Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Wyrd & Wonder Read-A-Long: The Summer Tree (week two)

I was going to keep adding all the questions to the same post but ack, my life is way too complicated as it is and a new post is easier! That said, these posts are exclusively for the readalong so turn back now to avoid spoilers!

The questions for week two, chapters roughly 6-8 , of the readalong are provided by Nils and some of the fine folks over at https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/posts/ !

Here was week 1


1) There was a little confusion last week on whether chapter six was supposed to be included, so let’s explore this one first. We discussed the Pervy Prince last week – would you like to weigh in on his antics across the border?

I firmly believe that it takes two to tango.  If the princess was down for a roll in the hay, and it seemed like she was, fine and so be it. It’s probably an advantageous political match if nothing else

I have more pressing questions like – how did they know about each other if the worlds are kept apart so much that no one has visited in 1000 years? How the hell are the physical letters even getting across, it’s not like carrier pigeons would know where to go… Someone explain this to me lol

2)We’re a sizable step into the story now, so how are we all finding the pacing?

The pacing is definitely getting quicker and the story more interesting. What threw me off is the chapter lengths and how they went from like 10 pages on average to 40 or 50 each. I found that jarring.

3) Loren continues his mysterious antics, have your opinions about him shifted at all? Or is there a certain other mage you’re now more concerned about?

I am worried about ALL the mages! It seems like each one has their own individual agenda and I’m wondering which one (or for who) Ysanne’s helper is working for.

Loren almost rode his horse to death, and for what? What is his game? Metran actually had me cracking up because both old men are pretending to be a lot more creaky and senile than they are. I wondered if Ailell and Metran are onto each other in the way that “it takes a faker to know one”

4) Between the children’s game and Kim’s dream, not to mention Ysanne’s mutterings to herself, prophecy is a key element weaving through this story. What are your reactions to the various foretellings thus far?

The children’s game freaked me out a bit, I am super curious to know what The Longest Road is! I also am curious as to why Jaelle could sense a prophecy or power being fulfilled but not discern it’s meaning.  If I were her I think I would have struck a peace with Ysanne to find out what had occurred.

I love all the prophecy though, it’ll be fun to see how much is fulfilled and where it all fits into “the tapestry”

5) Let’s address the massive sacrificial magical tree in the room – would you have offered yourself in Paul’s shoes?

Absolutely not, 100% absolutely not.  I’m not overtly Catholic but suicide is a huge no-no.  I don’t even see any good reason why Paul wants to die so badly, I get that his ex died but whatever else he is grieving for needs to be addressed because right now I just consider him depressed and mentally unbalanced

6) There were two pretty major battles this week. The lios alfar were slaughtered by Galadan, and Paul witnessed a truly moving fight between Galadan and his mysterious canine protector. What were your reactions?

The first fight mentioned was interesting because it brought out the Galadan / Matram storyline, and seems to be sucking the entire kingdom into war.

That said, the fight between the canines was a lot more moving. Paul has to hang on for 3 days and nights to fulfill the prophecy and The Companion bought him the time to do so.

Why doesn’t Galadan want the sacrifice fulfilled, what is coming? What happens to him when Mörnir comes?

7) There’s still no sign of Dave! First time readers – any theories? Revisitors, do you recall if you had any opinions on this before?

I think Dave is hiding in a linen closet and watching everything, waiting for the time to jump out and save everyone.  Either that or he is joined up with the king’s other son (who I think we briefly met at the end of chapter 7), because wouldn’t that be ironic

Any other thoughts this week?

I think it’s a good read still but these longer chapters are hard for my attention span.  I also wish that GGK would stop throwing random names and items and events out with explanations.  It’s a lot to keep track of and with more questions than answers I am so afraid I’m going to miss something important

Categories
Fantasy

Iron Garland by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

It looks like Wyrd & Wonder month is turning into a binge of the Harbinger series by Jeff Wheeler.  They are quick reads thankfully because I am dying to jump into Deadhouse Gates because yes, Malazan is life now LOL.

Iron Garland is the first book I have blogged this month that is eligible for the Wyrd & Wonder bingo board, so…. I am using it for the prompt “Don’t leave the path”.  While it’s not in a woodland connotation, the first reason is that the world of Lockhaven and high society is so strict in societal norms for women that a single misstep in a dance, a single breach of propriety, crossing the wrong person, any small thing can derail a woman’s prospects. Stay on that path! The second “path” is that of the Mastons. There is a very different set of beliefs and guidelines for Mastons (think like religious norms with divine guidance) that also set a strict path for these people.  While the Knowing won’t abandon people for making mistakes and learning from them, it gets harder and harder to get back on the right path after straying due to the way society and debt is structured, plus the influence of the Myriad ones.

Now that I’ve talked about the prompt, let’s briefly talk about the book! Spoiler free of course. My reviews for the series so far are linked at the bottom!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Iron Garland
  • Series: Harbinger #3
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North – November 2018
  • Length: 353 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 absolutely keep the series going

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

For three years, Sera Fitzempress has been a pawn in a gilded prison—the floating manor of Pavenham Sky. Disgraced and exiled from society, she has been isolated from the downtrodden she’s determined to liberate. But although Sera may seem subservient on the outside, the stubborn princess has only become emboldened.

Now in charge of her family’s estate, Cettie Pratt has grown into an independent young woman, although she continues to be tested by the high society of the clouds. Advancing in the magic of the Mysteries, Cettie is also a useful tool of defense during turbulent times. However, as more of Cettie’s mysterious past comes to light, her greatest challenge may be a reckless stranger with a dark secret.

The fog of war is drawing in, and with it comes a startling new enemy who may unravel secrets that both women would prefer stay hidden. But their secrets may be the only way to stop the coming darkness…

Ok I know I didn’t love Mirror Gate so much but Wheeler brings all the stops out in Iron Garland.

Wheeler assumes now that we are familiar enough with both the Harbinger and Kingfountain worlds to drop all pretenses and world building fluff and tell the story.

Sera absolutely shines in this one.  It is the growth and power I have been waiting for from her! Three years have passed since she was figuratively imprisoned at Pavenham Sky, and as much as we hate to admit it, Lady Corinne gave her the tools she needed to succeed at court.  I was thrilled to see Sera at Kingfountain and I think Prince Trevon will be interesting going forward as well.

One exciting thing is that Wheeler tells us something about an old Kingfountain legend – the Maid of Donremy – that I won’t share for spoiler alerts but it brings the entire war of hard feelings into perspective and raises a lot of thoughts too.

Cettie is powerful as well in this novel and I am both happy and sad for her.  I think we all knew by now that Cettie was to be the Harbinger, that’s not a spoiler, and it was joyful to see her stand up to her adopted siblings and come into her own as Keeper of Fog Willows.  Towards the end though, was she losing her mind? It is entirely out of character for Cettie to ignore a prized possession going missing and someone clearly meddling with her business items.  There is absolutely no way she wouldn’t have confronted anyone about this or pursued it until she had answers, I just don’t believe it.

Action wise – the book opens with a ghastly murder, contains the end of a war, a hunt for a Fear Liath, and some absolutely stunning duplicity towards the end.  The cliffhanger is as equally alarming as the beginning and the book hardly slows down in between. This is what I expect from Wheeler, nothing less at this point!

Lastly I should mention the new residents of Gimmerton Sough, the manor next to Fog Willows – I can’t say too much but the foreshadowing throughout the early part of the novel is obvious and real. You don’t know exactly what the foreshadowing is pointing to but you know to be very, very alert for issues and when they start popping up, oh my 😭 I am so worried for my Fitzroy siblings that I’m going to start Prism Cloud today

Can you think of any books where characters must stay on a literal or figurative path??


The Harbinger Series:

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Mirror Gate by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

I saved my Mirror Gate review to fall on the Wyrd & Wonder prompt 5-Star Fantasy! It wouldn’t be a fantasy reading month if I didn’t finish and feature at least one book by Wheeler. See my review links for prior books in the series at the end!

While I didn’t give Mirror Gate 5 stars (sorry but I already read Muirwood) – I can constantly rely on Jeff Wheeler for clean, wholesome fantasy that keeps me absorbed from cover to cover. More often than not his books breeze 5 stars for me. 

**One last note before talking about the book – holy cow did anyone see the release day numbers for Druid?? It slammed #1 in both epic and historical fantasy for both book and Kindle form!! Wheeler’s fans were READY for it!**

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mirror Gate
  • Series: Harbinger #2
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, August 2018
  • Length: 349 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes to this world colliding series

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler continues his wondrous Harbinger series in which two young women unite as two worlds approach the brink of war…

Though relations between Princess Seraphin Fitzempress and her father have been strained, Sera’s royal position has remained unchallenged. Filled with self-doubt, she struggles to grasp the Mysteries—her greatest trial yet.

An education in the enigmatic magic is a necessary one, should Sera plan to rise in her station and invoke her powers during war. But the emperor’s death now leaves both Sera and her ambitious father eligible for the throne—a contest the prince regent intends to win. Even if it means an alliance with a rival empire.

Sera’s hope lies in Cettie, a waif raised in the world below, whose life has intertwined with Sera’s in the most unexpected ways. The Mysteries come easily to Cettie, and her studies have begun to yield new insight into her growing powers. But those same powers put Cettie in the path of those who would destroy her.

Now as the threat of war ignites and an insidious sickness spreads throughout the kingdom, Sera and Cettie will need to gather their courage and fight for each other’s lives…and for the future of their endangered world.

Mirror Gate jumps about 4 years into the future after Storm Glass left off. Cettie and Sera are about to take the test at Muirwood Abbey, but dark machinations are working against them.  There was more action and excitement in this book than the first one!

With the Emperor now dead, Sera’s father will scheme up literally anything to get her out of his way to the throne. Unfortunately the odds are against her as war also brews with Kingfountain(!) and she just doesn’t have the experience needed to step into office yet

“I apologize if I’ve embarrassed you, Mr. Skrelling,” she said. “I think it for the best if you depart and compose your feelings”

– Cettie

I love Cettie. She brought back a lot of old Muirwood memories including the cruciger orb, kestrals, the myriad ones, and even a kishion. While it was nice to revisit this lore, my gut told me to dock a star for rehashing old ideas instead of bringing in new ones, regardless of how it all ties together.

I liked seeing Cettie & Sera and think the page time recapping Muirwood lore would have been better spent showing their growing relationship or time at the Abbey, vs catapulting them 4 years ahead to BFF status.

There’s a new character named Juliana who was just amazing! She is utterly fierce and added a lot to the plot, action, and banter

“Hang the Aldermaston!” Juliana barked. Doctor Redd covered his eyes, shaking his head worriedly.

One thing I especially liked was how Wheeler brought back an idea that @niseam_stories also wrote extensively on – that bizarre, harmful, misleading thoughts may either come from outside influence or our mind trying to play ticks. We should be wary and critical of those thoughts. 

The mind could only think of one thing at a time, and she had every right to control what those thoughts would be

Wheeler is big on thoughts influencing actions.

One thing I didn’t like was in one of the Aldermaston’s lectures, Wheeler got lost in the theology and dropped a few phrases like ‘second life’ that needed explanation. Also while the colliding world theme was cool, it was kind of hard to see Kingfountain as a conquering nation of zealots, with submarines? How long after Trynne’s storyline did this occur?

Overall: betrayal, political machinations galore, more betrayal, more intrigue, and all of the above is exactly what I love about these books. I picked it apart but really immensely enjoy this world. 

The end left the characters in interesting places and I am extremely excited to read the next book in the series. War is beginning, Sera is trapped, and Cettie is learning how deep found family truly runs.

Kate Rudd is an amazing narrator too, I hope she keeps narrating all of Wheeler’s books!

The Harbinger Series

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (Read-a-long Questions)

***Tree wolf image by chic2view (Wyrd & Wonder 2022)! Please do not alter the image & credit the artist ❤***


I am so glad to be reading The Summer Tree with the Wyrd & Wonder readalong! My favorite discussion format is a few chapters a week with questions, so this is perfect

I’ll be uploading my weekly discussion question responses to this thread!


Week One – Questions hosted by Imyril! Do check out her blog for tons of great fantasy content!

1) How are you reading along with us? Is this a first time or a reread? Show us your book cover!

I am reading via a paperback and this is my first time reading.  I have read Mists of Arbonne by GGK. Honestly if I had just read the synopsis of The Summer Tree I think I would have never picked it up since the blurb is borderline corny!

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2) The prose style is as distinctive as calling the prologue an overture. How are you finding it?

I don’t dislike the prose but he has the weirdest way of naming characters. Paul! Schafer! Paul Schafer! In 3 paragraphs GGK can call Paul 4 different names and it drives me nuts since there’s only one Paul. He does it with Dave Martyniuk too – there’s only one Dave and the scattered use of last names is just grating on me.for some reason

Some of his similes are a bit weird too – did anyone else catch the part at the end of chapter six where the lake was immediately sexualized and then that whole scene was allegoric to the loss of innocence? GGK makes some “interesting” stylistic choices

All in all, it is quick reading and easy to first prose

3) Each visitor gets a moment to define them before they arrive in Fionavar. What are your first impressions of our travellers? Any you particularly like / dislike?

I just don’t think it was enough! In that sequence GGK barely touches on the women while introducing parts of what motivates the men.  I’ve already got Paul picked out as the sacrificial lamb but I have no thoughts on the others yet, except that they seem inconsistent.

Kim is a cutout that clearly has some type of Seer abilities, and while Jennifer kept saying she was frightened she was able to face down the Prince with claws at the ready.

That said – I’m down for fantasy that focuses more on story than characters

4) …and what do you make of the characters & politics of Paras Derval?

This is only to the end of chapter 6 – I am curious as to what end game they are playing! We finally learned of the conflict and curse in Fionavar, but the politics and alliances are still fairly undefined.

I might be the only one but the characters seem like cardboard cutouts right now.   Loren – mage. Gorlaes – bad guy. Metran – doddering old mage. Ysanne – mysterious sorceress. Jaelle – angry priestess. Diarmuid – rakish Prince playing his own political game.

The king is the only one I thing has layers so far!

5) The obvious question: would you accept Loren’s invitation? Given the reception from Diarmuid and Gorlaes, would you regret it?

Back in college I would have gone in a second, no questions asked like get me out of here!  Now I have too much adult stuff going on, animals to care for and such.  I would have been ok with the reception of the prince sneaking me alcohol 😂

6) How/Do you judge Loren for keeping so many secrets from the visitors?

I don’t judge him – yet – it’s too hard to know what the visitors role will be at this point.  Obviously there is a lot going on and while  some of it is starting to become clear, we don’t really know what Loren’s endgame is yet.  I think if he had told them any more they would have balked too

7) There is a lot of worldbuilding so far! Intriguing or overwhelming? Anything standing out for you? And as always: any other thoughts this week?

I think it’s a bit overwhelming, but at this point I have read enough epic fantasy to just absorb what I can and let the rest wash over me as part of the reading experience.

The part sticking out to me is the Legend of The Summer Tree and the hanging kings for sure, I love when magic and rulers/kings are tied to the land

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

Enchanted Woods in Fantasy Books 🌟🌳

I wanted to make today’s Wyrd & Wonder prompt into a blog post! I absolutely love when forests in fantasy take on a personality of their own and influence the book.

There are far too many to list, so I am going to just talk about a few of my favorites and the general influence of forest in Fantasy!

My main feature was the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain.  No surprise there, the author has crafted my favorite fantasy series around magically intuitive horses and not one, but three forests! A former Park Ranger, she published Green Rider while being stationed at Acadia, and had prior ranger postings before that! Her love for the outdoors and forestry is evident in every novel.  

The Green Cloak is not an inherently magical forest but holds many magic secrets.  I think a good fantastical forest minimally offers protection, sustenance, and industry, all of which the Green Cloak definitely does. 

Even a nonmagical forest can take on a persona of it’s own and become a character in itself!

The Green Rider series also features two opposing forests, the Eltwood and Blackveil.  One is beautiful, magical, and offers trees which hold the sleeping Elts for thousands of years if needed while they sleep.  The other was an Eltwood that became twisted by dark magic and now holds poison, traps, terrible creatures, and sinister twisted sleepers.  

*Shudder.*  Kristen Britain can be found on both Instagram and TikTok and I highly recommend following her for glimpses at the woods that so influence her beautifully crafted Green Cloak.

 


My next honorable mention is Clariel.  

“A passion thwarted will often go astray….”

So you may ask – what passion did Clariel have?? The forest!! Clariel wanted nothing more than to become a Ranger in the Great Forest, which she loved, explored, hunted, and sought refuge in.  Unfortunately her family was ambitious and her mother may have been in line for the throne, so when they moved to Belisaere she was forced to join and become a proper member of society. Oh did it chafe and was it heartbreaking to read.

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While a solid sci-fi read, I have to mention the cinematically portrayed “Poe Forest” in the indie book In the Orbit of Sirens. It breaches the fantasy line with living, walking tree creatures and white trunked trees with red leaves and floating sparks. One can’t deny the influence of various jungles and forests in this work!


Running out of phone battery aahhh ok you get two more: 

Even the cover of Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst screams ENCHANTED WOOD!  The ginormous trees house upwards of 20 families and truly provide shelter, sustenance, community, protection, and so much more.  This list couldn’t possibly go without this book ❤

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There is one more – one of my favorite recent novels, where tree roots serve as paths and legends surround the Wolf under the Willow … The Chaos Cycle duology by A.J. Vrana!  These trees provide a path, a meeting point, survival, shelter, a marker in a dreamscape where all else could be hopelessly lost

What additional ways can you think of that forests influence fantasy and fiction?? I may come up with a part two for this post because my mind is teeming with more magical forests 🌲🌳🌟

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson (Book Thoughts)

I group read Sorcery of Thorns finally and was able to chat about it finally.  I valued the group’s perspective and it helped me put my finger on how I felt about the book too.  P.S. I read 6 whole books off my shelves this month!!

This is a great YA fantasy that had lots of YA inconsistencies. I’m trying not to think about it too hard

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Sorcery of Thorns
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Margaret Rogerson
  • Publisher & Release: Margaret K. McElderry Books – June 2019
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for YA Fantasy fans and books about books

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire, and Elisabeth is implicated in the crime. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Alright so overall, without over thinking this, I enjoyed it for the most part as a YA fantasy.  It’s mostly fast paced with plenty of action, magic books, and demons who are the best characters.

It’s a magical gaslight era fantasy where books are living things with breakable hearts and women aren’t held in very high regard. Sorcery has a bad reputation, as do grimoires, and the main theme of the book is about uncovering the nature of things despite their appearances or what society says.  Knowledge is power – a great YA theme.

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The characters are… Ok.  Elisabeth is literally a strong, tall, hard to kill woman, and Rogerson avoided MarySue-ing her by not bringing other girls into the picture in comparison.  Her special traits ended up having a feasible explanation.

Nathaniel is supposed to be a typically dark, brooding man, but even in completely inappropriate situations (danger, levity, middle of a battle) he always seems flippant and ready to banter.  He did have some extremely serious moments but then would snap out of it real quick and I mean heck he just wasn’t believable 90% of the time.

The banter was funny though, like legitimately funny so it’s hard for me to layer this enjoyable comic dialogue over some of the scenes it was occurring during.  The dark scenes at night though – ok, ok, there were some good ones.

Now I’m joining everyone else who thought Silas saved the day entirely.  All my highlights were Silas related.  If for no other reason besides magic books, read the book for Silas.

P.S. hello we have another Garth Nix copycat.  Silas in cat form and Silas in general really reminded me of Mogget. Can anyone think of a white cat/demon/magic familiar before Mogget? I can’t for sure, but can name about 5 since!

I also didn’t love the sorcery magic but the demon to owner magic was cool, and, omg the books.  If you’re not reading for Silas, read for the books. Books and atmosphere.  Rogerson loves atmosphere and went over the line at times with purple prose, but sometimes I enjoyed it.

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Anyway – I did the positives first, now let me do the negatives. I docked a star because while it was super YA even in the most serious moments – or most of them anyway – the characters went from like two quick kisses, to clothes off, mad quick, in a gaslight fantasy era where I’m sure Elisabeth would have had reservations.

Gaslight – think stagecoaches and insane asylums and women being diagnosed as insane because they read books. Which then becomes SUPER INCONSISTENT because some of the library directors are women, as are lots of the apprentices and wardens and librarians.  Now we know the libraries aren’t cut off from social prejudice because they don’t like sorcerers, but they randomly allow women in while a huge point was made elsewhere that women were treated …. poorly.  It is the biggest plothole inconsistency ever.  Plus it’s apparently totally cool for Elisabeth to just live with Nathaniel and ignore all social norms, right lol.

Sooo I’m trying hard to stick with 4 stars and not overthink this because I did enjoy it while reading.  I didn’t love it but for a YA audience I think it’s a good bet

Categories
Fantasy Literary Fiction

A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire

As a huge fan of the entire THE WICKED YEARS franchise and everything in it, I finally started reading some of Maguire’s other books.  A Wild Winter Swan wins the award for most gorgeous naked cover ever, and I grabbed it a while back when I spotted a signed edition!

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This is a complicated fairytale retelling of “The Wild Swans” where the reader must choose how to interpret the magic in the story.  Is it a vaguely traumatized young girl making fantastical sense of her life events or something that actually happened?

Read to see what you think!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Wild Winter Swan
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Gregory Maguire
  • Publisher & Release: William Morrow, October 2020
  • Length: 230 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 for fans of retellings, magical realism, immigrant stories

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads: 

The New York Times bestselling author of Wicked turns his unconventional genius to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wild Swans,” transforming this classic tale into an Italian-American girl’s poignant coming-of-age story, set amid the magic of Christmas in 1960s New York.

Following her brother’s death and her mother’s emotional breakdown, Laura now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a lonely townhouse she shares with her old-world, strict, often querulous grandparents. But the arrangement may be temporary. The quiet, awkward teenager has been getting into trouble at home and has been expelled from her high school for throwing a record album at a popular girl who bullied her. When Christmas is over and the new year begins, Laura may find herself at boarding school in Montreal.

Nearly unmoored from reality through her panic and submerged grief, Laura is startled when a handsome swan boy with only one wing lands on her roof. Hiding him from her ever-bickering grandparents, Laura tries to build the swan boy a wing so he can fly home. But the task is too difficult to accomplish herself. Little does Laura know that her struggle to find help for her new friend parallels that of her grandparents, who are desperate for a distant relative’s financial aid to save the family store.

As he explores themes of class, isolation, family, and the dangerous yearning to be saved by a power greater than ourselves, Gregory Maguire conjures a haunting, beautiful tale of magical realism that illuminates one young woman’s heartbreak and hope as she begins the inevitable journey to adulthood.

I find myself surprised, but not shocked by the low overall rating for this one on Goodreads (3.3ish).

Laura is a teen who feels very alone and nonexistent. She is struggling to self narrate her own life. I personally interpreted the book as that she doesn’t know how to express herself and therefore narrated a fantasy to make her life more interesting and desirable. This is how she makes sense of the world and stays sane, or, she has a nervous breakdown and this is how she tells the story.

There was a bit of confusion for me as far as whether or not the story of Hans the Swan Boy actually occurred, or if I am correct on my above assumptions….  and I very well could be wrong but I think … Well – does it matter? This is why I love magical realism

I see what McGuire was going for and after chewing it over for a few days, I think I liked his execution even if I’m not fully believing the outcome of Laura getting through and making changes without any professional counseling.

ANYWAY- The part I really liked was the setting.  It felt like I was walking around Midtown with Laura and seeing the Christmas displays. I could feel the cold snow and hurried pedestrians. I liked the family time and how she had to mentally get to a certain point in her own story to relate to what her grandparents were going through and see them struggling as well

I liked the characters too, the grandparents were funny at times!  There are so many great sarcastic exchanges where I wanted to hi-5 or hug Nonna and Nonno for getting “the teenager thing” down so perfectly.  It was also interesting to see their immigration story and struggles.

Nonna gave this one speech about women and power and blind anger and pride and it was just wonderful. The messages of hope, faith and christmas miracles are always good too. The cook was funny too, and the cat 😂

This is a good book for the winter / Christmas holiday season but it’s s good read anytime. If you listen to the audio there is an author interview excerpt where he talks a bit about Wicked and answers some fan questions. Would recommend!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

Hi book friends! I have had an absolutely phenomenal reading time in April, including finally starting the Harbinger series.

Look at that cover, do you even need any other incentive to pick up the series?

I flew through Storm Glass in about a day with a mix of reading and listening.  I like Wheeler’s books because they are entertaining and interesting while not being overly complicated, making for quick reads.

Read if:  regency England with a steampunk twist imposed on a fantasy setting of floating  estates sounds good!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Storm Glass
  • Series: Harbinger #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, June 2018
  • Length: 367 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 for clean fantasy fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Theirs is a world of opposites. The privileged live in sky manors held aloft by a secretive magic known only as the Mysteries. Below, the earthbound poor are forced into factory work to maintain the engine of commerce. Only the wealthy can afford to learn the Mysteries, and they use their knowledge to further lock their hold on society.

Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.

Both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn their worlds

So I finally got around to starting the Harbinger series, and I’m not disappointed at all. I always make a point of reading the author’s note of a book first, so I knew a little bit about what to expect including that Wheeler wanted to write a historical fiction but ended up imposing that setting into another fantastically built fantasy world.

Imagine the strictest social hierarchy, privilege versus poor, strict governesses, early discovery, factories, even zeppelins.  I think it was interesting that Wheeler started bringing technology and steampunk vibes into a book and one of the main themes is how the characters take new science and incorporate it into their world view. Is it Mystery (magic) or mystery (something yet to be discovered)?  I also liked how these themes are tied directly to the magic in the world.

I love the world building, the rich estates and gardens, waterfalls, and how they contrast with the dirt poor factory districts below teeming with sickness and poverty.

How can you beat a system designed to keep the poor poor, the rich in debt, and everyone except the tip-top of the Elite in check? Hmm

Cettie and Sera are both great protagonists and I can’t wait to follow them through the series. Each is a strong-willed young woman and for once I think that Wheeler actually made children (think around 12, preteen,) seem age appropriate.

Cettie came from the Fells, one of the poor factory districts, and is adopted into a rich floating family estate by a kind military leader. Sera is a princess (!!!A descendent of Maia and Collier about 200 years down the line!!!) who will eventually battle her father for the Empire.

There are whole bunch of Side characters that are worth mentioning too, including Cettie’s new adopted siblings and an estate keeper who is easily as evil as Umbrage!

The plot is quick moving, there is not much down time at all.  There are some hints that end up being obvious and I’m sure some obvious points will turn into surprises later on in the series.

This is also a series that ties into the Muirwood books, in that it takes place in the same world and Muirwood Abbey plus an Aldermaston have a cameo at the end.  I am excited to see more of this setting in the next book.  There is also a Kingfountain tie-in and a mention of a Bhiku, I believe from the Dryad-Born series. I think it’s wild to try to envision all these stories taking place in the same world.

One comment I want to make is to reply to a few people saying they feel that reading this series is like reading the Book of Mormon: …. Ack, I get it but I don’t feel it, yet at least.  Historically the human race makes sense of the world and each individual reality through stories, faith, folk tales, fantasy, but the point is: stories.  Even if part or much of the books is an allegory, the vibe I get is that the characters are deeply attuned to learning and some, like Cettie, are more in concert with the Mysteries (faith, magic, sentience, etc) than others.  I know Wheeler can get preachy (what do you expect from a pastor?) but as I said, I’m not feeling it here, simply a story making sense of the world’s history as he sees it, and I personally love the science and faith intertwining into the characters world view.

Long story short: magic, danger, excitement, propriety and society, learning, debt and tithes, more magic, found family to the max,  and willful young women ready to take on the hierarchy!

Categories
Fantasy General Posts, Non Reviews

The Best Laid Plans – Wyrd and Wonder!

Hi everyone! If anyone hasn’t heard about Wyrd and Wonder yet, please check out this link for an intro! 

https://onemore.org/2022/03/05/wyrd-and-wonderful-plans/

Thank you to Timy @ Queen’s Book Asylum for sharing the link originally, I would never have known about it otherwise and definitely plan to participate as I am able!

Wyrd and Wonder looks like a great team of fantasy bloggers who have set up ALL this fun stuff for fantasy fans during the month of May. The event is in it’s fifth year now and I see prompts, bingo for fun, two read alongs, giveaways and a ton of other fun stuff!!

Personally I am most excited for the readalong of The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay, and the fantasy prompts.  I never really fit in anywhere in the SFF community (I’m too multi-genre to stay on twitter lists even) but love hanging around and reading/talking fantasy when I can!

Plus the theme has to do with wood and forests, and I have blogged about fantasy forests before so that’s extremely exciting to me.  I’ll definitely try to chat about some of my favorites like The Green Cloak, The Great Forest, forest loving characters, and the impact that forests can have on their (fantasy) world

Like the title says, though … I have turned into mostly a review blogger simply for lack of time! I’ll do my best to tackle a few prompts and follow the content!!

Categories
Adventure Fantasy Paranormal

Where Blood Runs Gold by A.C. Cross (Book Review)

I was telling Red, my chestnut mare, about this book and specifically how A.C. Cross called a Chestnut horse a sweetheart, and the other horse a Cee-U-Next-Tuesday! We had a good laugh over this as we all know how Chestnut mares are the true evils of the horse world

Joking aside, mostly, Where Blood Runs Gold is (to me) a unique book that I am pegging as the Wild West meets The Walking Dead. I’m a bit at a loss of how to describe or categorize the book because I’ve never read a fantasy/western before!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Where Blood Runs Gold
  • Series: N/A (room for a sequel)
  • Author: A.C. Cross
  • Publisher & Release: Indie, January 2022
  • Length: 494 pages (fast read)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ I would if it sounds up your alley, for 18+ readers

Here’s the synopsis from Am*zon!

Sheriff Errol Thorpe’s life is chaotic, brutal, and above all, solitary. After an unimaginable loss years ago, all he feels is the compulsion to seek vengeance. But when a vulnerable family arrives in town, facing an ugly future, he is pulled headfirst into a web of violence, secrets, and things he never imagined. In search of truth and answers, Thorpe finds himself battling deadly flesh-eating Dust, acidic golden blood, and the political designs of powerful people – all the while learning how to be a person again. When Dust rises in San Dios, people hide indoors. When Sheriff Thorpe arrives, people run.

The author spins the legend of Sherriff Errol Thorpe, aka The Judge, as he fights gangs, robbers, sin, corruption, his own demons, and a greater evil too.  There are stories offered in flashback format that I love, as they help build the man’s life and legend.

Gettin’ damn near tired out of bein’ told when I can or can’t die. I’ll die when I’m damn well ready {Sheriff}

The sheriff is a good example of a morally gray character. He 100% does what he thinks is right and sometimes gets carried away while bringing the pain. Watching him wrestle with his strict code and trying not to be soft made him memorable too. He has had a tough life and I liked him a lot by the end.  The young girl he rescues and a lady that sort of becomes his partner seem realistic and create some good banter, although my favorite side character was an easily exasperated captain of the army named Josie

Language wise, the slang and dialect are consistent, smart, and to quote the author – “gloriously profane” at times.

It’s dark as a crow’s dick out here

Or my personal favorite –

Great green fucks on a hill, son

I say smart because Cross consistently writes language and dialect that is realistic to the old West, without breaking character at all, and I found that consistency impressive. One note on the editing too – I read this as a Kindle Unlimited and was very happily surprised to find only one typo in the entire novel. This is an extremely well presented indie work

Where westerns don’t tend to world build a lot, he makes up for that in atmosphere, setting and tone

Here’s where I docked the star: I wanted a little more from the “big picture” side of things. How did the entire world fit together? It seemed to be civil war era (brief mentions of Union and Confederate) but that never really played into the plot. There also wasn’t a history of the big bad evil given, it just kind of appeared and then the book ended without explaining what it was (or how it got into that cave)?

The horror elements aren’t too bad but I am solidly recommending this book for 18+ readers.

If you like Westerns, adventure, weird, legends and stories, check this one out! The book is out now!

DON’T MISS THE SUNDAY BRUNCH REBOOT ON 4/17, FEATURING A.C. CROSS!!