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Coming Soon: Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Title: Legion of Flame

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: Draconis Memoria #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: June 27, 2017

The Overview: For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood–and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed–to fuel and protect its empire. But now, a fearsome power has arisen–a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire, and all of civilization. -Goodreads 

Nik’s Notes:

 The Waking Fire is one of the best books I’ve ever read – it felt like it was written just for me! Dragons, adventure, steampunk, and so much more – it was awesome! The Sandrunner short story that goes along with it has also been really good, but it’s not doing much to hold me over. I’m so excited for Legion of Flame, I can hardly stand it. Is it June yet?

WHO ELSE IS EXCITED?!!

by Niki Hawkes

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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

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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

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Book Review: Sideswiped and The Drafter by Kim Harrison

The Drafter by Kim Harrison

Title: The Drafter

Author: Kim Harrison

Series: The Peri Reed Chronicles #.5 & #1

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: Sideswiped [4.5/5 stars] The Drafter [2/5 stars]

The Overview: The Bourne Identity meets Minority Report in this first highly anticipated installment in number-one New York Times best-selling author Kim Harrison’s sexy new romantic suspense trilogy, featuring a brilliant special task agent at the top of her field and set in a futuristic Detroit.During a routine but dangerous Opti task, Peri Reed finds out her trusted partner has made her a corrupt agent. Her unique ability to jump back 40 seconds in time to correct a mistake leaves her vulnerable when her partner, who is responsible for replacing her memory of the event, gives her a false one. But Peri lives and dies on her intuition, and she begins to piece her twisted reality together as she flees her one-time secure situation at Opti and tries to find the truth with a sullen but talented psychologist named Silas who works for the very agency trying to bring the Opti corruption to light. -Goodreads

The Review:

I’d actually like to start out with an ultra-mini review of Sideswiped: It was a perfect introduction of the characters, magic system, and slightly futuristic/alternate society. I thought it was absolutely delightful, yet heart wrenching at the same time. I loved every moment and afterward was totally AMPED to pick up The Drafter. [4.5/5 stars]

Then I picked up The Drafter.

I read a few posts on Kim Harrison’s blog a few months ago where she conveyed how disappointed she was that The Drafter wasn’t being received as well as she’d hoped. She stated something along the lines of “people just aren’t getting what I’m trying to do.” After finally reading the book, I can definitely see why some readers may have had trouble with it and why someone new to Kim Harrison’s work might not have the trust needed to push through the harder patches. It wasn’t a lack of characterization, world building, or writing in general – it’s clear Kim Harrison is still a master of all these things (especially with my impressions of Sideswiped), but rather the result of some unfortunate choices she made while outlining.

Issue 1: the biggest problem I had with The Drafter was it’s repetitive use of dramatic irony.

dramatic irony: where the full significance of the character’s words or actions are clear to the reader but unknown to the character.

Using it was a risky move on Harrison’s part, and I don’t think it paid off. I was aware of the foul play from the very beginning and therefore was forced to sit patiently through 400 pages as the main character figured it out for herself. It was tedious and a little bit frustrating, but the biggest issue was that a storyline constructed entirely around dramatic irony gave me no opportunity to get emotionally invested in the plot or feel any kind of suspense. As this is supposed to be a thriller of sorts, that’s a problem.

Issue 2: I don’t think the book started at the best place. It began way too far into the story arc (which felt like a scene out of the second or third book where the framework for the world had already been established and all of the characters properly introduced). Instead, we were thrown into the middle of the controversy without any backing of the situation showing us why we should care. Betrayals of certain characters were no big deal because to me, the fact that they betrayed is literally the only thing presented thus far about them.

Where the story started also provided very little time to understand the art of drafting itself, so I was shoved at even more of an arms distance from the plot while trying to figure out what the heck was going on. I imagine had I not learned a basic understanding of it in Sideswiped, I would have been struggling even more.

Finally, it didn’t provide any time to get to know the characters, which brings me to…

Issue 3: all the characters came across very unlikable right from the beginning. In sideswiped, Peri was introduced as a spunky, ambitious, and intelligent woman who was destined to do great things. In Drafter, she immediately appeared arrogant and flippant to the point of recklessness (also as an insufferable know-it-all with no back story to substantiate it). I didn’t like her or any characters around her. Again I mentioned that if I hadn’t read Sideswiped, I might have been put off permanently then and there.


So you see, there are plethora of reasons I think The Drafter could’ve been better – all of them a result of construction choices rather than any flaw on the author’s writing ability. I think if the events and timelines of the prequel have been expanded on as the first book, Harrison would’ve had another hit on her hands (yes – it really was that good, containing the missing pieces that made The Drafter feel incomplete). Because of how much I liked Sideswiped how much I trust Kim Harrison as an author, I am cautiously optimistic to see what The Operator has in store for me next.

If there’s one takeaway with my experience with The Drafter, it’s that if you are planning to read the series, for the love of God – read the prequel first.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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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

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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