Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

Continuing my The Dark Tower series read, The Drawing of the Three is even weirder than The Gunslinger! I imagine the conversation when planning this book went something like –

King: I want to write about the gangs of NY and schizophrenics

Tabitha: yeah well you started with a weird horror fantasy western

King: I’ll incorporate interdimensional travel into the story, it’ll be fine

Tabitha: impossible

King: hold my beer

Ha .. ha… Ha… Actually …. KA

Ka?

“Kaka,” Eddie said, and laughed. “Come on Roland. Let’s take a hike”

Alright alright most joking aside, let’s talk a bit about this wonderfully weird book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Drawing of the Three
  • Series: The Dark Tower #2
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: 1987, I read the Signet edition
  • Length: 463 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for those who can stomach the typical King level of vulgarity 

Here’s the Synopsis:

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland, the last gunslinger, encounters three mysterious doorways on the beach. Each one enters into the life of a different person living in contemporary New York.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean and the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

Ah gosh it’s hard to review these kinds of books because I know I’m not adding anything to the Canon, so I just talk about my experience.

The Gunslinger was weird and wild and this book utterly surpassed it in that regard. Roland has parlayed with the man in black, apparently for 10 years, so this installment picks up afterward on the beach with a pile of bones and the remnants of a tarot reading

I still think King just tossed a bunch of random ass ideas together to create Roland’s ka-tet.  Gangs, sure why not.  A crazy schizophrenic lady, sure why not.  Gotta get a serial killer in there too… and the funny thing is that at the end of the day, it worked

The Odette/Detta character annoyed me senseless, probably because of how accurately King portrayed schizophrenia/multiple personality disorder.  Props, props, I just found her to be way too vulgar and had me thinking about excessively vulgar patients I’ve dealt with, and yeah, no thanks. Her back story is great though.

 I loved Eddie, and I’m glad he arrived first in the text. He’s like a lost boy with a rough family history and bad decisions.  The whole storyline with Balazar and the drugs was pretty entertaining, then you toss in the Eddie & Roland dynamic and you get wonderful madness   Roland trying to make sense of NYC was equally amazing, I think King nailed the entire WTF of the experience and created a fully wild novel

Seeing as how Roland had no freaking idea what was going on in the modern world, he took it in incredible stride. Definitely my favorite part was how he kept misinterpreting the words and having to think on his feet

The journey from the terror of the beginning to the camaraderie at the end was a wild one.

What does the lobstrosity say? Well – you should listen to the audio to find out.  I listened to a few hours.  Frank Muller took over this narration (through Simon & Schuster audio) and the whole thing is about 13 hours if you go that route. 

Screenshot_20220630-183150

There are lobstrosity tshirts… That’s all 

The Dark Tower Series reviews:

1 – The Gunslinger 

Categories
Fantasy Science Fiction

The Song Unsung by Steven J. Morris (Book Tour & ARC Review)

This is truly a month full of endings! I toured with T.A. Bruno for the end of his Song of Kamaria series, Mary Beesley wrapped up the Draco Sang trilogy, and The Song Unsung is the fourth and final book in Steven J. Morris’ Guardian League series.

As always I have to thank By the Book VBP and the author for having me on the tour for this entire series.  It’s been a ride and I’m glad to join in the final book tour!

image

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Song Unsung 
  • Series: Guardian League #4
  • Author: Steven J Morris 
  • Publisher & Release: Self, 07/01/23
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for SFF fans and gamers, computer nerds, anyone looking for something different

Here’s the synopsis:

Where do you hide when monsters threaten humanity?
You don’t!
Ride along as Red teams up with the Angel of Death to take the fight to the Infected.
Scan, using his Gift to see magical threads, fights to save the once fame-hungry dwarf, Harry. Grundle, the fearsome troll Warlord, safeguards Smith, along with a cadre of elf and dwarf Healers. And Elliah tries desperately to lead the elves from the prison where her ex trapped them.
With their companions benched, Red and Galad must forge ahead… the fate of humans and elves, intertwined by the selfish actions of the High Lord, depends upon stopping the Infected. But even with the help of the rescued elves, how can they Teleport to a world overrun by their monstrous foes?
New allies, along with ancient ones, aid them on their journey. The key lies in goblin song, lost to the small company of reptilian refugees who escaped to Earth, but not forgotten by the elves. The Song holds the gift of life and the foreknowledge of death. When the tale of the goblins unravels, will humans and elves unravel with it?
Immerse yourself in the fantasy worlds of The Guardian League, and fight your way back to the beginning of the end.

It’s always hard to talk about the fourth book in a series without giving away spoilers, so I will do my best not to.

I think my favorite thing about book 4 is that Morris actually managed to condense the points of view and make almost everyone’s voice distinctive. I’ve been griping through all three books that I can’t keep the characters apart but between Cora, Red, and Scan as the main viewpoints, I had no trouble distinguishing their narrative voices.

The goblins are everything with their banter and popcorn too🤣, but I also have to give honorable mention to Red bantering with the easily amused giant bugs 🤣

That said, I think Cora was my favorite point of view to read.  We finally found out where and how everything started, which also tied directly into Red’s chapters.  This created a sense of continuity that I wasn’t feeling in prior books and I was able to sit down and read this whole thing in about three sittings!

The Song Unsung is not as action packed as the prior three and gets dense into the magic theory, but still tied the first book in terms of enjoyment and readability for me now with the storylines condensed.

PLUS GRUNDLE BABIES, WE HAVE GRUNDLE BABIES!

I am not exactly sure what happened at the tail end of the book but it seems that Morris has more stories to tell, and I’ll be here for them!

Overall I think this book had a LOT of strings to tie up and ground to cover, it’s not perfect but he pulled it off in terms of both giving the history we needed and wrapping up a TON of storylines.  A satisfying ending for sure.

I definitely recommend the series for anyone who enjoys fast paced mashup type novels.  These contain everything from scifi to fantasy to thriller and mild horror elements, plus all the subgenres, and part of the fun is never knowing what will come next. Thanks again to Steven Morris and By the Book for having me along for the story!

Categories
Fantasy Young Adult

Human Hearts by Mary Beesley (Book Review)

Thank you endlessly to Monster Ivy Publishing for my finished paperback of Human Hearts! I have gushed about this series from the start and am not about to slow down because it’s over now 😅

I posted about this book a few times when I first received and started reading.  It is a super fast read.  I think I blanked and never posted my final thoughts because in my head it was already here! That said, I’ll keep this as spoiler free as I can but it is book three!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Human Hearts
  • Series: Draco Sang, #3
  • Author: Mary Beesley
  • Publisher & Release: Monster Ivy Publishing, June 6, 2022
  • Length: 296 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Here’s the synopsis via Am*zon:

A terrible battle rages between the humans and the Draco Sang, half human half beasts…

And the fate of mankind lies in the hands of three.

Jade. The emotionless killer. She’s trained to find the weakest in the human army and slaughter them. But witnessing love and loyalty has her hesitating to wield her blood-stained sword.

Ferth. The son of a mighty Draco Sang chief. He’s tired of fighting and wishes to find a place where he can finally lay down his sword. But there are enemies to face, slaves to free, and a father to battle.

Suza. A protector of liberty. She’ll give her life to defend humanity. But when she loses her heart to a Draco Sang, she must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice for love.

Here are the reviews for Dragon Blood and Wolf Pack – books 1 and 2 in the series.

The first thing I noticed about the conclusion is that it’s shorter than the prior two books! Usually the end of a series is the longest and most drawn out, but Beesley has already set her characters and world and is out to finish her story.

Not to say that there isn’t plenty of characterization in this installment. Ferth, Jade, and Suza are our three points of view and share fairly equal page time.  Ferth is on his quest to slay Nogard, Suza is fighting for love and family and Jade…. Well, Jade has a beast and empire to conquer. I loved her pages the most.

The big themes in Human Hearts are claiming family, freedom, and finding your honor.   It stayed fairly clean with no language, and only insinuated closed door coupling between wolves, that was in general a hilarious scene.  The wolf banter has been *everything* and it continues with no mercy here.

So there’s plenty of adventure and war, heart and heartbreak, and Beesley sets a characteristically breakneck pace that made it hard to not read the book in one sitting.

I would say an easy five stars if I thought Human Hearts held up to Wolf Pack.  It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly lacked but a lot of issues seemed easily resolved and I wish she had taken a little more page time to explore things like Jade’s hewan, Tobin and Jade, what Imanna ended up doing, even the Nogard sequence seemed easy.  I was hoping for some kind of epic dragon battle I think, I mean he was the root of everything. Beesley ruined my heart in the first two books and I didn’t feel it here.

That said, it’s still a great read and series. The characters had each been through more than enough already and the conclusion was satisfactory.  I absolutely 100% recommend this series to any fans of YA fantasy, sweet romance, and clean reads.  I can’t wait to see what the author does next!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Broken Veil by Jeff Wheeler (Book & Series thoughts)

I think I sat on this review a little bit too long. I wanted to think about the themes and the overall series and not come in on a gut reaction, except now the lines between the books have flared together a bit especially since I binged the last three.

Disclaimer that this post is going to get a little series spoilery because it’s book 5 and I think it requires a little bit of discussion about the series as a whole. Anyway, let’s jump in!

Bookish Quick Facts;

  • Title: Broken Veil
  • Series: Harbinger #5
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, June 2019
  • Length: 346 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ I definitely recommend the series, although I’m not sure that it got stronger as it went

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s epic Harbinger series comes to a breathtaking conclusion as two women are swept into a battle that could destroy two worlds.

Rescued from a world of poverty, Cettie Pratt has avoided a bleak destiny—until now. Deceived and manipulated, she has been groomed for the ultimate betrayal: to destroy her best friend and stop peace from uniting two war-torn worlds. Her path leads her to a mysterious underworld where appearances can be deceiving.

Sera Fitzempress knows the value she has to her enemies. As heir to the empire, she must keep her foes at bay and prevent them from unleashing a being of unspeakable evil upon the world while fighting a brutal war. But her enemies are more cunning than Sera expects, and the key to their plans is none other than her best friend.

Neither woman knows what to believe. Neither one knows if she can trust the other. Both Cettie and Sera have made decisions that have irrevocably changed them. But the decisions they have yet to make will determine the fate of their world…

As I said, I’ve been the last three books in the series so it’s a bit hard for me to remember where one book started and the other ended. Each book does have some time pass between events but for the most part the story picks up where it left off.

Each book in the series has quite a bit of action and it’s hard to say which one was the most action-packed, but I think Broken Veil takes the cake there. We got to see Cettie at the poisoners school, which was one of my favorite parts of the series because after reading Kingfountain I always wondered what exactly happens in those places. It’s a very good example of how different facets of culture and conflict do not necessarily view themselves as evil.  In any other world Cettie would have loved it at the school 

Keeping on the Kingfountain train of thought, I definitely missed something huge by not reading the trilogy focusing on Trynne.  There was a cameo at the end of Broken Veil that featured Owen and Sinia, and I have no idea how the actual heck that happened but I’m curious now.  Apparently Cettie also ended up like Trynne in more ways than one, which brings me back to how Wheeler seems to have rehashed a lot of old ideas in the Harbinger series.

Combining the worlds so much definitely worked though, especially when comparing the religions and showing that even in such a divided culture there is harmony to be found in these things.

Sera and Cettie both spent quite a bit of time walking in Maia’s shoes, Ereshkigal came back, there was the Oathmaiden thing, plus bringing all the old Muirwood lore back – either Wheeler ran out of ideas, or more likely to me he wrote this for the people who probably won’t go back and read Muirwood.

I’ve always thought that he should re-release those books with updated editing so that it’s not embarrassing to recommend them, but I think that this series was a concession to the unlikelihood of that ever happening.  The new series also is about very very early Muirwood.

Okay, let’s get back to talking about Broken Veil. 

I have always respected Wheeler for not being afraid to kill off characters, and as a result we get to hear Adam Creigh as the interlude voice in this edition. Adam won my respect as an honorable and brave figure throughout these books so it was nice to get a look inside his head.  I love the fact that he ended up in a hospital and found fulfillment after all of the things he’s been through in the series

The same for Cettie and Sera, everyone got pretty good resolutions although the book felt unfinished to me.

Now speaking of the end of the book, let’s talk about divine intervention. I don’t mind it in this case because the Medium is kind of the unsung hero of both the Muirwood and Kingfountain trilogies, although in some degree it made the struggles of the characters seem slightly diminished. One could also look at it as multiple tests of faith being rewarded, and a message to Sera about the future of her realm. It was definitely an epic act of divine intervention that resolved the action and it also reminded me a bit of a few passage in Revelations, terribly paraphrased, that talk about moving mountains and islands, raining hailstones, and then calling on these devices for protection and salvation. One other thing to consider is – who is piloting Idumea?

With Ereshkigal coming back and the Mirror Gates closing there is a new world coming for sure.

The two things that really annoyed me were 1) The stupid kidnapping thing. Cettie and Sera took turns being kidnapped throughout the entire series to further the plot. It lost its interest and got old real quick, and by the time that I happened in this book I was just so sick of it. Sera didn’t need to see the things that she saw but at the same time I just wish he had come up with something different.

The second super annoying thing is that for all the fact that Stephen and the Fitzroy’s adopted her, Cettie spent a chunk of this book calling him her “almost brother”.  That’s fine but she had been calling the others mother and father and sister already so it felt very weird for her to start using that language and it stuck out like a sore thumb.

All other things aside, I did absolutely love the entire story and plot line of this final book in the series.  Everyone including Corinne got brought to their knees at one point or another.  The level of intrigue and backstabbing had my head spinning in the best way possible.

I’m finding it hard to bring my thoughts onto paper but overall I would definitely recommend this one if you like strong characters, vivid settings, political intrigue, questions of faith, found family, action, period dramas, redemption arcs.  Overall this was a satisfying ending to the series and that is the important thing.

 I do want to take a minute and mention the audiobook. Kate Rudd narrates most of Wheeler’s books and she is absolutely phenomenal. Her voice does such credit to these characters and events. I switched back and forth between audio and text and always appreciate the fact that Wheeler provides free and/or extremely cheap audiobooks as part of his run on Kindle unlimited.


The Harbinger Series:

Categories
Fantasy

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (Thoughts & First Impressions)

A lot of people have been waiting very patiently for this and I apologize for how long it took. There is so much that one could potentially say about Gardens of the Moon and the Malazan  series in general, and for my first post I want to take a very general approach to how I felt coming into the book and how I feel coming out of it and into the next one. I think this will have a lot of good information for other first time readers and those debating about whether to start the series

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Gardens of the Moon
  • Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1
  • Author: Steven Erickson
  • Publisher & Release: Tor Books, 1999
  • Length: 666 pages (MMPB)
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ and yes, hard yes, for anyone with even a casual interest in military or regular fantasy

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

Vast legions of gods, mages, humans, dragons and all manner of creatures play out the fate of the Malazan Empire in this first book in a major epic fantasy series from Steven Erikson.

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order–an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

Okay, so anyone with even a casual interest in fantasy has heard of Malazan, and with that knowledge comes the fact that this fandom is completely full of elitist fucks.  I let that level of elitism deter me for a long time because I found it intimidating, which is just stupid, because when a book is just this damn good people just need to read it.  I get the hype, I really do, but let’s talk about this on an introductory level

First off, the author recommends reading them in publication order which I think is awesome. The series seems super intimidating but it’s really not because the reading order, at least the first time through, is pretty straightforward.

The book itself is written on such an amazing, huge, wonderful scope, that yeah you are absolutely not going to pick up everything on the first read. I sure as hell didn’t. I’m halfway through book two now and learning quite a bit about book one still so do not be concerned if you start reading and go ” holy fuck I have no idea what’s going on” – trust me, you’ll get there.

One of the things that I tend to love about military fantasy is that it’s very realistic in terms of the reader knowing just about as much as the characters knowing. A lot of fantasy holds your hand and explains things and walks you through what’s happening, but in a military engagement this is absolutely not going to be  realistic. If the characters know what’s going on, you probably know what’s going on, but even then sometimes you don’t. Eventually in the text things are explained so you kind of have to just keep reading and learn as you go

That said, there’s a very helpful index including people, places, and some of the phrases used in the text. A good example is the word “Soletaken” – you can either look it up in the index, or just wait for someone to explain it. 

I think the coolest thing about this book is just how absolutely epic and all encompassing it is. You’ve got humans, non-humans, empresses, mages, gods and other deities, assassins, the undead, dragons, talking giant ravens, hounds, magic weapons, epic sorcery, and just about anything else you could ever want in a fantasy mashed into these pages somewhere. It’s truly and epically impressive and I’m not even scratching the surface.  

Another thing that I really appreciate is how Erikson does not mince words. If a character is fat, awesome, if they’re black, awesome, whatever.  Burned, missing an eye or arm, whatever. Just about the only thing that makes anybody turn their head is a puppet with devastating sorcery capabilities.

Even the most boring storyline in this book eventually ties into bigger things and gives you a big validating “oh wow!” moment, or six.  Even when the text isn’t necessarily exciting you get cool fantasy names like “Despot’s Barbican” to keep you entertained and curious. I didn’t love the Darujistan political storyline until it started falling into place, but it was still cool.

The level of political intrigue is right up there as well, both within and outside of the Malazan Empire.   The mages are plotting, the gods are plotting, Dujek is plotting, some of Whiskey Jack’s men are plotting …. Everyone’s got an end game and you have no idea what any of it is until Erickson decides to tell you.  Some of the plots carry right over into the next book too.

The sorcery and some of the fight scenes are epic too.  So are the characters and interwoven plots. I love the names like WhiskeyJack, Tattersail, Anomander Rake, Topper, Fiddler, Quick Ben – Erikson comes close to Glen Cook in the “fun military nicknames” category – and just smashes him everywhere else. No offense but Cook even admits he was outdone in the book plug 🤣

Some of my favorite themes were … Cause and effect. Luck. PTSD and how war sucks away humanity. Friends and found family.  Protecting your own.

Some of the coolest magic – Anomander Rake’s sword, which essentially sucks souls into it and puts them to a hellish task.  Also Hairlock’s puppet shenanigans.  The shape shifting.  At the end it was hard to tell 100% what happened but that was some damn fine sorcery as well with the “house” appearing. One more awesome point of magic is the future telling or guiding Deck of Dragons. It’s not readily apparent how involved and magical the decks are, but when it comes out it’s quite interesting!

I feel like I’m already writing an essay (while hardly scratching the surface).

I want to stress again to first time readers too –  just keep reading when you feel overwhelmed, I think the best approach is to let it wash over you without interrupting the reading too much. You’re not stupid, you’re not alone, it’s a LOT to take in.

I am told that this is the least well written of his books as well, so I have high high high hopes for the rest of the series

🖤

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 General Posts, Non Reviews

The Summer Tree Week 4 Readalong & Wrap up!

Yayyy we did it, this is the finish line! The week four questions are hosted by Bookforager over at https://bookforager.wordpress.com/ , who has my favorite website layout ever, it’s so easy to find things!

Anyway! I have so many thoughts on the ending and the book in general.  It was awesome to read along with such an awesome group of bloggers too. I learned a lot about the fantasy genre in general from reading everyone else’s thoughts and am super glad to have been able to participate!


1. Paul is now the Lord of the Summer Tree. What do you think this means/ will mean?

I think it means I’m an idiot for thinking he would end up dead and buried after the three days! I have NO IDEA what this means.  My best guess is that he is some kind of Avatar for Mörnir and was either granted special knowledge or will otherwise be afforded some respect by the court if nothing else

2. Each of our grad students has found a role to play in Fionavar, most questionably Jennifer. She asks herself “what was her sin, what had she done” to deserve the terrible TERRIBLE punishment she receives at the hands of Maugrim and his creatures. What are your thoughts and feelings on Jennifer’s plight, and how have you made sense of it within the scope of the story so far?

Yeah like WTF, are they all just going to teleport back to Toronto after this? That *WAS* the ending, no?  I am going to be that person and say that overall, GGK isolated my feelings about the characters by making them all caricatures.  Aileron – the most valiant prince. Diarmuid – the biggest scoundrel.  Maugrim – omg most evil dude ever right down to the burning eyes and hooded face.

What happened to Jen? Honestly I just figured GGK was continuing to go for “the WORST THING EVER” and he concocted something that would even have George RR Martin golf clapping.

In the greater context beyond shock value, I would be a little annoyed by Silvercloak if he had forseen that and was alluding to it when he first met Jen

3. What did you make of the many events in the throne room, from the assassination attempt to the showdown for the crown?

This felt like a stage drama to me! I think it was probably one of Diarmuid’s most serious lines in the entire book, when he acknowledged that both were trying, or at least willing, to assassinate him.  I am not sure how he ended up yielding the crown so easily either, I wanted a lot more prince vs prince drama.

I was also surprised that the Black Rose (or whatever she went by) was interested in potentially murdering him.  I would have thought she would be gunning for marriage or another political alliance, not sneaking in. DID SHE FORGET THAT IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO?  He acknowledged that “plucking a flower” was probably in poor taste, but at the same time, IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO

4. There’s been a surfeit of signs, a plethora of portents in this week’s reading. Now is the time to air your opinions on such things as flying unicorns, getting lost in the woods, the Cave of the Sleepers, magical Horns and unearthed Cauldrons

This is probably my most serious conversation topic – I think it’s a good example of some things that GGK did really well, and some that he did really badly.  The cauldron, for example, made me realize that there’s more than one super evil destroyer of things with more than one goal here.  That whole story line needed more to flesh itself out but I’m sure we will be revisiting it later on.

Which horn came first, RJ or GGK?  I like magical horns.  Kristin Britain did one too.   TOP 5 MAGICAL HORNS, THERE’S ANOTHER ONE!

I think you can never go wrong with a flying unicorn, I absolutely adore pegasus and unicorns and any other kind of sentient equine whatsoever.  I do feel a post coming on my TOP 5 SENTIENT EQUINES IN FANTASY! The last one mentioned – being lost in the woods – I think that was one of the most magical scenes and I was so worried for the boys! Those woods had a mind of their own and truly it was a good thing that the powers that be were eventually distracted by Paul

5. The Dwarves did it, in the darkness, with the Cauldron of Khath Meigol! What do you make of this last-minute revelation? And care to make any predictions on future developments?

Well …. we finally got Matt’s story. I was hoping for Matt’s real name, because there’s no way it’s Matt. I loved the bit of dwarf lore but it seems like he will have to go back, maybe with Silvercloak, and right some past wrongs.

Seriously though just when you thought the court couldn’t get any more dramatic…

6. Finally, reaction shots on Maugrim the Unraveller – go!

I was picturing Skeletor from He-Man, honestly, and laughing.  Like animate the eyes red and go. I know I know I know I’m terrible but I literally had this entire book playing out in my head as a He-Man style animated cartoon and I just thought it was funny, that’s the best I can do for you guys

Overall – I swear I’m not trying to undermine anyone’s true and undying love for this book but while entertained and fascinated, I didn’t take the story itself very seriously.  I enjoyed the themes and applying them to a broader context within fantasy literature more than the story itself

What I really want to see though is how GGK grows and moves on from the first book – did he hear criticism about the characters and flesh them out more? Do we see how they were affected by events back in Toronto and they return to Fionavar for round two because – hey, your destiny is calling about it’s extended warranty?

I can’t wait to find out!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy

Prism Cloud by Jeff Wheeler (Book Thoughts)

I binge finished the Harbinger series last week and have just not had time to sit down and write about it. I want to wrap up my thoughts on these books before starting my Malazan talks! Reviews for the prior books in the series are linked at the end.

Let’s jump into it!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Prism Cloud
  • Series: Harbinger #4
  • Author: Jeff Wheeler
  • Publisher & Release: 47 North, March 2019
  • Length: 348 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡

*The book currently has a 4.42 rating on GoodReads, so the majority of his fans are onboard with the series*

Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:

Friendship is strained to its breaking point in Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s fourth Harbinger novel.

When the emperor is assassinated, Sera Fitzempress is the noble most eligible to inherit the empire. Her upcoming marriage to the prince would cement her position. And as a champion for peace, Sera is the only promise of hope for staving off war between the worlds of Kingfountain and Muirwood. But standing between her and her enemies is just one devastating secret.

Sera’s best friend, Cettie, a girl born of a lower class, has made a shattering discovery: her entire existence has been a lie. Now Cettie must give up the only life she’s known and fought for and leave behind the man she loves to stop Sera’s wedding. For this discovery could bring the whole of Kingfountain to ruin.

As Cettie struggles to determine her true loyalties and loves, her allies fall to wicked plots, and she becomes increasingly alone on her journey to a destiny she never wanted—one that could ignite an unstoppable war.

Oh geez, where to start with this one. Cettie almost ruined the book for me. Prism Cloud was the best of them as far as plot, action, and intrigue, even the other characters shined, but Cettie was absolutely terrible.

Sera once again was the superstar of this novel.  She broke out of her prison in Pavenham Sky transformed into a much more patient and focused woman and was able to make amazing things happen in both Empires. Trevon and Durrant were superstars too both in their own ways.

There was a touch of romance, absolutely lovely (and then heartbreaking) to see Sera and Trevon actually falling for each other after so many differences. One of my favorite aspects was how they discovered that Muirwood’s Medium and Kingfountain’s Fountain Magic were so similar

Another thing I respect Wheeler for is not being afraid to kill off one, two, or six of our favorite characters. The beginning and end of the book both featured terrible murders and just, wow.  The Adam and Fitzroy scene at the end was unbelievably sad.

The other main plot line besides the ill-fated Kingfountain wedding was that Corinne finally outmaneuvered Cettie, who had a crisis of faith and totally succumbed to it. All the scheming and intrigue was finally revealed and yes, it went deep, but Cettie turned into a snivelling moron. It was so uncharacteristic and bad that reading her chapters was painful. I could not believe her arc went downhill so quickly – it was like Wheeler wanted to rehash Maia’s storyline (see next book) but honestly I would have rather seen Cettie fighting for Sera. Cettie knows what found family is and was willing to throw it all away so quickly, knowing that her deceiver was the worst of everyone!? It was just SO bad, it didn’t ring true at all.

And of course – she got kidnapped.  I’ll talk about it more during Broken Veil but it really kills me that Wheeler’s MoA for this series is to alternately diminish each character while the other shines, like, how many times can you use kidnapping as a plot device in one series?

The rest of the plot and action held the faults at bay for the most part but I think Wheeler could have done better overall

My favorite part was 100% at Kingfountain, and everything involving Sera.  Watching her maneuver against Montpensier and finally unravelling the entire political plot was by far the high point of the story.  As was Sera and Adam’s escape after the terrible events that occurred.  I also will talk about Adam more in the next book’s review but his bravery was stunning.

While the other characters and the action would have made this the best read of the series, Cettie dragged the book down. I’m coming in at a strong 3.5 with this one but by no means dislike the book or series at all.

Once again if anyone likes audio, Kate Rudd is amazing.  She is clear and coherent and does great voices.

The Harbinger Series:

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Thrillers

Two (2-Star) ARCs and Authors Know We Can’t Unsee Things, Right?

I feel like I should talk about these books a little bit since they were sent as ARCs but honestly I just want to scrub them out of my mind and not talk about them anymore, so here is a brief summary of my rationales.

I was trying to (see the post’s main image) use a pretty tree to downplay how much I really did not like either of these arcs, my apologies to the publishers

How do you handle your rating system? I don’t have many 2 star reads, 1 is my DNF and 3 is my so-so/average/neutral rating… and that gray zone in the middle that is my 2 star rating, is hard.

The Outside is by an Icelandic author, Ragnar Jonasson, that I have enjoyed before. Sent from Minotaur Books via NetGalley. The translation is releasing in America in June 2022. I love Nordic noir. That said, Outside was repetitive, I guessed most of the twists right away, it wasn’t really thrilling, and the end left the characters in a weird predicament with more questions left than answered. I also think some of the phrasing was lost in translation. Maybe the movie will be better? This was a quick read with short chapters and alternating points of view, but at no point was I truly interested or invested.

The GoodReads rating is exceptionally low as well so I am not alone, it stands somewhere around a 3.2 right now

Screenshot_20220516-162657

Elsewhere was sent as an early physical copy from Celadon Books. While I loved Alex Schaitkin’s first book, Saint X, this one left me constantly either bored or grossed out. The mysticism worked in her first book but here, as a fantasy reader, I wanted that big question answered: what was the affliction? It was just too perverse as well, which was her intention but I’m 100% not here for that content. I cant unsee some of the things Vera and Peter did and I’m trying not to barf, like, wtf is this adding to the story?  The book had some good parts though and I felt like it was winding up to really reveal the mystery of the affliction, then it fell terribly flat by not giving us the big reveal but making things even weirder.

Screenshot_20220516-162623

Both of these books earn 2🌟 as I finished them, but can’t in good faith recommend them

Thanks again to the publishers for the advanced copies ❤

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: