Image

Book Review: The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

Title: The Warded Man

Author: Peter V. Brett

Series: The Demon Cycle #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night. -Goodreads

The Review:

This review is going to be a hodgepodge – The Warded Man was such an unusual read that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my thoughts organized on it. Here goes:

The Warded Man was a mixed bag of emotions for me (and for most of my fellow Buddy Reads Group on Goodreads). The consensus was that it had a really slow start. Even though I found myself invested as early as Chapter 3, many were struggling even as far and as the halfway point to find their enthusiasm (if they even made it that far). I happen to enjoy slower-paced (or “boring,” as my best friend calls them) books provided all the other elements are there to keep me interested. In that regard, TWM was a success.

I think we were all expecting it to be a straightforward high fantasy novel, but it was anything but conventional. Brett unapologetically broke storytelling rules left and right and it still somehow worked… for me, anyway.

For one thing, the he spent the entire first half of the book establishing character, showing the events that would eventually shape and send them on their long-term trajectory. Initially there was also a ton of focus on family drama, which although interesting, felt inconsequential (even though it ended up playing a big role). There was also no clear inciting “okay, this is where the point of the story is revealed” moment, but rather a collection of smaller ones. The great news is, it did all eventually come together, even though it took its sweet time getting there. What saved it for me was the strong concept revolving around demons and wards.

The demons were definitely the selling point of the novel. I loved learning about the different types, and especially loved that there’s still so much more to learn about them. I have that awesome feeling that not all is as it seems and there are several more surprises in store) Also, the art of warding was a fascinating craft – I always love feeling like I’m learning a non-real-world skill in a book, whether it be ward creation or dragon riding.

Unconventional and slow start aside, there was a touchy incident that happened near the end, the author’s treatment of which put me off a bit. How the characters reacted was plausible, I suppose, but not very realistic. I’m still going to continue on because the author sold its necessity just enough to suit my objections AND there were too many other things I enjoyed about the book to just up and stop now… but it still bugged me.

Overall, I really liked The Warded Man but think it would be very difficult to recommend: “Here, read this. It’ll take you halfway through before things really get going, and even then I had a couple of issues near the end, but I still really, really liked it.” Everything about it is contradictory, but I can say with full conviction that I’m eager for more.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Novella Review: Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson

Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Legion: Skin Deep

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Series: Legion #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars!

The Overview: Stephen Leeds, AKA “Legion,” is a man whose unique mental condition allows him to generate a multitude of personae: hallucinatory entities with a wide variety of personal characteristics and a vast array of highly specialized skills. As the new story begins, Leeds and his “aspects” are hired by I3 (Innovative Information Incorporated) to recover a corpse stolen from the local morgue. But there’s a catch. The corpse is that of a pioneer in the field of experimental biotechnology, a man whose work concerned the use of the human body as a massive storage device. He may have embedded something in the cells of his now dead body. And that something might be dangerous… What follows is a visionary thriller about the potential uses of technology, the mysteries of the human personality, and the ancient human need to believe that death is not the end. Legion: Skin Deep is speculative fiction at it most highly developed. It reaffirms Sanderson’s place as one of contemporary fiction’s most intelligent—and unpredictable—voices. -Goodreads

The Review:

Both Legion novellas were absolutely delightful. The concept was unique (a brilliant man whose “not crazy”, but harbors several human aspects who help him store information and solve crimes), the mysteries were interesting, and the writing was superb – yup! It’s definitely a Sanderson. What I especially loved about Skin Deep was the humor – I laughed so much through the first half I went back and read it again – you can tell Sanderson had a lot of fun writing it. The resolution to the mystery may have been wrapped up a little too conveniently for my tastes, but I still liked it. Overall, if you’re in the mood for something different – or if you’re mega Sanderson fan (like me <3) who hasn’t yet read it – Legion is the perfect pick!

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

Title: The Demon Awakens

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Series: The Demonwars Saga #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: A great evil has awakened in the land of Corona, a terrible demon determined to spread death and misery. His goblin armies and fearsome giants ravage the settlements of the frontier, and in the small village of Dundallis their merciless attack leaves behind two shattered orphans: Pony and her lifelong friend, the youth Elbryan. Taken in by elves, Elbryan is raised to become a formidable ranger–a fateful role that will lead him into harrowing confrontation.

Meanwhile, on a far-off island, a shower of gemstones will fall onto the black sand shores. These heaven-sent stones carry within them an incredible power–the key to all that is good in the world and all that is evil, and it is up to one young monk to liberate them from the corrupt monastery that harvests them. Pray that they don’t fall into the wrong, clawed hands . . .   -Goodreads

The Review:

As the entire Demonwars Saga has been gathering dust on my shelves for over ten years now, boy do I feel foolish for not having read The Demon Awakens before now. There were so many elements I loved, and at one point was even considering a 5 star rating (I’ll address what knocked it off that in a minute). It dazzled me with great characters, an interesting magic system, exotic fantastical settings, and a fast-paced plot filled with loads of action and excitement (with plenty of that brilliant hand-to-hand combat that Salvatore is known so well for).

The characters were fresh, exciting, and really fun to get to know – totally on par with their Forgotten Realms counterparts (if perhaps a mite less memorable). I had been a little worried that they’d be carbon copies of Drizzt and his gang, but thankfully they weren’t. It’s always a concern I have when reading a slightly less popular series by authors known primarily for other works. It’s kind of silly, because logically good writing knows no bounds. Anyway, Salvatore has definitely shown me here that he’s no one trick pony.

50% of The Demon Awakens (from about the 1/4 mark to the 3/4 mark) was a solid 5-star (I loved every freaking moment) type of story for all of the attributes listed above. It took a while to get past the spoiler-ish summary I’d read before diving in (which is why I usually don’t more than glance at overviews – does knowing key plot points of a story before diving in bother anyone else is much as it does me?).

Anyway, obviously there were some great components to The Demon Awakens, but there were a handful of things bothered me enough in the last 1/4 of the books to knock down my rating. Character development was one of them. I know I just spent a moment gushing at how great I thought they were; what I’m referring to here is how these great characters changed throughout the novel. One of my favorites underwent a seeming 180 degree personality flip over a very short time period… it was a little disorienting. It felt like two totally different character profiles were given the same name and slapped together. Also, the only relatable female character, who had strong growth arc through most of the book, eventually became second fiddle and almost incidental near the end.

Story trajectory was my other issue. Salvatore took my least favorite plot point and beat it to death with a small cudgel. I acknowledge that at some point that plot point needed to be resolved, but that doesn’t mean I was obligated to enjoy it ;P. The parts I wasn’t excited about earned a 2 star (it was just okay) rating.

That said, I’m still definitely continuing on with the series, as there was a significant parts of this book I loved with a fierce passion. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that some of my favorite plot elements make their way into the next installment.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

Image

Book Review: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

Title: The Waking Fire

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: The Draconis Memoria #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: The Waking Fire is set in a vibrant new world where the blood of drakes—creatures similar to dragons—is valued beyond reckoning, and can be distilled into elixirs that grant fearsome powers to those who are “blood-blessed.” The novel follows an unregistered blood-blessed as he searches for an elusive variety of drake so potent, its capture would mean unrivalled riches; the second in command of a blood-burning ironclad ship; and a young woman in a lifelong contract to a trading syndicate, whose espionage mission places her on the front lines of a newly declared war. As empires clash and arcane mysteries reveal themselves, these characters are tested again and again and soon discover that the fate of the world rests on their shoulders. -Goodreads

The Review: 

Have you ever read a book that felt like it was written just for you? That’s how The Waking Fire made me feel. It had everything I love in fantasy novels and then some. And it was also one of the best dragon books I’ve ever read – nice!

The Waking Fire was a cool merge of dragon-centric high fantasy and 1920s era steampunk. It was filled with an abundance of exotic settings – everything from the high seas to ancient ruins deep in the jungle. It took a while before dragons really became the champions of the story, but they were definitely integral to the plot from the very beginning. The entire novel revolves around dragon blood and how each type can provide magical properties to a handful of gifted humans. It read very much like Sanderson’s Mistborn saga (where metals provide these properties rather than dragon blood), which is why I think fans of that series would most definitely enjoyed this one (and vice versa).

The Waking Fire is a multiple POV story, and I’d have a hard time telling you which perspective I enjoyed the most – they were all good! One thing I’ve always appreciated about Ryan’s work is that his female characters are always strong harbingers of change equal to his male characters. I wouldn’t say I found any of the women in The Waking Fire particularly relatable, but they were all equally kickass and interesting.

This book is one amazing armchair adventure that will give you one surprise after another. There were many passages I reread because the content was so dang cool, especially near the end. This book will punch you in the gut the entire way through and make you love every moment.

Overall, with the combination of dragons, exotic settings, amazing characters, great writing, and surprising plot, The Waking Fire is officially one of my new favorite books. I highly recommend it to fantasy fans, especially if you loved Blood Song – the first book in Ryan’s Raven’s Shadow Trilogy.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

 

Image

Mini Book Review: Gauntlgrym by R.A. Salvatore

gauntlgrymTitle: Gauntlgrym

Author: R. A. Salvatore

Series: Neverwinter #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The OverviewDrizzt joins Bruenor on his quest for the fabled dwarven kingdom of Gauntlgrym: ruins said to be rich with ancient treasure and arcane lore. But before they even get close, another drow and dwarf pair stumbles across it first: Jarlaxle and Athrogate. In their search for treasure and magic, Jarlaxle and Athrogate inadvertently set into motion a catastrophe that could spell disaster for the unsuspecting people of the city of Neverwinter–a catastrophe big enough to lure even the mercenary Jarlaxle into risking his own coin and skin to stop it. Unfortunately, the more they uncover about the secret of Gauntlgrym, the more it looks like they can’t stop it on their own. They’ll need help, and from the last people they ever thought to fight alongside again: Drizzt and Bruenor. -Goodreads

The Mini Review: 

Salvatore strikes again! I took a little break from this saga after The Ghost King (which ripped out my heart), but picking up Gauntlgrym after all that time felt like coming home.

Salvatore is known for his detailed hand-to-hand combat scenes, which pack a lot of excitement into his books. I have to say, after 20 or so novels of the same back-and-forth swordplay, I started to get a little… bored isn’t the right word, but let’s just say it lacks a bit of the thrill it once had for me. That said, I can’t imagine a Drizzt book without intricate fight scenes, so you really can’t win with me. ;P

Gauntlgrym’s storyline required an unusual passage of time compared to others in the series, which was a cool change of pace that kept me interested throughout. I also loved the mix of new and old characters – the elf woman (cover image), among my new favorites.

Overall, Gauntlgrym (I am proud to say that I can finally spell it without having to look it up– go me!) was a fun installment and excellent continuation of the series. Although it was nowhere near my favorite of the saga, I’m still excited to start Neverwinter sometime soon.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

 

Image

Book Review: The Obelisk Gate by N. K. Jemisin

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemison

Title: The Obelisk Gate

Author: N. K. Jemisin

Series: The Broken Earth #2

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever. It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy. It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last. The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken. -Goodreads

The Review:

The Broken Earth series is an experience. It’s so off the beaten path of typical fantasy novels that I feel like I’m getting a special treat every time I pick one up.

Jemisin gets major kudos for originality, creating one of the most unique stories I’ve ever read. Her world building and overall concept for the story was delivered with a shadowed, almost creepy atmosphere that will stick with you long after you put it down. The real brilliance lies in the writing. In the Fifth Season, Jemisin wove her story through three different perspectives, the most compelling of which was told in second person (which utilizes the “you” pronoun – “You walk to the edge of the cliff. You don’t much like heights.”) It’s a writing style you don’t see very often because it’s difficult to pull off. The Obelisk Gate was told with two POVs, the primay of which also utilizes second person. The way Jemisin wove all of those POVs into a braided plot was phenomenal.

Obelisk Gate was a strong sequel, keeping all of the amazing attributes from The Fifth Season (for the most part). There weren’t quite as many moving parts, as the story narrowed its focus, but it still had a cool atmosphere, interesting POV’s, and loads of great world building. And answers. A lot of mysteries were introduced in The Fifth Season without really being expanded on. Many events that happened started to make a lot more sense in hindsight after the revelations revealed in Obelisk Gate. What’s more, it set up new questions that promise an epic conclusion with The Stone Sky, currently slotted for release on August 15, 2017.

While reading The Broken Earth trilogy, I constantly marveled at how brilliant I think it is – five stars across the board. When finished, however, I always seem to look back on it fondly, but with a slight pit in my stomach. Some of the scenes are so profound that I doubt I’ll ever forget them, which is a mark of a truly exceptional writer. But it’s that pit that makes me constantly question my rating. I’m not used to books throwing me into such turmoil long after I put them down. I change my mind about the rating for this series on a daily basis, bouncing back and forth between 4 and 5 stars. I’ve landed on a solid 4.5 stars, but regardless of the exact number, just know if you decide to give this series a try, you’re in for a stellar read.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes