Thursday, March 24, 2016

Really Short Reviews: Select Tor.Com Novellas

I have a special Really Short Reviews post today! I've been a fan of's short fiction for a while now and they've recently started publishing novella length stories ranging in length from 75 to 225 pages. I've been enjoying these short books almost as much as the short stories they post on their website! I got a couple of the novellas for review from Netgalley and thought that a Really Short Reviews post would be the best way to review them. What I've loved the most about these novellas so far is how different they are from each other! They've been so much fun to read! Out of the three I'm reviewing today, I really enjoyed two and thought the other one was pretty meh. Let's get on to the reviews, shall we?

The Devil You Know
K. J. Parker
Release: March 1, 2016
Goodreads Amazon
The greatest philosopher of all time is offering to sell his soul to the Devil. All he wants is twenty more years to complete his life’s work. After that, he really doesn’t care.

But the assistant demon assigned to the case has his suspicions, because the philosopher is Saloninus–the greatest philosopher, yes, but also the greatest liar, trickster and cheat the world has yet known; the sort of man even the Father of Lies can’t trust.

He’s almost certainly up to something; but what?

Review by Rose Red:

I've loved reading books with Faustian deals for years now and this novella was a great addition to the genre! Saloninus, a philosopher who sells his soul to the devil via one of the devil's minions for twenty more years to continue his life's work. The demon in charge of the philosopher's deal is a great admirer of his work and has been granting his every wish thinks Saloninus is up to something. Soon the demon gets paranoid and believes that Saloninus is trying to find a loophole out of the contract. How could he be so happy with selling his soul for a bit of gold and his youth back?

The author explores the concept about what is evil and how to identify evil and I found it fascinating and full of great one-liners. I called the ending early on but the philosophical questions about morality kept me reading. The trip to the end was fun, concise, and entertaining with definite layers that will have me thinking about them for a while. I have to admit towards the end I was rooting for the devil. Saloninus is kind of a sneaky guy. This novella was well-written and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It made for a fast and fun read. I'm looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

3.5 / 5 Stars

The Ballad of Black Tom
Victor LaValle
Release: February 16, 2016
Goodreads Amazon
People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?

Review by Rose Red:

I've had several friends rave to me about this novella and it convinced me to pick it up. And I'm so glad I did! It was a brilliant piece of storytelling like they said it was! I have a love-hate relationship with Lovecraftian stories. I enjoy the world of eldritch horrors that Lovecraft created but I dislike most of his writings. I definitely prefer to read stories that have been inspired by Lovecraft over the stories he actually wrote himself.

Victor LaValle took The Horror of Red Hook, one of my most disliked Lovecraft stories, and turned it on its head into an essay on racism, murder, and police brutality. I found it compelling how he explored real life horrors in the world of magic and supernatural evil. I couldn't put it down until there were no more pages to read. The 1920s alternate history setting lent itself to the narrative and the end result was a story that deals with the human capacity for evil and how that evil can exist just beneath the thin veneer of "civilized society". It was glorious tension-filled weirdness that scared the pants off of me by the end. I would highly recommend picking it up if you're looking for a compelling horror story to read.

4 / 5 Stars

Pieces of Hate
(Assassin #1-2)
Tim Lebbon
Release: March 15, 2016
Goodreads Amazon
During the Dark Ages, a thing named Temple slaughtered Gabriel's family. A man with snake eyes charged him to pursue the assassin wherever he may strike next, and destroy him. Gabriel never believed he’d still be following Temple almost a thousand years later.

Because Temple may be a demon, the man with snake eyes cursed Gabriel with a life long enough to hunt him down. Now he has picked up Temple's scent again. The Caribbean sea is awash with pirate blood, and in such turmoil the outcome of any fight is far from certain.

Free bonus novelette:

Dead Man’s Hand

In the wilderness of the American West, the assassin is set to strike again. Despite his centuries-long curse, Gabriel is still but a man, scarred and bitter. The town of Deadwood has seen many such men... though it’s never seen anything quite like the half-demon known as Temple.

Review by Rose Red:

Pieces of Hate is actually the collection of the first two stories in Tim Lebbon's Assassin series and out of the novellas I've read so far from, this one is my least favorite. The novelette Dead Man's Hand is a western whereas the second part, Pieces of Hate, is a Caribbean pirate story. The promise of pirates is what drew me to this novella but I couldn’t get into either of the stories. They were rather well written and the worldbuilding was good. It's brutal and dirty and very realistic, but the revenge plot wasn't compelling to me even though I understand why he wants it. I couldn't connect to Gabriel and his fight against Temple. Both stories felt like weirdly paced action scenes and just wasn't my cup of tea. While this didn't work for me, I think this one will appeal more to others. Unfortunately, I'm not interested enough to read the next one.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

  2/ 5 Stars

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