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Genrenauts (Michael R Underwood)

Short novel about a comedian who joins a covert organisation which travels to secondary worlds themed around fictional genres. The first one is resolving a major plot derailment in Wild West World.

I love the playing with genre. The characters and plot are quite good. I would have liked a lot more, more explanation of the rules, more playing with the possibilities, but it was really fun.

I liked the sound of several of his other series too (popular-culture-mancers, superhero-meets-epic-fantasy etc) but I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy reading them or not. I will maybe look them up now.

I basically love the concept of any book with "-nauts" in, although they don't always live up to it :)

Throne of Glass

About an assassin condemned to slave mines a year ago age seventeen, now plucked from imprisonment to compete in a tournament to find a King's Champion. And also resolve various mystical threats, and form close friendships/romances with the King's heir and his captain of the guard who proposed her for the tournament.

It had a lot of good ideas I liked, but I quailed a bit at the worldbuilding -- if she's been raised by an isolated sect of reclusive assassins, where did she get romantic ideas in order to reject them? How exactly do the assassins support themselves? Does the king want a warrior or a poisoner, possibly he should pick one or the other?

Great Way, Harry Connelly

Harry Connelly wrote the Twenty Palaces series which had a lot of good stuff but somehow never gelled as a whole, and the standalone "Key, Egg, Unfortunate Remark" an urban fantasy about a mostly-pacifist aunt who keeps the peace without seducing or slaying anyone :)

Great Way is epic fantasy series. There are lots of good ideas. The empire at the heart of books, sharing an uncomfortable relationship with partially absorbed hinterland regions, maintains control partly by military might, but really, by a monopoly on magician-provided logistics. Rather than an unbounded number of spells, a ceremony every fifty (?) years connects the capital through a portal to a mysterious elf-like race, who watch a great ceremony in their honor, and in return gift a magic spell. There's about twenty of these total, each with some number of painstakingly researched variants. But being able to -- at all -- conjure stone to build fortresses, or create flying carts, etc makes an unmatchable long-term military advantage.

But -- shock -- this year, instead of semi-creepy but valuable elf ambassadors, the portal opens to an giant army of mutant demons, the centre of the empire falls, and the rest of the characters scramble around trying to ensure their personal survival, figure out what happened magic-wise, and if there's any way of knitting together the splinters of disintegrating empire into a concerted resistance.

I like the way the characters grow into themselves: the king's son is initially a bit of a populist wastrel, but rises to the occasion when heroism and leadership is needed; the grizzled captain of the guard learns to work with the young nobles; noble-children hostages friends of the king's son experience conflicted loyalties.

Something still feels a bit missing but I'm not sure what. I will go on to read the other 2/3 of the series.
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