Tag Archives: Reviews

Review: The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss

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Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place. Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows….

In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world. 

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is, without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve read this year.

A short novella, only about thirty thousand words, The Slow Regard of Silent Things isn’t a story in the traditional sense. There is exactly one character, who says not one line of dialogue in the entire book; there’s no plot, or climax. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful book, and I wish I could see more like it.

To be clear, this is not a book for those who have not already read the first two books of The Kingkiller Chronicles; without the content and backstory they give, the book doesn’t make much sense. If you have read them already and then pick this up, however, it comes together wonderfully. The book is a week in the life of Auri, giving us fantastic insight into her mind and worldview and tantalising insight into her past. To us, the logic seems disjointed and odd, but everything makes sense in Auri’s mind. I’ve always particularly liked her and identified with her, and this book fleshed her out to an enormous degree; even if I didn’t understand the basis for her internal logic, the writing of the book drew me in and made me celebrate her victories and sympathise with her downfalls. I was drawn in completely for the entire book, and had to give it a hug when I finished. I only reluctantly put it down.

If you’re a fan of The Kingkiller Chronicles, pick up The Slow Regard of Silent Things; if you haven’t read The Kingkiller Chronicles, read them and then read the novella. You won’t regret it, and you might just discover you love a style of storytelling you’ve never even thought of before.

Overall rating: 5/5


Black Out by Tim Curran : Review

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In the midst of a beautiful summer, in a perfectly American suburban middle-class neighborhood, a faraway evil is lurking, waiting to strike the unsuspecting residents.

First come the flashing lights, then the heavy rains, high winds, and finally a total blackout. But that’s only the beginning…

When the whipping black tentacles fall from the sky and begin snatching people at random, the denizens of Piccamore Way must discover the terrifying truth of what these beings have planned for the human race.

Blackout by Tim Curran is one of the newest stories in DarkFuse’s popular novella line and so far my favorite out of those I have read. With it Tim Curran tells the story of what happens when the power goes out and does not come back on again, of what happens when the stars vanish from the sky and a darkness so thick and menacing you can almost feel it descends upon the world. It asks the question of what do you do when the people around you start vanishing one by one, and those you would hope to rely on in such a situation are no where to be found. Blackout tells the story of one middle aged man and his attempt to survive what he believes to be the end of humanity.

Jon believes he lives the perfect middle-American life in the perfectly middle-class and perfectly dull neighborhood of Piccamore Way and he is completely fine with that. He is past the age of wanting excitement in his life and is content with the predictable lifestyle he now shared with his wife Kathy. That all changes when Jon wakes up one night to an almost unnaturally severe thunderstorm to find his wife missing and his neighborhood in the middle of a blackout. While searching for his wife Jon soon finds himself trying to survive with a small band of survivors who are desperately trying to evade the horrifying tentacles that have dropped from the inky blackness above and started yanking them into an unknown fate into the sky. Throughout all this Jon keeps asking himself just one question, will he ever see his wife again?

With Blackout Tim Curran wrote the perfect horror novella for me, it was just the right length to leave me feeling satisfied and while it kept you guessing at what was really going on the entire time, the conclusion was more than satisfying. It just left me with only one question, and that was why had I never heard of this author before? I would recommend this book to just about anyone who is a fan of the horror genre, and suggest to people that Tim Curran is an author to check out. You will not be disappointed!

Blackout by Tim Curran is set to be released August 19th by DarkFuse.

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


The High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks : Review

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Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life—until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world . . . and rewrite his destiny.

When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him—and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.

But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.

 

The High Druid’s Blade (Book one of The Defenders of Shannara) by Terry Brooks is the first book in the second last trilogy of the Shannara series. Reading this novel with that knowledge made it bittersweet. For over a decade now, I’ve been following this series, there’s always been another book to look forward to, another adventure of the Ohmsfords, Leahs, Elessedils, and the druids. However, the world has moved on past the Ohmsfords — a family which has been the focal point for the series, yet, besides for being mentioned in passing, none make an appearance, and they’ve all died, and/or moved away; no longer residing in their homelands. As well, the Leah’s are no longer kings, queens, nobles or have any sort of distinctions such as that either.

That being said, The High Druid’s Blade takes place around 150 years after The Dark Legacy of Shannara, and follows Paxon Leah, a descendant of both the Ohmsford and Leah families. This novel is very much a coming-of-age story, with Paxon being a hero in the making.

My feelings toward this latest installment in the Shannara world are mixed. As aforementioned, this is going to be a bittersweet trilogy to get through. Brooks’ novel was an engrossing read, and he managed once again to make the world seem alive. The High Druid’s Blade is an action-packed read, filled with magic, intrigue, twists and turns (some of which were a tad predictable). In this installment, Brooks’ seems to have taken a step back from the complex plots and instead focuses more on the two main characters — Chrys and Paxon. However, the new villain — Arcannan is wonderfully complex, and I’m hoping we see much more of him in the next two books.

This story in many ways felt like it was targeted more towards readers new to the Shannara series, as well as to those a bit younger. To me, it had the feel of a story on the brink of being YA. While I did enjoy it, for me, it certainly doesn’t rank among my favourites in the series. The first 1/3 or so of the story is pretty slow-going, and it lacks some of the edginess that earlier novels contained (it does have some dark moments though), and seemed to even fall flat at times. It was never boring, just it wasn’t particularly a spectacular read either.

I do believe that readers both new, and those familiar to his prior books will enjoy reading The High Druid’s Blade. Those new to his series should have no issue starting with this book, though, there are many allusions to events in past books.

Already, I eagerly look forward to The Darkling Child (Book two of The Defenders of Shannara), and I’ll undoubtedly be reviewing that as well.

The High Druid’s Blade is set to be released July 8th by Del Rey

I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran : Review

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Bright lights, big city… magic spells, witchcraft, wizardry, fairies, devilry, and more. Urban living, at least in fantasy fiction, is full of both magical wonder and dark enchantment.

Street kids may have supernatural beings to protect them or have such powers themselves. Brujeria may be part of your way of life. Crimes can be caused (and solved) with occult arts and even a losing sports team’s “curse” can be lifted with wizardry. And be careful of what cab you call—it might take you on a journey beyond belief!

Some of the best stories of urban enchantment from the last few years gathered in one volume full of hex appeal and arcane arts.

Magic City: Recent Spells is a collection of previously published short stories by some of today’s top urban fantasy authors with a new introduction by Paula Guran.

The most important thing to remember when you go to read this anthology is the fact that all of these short stories have been published in other anthologies or made available elsewhere by the authors. There is no theme behind the anthology and nothing tying them together other than the Paula Guran’s insightful introduction to the genre and the fact they are all urban fantasy. I would suggest not reading the stories in this anthology in the order they are listed as I struggled to get through the first couple stories before they progressively got better.

I wasn’t exactly sure how to go about reviewing this anthology and decided to pick the two stories I liked the least as well as the two stories I liked the most and review those. I am a fairly big fan of the urban fantasy genre and had read the majority of these stories back when they had originally been published, so to find any stories in the anthology I did not like in some way was difficult.

Street Wizard by Simon R. Green:
This was my least favorite story in the anthology and proved to be a “day in the life” story with no real plot or direction. It did provide however, a decent glimpse into the world created by Simon R. Green, and interest me enough that I will definitely check out more of his writing.

Paranormal Romance by Christopher Barzak:
I still don’t quite know what to think of this one, it was more of a romance story with bits of urban fantasy thrown in to spice it up some. I though the main character was somewhat shallow and found myself a little offended that she would use her magic for something so frivolous as affecting hers and other peoples love lives.

Dog Boys by Charles de Lint:
I’m not that all that big of a Charles de Lint fan, but this turned out to be one of my favorite stories in the anthology. Brandon is the new kid in town who finds himself in the middle of what is essentially a gang war between the 66 Bandas and the Native kids from the nearby Reservation. It is about doing what is right even when no one else will.

Curses by Jim Butcher:
This was by far my favorite story out of them all as is probably no surprise as Jim Butcher is a master of the genre, though I am a little shocked to find a short story of his I have not read. In Curses Harry Dresden is employed by the Chicago Cubs in an attempt to break the Billy Goat Curse. Like any other story in the series Curses is full of Butcher’s trademark humor, the Fae, as well as a certain talking skull. I’d certainly consider this the crowning jewel of this anthology.

I would certainly suggest to anyone who is a fan of the genre to check out this anthology, but would also suggest they look carefully to make sure they have not read the majority of the short stories contained within it. For those who have read the majority of the short stories I would suggest buying it anyway, there is no such thing as rereading a story too many times.

I received a free copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.


A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish : Review

A Dance of Cloaks

Thren Felhorn is the greatest assassin of his time. Marshalling the thieves’ guilds under his control, he declares war against the Trifect, an allegiance of wealthy and powerful nobles.

Aaron Felhorn has been groomed since birth to be Thren’s heir. Sent to kill the daughter of a priest, Aaron instead risks his own life to protect her from the wrath of his guild. In doing so, he glimpses a world beyond poison, daggers, and the iron control of his father.

Guilds twist and turn, trading allegiances for survival. The Trifect weakens, its reputation broken, its money dwindling. The players take sides as the war nears its end, and Thren puts in motion a plan to execute hundreds.

Only Aaron can stop the massacre and protect those he loves…

Assassin or protector; every choice has its consequences.

At a time when assassin stories have invaded bookstores everywhere A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish stands out as an example of what all assassins tales should be. It tells the story of Thren Felhorn, his son Aaron, and the war being fought between the thieves’ guilds and the merchant elite. Full of brutal action, strong characters, and political intrigue this is a story that grabs your attention from the beginning and never lets you go.

As someone who is not a huge fan of the dark fantasy setting that is common with these types of books I found myself unable to put this book down. Dalglish gives us a dark and grim setting without using rape to let us know just how dark and grim the world is. The violence is not needless or gratuitous and every kill or bit of torture serves to move the story along and further the plot.

There is not a single character in the book that I did not enjoy in some way. Thren Felhorn, the leader of the Spider Guild and one of the antagonists was a dark and unforgiving character who a different side of himself when it came to his son or his trusted advisers. Aaron, the protagonist, has already become one of my favorite fantasy characters. He grows and matures throughout the book and decides just who he wants to be. The rest of the characters are as well thought out and believable, easy to hate or love as they all evolve and change throughout the story.

The only parts of the book I found truly disappointing was the magic system which does not appear to be well thought out or explained in any way. It only makes an appearance when someone needs a handy way to escape jail or danger in some way. As well as the politics of the city, which left me slightly confused. I’m still not 100 percent sure exactly who the Trifect are, how they control so much of the country, and why the thieves’ guilds are waging war against them. I can honestly say I will gladly purchase the rest of this series in addition to finding out what other books David Dalglish has to offer.

I received a free copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.


The Treasury of the Fantastic edited by David Sandner and Jacob Weisman : Review

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The fantastic, the supernatural, the poetic, and the macabre entwine in this incomparable culmination of storytelling. Imaginative stories of wit and intelligence weave through vivid landscapes that are alternately wondrous and terrifying. Bringing together major literary figures from the 19th and 20th centuries—from Alfred Lord Tennyson and Edith Wharton to Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde—these masters of English and American literature created unforgettable tales where goblins and imps comingle with humans from all walks of life. This deftly curated assemblage of notable classics and unexpected gems from the pre-Tolkien era will captivate and enchant readers. Forerunners of today’s speculative fiction, these are the authors that changed the fantasy genre, forever. Description from Goodreads

The Treasury of the Fantastic is truly that, a comprehensive collection of fantastical literature from throughout the many years covering the romanticism era to the early twentieth century. Bringing classics such as The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, Morte D’ Arthur by Alfred Tennyson, The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain and dozens of others all within the bounds of a single book.

This collection contains many of the essentials, the well-known stories we’ve all read or heard reference to growing up, to ones that have fallen into the dark clutches of obscurity. With the great diversity of these tales, readers are sure to feel the stirrings of familiarity, of nostalgia, and of wonder. Readers of both classical and fantasy literature will feel right at home within these pages. I personally loved most of the tales, though there were of course some that I struggled through; with forty-four stories in this collection, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

This treasury isn’t one that you’ll be able to read through quickly, many of the stories are not light reads, and require careful reading to fully process and appreciate the writing. While it’s an exquisitely curated collection, and most certainly worth the read, it’s best read in multiple sittings. As well, I do recommend reading the foreword, I know it’s something some people skip over, but it explains why some stories were included, and others not.

I received a free copy of this publication in exchange for an honest review.


The Polaris Whisperer by Kenneth Gregory : Review

It is a dark time. For decades Hakon the Black, the most feared Norse Lord of the ninth century, has conducted bloody and gruesome raids throughout Europe, and laid his claim upon the seas. But it is also a time of hope. 

In the frozen wastelands of the north, Vidar searches for the Vestibule of Light. Alone, freezing and exhausted, he pushes on through the endless winter in the belief that once his quest is complete, he may return to the life he has left behind, and to Niclaus, the son he was forced to abandon. For Niclaus has a greater destiny – one foretold by Cado, the enigmatic Small Walker – and Vidar is but one player in the boy’s life. Cado has enlisted the help of protectors from all corners of the Earth to shield Niclaus: men whose worlds are connected by only the loosest of threads. 

But as Niclaus becomes older, and the various worlds begin to converge, will Vidar and Cado have to make sacrifices beyond imagining to protect those they love.

You open the book up to the first chapter and you are greeted by a man of many secrets, his name is Vidar. Vidar is a man with a shadowed past. He has a father that he dare not mention, a son that can not know the truth, and a journey that only he can fulfill.

Nicalus thinks he has the whole world figured out, he is destined to follow in the footsteps of his father and if the fortune teller is correct, he is destined for greatness. He lives in a small village with his father and his brother that he would do anything for.

Orrin is the son of the town leader and the brother of Nicalus. He is also destined to follow in the footsteps of his father and achieve greatness. I don’t see any issue there.

Alright now that the introductions are out of the way, it’s time for my thoughts on the book. I loved it, the book had action and it kept me thinking. (always a good thing in my opinion). The characters were likeable enough for the most part, that being said I really wanted to strangle a few of them at times, but that’s a good thing.

The book was not the easiest to follow at first. To be completely honest, I was lost in the beginning. After a few chapters though it clicked and I was hooked. I couldn’t put the book down. The way all the plot lines ended up coming together through time was brilliant. There is one major issue with it though: there should be more of it. I just finished the book and I’m already impatient for the next one to come out.

Review written by Joe Sprunger.

We received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch : Review

With Locke still suffering from the poison that the Archon of Tal Verrar inflicted upon them, Jean and Locke are still on the outlook for the anti-dote. Locke is going more and more gloomy while Jean is trying out everything he can to cure Lamora. Just when they’ve lost hope, they get a surprise they did not expect. It’s only sheer desperation, which will force them to take this job.

Previous two books were more or less stand-alone books. This is still a stand-alone book as in the story is self-contained but hints of a much deeper story start to emerge. Our two heroes (*cough*) finally meet someone we’ve only heard of in passing.  [I hear your brains whirring and conclusions forming. Most probably they’re right!]. And for this new job, they’re pitted against their most formidable foe yet.  Also the major backdrop of the story that is revealed right at the end is what we’ve just had guesses about. We finally get to know just WHO LOCKE LAMORA is.

As for the book as a whole, it’s a pretty nifty read. Fast-paced as expected from Lynch. With all it’s surprises and twists and the drama we usually encounter where con-men and heists are involved. But frankly, I was expecting something better with previous books being as good as they were. It’s a good book but it could’ve been better. Lynch uses that technique of telling us the backstory through brief interludes pretty well usually. [first two books I mean] But I found it was used a bit in excess here. Not because the back-story is not interesting. It’s fascinating. But because it breaks the flow of the story a bit too often for my taste.

The book is funny. The banter between the characters is witty. The clash between the Boys and their foe is tricky and even hilarious at moments. It’s great entertainment trying to watch Locke juggle his love interests with his work. One little misstep and it’s the jaws of death awaiting them. Just when he is about to make good on the former, you have a revelation that will blow your mind away and which sets up the foundation for the books to come very nicely.

There is one big problem. There is a huge build-up for the final clash. But I felt that trying to cram in too much of story in one book hampered it. The final clash is a bit of a letdown. The end had already been predicted by one of the characters. What’s more interesting is what happens after this clash. Just one word – “Bondsmagi”.

A big question throughout the series has been – Who is Locke Lamora? We don’t know anything about his family. We don’t even know his real name yet. All those questions are put to rest. I bet you can’t even predict it. Hell, even Locke himself can’t believe it. [Yeah, mull over that!]

As I’ve said before, the only problems I had with was the content of the story. It felt sometimes like too much was crammed into one book with every part missing out on the time it deserved. But then, it just might be me. Overall, a very fine book. Definitely will bring your back to read the fourth one when it comes.

 Review written by Kunal Garg

Republic of Thieves will be released October 15th

 


Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson : Review

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Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. 

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

While this isn’t the type of book I typically read, (I tend to avoid superhero type books), Brandon Sanderson‘s Steelheart is an imaginative, and enjoyable read. Taking place in future Chicago,Steelheart follows David on his quest for revenge, ten years after Steelheart kills his father.

While this was an enjoyable read, I found myself not entirely a fan of the characters. The protagonist, David, felt to be too perfect, with no real flaws besides for some awful metaphors (a bit ‘Mary Sue’ in my opinion), The characterization felt weak and a shallow (with only a couple exceptions) compared to many that we see in his other novels, which was a bit disappointing. However, I did enjoy the dynamics between the Reckoners, and as always with Sanderson’s works, there’s more to them than there seems to be on the surface. There were some great backstories to go along with a couple of the characters.

The plot of the book felt a bit formulaic — being extremely reminiscent of the first Mistborn novel (fans of his other books will feel right at home while reading Steelheart). However, the story had an interesting premise, was well-executed and was a fast-paced story. And as with all of Sanderson’s novels, his world-building skills showed clearly throughout the novel.

While this isn’t my favourite of his works, Sanderson once again proves himself to be a fantastic writer, painting a vivid picture of a strange new world, with vivid battles and a new magic system. Steelheart was a fun and entertaining read. It’s definitely written with a young adult audience in mind. I did enjoy it more than I did his other YA novel, The Rithmatist which came out earlier this year.

Steelheart will be released September 24th, and the sequel is set to be released sometime next year.

The prologue is available to be read here.


Prince Thief by David Tallerman : Review

(This is the 3rd book in a series. My review for book two, Crown Thief can be found here.)

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Altapasaeda, capital of the Castoval, is about to be besieged by its own king – and where else would luckless, somewhat reformed thief Easie Damasco be but trapped within the city’s walls?  Faced with a war they can’t win and a populace too busy fighting amongst itself to even try, the Castovalian defenders are left with one desperate option.  Far in the northern lands of Shoan, rebels have set up the young prince Malekrin as a figurehead in their own quest to throw off the king’s tyrannical rule.  One way or another, the prince must be persuaded to join forces.

Once again, all hope lies with Damasco and his sticky-fingered approach to problem solving, along with his long suffering partner, the gentle giant Saltlick.  But this time it’s a human being that needs stealing, with his own desires and opinions, and events only grow more complicated as Damasco realises that he and the rebellious young prince have more in common that either would admit. 

Prince Thief (Book 3 from The Tales of Easie Damasco) by David Tallerman is an enjoyable and fast-paced read. Continuing off where he started in Giant Thief, and built upon in Crown Thief, we return to find Damasco, Alvantes, and Estrada once again in the midst of chaos.

One thing that stood out to me in particular is how much growth and development the characters have gone through. Prince Thief has a different feel to the earlier books in the series, it being a bit more serious in tone, with the city being on the brink of war, and Damasco having matured over the course of the series. On the other hand, and perhaps due to this, I didn’t find myself getting into the book as much as I had in Giant Thief. I’m not entirely sure why it was exactly, but it didn’t make for quite as engaging of a read as the earlier ones.

As well, with the series leading up to events in this book, I couldn’t help but feel it was a bit anti-climatic after the grand-scale event that it had been building up to be. Though, despite this, Tallerman did manage to wrap up loose-ends, and provide a satisfying conclusion.

While I know the review sounds like a bit of a mixed bag, I found Prince Thief to be enjoyable, intriguing and well-written. If you’re looking for an easy and fun read, I recommend picking up this series. With action, humour, adventures, and giants, The Tales of Easie Damasco is an enjoyable series which fans of fantasy and heist stories are sure to enjoy.

(Also, some words of wisdom: when I first read Crown Thief (book 2), I had made the mistake of not reading the first in the series, so there was a bit of confusion there for me. While I was still able to understand what was going on for the most part, I do recommend you start this series at the beginning to avoid any such confusion and to be able to appreciate Prince Thief more. ;) )

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Prince Thief is set to be released September 24th.


Review: What the Faeries Left Behind, by Amber Michelle Cook

After coming home from a monotonous office job to the apartment where she lives alone, thirty-something Abigail Watson is having a tough day in a hard week in a rotten month, and don’t even get her started on the year. Until that night when something wonderfully impossible shows up at her door and rings the bell insistently.

You’re not supposed to answer the door late at night to strangers who come knocking unannounced, right?

Right. But Abigail does.

Because how can you be scared of someone with translucent wings like those of a dragonfly?

What the Faeries Left Behind is an urban fairy tale ‘antidote’ to those times when the dullness and drudgery of grown-up life seems inescapable, and to the misconception that wonder and play are just for children. 

What the Faeries Left Behind is a short novella, coming in at a little over thirty pages. It’s a changeling fantasy, with Abigail being told she’s a changeling and gleefully leaving her boring life for Faerieland. We learn a bit about Faerieland, though we don’t actually see it in the novella, and run into the Slug, the novella’s main villain.

Being so short, there’s not much to say without giving away spoilers, but I will say that I liked the characters and that the writing style was casual and easy to read. It had nice themes throughout and a nice ending. It’s a story that demands a follow-up to answer questions left about the Slug, about what it was and what its motivation was.

What the Faeries Left Behind is one of those rare self-published stories that’s actually good quality, the same as you’d expect from a traditional publisher. Cook worked on it for many years, and had it beta-read and edited, before she sent it for publishing, and it shows through in the quality of the storytelling. It’s a good read and worth picking up.

Overall rating: 4.5/5


The Boleyn King by Laura Anderson : Review

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Just seventeen years old, Henry IX, known as William, is a king bound by the restraints of the regency yet anxious to prove himself. With the French threatening battle and the Catholics sowing the seeds of rebellion at home, William trusts only three people: his older sister Elizabeth; his best friend and loyal counselor, Dominic; and Minuette, a young orphan raised as a royal ward by William’s mother, Anne Boleyn.

Against a tide of secrets, betrayal, and murder, William finds himself fighting for the very soul of his kingdom. Then, when he and Dominic both fall in love with Minuette, romantic obsession looms over a new generation of Tudors. One among them will pay the price for a king’s desire, as a shocking twist of fate changes England’s fortunes forever.

For two week, I took a bit of the break from reading novels in the fantasy genre. During that break, I instead, read 6-7 historical fiction novels. This, is one of them. I may review one or two more of them, but  I’ll return to primarily reviewing fantasy.

The premise of The Boleyn King is to answer the question: “What if Anne Boleyn gave King Henry VIII a healthy son who lived to become king?” It follows his and Elizabeth’s life, as well as their companions Minuette, and Dominic.

I would like to note that I do enjoy Laura Anderson’s writing. She’s talented, and I think her writing makes for some pleasant light reading.

However, I did have some issues with this novel which prevented me from liking it quite so much as I would have otherwise. Anderson follows along the age-old trope of having two members of nobility fall for Elizabeth’s ladies, who is of course, the most desirable woman in the court. To me, it felt odd that a novel which had the premise of rewriting history, focused instead on love affairs, and a murder mystery.

The timeline and historical parts were pretty much as it was with King Edward, but instead, the name used is William. Though, I did find the appearances of Anne Boleyn to be fitting to her character as she was history, though, of course, time-wizened.

The Boleyn King may well be a good read if you were to go into it expecting to read a murder mystery and romance tale between four teenagers, instead of as an alternate history novel. Though, even still, as a romance it has its flaws — as the resolution to the “love triangle” is obvious within the first dozen pages.

As such, I’m unsure as to if I’ll be reading the sequel, The Boleyn Deceit when it comes out in November.

 


Review: Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley

Castle Waiting is a fairy tale graphic novel that’s not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil, but about being a hero in your own home. The opening chapter tells the origin of the castle itself, which is abandoned by its princess in a comic twist on “Sleeping Beauty” when she rides off into the sunset with her Prince Charming. The castle becomes a refuge for misfits, outcasts, and others seeking sanctuary, playing host to a lively and colorful cast of characters that inhabits the subsequent stories, including a talking anthropomorphic horse, a mysteriously pregnant Lady on the run, and a bearded nun. 

Welcome, readers, to TAD’s first-ever review of a graphic novel: Castle Waiting, by Linda Medley. As you can probably tell, it’s a fantasy with a diverse cast of characters that takes place in an interesting setting.

The world it takes place in is…odd. It’s definitely Earth, because mentions are made of France and Italy, even though the main cast includes anthropomorphic horses and birds, demons, and giants. That’s fine, lots of fantasy stories with odd creatures take place on Earth. It takes place around the Renaissance era, but mentions ‘The Wizard of Oz’ series, which wasn’t published until 1900. That’s a little bit different; most fantasy series that take place on earth keep the timeline consistent. These odd things, though, are minimal and have little impact on the setting. Besides the odd things, the setting is nice and the creatures and races in it are interesting, which adds to the fun of the book.

The book isn’t driven by a central plotline, but more by the characters, and their pasts and interactions. For this reason, the cast is diverse and engaging, and there’s depths to explore with each character, especially Jain, the book’s main character, whose past comes out in small flashbacks through the book and its sequel.

The first book ends by explaining the background of Sister Peace, the bearded nun mentioned in the description. This is rather long and involved, taking several chapters to relate, and gets odd when Peace pauses in relating her own past to relate the past of another character who only shows up in Sister Peace’s background. For those who want to see the main cast again, this part of the story goes by a bit slowly; it doesn’t help that more time is devoted to this than to any other character’s background (Jain is an exception, but as her past only comes up as a single chapter every so often, it’s more manageable).

The art is nice and easily relates the character’s expressions and actions. The characters are drawn distinctly from each other so that they’re easy to tell apart. The dialogue and interplay between characters is fun and natural. The lack of continuing storyline makes Castle Waiting a convenient light read, and its varied cast makes it a fun one. Pick this up if you’re a fan of graphic novels for sure.

Overall rating: 4.5/5


Review: Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud

Halli Sveinsson has grown up in the House of Svein, hearing the legends of the heroes as all his forefathers did. But in this now-peaceful society, Halli has always been a misfit. Stumpy and swarthy, with an aptitude for practical jokes, Halli livens his days by getting into trouble. 

But when he plays a trick on Ragnar of the House of Hakon, he goes too far, setting in motion a chain of events that will forever alter his destiny. Because of it, Halli must go on a hero’s quest that will bring him head-to-head with highway robbers, terrifying monsters, and a girl who may be as fearless as he is. Along the way he will discover the truth about the legends, his family, and himself. 

Heroes of the Valley is the sort of book that doesn’t really come together until the very end. Before that, many of the major events in the book seemed disconnected from each other and some seemed like they would have no relevance on the plot at all. It was satisfying to see it all come together in what was, I must say, a very spooky climax.

Halli is a typical fourteen-year-old boy: he acts without thinking, puts his foot in his mouth with every other sentence, and often makes rash decisions. I wasn’t entirely sure how much I liked him as a character. He wasn’t quite as interesting as Aud, the female lead, who’s refreshingly sensible, daring, and snarky. If Halli was merely a harmless prankster, he’d be a bit more endearing, but he leaves tame pranks behind early in the novel and starts pulling stunts that are actually dangerous; the “trick” he plays on Ragnar mentioned in the description involves poisoning him and his friends in a way which could easily have been deadly and could have lost the House of Svein everything; Halli’s very lucky Ragnar only ended up sick for two days. By the midway point, Halli is indirectly responsible for the death of a very important person and at the end is directly responsible for the deaths of six more people (though to be fair, they were trying to kill him and his family at the time). He did, however, have realistic flaws and foibles, and gets some character development at the end.

As I mentioned above, the ending is where it all came together into a good, satisfying story. Though the book was good throughout, the ending united everything and made many things I was not too fond of from the rest of the book much better in hindsight. Some questions I had were left unanswered, but that’s more due to the nature of the story, and they were minor things that probably nobody but me cares about. It’s at the end that Halli has to really come to terms with himself and everything he’s been told his whole life, and gets character development doing it. It’s exciting, creepy, and satisfying when it does end.

That said, I did feel the ending ignored some things that makes it a little less happy, like how the valley is left with a political mess on its hands (never said in the book, but it’s obvious from how it plays out, with one major House ruined and another left without an heir). The ending also implies that, despite everything Halli did, nothing really changed in the valley, which for me takes some of the wonder out of Halli’s achievements. Again, though, I’m probably over-thinking that last bit. The book in general tended to treat injuries a bit too lightly, with characters able to walk fairly well on injured legs and even run and jump, and people so sick their breath comes as a slow rattle able to engage in strenuous fighting; this inhuman resistance to disease and injury is probably why Ragnar didn’t die from the poisoning he got. It takes some of the drama out of a character’s wounded knee when they can still climb walls and leap to safety with little more than a few stabs of pain.

All in all, it’s a nice read with a nice story and an exciting climax. Yes, sometimes you’ll want to give Halli a swat to the head, but Aud does that often enough, so it’s all good. It’s good for a light read or to take on a holiday.

Overall rating: 4/5


Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

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The path to the throne is broken – only the broken may walk it.

***

To reach the throne requires that a man journey. Even a path paved with good intentions can lead to hell, and my intentions were never good.

The Hundred converge for Congression to politic upon the corpse of Empire, and while they talk the Dead King makes his move, and I make mine. The world is cracked, time has run through, leaving us clutching at the end days, the future so bright that those who see it are the first to burn. These are the days that have waited for us all our lives. These are my days. I will stand before the Hundred and they will listen. I will take the throne whoever seeks to thwart me, living or dead, and if I must be the last emperor then I will make of it such an ending.

This is where the wise man turns away. This is where the holy kneel and call on God. These are the last miles, my brothers. Don’t look to me to save you. Don’t think I will not spend you. Run if you have the wit. Pray if you have the soul. Stand your ground if courage is yours. But don’t follow me.

Follow me, and I will break your heart.

Emperor of Thorns (Book 3 of The Broken Empire) by Mark Lawrence is the final instalment in the series; following Jorg, an ambitious, amoral, twisted, violent and selfish protagonist.

Now, I typically don’t do reviews for books until I’ve reviewed at least the first in the series. I’m going to have to do it backwards though, as I’ve yet to review Prince of Thornsand King of Thornsthe first two novels in the series. However, rest assured that I’ll keep the spoilers to a minimum where possible (*cough* Snape kills Dumbledore. *cough*).

This series took me a few tries to get into, the characters are rather unlikeable (like the aforementioned protagonist, Jorg, who is a disagreeable guy), and for me, I tend to read books for the connections with the characters. However, that being said, this really was an amazing series. In The Broken Empire series, you don’t really get that optimistic happiness that’s apparently through a majority of novels in the genre — it is rather grim and dark. It’s compelling, once you get into it. Jorg has an unlikely charm about him, and he develops into an interesting character.

In Emperor of Thorns, we see Jorg continue on his path to gaining the Empire Throne — the last hope of uniting humanity to a single purpose, and of course, won’t let anything stand in his way.  The novel, as with the previous two, weaves throughout different periods in Jorg’s life, revealing context, a spattering of horrific events, and the sheer complexity of the world that Lawrence has crafted.

The only negative that comes to mind is that a few of the crucial story elements which Lawrence introduced in the novel arrived a bit too late to be entirely credible.

Emperor of Thorns is probably my favourite in the series, Lawrence has surpassed himself in the conclusion to his series. The story really came together at the end, and provided a satisfying resolution with surprising and unpredictable twists. The Broken Empire is a must read, it’s really a great dark fantasy.

I look  forward to reading what Mark Lawrence writes next.

Emperor of Thorns was released today in the US/Canada.

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. I’ll most likely be posting my reviews of the first two novels (or at least the first one) in the next month or so.


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