Book Review: The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang

Image result for the sword of kaigen

 

5/5 stars

The Sword of Kaigen is the first book I’ve read by this author, and certainly won’t be the last. I had a wide range of feelings and thoughts when I first started reading. What I’ll do for review purposes is start off with what I had (minor) complaints about before I get into the massive amounts of positive things. But first things first.

You can’t read this book thinking it’s about a progressive story, with a typical 5 act structure. The book centers around one battle that takes place about halfway through, and on two characters and how they respond. It took me a bit to get used to this concept. Typically I’m drawn to books that take you multiple different directions with the plot lines, and have some happenings that lead up to the plot climax. This is not that. So, when I finally understood this, I enjoyed the story much better. I’m sure this was purposeful on the author’s part (since this story takes place in a world she already created) so the book, from what I understand, is kind of a prequel type of story. This actually isn’t a complaint as much as a side note to how you should approach reading this book.

A couple things that I had to get used to. There is a LOT of concepts, terms, and language that is new. There is a glossary, which is helpful, but it was so pervasive that at least twice a paragraph I was having to go back to reference what was being said and talked about. For readers familiar with the author’s other works, this probably won’t be as much of a problem. But for me, it was almost too much. I nearly put the book down. I’m SO glad I didn’t. On the one hand, this lends to really being deep in the world, because of course the characters will know exactly what is going on. But there were other sections of the book that were info dumps (helpful in some cases) but I wish there had been a tad bit more of this so I had a better idea of what was going on without having to constantly be referencing the glossary (which is more difficult when reading an eBook, which I was.) Again, all that to say, stick with it. You won’t be disappointed.

Now, on to the good stuff. For me, there were three things that make this writer a stand-out. The book focuses on two characters, for the most part. Mamoru and his mother, Misaki. However, their stories don’t intersect that much until a good bit into the story. This isn’t a problem, though, because it’s actually a very clever worldbuilding element. You right away get the sense that family relationships are VERY different, but without being directly told this is so. That’s my first rave about this author: the worldbuilding is incredible. You immediately get tossed into a fantastic, unique world and story.

Secondly, the characters are multi-layered, unique, and far from predictable. Initially, I REALLY disliked Misaki, because her flaws seemed to far outweigh the good things about her. But then it hit me: this was absolutely intentional and vital to the story itself. Because not only is Misaki an incredibly unique and relateable character, it gradually comes out that this self-view she has is not accurate. And where it IS accurate, it only reveals the brokenness of her story and of the world itself, making her one of the most real, understandable, and fascinating characters I’ve ever read in any book. Ever. And I read A LOT.

Mamoru is also a very well-done character. It was hard at first to get into his story, since initially he comes across as just like every other coming-of-age teenager I’ve read. However, his character arc takes such a great turn that I finally grasped the scope of what the author was trying to accomplish, and was totally blown away. It finally struck me that this is more a story about the characters than the plot itself. And the story was so well crafted that I can’t even complain about it.

Lastly, the themes of this book were deep and so well done that you get the feeling the author is some multi-bestselling genius. Topics such as relationships in marriage, parenting, sexism, patriarchy, self-worth, and a host of others left me in awe. This story hits a hard punch to the gut in all the best ways. I can’t remember the last time I got choked up so many times reading a novel. It’s not just current and raw, it rips your heart up and then heals it.

A HUGE 5 stars. Wish I could leave more than that. This book isn’t even a risk. It’s a guaranteed enjoyable, emotional experience.

Find it on Amazon or add to Goodreads.

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.

Grab it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.

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

Grab it on Amazon or add to your Goodreads.

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.

Grab it on Amazon or add to your Goodreads.

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.

Grab it on Amazon or add to your Goodreads.

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.

Get it on Amazon or add to your 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.