Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on July 20th.
The Cursed Titans is book two of the Tempest Blades series. I will do my best to avoid major spoilers for book one, but there might be one or two. You can find my review for book one (The Withered King) here.
One thing that I really enjoyed about book one was the subtle themes of redemption, and the ability to have that second chance that was included in an otherwise action-packed story. The Cursed Titans managed to again bring a deeper meaning into an action-packed storyline. In this case, it was mental illness.
It is difficult to find respectful depictions of mental illness in fiction, even more difficult to find it in the fantasy genre. Every time I see an author who uses mental illness as more than a prop in a story, I am incredibly impressed. Author Ricardo Victoria masterfully wove a story of depression, hope, and redemption in with a world filled with villains and magic.
Gaby was my favorite character in The Withered King. She was pretty high on the kick-butt-o’meter. However, it was Alex who stole the show in this book. I could identify a little bit with his battle with depression, although the way it is portrayed in The Cursed Titans is infinitely more creative and interesting than my depression happens to be. He had quite a bit of character growth, which I always appreciate.
Of course, this theme of mental illness was set against a unique backdrop, which had a bit of a My HeroAcademia feel to it. I don’t know why that jumps to mind for me, but it does. I happen to love My Hero Academia, so I was jazzed about that. Combine that with the epic video game vibe that carried over from book one, and The Cursed Titans was a win for me.
I was very impressed at the way the author balanced a fast-paced fantasy book with what feels like a deeply personal exploration of depression, its effects, and what it truly means to overcome. The Cursed Titans was very well done.
Throughout a weeklong celebration of Dragonlance, there will be profiles for some of the important characters in the Chronicles, which is the original trilogy, and the books that started it all. So far we’ve discussed Tanis, Laurana, and Stum, Caramon and Raistlin, and Tasselhoff Burfoot, Flint Fireforge and Tika. We’ll finish off our introductions with Fizban, Pyrite, Goldmoon, and Riverwind.
Lovable old fool, or something far more important? There is definitely more than meets the eye to this character. Ostensibly an aging, absent-minded mage who can never seem to remember the words to his favourite Fireball spell, and is seen at the side of the road arguing with a tree, he is something of a figure of fun. Constantly losing his hat and never remembering his name, Fizban’s relationship with young kender, Tasselhoff Burfoot, is particularly endearing and at times hilarious. He immediately reminded me of Tolkien’s Gandalf in the early stages of The Fellowship of the Ring, a kind of mentor character, who appeared to be just too aged and befuddled to really have any power or significance. What a great way to stay unremarkable and underestimated if you didn’t want people to pay much attention to you. Fizban appears exactly when needed, and haphazardly affects the events all around him, ultimately for the better, although at the time it always feels like he has caused a calamity. In fact events surrounding Fizban always appear to be a little out of control, but without giving away the major spoiler about Fizban, I think I can safely say that there is method in his madness! -Sue Bavey
More books featuring Fizban:
He shows up here and there. The rest the reader will have to discover on their own.
Pyrite is introduced to us in Dragons of Spring Dawning, when we are told that an old man and an aged golden dragon are happily napping in the middle of the Plains of Estwilde, apparently oblivious while dragon armies go about their business nearby. He is the longest living golden dragon and swore to Paladine that he would protect Huma back in the days of the Third Dragon War, back when he was a fierce warrior. He has long forgotten his actual name, but Pyrite is what the younger dragons affectionately call him. Pyrite, the mineral is often known as ‘Fool’s Gold’ and since Pyrite the dragon is a golden dragon and accompanies doddery old Fizban, this is a clever name for him.
By the time we meet Pyrite in Dragons of Spring Dawning he is a forgetful, almost toothless, but brave old thing, still thinking that he is in a battle protecting Huma. He mostly lives on oatmeal these days, due to his lack of teeth, he is deaf and his vision is dimming, but he remains intelligent, when mentally present in the here and now. He seems to be a good match for his rider, Fizban. Fizban has to leave Pyrite and makes him into a tiny golden statue which Tasselhof Burfoot is then able to keep in one of his pouches and carry around quite easily, without anyone suspecting he has a dragon on his person! -Sue Bavey
Goldmoon is a difficult character to talk about. In some ways, she functions as a plot device at the beginning. She is the bearer of a mysterious staff that everyone and their brother is either after, or being accused of hiding. That being said, she ends up being far more, becoming an integral part of the group, as well as being responsible for finding out what happened to the gods of Krynn.
Goldmoon is smart, strong, and compassionate, the last being a trait that can be somewhat lacking in some of the other characters. It allows her to view things from a different perspective. I love seeing a female character that is strong without losing any emotions. While not being an early favorite of mine, I’ve come to appreciate her much more over the years. -Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub
More Books Featuring Goldmoon:
Dragons of a New Age trilogy by Jean Rabe
War of Souls trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
Riverwind is quiet, and he is stoic. He can be hard to get a handle on at first. Once he feels at ease with the group, though, you learn he’s someone that will always be there when needed. Not only that, he provides a window into this world. Things would not normally need explaining between a group of people who have known each other as long as the other companions have, but through Riverwind we learn a lot about how these characters tick. When Riverwind asks Tanis why he is called “half-elf” instead of “half-man” the reader gets a deeper look into Tanis’ psyche. This isn’t something anyone who has known Tanis would ask, so Riverwind adds much to the books just by being there.
We first meet Riverwind at the Inn of the Last Home (which I would love to visit, by the way). He travels with Goldmoon, the love of his life. Their relationship isn’t one I love, to be honest. He spends a good chunk of Dragons of Autumn Twilight being a bit of a jerk to her. Their relationship matures in subsequent books, however, which feels awfully similar to the way relationships can be. -Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub
More books featuring Riverwind:
Riverwind the Plainsman
The Magic of Krynn
About the Contributors:
Sue Bavey: Sue is an English mum of two teens living in Massachusetts with husband, kids, a cat, and a bunny. She enjoys reading all kinds of genres, especially fantasy, historical fiction, and thrillers.
Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub: Jodie is the creator of the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub blog and a contributor to Grimdark Magazine. She either lives in Florida with her husband and sons, or in a fantasy book-she’ll never tell which. When she’s not reading, Jodie balances her time between homeschooling her hooligans, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and lamenting her inability to pronounce “lozenge”.
For those of you who have thus far managed to escape my gushing: the Dragonlance Chronicles was my gateway to adult fantasy. They have everything I look for in a book of any genre: excellent world building, engrossing writing, and absolutely incredible characters.
Growing up, I was one of those kids who thrived on fairy tales. I never wanted the dragon to be defeated (because dragons are cool!), but I loved the adventure aspect, and the acceptance of the impossible. As I got older, books like St. George’s Dragon, and East of the Sun, West of the Moon, gave way to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern, Jane Yolen’s A Diversity of Dragons, and Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. They scratched an itch, but were more of a next step than a new beginning.
I’ve always been an advanced reader and around fifth grade or so, those books were replaced with things like Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Grey. I had no idea that fantasy books- the kind I liked- existed for adults too.
I stumbled across the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman when I was in sixth grade. Those amazing books with dragons, dwarves, mages, kender, and adventure aplenty, complete with complex, flawed characters. I immediately fell in love. I read those books to death.
One of the many wonderful things about the Dragonlance series is it’s huge. There are the Chronicles, where I started. Then the Legends, and (at this point) upwards of one hundred other books written by several separate authors. The world is built so incredibly well that there are more stories to be told, and more characters to follow on adventures. The world of Krynn is fully developed. It’s so easy to insert yourself into those books and feel like you’re battling the Dark Queen, your own darkness, or even grasping for power.
These incredible books rekindled in me my love of the fantasy genre. I read Tolkien, Tad Williams, David Gemmell, Sean Russell, R.A. Salvatore, Patrick Rothfuss, and so many others. I loved them all. The rest, as they say, is history.
I reread the Dragonlance Chronicles and the Legends at least once a year, and I’ve done so for the last twenty years. I could probably recite them from memory by now. There’s something comforting about opening a book you love and know almost by heart. It’s like seeing old friends again. When I’m having a bad day, or just need a bit of a break from things (I’m looking at you, 2020), I pick these books back up.
The news that Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman will be returning to Krynn with new novels soon naturally necessitated a huge amount of geekery on my part. What better way to celebrate the great news than to have a Dragonlance Week on my blog? Some amazing authors, youtubers, and bookbloggers have been more than generous with their time, making this week an awesome love letter to Dragonlance. There are opinion pieces, character profiles, giveaways, a Dragonlance roleplaying session, and an interview with author Margaret Weis herself. Grab your pack, watch out for draconicans, and let’s go on an adventure!
Two people will win physical copies of the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy. The giveaway is international.To enter, comment below. And if you’ve already read the books, will you tell me who your favorite character is? I’m curious. Winners will be announced on Sunday, April 11th.
Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Backstories will be available on March 25th.
Backstories is smart and enigmatic, encouraging the reader to be involved. Author Simon Van der Velde combines history and fiction to create something entirely different- the surprising stories behind famous figures. Instead of the public persona we all know, the veneer is stripped away to show the utter humanness underneath.
Interestingly, Backstories isn’t set up in any way that is run-of-the-mill. This collection of short stories isn’t a simple “this is their past” sort of book. Instead, it’s a mystery. The reader has to solve the puzzle: who is each story about? I have to be honest and say that a couple stories completely stumped me. It was fascinating to try and match up new details with what is already known about a person. It added a level of realism to what have always been almost unreachable, exaggerated famous (or infamous) people.
The writing is engaging and easy to connect with. It’s quite obvious that author Simon Van Der Velde put a lot of time and research into his book, but he left just enough to the imagination to encourage me to do my own digging. The little Easter eggs that were left throughout were clever and added so much to the story.
I went into Backstories expecting to be entertained. Instead, I was sucked in and ended up being incredibly invested in the “who was” aspect. Expect an engrossing book, one that will keep you guessing.
Wow. Okay, I’m done. That could be my entire review. In fact, I am pretty sure that nothing I write will do justice to the sheer brilliance of The Shadow of the Gods. So, let me apologize in advance for any random blathering that ensues. I promise, I’m doing my best.
First of all, let’s talk about the feel of this book. It takes place in a Norse-inspired world, stark and harsh. Our heroes are all about one bad decision away from becoming villains. It’s survival of the fittest, or of the most desperate. It’s also the perfect setting for a story that is almost mind-bogglingly epic.
Vigrio is split into a few cities, each run by a Jarl who gives his people protection in exchange for loyalty (or, you know, taxes). The Jarls do this through their Tainted Warriors, people with unbelievable powers inherited from the blood of gods. Their powers vary, although I personally was a fan of the berserkers. These Tainted Warriors are controlled by a sort of collar that reins in their power. They are hunted and sold to different Jarls. Basically, if you’re a Tainted Warrior you’re not in the best of situations. Enter Varg, one of my favorite characters.
Varg is wanted for murder, and we first see him on the run. His driving goal is to find out about what happened to his dead sister. In order to get these answers, he needs the help of a Tainted Warrior. This simple beginning leads to a fantastic storyline, one that kept me fascinated. From his very first battle (which started to go belly-up when his groin punch hurt him instead of the intended target), I was drawn in. Through him, the reader is treated to a side of the world that might not otherwise be seen and appreciated.
There’s Elvar, a soldier in a war-band, those who look for tainted to sell to Jarls. She’s got a past that she’s trying to outrace. Her story arc was interesting, but did not grab me quite as much as the others. Of course, it was still incredibly well written.
Finally, there’s Orka. She was my absolute favorite part of the book, although it’s hard to pick a favorite. She was an extremely complicated character. In fact, I wasn’t even sure I liked her at first. She came across as hard and cold. Then I realized: that’s how she copes and survives. She’s a warrior. She’s a mother. She’s a wife. She is smart, and strong, and a bit ruthless. She’s pretty stinking amazing and I loved getting to the chapters about her. I keep hearing people talking abut how cruel Gwyne is to his characters and now I’m scared.
The Shadow of the Gods is brutal and genius, a perfect balance between breath-taking battle scenes and intricate characters. I high recommend picking this one up.
Thank you to Orbit Books for providing me with Call of the Bone Ships in exchange for my honest opinion. This is book two in The Tide Child trilogy. You can find my review for book one, The Bone Ships, here.
Holy wow, Call of the Bone Ships is good! A more-than-worthy continuation of the story that began with The Bone Ships, this book adds new levels to an already amazing storyline, and new complexities to the characters.
I have to be honest: nothing went the way I expected it to when I opened the pages. It was a much murkier book than I expected-and I loved it. There were layers upon layers in the plot, and a grim sort of hopefulness in a world that isn’t particularly nice.
The story didn’t rush through at a break-neck pace; rather, I was given the time to really be sucked into the world. And what a world! The more I learn, the more I want to learn. This is one of the most fully-realized settings I’ve had the pleasure to read. Before I started The Bone Ships (book one in the trilogy), I said to myself, “Self, you might need to cut the expectations for a unique world down a notch. It’s a ‘boat book’, after all.” Oh, how wrong I was! Not only is this not just a ‘boat book’, the world continues to grow.
The characters were fantastic, of course. Everyone was flawed and delightfully complicated. The interactions made for interesting growth that- though unexpected- nonetheless made perfect sense. I made a huge mistake, though: I became too invested in some of the characters. Let’s just say that Barker happily stomps on people’s emotions. I both love and hate writing like that. It’s brilliant, but OUCH!
The Tide Child series is showing itself to be absolutely fantastic. I can’t wait to see what happens next, although I’m sure I’ll need about a box and a half of tissues once everything is said and done. Call of theBones Ships is gripping and ridiculously well written. Read this series.
This is book three in the Queens of Renthia trilogy. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, but there will (inevitably) be a couple from the first two books. You can find my review for book one, The Queen of Blood, here. You can find my review of The Reluctant Queen here. The entire series is available for purchase now.
I’m really annoyed about something: the Queens of Renthia series is over. That is cause for frustration, because it was so stinking good. I loved pretty much everything about it from moment one. Let me tell you, though; it ended with a bang.
The Queen of Sorrow focuses on Naelin, a queen who really doesn’t love the idea of being queen. She is only willing to take on the task as a way to protect her children. She’s more powerful than the other queen, Daleina, by leaps and bounds. That power has saved Renthia (and Naelin’s kids) more than once. So when the queen of the neighboring kingdom of Senmo decides to kidnap Naelin’s children, it quickly becomes obvious that she has made a mistake of catastrophic proportions. Naelin, Queen of Sorrow, goes to war.
It took me longer to read this book than the rest of the books in the trilogy because author Sarah Beth Durst evoked the terror and anger of finding your children in danger incredibly well and, as a mom who would move hell and high water for her kids, I had a hard time reading that and had to take frequent breaks. There were no graphic or violent scenes involving the kids, thankfully, or I would have had to give up on the book. That being said, it made an excellent catalyst for everything that came after.
As for the characters, they were all fantastic, as usual. Daleina was in this book far less than in the others, but she played a key role. Ven, the queen’s champion, was interesting to read because of how much his role evolved from book one to book three. He went from being kind of a ranger who trained future queens, to being Naelin’s boyfriend and pseudo-father for her kids. I loved, loved, loved his character progression! He grew in leaps and bounds and matured in different and unexpected ways.
Then there’s Naelin herself. She was the main focus in this book. Her character didn’t develop quite as much in The Queen of Sorrow because she was busy being a force of nature. Her interactions with the Merecot, the queen of Senmo, were interesting, to say the least.
Finally, we get to finally see a little bit of what makes Merecot tick. I loved how Sarah Beth Durst wrote her character. Instead of being a one-dimensional villain, it turns out she’s made a desperate gamble in an attempt to do what she thinks is right. It makes for one heck of a final showdown.
As always, the world was captivating. I was blown away by the sheer creativity of it. The way the spirits (think unique versions of dryads and other nature-related critters) were included in everything was nothing short of brilliant. They played a really cool role, especially in the battle scenes. And the way things wrapped up! I wouldn’t have expected it in a million years.
Basically, this is my really long-winded way of saying that everyone should read this series. It sucked me in from start to finish. I was sad to see the trilogy end, but The Queen of Sorrow was the perfect conclusion.
Thank you to the authors for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Loners is available for purchase now.
This book was so much fun! A rollicking adventure full of humor and heart, I had a blast reading the adventures (or misadventures?) of Jari and co. Loners follows a band of bounty hunters who have the audacity to want to retire. After all, they’ve been at the job for a while: over one hundred years, in fact. Jari and his violent band are given the opportunity to lay down arms and just relax- if they can track down and kill the evilest of evil dwarfs. Of course, they’ll need to survive in order to retire. Therein lies the rub.
There are a few characters that make Loners the highly enjoyable event that it is. There’s Jari, of course, the leader of the ragtag crew. Then there’s Toli Hookhand, another dwarf and the element of humor. And Bertha, a minotaur with some battle scars and a past that she really doesn’t like to talk about. While all of the characters added to the story, Bertha was my favorite. Her gruff exterior, and the way she interacted with everyone else, endeared me to her from the get-go.
It bears mentioning that this is one of two books I can think of that feature dwarfs in main character roles. I have a soft spot for fantasy dwarfs, so this made me extremely happy. They weren’t your usual fantasy dwarfs, however. The authors put their own unique spin on things and added a level of creativity that was a ton of fun to read.
The book was well written and fast moving. There wasn’t a ton of setup-but it wasn’t needed. Everything made perfect sense and things were explained as the story progressed. Loners is high on action, but also has an interesting plot and great characters. Basically, it’s the whole package. I recommend Loners to fans of rpgs, in particular, as it has that Dungeons and Dragons feel to it.
Where to purchase Loners: Amazon Bookshop.org (I’d get a small kickback)
I’m going to start this review by completely dating myself: do you remember that Brandon Frasier movie, Bedazzled? In it, Elizabeth Hurley plays the devil to Brandon Frasier’s beatdown, desperate character. He makes a deal to have his life changed “for the better”; after a certain number of wishes, he loses his soul. It’s cute and funny, with an upbeat ending. It’s a fluffy comedy. Midnight Library felt very similar, minus the comedy (and the devil). It was a fine book with an upbeat ending, but ultimately didn’t really do more for me than pass the time pleasantly.
While there are no graphic details in Midnight Library, I feel that I need to let readers know that both suicide and self-harm are mentioned throughout. I personally would have really struggled with the subject matter if it were handled differently, or if I was at a different point mentally than I am currently. I feel a warning is appropriate, in this case.
Nora starts the book with everything in her life falling apart. She feels invisible, desperate, and lonely. After an attempt to end her pain, she ends up in the Midnight Library, sort of a stand-in for Limbo. There are shelves and shelves of books in which her life has gone differently based on her choices. Nora is able to choose them and live the stories, with the caveat that when she is unhappy, she will return to the Library.
Nora begins erasing regrets by choosing differently. Of course, she sees both positive and negative ramifications of that. She is likable and easy to relate to. There isn’t anything about Midnight Library that wasn’t likeable, it was just very surface-level. I was hoping for a deeper, more meaningful read, I suppose. I follow the author on Twitter and am often touched by his tweets. Some of them are very profound. I think that ultimately raised my expectations of this book to a ridiculous level. How odd to think that an author’s social media writing is so good that I didn’t love his book.
I’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews for this book, leading me to believe that it just wasn’t the right time for me to really appreciate it. That happens sometimes, where it’s the right book but the wrong time. That’s not to say it was a bad book. It was sweet and encouraging. It just ended up being a “like” book instead of one I loved.
I would recommend Midnight Library to readers who want a book that finds happiness and gratitude in the life we’re given.
Before I get into discussing The Greatwood Portal, please be aware that this is book 3 in the series. I will do my absolute best to avoid spoilers for the first two books, but no promises. Here are my reviews for The Ventifact Colossus and The Crosser’s Maze.
TheGreatwood Portal is the third book in what has quickly become one of my favorite series. This continues the story with Horn’s Company in a race against time. The stakes get higher with each installment, and the characters are feeling the pressure. They are coming into their own, trusting themselves-and each other-more and more as time passes.
In fact, something amazing happened in this book. The characters’ personalities and motivations have been so well developed over the previous two books that they started to feel like old friends. It was more like catching up with someone you haven’t seen in a while than reading about a character, if that makes sense. Everyone is so unique and fully formed that it really is incredible.
The world continued to grow and the relationships continued to become closer and more nuanced. I loved seeing how the characters interacted with each other and how each of them handled a situation or obstacle differently based on their personality. While the quest is of the utmost importance, the characters are what keep me riveted. I’ve seen books with larger groups of characters and usually one or two are either uninteresting or just not focused on. Not so with TheGreatwood Portal. Not only does each character get the time and attention needed for their storyline, but there are new reveals and new angles explored.
Ernie continues to be a favorite, but Morningstar was also fascinating to read about. I love the idea of Dream Warriors! No, I’m not going to explain what they are, because I want everyone to read this book and experience things for themselves. Suffice it to say, she has really come into her own and I love it.
The book has some somber moments, and there was one part that broke my heart a little bit. Love, loss, friendship, tenacity, and hope continue to be explored in subtle yet profound ways. The Greatwood Portal is both exciting and heartwarming. I can’t recommend this series enough. If it isn’t on your “to be read” pile, it needs to be added. If it’s already there, move it to the top. This series is phenomenal.