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on Dec. 19, 2011 :
The Way of the Black Beast by Stuart Jaffe tells the story of Malja. In a world that is suffering a complete collapse after "The Devastation" there is danger everywhere. Magic exists, but seems to take the users sanity a tiny bit with every spell cast. Malja has no magic and has very little use for it. After being raised by two brother wizards who saw her as only a tool and threw her away to survive on her own when she proved a disappointment to them. She is found by "Uncle" Gregory who raises her like his own child, teaching her morals that Jarik and Callib weren't interested in. When the brother magicians send assassins to kill Gregory Malja beings her quest to kill them. Along the way she meets Tommy, a young man enslaved on a ship, who is also a budding magician.
The opening of the book drew me in instantly. Malja fighting with Viper (super cool weapon) and an example of how magic works had me very intrigued by the world. The story keeps a pretty decent rate of action with Malja being very comfortable solving her problems with her weapon. She is not just a psychotic killer as she has period of inner reflection coming to terms with what she does and what she is. There are several characters that end up joining the quest, not all of them getting along very well. The conflict adds a little humor and is used to explain some of the aspects of the world without using an info dump.
There was a point in the book where I started to lose a little interest, I didn't become bored by any means, just lost some of the intensity that was established at the beginning. There were still points throughout the rest of the book that reestablished that level of interest, but one thing I really would have liked to know is the story behind Viper. The blade is referred to by name for the entire book and is an extremely unique weapon, but no mention is made of how Malja acquired it. I imagine that the story will be revealed in a further book of the Malja Chronicles, but that is just a guess. This book had a solid ending then started a what could be the story line for the next book in the series. This is a series that I will keep looking at to see where Stuart will take Malja next for certain. Overall score 3.5 stars.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Nov. 23, 2011 :
Raised by two evil, heartless magicians who think themselves gods, then cast out to fend for herself or succumb to the elements, Malja is a girl just trying to survive in a dangerous world that has been decimated by magic, and where violence is a necessary evil. Throughout her journey she keeps two things close to her: Viper, a straight edge, deadly extension of herself used to destroy anything that might bring harm, and Tommy, the adolescent youth/ magician who attached himself to her side after she saved him from his abusers.
Following the death of the man who saved her, took her in, and acted as a caring and devoted father, Malja is driven by the Black Beast within, seeking revenge. While facing off with a guitar case toting Bluesman, a trained and hired assassin who has managed to stay one step ahead of her, taking out her contacts before she can gain any information from them, Malja finds out that the very men she has been searching for, her “fathers” Jerik and Callib, may just be looking for her too. Following a lead gleaned from the assassin, she finds herself at the home of Nolan, a simple woman with a lot of knowledge. This is where her true journey begins. From there Malja is taken across the desolate and ravaged lands encountering people, creatures, and beings of all shapes, sizes, and colors (yes, I said colors). She is forced to take on others along the way, each contributing in their own way.
Being the warrior that she is, Malja spends a lot of her time denying her need for others, even her enjoyment of their company. She’d much rather go it alone, lessen the complications that come with watching out for the safety of others. Her denial even extends to Tommy who shows his desire to be loved by her, but also recognizes her limitations. Of course, Malja’s limits on emotional connections cause their own problems, putting a rift between her and Tommy, especially when a member of the troupe seems to be quite taken with him, and vice versa. Through a series of events, Malja is forced to look inside herself and be truthful both—she loves Tommy as a mother, not just a protector.
I don’t want to give too much away because this story is very involved and well thought out. What I will say is this was such an amazing read! I was hooked from the opening line, blown away by the detail and mesmerized by the characters. They were so deep and well-developed that I felt an instant connection with them all.
The world Jaffe thought up is incredible and impressive, and the imagery…stunning. Even right now, while trying to think of what to say next, my mind is spinning. There is so much to cover, from the charred remains of the Freelands to the less than desirable appearance of…well, a lot of characters, actually, to the to the fascinating fight sequences and glimpses into another world. Jaffe truly succeeds in transporting the reader into another world of fantasy brought to startling life. He covered every little detail and wrapped up the ending to perfection. No complaints here!
I think I found myself a new favorite author!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)