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
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 Young Adult

Book Review: Aspiring by Astrid V.J.

Thank you so much to the author for the Instagram giveaway e-copies of the two books in the Siblings’ Tale duology! I read the whole set in one weekend and have no regrets. The book is a super loose fairy tale retelling of Brother and Sister and reads like it’s own tale.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Aspiring
  • Series: Elisabeth & Edvard – The Siblings’ Tale – Part 1
  • Author: Astrid V.J.
  • Publisher & Release:  New Wings Press, May 2019
  • Length: 240 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for YA/fantasy/clean fiction/fairytale readers!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A coven of witches plots to overthrow a kingdom. One brave woman stands in their way.

At her mother’s death bed, Elisabeth learns her mother’s illness is no accident and that her own life is in danger. Evil witches are plotting to take over the kingdom of Vendale. All alone, naive, and untrained, Elisabeth’s determination is all she has to confront her mother’s murderers as she discovers love at the same time. While Richard’s behaviour sends distracting mixed messages, Elisabeth finds herself stuck in limbo: she is treated like a child but is forced to make adult decisions. Meanwhile, the witches’ plot spins a fateful web around her.

Can Elisabeth succeed in the face of insurmountable odds?

I did read the prequel novel before this too, and feel like Gisela’s Passion (review available on this blog) can definitely be read at any point.

I like that the book is framed as a modern story told by an archivist, so we know the end result of the tale but then become immersed. It is about the siblings, Elisabeth and Edvard, and also about the future king, Richard. The siblings are great characters and so close. I love how Edvard stands up to their father, since the men in this world tend to behave atrociously and sometimes need a good punch. Elisabeth is a strong young woman and at least tries to make her own choices. She has a lot of big expectations on her but doesn’t necessarily have the means to accomplish them. Elisabeth has to navigate a budding but confusing romance with the crown prince, and also discover how to use her innate magic.

The writing in general is so smooth. Cozy. I like the narrative style. I want to read it wrapped up by the fire in the winter. It doesn’t require a ton of brain power but still feels like an engaging read. I definitely recommend for clean fiction readers and it is totally appropriate for the young adult crowd/target audience. Definitely for YA romance/fantasy/fairy tale fans.

Thank you again to the author for the giveaway win!!