Categories
Fantasy

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay (Book Thoughts)

I was so glad to read The Summer Tree along with a fantastic group of bloggers for this year’s Wyrd & Wonder read-along! I have been posting each week this month, and now this is my regular old book review and thoughts post, spoiler free!

Let’s jump right in:

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Summer Tree
  • Series: The Fionavar Tapestry, #1
  • Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Publisher & Release: 1984
  • Length: around 380 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 3.5 stars – I didn’t love the book but I respect it and think it fits in with 80s fantasy. Would recommend for adult fantasy readers

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

The first volume in Guy Gavriel Kay’s stunning fantasy masterwork.

Five men and women find themselves flung into the magical land of Fionavar, First of all Worlds. They have been called there by the mage Loren Silvercloak, and quickly find themselves drawn into the complex tapestry of events. For Kim, Paul, Kevin, Jennifer and Dave all have their own part to play in the coming battle against the forces of evil led by the fallen god Rakoth Maugrim and his dark hordes.

Guy Gavriel Kay’s classic epic fantasy plays out on a truly grand scale, and has already been delighting fans of imaginative fiction for twenty years.

This book truly has about a hundred different editions from different publishers but I’m pretty sure it was originally published in 1984 somewhere in Canada.

My first main thought is that based off of the synopsis I never ever ever would have picked this book up if it was not for the read along. I definitely didn’t love or particularly enjoy it but it was entertaining and got me thinking about fantasy as a larger genre and wear certain styles and tropes fit in so I definitely think that the read had value.

Essentially the plot is that five grad students in Toronto get sucked into an adventure in a magical world. They don’t get a lot of information before going but more or less take on the adventure in different ways, integrating themselves more or less successfully into the politics and struggles of Fionavar.

My biggest issue with the whole book is that it was essentially a hyper dramatic stage drama cartoon playing out in my head. The villains were the absolute super worst, the characters were all more or less cardboard cutouts, and it was really hard for me to care about what was going on beyond saying like “hahah Wow that’s fucked up”

Underlying everything there was value in the prophecy, lore, foretelling, historical events, and world itself of Fionavar. I did enjoy the world building that was given and GGK hinted at some of the events that would be happening in the next book so I’m kind of excited to see where he takes the series.

Some parts were better developed than others but it was enough to make me believe that GGK is well capable of building a world and magic and struggles that I would want to read, although other parts were not fleshed out very well at all.

Speaking of the way that he writes, I had a really hard time with some of the purple prose and language in general. I really did feel like I was reading a stage drama script sometimes that cued how dramatic the characters were trying to be.

It’s hard to talk about it without giving spoilers but I think that it’s a hyper exaggerated and tropey book, which is absolutely an author choice and there for entertainment. I do think The Summer Tree fits in with some of the older fantasy that I’ve read from that time period and would recommend for adult readers age 18 plus who are interested in some classic fantasy.

War, kingdom, evil, destiny, prophecy, sword and sorcery – this does have the elements of a solid read even if the stylistic choices didn’t work for me.

One final thought: I really wish that my edition had the Pegasus on the cover because pretty much all of them seem to except mine 🤣

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

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

The Killing Fog (Book Review) by Jeff Wheeler

I read The Grave Kingdom series back in 2020 as ARCs, and found that oddly enough the first review never made it into my blog!  Now that I am trying to organize back content I definitely had to rectify that situation.  I am back writing this based on my Instagram thoughts and notes from my reading journal!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Killing Fog
  • Series: The Grave Kingdom #1
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, March 2020
  • Length: 413 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Kingfountain series conjures an epic, adventurous world of ancient myth and magic as a young woman’s battle with infinite evil begins.

Survivor of a combat school, the orphaned Bingmei belongs to a band of mercenaries employed by a local ruler. Now the nobleman, and collector of rare artifacts, has entrusted Bingmei and the skilled team with a treacherous assignment: brave the wilderness’s dangers to retrieve the treasures of a lost palace buried in a glacier valley. But upsetting its tombs has a price.

Echion, emperor of the Grave Kingdom, ruler of darkness, Dragon of Night, has long been entombed. Now Bingmei has unwittingly awakened him and is answerable to a legendary prophecy. Destroying the dark lord before he reclaims the kingdoms of the living is her inherited mission. Killing Bingmei before she fulfills it is Echion’s.

Thrust unprepared into the role of savior, urged on by a renegade prince, and possessing a magic that is her destiny, Bingmei knows what she must do. But what must she risk to honor her ancestors? Bingmei’s fateful choice is one that neither her friends nor her enemies can foretell, as Echion’s dark war for control unfolds.

The Plot: This is an Asian based fantasy where a young girl is training to become a warrior after watching her family be slain by an invading band. The book starts on a sad note and introduces an interesting tale of magical weapons, ancient curcses, martial arts, political maneuvering, lost kingdoms, and devious dragons.

I believe this is Wheeler’s longest book and also the most slow burning of all of them.  There is a lot of magic and world building to introduce (and a LOT of characters and martial arts) although I found the last 25% to be quite rewarding.

The Worldbuilding: I think the world building is the strongest element.  Each Kingdom has a unique flair, with smells and foods and attitudes unique to the problems and geography of the region.  I enjoyed this and it becomes important in later books as these regions and their rulers are brought back later on.  I think the histories, lore, and general atmosphere of the book were quite cohesive and added a lot to the read.  There is language and symbols used too (with a glossary – thank you)! Looking up the words can slow the pace down a bit but I found it worthwhile and learned soon enough.  My only thing is that if anyone is listening on audio (I am not) this might become hard.

I do love Wheeler’s descriptions of settings and buildings and even climate too, everything about the environment is fused into the action and creates a very strong world build.

For more on the world and aesthetic:

Grave Kingdom

The Magic: I honestly don’t remember how much is given in The Killing Fog about the Grave Kingdom and the Death Wall, but it is as if a wall separates the world from the spiritual realm.  The magical weapons, curses, artifacts, and of course dragons! all add to the action

The Characters: I saved this until last because Wheeler’s biggest weakness as an author is introducing child characters.  Owen and Evie (Kingfountain) Ransom (Argentines)  Lia (Muirwood) – despite having tons of kids, Wheeler just does not do kids well.   They end up with incredible character arcs while the initial presentation simply never hits home – so – my advice is give Bingmei time if she doesn’t ring true at first.

That said – Bingmei is introduced as a young girl who is motivated by revenge after the murder of her grandfather and devastation of her family’s quonsoon.  She is presented as a bit of a blank slate, then grows and learns quickly as she has a bit of a destiny attached to her and is thrown into a role of sacrifice vs savior, with huge decisions that no one ever wants to make.  Her growth and character arc  is one of the high points of the series

The other members of the group (I don’t remember individuals) all had unique personalities, struggles, and abilities too.  I enjoyed the banter and how many fierce women there were, including the leader of the fighting school! There is a male counterpart who becomes Bingmei’s travelling companion (and friend – my favorite, a friend and supporter without a romantic interest)!

I can’t talk much about the romance because it comes with a different character in later books, but, there is one dashingly tragic rebel Prince who was total book boyfriend material.

Random things: another big check for the clean, more wholesome content I come to expect from Wheeler.  Issues – the fight scenes got a little repetitive by the end, I was joking singing “Wheeler goes kung-fu fighting”!  Bingmei also has an innate ability using smells that is cool, but doesn’t seem to fit with anyone else’s magic or abilities so it threw me off.  The length and pace dragged a bit although ultimately paid off, resulting in this being my least favorite Wheeler book to date. It wasn’t bad by any means but I do not recommend starting his books with this series!

For fans of found family, crews, discovery, atmosphere, tragedy, magic, new worlds, legends, strong women and more – definitely check out The Grave Kingdom trilogy!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Star Mother (Book Review) by Charlie N. Holmberg

My head is still hurting from a few recent extremely dense reads. Looking for something lighter I turned to Holmberg, an author I can count on for a faster paced, magical read without too many details bogging it down – and was not disappointed.

Her latest duology, Star Mother, came out this winter and I have had it on my radar. I love her books when I need something cute and addictive without investing a wealth of brain power.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Star Mother
  • Series: Star Mother #1
  • Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, 11/01/21
  • Length: 268 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌞🌞🌞🌞 for romantic fantasy fans or an intro to fantasy

Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

A woman’s heart proves as infinite as the night sky in a breathtaking fantasy by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Charlie N. Holmberg.

When a star dies, a new one must be born.

The Sun God chooses the village of Endwever to provide a mortal womb. The birthing of a star is always fatal for the mother, and Ceris Wenden, who considers herself an outsider, sacrifices herself to secure her family’s honor and take control of her legacy. But after her star child is born, Ceris does what no other star mother has: she survives. When Ceris returns to Endwever, however, it’s not nine months later—it’s seven hundred years later. Inexplicably displaced in time, Ceris is determined to seek out her descendants.

Being a woman traveling alone brings its own challenges, until Ceris encounters a mysterious—and desperate—godling. Ristriel is incorporeal, a fugitive, a trickster, and the only being who can guide Ceris safely to her destination. Now, as Ceris traverses realms both mortal and beyond, her journey truly begins.

Together, pursued across the Earth and trespassing the heavens, Ceris and Ristriel are on a path to illuminate the mysteries that bind them and discover the secrets of the celestial world.

The Plot: This is a fast paced story about a mortal woman who chooses to bear a child of the Sun. I fully enjoyed her journey and watching her develop relationships with both the Sun and *the quintessentially complicated  dark/mysterious/brooding man who is quite a mystery*.  The plot is pretty unique and I enjoyed the idea of the story and lore behind it.

The Magic: In regular Holmberg fashion, she gives the reader just enough lore to understand the world and appreciate the magical elements. The magic held by the celestial beings and their legends felt very folklore ish to me.  The book avoids a few complicated rabbit holes (Time not making sense, for one example), by saying that the Gods only need to know certain things. Then the tides and universe run on Starpower – so it’s something different but all vaguely explained.  I liked the idea of interacting with the Gods and demigods and how they are formed! Ristriel had the most interesting magic by far but talking about it gets spoiler real quick!

World Building: I would like to see more world building in general, but Holmberg mainly tells us the main ideas we need to know for the story to make sense.  I did like the descriptions of the Sun Palace and patriarchal society.  If someone prefers characters and action to world building this will be a perfect book.

The Characters: Ceris was introduced as a prankster with an immature but great sense of humor and I liked her from the start. I don’t want to give too much away about Ristriel.  He was dodgy about who and what he was and I think Ceris let it go a little too quickly.  I also have to admit that while I definitely rooted for and wished each character well as individuals – I didn’t see the chemistry between them.  The Sun was honorable and offered many times to do the right thing by Ceris (from a Christian standpoint anyway) and I liked his lore/legends as well. I hope the next book offers more of the Earth and Moon!

Themes: from the afterword, she wrote the book while in and coming out of a dark place. I liked the musings on faith and divinity, finding family, and keeping your promises.

One thing that did throw me was when a priest called Ceris out for abandoning her 100% fully CHOSEN mate with whom she had the star child – the choice and free will was highly emphasized too throughout the book – I thought he was right.  Coming from a Christian author I was very surprised to see Ceris freak out about her honor as a woman when one can’t argue that she should have stayed with the Sun, who had offered to make her a queen. Ris could have been paired with someone else and prior to this Ceris had been extremely loyal to her betrothed. I also loved the cover but I missed where there was a fox in the book! I think it should have been one of Ristriel’s forms!

All in all, I fully recommend for romantic fantasy fans, folklore, or someone wanting to try fantasy for the first time!

A few notes on the audio: through Brilliance Audio, I didn’t realize that Kristine Hvam did any narration for 47North authors! I am familiar with her from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Ravenspire, and so many more. She is a well respected fantasy narrator (she does other genres too) and this is another solid performance from her.  As the kindle audio is weird, I read and listened about 50/50 to this book.  For sure, though, I definitely appreciate authors like Holmberg and Jeff Wheeler who make their books and audiobooks accessible to read and listen via Kindle Unlimited!

Categories
Fantasy Horror

Redemption (Book Review) by T.R. Slauf

I finally read Redemption, the second book in the author’s Legends of Lightning series! This is embarrassing considering that I not only had an early copy but the Kindle preordered too, so this is a disclaimer that I absolutely suck.

Redemption picked up not too far after the end of Hidden Realm, with Esther and the other Huntsmen reeling over Oisin’s loss and the Queens dealing with their own problems.  Overall this was a stronger book and it was awesome to see the growth between the two novels

((Book 1 review))

((Author interview))

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Redemption
  • Series: Legends of Lightning #2
  • Author: T.R. Slauf
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 11/02/21
  • Length: 374 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for dark fantasy and twisted fairytale fans!

Here is the Synopsis via GoodReads:

Esther escaped the horrors of Castle Rose, but at a cost. Believing her lost guide is still alive deep in the bowels of Adam’s dungeons, she aims to save him, but the other Huntsman are not so sure he’s alive… Desperate to rescue Oisin, Esther makes tempestuous allegiances with dangerous foes. Walking a fine line between enemies and allies, life and death, she rages war against the monsters of the Hidden Realm.

Esther’s journey continues in this heart wrenching sequel as she navigates the politics and grudges of ageless Queens. By night, she’s haunted by what she’s seen fighting in a war that was never hers. What she’s done to survive in the Hidden Realm will haunt her forever and she’s terrified of losing herself in the darkness without a star to guide her. Will Esther be able to save Oisin and the lands before the shadows of her mind overtake her spirit?

I definitely liked Redemption more than Hidden Realm.  Now that the story is more streamlined, the plot and action felt stronger and the characters had believable arcs.

Esther had to deal with the PTSD from the torture, separation, and worse from her imprisonments.  It was also interesting to see how the soldiers responded to war that hadn’t seen battle before.  One particularly affected character – I could have sworn it was a nod to the Venture Bros henchmen 21/24 dynamic, but the author said no – it was particularly grisly though.  Trauma affects people in many ways and this book took a deep dive down some dark paths

I think the character (and world) building got a big, necessary boost too.  With more background on the Queens and politics, personalities, alliances, and a bit more history, tbe plot was carried a long way.

I liked spending more time with the Queens to see how truly twisted they are. A few personalities and developing characters surprised me and kept the story interesting.  A lot of things actually kept it interesting, such as betrayal on more betrayal, political maneuvering, an exploration of various forms of fanaticism, and meeting more magical creatures.  T.R. got creative with the torture too – this wasn’t splatterpunk but definitely grimdark

After a chat with the author, let me give Indie authors a piece of advice: so I was reading the Kindle version and felt like the book needed a solid proof-read before the final went out.  There were up to two typos on some pages and honestly it was enough to throw me off a tad.   This is now the second time an author told me that they spent good money on an editing service. I think that all the people do is run the manuscript through a spell check, without reading for context or grammar or other non spell check errors.  The result makes me think that 1) these services should be ashamed of themselves and 2) authors would be better off using a private editor with good references, or even asking a friend with a critical eye.

Now, that said – I did dock a star for readability affecting immersion at times, but, I would still 100% recommend for fans of dark fantasy and twisted fairy tales! As I said it was a much stronger story than book one and had many hard but important themes to unravel.  You will hurt for these characters!  Personally I can’t wait for the next book, this ended on a ridiculously suspenseful note!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

The Magician’s Land (Book Thoughts) by Lev Grossman

It didn’t matter where you were, if you were in a room full of books you were at least halfway home

This series is a modern fantasy favorite of mine. The trilogy only got stronger as it went and I think the ending was perfect.  I don’t know what else I can say after two books – Grossman has an easy to enjoy writing style, complicated character arcs, interesting and master level magic, and a story that just kept building.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Magician’s Land
  • Series: The Magicians #3
  • Author: Lev Grossman
  • Publisher & Release: Viking, 2014
  • Length: 416 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ for how it ended

Here is the synopsis (spoiler free thankfully): 

Quentin Coldwater has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young undergraduate with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. But all roads lead back to Fillory, and his new life takes him to old haunts, like Antarctica, and to buried secrets and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers the key to a sorcery masterwork, a spell that could create magical utopia, a new Fillory—but casting it will set in motion a chain of events that will bring Earth and Fillory crashing together. To save them he will have to risk sacrificing everything.

It’s the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole.

As a glasses smudging 30something who is still working on career satisfaction and figuring out how to do the life thing, I think Quentin gets super relatable in this book

I love books where the characters are 30 somethings. You never know who’s going to end up married with kids, who is going to flourish or flounder or even end up dead.  The four main characters (and Alice) finally grew into their roles and realize/figure out who they are and what they are capable of.

I liked Quentin as a professor, and how he was able to work with Plum and kind of get her on the right track/guide her through the post Brakebills disaster.  Plum was a good addition to this book – she brought some youth and wit and new blood into the mix.  I actually liked Umber more than Ember and enjoyed those scenes a lot.  All the characters grew up and Quentin found his hope again at the end – what more could we ask for.

I do wish there had been a little more closure for Janet & Elliot, but they will be ok. The kings and queens have a ton of work to do. Their chapters were some of the best in the book.

The Quentin/Alice ending was perfect – the moral is that life goes on. Seeing them content was everything.

Other than the quote up top, here were two others that stuck out to me.  There were tons of funny one liners but hear these:

“Fuck love, fuck marriage, fuck children, fuck fucking itself: this was his romance, this fantasy land at whose helm he sat, steering it on and on into the future, world without end, until he died and tastefully idealized statues were made of him.” – that was Elliot having his moment

“Magic was wild feelings, the kind that escaped out of you and into the world and changed things. There was a lot of skill to it, and a lot of learning, and a lot of work, but that was where the power began: the power to enchant the world.”
– I’m so happy that Q figured things out. Remember that he was always searching for external happiness, never realizing what he held inside? 

I know the trilogy has mixed reviews but I do think that people around my age (30s), the HP generation, will enjoy these books.  Don’t compare the books to anything else, just enjoy the series for what it is.  I know there are tons of changes but I’m interested in finishing the TV show too

**I don’t have much to add about the audiobooks but Mark Bramhall really did a good job bringing the stories and characters to life.  Would definitely recommend for audio fans or if the text seems dry**

Categories
Fantasy

Storm of Chaos and Shadows by C.L. Briar – book tour and music playlist 💜

Welcome to my stop on the Storm of Chaos and Shadows tour! I couldn’t nearly fit all of this into an Instagram post, and I am happy to introduce a few of my favorite indie (and more popular) artists to my bookstagram friends!

First let’s take a really quick look at the book –

  • Title: Storm of Chaos and Shadow
  • Series: Storm of Chaos and Shadow #1
  • Author: C.L. Briar
  • Publisher & Release: self published 3/8/22
  • Length: 431 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for adult fantasy fans!

Here is the synopsis via Amazon:

Only the strong survive among the fae. Only the cruel.

Elara’s instincts have kept her alive despite the growing viciousness of the fae realm. Since the enchanted storm decimated her family seven years ago and forced her to care for her younger siblings, Elara craves an escape from the ghosts of her past.

When the charming general of the last human stronghold offers her the chance to act as a spy, Elara discovers a trail of embers and ash, along with her own awakening darkness. As the mystery of their enemy unravels, her yearning for revenge ignites. Elara must control her inner shadows and uncover the foe destroying their world or watch as the remaining cinders of humanity are extinguished forever.

I want to share a few quick thoughts on the book but mostly focus on the playlist! This one starts out reading like ACOTAR but I actually liked it.  Elara just never gave up. She and her sisters have a great relationship and I loved Will, the little brother.  Alarik is completely insufferable but I ended up liking him and pretty much all of the characters.  A fae war, ongoing attacks, romance, plenty of danger, prophecy, and a snarky horse are just a few of the things I enjoyed about the book.  Definitely recommend for fans of **adult** fantasy!

** spice level: hello chapters 40 and 57, just skip those if you don’t have a glass of water and a fan handy 😂**

Alright, onto the music!

First up, a song for Elara as she decides to take control of her life

Birds and Daisies by Raccoon Raccoon

Take your own fate by the hand
It’s time to conquer your own land

The characters, while they always embraced the ones they lost during the Storm and the ongoing conflict, at one point made a decision to move forward.  This is a song for Alarik

Don’t Look Back by AIHVHIA

Cries for help aren’t worth my time

I could have saved so many lives

If anyone is familiar with Rozier, I think this is one of his most haunting songs about accepting death and Alanna is just amazing. One of his songs is quintessential for any playlist regarding fae

In A Week by Rozier

And they’d find us in a week
When the buzzards get loud
After the insects have made their claim
After the foxes have known our taste
After the raven has had it’s say

I’d home with you”

Next up: whether the characters are going to war with each other or the fae, it took them a while to learn who it’s worth fighting with

Go to War by Nothing More

This is the Alarik and Emma song, and for all of those with scars 

Under Your Scars by Godsmack

Wrapping up, I wanted a song for Evander and I think he would appreciate this song by The Satellite Station when he finds himswlf thinking about Gem 💜

Need You Right Now by The Satellite Station

I was feeling lost at the edge of the world
Saw your lips were moving, but I didn’t hear a word
And everything froze in time, no, the clock was just broken
Couldn’t fall asleep so I just laid on the floor

That’s all I’ve got for you guys, I hope you enjoyed the playlist!

Thank you again as always to Feather and Dove for having me on their tours and trusting me with a fun type of post 💜

Categories
Fantasy

A Touch Of Light – Book Tour & Giveaway!

Thank you so much to Escapist Tours for having me on the book tour for A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla! I will give the synopsis, a few brief thoughts, author blurb, links, and of course the giveaway link! Do check out the other hosts for more content!

Tour Schedule & Hosts

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: A Touch of Light
  • Series: The Ashes of Sharon, #1
  • Author: Thiago Abdalla
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 03/01/22
  • Length: 452 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⚡ for fantasy readers who are ok with not knowing as you go

Here is the synopsis!

The dead shall not be mourned or remembered, for death is the enemy, and will only drive the Seraph away.

The Domain is the bastion of life. The Seraph blesses her faithful with endless years, and death is kept away in hope for Her return, but The Domain nations are not the only ones in Avarin. They have managed only a tenuous peace with the clans to the south, who believe life must be returned to the Earth to keep it whole.

Yet the world of Avarin is changing.

In the clanlands, parts of the Earth seem to be withering away, while in the Domain, a deadly frenzy spreads among the people. It brings darkness to the minds of men and bloodlust to their hearts.

This sickness threatens more than just the peace in the realm, it imperils its very heart.

Now the people of Avarin must fight to save it, before death comes for them all.

Dive into this sweeping epic fantasy saga where religion and politics are one, magic brings terror into the hearts of men, and a looming blight threatens to tear everything down.

A Touch of Light Cover

I give the author a ton of credit for attempting a story as wide reaching as this.  AToL reminds me of Malice, if anyone has read John Gwynne, where there are multiple seemingly unrelated storylines that mostly eventually come together.  I think with a little more alpha/beta reading and work on execution, A Touch of Light would have been a really great read.

What he did well: 

Besides the cover and map, which I always appreciate, Abdalla took an interesting look at death across various cultures.  I also always love a good zombies vs fantasy story (hello Lee Conley) but needed a little more from that “madness” storyline.

I liked the trees! I was curious as to if the whole religion of the Seraph was confirmed true, as it’s exploration was one of the best parts (Sans delineation of the king vs pontiff).  The struggles that the characters faced with religious faith vs faith in oneself is a relatable struggle.

The right fantasy elements were definitely there: a blight, a madness, gryphon soldiers, scattered magic,  airships – heck sakes did this storyline come from World of Warcraft – remember the horde and alliance coming together against the alchemists who created the blight?? 

I … Digress.

To be fair, let me outline what I didn’t love too:

Nothing was explained.  Lots of events, places, names, even clans and regions were thrown out with no background.  Some things got explained later on – most didn’t.   I thought I missed something but according to a few other readers I chatted with – hopefully those answers will be coming in book two.

Nasha’s storyline – for all that her friend was going to pick a war with the Domain, none of the Domain members of the other chapters ever mentioned the clans.  This is a very one sided conflict right now

Take the gryphons for example – is that the only magic animal in the land? Or the blood magic thrown in towards the end – does anyone else have magic?  Lots of past events for all three main characters were frequently hinted at too without telling what actually happened.

Additionally I love the map – let me say that again because the plot is heavily influenced by the book’s geography. So the map shows the land of Avarin, but the continent is named Immeria, comprised of the Domain, clanlands, borderlands, yet once in the same paragraph Adrian refers to them as Immerians, in the lands of Avarin … So what is Avarin? I felt like Avarin was the whole world until Adrian called his region Avarin, and then I shrugged it off for further debate at a later time.

I feel like I need to end this on a huge compliment, so I saved the biggest one for last – I wasn’t really seeing the Grimdark until towards the end, but when Abdalla brought it, he really brought the dark! (Hello Hannibal Lecter, whew!)

Overall: I think book two has promise, which is why I’m not simply reverting to a feature on this review.  The elements are there and I believe that this author has a huge amazing story in his brain that needed more beta reading for execution.  The book is receiving a lot of praise as well so do definitely check out the rest of the tour content (see hosts above) and check out the book if it sounds interesting to you!


As promised, here is the link to the giveaway! Enter to win a copy of A Touch of Light in your choice of format!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/79e197ac8/


Meet the Author:

Thiago was born in Brazil but grew up in the fantasy worlds from the stories he kept in his mind. He has inhabited everywhere from Middle-Earth and Azeroth to the planes of Dominaria, Ravnica and Tarkir. No matter the medium, what kept him coming back was always his love for story.

He could never wait for the next world to dive into, so, after being (indirectly) urged on by the (printed) words of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Patrick Rothfuss, N. K. Jemisin and many, many others, decided to create his own.

Thiago Abdalla (@TAbdalla) / Twitter
Thiago Abdalla (@tabdalla_author) • Instagram
Thiago Abdalla | Facebook

Lastly, here are the book’s  links!

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GHJNMPD

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B09GHJNMPD

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59010312-the-world-breaker-requiem

Categories
Fantasy

Kagen the Damned (ARC Review) by Jonathan Maberry

I am super grateful to St Martin’s Griffin for the free advanced copy of Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry! All opinions are my own!

It took me forever to read this book due to work, life, and the length. I ended with mixed feelings as it had both good and bad elements. I would recommend for fans of (or readers new to) dark fantasy.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Kagen the Damned
  • Series: Kagen the Damned #1
  • Autbor: Jonathan Maberry
  • Publisher & Release: St Martin’s Griffin – 05/10/22
  • Length: 560 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for dark fantasy fans

Kagen the Damned marks the first installment of an exciting new series of dark epic fantasy novels from bestselling author Jonathan Maberry.

Sworn by Oath
Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the palace guard, charged with protection of the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods
Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of his enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper, the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic―long banished from the world―returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage
To exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

The Plot:

This is a dark fantasy novel about the conquest of an empire and the subjective failure of one of it’s guardians.  I was drawn in by the synopsis and like the idea of conquest and revenge.  There is nothing terribly original about the plot or the main ideas of magic being bad and outlawed, a chosen one come back to avenge the nation, etc, but I still enjoyed it.

If nothing else the plot moves quickly, with plenty of action scenes and alternating points of view to move the story along.

The themes:

Kagen shined most in it’s themes for me.  The main character had to deal with letting his guilt go after he believed he was responsible for the fall of the empire and had been forsaken by his Gods. There were questions and themes of honor, oaths, oppression, monsters vs saviors, and found family.  One of my favorite themes centered around What Makes a Monster? Is the conquering Witch-king a monster for decimating a nation that did much worse 1000 years ago? Is a dragon or a grotesque creature a monster just because it kills to feed itself, or is hideous?

Obviously per Grimdark there are also themes of brutal violence, in pretty much any imaginable fashion… I liked the brutality of the dark elements and the historian figure who carried his own theme of re-writing history for the victors.

The Characters:

I think the book is about 70/30 plot/action vs character driven

Kagen is about as morally gray as you can get, but he’s got values.  I liked his story and his path to redemption.  Tuke is another main character who swears by the BALLS of about 1000 different creatures, he was hilarious.  The friendship/bromance between those two was hilarious and provided the comic relief

The witch-king … Is probably the most brutal A-Hole I have seen in a while, but some of his points are solid.  He liked killing. A lot.  His high priestess practices a rather grotesque form of necromancy that had me equal parts CRINGING and wanting to see more.

I hated one storyline though where a 20 something year old “nun” more or less lied to, then seduced her 15 year old “cousin”, and then either pretended or believed that fooling around with another female maintained their religious purity. Well .. That’s why their ritual didn’t entirely succeed.

A few other things:

I think I needed more from the magic. There wasn’t much described except the necromancy. How did the rest work?  I also think too many modern and real elements slipped into an otherwise made-up and highly creative world (like Cthulhu. I love him but he didn’t quite fit).  There was everything else from alternate realms to outer space mentioned and I think it created too much white noise in an otherwise straightforward fantasy world.  I wanted more from Kagen’s dreams and the Dragon in the ice.

Hopefully in the next book.

Overall: there is a lot to process in this one but overall, I liked it. There is a lot of absolutely excellent Dark Fantasy out there and I think that this is a good one for people who might be looking to sample the genre. While it doesn’t deep dive into the world-building and fantasy elements so much, the author maintains a fairly consistent mood and keeps the book moving.

I will plan on reading the second installment when it is released!