My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
Dune
Jhereg
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Review: Pennyblade

Pennyblade Pennyblade by J.L. Worrad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This very dark fantasy is set in a world with two races in conflict. On the mainland “The Main” are humans and on the “Isle” are the “Commrach” (aka elves) with halfbreed “Calibans” rejected by everybody. Humans are portrayed right out of the superstitious dark ages, complete with a rather strict moral code and a powerful church to enforce it. “Perfecti” are clerics that can perform actual miracles. “Pennyblades" are mercenaries for private hire (as opposed to an army). The Commrach are a decadent race that is brutally organized to the perfection of their race, with all individuality subordinated that goal. Rank is represented by the location and type of towers the serve as the family seat. I saw echos of Melnibon√© as the author gradually revealed the details of their society in flashbacks.

The main protagonist/antihero is Kyra, an exiled Commarch working as a Pennyblade on the Main. Her flashbacks are addressed to the ghost of her lost love (which was an interesting use of a first person perspective using a second person perspective … something generally hard to pull off). The flashback eventually converge with the present where Kyra is “recruited” by a sister Perfecti to help investigate rumors of an ancient evil (the commrach know them as the fomorg). She is teamed up with a halfbreed caliban (Nail) and another pennyblade with a history of betrayal (Shortleg).

The general impression is that life in this world is brutal and often short … supported by very course and frequently vulgar/sex oriented language that might put some folks off. I don’t generally enjoy such; and while I can understand the artistic merits for it, it was the main reason this didn’t get 5 stars (the story really is pretty good outside of that).

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Pennyblade #NetGalley.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.