Rogues

RoguesRogues by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Rogues, the short story anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, contains over twenty stories of above average quality and wonderful use of the titular quality that connects all the stories. The twenty-one stories from several genres features significant characters as rogues no matter gender, species, and orientation from authors both well-known to general audiences and some note so.

Of the twenty-one stories featured in Rogues the three best not only were high quality writing and features very roguish characters, but also were able to introduce a reader into the already established universe they take place in that only enhanced the story. The opening story “Tough Times All Over” takes place within the First Law world that Joe Abercrombie established himself writing about, “The Inn of the Seven Blessings” by Matthew Hughes takes place with in the world of Archonate, and “A Cargo of Ivories” by Garth Nix takes place within the world of Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz. While these were the best, the stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Stanwick, and Patrick Rothfuss set within an establish world they had create were also very good.

The stories especially created for this anthology is a mixture of the very good, the bad, and those that were just missing something. Daniel Abraham’s “The Meaning of Love”, David W. Ball’s “Provenance”, and Scott Lynch’s “A Year and A Day in Old Theradane” were wonderfully written stories in two separate genres that were in the top seven stories of the whole collection. “Now Showing” by Connie Willis is unfortunately one of the worst stories of the collection which was a shame considering that she wrote about several interesting ideas, but the execution with the characters crushed the story. Yet some of the stories while good and having roguish characters just felt like they were missing something: “Heavy Metal” was missing a fuller backstory to the main character and a better understanding of the supernatural powers at work yet once done could become a fascinating future series for Cherie Priest, and “The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives” was fantastic homage to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson by Lisa Tuttle that just felt it could have been more.

Yet some of the biggest disappointments in this collection were from established authors and their established series. The worst story of the collection is “A Better Way to Die” by Paul Cornell that takes place in his alternate history timeline that features the spy Johnathan Hamilton but the reader has no idea about the world if you had never read an earlier story that featured Hamilton. And my personal disappointment was “The Rogue Prince” that George R.R. Martin wrote as an Archmaester of the Citadel as a biography of Daemon Targaryen but was more of a history of the events leading up to The Dance of the Dragons that he told in “The Princess and the Queen”.

The twenty-one stories that make up Rogues feature–more than not–very good short stories from across genres whether in established worlds or one-offs. Yet like all anthologies, it is a mixed bag in quality and expectations, but often than not the reader will be satisfied after finishing these stories with time well spent in several wonderful settings following some very unscrupulous individuals.

Individual Story Ratings
Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie (4.5/5)
What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn (3.5/5)
The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes (5/5)
Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale (4/5)
Tawny Petticoats by Michael Stanwick (4/5)
Provenance by David W. Ball (4/5)
Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn (3/5)
A Year and A Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch (4/5)
Bad Brass by Bradley Denton (2.5/5)
Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest (3/5)
The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham (4/5)
A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell (1/5)
Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor (3/5)
A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix (4.5/5)
Diamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams (3/5)
The Caravan to Nowhere by Phyllis Eisenstein (2.5/5)
The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle (3/5)
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman (3.5/5)
Now Showing by Connie Willis (2/5)
The Lightning Tree by Patrick Rothfuss (4/5)
The Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother by George R.R. Martin (2.5/5)

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The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives

RoguesThe Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Miss Lane interviews a new client, a little girl named Felicity who has seen her dead older half-sister (Alcinda) standing above her mother’s grave before being pulled away by a disagreeable gentleman who scared her. Although Lane isn’t hopeful after receiving the dead half-sister’s diary, her partner Mr. Jasper Jesperson seems intrigued by coded message that the half-sister left at the end of the diary that he decoded. The two detectives journey to the dead young woman’s cemetery and end up at her undertaker’s home in which they find mother and several “wives” including the unfortunate Alcinda who they rescue. Yet at the end of the story, even the protagonists wonder who the real rogue was in the case. This little mystery was a nice change of pace within the anthology as well homage to Doyle’s Holmes and Watson with a unique twist. I only wish there was more story to the story.

The Moonstone

The Moonstone The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The worst of all events occurs at a young woman’s birthday party, it is neither murder nor theft but scandal! While Victorian readers might have seen the stunning narrative of The Moonstone in those terms, Wilkie Collins’ classic to us today is one of the first detective novels that paved the way for so many others with innovations in structure that keep the reader engaged.

As the reader quickly expects the titular diamond is present throughout the novel whether physically or in the minds of all those who relate their portion of the events before and after it’s theft on the night of Rachel Verinder’s birthday. The main narrator of the story is the Verinder family butler, Gabriel Betteredge, who gives a complete account of the events leading up the theft and those when the criminal case suddenly ends. Betteredge’s point-of-view makes a return during the second part of the book in which numerous other characters detail events that subsequently happened over the next two years. Collins’ builds the readers expectations to a fever pitch throughout Betteredge’s account until suddenly the narrative takes the first of many twists until the reader is once again eagerly is turning the page to see what’s going to happen next until the culprit and location of the fabulous gem is firmly established.

Given the era in which The Moonstone was written, many Victorian ideas and social norms are obviously in the narrative. However, unlike some other authors of the time Collins takes them both seriously and satirically to the enjoyment of the reader. Some of the best writing in the book is the character of Ms. Clack, an holier-than-thou spinster written so over-the-top that readers will quickly have a smile on their face as they go over her account. Although subtitled as a “Romance”, The Moonstone shouldn’t be seen as the forerunner of that modern genre. While a few star-crossed romances are in the novel, it is the mystery and the various types of detection that are the main focus of the narrative.

When I picked up this book and saw it was one of the first true detective novels, I wondered what I was getting. Upon finishing The Moonstone I can relate that all my apprehensions of stilted prose and mannerisms were quickly erased from my mind as the narrative and Collins’ style overwhelmed me. If you are a fan of mystery or detective novels, get this book and be happily surprised like I was.

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Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King

Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King (Legends 2, Volume 2 of 2)Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Legends II: Dragon, Sword, and King bounds together short stories from five bestselling authors in fantasy in one-half of a follow up volume to the first Legends anthology. Edited by Robert Silverberg, this collection sees returning authors such as George R.R. Martin and Orson Scott Card with newcomers Terry Brooks, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Haydon. All are connected to the author’s best known established universe; however the success of each story is how the reader quickly understands the universe connected to it.

The first three stories in this volume are the best of the five, whether stand alone or part of a prequel sequence, they’re success was on how minimal the reader needed to be knowledge about the author’s established universe regardless of how long their story was. The last two stories while okay-to-good suffered from the reader trying to comprehend some aspect of the established world or in the case of one story having no clue about the importance of anything given that the story was an epilogue of an entire series.

The fact that the two weakest stories of the collection finish off the book gives the overall volume a bad rap when finishing it, however the first three stories make this collection for any first-time readers of their authors. For long-time or experiences readers of any or all of these authors, these stories will be well worth the read.

Individual Story Ratings
A Song of Ice and Fire: The Sworn Sword by George R.R. Martin (4.5/5)
Tales of Alvin Maker: The Yazoo Queen by Orson Scott Card (4/5)
Outlander: Lord John and the Succubus by Diana Gabaldon (4/5)
The Symphony of Ages: Threshold by Elizabeth Haydon (3.5/5)
Shannara: Indomitable by Terry Brooks (2.5/5)

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Lord John and the Succubus (Lord John #1.5)

Lord John and the Succubus by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A recurring secondary character in Gabaldon’s Outlander series, Lord John Grey is secretly homosexual–an important fact to know if you haven’t read the series like myself–at a time in which it was “frowned” upon to say the least. This important secret affects how John interacts with all the other characters throughout this mystery in which English, Hanoverian, and Prussian soldiers and nobles seemingly deal with the supernatural.

In and around the town of Gundwitz, a succubus is believed to be attacking men-both civilian and military. John as the liaison officer between the England and various German allies and townsfolk finds himself in the middle of the investigation. Meanwhile he is in a weird love triangle between a Hanoverian officer and a young widowed Princess, who gets really interested in him after he helps her young son not be kidnapped by “a witch”. Yet, it turns out that incident is connected to everything else going on that John has to deal with. As a mystery it keeps the reader guessing until the solution comes into focus, yet while John deals with this mystery he attempts to guess about a possible love connection as well.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume II

The Complete Sherlock Holmes 2The Complete Sherlock Holmes 2 by Arthur Conan Doyle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world’s most revered and famous fictional detective first appeared from the pen of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle almost a 130 years ago, but the author did not finish with his greatest creation until almost 40 years later even after unsuccessfully killing him off. In this second volume of all the collected works that feature Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. John Watson, the reader gets reacquainted with the great detective and his friend through 33 short stories and a short novella with the added bonus of two Doyle written parodies as well as two essays by the author.

The second volume of the original works of Conan Doyle, in the American publication order, begins with Holmes return to life in “The Empty House”. The opening story of The Return of Sherlock Holmes is just an okay start to the detective return to practice before the story quality through most of the collection improves—“Priory School”, “Three Students”, “Solitary Cyclist”, and “Dancing Men” being the best—until the final three stories. The novella The Valley of Fear begins a noticeable drop in quality throughout the rest of the works, the first half the novella is Holmes at his best but then Conan Doyle repeats his great since with his first Holmes novella Study in Scarlett in which the second half is all flashback of dubious narration or not.

In the collections His Last Bow and The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, only four of the 20 stories could be considered close to the same quality of the earlier Holmes stories. In “The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge”, Holmes finds competing with a county Inspector who’s methods of deduction gain Holmes’ respect while “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” is a well-written twist of an earlier Holmes story. The Holmes narrated “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” is the better of the two Holmes ‘written’ stories while “The Adventure of the Dying Detective” was Conan Doyle writing a wonderful counter-formulaic story.

Yet while those four stories stood out as the best of the late Holmes stories, the others were of subpar quality and included two of the worst. The third person narrative of “Mazarin Stone” doomed the story from the start and details within the study defied the reader’s suspicion of disbelief. The very next story was in my opinion the worst of all Holmes stories, “The Adventure of the Three Gables”, mainly due to the fact that the Sherlock Holmes presented in that story was not the Holmes in all previous stories and all those that followed.

Although the majority of the volume saw for the most part the quality of Conan Doyle’s storytelling fall, one cannot fail to notice that the author who at one time loathed his creation would do ensure that his—both Sherlock’s and his own—legacy endure with as best writing as he could produce. Within the collected 34 original works, there are many diamonds in the rough that any reader will enjoy reading whether they have read other Holmes works or not.

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The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (Part III)

The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”

The second story narrated by Holmes himself takes place along the Sussex coast near his villa after his retirement. However mystery finds Holmes as a teacher of nearby school comes staggering up from the coast and dies at Holmes’ feet saying “Lion’s Mane.” Though retired Holmes can not let the strange death not be solved, so the great detective starts investigating and downplaying his extraordinary methods.

3 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger”

A landlady asks Holmes to come visit her horribly scared tenant, who seems on the verge of death and who wants to unburden herself of the mysterious death of her husband. Holmes and Watson visit the woman and listen to her account then Holmes persuades her not to commit suicide.

2 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”

A horse trainer comes to Holmes with most intriguing mystery surrounding his employer and his Lady sister who owns the titular location. The astonishing facts laid out by the man very much gets Holmes interests and leads to trip to the country and once again around the equestrian turf.

3 1/2 STARS

“The Adventure of the Retired Colourman”

The last Holmes story sees the great detective taking the case of a wronged husband, whose wife and her lover has fled and taken his savings. Or have they? Holmes has Watson go with their client to his home and then to an out of the way village. Upon their return to the man’s home, Holmes and other detective have some astonishing news.

2 1/2 STARS