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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Books: Blood Engines 
12th-Jan-2012 12:17 pm
Read Irresponsibly
Blood Engines, by T.A. Pratt. Urban Fantasy, 336 pages. Paperback; first in the series.

I think this is the first novel-length story that I've read where the protagonist is neither a "good guy" nor particularly admirable for her decisions. Marla Mason is a sorceress of all trades, and her attitude is tending more towards neutral evil. She is harshly pragmatic about the moral choices she makes, and is so blunt-spoken she could make early-Anita Blake squirm.

The plot lends itself to this character, and this setting, very well. We meet Marla on her way into San Francisco. She is looking for The Cornerstone of San Francisco, which will help her stop another sorceress from removing her as ruler of Felport. In the search for The Cornerstone, Marla's path crosses with another sorcerer who wants the 'Stone for his own purposes, and the contest ensues. There are various adult themes, a few short sexual references, and a lot of running around in San Francisco. But this is not the San Francisco of October Daye. This San Francisco is full of hotels, house parties, and tourist attractions, as well as magical pockets of neverwhere.

In all of the fighting and destruction, Marla makes the most pragmatic decisions - we see it happen - and we see all of the consequences of those decisions. In choosing to do things her way, she does not see the higher moral picture, or stop to sacrifice time or energy to help out anyone else. Sometimes, those choices don't matter, and at least once, the choice becomes a painful-to-me lesson in honor and keeping faith.

As far as actual product satisfaction goes, I'm pretty pleased. The easy-outs that occur just before and then during the big final chase/fight/chase scenes are set up well ahead of time, so I wasn't quite groaning in Munchkin-induced pain. I admit that, while resolution of the ending is not quite the gimmie that it might have been if Pratt hadn't been so careful to drop in one of the characters earlier on in the story, it is still a bit annoying.

I recommend this book to Urban Fantasy readers who enjoyed the first four Anita Blake books, who like Kate Daniels, or are interested in alternate views on San Francisco.

Why I picked it: The prequel, Bone Shop, was featured in Opening Acts, which is the first chapters of 25 books (available for free download). When I went out and read reviews of Bone Shop, most of them recommended that I start with the first published book in the series rather than the first book in chronological order. So I did.

New-to-me Books for 2012

January
House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan, YA fantasy. 282 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); straight into the giveawaybox
Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey, Fantasy. 404 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 2/5 stars on Goodreads (2 = "it was OK"), 3/5 stars on Amazon (3 = "it was OK"); straight into the giveawaybox
Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt, Urban fantasy. 336 pages; paperback; first in the series. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); going to keep it around and loan it to friends

Comments 
12th-Jan-2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Hmmm...Blood Engines sounds like m sort of Urban Fantasy. Out of curiosity, how's the characterization/witty banter?


Thanks!
12th-Jan-2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
The banter is good, though I admit to being easily amused.

The characterization is reasonably tight. Pratt doesn't waste pages and pages describing people when a few pointed words and a good gesture gets the point across. For example, on page 35, Marla could never resist a crime scene. She crossed the street, Rondeau sighing behind her, and strode toward the breakage.
12th-Jan-2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed it - I have the rest of them in paperback I think - remind me when I see you next. I just finished the "Witch Fury" series by Anya Bast ... it was ... repetitive.

Now I'm trying Demon - but I can't remember the authors name. i just started it this morning.
12th-Jan-2012 08:41 pm (UTC)
Nifty! Thanks for the recommendation to go on.
12th-Jan-2012 07:33 pm (UTC)
Randomly, I really enjoy your book posts. I like all of your posts, but these tend to send me off to go look at new series, which I always enjoy.

And if you haven't tried them yet, I recommend the Esther Diamond series by Laura Resnick. Very cute and funny urban fantasy (actually made Daven laugh quite a bit, which is more of an accomplishment than making me laugh), where the "fantasy" portion is a secret from most of the world.
12th-Jan-2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoy the book posts. I appreciate the feedback. What do you think of the new review format?

Thanks for the recommendation about Resnick. I've seen her name before, but haven't tried any of her books that I can recall of the top of my head.
12th-Jan-2012 09:12 pm (UTC)
I like the ranking. It gives an at-a-glance breakdown of your enjoyment of the books, rather than just a "I read this" listing. I was tracking my books last year in just a date/title/author format, and I find your new system much more useful. Of course, aside from finding Esther Diamond, I wasn't reading a ton of new stuff last year (I had several series binges; Anne of Green Gables, Vlad Taltos, all of the wolfy Patricia Briggs books, revisiting Kate Daniels' world...), but I'm hoping to read more new authors this year. For those, I think I'll use something similar to your breakdown, though I'm a non-social bastard who tends to keep my opinions to myself about books/music/movies/whatever, so I doubt I'd actually post reviews on sites like Amazon, but, still. Spiffy new feature!
12th-Jan-2012 09:42 pm (UTC)
Cool. I find it interesting that you like the ranking part, specifically. I'll have to keep an eye on that as I go along, to be sure it stays both constant and relevant. ::grin::
12th-Jan-2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
If you aren't familiar with them, the sister podcasts Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod run a lot of his short stories:

http://escapepod.org/tag/tim-pratt/
http://podcastle.org/index.php?s=pratt
http://pseudopod.org/index.php?s=pratt

I like them for driving listening, as they're interesting enough to keep me alert but still being fluffy enough that they don't take my attention away from the road.
13th-Jan-2012 12:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestion. It also looks like he has a lot of free readings on his website, too.
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