer to this land I had no problem with it whatsoever.

In short: BUY THIS NOW! You won't be disappointed.


(EXILE) BY SALVATORE, R. A.(AUTHOR)Paperback Mar-2006
(EXILE) BY SALVATORE, R. A.(AUTHOR)Paperback Mar-2006
by R. A. Salvatore
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put this one down!, 19 May 2013
The second book in RA Salvatore's Dark Elf Trilogy, Exile follows on from the events of the previous Homeland after 10 years. The story is absolutely excellent, really developing Drizzt as a character through his adventures in the Underdark, first alone but then as he finds friends to share in his journey.

More so than with Homeland, which by necessity was often laden with exposition, Exile is a great read. I couldn't put the book down, feeling propelled through the pages to see the outcome of the evil plans of Matron Malice. The crowning events in House Do'Urden left me absolutely gobsmacked and literally stunned - I didn't see that coming! Drizzt's adventure is left in a good place, as he begins the next step in his journey, but the rest of the drow seem to be in much more disarray.

It's been a long time since I've encountered a book series that has been this good!


Puccini: Tosca
Puccini: Tosca
Offered by Mentipas
Price: 33.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Tosca with La Vaness, 1 April 2013
This review is from: Puccini: Tosca (Audio CD)
I'd been after this recording for a long time - for Riccardo Muti's interpretation of the score, actually. I find it a curious beast, lacking in many places, but also incredibly exciting and a real piece of aural theatre. While I've eventually gone for the rating of four stars, because I do like it, it's definitely on a lower rung in my collection (I currently own 13 recordings of this, my favourite opera).

The opera is all about Tosca, when it comes down to it, she dominates every scene she's in from entry to exit. Carol Vaness was a bit of a shock for me, as I'd not had much to do with her before. She's fiesty, and she's got passion in abundance, which is really just what the role needs. Whether she succeeds in toning it down a bit for the love duet in act one is debatable, but in the second act she had me absolutely on the edge, I was drawn into her performance as I haven't been for a very long time. And this is just a CD! Truly amazing stuff.

Giuseppe Giacomini is very much a let-down as Cavaradossi. He didn't feel very much like he brought anything to the role, he's just there to sing the lines. In an opera like Tosca, which is a taut piece of music-theatre as much as it is about singing well, this is fatal for a principal. 'E lucevan le stelle', upsettingly, was just neither here nor there. It certainly doesn't have the heart-rending despair of Mario del Monaco (Puccini: Tosca). Giorgio Zancanaro is probably well-known for being quite the dull vocal actor, and while there are some surprising moments when he does show a bit of colour to the role, he is generally the same as ever. Having grown up with his performance of Rigoletto, I wasn't really expecting much, though. Again, it's a shame that a principal role has been mis-cast in such a way.

Riccardo Muti's conducting surprised me tremendously. Famous for his true-to-the-score recordings of Verdi operas in the past, and his brisk - often too brisk - direction, I was surprised to find the score is averagely-paced, even allowing the singers to wallow at times. There are several moments in act one and two especially where, probably because of the balance than the direction, highlights are exposed that in other recordings don't seem to have been audible, so that was interesting. Otherwise, this is very much just an average reading of the score.

I still like it, if only for Carol Vaness' commitment to the role.


Ghouls of the Miskatonic: Book One of The Dark Waters Trilogy
Ghouls of the Miskatonic: Book One of The Dark Waters Trilogy
by Graham McNeill
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good!, 24 Mar 2013
I came to this book in the same manner I believe a lot of others have done - for the promo card in the back. Well, not that it has a physical card, it has a form you need to send off to FFG HQ over in the USA. But the book was actually really enjoyable! When you stop expecting something resembling Lovecraft, and instead start thinking of this along the lines of, say, Indiana Jones meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it's pretty good.

Most of the characters turn up in the Arkham Horror game as heroes (and the card offer in the back allows you to get the central "new" character of Oliver Grayson as an ally), and it does initially feel a bit contrived the way they are all thrown together. However, as the story moves along, and you get into it more, that doesn't really matter and you're just along for the ride. Part of the story felt like it describes the mechanics of a game of Arkham Horror - whether that's a plus or minus depends on your point of view, of course. As a fan of the game, I liked it.

It's not Zola, it's not even Lovecraft, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. Definitely looking forward to some more of these books.


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