Tag Archives: magic

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Beyonders: Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull

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Really? That is how you are going to leave it? There is going to be another book or another series… right?

Those were pretty much my exact thoughts upon finishing this book (well, I may have cleaned them up a little bit).

When I picked up the first Beyonders book in Barnes & Noble shortly after it came out I ended up staying at Barnes & Noble until I had finished it. A completely unintentional read. I liked it. A lot.

I have been waiting for this third book for what seems like ages. And I was not disappointed. Jason and Rachel are leading the rebels to overthrow Maldor. Everyone’s favorite displacer is back along with the snarkiest seed person and all the other characters I became attached to in the previous 2 books.

Did you get that Brandon? I am attached to them. All of them.

As with the other 2 books this one is well written and thought out. Jason in particular is incredibly believable as a regular kid who somehow manages to make a place for himself in this new world.In as much as there can be believabilty in a a fantasy series Brandon Mull achieves it.

And quite cleverly the book wraps up the story line that was started in A World without Heroes but keeps open the opportunity for more stories.

If you haven’t read this series you should.

That is the non-spoiler review. If you don’t want to read any spoilers stop now.

I’m quite serious. I am going to throw in some blank lines and then some spoilers are going to fly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So – This can’t be the end. Jason still in Lyrian. Rachel back in our world. Something about a daughter. There have to be more books. I need to know more.

Now let us talk about Ferrin and Drake. That was just kinda rough. After everything Ferrin had gone through and done. The relationships he built. I understand it was honorable and noble – but it killed me. And this was after I had already had to deal with Drake. Again noble and everything but a blow to the heart just the same.

I guess that proves that you had done a good job. I was attached. The characters were more than just words on a page to me. So good job. But I still don’t like it. 😉

Witch Twins by Adele Griffin

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Witches are a hot subject for tween literature. Unfortunately this one doesn’t really stand out.

Claire and Luna are cute. But not very real. For a book that seems aimed at the tween girl market the tone is decidedly childish. The reader is often hit over the head with the lessons the twins are learning.

I have nothing against a story that teaches a lesson or has a moral, I just want it to be done with finesse. And tween girls do not need to have the lesson shoved in their face either. Place it naturally in a well written story and they will get it.

Once again the adult characters in the book suffered from a lack of dimensionality. This seems to be a recurring problem in the YA literature I have read lately. It is like they are caricatures without the humor.

Adele Griffin has a nice concept but hasn’t provided any history for the reader. We have been given no real structure or framework for the witch society she has created. This keeps it from feeling real. There needs to be more explanation and depth to the magic. The whys and why nots, cans and cannots  need to be defined so the reader feels there is a real basis for what happens.

This has potential and could be a decent, if light, tween series.

Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle

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Two girls bond over an elf village. Is it real? Are elves real? Is magic real? It could have been enjoyable and surprising, but it wasn’t.
Janet Taylor Lisle seems to have gotten so caught up in the idea of writing a story that is mysterious and relies on the reader’s imagination- that she forgot to actually finish the story. Two girls – one a misfit – sharing this secret elf world. Simple enough. Then she throws in a missing father, a “sick” mother and a disappearance that comes out of no where.
As a reader I was just left feeling bewildered and let down. It wasn’t like a cleverly done story where the reader is left to decide for themselves, but still feels fulfilled. I was just left to wonder why I had spent time reading it.

I think if I was a child reading this I would have been even more frustrated. There were several instances that seemed like they were leading to a real “moments” in the book, but those moments were never realized.

Lichgates by S.M. Boyce

I love finding completely new fantasy worlds. Especially when they are well thought out and vivid.

That is what I found in “Lichgates” by S.M. Boyce.

Kara Magari gets to do something so many of us science fantasy junkies would love to do. Enter a fantasy realm and become a figure of legend. Three chapters in and I was already so jealous of this chick.

Not that it is all rainbows and lollipops for her. Boyce has a created a history for Kara that makes it easily believable that she would choose to devote herself to this new realm and put our world in her past. While that may seem like a small thing it is often one of the few loose ends in otherwise well-crafted books. A big pat on the back to Boyce for doing this well.

Ourea is a beautiful world. It has been well planned and shows sparks of creativity is the peoples that populate it. There are hints of some of our favorite races from other fantasy realms – but no blatant rip-offs. It is more of a nod to those races. The ruling hierarchy and how it works is truly fascinating. I am excited to see how that plays out.

The concept of personal freedom takes on a very literal meaning in this book. The debates we normally see around this issue take on a more real as opposed to philosophical tone because of this.

There was a little awkwardness in the dialogue at the beginning but after the first few chapters this disappeared. Perhaps the beginning chapters could use a slight tweaking to fix this.

Braeden is a fantastic character. Multifaceted and intriguing. Talk about taking battling an inner demon to a new level, Boyce has done it in this complex character.

I am excited to see what this series brings.

 

I was provided a copy of this book for review.