Category Archives: fantasy

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury by L.R.W. Lee #review

I am a sucker for dragons and fantasy and misunderstood kids. It is almost always a great combination.

I began to read this book with anticipation and a little bit of trepidation. Anticipation for the possibility that the book seemed to promise. The trepidation came because I had just finished a book that utterly disappointed me by not living up to the promise of the jacket blurb.

I am relieved to say that this book was not a disappointment.

It was a joy.

L.R.W. Lee writes a delightful story for a  younger audience.

Our newly minted hero, Andy, is relate-able. He is an imaginative kid who feels constantly misunderstood by his family. So it is with more excitement than fear that he finds himself transported to a magical land called Oomaldee. On arrival he is tasked with helping to break a curse for a centuries old king while being thwarted by a spiteful ghost. He makes new friends and grows as an individual while discovering secrets and battling dragons.

The intro to the book and the history of the curse is nicely done. A funny and fresh take on what awaits those who have passed on.

This book is intended for a younger reader than most of the YA fiction I review. As such it seemed at times to over simplify some situations and maybe underestimate the intended reader. I think that even the younger 8-11 year olds this seems geared towards could understand and appreciate a little more nuance.

The story is well crafted and enjoyable. As an adult I still found the story interesting. It was whimsically quirky without being patronizing or obvious. A very hard combination to achieve. I wanted to know more about this land.

I am hoping that some of the questions I had will be answered in the next book in the series. (How is Andy a descendant being the main one.)

I think this would be an excellent book for a parent and child to read together as both will enjoy it.

My advice to the author would be to trust the young reader and to fully explore the vivid world she is creating.

 

I was provided a gratis copy of this book for review.

 

The Stone Guardian by Danielle Monsch #review

The start of this book is a bit chaotic and confusing – and while I feel that was on purpose – it did make it a little difficult to get into the story.

Danielle Monsch has imagined a world where our earth has collided and combined with another dimension in which many of the creatures and races we had thought to be myth actually exist.

The main story takes place 26 years after this event.

Larissa is a 26 year old young woman born at the very moment of this cataclysmic merging of two realities. Her father and 4 brothers are all police in the same town. This town is supposedly protected by magical wards from many of these new mythical races.

And as to be expected – there is something about Larissa that makes her different and special – that she is of course unaware of.

The Stone Guardian from the title is actually a Gargoyle. He is the leader of the secretive and feared gargoyles and is called Terak.

Terak and Larissa are drawn into a life or death mystery about what makes her special and how it relates to the end of the world.

And there is a love story. Between the Gargoyle and the human.

And that would be ok – if it wasn’t so awkwardly  portrayed.

Monsch does not seem comfortable writing about and expressing sexual thoughts and situations – so you end up with 2 twentysomething adults expressing their sexual desires and wishes like gawky teens in the middle of puberty. And they are both virgins. I don’t know if this is a nod to the ridiculous Twilight series or some misplaced nod to old fashioned Christian values – either way it gets in the way of what is basically a decent and interesting story – and that is unfortunate.

A good concept, some decent writing and the start of intriguing characters are bogged down by the fact that the author can’t decide whether she is writing a YA novel or more mature adult fiction.

If she can make a decision and embrace it – and leave out the awkward sex scenes – this series could be alright.

I was provided a gratis copy for review.

A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway #review

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Steam Punk.

I have heard alot about it, but have tended to avoid it.

The idea of mixing Victorian sensibilities with fantastical steam powered pseudo-modern gadgetry and a dash of magic seemed to be trying too hard. I have picked up and put back several of the tomes over the years without feeling the need to sit down and dig in.

SO – this is the first Steam Punk novel I have actually read.

And it was’t bad.

Jane Holloway writes an intriguing tale.

Because this was the second book in a series it took me a bit to feel like I really had a grasp on the world and how it works. Exactly how steam is supposed to do everything it somehow does is still a mystery to me. For the sake of the story I was able to suspend most of my questions and just accept it though.

The story somewhat centers around the niece of Sherlock Holmes, Evelina, and her friends. Evelina is a very progressive modern girl who happens to be able to use magic. Her friend Imogen is having lucid nightmares that may be tied to a string of Jack the Ripperish murders. Nick is a Gypsy pirate who also possess magical powers and happens to have an elemental spirit to control his airship.

From what I can tell this is a well thought out series. This second book could stand alone as a story but obviously works within the larger narrative as well.

I felt the opening dragged a little and was a tad confusing – but if one has read the first book that might not be a problem.

It was engaging and I might be tempted to read the next in the series – but I’m still on the fence about completely embracing the whole steam-punk world.

I was provided a gratis copy for the purpose of review.

 

#Review – Hood by @StephenLawhead // Historical Fantasy


Hood by Stephen R. Lawhead
Book One of the King Raven Trilogy
Historical Fantasy 496 pp

The year is 1093. The King of England is William II, aka William the Red, and the Normans are plotting their further control over English territories. And Wales becomes the screwed casualty. Thus starts our adventures with Bran ap Brychan and his “merrymen.”

Hood a tale that re-imagines the lore of Robin Hood not as English but as Welsh. If you’re like me, the only thing you know about Robin Hood is from the Looney Toons or Disney’s anthropomorphic version, i.e., limited. There’s also Errol Flynn and Kevin Costner’s interpretation of Robin Hood of which I’ve never seen. And there’s Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood which I suppose is forgetful because I recall nothing of it, but I digress.

Going into this with limited knowledge of Robin Hood, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this. The character development of our protagonist was great; slow building but by the end of the novel a fist pump is in order, especially by the end of the epilogue. The characterizations of the antagonists are grand; you hate them with varying degrees of odiousness. However, as much as I loved the protagonist, Bran, I found myself having more affection towards the supporting characters behind Bran. If one of those characters gets written off, I may or may not become emo-devastated.

By the end of Book One, the tone has been set, the intrigue established leading into Book Two.

With an open mind and open to genres, I don’t think you can do wrong with Hood. There’s a certain realism with the setting and environments presented to the reader. The fantasy portion seems to be steeped in Albion folklore/fairy tales and not necessarily, “I cast magic missile on your ass.” I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “must read” book, but something to add to the queue should the genre fit your mood.

Doon by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon #review

 

As reimaginings go this is pretty good.

Had I been sitting around thinking “Someone really needs to retell Brigadoon as a YA fantasy series”… well um… no. But if I had this series would have met the expectations that I didn’t know I already had.

I am a theatre geek at heart and absolutely adored that one of the characters was also. Relating events to their musical theatre equivalent and constantly thinking of songs to suit the occurrences and mood really resonated with me. So I was a little disappointed that Kenna didn’t end up being the real focal point of the story – but the ending gives me hope for the next installment.

The real focus of the book is Veronica – Vee – a tiny slip of a dancer who has an appetite that I can appreciate.

The opening scene was a little rough and not quite completely believable. It is the only scene set in high school and it just felt awkward.  Stephanie and Eric both seemed more like 90210 caricatures than actual teenagers. Thankfully, once removed from the school setting, the writing and characters felt much more natural.

Best friends Vee and Kenna end up in Scotland after their senior year because of a bequest from Kenna’s aunt of a cottage. As in any good YA fantasy story that is where ordinary ends. This cottage happens to be next to the “Bridge of Doon” (did ya catch that?). And there are 2 handsome princes ready to match wits with our spunky American heroines and work together to save the mystical land of Doon from an evil witch.

About 1/4 of the way in I really got used to the switching between storytellers. Some chapters are from Vee’s point of view other’s from Kenna’s. While I m not sure how the book was actually written – it certainly feels like slightly different writing styles take the lead for each of the characters chapters. Oddly this helped to really bring the nuances of each character into focus and provide what felt like two distinct narrators – without being confusing or muddling.

The literal princes of this story are Duncan and Jamie. And both are quite dashing and everything one could want in a modern fairytale-ish story. Luckily they both have distinct and intriguing personalities as well.

I would like to have seen some more of the supporting characters really fleshed out. There were hints of what they could be if fully developed – and it was tantalizing – but ultimately I was left unfulfilled. Vee’s mom and Kenna’s dad both fall into this category as do some of the denizens of Doon.

Overall a very worthwhile read – I look forward to the next installment.

I was provided a gratis copy for review.

 

Guardians Inc: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain #review

 

Tongue-in-cheek YA fiction is one of my favorite sub-genres.

Clever quips, eye-rolling puns and the like are sure to draw me in if done well.

Julian Rosado-Machain does them fairly well. He has created a quirky world with intriguing characters.

Thomas and his grandfather Morgan have only each other after the disappearance of Thomas’ parents while abroad. And it seems both of them have a unique skill set that can help ad ultra-secret ages old society to save the world.

Where this story becomes more intriguing than the slew of similar books in the genre is in how it ends up placing Thomas and Morgan on opposing sides of a race against time. This has set up what could become (and I hope does) a very precarious dynamic in future books.

And I now want gargoyles guarding my house as well.

At only 169 pages this is a very quick read and I imagine would easily hold the interest of most 8-12 year olds. I think it is also interesting enough to hold the attention of slightly older readers as well.

My only suggestion would be to perhaps slow it down just a tiny bit. At times it felt like we were speeding through exposition and plot at 80 mph when 50 mph might have been more appropriate.

Fae by C.J. Abedi #review

C.J. Abedi (which actually stands for sisters Colet and Jasmine) have started a new series in the realm of YA fantasy literature.

“Fae” is a welcome addition to the genre.

The entire story is based in Roanoke, North Carolina and draws heavily from the missing colony lore surrounding it. The Abedi sisters have created some beautiful mythology weaving the Fae into this narrative.

Caroline is busy trying to be a normal teen when she is drawn into this Fae world by the handsome and intriguing Devilyn. All of this is because of Caroline’s lineage, which she of course knows nothing about.

Helping to make this story relate-able is a fantastic set of supporting characters. Caroline has a best friend, Teddy, that anyone would be lucky to have. Devilyn’s grandfather is amazing and adds an incredibly interesting twist to the whole story. Caroline’s parents are near perfect and the depth of their caring for her is beautiful.

Chosen family vs. blood family is a large theme throughout this book. Are the bonds that we choose to create stronger than the bonds we are born into? What is loyalty?

In this very crowded field it is hard for a book to really break out and distinguish itself. Fae does this. It provides a well thought out story. The back-story and history are fully developed and well presented. The introduction to all of the elements flows well for the reader. The characters interact believably.

It is a well crafted story that deserves to find an abundance of readers.

I would also like to add that the cover is beautiful. Simple and evocative. Perfect.

I was provided a gratis copy for the purpose of review.

Chameleon: The Awakening by Maggie Faire #review

The general idea is that there is a complete other world basically coexisting with our modern one that we know nothing about. There are clans that are human like – but not exactly human – that inhabit the forest. And there is a young teen girl who is responsible for saving it all, but of course she doesn’t know that.

Maggie Faire seems to draw on variety sources for the frame work of this world. Native American and Aboriginal myth seem to have been a large inspiration. I would also guess that the author is an Anne McCaffrey fan because her thunder dragons and void are drawn directly from McCaffrey’s dragons and between.

As with any new realm there is a lot of new information/history/myth to establish. One area where this book is lacking is in really fleshing all of this other world out. By the end of the book I was still wondering where these tribes came from, why they were splintered and why a savior was needed exactly.

There is an attempt to merge some myth and science with this 10 dimensions and traveling through dimensions 5-10 via lichen (yes you read that correctly) though it is never really explained.

There is potential for an intriguing story and I would read another book – but I sincerely hope there is some fleshing out of the back story that occurs. As the book was only 156 pages perhaps it could have been extended a bit and more of the history explained and made clear.

The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond #review

Gods from every mythology you have ever heard of, and a few you haven’t, rampaging through Washington, D.C.

A fairly intriguing concept.

I started and then put down this book several times in the first 70 pages. Gwenda Bond writes well and she has a great backstory and interesting characters.

So, why did it take making myself pick it back up 4 times to finally get lost in it? The set-up.

I spent the first 1/4 of the book feeling like I had come in on the 2nd or 3rd book in a series. There is exposition and backstory that needs to be given to the reader, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t frustrate the reader. Sadly I can see many readers not making it through to the excellent novel that eventually shows up. It is really frustrating to pick up a book that has well crafted prose and an excellent storyline but suffers from a poorly executed introduction.

I am glad that I muddled through the first chapters – because I was rewarded with an amazing heroine named Kyra at the center of what is a cleverly conceived mythology mish-mash that has altered the entire world as we know it. She has been let down and abandoned by everyone who should have been there for her and manages to find herself in the center of a major conspiracy.

Big props to Bond for the big choice Kyra makes toward the end of the book. Many YA authors would have shied away from that or tried to couch it as not a conscious choice. I’m not going to spoil it, because it is a powerful moment, but I want to make sure the reader knows there is awesome waiting for them if they keep reading.

I am sincerely hoping there is more Anzu in the next book as well. The giant lion-eagle really grew on me. I want to look into those liquid gold eyes.

Since this was an ARC I am hoping that some final editing might make the first few chapters and exposition more reader friendly. But even without that I would recommend reading this – get past the first 70 pages and you will thank me for it.

Legends of Amun Ra – The Emerald Tablet

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I started Legends of Amun Ra- The Emerald Tablet with high hopes.
I have been interested in myths and legends, specifically Greek and Egyptian since I was a wee little one. This book sounded like it would mix some of my favorite old legends with a modern sci-fi twist.
Joshua Silverman has created a concept that is very intriguing, playing on the whole Stargate idea of aliens and earth’s history. The basic ideas behind the story are great. The execution is not quite as flawless.
Let me start with the fact there are typos and other errors in the copy I received – which is an ebook. The formatting was off. There were lines of space in the middle of sentences for no reason and page breaks in incorrect places. This made it difficult to read. Occasionally some of the text almost appeared formatted for poetry – I hope that was unintentional as it made no sense. The choice of order for some of the chapters and how they were divided was confusing as well.
I understand the need to provide exposition and back story – but it is not done in a very easily understandable manner. I can respect wanting to create mystery and questions that will be answered, but that needs to be tempered with making sure the reader can firmly grasp everything they need to enjoy and understand the rest of the story.
And the one, for this book, semi-graphic sex scene at the beginning of chapter 2 seems like it comes from a completely different book. It felt ill-fitting the first time I read it and I understood why after finishing the book. It doesn’t match with anything else in the book and what needed to be conveyed in that scene could have been provided in another way – much less awkwardly.
The story itself is an interesting one. Leoros is an adolescent boy who has been dragged around the world by his archaeologist mom. It is on one such dig that Leoros manages to get himself transported to another planet via an Egyptian artifact.
One thing I am still not clear on is how this other planet (and the moon that some people were banished to) fit into our timeline. At times it seemed as if the number of years talked about on Earth versus this other planet were not matching up.
There are some very interesting characters and when I could force myself past the poor formatting and rather heavy handed writing I found myself being drawn into the story. Unfortunately I would be popped right back out when I had to pause to try to clarify some point by going back in the book or when there was no clarification or reason for something that I could find.
Complicated interesting stories are great but they can’t be so complicated as to be rendered almost incomprehensible. At times it felt almost as if too many ideas were being worked into one story. Egyptian mythology, magic, coming of age, space travel, saving the world, falling in love, rebelling against your parents, revenge, action – it is quite a bit for one story. Not to mention jumping back and forth between Earth, a far off planet and some moon and about 12 different story lines.
The ending of this book really chapped my hide though. It was as if someone cut the power to the TV 10 minutes before end of a movie you had never seen or ripped out the last 10 pages of a book you had never read.
It may seem like I am being really harsh and critical – and I am – but it is because there is some really great potential in there. Joshua Silverman needs a really firm editor to help focus his ideas and he could be creating something amazing. Someone to help him sift through and hone what is a potentially a really great story.
All in all this is a book with great potential but that probably needed another round of editing before being released.

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