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Black Halo (The Aeons' Gate, Book 2) Paperback – March 22, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lenk and his companions have recovered the Tome of the Undergates; but when they discover their ship has sprung a leak, the adventurers end up stranded on an island with a dark history of its own and pursued by submarine monsters, fanatical non-human warriors, power-mad mages and violently diligent Librarians. Despite such calamity, they all find time to contemplate in some detail their tragic back-stories and crippling personal shortcomings. Should this group of reluctant heroes falter, the very survival of the world is at stake. Sykes's first book was flawed but with hints of untapped potential. This volume, in contrast, preserves and builds on the flaws of its predecessor. Unfortunately, the glimpses of Sykes's potential previously seen are invisible here. A mid-series book is more of a fragment than a complete novel—nothing truly dramatic can happen in it; the important characters cannot really be in danger and none of the important conflicts can actually be resolved. Sykes fails to meet or break-through any of the mid-series conventions, which makes for a slow-paced, predictable and just-plain-disappointing sequel to a mediocre debut. (Mar. 22)


Praise for The Aeons' Gate and Sam Sykes:

"Holy freaking bottle rockets, people! This book ROCKS!"
-Elitist Book Reviews, on Tome of the Undergates

"Sam Sykes does blood and noise in the liveliest tradition of contemporary fantasy, with all the brash vigor of youth, and with a sly, penetrating sensitivity all his own. Not many writers can give you fireworks and subtlety at the same time like he can."
-Scott Lynch, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora

"If you like your fantasy dark and twisted . . . The Aeons' Gate is a series tailor-made for you."
-Civilian Reader

"Recommend[ed] for people who enjoy fantasy with some dark humor, violence, and chaos."
-Night Owl Reviews (four stars)

"I do not wish Sam Sykes dead."
-John Scalzi, author of Redshirts

"Epic, crude, dark, silly, scary, violent, and surprisingly tender."
-Rob Will Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 547 pages
  • Publisher: Pyr; First Edition edition (March 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161614355X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616143558
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jared VINE VOICE on July 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
Sam Sykes' first book, Tome of the Undergates (2010), introduced the adventuring party of Lenk, Denaos, Asper, Katarina, Dreadaleon and Gariath. Although the group mirrors the traditional, dungeon-crawling group of heores, they're thickly shellacked in grubby super-realism.

The characters are compellingly flawed and realistically executed. This also extends to the world- and plot-building: everything has a price, generally a disproportionate one. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Mr. Sykes has created an internally consistent deconstruction of the typical high fantasy paradigm that also makes for a very good story.

Our "heroes", such as they are, make the story. Oddly, Lenk is perhaps the least likable of the five. He's the Sykesian version of the "Chosen One" - controlled by secretive powers beyond Time and History. They're not particularly nice powers, though, a theme that echoes throughout the book. If anyone without a code (e.g. adventurers) is untrustworthy, anyone who wholly commits to a code is terrifying. Lenk as Lenk just wants to get by. Possibly have a farm. Maybe even make sweet, sweaty love to his pointy-eared party member. But his Voices have other plans for him. Imagine the "dry-voiced" Prophecy from the Eddings books, but prone to saying things like "kill them all." Lenk is a nice guy in a cruel world, his own Prophecy helps him get through it, but only by sinking to - and through - its level.

Dreadaleon, Denaos and Asper were initially one-dimensional characters, but in Black Halo, they begin to expand a bit more. Dread whines that his tremendous intellect is unappreciated and, to some degree, he's right - no one realizes that his work on behalf of the party is actually killing him.
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I liked this book a lot more than the first one, though I gave it the same 4 stars as the first.

There didn't seem to be nearly as much confusing dialogue, so either I've gotten used to it or he did a better job of keeping it clear. There did seem to be less of it as well.

Lots more plot develops in this book than in the first one. It's still long winded. How many hundreds of pages did I read where the lack of pants was the most pressing thing in the book? It seems like the whole book really. How happy I was when they finally managed to regain their pants, because it meant they would stop complaining about it.

They didn't let up with peeing, either. Lots of peeing.

There was more humor in this book. It was quite a bit funnier than the first. Funnier in a direct way. The first was a subdued humor, very dry. This book is more overt about it.

The survival of the party members is now completely over the top. Every unsurvivable encounter ends with each thinking the other is dead, and then they all get back together again.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Book two of the Aeon's Gate trilogy picks up mere moments after the end of Tome of the Undergates with the intrepid Lenk recording recent events in his journal. The Tome of the Undergates has been recovered, and yet the gates of hell remain closed. Lenk and his five companions set sail to bring the accursed relic away from the demonic reach of Ulbecetonth, the Kraken Queen. But after weeks at sea, tensions amidst the adventurers are rising. Their troubles are only beginning when their ship crashes upon an island made of the bones left behind from a war long dead.

And it appears that bloodthirsty alien warrior women, fanatical beasts from the deep, and heretic-hunting wizards are the least of their concerns. Haunted by their pasts, plagued by their gods, tormented by their own people, and gripped by madness personal and peculiar, their greatest foes may yet be themselves.

Critics of the first book lamented that the characters were too thinly sketched, the bulk of the book being taken up by some longer than usual action scenes. In this second volume, Sykes flips that expectation on us. We delve deeper into each of the characters, getting more tantalizing glints of their depth and background as they recover on the island of the dead. To be sure, while the first book was a book of struggling, this second volume gives us a better understanding on why each of our characters - and I don't just mean our protagonists - are struggling and what it is they are trying to achieve. Which in the case of our (un)lucky band of adventurers is largely what they are struggling to run away from.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book, but overall I was left a little disappointed after the first book. By the end of Black Halo, the story is essentially right where it started off, in fact they actually went backwards a bit. Some of the characters relationships have changed, but none of them really evolved. However, the author has created a wonderful world with this series, and I look forward to the next installment.
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I gave this book only 3 stars because it is a second book. I love reading a good series, but I always hate getting through the second book of any series. Black Halo was no exception. My explanation for this is simple.
In any series the first book is the hook, no matter the genre. In a first book the characters are introduced, some of them more fleshed out then others. The story is fast paced, keeping the reader's attention, and finger nails bitten. In the first book, there is an addict style of a need to finish, only to move on to the next fix literary drug.

In a second book of series, authors tend to take time to further develop all of the characters, and add a few more. There are more internal debates and less plot development. I know these things are imperative to any good series. If a second book kept the characters as they were in the first, they would become flat and predictable. Every fight scene would become predictable. I know this but still yearn for more violence.

Having finished Black Halo, I can say that this book followed the second book formula. A slow moving plot with new characters, and lots of internal debate. What the author did to perfection was allow the reader to form new opinions on the characters we follow. The snap judgements we made in our haze of reading through the first book slowly change. He slowly allows us to see glimpses into the characters heads. We learn why Asper prays, why Garaith is well Garaith, what makes a rogue a rogue (and what makes him our new favorite character) We learn why Kataria is fighting feelings against Lenk besides the ever present I'm a schict, your a human line. We learn more about the villains (who by the way are also interesting) We learn this through a slow agonizing 3/4's of the book.
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