Rockton by Kelley Armstrong – The Beautiful World of Books

You’d be forgiven for not realizing it, but Kelley Armstrong’s Rockton series came to a close in February of this year with the release of the Deepest of Secrets. February was jam-packed with releases, so I almost missed it myself. In fact, it wasn’t until Mogsy’s review of it that I found out it was the final book.

Though I guess it makes sense. Just how many murders can one stage in the remote Yukon wilderness, where the population of moose almost surely exceeds that of humans? Now I haven’t read the latest book yet (or #6, for that matter), but does that mean that we can’t take a look back on the seven covers that have led us to this point?

Well, I’m doing it anyway.

Now I’m going to post two separate sets of seven. The first are those covers from Minotaur Books. The others… are… kind of a collected set from other publishers in English. I don’t know why, but there were some that I couldn’t find covers for from one certain publisher that I’d never heard of. So… yeah, two sets of seven.

Rockton (Set #1)

Rockton (Minotaur Books)

So, which do you like better? The Minotaur ones or the… others? Personally, I’d pick most of the others, but not absolutely all of them.

Well… maybe all of them.

By the way, just in case you were curious, check out my reviews for the first 3 books in the series below! I uh kinda skipped #4, Watcher in the Woods (as in I DNFed it), but my review of Alone in the Wild should be out sometime soon—maybe by the end of March.

• Review of City of the Lost

• Review of A Darkness Absolute

• Review of This Fallen Prey

Until next time!

Chinese New Year 2022 – Year of the Tiger

恭喜發財!新年快樂!

The Year of the Tiger starts today, so if you’re celebrating I hope you have a good day! I was trying to decide what kinda New Year’s feast to have, but then I started having stomach issues, so it’s probably not going to happen. Even worse, there’s no moon cake!

But I’ll live.

It’s been a terrible January. Stress from my job, my family, my friends, my life… I’m really sick of it. Here’s hoping that this month (and this year) is better.

Currently Reading

Somehow I read NINE books in January. Don’t expect that to happen in February, Lunar New Year or not. I also DNFed one that I’ve mostly seen glowing reviews for. Currently I’m working on three books, which is my limit at once, provided each is in a different format.

For audio I’m reading The Butterfly House by Katrine Engberg, the second installment in the Kørner & Werner series (the 3rd is out later this month), which is included with subscription to Scribd—the audio streaming service that I’ve only recently discovered. I’ve just started Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham, which the lovely folks at Orbit were kind enough to send me a physical ARC of! It starts a new series which I’m very much looking forward to getting into; Book #1 here centering upon a woman named Alys. And finally there’s Return of the Whalefleet by Benedict Patrick, which I have early in ebook form via the Kickstarter that ran last summer. It’s the second book in the Darkstar Dimension, and one that I’ve been eagerly anticipating for some time (so much so that I couldn’t wait for my physical copy to arrive and decided to start it early).

ARC

Bluebird – by Ciel Pierlot (2/08)

Standalone

Goodreads

Many thanks to Angry Robot for the lovely and unexpected copy of Bluebird! I’m not sure when I’ll get to this one, but hopefully before Scifi Month in November. I’m not well versed on this, but I seem to remember there are four factions, one of which is Rig, a gunslinger, lesbian, and lone entity fighting against the control of all three others. Despite my disquiet surrounding this, the book may very well have the best cover of any releasing this month.

Dead Silence – by S.A. Barnes (2/08)

Standalone

Goodreads

A horror story. A ghost ship. A mystery that longs to be solved.

When the crew of a deep space maintenance ship stumble upon the ruins of a starship lost centuries ago under mysterious circumstances, their first thoughts are of how this will best line their pockets. After attempting to return the hulk to known space, however, they have very much different things on their mind.

So… I recently gave up on this one. For now, at least—I will try to revisit it later. The ghost ship and the mystery and the history are compelling—but the lead I cannot fathom. Claire just… shouldn’t be here. It’s beyond reason that anyone would have made her a captain, with her history. I know, I know, you haven’t read it. But I can’t not complain about this a little because I really wanted to like this and just… couldn’t.

Age of Ash – by Daniel Abraham (2/15)

Kithamar #1

Goodreads

The latest fantasy epic from Daniel Abraham starts in a city on the brink. Kithamar has remained free from three hundred years, but when their Prince suddenly dies, it may be high time for a change in power. Told from three perspectives—one in three different books, all set during the same time-frame—this is epic fantasy at its best. Or so I’ve heard.

Mickey7 – by Edward Ashton (2/15)

Standalone

Goodreads

After a mission gone very wrong, Mickey7 somehow returns to base to find that sometimes there are worse things than dying alone on an alien world. First among these is Mickey8, who is already out of the tank and sleeping in his bed. A clone and the colony’s only Expendable—the one human that gets all the most dangerous assignments and missions, because there’s always another where he came from—this might well be Mickey’s last mistake. The base’s commander already hates him, and that was before he laughed in the face of God by having two of himself. For philosophical and spiritual connotations aside, having two of oneself is NEVER a good thing. If there’s one bright spot, it’s that with Mickey’s job, he might just get lucky and die before anyone finds out. A funny thing to hope for.

Deepest of Secrets – by Kelley Armstrong (2/15)

Rockton #7

Goodreads

I only kinda skimmed this because I’m still on Book #5, but I’m pretty sure there’s another murderer in Rockton. Not too surprising when half the town are criminals, but inconvenient to say the least. As always, it’s up to the police force of 3 to bring the killer down, before the entire town turns on one another.

Diablo Mesa – by Preston & Child (2/15)

Nora Kelly / Corrie Swanson #3

Goodreads

Well, the spinoff has reached its third installment, and it’s already better than the main series itself. Probably a reason—but we won’t get into that. When Nora Kelly quits the Institute instead of heading a humiliating dig focused on aliens at Roswell, she manages to fall into a new gig almost immediately. And the first thing she has to do is… excavate the crash site in Roswell.

At least this time it pays better. And of course with a “conspiracy” this storied and phony, it’s not like it’ll be dangerous…

Other Releases

The Harbour – by Katrine Engberg (2/22)

Kørner & Werner #3

Goodreads

This third (in English, at least) entry in the Kørner & Werner Nordic noir crime series features another less than typical Copenhagen day in the world’s happiest country. I missing person, a worrying note, a potential murder, and no other leads for any of it. This is what confronts our pair this time and based on their past experiences… well, I’m not sure I’d anticipate the happiest of endings.

MUSIC

Two albums on my radar this month, but I’m sure there’re more plus singles I haven’t heard of yet. Finnish metal band Amorphis has a full-length album Halo coming on the 11th, and Australian celtic punk outfit The Rumjacks have a rather long EP, Brass for Gold, out the same day.

There’s also an Infamous Stringdusters album, Toward the Fray, releasing the next week, February 18th. I wasn’t in love with either of their first two singles off said album, but luckily I’m enjoying the 3rd one much more!

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to try to have something of my favorite songs released in the last month up, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen. Because me, because life, because effort. But I wanted to highlight songs by the Veer Union, Smash into Pieces, Wardruna, Shinedown, Infected Rain, Hermitude, and others. And hey, maybe it’ll happen;)

Gaming

I’ve been playing Biomutant lately, which—if you’ve heard anything about it all all—didn’t sell as well as expected on release because of publishing delays, poor pre-order incentives, somewhat repetitive combat, and a narrator who won’t shut up until your ears start to bleed.

I’ve been quite enjoying myself though, to be honest.

An open world adventure through the decaying ruins of the old world, you’re tasked with defeating the four Worldeaters, that are destroying the roots of the Tree of Life, which will result in the world’s destruction. Or… you could help them along, because the world is dying anyway, and nothing short of the end of everything is going to change that. The point is you have options.

You have the option to save or doom the world. You have the option to follow the main quest lines and unite the tribes, marshaling all forces under your rule to save/kill the Tree of Life and complete your destiny. You also have the option to get lost and wander around in the ruins of the old world, collecting loot and meeting interesting characters, while occasionally stumbling onto things from the main story (often entirely out of order), before resuming your globetrotting adventures in exploration. While I have no problem with doing the former options, I’ve primarily been doing the latter. In my defense, I get easily distracted, and the world itself is pretty and mutated and post-apocalyptic—and I really can’t resist that type of thing.

The narrator can be quite annoying and as he’s pretty much the only voice in the game, you’ll be hearing his voice A LOT interpreting everything or just inserting random comments because. You can turn his frequency down, which is quite nice—or, alternatively, you can just mute him entirely.

Otherwise, I have no complaints. I love adventure and exploration games, and I knew in advance that all I really had to do was put up with the narrator, so I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I’m only 23 hours in, but am hoping that I’ll get at least 60 total before I lose interest. Anything more than that would be a bonus. Anything less… well, I did get it on sale, at least.

MISC

In terms of plans for the month… I’ll pretty much be sticking to the schedule I’ve been following lately. Reviews Sunday and Tuesday, cover love on Thursdays (or I may switch that around and put the Beautiful World stuff on Tuesdays instead). My friend KK is still sending me the occasional review that I’ll be posting myself, randomly, and I may do some lists or musics or other things as well. I’ll also be doing a TBR sometime this month, but it’ll be more low key than what I was trying to do in years past.

Life-wise… I didn’t get fired. Which I kinda thought I would, so… yay! My direct boss left, and since I’ve just been filling a bunch of random positions under her I was worried I might just be left without anyone to report to, assign me shifts, or pay me. And while I don’t exactly have either of those first two worked out, I DO have someone to pay me—at least at first. I would be more worried, except I don’t really love my job anymore. There’s a lot of politicking recently and the focus has shifted from making sure everyone is having fun and being safe to making sure we’re making money and aren’t liable for anything bad that happens. But since I haven’t found anything better yet…

The last month sucked. Anxiety. Lots of it. Also gut and food and sleep troubles. Let’s not get into that. Here’s hoping that February is better! (Though I’m pretty sure everyone’s been saying that for the last two years straight…)

So what does everyone think of the books? Or the games? Oh, and what’s your lunar animal? I’m going to ask everyone this so don’t be surprised when it’s the first thing I follow up your comments with. I’m a rabbit. A FIRE rabbit. Pretty sure most rabbits don’t like being on fire, but whatever, maybe some Eurasian ones do? But uh anyway books and games and stuff…

This Fallen Prey – by Kelley Armstrong (Review)

Rockton #3

Thriller, Mystery

Minotaur Books; February 6, 2018
Macmillan Audio; February 6, 2018

368 pages (ebook)
12hr 12m (audiobook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

3.5 / 5 ✪

May contain minor spoilers for the Rockton series books 1 & 2.

City of the Lost (Rockton Book #1) – Review

A Darkness Absolute (Rockton Book #2) – Review

This Fallen Prey picks up just a bit after A Darkness Absolute ended, as Rockton prepares for summer in the Yukon taiga. Now you should be familiar with Casey Duncan: one-third of the police force in Rockton, one-half of the town’s resident power-couple, and newest and lone town puppy owner. Also, by now we’re all intimately familiar with Rockton—its foul-mouthed sheriff with a heart of gold; its deputy with a shady past; butcher with a curious relationship with violence; and the residency with its own share of scars and secrets, each and every one come to the Yukon wilderness to avoid something down south.

But Rockton is about to welcome its newest resident, who might be a bit of an oddity. For starters, he’s not here so much to escape trouble down south, than to isolate him from it. Where Rockton isn’t exactly unfamiliar with criminals, Oliver Brady might just be the first of his kind to set foot in the town. See, Brady’s a serial killer—and is to be considered armed and dangerous.

Of course, objections are made.

First by the sheriff—not only is Rockton not equipped for someone like Brady; it isn’t a prison, but a town full of vulnerable people looking to escape. Many of them someone like Brady. Next up is Brady—he claims to be framed. His stepfather is loaded, and wants his stepson out of the way for a while while he assumes control of their company. Last but not least, the townsfolk weigh in: some on the side of Brady want him released, others however demand the animal be put down for his—and their own—good.

But in the end the council overrules them all. After all, someone is paying them a lot of money to send Brady to Rockton—and in the end that’s what is most important.

Thus it’s up to Casey and Dalton to navigate these murky waters and decide what is best for the town before bodies start dropping.

Our third trip to Rockton begins in a promising fashion. Fresh off the convoluted warren of plot-devices, threads, twists and turns that made up A Darkness Absolute, we’re thrown into a story where an innocent man gets accused of murder then bundled up north for his own lynching. Or… probably innocent. Maybe innocent? For the longest time, I couldn’t make up my mind on Brady—which was the whole point—and this made the plot work very well. Did he do it or not? In a place with no internet or phone service, it’s harder than ever to dig into a person’s past, let alone sort fact from fiction. Brady claims he’s been framed—and even fingers someone else for his crimes. It all seems so obvious …until it doesn’t. Oliver’s a handsome, charismatic SOB. Yeah, he might be telling the truth, but there’s an equally strong case he ain’t, and it’s up to the detectives to parse this. And that’s the core of the excitement.

Because by now he’s managed to divide the town, with some going as far as to try to free him, while others attempt to kill the bastard. And it was all going so well until Rockton received a new visitor—and things kinda fall apart. First there’s an entire interlude involving Storm that detracts from the case itself. I found myself boggled by this as it did the story no favors. Everything had just ramped up and the tension was high—and now we’ve run down a side path for whatever reason and lost 1-2 hours. And when the main arc picks back up, it’s transformed into a he-said, she-said back and forth, which again starts to feel just as convoluted as the last book.

It’s not nearly as bad as that, however. This Fallen Prey delivers a much better setup and story than the last, particularly excelling in the first half and ending. Honestly there’s just that gap in the middle that derails everything. And then the plot tries to get back on its feet in the oddest way possible—by yelling and pointing fingers. It does eventually get back on track, but for that period in-between… well, it’s less than a fun time.

TL;DR

The third installment in the Rockton series, This Fallen Prey attempts to rebound of the failings of the previous book, a tangled mess that was interesting and tried so many things but ultimately was bogged down as everything it tried got all mixed together. “Convoluted” is the best word for it. Well, while Fallen Prey has its own helping of convolution, it’s a much better read, and much more to the point. With a great opening and a good buildup—the story falters just past the halfway mark and takes some time finding its bearings. It manages to right the ship in time to deliver an unexpected and satisfying end, but ultimately wastes a goodly amount of the built-up tension and thrill in the process. In the end, This Fallen Prey may be a better read than A Darkness Absolute, but is still nowhere near the bar that City of the Lost set. And yet, while I do have misgivings about the series’ future, I’m optimistic that the next installment—Watcher in the Woods—will get Casey Duncan and Rockton fully back on track. Here’s hoping!

A Darkness Absolute – by Kelley Armstrong

Rockton #2

Thriller, Mystery

Minotaur Books; February 7, 2017

397 pages (ebook)
13hr 35m (audiobook)

GoodreadsAuthor Website

3 / 5 ✪

Contains minor spoilers for City of the Lost (Rockton #1)

Only months past Casey Duncan uprooted her life and moved to the remote Yukon wilderness, come to work in a town that doesn’t exist, come to hide in a refuge where no one will ever find her. As she settles into her job as Rockton’s only detective, Casey hopes to find some peace and quiet that city life never prepared her for. And yet, Rockton always keeps her occupied.

In a town off the grid—with no electricity, transportation, phones, internet, or a doctor; where food and supplies have to be flown in on weekly bush planes or traded for with Settlers; and only a tenuous link to the outside world exists—the community has to band together into something tight-knit. Or if not that, close to it.

But when one of their own is discovered after having been held captive in a cave for over a year, the community splinters. Especially when one of their own is likely the kidnapper.

Someone that Casey must find—before it tears the town apart, or before the kidnapper takes someone else.

A Darkness Absolute is the sequel to City of the Lost, the amazing Rockton debut that absolutely blew my mind. And while this follow-up is good—it certainly doesn’t live up to the thriller that spawned it.

Now, some things the author did better in this installment. She toned down the romance between Casey and Dalton so that it doesn’t feel like something completely separate from the main plot. There were still a few over-the-top scenes that may’ve made me roll my eyes, but they mostly tied in with the story. Also, there were more characters to know and love, while many also reprised their performances from the previous book.

The story itself starts out with a bang. There’s a chase scene, a snow squall that blows up out of nowhere and maroons our heroes, indirectly causing them to stumble across yet another mystery. The glimpses outside of Rockton were all too brief, but refreshing, as the town in winter quickly seemed to feel like a prison.

Unfortunately, this is where things start to head south.

This new mystery is presented: who took Nicole? She never saw her kidnapper, doesn’t know his face or his voice, only that he is white and yes, definitely a man. At first, there’s a solid lead, a couple of clues, a couple more leads, guesses, shots in the dark, more false leads, a sex scene or two, guesses, wrong guesses, and no answers. While the story ultimately sorts itself out, for so much of the text the story is just a quagmire of plots and threads and supposition that everything leads back to one source—while it really doesn’t. It’s just so complicated to the point of being, well… convoluted.

Convoluted.

If I had to pick one word to describe the story, this would be it. Which is disappointing. Especially considering that I believe there IS a good story in here. That’s obvious enough from the City of the Lost. For the sequel, however, it seems to me that the author simply tried one too many things, took one or two twists and turns too many, and ultimately ended up lost themselves. Unraveling what happened here was interesting, although in the end it just made so much of the story seem like a pointless distraction.

TL;DR

A Darkness Absolute has a story that can be interesting and entertaining at times—not to mention a heart-pounding thriller—but is at the very least an improbable, over-ambitious feat that never really comes together. At worst, it’s a convoluted mess that gets in its own way too much to ever make much sense. It’s definitely complex, thrilling, and dark. Really dark. Whatever I have to say about it, I’d still recommend Rockton for the setting, the premise, and the people. I’ll definitely continue the series despite this misstep—one, that I might add, I had no trouble finishing even while I was a little lost and disappointed in the middle. The series continues with This Fallen Prey (Rockton #3), which has been out since 2018.