Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Image result for throne of glass

 

3/5 stars

I’m a little bit behind on the times. But late is better than never, right? Throne of Glass has much to commend. It sets up the world well, although I feel like a little more worldbuilding would have been helpful. We get a glimpse of the magic system, too. But it seems the author almost entirely focuses on character development. A fair choice, especially considering this is a long series. My preference tends to be worldbuilding and plot alongside character arcs, but I can see why some authors choose not to.

The story centers around Celaena, an eighteen year old assassin. She is a convicted criminal, serving time in what amounts to something similar to a Natzi concentration camp. She’s given a choice: compete to become the Kings Champion, and it she wins, earn back her freedom by being his assassin for four years. The concept of the book is intriguing. A competition isn’t anything new in fantasy or YA literature, but the stakes are definitely high.

The three main characters (Celaena, Chaol, Dorian) have the stereotypical love triangle element, which I feel is entirely overdone. This was one reason this book is 3 stars for me. Nothing new is added, and this takes up a large portion of the character development. We do however get good glimpses into motivations, and a bit of worldbuilding, through this element. The author took advantage of the trope to do a little more with it, so I appreciated it.

Celaena is a fascinating character. There were a couple things about her I felt didn’t fit all that well. She was much too quick to recover from her time in prison without any residual effects besides fear of returning. No PTSD besides an occasional dream, but really, that element came in more to do with her past and her parents than her stint in Endovier. Besides that, though, I really liked her. I’m super curious about her relationship with Arobynn, and I hope that comes out more in the following books. She was badass without being overdone, had elements of vanity that made her seem human, and just enough snark without being annoying. All in all, well written and likeable.

Dorian was bit boring to me, and Chaol was definitely my favorite side character, although he was a bit bland in my opinion, too. I hope the next books expand on their characters and make them more interesting. I liked that with Dorian there were hints of him wanting to man up and stop being a spoiled Prince, and Celaena seems to be part of that motivation. And with Chaol, I liked that his personality and temperament fit the fact that he is a soldier. Yet we saw softer sides to him, that make the reader want to cheer him on.

My favorite part of the book was seeing glimpses into the magic system and the In-between. This makes me think I’ll really enjoy the second book if this comes more into play.

This book was an easy read, more about introducing us to the characters than anything else. I will continue reading the series, since the hints of what’s to come are leading in a direction I usually like: darker, more magic, more political intrigue.

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Book Review: The Silver Sorceress by Alec Hutson

The Silver Sorceress (The Raveling Book 2) by [Hutson, Alec]

4.5/5 stars

4.5/5 stars. I’ve been a fan of Hutson for a long while, right around when Will Wight brought him to light. Honestly, I think he could have “made” it even without that. But I digress.

Sequels are HARD to write. Rarely do they live up to the hype of the first book. And while I like The Crimson Queen better, I only like it better by a slim margin. This book picks up right where book 1 left off. And we hear from some different characters from different cultures. I LOVE these types of sweeping looks at fantasy worlds. Hutson does it superbly. Cho Lin was an awesome addition to the story. The writing is classic fantasy-style, without being stilted. Keilan’s character is growing at a good pace while remaining realistic to his age and capacity. Nel remains one of my favorite side characters in a book, ever.

The only reason it’s not 5 stars for me is two-fold. First, there seemed to be some pacing issues. I know how hard it is to master this, ESPECIALLY in fantasy that requires a ton of world building. Still, it stumbled at some points, and I feel it could have been smoothed a bit more. And second, while Alyanna is a great villain in TCQ, I feel like her character arc was weaker in this book. There are obvious reasons for this as you read the book, but I feel like these issues, too, could have been smoothed out.

All that to say, I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this, as I suspected I would

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Book Review: Child of the Kaites by Beth Wangler

Child of the Kaites (The Firstborn's Legacy Book 1) by [Wangler, Beth]

4/5 stars

There is a lot to commend about this book. I’ve never read anything quite like it… retellings are often fairy-tales (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, etc) but the author took a biblical story and re-imagined it. The characters were well written and unique in their own ways, and the grammar/sentence structure was technically perfect. Which, ironically, is one of the reasons why I don’t think this was a 5 star for me. I didn’t get much of a “voice” for Rai, the main character and the point of view the book was written from. Even though the technicality was really good, it came across a little dry. But don’t let that stop you from getting this book.

I really enjoyed picking out the various themes that were familiar from the story of Moses, but the author also adds her own, too, making it less predictable. Especially if you’re familiar with the Exodus story.

The kaites and aivenkaites were interesting, and toward the end became fairly predictable (another reason this is 4 not 5 stars) but the action was heart-pounding and pretty constant throughout the book. You barely get time to breathe before Rai and her merry band are on the run countless times from the aivenkaites. There were instances where I had to force myself to relax and take a deep breath 🙂

All in all, this was a good read. I look forward to more in the series.

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Book Review: Aletheia by Megan Tennant

 

=Aletheia (The Seventh River Book 1) by [Tennant, Megan]

4/5 stars

There were so many good elements to this story it’s hard to know where to start. I’ll start with the plot itself. It’s a cross between The Walking Dead, Hunger Games, and Red Rising, in all the right ways. There’s zombies, uprisings, and YA elements that blend really well together. The author does a great job of not info dumping, but getting you acquainted with the world through the story, as opposed to just throwing a bunch of stuff at you.

The characters themselves were interesting and unique. 736 came across as multi-layered, and had clear motivations. Arson was one of my favorites, with his humor and snarky tone. Jason, although I had a hard time connecting with him at first, grew on me.

The tension and buildup was so good. The story was going somewhere, and although there were parts that dragged a bit for me, as a whole, the pacing was at times rip-roaring fast, yet with enough breaks to give you a breather.

My only complaints were 1) The love story was a little hard for me to believe, because it happened so fast (but that’s fairly typical with YA type stories) and 2) The flavor of the book was YA, but the characters ages were hard to pin down. At some point, I think Jason was said to be 19 (maybe 18) but 736 seemed to be in her mid-twenties? The memory gaps played into this, I think, but I wish that had been a bit clearer.

The complaints are minor, though, compared to the rest of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful prose, the plot lines and the execution thereof, and where the story took me. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

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Book Review: Aching God

Aching God by Mike Shel

4/5 stars

I enjoyed this book overall. It follows the story of Auric Manteo, a retired explorer and fighter, who is called forward to help with returning an ancient relic back to the Djao temple where it originated. A plague has broken out, and it is thought the relic is the cause, a god dispensing retribution for the theft.

There were some really great elements to this story. First, the world-building was extraordinarily well done. You get a really good sense of the culture, the various religions, the history, the current political scene, and the machinations of court life. The whole setting of when Auric and Belech are bringing their quest to the Queen is fantastic.

The characters are really well developed, too, and memorable. I especially liked the insane characters: you get a real sense of the “wrongness” of the whole situation with the queen, and later with the count when he gives Auric the sword. Auric himself was pretty well done, too. I found him a bit boring, in a typical “always does the right thing” type of way. The only real thing that interested me was his PTSD. That aspect was phenomenal, but otherwise, I found him a bit one-dimensional. I liked him, but I didn’t LOVE him. The side characters is where the author seemed to really shine: each of them have something memorable, and each of them have something endearing yet complex.

The plot dragged, which is why this is a 4 instead of a 5 star for me. It seems pacing was sacrificed for the vast amounts of world-building. The last few chapters were so, so good, and I couldn’t put them down. But the middle, up until about 70% of the way through, there were times I had to force myself to keep going. The good thing is, the characters were so well done that I DID keep going.

All in all, if you are looking for a fantasy book with great worldbuilding, well-fleshed characters, and a killer of an ending, grab this on for sure.

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Book Review: Out of Darkness by E.B. Dawson

 

5/5 stars

This book was not what I was expecting. The cover made me think sci-fi, and while it technically is, it isn’t hard sci-fi like Hubert or Pierce. Once I got used to this, I really enjoyed the story. It’s centered around a girl named Logan, who in the course of three years, is recruited and trained as an assassin.

The series is called The Creation of Jack. Dawson takes you on a thrill ride, jumping timelines in Logan’s life and showing you who she is through each of these jumps. As Logan (before the recruitment), as Jack (as the assassin) and as Bailey (the recruit.) The book explores deep issues of identity, asking the question “Who am I?” While there aren’t necessarily hard-set answers to that question, she does a good job exploring the facets of who Logan is, what she is capable of, and the purpose for which Jack is created.

You get the sense of this being an exciting assassin tale, when it still is actually a sci-fi read. Like I said, it was a bit disorienting at first, but once I realized what was going on, I could follow along. A few issues: the dialogue. There aren’t many beats or tags, so it can be difficult to follow who is speaking when. I wouldn’t say I hate this style. I got over it because the story was that good. But definitely not my preference. I don’t mind working hard to understand a book, but I don’t like working hard just to figure out who is talking. This wasn’t a deterrent for me, but it almost was.

The timeline jumps are at first confusing, but once I realized she used different names for Logan to give you an idea of what timeline you were in, I think it was actually pretty genius. I haven’t read a book formatted quite like that before, and found it fresh and new.

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Book Review: The Traveler by EB Dawson

The Traveler (Lost Empire Book 1)

4/5 stars

EB Dawson is a part of the Phoenix Fiction Writers, a marketing collective of speculative fiction authors of which I am also a part. PFW authors consistently put out quality work, and Dawson is no exception.

I’m not sure where to start with this review. There were so many fantastic elements to this book. For starters, I think it can all be summed up in one line: “This story isn’t about you.” One character says it to another, and the truth hit me hard. It’s so simple, yet so easy to forget. Each of our stories are so much bigger than we think, and the main character, Anissa, embarks on a journey to show just how true it is.

The descriptions in this book border on stunning. There were moments I felt like I was back in the mountains of Bolivia hiking to small villages with medical supplies strapped to my back. I’m not sure what the author had in mind when she wrote some of the mountain and village scenes, but that’s what it felt like. Rural, beautiful, big, and a reminder that it’s important to step outside our comfort zones.

The characters were in-depth and well fleshed out. I know some of them have side short stories, but even those characters still seemed to have motivations that were believable and real. One of Dawson’s strongest points in her writing is the ability to have characters with many sides. They aren’t one dimensional, a pet peeve of mine particularly reading indie authors. Dawson blows it out of the water. Carson is a good example: is he a good guy, a bad guy, or both? Does he want to do the right thing, or is he only interested in himself? Is he a narcissist, or does he have the ability to empathize? Bit by bit you see layers to him as the story unfolds.

One last thing, or I’ll go on forever. A lot of books have tackled traveling, whether it be time travel, jumping from one world to another, and so on. This book takes a trope that can often be overused and puts a unique edge to it. For me, it was the politics. Both worlds have clear-cut structure, and the interaction between those two structures was compelling. The theme of forced democracy, abuse of the planet, indoctrination of children, and other such “political” issues were delved into, in a way that I’ve never read before. There were times it was tackled head on, other times it was handled delicately. I feel that Dawson’s second strength, besides character development, is politics. This is evident in other books of hers, as well, but it really shines in this one.

The good far outshone the quirks in this novel. There were a few instances of head-hopping, but it wasn’t super distracting. There were a couple action scenes that were hard to follow because it was mostly dialogue, which was odd. But it didn’t take away from the author’s ability to completely submerge you into the worlds in this book. All in all, I can’t recommend it enough.

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