My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
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, July 26, 2022

Review: Engines of Empire

Engines of Empire Engines of Empire by Richard S. Ford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Back-Cover Blurb was the best part of the book; not that the book was bad … in fact, it was actually a fairly average read, I was just expecting better.  The pieces are all there with the standard fantasy tropes.  A powerful empire with equally powerful enemies.  Political intrigue between the cast of noble houses (which are called Guilds for some reason I can’t quite figure out except for the royal grant of monopoly on some aspect of industry).  Noble scions struggling to find their place in a world of plots and betrayals.  Magical machines and witches in abundance … but the way they are put together seemed so awkward to me that I continually found myself knocked out the story by strange word choices that didn’t seem to fit the context (its a preview draft, I was was expecting some odd wording).  Perhaps this was just a cultural mismatch; however, as something of a logophile, I usually enjoy a good play on words and this just seemed like the author had a large thesaurus where words were stretched a little too far to be natural in the story.  Add to that a large number of made up words thrown in without enough of the expected context (or explanatory text) for me to easily figure them out and it makes for a tough slog. 

Examples of some of the silly story telling … 
“Conall had been seconded to Agavere on the northern coast of the Karna Frontier.”  This is where my own experience is a problem.  To me you are posted to a location and seconded to a command structure.  That is not what is happened here and it caused me some confusion when I encountered this.

“Tyreta entered the building, hit immediately by the stink of oil and burning metal.” … the problem I have here is that burning metal makes it virtually useless … so why do it (assuming he is not referring to burning slag in a foundry)?  Adding to that is the difficulty in getting the necessary oxygenation level in iron/steel that is thicker than steel wool, and the word choice here becomes problematic instead of just saying burning oil and hot metal.

“She felt no fatigue as she piloted the stormhulk, accelerating to catch up with him, running faster and harder that she had ever run before.” […] “Over the treetops New Flaym was perched on the coast.  It was tiny in the distance, and they had clearly run for miles without her even realizing it.”  The problem … they were in huge, magic fueled, iron robot like Jaegers where they spent the entire time running in a cockpit.  And then you have perched on the coast?  Perched is a strange word choice that also doesn’t seem to fit when you consider the usual definition implies an elevated position.  So it could be perched on the mountains of the coast … but just the coast seems odd to me.

I know this is nit picking … but this happens A LOT and the rest of the story just didn’t make up for it, so there you have it.

There is an initial legend that briefly introduces some of the players and guilds in the story before you actually encounter them (not as helpful as you might think).  Then we get the Prologue that opens with an introduction of what appears to be the Big Bad for the Torwyn Empire?  Or it is simply the past and has no bearing - it is hard to tell.  As teasers go, it was fair to middling.  Then we jump into Part One with the Emissary from Kingdom of Nyrakkis (part of Malador, a perennial enemy of the Empire) that is reaching out for peace and trade … who apparently just hands over terms before sightseeing around the city with one of Emperor’s nephews … by themselves!?  Needless to say, this clumsy setup is how one of the MCs is framed and ends up in enemy hands.  Hidden in here is a very brief reveal about wars fought between “Torwyn and the demon lords of Malador in centuries past” which I assume is the link to the Prologue.

In Part One The Emissary, we have five (5) POV, with most being from the same Guild/Family (Hawkspurs):  Tyreta (Heir), Fulren (Youngest), Rosomon (Matriarch), and Conall (Eldest), with Lancelin (Nemesis) towards the end.  Frankly I had a hard time liking, or even identifying, with any of them.  There were some unexpected plot twists that were fun and interesting though, and that helped keep me in the story.  Some of which were very GOT’ish and not particularly appealing.  It is through the adventures of the children that we start to see more of the world building, of which I enjoyed the trip into Maladorian (necromancer bad guys) and Keshan (orcish savages) society the most.  The remaining POV were so many wasted words IMHO … the frontier military life seemed particularly ridiculous and nearly unworkable from a military discipline point of view … and the court intrigue of the other two felt overly simplistic and somewhat predictable. 

In Part Two The Uprising … it doesn’t get much better; in fact it just becomes a disjointed hot mess where the MCs struggle to survive challenges largely of their own making before the story just ends without any significant resolution (aka cliffhanger).  

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

#EnginesOfEmpire #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.