The thing about Night Watch is it’s cool, but it’s also a bit problematic. I am still sorting out whether I think the cool factor is enough that I can forget some of the parts that I had issue with. Basically, this review is going to be a rambling mess. So, let me roll up my sleeves and get right to it!
The premise of the book starts with a familiar concept – that of the otherworldly surrounding the everyday- and takes it in a new and creative direction. Anton is a low-level Light magician (meaning he’s one of the “good guys”), talented but not amazingly so. He is also a member of the Night Watch, a group of Others -such as magicians and shape changers- who keeps an eye on the other side (the “bad guys”-cue the menacing music). The other side, the Day Watch keeps an eye on the “good guys” as well. Both sides do this to make sure that everyone is adhering to the uneasy truce that has existed between those of the Light and those of the Dark for ages. Sounds pretty similar to many other books so far, right? From there it goes in an entirely different direction.
In the world of Night Watch, there are humans without a trace of the otherworldly, there are those on the side of light, those on the side of the dark, and potentials. Potentials are “Others” that have not chosen a side. Usually they are newly discovering their powers, but there are also rogues, etc. and sometimes they require the intervention of the Day Watch or the Night Watch. There’s an assumption that the two watches grudgingly work together, but that is only true on the surface. Their quiet war has become one of subterfuge and manipulation, and Anton finds himself squarely in the middle of it.
The pacing is very different than what I expect from a book of this nature, but it works. There is a lot of introspection and musing on the nature of “good” and “evil” and the sometimes blurry way they can be viewed. When does doing something good cause more evil? When is it acceptable to do nothing? Does the long game justify sacrifices along the way? These are questions that plague Anton, making for an interesting main character. While the world is engaging and the tricks and twists along the way are truly fascinating, it is this part of Anton’s character that makes Night Watch truly unique.
So, what did I find problematic? Some of the things the author said when referring to women, people of other nationalities, and lesbians were a bit on the offensive side. It was never quite enough to make me want to stop reading the book, but it did rankle at me. On the one hand, Night Watch was written several years ago, which could very well contribute to certain viewpoints, so it is something I tried not to focus on too much. However, it did bother me.
The creativity in the storytelling and the pondering of choices elevated this book above some of the others of this type that I’ve read. This is a reread for me, although it’s been at least fifteen years since my first time reading it. I think I enjoyed it more then than I do now, but Night Watch is still an enjoyable book, and one worth reading.
Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Ascension Machine is available now.
Found family? Check. A unique world? Check. A main character who is incredibly likable? Double check. The Ascension Machine is a fun, creative adventure with surprises galore.
Grey (what is his real name?) is a con-man. Well, a con-teen, anyway. He flits from planet to planet, making it on what he can steal or cheat from others. He’s directionless and lonely, although he won’t admit it. He’s also short on funds. So when he’s approached with a high paying offer- impersonate a wealthy teen named Mirabor Gravane- he doesn’t hesitate. Imagine Grey’s surprise when his mistaken identity lands him in a school for superheroes.
One thing that I really appreciated about Grey was that, deep down, he was a genuinely good kid. Sure, he conned an entire school full of people (and aliens) into believing he’s someone he’s not, but he never intended to hurt anyone and he took advantage of every opportunity he had to be helpful, even at risk to his life expectancy. I loved his story arc. It was never stagnant, and he was never demoted to plot device. Instead, he grew and changed in a way that made perfect sense for his personality and the story.
A book like this needs a great supporting cast, and we’ve got one. While there are several side characters, each very important to the plot, I have two favorites. Gadget Dude had the interesting superpower of being great at creating all kinds of gadgetry-but he sometimes seemed a bit unclear as to what he was creating, or how it actually worked. For me, though, Seventhirtyfour stole the show. His size (and four arms) were only eclipsed by his giant heart and his loyalty. He was always enthusiastic and threw himself wholeheartedly into whatever he was doing, whether it be schoolwork, or taking on a mob racket. I absolutely loved him.
The hijinks the characters got up to were a lot of fun. While the final confrontation was fantastic, I loved the inventive problem-solving involved in earlier escapades. Grey’s talents weren’t necessarily what most people think of when they hear “superhero”, which made him that much more interesting. Plus, they came in very handy on multiple occasions.
There was a bit of a mystery as part of the plotline, which was a lot of fun. I know my oldest will have a great time solving the puzzle alongside the characters. There was also action and adventure aplenty. The action was well-described, and the stakes were high without the book being too gory for its intended audience. TheAscension Machine is intended for the middle-grade/teen age range, I believe, but it’s a ton of fun for any age group. I fully enjoyed reading it and am hopeful that a sequel will be coming.
Thank you to Orbit books and Netgalley for providing me with The Unbroken in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.
This is going to be a tough one for me to talk about. While I really appreciated certain aspects of The Unbroken, I ultimately didn’t love it as much as I was hoping. The hype for this book was high, which probably unfairly raised my expectations.
Touraine is a soldier in the army of Balladaire (The “Sands” army). She didn’t sign up for the job; rather, she was forced in as a child. These child armies are raised with the teachings that their fight is a noble one and all violence will ultimately be justified. It’s really hard to think about because there are really situations of this happening in the real world. This added an extra weight to the situation that both intrigued and saddened me.
Luca is a princess of Balladaire. She ends up going to try to stop a rebellion and prove to her uncle, the regent, that she is worthy of ruling Balladaire. Like many power grubbers, her uncle is reluctant to relinquish any control. Touraine and Luca become intertwined when an assassination attempt on Luca’s life is stopped by Touraine, leaving Luca in her debt, so to speak. There’s more to the “how it got there”, but Touraine ends up being Luca’s spy/representative.
The Unbroken is a political fantasy, a slower-burn that shows the ramifications of decisions on every side. This sort of book requires commitment from the reader, simply because there is so much to pay attention to. The setup was a fascinating one, exploring themes of colonialism and how it affects everyone involved. It is not the sort of story I’ve really ever seen in fantasy before.
I struggled to pay attention during the first bit of The Unbroken, to be honest. I disliked both the main characters, which made it tough. I mean, I really disliked them. I think that was intended by the author. If so, consider the mission accomplished. I don’t mind disliking characters at all. I don’t need to “connect” to a character to enjoy reading them. My problem was that the characters often made decisions that seemed very much the opposite of what they would do based on what the author has told the reader about them. It made it very difficult to understand who these characters are on a fundamental level.
The pacing seemed a little off from time to time. However, while I had a hard time becoming invested at the beginning of the book, the second part picked up and became much more interesting. The Unbroken made me think. It kept me guessing. It showed me the ugliness that often shows up if a person so much as scrapes the surface of a situation. This wasn’t what I would call a “comfortable” book, but I definitely think it is absorbing.
Thank you to Orbit for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Jasmine Throne will be available for purchase on June eighth.
Savagely beautiful, The Jasmine Throne kept me riveted from the first page all the way through until the last heart-stopping moment. Fierce characters, bold storylines, and incredible prose all combined into a book unlike anything I’ve read.
From the violent and misguided fanaticism of Chandra to the quiet desperation of Rukh, each character showed a different side to the multi-faceted gem of this world. And what world building! Ahiranya was complex and beautiful-but also broken, with other cultures and peoples crushed and forgotten. The complicated political factions between those with differing views of what Ahiranya should be was engrossing, to say the least. This struggle of will became a powder keg waiting to explode, the question being who will be left standing when the dust settles.
While the world was amazing, the characters were even more so. Chandra, Emperor of Parijatdvipa, has widened the divide between the peoples of Ahiranya. He is the match that starts the blaze. His cruelty leads him to punish his sister Malini by imprisoning her in the Hirana, a holy temple where children with unexplained powers were once burned alive.
Malini is cunning and manipulative. Her form of rebellion is the sort that draws people to a cause and convinces them to take the final step from thought to deed. She can form armies, stage coups, and maybe even kill emperors- if she can escape the Hirana. What I loved most about Malini was her ability to use people and feel zero guilt over it. At times, it was difficult to tell if she was a hero, or simply a different sort of villain.
Priya was my favorite. All sharp edges, she was once a child of the Hirana. She escaped the fire that killed her brothers and sisters, but not unchanged. Her early experiences molded her into someone tough yet vulnerable. She carries a strength and fierceness in her that will carry her through rebellions and give her the strength to blaze her own way. She is also a rebel, in her own way, although her end goal is far different. I expected her to be cold or unfeeling simply because of her past, but she showed a strong sense of loyalty and compassion. It came out particularly well when she interacted with Rukh, a boy that she rescues.
Bhumika is a rebel of a different sort. She uses her status as wife of the regent of Ahiranya to fight in secret. She hides in plain view, subtly doing what she can to protect those in need of it. She is a bit of a contradiction, and I loved seeing more of her personality come out during the course of the book. She is not someone I would want to mess with, I’ll say that.
Other players dance in and out of the narrative, showing up at pivotal moments that set the story moving in directions I would never have expected. No character is superfluous; instead, each adds to the book in important ways.
I have to touch on the mythology and religions in The Jasmine Throne. I won’t explain it because there is no way I could do it justice, but wow. This was a book that was impossible to put down, even though I dreaded reaching the end. I am desperate to read book two of The Burning Kingdoms.
Read The Jasmine Throne. I guarantee you’ll love it.
Gods, Dharkan and mortals fight amongst themselves in their shadow.
And Time is on no one’s side.
The gods are outmatched.
Their talents are useless against the Nephlim’s technology.
Desperate, they turn on each other. New alliances form and fall apart, for there can be no peace when survival is at stake. Psyche, thorn between a goddess’ duty and a mortal’s hate, sets off on her own to learn the truth behind her fate, unaware of the danger following her. Meanwhile Chronos’ own agenda involves a power so dangerous and unpredictable it’s been long forsaken by the both the gods and the Nephilim. Will it be worth the risk?
About the Author:
Susana Imaginário is a misfit from Portugal. She moved to England to pursue a career as an aerialist and now runs a Board Gaming retreat in Ireland with her husband and their extremely spoiled dog.
Her hobbies include reading, playing board games, hanging upside down, poking around ancient ruins, talking to trees and being tired.
Her debut novel, Wyrd Gods, combines mythological fantasy with science fiction and satire in a strange way.
I’ve never been a big fan of books that take place in or around water. Books such as TreasureIsland, or even The Voyage of the Dawn Treader have never appealed to me. It’s just not my thing. So when I read a book with a watery setting that I actually really enjoy, it sticks with me. Here are a few boatish books that I’ve really liked.
The Bone Ships by RJ Barker (The Tide Child Book One)
I think my concern with books involving ships is that they will feel small. The opposite is the case with this series. The setting allows for a greater view and understanding of author RJ Barker’s world, which is magnificently developed. Plus, the characters are awesome.
It’s been a while since I’ve read The Girl From Everywhere, but I remember being impressed by the writing. At what point do you let go of a past sorrow to embrace a present happiness? The choices that Nix has to make encompass themes of family, loss, grief, and acceptance. Oh, and the settings are both familiar and mysterious. It’s quite the balancing act between adventure and the heavier storyline, but author Heidi Heilig managed it beautifully.
The One Kingdom (The Swans’ War Book One) by Sean Russell
A decent chunk of this epic fantasy involves travel on a mysterious river (yep, it’s a river that’s mysterious. It’s a thing, I promise). The things found both in and along the river tugged on my imagination, painting a vivid picture of a unique and creative world. The mythology behind the enchanter Wyrr is flat-out amazing. TheSwans’ War is one of my favorite fantasy trilogies, despite (or maybe because of) the water-travel.
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
At this point, I’m pretty sure Stuart Turton could write a novel about cardboard boxes and I would love it. His writing is outstanding and the mystery of The Devil and the Dark Water kept me riveted from beginning to end.
The Bone Shard Daughter(The Drowning Empire Book One) by Andrea Stewart
I would have to admit that I am sort of cheating on this one, except that this is my post and my rules. So there. Jovis’ storyline, in particular, has a lot to do with ships and such whatnot and he was my favorite character, so it counts. Right? Either way, I’m looking forward to the next part in this interesting series.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on May eleventh.
This book takes place in a fantastical version of Cairo. I loved the creativity of the world. The way it was described painted a vivid picture of a new twist on an already interesting setting. I’m a big fan of that steampunk sort of world, so I was immediately enchanted. Magic abounded and everything was just a little heightened. I happily began to expect the unexpected.
A Master of Djinn follows agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi, who works for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, as she tries to solve a murder that rapidly goes sideways. I wanted to like Fatma, I really did. However, she just sort of irked me. She really wasn’t all that…competent, to be honest. I had a hard time believing she was the experienced agent she is supposed to be. Worse, though, is her personality. She was judgmental and condescending and it just really grated on me. Thankfully, her new partner Hadia was pretty much the opposite of Fatma. She was smart, eager to prove herself, and a fun character to read about.
Of course, the mystery soon turned into a much bigger situation. I’m a big fan of stakes being raised, but I do sort of wish this particular mystery had stayed just that-a mystery, as opposed to being a huge conspiracy (for lack of a better word). I was hoping for a whodunnit. I got both less and more.
I ended up being entertained by A Master of Djinn, but I didn’t love it. I honestly think what took it from the “love” to “like” reaction was Fatma. The mystery itself was interesting, and the world was absolutely fantastic.
I suggest this book to readers looking for a fun puzzle, set in a unique, fantastical world.
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.
I received this book to read and review as part of the BBNYA 2020 competition and/or the BBNYA tours organised by the @The_WriteReads tours team. All opinions are my own.
BBNYA (or Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award) is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. I was fortunate to be able to take part as a judge. It was a ton of fun and I was introduced to some fantastic books.
If you are a book blogger or reviewer, you can apply to be part of BBNYA 2021 by filling out this form (also remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up)!
BBNYA is brought to you in association with the Folio Society (featuring gorgeous, drool-worthy books) and the book blogger support group TheWriteReads.
Congratulations to The Lore of Prometheus for its win as the 2020 Book Blogger Novel of the Year!
So, what is The Lore of Prometheus about?
John Carver has three rules: Don’t drink in the daytime, don’t gamble when the luck has gone, and don’t talk to the dead people who come to visit.
It has been almost five years since the incident in Kabul. Since the magic stirred within him and the stories began. Fleeing the army, running from the whispers, the guilt, and the fear he was losing his mind, Carver fell into addiction, dragging himself through life one day at a time.
Desperation has pulled him back to Afghanistan, back to the heat, the dust, and the truth he worked so hard to avoid. But there are others, obsessed with power and forbidden magics, who will stop at nothing to learn the truth of his gifts. Abducted and chained, Carver must break more than his own rules if he is to harness this power and survive. (Amazon blurb)
About the author:
Graham Austin-King was born in the south of England and weaned on broken swords and half-forgotten spells.
A shortage of these forced him to consume fantasy novels at an ever-increasing rate, turning to computers and tabletop gaming between meals.
He experimented with writing at the beginning of an education that meandered through journalism, international relations, and law. To this day he is committed to never allowing those first efforts to reach public eyes.
After spending a decade in Canada learning what ‘cold’ really means, and being horrified by poutine, he settled once again in the UK with a seemingly endless horde of children.
To date he is the author of five novels, drawing on a foundation of literary influences ranging from David Eddings to Clive Barker.