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Book Review: Dead Iron by Devon Monk

Dead Iron by Devin Monk

Title: Dead Iron

Author: Devon Monk

Series: Age of Steam

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Overview: In steam age America, men, monsters, machines, and magic battle for the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, bounty hunter Cedar Hunt rides, cursed by lycanthropy and carrying the guilt of his brother’s death. Then he’s offered hope that his brother may yet survive. All he has to do is find the Holder: a powerful device created by mad devisers-and now in the hands of an ancient Strange who was banished to walk this Earth. In a land shaped by magic, steam, and iron, where the only things a man can count on are his guns, gears, and grit, Cedar will have to depend on all three if he’s going to save his brother and reclaim his soul once and for all…-Goodreads

The Review:

There’s really no other way to sum it up: Dead Iron was weird.

I’ve been dabbling in clockwork & steampunk lately, and Dead Iron comparatively did a great job creating a unique overall atmosphere in line with that theme. As a general rule, I don’t have a lot of patience with bizarre, but it was balanced enough here that I was still able to enjoy the story and appreciate the elements.

The story bounced around between several POVs, and while I liked all the characters, I struggled to find a real connection to any of them. Possibly because their personal conflicts were each so off the wall that it was impossible to focus on anything else (the side characters were even more odd). I needed at least one of them to have a relatable problem, then I would’ve been more invested.

That said, I liked the basic writing (on par with my limited but good experiences with Devon Monk), and appreciated how well the words flowed off the page. Regardless of my preferential issues with story components, the writing was good enough to solidify my resolve to read more from this author.

Overall, I’m left with a few more positive vibes than negatives, but I find myself not eager to dive into the next book (I think I’m worried I’ve seen everything it has to offer already and will just get bored with the rest of it). It was memorable enough that I don’t think I’ll forget key components or characters any time soon, so I might bump it back down the list and start a few others before continuing.

Recommendations: as I mentioned, if you like steampunk and clockwork, this is a great pick. Bonus points if you also like the Wild West, bizarre scenes, and an urban fantasy writing style. It perhaps might have been a bit too weird for my tastes, but if you’re really in the mood for something out of the box, here you go…

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan + GIVEAWAY!

[June 27, 2017] Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Title: The Legion of Flame

Author: Anthony Ryan

Series: The Draconis Memoria #2

Genre: Fantasy

Release Date: June 27, 2017

Rating: 5/5 stars!

The Overview: Empires clash and a fell power stakes its claim in the second in a new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy. 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 for all of civilization. -Goodreads

The Review: 

If you start only one new fantasy series this year, make it Draconis Memoria by Anthony Ryan! I thought The Waking Fire was one of the best books I’d ever read, but Legion of Flame was even better!

Legion of Flame was the ultimate armchair adventure! Each chapter was so good, I had a difficult time finding decent stopping points (and as such, stayed up way too late on too many occasions to finish it). Ryan ended each of his chapters with an aggravatingly brilliant hook that just begged you to keep reading (so I did). There was always an abundance of action, adventure, exploration, steampunk, and, of course, dragons. Every element came together brilliantly for, I’ll say it again, one of the best books I’ve ever read.

In both of these books, Ryan takes you on an exploration of this world and allows you to discover its breathtaking histories/mysteries alongside some very memorable characters. This depth of discovery, combined with a very Indiana Jones adventure feel, is truly the magic of these novels and one of my favorite elements. There’s such a sense of wonder with his world-building – stuff that will truly dazzle you. I can’t even begin to guess what he has in store next!

Both books incorporate multiple POVs and they were all equally exciting to read about. Each character was perfectly placed to give us a grand picture of what’s transpiring, and I triple-dog-dare you to pick a favorite – they’re all deserving of the title. If forced, I’d say Lizanne struck a chord with me the most because her personality has a lot of duality, making her very interesting to read about.

Let’s talk about dragons for a minute. The dragons are incredibly well-conceived in this series. So far, their role has been much stronger than I’d dared hope – it truly is a dragon book. I love the varieties, their importance to the human populations, their significance in the story, and, most predominantly, how well they’re being represented. Ryan manages to keep all the things that I think comprise great dragons while simultaneously amping them up with his own twists. They’re brilliant! And if this wasn’t already one of my favorite books for story, characters, and world-building alone, it would be for the dragons.

So because of the amazing characters, seamless blend of fantasy and steampunk, exciting adventures, page-turning plot, and killer use of dragons, Legion of Flame is perfection. I plan to recommend it as often as I can!

I’d like to think Berkley Publishing Group, Anthony Ryan, and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review an early copy of The Legion of Flame!


The Waking Fire Giveaway!

The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

The publisher has graciously offered up a paperback copy of The Waking Fire for me to give away to one lucky US resident (I’m very sorry to all of my international followers – you guys are important to me too!). To enter, just take a moment to fill out this rafflecopter giveaway form, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway Ended – winner has been contacted. :)

US Residents only, please.
The giveaway will run until Midnight on Thursday, July 6, 2017 MST.

Other books you might like:

by Niki Hawkes

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Book Review: The Dragons of Dorcastle by Jack Campbell

The dragons of dorcastleTitle: Dragons of Dorcastle

Author: Jack Campbell

Series: The Pillars of Reality #1

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

The Overview: For centuries, the two Great Guilds have controlled the world of Dematr. The Mechanics and the Mages have been bitter rivals, agreeing only on the need to keep the world they rule from changing. But now a Storm approaches, one that could sweep away everything that humans have built. Only one person has any chance of uniting enough of the world behind her to stop the Storm, but the Great Guilds and many others will stop at nothing to defeat her. Mari is a brilliant young Mechanic, just out of the Guild Halls where she has spent most of her life learning how to run the steam locomotives and other devices of her Guild. Alain is the youngest Mage ever to learn how to change the world he sees with the power of his mind. Each has been taught that the works of the other’s Guild are frauds. But when their caravan is destroyed, they begin to discover how much has been kept from them. As they survive danger after danger, Alain discovers what Mari doesn’t know—that she was long ago prophesized as the only one who can save their world. When Mari reawakens emotions he had been taught to deny, Alain realizes he must sacrifice everything to save her. Mari, fighting her own feelings, discovers that only together can she and Alain hope to stay alive and overcome the Dragons of Dorcastle.

The Review:

I really like the concept for this story – there are two different Guilds, one dedicated to Mechanics, the other to Mages. They don’t much like each other, which sets the stage for a lot of conflict. Add to that the mention of dragons in the title, and I knew this was a book I was interested in reading.

I especially liked the Mages vs. Mechanics idea because it was an opportunity to explore the conflicting concepts magic vs. science. Campbell did a great job integrating the two ideas into a single world, embracing that both were possible depending on your perception of how the world works. It felt like a solid framework to build from, and was probably my favorite element of the story.

However, as much as I liked the concepts, there were a few things about how they were executed that I did not enjoy.

For example, we learned about this framework for the world and how Mechanics and Mages see things differently through dialogue… and a lot of it. Endless pages of the Mechanic explaining how the Mechanics work, the Mage explaining how the Mages work, both of them explaining to other people why they made the choices they did. Then each would turn around and have a mental conversation with himself/herself to rationalizing what they just had explained to them. It was tedious. It also didn’t leave a lot of room for plot-advancement aside from their very thoroughly explored internal growth.

And it wasn’t even always that they were explaining stuff, but rather what they were explaining that put me off. Let me explain ;) – the Mages believe emotion is a weakness, so they suppress all of the things that make them human. But instead of just having the Mage fight not to act on certain emotions and concepts, the author chose to have him not be aware of those concepts altogether, which means the reader has to endure the Mechanic explaining to the Mage what words like “help,” “friendship,” and even “taste” literally mean. Now, I definitely don’t mind when authors take time to explain things to the readers, but they have to be things that don’t exist in our world that actually require explanation. Even if the Mages suppressed certain emotions out of their students, you have to start with at least a semi-understanding of the concept before it can be eradicated, right? In any case, I guess I just didn’t appreciate how it was written, and could see how a different approach might have worked better.

Furthermore, it made the Mage in question come across a little simple and juvenile which meant I had a difficult time taking him seriously. The Mechanic, on the other hand, was a really interesting character and I found myself enjoying her passages the most (although that could be because the plot only seemed to advance under her perspective). It’s also worth mentioning that the end half was better than the first half (because they stopped explaining stuff to each other quite as often), which is why my rating is a bit higher than it was going to be.

Overall, I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I wanted to. The great concept that got me to pick up the book in the first place was swallowed by needless repetition and dialogue. This is a shame because I finished the book still very interested in the basic idea behind it but lacking the patience to see how it will develop. I might continue on eventually, but it will be a hard sell. Despite my objections, I might actually still recommend it, especially to readers who don’t mind repetition (If you read The Sword of Truth series without once thinking “I’m really getting tired of hearing about the ‘Pristinely Ungifted,'” or any of the other of Goodkind’s repetitive concepts, this might be an excellent series for you). Like I said, the premise really was a good one.

Other books you might like:

The fact that my additional recommendations are pretty eclectic shows that The Dragons of Dorcastle really was a unique book…

by Niki Hawkes

Coming Soon: Clockwork Princess

Mar 19Title: Clockwork Princess

Series: Infernal Devices #3

Author: Cassandra Clare

Release Date: March 19, 2013

Actually my favorite of Cassandra Clare’s works, the Infernal Devices trilogy is an excellent steampunk, mystery, teen romance that was a lot of fun to read. “Clockwork Princess” is supposed to be the final book, but she said that about the Immortals trilogy and those are still being released. As much as I would enjoy reading more about these characters, I’m pretty excited to find out how it all ends!