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Book Review: The Light of All That Falls by James Islington

The Light of All That Falls by James Islington

Title: The Light of All That Falls

Author: James Islington

Series: Licanius #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

The Overview: The Light of All That Falls concludes the epic adventure that began in The Shadow of What Was Lost, the acclaimed fantasy blockbuster from James Islington. The Boundary is whole once again, but it may be too late. Banes now stalk Andarra, while in Ilin Illan, the political machinations of a generation come to a head as Wirr’s newfound ability forces his family’s old enemies into action. Imprisoned and alone in a strange land, Davian is pitted against the remaining Venerate as they work tirelessly to undo Asha’s sacrifice – even as he struggles with what he has learned about the friend he chose to set free. And Caeden, now facing the consequences of his centuries-old plan, must finally confront its reality – heartbroken at how it began, and devastated by how it must end. -Goodreads

The Review:

A superb conclusion to one of my new favorite fantasy trilogies!

My reread of the first two book in preparation for the finale was definitely a highlight of 2020. It hadn’t been that long since I’d read them initially, but there’s a lot of complexity to the story and the characters that made the refresher necessary. The added benefit is that the books were even better upon my reread, as I was able to retain all the details.

I’ve said it before, but part of the reason this series appeals to me so much is the overall writing style. It takes classic fantasy elements and then twists and enhances them into something modern and complex. I felt the comfort you only get from old novels of the genre, but was completely engaged in the endless plot dynamics. The series definitely requires more concentration than normal. Not quite Gardens of the Moon level, but up there if you want to appreciate all the nuances. I wish the first time around I’d paid more attention to name distinction because it was really easy to slip into character confusion (via audio, anyway). It’s not a light read by any means, but it’s well worth the effort.

Spoiler-free, I found the conclusion really satisfying. The ultimate resolution was something I predicted, but it was written so well that I still had all the feels (that’s a mark of a good author – even when you know it’s coming, you can still experience the gut-punch). Overall, I think in this case the quality of the ending and conflict resolutions was weighted more heavily for this series because of how layered the plot had been. I’d been so patient, trusting that the payoff was worth wading through the complexity, and I was not disappointed. There were so many fantastic “reveals” in this book, and I can’t help but feel a little like a gushing fangirl whenever I talk about them.

Recommendations: I was holding out for the conclusion before making my final assessment, and it absolutely did not disappoint. The Licanius Trilogy is now a favorite and an official Obsessive Bookseller recommend. I’d hand it to anyone who loves classic fantasy but wants more complexity and dynamics in their novels.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Title: Fugitive Telemetry

Author: Martha Wells

Series: Murderbot #6

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating:  4.5/5 stars

The Overview: “No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.” When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?). Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans! -Goodreads

The Review:

I’ll be the first to admit that I love Murderbot so much that anything published in the series immediately gets a baseline rating of three stars… anything I find particularly amusing above and beyond expectation launches it up from there. The full-length novel had all the Murderbot attributes but, after some distance from my initial impressions (and review), I don’t think the extended plot did the story any favors. It was a bit repetitive and could’ve benefitted from a more generous edit. Coming back home to another novella in Fugitive Telemetry was exactly what the series needed to refresh itself back absolutely superb rather than just merely awesome.

I loved this one. Probably my second favorite after Rogue Protocol. As always, Murderbot was a scream (the humor kind), but what struck me in this one was how much the character has grown. It’s definitely still an antisocial introvert, but you can now read between the lines to see that it actually is finding a bit of begrudging comfort out of its “relationships” and gets a little butt-hurt whenever someone snubs it over a prejudice. My favorite scenes here were the ones involving it trying to work with the humans on their very inefficient terms. Hysterical.

The mystery was very satisfying and the pacing was spot-on. I had to stop myself from devouring too fast because who knows when we’ll get another one. Martha Wells has truly created a unique voice that is as memorable as it is funny.

Recommendations: I’m a huge fan of everything about this series and plan to continue recommending it as often as I can. Murderbot is my spirit animal. I don’t care how much I read, I’ll never get tired of his sardonic nature. The series is especially recommendable because the installments are so short – they give people a chance to try them out without a huge time commitment. I don’t know about everyone else, but I was sold on the very first line…

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Planetside by Michael Mammay

Title: Planetside

Author: Michael Mammay

Series: N/A (…yet)

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 5/5 stars!!!

The Overview: War heroes aren’t usually called out of semi-retirement and sent to the far reaches of the galaxy for a routine investigation. So when Colonel Carl Butler answers the call from an old and powerful friend, he knows it’s something big—and he’s not being told the whole story. A high councilor’s son has gone MIA out of Cappa Base, the space station orbiting a battle-ravaged planet. The young lieutenant had been wounded and evacuated—but there’s no record of him having ever arrived at hospital command. The colonel quickly finds Cappa Base to be a labyrinth of dead ends and sabotage: the hospital commander stonewalls him, the Special Ops leader won’t come off the planet, witnesses go missing, radar data disappears, and that’s before he encounters the alien enemy. Butler has no choice but to drop down onto a hostile planet—because someone is using the war zone as a cover. The answers are there—Butler just has to make it back alive… -Goodreads

The Review:

Planetside is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Everything about it hit the spot. It’s about a semi-retired Colonel who gets recruited to investigate circumstances surrounding a missing lieutenant. Right off the bat I loved the main character. He had a very no-bullshit approach to things, and his dry humor cracked me up constantly. In some ways, he reminded me a bit of both Avasarala (Expanse – she’s the bomb) and John Perry (Old Man’s War), to give you an idea the type of character profile we’re dealing with here. I think Colonel Butler could’ve been just sitting there reading a newspaper and I still would’ve eaten up every moment.

Planetside also offered an interesting mystery to solve, and I particularly enjoyed the intel-gathering aspect of the story. It made me feel involved, and the incremental reveal of each new piece of info was perfectly done. It also did an amazing job building momentum. You all know how much I love that gradually building plot that eventually sweeps you into a headlong careen to the end. Planetside definitely did not disappoint in that regard. I finished the book on a high, ready to go again.

Colonel Butler’s dry humor, as I mentioned, really was the highlight of the book for me. The way he spoke, processed information, and dealt with people sent me into constant giggle fits. I love dry, subtle situational humor and it’s placement was superb. All great components aside, the fact that Planetside amused me so much is probably the main reason it landed itself on my conservative all-time favorites list. I can’t wait to see what Michael Mammay comes up with next!

Recommendations: love sci-fi? Planetside is my new #1 rec for you. I loved everything about this book and will probably be talking about as often as I can for a while. It had the perfect balance of mystery, humor, and action.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far in 2018!

Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far in 2018!

I’ve had a pretty decent year in reading so far, and a few of these titles have even been added to my very conservative list of all-time favorites. What’s more, I actually wrote reviews for most of them (that’s a big wow for me). So, in no particular order:


The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

Emperors Blades by Brian Staveley [5/5 stars]

This review has been a long time coming, as Emperor’s Blades is still one of the best books I’ve read this year (actual Goodreads update: “5/5 stars! And a new addition to my shelf of favorites!”). But for some reason I’ve been stalling on writing the review. Maybe because I know logically the book had a few problems and won’t work for everyone, but I tell you, every single aspect of the story worked for me. So I’m going to proceed fangirling as if I was unaware of the things others found fault in. ;P To start it off …This is a sneak peak of an upcoming review scheduled July 20, 2018.

Child of a Mad God by R.A. Salvatore

Child of a Mad God by R. A. Salvatore [4/5 stars]

I’ve been reading (and enjoying) R.A. Salvatore for almost 20 years, so what struck me as profound during Child of a Mad God was how well-rounded a writer he has evolved into. He was always an accomplished storyteller, but compared to his early works in the world of Corona (published in the late 1990s) it’s immediately clear how next-level his work has become. Child of a Mad God was superbly written and I don’t have a single critical thing to say about any craft-related aspect of this book – it was excellent. I didn’t realize this book was part of the Corona …Read Full Review

Siren by Kiera Cass [4.5/5 stars]

No one is more surprised than me how much I freaking loved this book. Cass and I have a bit of a hit or miss relationship where I’m either 100% on-board fangirling… or throwing the book in disgust. Luckily, The Siren fell into the former category – something I wasn’t led to expect based on some brutal early reviews I read for the book. I have a theory as to why it caused such harsh reactions for fans of Cass’ work: The book is less about the romance, where the main love interest is kept on the periphery for most of the book …Read Full Review

Knight's Shadow by Sebastien De Castille

Knights Shadow by Sebastien de Castell [4.5/5 stars]

Considering how polarized my opinion was for Traitor’s Blade, it’s surprising even to me how thoroughly I enjoyed Knight’s Shadow. It must have been the perfect combination of elements to satisfy my mood because even while reading it I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why I liked it so much. It just had that addictive quality that kept pulling me back to it in favor of other things, which is something books don’t do to me a lot these days. The balance between humor and grit was well done, so I enjoyed laughing while …Read Full Review

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik [4.5/5 stars]

Woe is me for not having read this years ago! I had this amazing dragon book sitting unread on my shelf for over 10 years… and I’m surprised no one revoked my membership to the dragon obsession club (not a real thing). In all fairness, the way people described this book and series gave me a very different impression than what the first book actually entailed. They’d say, “it’s an alternate military history, but with dragons.” I’m sure that description is completely accurate for the series as a whole, but had someone mentioned even briefly that His Majesty’s Dragon was less about …Read Full Review

[July 17, 2018] Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen [4/5 stars]

I’m really pleased with this sequel. The story seems more in line with what I think people were expecting from the first book: highly-trained teens dropped on an alien planet to mine Nyxia. There was less competition in this book than the first, and I missed a bit of that head-to-head drama, but the good character dynamics remained strong. What it offered instead was a new world to explore – complete with diverse flora and fauna, a fascinating planetary history, and indigenous beings with a breathtaking culture. Nyxia Unleashed was filled with countless moments of wonder and awe. The world-building was superbly …This is a sneak peak of an upcoming review scheduled July 16, 2018.

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews [4.5/5 stars]

Everybody who said “ignore the cover, this book is awesome!” was absolutely right. I should preface this review by saying that I recently got up to date with the Kate Daniels series (my current holy grail of urban fantasy), so I’m still riding the high from all the amazing things I experienced there. My opinion of Burn for Me was definitely influenced by my feelings for these authors in general. Had I read this first, I’m certain the rating would’ve been more conservative because I’d have still been trying to assess how I felt about the writing. Since I already know …Read Full Review

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Murderbot Diaries (the whole thing) by Martha Wells [5/5 stars]

Murderbot might be my spirit animal. I loved this novella. It had a fun plot and, more importantly, it had a killer main character (pun intended) who will speak to your inner introvert like no other. And it was funny. I wasn’t expecting to laugh so much at a SecUnit POV, but the situational humor and dialogue delighted me at every turn. Good humor will spark a higher rating in me every time, and it almost feels like a bonus that everything else was so good too. Overall, All Systems Red had all the components I look for in a sci-fi …Read Full Review I have a fun full-series narrative review coming July 23, 2018.

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews [5/5 stars]

Iron and Magic somehow managed to become my favorite Ilona Andrews book to date! It joined a very small percentage of books allowed on my all-time favorites list, and no one is more surprised at that than me. It’s a true testament to these writers’ skills that they managed to make me fall in love with a book about a character I don’t even like. And furthermore to get me feeling deep empathy towards him. I can say with confidence coming out of this book that I’m 100% rooting for Hugh (even though he’s still an ass ;P). He was always an interesting …Read Full Review

Menagerie by Rachel VincentMenagerie by Rachel Vincent [4.5/5 stars]

I reeled so much from this book but I never got around to writing a review. It was a fantastic surprise and I’m very eager to see how the trilogy concludes in Fury this fall. :)

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I can’t single out just one as my very favorite, but my top 3 are easily Emperor’s Blades, Iron and Magic, and All Systems Red. Here’s hoping the remainder of 2018 is just as awesome. :)

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

[May 16, 2017] Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb

Title: Assassin’s Fate

Author: Robin Hobb

Series: The Fitz and The Fool #3

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5/5 stars!

Release Date: May 9, 2017*

The Overview: Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain. As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return. For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge. -BN.com

The Book Review:

What can I say about the conclusion to the series that has dazzled me for years (becoming my all-time favorite) other than: wow.

Assassin’s Fate was beautiful, terrible, and profound. I savored each page, painfully aware it might be the last time I experience this world. I’ve never been as emotionally invested in a story as I was with Hobb’s work, her writing draws you in so completely that you forget yourself for a while, totally at the mercy of her story. Each of her series evoked real emotion – a sense of love and loss that is almost unparalleled by anything else I’ve ever read. Assassin’s Fate was the most gut-wrenching to date, but it was worth every painful, poignant moment. I’ll be reeling from this one for years to come.

I love this series for so many things: its rich histories and epic world building, its endearingly human characters (flaws and all), its immersive writing, but one of my favorite things about it is the subtle weaving of dragons into the story. It’s quite brilliantly done – dragons always seem to be the center of the overall arc of each series, but are often kept on the periphery of the events within each book (with the exception of the Rain Wilds Chronicles). The further you read, the more you start to realize their significant impact on the world and characters. As someone who loves dragons almost obsessively, I ate up every word. Hobb’s representation of them is truly breathtaking. Oddly though, I wouldn’t call these series dragon-centric because, while essential to the plot, they are usually not the focal point.

At the conclusion of Fool’s Fate, (the final book in the Tawny Man Trilogy, a reading experience I’ll never forget), I’d been under the impression Fitz’s tale was at an end. Therefore, when The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy was announced in August 2014, it felt like Christmas had come early. And it was even better than I dared hope! With the introduction of a new POV character, Bee, whom I love just as fiercely as Fitz, this trilogy offered a convergence of every Elderling series before it (Fitz + Liveship + Rain Wilds = Amazing!). It was an unexpected surprise, and I can’t even begin to describe how elated I was. If you haven’t yet experienced the brilliant world of the Elderlings, I suggest reading in the following order (to avoid spoilers):

Farseer Trilogy
Liveship Trilogy
Tawny Man Trilogy
Rain Wilds Chronicles
Fitz and the Fool

Above are the first books in each of these amazing series, respectively.

Each series brings with it loads of new discoveries, and I cherished every detail. Learning the histories of this world is also one of my favorite elements to the series. Each new detail felt like a revelation, and it got to a point where I was hanging on every word, hoping to find out more. Who knew it would go so far beyond the somewhat narrow framework of a little orphan boy at Buckkeep castle in Assassin’s Apprentice?

All the books Hobb has written in this world are amazing. Each story is a slow burn that takes its time, building momentum as it goes. By the time you reach the end, you’re hurtling so fast you wish you could slow it down to savor every moment. Assassin’s Fate and every book that came before it are officially The Obsessive Bookseller’s top recommends. I loved every beautiful, gut-wrenching moment and will keep these characters close to my heart forever.

*Thank you Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, NetGalley, and Robin Hobb for the chance to read and review an early copy of Assassin’s Fate– you made my year! :D

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Top Ten Underrated Fantasy Authors!

top ten tuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

 I did a TTT similar to this many moons ago so I need to apologize to the handful of you who have been following me since then. I normally don’t repeat topics, but I strongly feel that these authors deserve just as much of a spotlight as the well-known mainstream authors (if not more). Talking about brilliant authors most people haven’t discovered yet is why I love being a bookseller and a book blogger. It’s impossible to read all the books, so you might as well read the best. I should point out that these authors may not be technically “underrated” but they are certainly deserving of more recognition!

Top Ten Underrated Fantasy Authors!

 Not only are these epic, well-rounded fantasies, but also happened to be among my all-time favorites. Their writing, plots, characters, and world-building are phenomenal and on par with (and in some cases better than) any other fantasies on the market. These authors deserve kudos for their amazing story-telling, and I plan to continue championing them for as long as I can. If you love fantasy and need some good reading, this is a great place to start!

by Niki Hawkes