Cursed by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller- Book Review and Thoughts on the Show

Amazon.com: Cursed (9781534425330): Wheeler, Thomas, Miller, Frank ...

Whosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true King.

But what if the Sword has chosen a Queen?

Nimue grew up an outcast. Her connection to dark magic made her something to be feared in her Druid village, and that made her desperate to leave…

That is, until her entire village is slaughtered by Red Paladins, and Nimue’s fate is forever altered. Charged by her dying mother to reunite an ancient sword with a legendary sorcerer, Nimue is now her people’s only hope. Her mission leaves little room for revenge, but the growing power within her can think of little else.

Nimue teams up with a charming named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England. She wields a sword meant for the one true king, battling paladins and the armies of a corrupt king. She struggles to unite her people, avenge her family, and discover the truth about her destiny.

But perhaps the one thing that can change Destiny itself is found at the edge of a blade. (taken from Amazon)

Raw and visceral, this book jumps straight into the action and doesn’t let up. This is a new take on the usual Arthurian characters and the changes are creative. Thomas Wheeler strays just enough from the original mythos to create something new, while staying close enough that the characters are still recognizable. Frank Miller adds something different with his illustrations. I should have loved this book. I liked it, but it didn’t end up reaching the “amazing” threshold for me.

The reason it didn’t shoot to the top of my “favorite 2020 books” list happens to be the same reason I’m incredibly excited to see the Netflix show: it’s a very visual book. Each scene was separate and distinct, but they didn’t necessarily flow together into one complete narrative. Instead, they were more like choppy vignettes. This has the potential to make a perfect fantasy show, because the visual scenes will move more naturally into a complete story-line. Plus, the book is chock-full of fight scenes which will be epic, if choreographed well.

The book follows Nimue, although Arthur, Merlin, Morgan, and other Arthurian regulars are also involved. I honestly think Merlin was my favorite character. He usually is, anyway, but what Wheeler did with his character was unique and interesting. I actually got annoyed when the story jumped away from him. Nimue is hardcore in this book, and Morgan is devious, smart, and honestly a wee bit creepy.

Really, the only thing that gave me pause about this book was the choppiness. There were several times where I thought I’d skipped a page by accident because a chapter or paragraph ended so abruptly. It made it difficult to be fully immersed in the story. The bones of the book are brilliant though, and I’m hopeful that the TV show will be fantastic.

This is one of the very rare times where I don’t necessarily recommend reading the book before watching the show. I feel icky writing this, but (gulp!) I think the show has the potential to be better.

 

 

 

 

The Oddmire, Book 2: The Unready Queen by William Ritter


The Oddmire, Book 2: The Unready Queen - Kindle edition by Ritter ...

Human-raised brothers Tinn and Cole join forces with Fable, daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, to stop the fighting between the people of Endsborough and the creatures of the Wild Wood before violence turns into all-out war.  

Human and goblin brothers Cole and Tinn are finding their way back to normal after their journey to the heart of the Oddmire. Normal, unfortunately, wants nothing to do with them. Fable, the daughter of the Queen of the Deep Dark, has her first true friends in the brothers. The Queen allows Fable to visit Tinn and Cole as long as she promises to stay quiet and out of sight—concealing herself and her magic from the townspeople of Endsborough.

But when the trio discovers that humans are destroying the Wild Wood and the lives of its creatures for their own dark purposes, Fable cannot stay quiet. As the unspoken truce between the people of Endsborough and the inhabitants of the Wild Wood crumbles, violence escalates, threatening war and bringing Fable’s mother closer to the fulfillment of a deadly prophecy that could leave Fable a most Unready Queen.

In this second book in the Oddmire series, the New York Times bestselling author of Jackaby takes readers on an adventure full of monsters, mayhem, and magic. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Kelly Doyle at Algonquin Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase on June twenty third.

After reading and loving The Oddmire: ChangelingI couldn’t wait to read The Unready Queen. The series continues wonderfully, combining the fantastical with the everyday wonder of childhood.

Cole and Tinn are still a large part of this book, but Fable takes center stage this time. Oh, wow, I love that character! She has a self-confidence and a desire to believe the best of everybody that is refreshing. Each character is nuanced, and Fable is no exception. She doesn’t feel ready to take on the responsibilities her mom is training her for, completely unaware that her unique way of doing things is exactly what the Wild Wood needs.

Of course, Tinn and Cole each have their own obstacles. Tinn is learning how to be a goblin after discovering that he is, in fact, a goblin changeling. More importantly, he’s learning how to be himself, without fading into his brother’s shadow. Cole, on the other hand, is learning that there are places his brother goes where he can’t follow. He is discovering how to be his own person. I really love Tinn in particular. He reminds me of my oldest in many ways.

As with the first book, a lot of attention is paid to relationships. I absolutely love that both the boys’ mom and Fable’s mom are very involved in this book. Not only that, it’s apparent that they are caring and involved, subverting the “hero alone” trope. From an adult standpoint, I love seeing positive relationships between parents and children in literature.

The fantasy aspect of this book is epic. Spriggins, and goblins, and hinkypunks, oh my! I adored the sheer variety of fantasy creatures that show up in these books. It’s not often that I read a book that includes hinkypunks. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The adventure is fabulous, the story moves quickly, and there’s never a dull moment.

This series is so much fun! William Ritter is an excellent author (I highly recommend the Jackaby series to adults) and I can’t wait to see what happens as the Oddmire adventures continue.

Eight Bookish Awards for the First Half of 2020

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I’m pretty sure everyone could use some good right about now. Something to cheer us up, or distract us a teensy bit. Joe at Black Sail Books came up with a fantastic idea: why wait until the end of the year to celebrate some awesome books? Let’s talk about some of our favorite books so far this year! He runs a truly amazing blog, which you can find here. If you’re not already following him, you should drop everything and go do that. I’ll wait.

Let’s hand out some awards, shall we?

1. MVB (The Most Valuable Book Award)
Awarded to the book that has been my favorite so far, one that has stuck with me. The winner is…

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

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Welcome to Sunder City. The magic is gone but the monsters remain.
I’m Fetch Phillips, just like it says on the window. There are a few things you should know before you hire me:
1. Sobriety costs extra.2. My services are confidential.3. I don’t work for humans.
It’s nothing personal–I’m human myself. But after what happened, to the magic, it’s not the humans who need my help. (taken from Amazon)

Everything about this book is just awesome. The main character, Fetch, is a Sam-Spade type in a fantasy world. You’d think it wouldn’t work, but it does. Brilliantly. This was one of the first books I read in 2020: it started my reading year off with a bang and gave me a wicked book hangover. I’ve waxed enthusiastic about the it here. Read this book. You won’t be sorry.

Honorable Mentions: The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs and Feathertide by Beth Cartwright.

2. The Narrative Genius Award
Awarded to the book whose narration was unique and added an extra level to the book. The winner is…

Your Favorite Band Cannot Save You by Scotto Moore

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I was home alone on a Saturday night when I experienced the most beautiful piece of music I had ever heard in my life.

Beautiful Remorse is the hot new band on the scene, releasing one track a day for ten days straight. Each track has a mysterious name and a strangely powerful effect on the band’s fans.

A curious music blogger decides to investigate the phenomenon up close by following Beautiful Remorse on tour across Texas and Kansas, realizing along the way that the band’s lead singer, is hiding an incredible, impossible secret. (taken from Amazon)

This book is deliciously bizarre. The narrator adds to the feeling of falling down the rabbit hole, so to speak. Seeing him go from dubious to terrified makes the book that much more memorable. You can read my original post on the book here, if you are so inclined.

Honorable Mentions: The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

3. The Comfort Zone Expansion Award
Awarded to the book that helped me step out of my comfort zone and appreciate a new type of story. The winner is…

Thornhill by Pam Smy

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Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute For Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past. (taken from Amazon)

I don’t often read graphic novels. There’s something about them that my brain just can’t follow. I suspect it has to do with my epilepsy.  I was able to read this book, though. I think maybe the fact that the pictures weren’t colored, combined with the lack of speech bubbles is what worked. At any rate, I loved it! You can read my original review here.

Honorable mentions: Fences by August Wilson and Craigslist Confessional: A Collection of Secrets from Anonymous Strangers by Helena Dea Bala

4. The “They Are Who We Thought They Were” Award: 
Awarded to the book that I tried, knowing it was outside my comfort zone that ended up being what I thought it was.

One? by Jennifer L. Cahill

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It’s London in the mid-noughties before Facebook, iPhones and ubiquitous wifi.
Zara has just moved to London for her first real job and struggles to find her feet in a big city with no instruction manual. Penelope works night and day in an investment bank with little or no time for love. At twenty-eight she is positively ancient as far as her mother is concerned and the pressure is on for her to settle down as the big 3-0 is looming. Charlie spends night and day with his band who are constantly teetering on the verge of greatness. Richard has relocated to London from his castle in Scotland in search of the one, and Alyx is barely in one place long enough to hold down a relationship let alone think about the future. One? follows the highs and lows of a group of twenty-somethings living in leafy SW4. (taken from Amazon)
Let me first say: this was not a bad book. I just don’t read lighter fiction. I stepped outside my comfort zone to give this one a go and was reminded that this genre really isn’t my thing. However, if you like lighter, romantic fiction, you’ll enjoy this book.

Honorable mentions: no others considered

5. The New to Me Award
Awarded to the book that introduced me to a new author that I’ve fallen in love with. The winner is…

We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson

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In the midst of a burgeoning war, a warrior, an assassin, and a princess chase their own ambitions no matter the cost in Devin Madson’s propulsive epic fantasy.
War built the Kisian Empire. War will tear it down.
Seventeen years after rebels stormed the streets, factions divide Kisia. Only the firm hand of the god-emperor holds the empire together. But when a shocking betrayal destroys a tense alliance with neighboring Chiltae, all that has been won comes crashing down.
In Kisia, Princess Miko Ts’ai is a prisoner in her own castle. She dreams of claiming her empire, but the path to power could rip it, and her family, asunder.
In Chiltae, assassin Cassandra Marius is plagued by the voices of the dead. Desperate, she accepts a contract that promises to reward her with a cure if she helps an empire fall.
And on the border between nations, Captain Rah e’Torin and his warriors are exiles forced to fight in a foreign war or die.
As an empire dies, three warriors will rise. They will have to ride the storm or drown in its blood. (taken from Amazon)

Wow, Devin Madson can write! I need to read everything she’s ever written, and everything she writes from here on out. I heard this book was great: man, was that an understatement! You can read my original review here.

Honorable Mentions: Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall and Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

7. The MVC (Most Valuable Character) Award: 
Awarded to the character who represented the make-or-break point in a book I liked. The winner is..

The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs

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A mixtape of Friday Night Lights, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and early ’90s nostalgia blasting through fifteen-inch speakers.

After Marcus Brinks left mysteriously two decades ago, financial ruin and his dying mother brought him back to his hometown of Rome, Alabama. Brinks, the former lead singer of ’90s indie-rock band Dear Brutus, takes a job teaching at his old school, where years ago, he and his friend, Jackson, conspired to get Deacon, the starting quarterback and resident school jerk, kicked off the football team.

Now it’s Jackson, head coach of Rome, who rules the school like Caesar, while Deacon plots his demise. This time Brinks refuses to get involved, opting instead for a quiet life with Becca, his high school crush. But will dreams of domestic black go up in flames when the repercussion of the past meet the lying, cheating, and blackmail of the present? (taken from Amazon)

Chad Alan Gibbs created the perfect characters for this book. It could have gone in an overtly smushy (that’s a word, right?) or angst-ridden direction, but instead Gibbs’ characters brought both heart and humor to this book. Silas, in particular, made The Rome of Fall a joy to read. This is easily one of my favorite books this year. Check out my review here .

Honorable Mentions: Rizzel in Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall and Fable in The Unready Queen by William Ritter.

8. The Audio Hero Award:
Awarded to the narrator who brought the audio book to life. The winner is…

You tell me! 
I don’t listen to audio books. I can’t concentrate enough (also, it’s way too noisy most of the time, since I have kids at home). What book do you think wins this award?

____________________________________________________________________________________________

There it is! According to my Goodreads, which I’m trying to be better at updating, I’ve read 70 books this year. These ones have found a place in my heart. I hope you give them a go. What books would you give these awards to?

 

 

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey

 

Everything that lives hates us…
 
Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable landscape. A place where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will.
Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He believes the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture too far beyond the walls.
He’s wrong. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Angela Man and Orbit Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

It’s taken me quite a while to write this review. I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts, without much success. Hopefully, I won’t be too jumbled with my review.

Ultimately, The Book of Koli and I just weren’t friends. It’s not a lack of talent on the author’s part: in fact, I highly recommend his other book, The Girl With All the Gifts. Carey wrote a detailed dystopian novel, and has a very clear idea of where he wants to go with it.

I struggled a lot with the language used. There’s a reason for the less-than-exceptional grammar, but it bugged me. I kept mentally correcting the dialogue, which was quite distracting. Oddly enough, this sort of language is used in the brilliant show Firefly and I can handle that just fine. I wonder if listening to this book would have distracted me less.
The main character, Koli, was a bit annoying from time to time. My main issue was that, in following his point of view, the reader missed out on some awesome things that were only briefly touched on. The book moved slowly, picking up steam way past the halfway point. That isn’t necessarily a negative thing, just be aware that this isn’t a non-stop action book.
My main takeaway from this book is this: the author is skilled, but this story simply isn’t my bag.
Have you read this? What did you think?

Venators: Promises Forged- The Write Reads Blog Tour

Venators Promises Forged

It has been mere days in the world of Eon, where Rune Jenkins, her twin brother Ryker, and their friend Grey have been trapped, fighting for their lives. After discovering the truth of their ancestry, the three are far from home, and far from anything resembling their mundane lives of the past.

While Ryker is still held captive by the eerily beautiful Zio and her goblins, Grey falls into the clutches of Feena, the Fae queen. She begins to drain his soul bit by bit to feed her dark underground garden, and Grey has no hope of escaping on his own.

It is now up to Rune to save Grey, as his precious time slips away inexorably. But the Council has denied her permission to embark on a rescue mission, until she can harness her Venator gifts and prove herself capable of venturing into the Fae queen’s territory. As Rune discovers that promises in Eon are forged with life-or-death consequences, she realizes that she must act quickly, or else be swallowed and Grey along with her by the dangers of Eon. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author and Dave at the Write Reads for a copy of this book and for including me in the blog tour. This book is available now.

This book is the sequel to Venators: Magic Unleashed. I’ve done my absolute best to keep this review spoiler-free.

This book is full of action, a sweeping fantasy world, and a surprising amount of character development. The author continues to make her world bigger, and more detailed as the series continues on. I’m used to seeing vampires and werewolves or dragons and warriors or fey creatures in a fantasy book: this series has all of them, and more. Author Devri Walls manages to make this enormous world unfold naturally. She has different cultures, mythologies, and histories all fully formed. It’s pretty cool.

The characters were a little confusing at times. Rune was often fun (and I can relate to getting hangry), but her relationship with Grey was just…odd. I couldn’t get a handle on Grey, but he was going through a lot emotionally, so maybe that’s why. The side characters were all interesting, especially Beltran.

I found this book to be enjoyable. If you like fast-moving fantasy with a slight hint of romance (slight enough that this romance-hating reader wasn’t annoyed), then this series is for you.

Have you read this? What did you think?

 

There Will Be One by Todd Sullivan

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For generations, Windshine has chronicled the exploits of young men on quests to become heroes. Most suffered brutal deaths, and distrust of the Dark Elf grew until rogue officials offer sixteen-year-old archer, Woo Jin, the chance to eliminate her. If he succeeds, they will name him hero. If he fails, he can never return home.In the company of musicians, veterans, and the wielder of the glyph blade, Woo Jin sails from Jeju to the mainland. Their quest— to evacuate Goseong, the village of children, from the devastated borderlands of South and North Hanguk. Unbeknownst to Woo Jin’s companions, he studies Windshine for weaknesses even as he wonders what evil lurks in the Dark Elf.Reaching the village, the companions encounter a fierce horde of northern soldiers. Battling to survive, Woo Jin spots the perfect opportunity to fulfill his mission, but will he assassinate the Dark Elf to become a hero? (taken from Amazon)

                        Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

There Will Be One is the sequel to Hollow Men (you can find my review for that book here). I will do my best to keep this review free of spoilers for book one. I really enjoyed Hollow Men; I loved There Will Be One.

Woo Jin joins a group on their quest to evacuate a village of children before battle reaches it. Ostensibly, he is there to help. In reality, his quest is far different: to assassinate a member of the party. His victim? A dark elf, the only foreigner on the quest.

This book tackles racism and morality against a backdrop of rich lore, epic battles, and fantastical creatures. I didn’t always love the main character, but I enjoyed seeing his eyes open and his viewpoints shift. This character matured more in less than two hundred pages than many characters do in long novels. He began with a quiet sense of right and wrong, a disquiet about his mission. What that seed of doubt grows into is fascinating to see.

Another thing I loved about this novella was the bold choice made in the narration. Despite being a sequel, the main character is an entirely new addition. There are tie-ins that make it more than just a different tale told in the same world, but the decision to use a different voice was a really cool one.

The world is fantastic, the Korean elements made the book more realistic (and were absolutely fascinating), and it moves quickly. Plus, there are dragons! I strongly suggest reading these novellas. Todd Sullivan is a talented voice in fantasy, and one I’m excited to see more from.

 

Westside Saints by W.M Akers- ARC Review

Westside Saints - W.M. Akers - Hardcover

Return to a twisted version of Jazz Age New York in this follow up to the critically acclaimed fantasy Westside, as relentless sleuth Gilda Carr’s pursuit of tiny mysteries drags her into a case that will rewrite everything she knows about her past.

Six months ago, the ruined Westside of Manhattan erupted into civil war, and private detective Gilda Carr nearly died to save her city. In 1922, winter has hit hard, and the desolate Lower West is frozen solid. Like the other lost souls who wander these overgrown streets, Gilda is weary, cold, and desperate for hope. She finds a mystery instead.

Hired by a family of eccentric street preachers to recover a lost saint’s finger, Gilda is tempted by their promise of “electric resurrection,” when the Westside’s countless dead will return to life. To a detective this cynical, faith is a weakness, and she is fighting the urge to believe in miracles when her long dead mother, Mary Fall, walks through the parlor door.

Stricken with amnesia, Mary remembers nothing of her daughter or her death, but that doesn’t stop her from being as infuriatingly pushy as Gilda herself. As her mother threatens to drive her insane, Gilda keeps their relationship a secret so that they can work together to investigate what brought Mary back to life. The search will force Gilda to reckon with the nature of death, family, and the uncomfortable fact that her mother was not just a saint, but a human being. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

I read this book without having read the first one in the series. I was able to follow the story-line without any problems, but I’m sure I would have appreciated it more if I’d read the first book.

I put off writing this review for way too long because I wasn’t sure how to put all my thoughts into words. I’m still having that issue, but I think this review is just going to be a weird one. That works, because the book is best described as “weird.” I like a little weird, so that is in no way an insult.

This book was a bit of a downer for me, to be honest. I found myself picturing the entire thing in varying shades of gray (even the things that were specifically described by color). I went into the book expecting light and funny, which wasn’t quite what I got. Gilda, the detective, was an intriguing character. I think I missed some character development in the first book, because she didn’t seem to grow all that much in this one. Her cynicism definitely got on my nerves from time to time.

There was some quippy dialogue which I appreciated. I love a good quip. Or a bad quip. Pretty much any quip. It wasn’t quite enough to pull me out of the oppressive atmosphere of the book, but it did garner an appreciative nod from me.

There were some bits that felt a little choppy to me. It’s a very strong possibility that it was intentionally written that way, and I just didn’t get it. Sometimes an author and the reader just don’t jive. It’s abundantly clear that this author is very talented, I just couldn’t connect.

I think I can chalk this book up to “wrong book for right now, right book for another time.” I’ll probably reread this at some point in the future, when a little bit of a hopeless vibe isn’t going to mess with my happy.

Would I recommend this book? I honestly don’t know.

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso- ARC Review

The Obsidian Tower (Rooks and Ruin, #1) by Melissa Caruso

One woman will either save an entire continent or completely destroy it in a captivating epic fantasy bursting with intrigue and ambition, questioned loyalties, and broken magic.
“Guard the tower, ward the stone. Find your answers writ in bone. Keep your trust through wits or war–nothing must unseal the door.”
Deep within Gloamingard Castle lies a black tower. Sealed by magic, it guards a dangerous secret that has been contained for thousands of years.
As Warden, Ryxander knows the warning passed down through generations: nothing must unreal the Door. But one impetuous decision will leave her with blood on her hands–and unleash a threat that could doom the world to fall to darkness. (taken from Amazon)

                               Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on June second.

This book was a mixed bag for me. There were things I liked, and other things that just didn’t work. You can’t please everyone all the time, you know? I’ll talk about the good, the not-so-good, and the annoying.

First of all, I liked most of the characters. The main character, Ryxander, confused me with her odd choices (if there’s something actively dangerous going on, maybe save the half-hearted attempts at diplomacy for later?), but the supporting characters were great. I really enjoyed Foxglove and Ardith. They were both so unique in their own ways. Ardith, in particular, was a blast to read. They had a devil-may-care attitude that just might have covered something far deeper. It was an intriguing thought.
The magic system in the book was fascinating. I liked that Ryxander had an incredibly strong power, but it was considered “broken” because it was so dangerous and impossible to control. Seeing how that power affected her negatively, as well as anyone else unfortunate enough to be caught in its path, was really cool.
The idea of a dangerous secret lurking deep within a castle was an interesting one, and the actuality of the secret was really cool. It was not at all what I expected. Where things went from there, though…
I felt like I spent the majority of this book waiting for something to happen, with no payoff. There were so many times where I thought, “Ah! This is it! It was all setup and now I get to see why!,” only to find more exposition, and more reiteration of the same political situation. There’s a possibility that it will all pay off in the second book, but I don’t know if I want to take that chance.
I also could not get a handle on Ryxander. She seemed to be very smart, but only in one aspect. Most of her choices left me scratching my head (metaphorically, of course). I didn’t understand why she prioritized things that were less of an immediate problem, as opposed to serious dangers.

One last thing that rankled at me: the use of the word “chimera” for creatures that were truly anything but. Now, this is a problem with me, not with the book. A chimera as I’ve always read it is a two-headed monster (one is a goat head, the other a lion head) with a snake’s head as the tail. While the chimeras in this book were incredibly creative, I wish they’d been called by any other name. Again, this is just an issue with my weird fantasy hang-ups and in no way affects the quality of the writing.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me.

The Ranger of Marzanna by Jon Skovron

The Ranger of Marzanna (The Goddess War (1)): Skovron, Jon ...

When their father is murdered by imperial soldiers, two siblings set out on opposite paths–one will destroy the Empire forever and the other will save it–in this thrilling new epic fantasy.
Sonya is training to be a Ranger of Marzanna, an ancient sect of warriors who have protected the land for generations. But the old ways are dying, and the rangers have all been forced into hiding or killed off by the invading Empire.
When her father is murdered by imperial soldiers, she decides to finally take action. Using her skills as a ranger she will travel across the bitter cold tundra and gain the allegiance of the only other force strong enough to take down the invaders.
But nothing about her quest will be easy. Because not everyone is on her side. Her brother, Sebastian, is the most powerful sorcerer the world has ever seen. And he’s fighting for the empire. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Angela Man and Orbit books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.

Before getting into my thoughts on the book itself, I have to mention the gorgeous cover. Before even reading the blurb, I was interested in this book, based on the amazing artwork. The blurb made me want to read it all the more.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. The idea was a great one: two siblings who find themselves on opposite sides of a war, told from their points of view. The Slavic influences were intriguing, and I really enjoyed the wintry feel of the world in general. As far as fantasy settings go, I dug this one.

The main characters are Sonya and her brother Sebastian. Sonya is the last surviving member of the Rangers of Marzanna, an elite warrior group. She has special gifts that are given to the rangers, which made her a pretty hardcore fighter. She was rather underdeveloped as a character, though, and I struggled reading about her. There was so much potential to her, but it wasn’t fully realized. Yet. She may become more three dimensional in the following installment.

As for her brother, Sebastian…have you seen The Force Awakens? There’s a scene where Kylo Ren throws a temper tantrum and the stormtroopers that were heading his way just turn and walk away. Reading about Sebastian felt like watching Kylo Ren’s tantrum. He really needed someone to put him on timeout. The two of them together…oy vey.

However, the other characters were fantastic. They made up for the less than stellar main characters, and each brought their own brand of extra something to the book. My favorite was Jorge, an apothecary who ends up involved through a strange set of circumstances.

While I didn’t love the book, I liked it enough to be curious about the next book. Sometimes a series improves as it goes on and the author gets their groove. I’m hoping that will be the case for this book.

Interview with a Middle-Schooler: Fantastic Fantasy

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My oldest is a huge reader. He likes most kinds of books, although he tends to gravitate toward sci-fi and fantasy. I like to interview him every few months and get his take on books that he’s read and enjoyed. Today, I’m asking him about his favorite fantasy books. If you’re looking for middle-grade fantasy books to read, here are some he recommends.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl (new cover) (Artemis Fowl (1)): Colfer, Eoin ...

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit.  These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous. 

            Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them…but then they stop playing by the rules. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest says: “I really liked it because it’s written in a smart way. Artemis Fowl was around my age and he used words that I like, like he had good dialogue. There’s one character that I don’t like because all his jokes are about flatulence. The story was fantastic and I also like that it’s a long series because I got hooked on it. The action is pretty good, even though the main character isn’t athletic at all. That’s one thing I liked about it; he’s really smart. Like Tony Stark, instead of Captain America.”

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel: Rick ...

Since his mother’s death six years ago, Carter Kane has been living out of a suitcase, traveling the globe with his father, the brilliant Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane. But while Carter’s been homeschooled, his younger sister, Sadie, has been living with their grandparents in London. Sadie has just what Carter wants — school friends and a chance at a “normal” life. But Carter has just what Sadie longs for — time with their father. After six years of living apart, the siblings have almost nothing in common. Until now.

On Christmas Eve, Sadie and Carter are reunited when their father brings them to the British Museum, with a promise that he’s going to “make things right.” But all does not go according to plan: Carter and Sadie watch as Julius summons a mysterious figure, who quickly banishes their father and causes a fiery explosion.

Soon Carter and Sadie discover that the gods of Ancient Egypt are waking, and the worst of them — Set — has a frightening scheme. To save their father, they must embark on a dangerous journey — a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and its links to the House of Life, a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “I like that it has ancient Egyptian mythology. There’s a ton of action, and the magic is really cool. They use actual Egyptian words for it, I think, which is really neat. The magic has a lot of interesting results, like it can blow stuff up and put it back together. It’s a three part series. My favorite Egyptian mythological character is Anubis and he’s featured a lot, which is cool. The characters are around my age, which I like. It’s also written like it’s a tape recording and the characters don’t get along very well, so there’ll be arguments between chapters.”

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom: Healy, Christopher ...

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a completely original take on the world of fairy tales, the truth about what happens after “happily ever after.” It’s a must-have for middle grade readers who enjoy their fantasy adventures mixed with the humor of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Witty black-and-white drawings by Todd Harris add to the fun. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “It’s absolutely hilarious. It’s chock-full of funny, sometimes fourth-wall breaking jokes. It’s got good action and the characters are written in humorous ways. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s actual fantasy, you could say that it’s like a bad D&D campaign. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Once and Future Geek (the Camelot Code #1) by Mari Mancui

Amazon.com: The Once and Future Geek (The Camelot Code (1 ...

When young Arthur of Camelot accidentally time-travels to the 21st century and Googles himself, he discovers the not-so-happily ever after in store for him once he pulls the sword from the stone. Yes, he’ll go from squire to sovereign basically overnight, but he’ll also lose the love of his life to his best friend and eventually die in battle. What’s a once-and-future king to do? Easy: stay in the future, where he’ll actually have a future-and join the football team instead.
Now, with the help of the great wizard Merlin, modern-day gamer-geeks Sophie and Stu find themselves in a race against time to get that sword pulled from the stone and the stubborn soon-to-be-king Arthur back to the past where he belongs. Complicating the plan? Lady Morgana-Arthur’s sister and greatest enemy-has traveled to the future as well, determined to take Arthur out and seize the throne. Can Sophie and Stu use their gaming abilities to defeat the evil Morgana and set the timeline right? With the very existence of their friendship, their families, and the world as they know it (including pepperoni pizza!) at stake, they’ll use every skill, power-up, and cheat code they know in their quest to save the day. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “It’s a different version of the King Arthur and the Sword and Stone legends. It was like if you took King Arthur and made it really nerdy. I liked the first one better than the second one, even though the second one is still good. Stu was my favorite. He’s not very athletic, although he does come through at the end when he’s given a weapon. Mostly, he prefers video games.”

Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

The Ruins of Gorlan (The Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1): Flanagan ...

They have always scared him in the past – the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….(taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “It’s just an overall really good fantasy. The main character, Will, was my favorite. He’s around my age, and he was really good with a bow and arrows. He was a good fighter.”

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite…

Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “I reread it and returning to it was really fun. There’s a lot of fantastical creatures in it and one of the characters is a big trouble maker. The other is a big rule-follower so it’s a fun contrast. There are goblins, fairies, and a witch. I’m not sure if it’s a classical witch, but it’s a female magic-user. It’s actually a series. The trouble-maker, Seth, is my favorite character. He is kind of goofy. Plus, yet again, he’s close to my age from what I can tell.”