Feb. 2nd, 2010

joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)
The Dwarves of Whiskey Island is the second book in the Cleveland Portal series from S. Andrew Swann. I've read and reviewed the first book as well (The Dragons of the Cuyahoga) but the series is set up so that each book can be read individually. You don't need anything from the first book to follow or understand this second one.

And the second one is better than the first in my opinion. The first has it's interesting points, because the world he created--one in which Cleveland is suddenly inundated by dragons, elves, dwarves, etc because a portal to their world opens up in the middle of the city--was new and unique. Part of the problem with a series like this is that the second book can't rely on that "trick" to keep the readers reading. There has to be something new.

And there is in this. We still have the main character, Kline Maxwell, working for the newspaper and getting involved in the "fuzzy gnome" stories he hates when all he wants to cover is politics. In the first book, he gets assigned a "fuzzy gnome" story and the politics come in afterwards. In this one, he starts with politics and the "fuzzy gnome" gets interwoven into that. This time, it's dwarves. When they first came through the portal, no one knew what to do with them, so they were sent to the salt mines (where the magic was so high that no humans could live) and with the help of Mazurich, a politician, they became essential to the survival of the city after the portal by taking over construction projects and such.

And then Mazurich kills himself . . . and no one knows why. Kline receives a phone call that sends him search of the answers and leads him to the dwarves . . . and something much, much worse that threatens not only Cleveland, but his family as well.

I liked this book better because the writing felt . . . smoother. It was easier to read and the case itself flowed more naturally out of Kline's real job as a reporter on politics. Another reason I liked both this book and the previous one was become S. Andrew Swann is adept at giving you more and more information about the story without actually giving the real point/plot away. He sets all the cards on the table for Kline (and essentially us) and yet they still don't quite make sense until he reveals what's REALLY going on at the end. And then it makes perfect sense and you wonder why you didn't see it earlier. I also liked how this story got more personal for Kline. In the first book, it was just him against everything else. In this one, it gets personal, threatening his family, so in the end he's not doing this to save himself or to get the story for the paper. This personal stake in the outcome makes the book much more tense and dramatic.

I had some issues with the ultimate bad guys in the book, but I think my issues are more personal than anything else. I can't really say anything more about this without ruining part of the plot of the book. Suffice it to say that I wish S. Andrew Swann had chosen something a little new and different for the Big Evil. Don't get me wrong, he does do something different things with this Big Evil, but the Evil itself . . . he had an entire portal full of anything he wanted, so I wished he'd come up with something different.

But as I said, a good story. It has me wondering if he's going to do any more stories in the Cleveland Portal series. I hope he does.

PS--The Dwarves of Whiskey Island can be found now in the omnibus Dragons and Dwarves.


joshuapalmatier: VacantThrone (Default)

April 2010

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