Book Review: The Black Prism

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

4.5/5 stars

This book took my by surprise, and in all good ways. I’d heard of Brent Weeks here and there, but hadn’t picked up anything by him. To my SHAME. This story was incredible.

First things first. Gavin Guile is one of those characters that makes you wonder what his ultimate motivation is. The pretty standard trope “is he a good guy or bad guy” initially had me rolling my eyes, but I stuck with the story since the magic system was so intriguing, and Kip was so dang lovable. Thankfully, the trope is turned on its head as things are revealed (don’t want to spoil anything) that make everything he is doing make sense.

And that’s about it with this story. Everything you think you know ends up being something completely different. It’s not just the standard plot twists and turns that are there just for the sake of being there. The plot is just, quite simply, genius. It makes me want to reprimand myself for not reading it sooner (or, actually, listening, since I did the audiobook).

Weeks weaves a tale so spellbinding you can’t put it down. That’s the genius of a good writer. The characters were phenomenal, the plot engrossing, and the worldbuilding masterful. My one minor critique is the overuse of describing women in physical terms. Weeks tended to be more descriptive of what women looked like as opposed to men, and it got a bit *eyeroll* after awhile. But other than that, this whole story was flawless in every respect.

Grab it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.

Book Review: Symphony of the Wind

Symphony of the Wind (The Raincatcher's Ballad Book 1)

3.5/5 stars

This story follows the tale of Gallows, a Hunter who gets caught up in a whirl of conspiracy, revenge, and just plain, flat-out rollicking bad luck. It also follows Serena, a young girl who isn’t what she seems and has powers she knows little about.

I’ll start with the things I really enjoyed. Interestingly enough, I feel it was the side characters who really shined. Damien, Pierro, and V (who we didn’t get to see much of and I wish there had been more) were among my favorites. They were unique and engaging. I also really appreciated the world-building. It’s a unique society, with hints of bigger-picture politics and intrigue and conspiracy, which I usually enjoy. This was no exception. There were surprising plotlines, the writing was engaging and humorous, and generally speaking, the action kept me on the edge of my seat.

A few things tripped me up, but not to a large degree. Serena was bland, in my opinion, and there were aspects of her character that felt inconsistent. She cares very little when someone in her orphanage is murdered, but then worries about a stranger she barely knows who goes missing. I enjoyed Gallows a bit more. I feel he was more consistent and believable, as well as more likable.

The plot could have used some streamlining. It was a bit haphazard, and there were points where I was thoroughly confused and didn’t know what was happening. It would come together, but then it would shoot out again in random directions. This left the climax rather disjointed, and I felt like there were five or six mini-climax points as opposed to the story leading somewhere concrete. This won’t bother everyone, however.

I can definitely see why many readers love this book. I enjoyed it, too, despite some of my complaints. All in all, if you are looking for something different and unique as far as themes, world-building, and atypical characters, then grab this one.

Get it on Amazon (it’s on KU as well) or add it on Goodreads

Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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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.

Grab it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.

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.

Check it out on Amazon or add to your Goodreads.

Book Review: Never Die

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4.5/5 stars

When I first started the book, I knew I would love it. It starts with a good hook, and then doesn’t disappoint as it delivers chapter after chapter.

In fact, it exceeded my expectations. You know it’s good when throughout the day you find yourself preoccupied with when you can get your tasks done and go finish reading. When I finished, I couldn’t decide whether it was a 4 star are 5 star for me. I finally landed in the middle.

First, the characters were incredibly unique. You’re first introduced to Cho, also called Whispering Blade. There isn’t much backstory given until later in the book, but it only adds to the character’s mysteriousness. Part of the character arc, if you will, is the fact that she takes her oaths incredibly seriously, and endears herself in that way. Then, Ein is introduced. I have a huge soft spot for creepy children characters (weird, I know), and employed one in my own book series. So maybe I’m biased. Either way, Ein has all the right elements: a mysterious power, an unknown backstory, a strange mission, and yet is likeable.

More characters join into a motley crew of strange heroes who are subject to Ein and his mission. Each one of them is unique, to the point it borders on genius. You never confuse who is who, even though they each have two, if not three, names. But the POV is so well written you don’t get confused about whose viewpoint you’re in (although, one critique… it was a more distant POV so sometimes you were into the POV by a few paragraphs before you knew what perspective you were reading from). Although, this isn’t unusual for fantasy. All in all, it’s the characters who really drive the book. My personal favorite was Iron Gut Chen.

The plot was pretty ingenious, but I don’t want to go into too many details so I don’t spoil it. My only minor complaint, and one reason for 4.5 instead of 5 stars, was the endings predictability. The entire book was so well written, though, that is was nearly impossible not to guess what was going on. This is generally the opposite for why I find books to be predictable: bad writing leading to too obvious conclusions for the ending. However, Never Die is so incredibly well done that you can see where it’s going, and the excitement builds, and bam! The delivery comes and you’re left breathless.

I could go on and on. Honestly, this is my favorite book of 2019 so far. One tiny complaint: it needed one more proofread before publication. There were a few punctuation errors per chapter, and a few tense changes mid sentence scattered throughout the book. But it no way detracted from the overall feeling of quality work you get as you read.

All in all, a massively well done story. If you are a fan of fantasy reads, add this one as “next to read” on your TBR piles!

Book Review: We Ride the Storm

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When I first picked this up in my quest to read all the SPFBO finalists this year, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d heard great things, of course, but I tend to not get my hopes up when it comes to high reviews of books. I’m so happy this book exceeded my expectations.

The start of the book was a bit too brutal for my tastes, so I almost DNF’d it. But the characters made me love them right off the bat, so I kept with it. Although the violence is heavy, and the content dark, I was sucked into this world where light shines in unlikely places.

First, the characters are fantastic. Rah, with his honor, and the way he stands up for even his enemies. Miko, with her courage and loyalty. Cassandra, with her wit and intelligence. All three fight against internal and external struggles, making them well-rounded, fleshed-out, and downright believable.

Second, the plot has just enough twists to keep you on the edge of your seat, but without sacrificing world building. This is a hard balance to navigate when writing fantasy. The author does a phenomenal job.

Third, the magic system is understated without being forgettable, and unique without being overdone. Again, the way the author balances this tightrope act is incredible. There isn’t any explanations for WHY some things are the way they are, which is one reason this isn’t a total 5 stars for me, but I’m hoping it comes out in the next book. I don’t mind a good mystery, or leaving the reader questioning, but my personal preference is to have a broader understanding of the magic in the world.

All in all, this is a phenomenal read if you like dark epic fantasy with creative work building, well balanced magic, Deep characters, and flashes of light to break up the shadows. Can’t wait for the next book.

4.5/5 stars

Now available: The Shade War

It’s time to wrap up The Rodasia Chronicles. The Shade War, volume III, released today. It’s a bittersweet moment for me. Years of work, finally completed. Sigh. There’s a sense of accomplishment, though. Get caught up by reading The Hidden Queen and The Coming Light.

 

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