This is a crazy book series, but I like that about it. A lead character who is a sorcerer whose body is skeletal. A thirteen-year-old girl who stays oThis is a crazy book series, but I like that about it. A lead character who is a sorcerer whose body is skeletal. A thirteen-year-old girl who stays out all night fighting evil creatures and sends her reflection to school as a stand in. Heinous, and I do mean heinous villains who don't mind exploding people, along with psychopathic assassins with Southern accents who can dig through the ground and who have a favorite straight razor. Yup. That's what this book is about.
I think that this one is a lot more dark, violent and disturbing than the first book, so I'd definitely warn a parent to read it first before letting a kid younger than twelve read this. The narrator was great. I loved his accents and how he makes these very strange characters stand out. I like his intonation for Skulduggery, rather sarcastic and one of those people who really don't panic. If he does, then you're in trouble. I enjoy his relationship with Valkyrie/Stephanie. She talks to him kind of disrespectfully, but it doesn't bother him. He treats her as an equal.
There were loose ends tied up from the first book that really needed tying. Even a cameo of sorts from Valkyrie's deceased uncle who left her his house and fortune. The sorcerer world grows bigger and more complicated in this book, and Valkyrie has cause to think about the life she's chosen as the descendant of Ancients who has decided to fight the good fight. She realizes how much time she's missing out with her family.
This book is just plain weird. If you don't like weird, pass it by. If you have strong opinions on what young people should read and that list includes violent books with sorcery, monsters and psychopathic characters who have no qualms about harming a 13-year-old girl, then you won't care for this. But if you like fun, weirdly humorous, quirky, sometimes scary, and sometimes creepy crawly books with not a small degree of wish fulfillment for tweens (and messages about empowerment for young girls), then you might like this. ...more
I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up because I just plain love fairy tales, and it sounded interesting, with a heroine who is basically a debt sI really enjoyed this book. I picked it up because I just plain love fairy tales, and it sounded interesting, with a heroine who is basically a debt slave to her Fairy Godfather. I absolutely love urban fantasy, and it's great when you find one that hits on your happy buttons. This book does it for me.
One thing I will say is the author has a weird/morbid sense of humor. He talks freely about feeding poodles to hellhounds and running over gnomes, and this might be a turnoff to some readers. Once I got used to that, it didn't bother me as much. I think the worldbuilding was good. Set in New York, but the magical Kingdom is adjacent, and can only be reached by some with a magical tie.
Marissa is a cool character. She's tough as nails but also vulnerable in other ways. She reflects the psyche of the average twentysomething person: trying to figure out who they are and what they are doing, and what they want to do with their lives? Marissa has had it tough because her destiny wasn't exactly her own. Her only goal was working off her debt and getting back to her family. It's absolutely heartbreaking when she realizes the truth about her family. However, Marissa's feels very much like a fairy tale heroine. I like that Marissa's angst becomes her strength. While Grimm is her boss, I think their relationship is very complex. I would say that Grimm is almost like the father that Marissa craves. While her family seemed to throw her away, Grimm has given her another family and taken pretty good care of her, considering.
The romance was very cute. Nelson plants some seeds but never gives the whole story away, so one is likely to ask why Marissa thought this person was the target. I liked Liam a lot and I hope he sticks around. His curse is kinda sucky for him, but cool from an urban fantasy perspective. Ari is fun as well. A very unprincess-like princess who plays a huge role in this story.
The reviews aren't great for this, but I give it a strong thumbs up. The author knows his fairy tales and takes the reader along for a ride that is in parts funny, sad, scary, creepy, and feels unique even with some elements that make it fit well within the urban fantasy genre. Some aspects were a bit confusing, but it wasn't a deal breaker for me. Overall, I found this thoroughly enjoyable and I devoured it in about 36 hours.
I have had the print book on my bookshelf for years, but I decided to try the audiobook from my library as this looked like it would be fun to listenI have had the print book on my bookshelf for years, but I decided to try the audiobook from my library as this looked like it would be fun to listen to. Turns out I was right. This was a lot of fun. The narrator was great. He had a delicious Irish accent, although he modified it to suit other characters. I liked his sort of flat tone he used for Skulduggery, making him sound kind of ironic and mysterious, like there was a lot going on under the surface.
At first, it's a bit odd. There's some weird music between interludes, followed by a low male voice saying, "Yeah!" I thought that was pretty weird and random, but it grew on me, fast. I had no expectations, so it was all novel for me. I expected the story to be campy, but it turns out to be pretty dark.
Now the characters.
Skulduggery is a fun and likable character. But he's also credibly tough. He's a sorcerer who happened to lose his body in an epic battle. I wondered how the author would get me to buy into a story where the main character is just a skeleton. It took about ten minutes. When I heard the explanation, I was like, "Okay then." At some points, I'm skeptical that he's so blase about 12-year -old Stephanie going along with him on some very dangerous adventures. But I have to remind myself that the target audience is 12-year-olds. Skulduggery is a chill dude. It's funny how sanguine he is about Stephanie's bossing him around and threatening to hit him. Maybe he enjoys it because he's lonely. He was great friends with her uncle, so he might have developed a fondness for her via his friend. At any rate, he was very tolerant to Stephanie and he clearly took it very seriously to protect her, even if he did take her along on his dangerous missions. Knowing Stephanie, she probably would have followed him. Skulduggery is a good guy. You would think he'd be menacing, with the whole skeletal appearance, but he's an all around good guy, although he does have enough of a dark edge to be appealing and authentic. The interview with him at the end was awesome. Just the right touch for the audiobook.
Stephanie is in some ways very much a girl of her age. Tween and teenage girls have attitude for days. Yes, it's a bit of a generalization, but there is a lot of truth in it. She also had a very vivid inner life that I recognized in myself. Not that I would have want to do every thing she does (okay, maybe some of it). She's pretty saucy, if I'm honest. It made me laugh and part of thought I'd get the taste slapped out of my mouth if I had talked to an adult that way when I was a kid. All in all, she's a well-drawn character, with the sass, bravery, sense of honor and a great sense of humor that should appeal to most readers.
Together, they make quite a team. I enjoyed their buddy movie banter. Even if Stephanie could be kind of rude to Skulduggery. I loved it when he told her she was "very annoying."
The secondary characters are good, all making sense to the story. I liked the interactions between Stephanie and her clueless parents. They were cute. In a way, it was pretty obvious that Stephanie pretty much got away with a lot more than you'd expect for her age with them.
I like that the tone of this book stays intense but with some good humor. I like that while Landry doesn't take himself too seriously, he shows respect for the intellect of his young readers. In other words, he doesn't make the story too silly or ridiculous. We are dealing with a very evil set of villains with uber-nefarious purposes. Some aspects were fairly creepy, and it reminded me a little of Simon R. Green's Nightside books in a good way. China Sorrow especially definitely made me think of a Nightside character. Don't get me wrong. I don't think this was derivative at all. It feels novel and unique amongst the many urban fantasy stories I've read or encountered. It has a lot of good action, and Skulduggery can fight, with his fists, with his trusty sidearm, and with his elemental magic. Speaking of, the magic elements were well done. They had a unique feel. I like the explanation about the different types of magic users. I think this series would make a fun movie. I'd be cool with either live action or animation.
I definitely want to continue this series, and I am crossing my fingers that I can get the rest of these on audiobook. ...more
I had to put a lot of thought into this review. Anne Ursu has done that to me with her last two books. I enjoyed her Cronus Chronicles series and it wI had to put a lot of thought into this review. Anne Ursu has done that to me with her last two books. I enjoyed her Cronus Chronicles series and it was novel in that it presents a family with people of mixed racial heritage in a very normal, everyday fashion, and I loved that about the books. Plus, it was just plain fun Greek Mythology fantasy with a spunky heroine and her good natured cousin along for the ride.
With Breadcrumbs, she gave us a young girl who touched me deeply. Her internal life and her attachment to a friend as an effort to deal with loneliness and rejection was a visceral ache. I think with The Real Boy, she has strummed that emotional chord again.
Oscar is an orphan who was 'bought' by a charmer to watch over his shop, do the cleaning, and to prepare his herbs for the potions he sells. It is never explicitly stated, but I believe that Oscar has autism. He has sense-related issues (will only eat bread because he doesn't like the feel of other foods), he has trouble looking people in the eye, and blurts out things and doesn't understand social cues, he's got a genius level intellect but others may perceive him as not all there. Oscar starts to believe he's not a real boy because he is viewed as so different.
This touched me deeply, that this boy would feel so isolated and feel so unworthy. This is real, how cruel people are to those who are different. It breaks my heart in fact to see him suffer this way. I think this aspect of the book resonated deeply with me. I also appreciated Oscar's developing friendship with Callie, an apprentice to a healer who has no magic.
The world-building was less impactful. I felt like there was more to be discovered and understood. Although I appreciated how the story builds slowly and the reader's understanding expands with continued reading, too much was assumed in this book, and too little spelled out. The concept of how magic was so crucial to the small island that Oscar lives on, with the folktale of the wizards who became large trees so they could watch over the island, that was pretty cool. Although I feel it sort of becomes less clear and tangible as the story goes along. I would say the reveal towards the end was quite interesting, but to talk about that too much would be a spoiler.
Fundamentally, I feel that Ursu excelled with the emotional landscape of this story, but the fantastical foundation suffers in contrast. Oscar is an unforgettable little boy. His emotional journey speaks to my heart. For that alone, I gave this four stars. I was conflicted because I don't think this book measures up as well as far as a fantasy novel. As with Breadcrumbs, I wonder how much of the emotional depths will register with the young audience it's aimed at. It would be a great thing if kids who feel isolated because of their oddness would feel touched by Oscar's story and would understand that they aren't alone after all....more
This was a lot more coherent than the initial book, London Falling, but I don't think this book is very accessible to the average urban fantasy readerThis was a lot more coherent than the initial book, London Falling, but I don't think this book is very accessible to the average urban fantasy reader. There is still a heavy British vibe to the story, which is a good thing, for the most part. Cornell takes the reader and the characters to some dark, strange places in a London that is familiar but eerily paranormal.
I listened to this book on audio, and it was definitely a distinctive read. I have to say that while I enjoyed it, it was challenging to listen to. II listened to this book on audio, and it was definitely a distinctive read. I have to say that while I enjoyed it, it was challenging to listen to. I found it hard to visualize some concepts. I honestly have no brain for mechanical concepts, so listening to descriptions of the mecha devices was difficult for me. I decided to stop analyzing and go with it. Not worry about trying to get a crystal clear image of those parts of the story, but just enjoy what I could understand. The ideas were interesting, but I was a bit clueless about what exactly made Clare what he was, and the exact interplay between his physiology and his abilities. At the end, I determined that he was heavily depending on the continual processing of information for his well-being, but he could think too much and end up in trouble. Perhaps he also has some enhanced sensory abilities which also make him susceptible to different environments.
While the magic system was very intriguing, it took me a long time to understand it or get a handle on it. I absolutely loved some parts. They were darkly beautiful. They inspired a deep sense of unease with the arcane natures of the magical acts and the beings perpetuating them, but also a sense of awe. While I have no real life interest in magic whatsoever, I do love reading about magic in this kind of fictional setting. And I thoroughly enjoyed the fact magic is so intrinsic to the fabric of Great Britain in this novel. It was very cool that the present monarch is a host for the spirit of Britannia. I haven't encountered that concept before.
As far as characters, Emma really came to life for me. She's such a complex person. She's a mix of good and bad, and her manner of interacting with others can inspire winces as often as wows. I loved how vigilant and fierce she was. She took her role as a Prime sorcerer very seriously, and her vow to protect Britain. And it often cost her personally. The scene near the end brought shivers down my spine. I also loved Mikhail. He was luscious. The way the moderator spoke his parts was utterly appealing. Especially the way he spoke to Emma and called her Prima. It sounded like a verbal caress. I was surprised at the direction that the author took with Emma's relationship with Mikhail. It added to the complexity of her character. I wish I had more answers about what Mikhail is. I have to be honest that he is a big draw for me right now, although I also find Emma very appealing as a heroine, although not always laudable in the way she acted towards some characters. Clare was interesting. I enjoyed his deductive reasoning and analysis of the very strange situations he encountered after being recruited by Emma as the sole surviving unregistered mentath. As I mentioned earlier, I didn't always 'get' what he was doing and how it affected him. I hope that will change with later books. I also liked Valetinelli. I have a fondness for roguish characters who are insanely good at being lethal. That's definitely him. The moderator made his voice very fun. He spoke with a blatant Italian accent that was lyrical and appealing.
I think the major reason why I didn't give this a higher rating was that I had a hard time getting a grasp on the story to the extent that I desired. I had a lot of questions. As far as the writing having an appeal and impact on me, that was very well done. Saintcrow has a way of bringing magical and arcane elements to vibrant life that stays with me. That imagery was very well depicted. As a visual reader, I could feel and experience the powerful magics that the characters employed, although some parts were just plain weird and my brain didn't know what to make of those. I also give this book points on having such a distinctive heroine. Not always pure in her motives, but underneath, driven to do what is right. That's a hard thing to conceptualize in a novel without polarizing your audience.
I have to give this 3.5 stars because it was flawed in some ways, but in others a very good book. I will continue this series with the hopes I will be enlightened on some of the world-building particulars and to explore more of Emma, Clare, and Mikhail, and not to mention, Supernatural Victorian Great Britain.
Sealed With a Curse starts out in medias res, and that pace pretty much matches what is found throughout this novel. I was a bit clueless at first asSealed With a Curse starts out in medias res, and that pace pretty much matches what is found throughout this novel. I was a bit clueless at first as to what was going on, but I got sucked into the narrative and the Wird sisters' story almost immediately. There is more or less nonstop action, and the cool thing, is the heroine and her sisters are the main ones kicking butt and taking names. Along with laugh-out-loud humor and wonderful sisterly bonding, with a touch of romance, that adds up to a very enjoyable book.
Celia and her sisters were cursed before birth, but the curse backfired into a blessing. They are all gifted with unusual abilities. Despite the strangeness of the four Wird sisters' abilities, three of them manage to have busy dating lives and all four fulfilling careers as a nurse. Celia had a big issue that precluded dating a lot. She has an inner tigress that makes her one tough woman. Most men can't handle that. Celia fears that she never will meet that guy. Until she sees a hunky werewolf running with his pack. Their gazes connect, but that doesn't mean that they will "connect". And there is an epidemic of vampires turning into feral, bloodthirsty killers, so they might not get the chance to 'connect' anyway. Aric Connor might be the man of Celia's dreams, but as a purebred werewolf, she might not be a good partner to settle down with on his end. However, master vampire, Misha Aleksandr thinks Celia is pretty awesome, wooing her with expensive gifts and his supernatural vampire allure, which Celia is a lot more immune to it than she would have thought. Instead, her heart beats for Aric.
I loved the sister camaraderie the most in this book. They really had each others' backs. I liked how each sister had a distinct personality. They were individuals, but they worked and lived together in harmony. I also enjoyed the humor a lot (although it is sometimes of the raunchy, foul-mouthed variety). At first, I thought that would book would be too silly for me, but Robson proved she could hang with the Grade A Kickbutt Action Writers crew with her seriously intense action scenes. Readers who don't like gory description should be warned, because the author doesn't skimp on these. But seeing the Wird sisters kick butt and hold their own against a slew of powerful immortals makes up for some icktastic moments.
I thought it was cute how Celia's sisters all found romance with other weres associated with Aric. Although I didn't like the assumption that sleeping with them that fast was 'normal' whereas Celia was weird because she didn't get physical with guys like her sisters did. Sort of an inherent value judgment against people who choose a celibate lifestyle, for whatever reason. Granted, Celia did tend to be very self-pitying about her lack of a love life. I do think she could have dated more if she wanted to. And it's perfectly fine if she didn't date much, if she was okay with it. The fact that Misha definitely found her sexy and appealing from the beginning of the book (even before she met Aric) was proof that there was nothing wrong with Celia. Misha thought she was better than sliced bread, and he could have any woman he wanted. A man who couldn't handle her wasn't worth it anyway. I think deep down, Celia didn't want to settle for a Mr. Now when she could have Mr. Right.
Overall, this was a very good book. Lots of action, hilarious humor, great sister bonding. I liked that there is good ethnic diversity in this novel. The Wird sisters have Latin descent on their mother's side, and numerous characters are of different ethnic/racial backgrounds. The world-building was good, with some interesting takes on vampires, werewolves, witches, and other paranormals. Personally, the romance wasn't the biggest draw for me, although it was good. I liked the sister bond the most and the action, but the romance is pretty good (for an urban fantasy book). But there is definitely good chemistry and romantic promise for those who want that in the urban fantasy. This is a series I look forward to continuing....more
In this story, Leiber demonstrates an incredible knowledge base about dark and supernatural fiction, going back into the 19th and early 20th century.In this story, Leiber demonstrates an incredible knowledge base about dark and supernatural fiction, going back into the 19th and early 20th century. He writes this story in the style of Lovecraft, or should I say Machen, since he wrote The Great God Pan long before Lovecraft, in which the unknown menace is slowly being revealed to the protagonist. This is a knowledge too terrible to behold. Many have been damaged and have succumbed to it in the past.
I liked the nod and the reference to all those various works of literature, and the inclusion of real life people in the world of the arts and science in this story. That was very cleverly done. This does a lot to create and flesh out the fictional world. As with the other book in the duology of Dark Ladies, "Conjure Wife", Leiber does do a good job of building menace and the tension level, and with using that thematic question ‘Is it real or am I losing my mind?
This story has an air of decadence I didn’t care for. You can see changes in the times, with the shift in values that occurred past the mid-20th Century, both good and bad. For instance, there is an air of anything goes sexuality, the rejection of anything good and decent for the sake of nihilism or the love of chaos/anarchy, and the liberal use of drugs and alcohol. The author doesn’t quite condone this in the story, but he is not shy about showing some of these aspects. Some of it gave me a bad feeling, but then I have never been one for sexual violence, darkness or depravity, in real life, or in my fiction.
Overall, I can’t say I liked this book that much. There were some appealing components, such as the literary nods and the clear evidence of Leiber’s extensive knowledge of classic dark fiction and horror, as well having his bibliophilia show through in his characters. As a huge fan of MR James, it was great to see more than a couple of references to him. Similarly, fans of Lovecraft will appreciate the nods to his pivotal work in 20th Century horror and supernatural fiction. I guess my big issue was the fact that some concepts were just too out there for me (and their explanations somewhat tedious), the overall level of moral decadence (not a big draw for me), and the slow unfolding of the plot. Sure enough, the climax is a good payoff (really quite scary), but not enough to elevate this book to a higher level. Especially after how much I enjoyed its sister story, “Conjure Wife" out of Dark Ladies: Conjure Wife/Our Lady of Darkness. It's never a good idea to compare things, but sometimes the comparison is obligatory and that one thing fails to live up to its companion in the end. Such was the case with "Our Lady of Darkness."
I would still consider this semi-required reading for the 19th-20th Century classic horror scholar or devotee. You might like it more than I did, and that would be an a good thing in the end if you find another book you love.
I found the writing clever. I was transplanted into the cutthroat world of college politics. Who knew that the wives could be just as fierce as their faculty husbands? And that they would resort to sorcery and witchcraft to keep their husbands (and themselves by relation) in power? Things get pretty nasty!
I think that there is some very interesting commentary about male and female relationships here. That old Venus Versus Mars argument. I felt at first that Norman was a rampant sexist (in a way that is very common even today). He had a superior attitude towards his wife, while simultaneously being in awe of her at the same time. He seemed to view her as an alien creature, constantly analyzing the way her mind worked, as if it was so different from his. I liked how his feelings of mental superiority over her backfired when he realized that she was in fact the one who was right about what was really going on, and how he had to rely on her knowledge of the situation. I liked how things turned around and it was clear how much he did care for his wife. How he fought for her well-being, willingly putting aside his hard-headed scientific skeptical thought processes to save her.
I feel that there is a heavy tone of satire cleverly mixed in with well-executed psychological horror. Norman's internal dialogue engenders a tone that is analytical and observational (although he doesn't seem to be as observant as one would think for a sociologist), wry and sarcastic at other times and quite laden with a menace that sneaks up on the reader. At first, I found him to be a bit of a pompous twit. I admit I can't stand when men treat women like their brains and mental capacities are limited. But I couldn't stay angry at him. He learned the hard way not to underestimate women, particularly his own wife. I think in this, Leiber is making a point. For all the men did have a tendency to view their spouses through a skewed lens, not realizing just how much power the women truly had in their lives and over them. Leiber seems to throw sexist ideas out with a wink and a nod, as if he expects the readers to reject those thoughts, or perhaps to poke fun at those who believe what he's saying. My take, anyway.
I wonder what the reception was to this book in the 1940s. The ideas of male/female relations are probing and insightful in a way that seems a bit subversive. But what do I know? At any rate, I liked this story very much. It's beautifully subtle in the slow building of menace and fear, and the ideas about society seem to be relevant today in how men and women and spouses relate to and view each other. Also it speaks to the often venomous way that women can sometimes turn against each other, belying what some (including myself) naively believe about the sisterhood of women. On the horror level, the truly heinous and scary nature of witchcraft used as a tool for power and control is enough to send a shiver down my spine. It makes you wonder just how much witchcraft may be going on behind the scenes today.
I liked the intricate way that the spiritual beliefs of the characters and magic were interwoven into this story. There is depth in this novel, but itI liked the intricate way that the spiritual beliefs of the characters and magic were interwoven into this story. There is depth in this novel, but it was also an easy read. I'd recommend it to traditional fantasy readers.
Daggerspell is an epic fantasy novel built on the idea of reincarnation. If we have failed to fulfill our destiny in one life, we are compelled to retDaggerspell is an epic fantasy novel built on the idea of reincarnation. If we have failed to fulfill our destiny in one life, we are compelled to return to this life in another form to do that. As I read this novel, I was confronted with my feelings about that inalienable destiny. There are some people that you have in your life that seem only to bring pain and hardship, and the comfort is that when you leave this life, you leave that pain they cause you behind. In this novel, that is not the case. And more importantly, a person cannot run from themselves and the anguish their own actions will deliver them. In some ways, that was a bitter pill to swallow as I read. The blessing in this novel was that one man, Nevyn, which sounds like ‘no one’ has lived through three lives and walks that anguished road with those people who he failed to help the first time. Another integral part of this novel is the Welsh-like feel to their world. I’m not an expert on Welsh language, so if I’m wrong, I apologize. But it felt as though this novel used some of the Welsh language particulars and it felt pretty distinct and authentic to me. I was afraid that the names and the language would be an issue, but it wasn’t. After I read the novel, I read through the glossary, and surprisingly, I was able to discern what most of the terms meant through context.
The Characters: Nevyn and Jill were standout characters for me. I felt deeply for Nevyn. The huge burden of seeing people he had cared for in the first go-round suffer through their Wyrd (destiny) again and again until they got it right. That was tough. I loved that he had followed his own destiny, not without loss or sacrifice, and had used this incredible skills as a dweomerman (magician/wizard) to help people and to fight for the forces of light. In the first life, he made a selfish choice, and it cost the life of a woman he loved. He had vowed to help her find her destiny, and it took him three life cycles to do it. That’s determination. Jill was young but she had substance and a strong heart. One of her choices in this novel gave me heartburn. For a romantic, I was surprised I didn’t want her to follow that path and go in another way. I’m glad that this worked out despite my apprehensions about it. Cullyn was also a compelling character. He had me worried a few times. He was a man who had one heck of a wyrd to work out, and it was a rough one. What I loved is that he was able to overcome that dark destiny through the power of his integrity and love for his daughter. Rhodry was a character that didn’t quite convince me he was worthy of Jill. He was a decent person, a little spoiled, but I didn’t feel he was Jill’s wyrd, at least not in a good way. I guess the author knows better than me about such things. In the first life cycle, it was like watching a car wreck before it happens, I mean literally. That really took me out of my comfort zones. I was actually shouting at the book, saying, “Please don’t do that.” It took some fortification to keep reading after that, but part of me couldn’t let go of this story because like any good fiction novel, it made me ask the central question. “What happens next?” I’m not a believer in reincarnation, but the way things work out for the characters in that life cycle kind of made me glad that it exists in this novel.
Magic and Magical Folks: I loved that Jill could see and interact with the Wildfolk. Especially the cute gray gnome who was often her boon companion and her comfort through her tough young life. I liked this idea that those marked by the dweomer are able to perceive the Wildfolk. It was also interesting how many ‘normal’ folks feared the magic and many more didn’t even believe in it. It seemed strange to me since this felt so real, and their lives were deeply affected by the power of the magic around them. I appreciated how within this landscape of humanity there were pockets of legendary creatures, such as a dwarf metalsmith who gives Jill her silver dagger, and the Westfolk, who are actually elves. I really liked the elves!
My final thoughts: I went into reading this cold. I had never heard of this book until it was recommended on the fantasy group. I saw it at the bookstore and thought, “Why not?” And I am glad I read it. I think the writing was strong, the storyline interesting, although a bit on the tragic side in some ways. It felt intricate and complex and deep, and that appeals to me. The idea of having to work out the consequences of the choices you make in life resonates with me, and for a foundation of a fantasy novel, it works surprisingly well. I think I would like to continue this series to see where Kerr takes this story and the characters next. I recommend it to readers who enjoy epic fantasy. ...more
This one felt a little less focused than Zero Sight, but I still loved it. Shier has come up with a winning series here, with a hero that takes me fulThis one felt a little less focused than Zero Sight, but I still loved it. Shier has come up with a winning series here, with a hero that takes me fully along on his journey. The concepts here are just awesome, and the plotting skillful. There's so much that I love about these books. And to think he writes these books while he's in medical school.... Keep writing!!!!
Although it wasn't a perfect book, this is a worthy follow-up to The Magicians. There is advancement in Quentin's story, and he's actually growing upAlthough it wasn't a perfect book, this is a worthy follow-up to The Magicians. There is advancement in Quentin's story, and he's actually growing up and being less of a putz. I did like Quentin more in this book, but he'll never be a favorite hero of mine. Actually, none of the lead characters are especially likable, to be honest. Julia has more of a POV in this book, and I found that I had a violent dislike for her in some aspects of the story, and mild sense of sympathy in the others. Overall, I will never be a big fan of her.
One of my big problems with Julia is that she continued to blame Quentin for her misfortunes and was unwilling to accept any fault for her own choices. Yes, she suffered from depression, but that shouldn't be an excuse to abuse and hate others who don't measure up to overweening sense of superiority. Yes, he should have spoken up for her so she could get another chance at Brakebills, but it was her fault she didn't take her exam seriously. Julia has a sense of mental superiority and a general antipathy for people that I found off-putting. She might be extremely intelligent and had become a top level magician (admittedly making huge sacrifices for that), but she didn't seem to learn how to treat others with respect. Having said that, what she suffered was beyond horrible, even if, in a strange way, it helped her to achieve what she wanted. In the end, it turned out that she gave up everything for something that turned out not to be the path to true happiness. And in a strange way, Quentin turns out to be a true friend to her in a way that she never was to him.
Grossman is a very good writer. His imagery and descriptive flare is incredible. I feel that he suffers in writing characters that are sympathetic. It's all and good to keep a reader reading because of witticisms and clever ideas, along with entrancing imagery, but many people read books because want a hero to root for. Quentin did become more of what I consider a hero, but he has some negative traits that make his armor look dull. Julia has a personality that's more like the Wicked Witch than Dorothy. How about a happy medium?
This series is not for readers who find bad language and who get offended at an acerbic and hypercritical view at traditional values. As with the first book, attitude that anything goes as far as sex and drinking and doing drugs can be hard to swallow. Also that mental superiority of the characters gets pretty old.
Why do I keep reading these books? Because I am in love with contemporary fantasy, and Grossman has a very interesting point of view on that subject. The vantage point of the hedge magicians' world was highly fascinating. Grossman takes the world-building to the next level without the narrow confines of the Brakebills system, and he doesn't limit the setting to good old Fillory, which was nice. His explanation for mythical creatures in the modern, non-magical world was a nice touch.
I wasn't too fond of the direction he took with investigating paganism as a way to achieve a higher level of magical ability and that event that resulted was really hard to read (or in my case listen to). Some readers who have an issue with rape will want to be very careful with this book. I question was that a necessary choice and I wonder why that seemed to be the way to deal tragedy in a heavy dose for one of the characters instead of another type of plot device. I also question the anti-climactic conclusion of this novel as far as Quentin's hero's journey. Having said that, I will pick up the finale in the near future.
As an aside, the SyFy Channel production of The Magicians is very good. It has much of what might appeal to readers, and is pretty faithful to the book overall.
I will keep getting the audiobooks for these because they are really good to listen to. This has a different narrator than the first book, and I think I liked him better. He was less snide-sounding. With these characters, one doesn't need more of a snide, I'm better than everyone tone....more
What if people suddenly manifested magical powers and those powers were either deemed illegal or only could be used under the jurisdiction of the goveWhat if people suddenly manifested magical powers and those powers were either deemed illegal or only could be used under the jurisdiction of the government and military? What if you're in the military and all of a sudden, you manifest powers that are considered forbidden? That's Oscar Britton's journey.
Oscar is a very conflicted character. Everything he thought he knew has been challenged, and his deeply held sense of right and wrong is continually tested as he goes from being on one side of the equation to the other, and back. He's a loyal Army soldier, until he realizes that his handlers might be the bad guys in some aspects.
It's interesting that I read this around the time I saw the movie Captain America: Civil War, because they both deal with similar issues. Does being right mean that you're always on the 'right' side? And how your vantage point can definitely affect how you view the morality of a situation.
The magic was really interesting, and I liked seeing Oscar develop and learn to use his powers. He matures emotionally as this book unfolds, and that isn't always comfortable reading. Some of the scenes were really hard to read, and some characters were downright creepy as heck in their powerful abilities. Also the examination of bigotry and racism (not necessarily skin color, but identity and being other than the norm). It looks hard at the military and how that all works being a grunt and having to follow orders, even if they aren't morally right, according to you.
This is the first book in this series, and I'm curious to see where the story goes next. I think that science fiction and fantasy have the ability to look hard at issues and get a reader thinking about things. This book definitely did that for me. The action was well done and had me on the edge of my seat, and I liked Oscar. I felt sympathy for him, because he was in a very rough situation and he was continually forced to make some difficult choices in this book....more
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It has beautiful writing. The descriptions are lyrical and lush in their imagery. The ideas are very imaginatI'm not sure how I feel about this book. It has beautiful writing. The descriptions are lyrical and lush in their imagery. The ideas are very imaginative. I loved Karou. She's strong and vulnerable. She's old for her years, but full of youthful energy. Akiva has an appealing brokenness and dangerous allure. And of course, I love angels. However, I didn't feel satisfied when I finished this book. I felt rather empty, to be honest. I felt a twisty knot of anguish inside. Maybe that's a sign that it was a very good book. That I felt deeply for both Karou, Akiva, Brimstone, Madrigal. I couldn't take sides easily. That's real though, isn't it? War always has losers and rarely has winners. Even the winning side counts the cost, with the innumerable loss of lives, as much as their way of life in no small part.
Now this is embarrassing for a huge romance fan to admit. I found the romantic descriptions a bit much for my tastes. A little too saccharine for me. It could be because I listened to the audiobook version, and honestly I tend to avoid romance on audiobooks (with some notable exceptions). I think I liked this better as fantasy than as a romance. Certainly the end was a hard slap in the face. Very melancholy!
I can see why this book is so well-loved and highly reviewed. It has a lot to offer a fantasy reader. The storyline is very creative, with the author's building of unique myths just for this novel, and the writing is lush and beautiful. As an audiobook, it's a feast to the ears, and the narrator does a great job. However, since I am an unrepentant emotional reader, I couldn't give this five stars, because I wasn't fully satisfied in some intangible way. Having said that, I am looking forward to the upcoming sequel.
Would I recommend this? Yes. It's a book you don't want to miss. Whether you'll feel the same way I did, I can't say. It's important for you to make up your own mind....more
When I read a really good book, it's hard to write a review, because my words don't measure up to what I have read as an example of good writing. But,When I read a really good book, it's hard to write a review, because my words don't measure up to what I have read as an example of good writing. But, I do my best. Let me make it clear that I'm hardly a critical scholar when it comes to fantasy. Before I added this to my epic fantasy shelf, I checked out the definition of epic fantasy. As I read the description of epic fantasy elements, I ticked off a mental checklist, and this book fits all the descriptions of epic fantasy. Of course, as I said, I'm not an expert, but I felt that Mr. Hamerton wrote a story that took what was expected in an epic fantasy read, and did it very well, writing a story that mattered to him and captivated me as I read.
The Magic System
Interesting, and very complex. The magical system was one part science, one part high mathematics (those parts had me scratching my head a bit), one part spiritual, and one part philosophical. At times, it went a little over my head, but that’s okay. I like to feel that I don’t have everything all figured out when I read a book. I liked that the magic had rules to it. The magic couldn't come out of nowhere. It had to have a source, and the source could be depleted. In essence, even the most powerful wizard or magic-user could be magicked out. There was balance, although the ‘dark lord’ character, Cabal the Darkmaster, wanted to take that balance and shift it so he controlled all the magic available, so he could rule over all the lands. Thankfully, the good guys are fighting to keep that from happening.
The main character was a young woman named Tabitha Serannon. She was an endearing person, seemingly normal and not overly endowed with any particular strength, or so it seemed. Her gift was not something she thought greatly of. Her talent for music, and a good voice. If anything, it was a way to provide a living for herself, and it made her happy. Her mother was a Lightgifter (essentially a type of good magician with the power to heal using the force of light), and she one day hoped to follow in her footsteps, finding her parents’ simple life as farmers not to her taste. As always, the yearning for adventure becomes a double-edged sword, and this young woman goes through a baptism of fire that is as believable as it is stirring. Although she has a bit of prodding along the way from a enigmatic figure named Twardy Zarost, otherwise known as the Riddler, nothing comes easy to this young woman. Through it all, I found her to be an engaging, likeable heroine. There is also Garyll Glavenor, the most formidable warrior in the land, the Swordmaster, who commands the Swords, an elite guard of warriors who protects the kingdom of Eyri. Love blooms between the couple, a love that is put to the test over the course of this book, each thinking they are not good or right enough for each other, and that life leads them in different directions. There is also Ashley Logan, an apprentice in the LIghtgifters who also will face a very harrowing experience in this novel. And Mr. Hamerton gives us a truly harrowing villain in Kirjath Arkell, a Shadowcaster who is given the job of retrieving the lost ring coveted by the Darkmaster. You can guess where the ring ends up. Mr. Hamerton brought these characters to life, and I felt their pain and suffering as they fought an epic battle against the forces of dark, with the power to overwhelm them from the inside out.
Mr. Hamerton creates his own world that has a medieval feel. There is an added dynamic, in which the world is partitioned based on the deleterious effects of a power-mad wizard. Most people don’t seem to know this save the eight wizards of the Gyre, who go through some incredible changes to keep this secret and to maintain a delicate balance.
I’ll try to keep this from becoming too much of a book report and keep it simple here. The most dominant theme here is that each person fights an intimate battle against evil. Evil is a slippery slope. It starts out as a selfish need or thought that can lead to corruption. Each character in this book fights that battle, and some fight to the depths of their soul against succumbing to evil. It was very painful to see what some of the characters that I grew to love as I read this story went through, how they suffered, and their struggle against the effects of an evil that had worked its way throughout the kingdom. Although this message could seem fatalistic, I don’t take it that way. In fact, there is hope in knowing that we do have a choice. It might not be easy, but we can choose to do what’s right. We might fall, and fail ourselves and others, but that doesn’t mean the war is over. We pick ourselves up again to fight the next battle. So there is always hope, in the end.
I want to thank Mr. Hamerton for the opportunity to read his book. Fantasy is one of my all-time favorite genres, but I am expanding my palate, trying to decide what I like in the various subgenres. So his offer to read his book was definitely one that I wanted to take him up on. Additionally, I like discovering gems in the literary world. Books that don’t get a lot of exposure, but are wonderful reads. This is definitely one of those books. His writing was lovely. There was an ease and a beauty to Mr. Hamerton’s use of language. He showed a poise in his use of language and the writer’s craft. I was completely engaged with this story, even to the point where it hurt physically to read some parts. When the story took a very dark turn, I didn’t despair, because I felt that I could trust Mr. Hamerton to bring to fruition a story that had a shining heart, which was what stood out to me from the beginning, despite some of the very dark elements. To be honest, I felt that this book was scratching the surface as far as potential for further stories, as there were elements that were left unresolved. But, I was satisfied at the progression and the conclusion of this story.
When an author approaches me to review his/her book, I am always crossing my fingers, hoping that I will enjoy the book and give the author some good exposure. After The Riddler’s Gift, I am happy to say that I loved this book, and I would recommend it to fantasy readers. From a layperson’s perspective, I would consider this good quality fantasy, and I doubt that many readers would find much at all to be disappointed about herein. I would guess it would be quite to the contrary, instead. At any rate, I know I enjoyed it immensely, and now I am waiting to read the forthcoming book(s) in this series. ...more
Fast-paced, hard-hitting, and quite disturbing. Connolly pulls no punches with this latest in his very hard-edged magic noir series. I hope that somehFast-paced, hard-hitting, and quite disturbing. Connolly pulls no punches with this latest in his very hard-edged magic noir series. I hope that somehow he is able to continue this series.
I found this book a bit hard to get into at times, which is why I didn't rate it higher. But I did like some things about it:
*Lou--I loved him. He's nI found this book a bit hard to get into at times, which is why I didn't rate it higher. But I did like some things about it:
*Lou--I loved him. He's not just an ifrit, he's a dog, and he's adorable in his dogness. *Good humor bits. It had me laughing out loud, which is good! *Interesting magic system *The musical aspects were authentic, enlightening, and fascinating. *The look at San Francisco, which is a beautiful town that I have had the pleasure to visit and would love to go back to. And soon!
Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars. I'll definitely be following this series.
Confusing at times, but fantastic. Very gritty and even darker than the first book. Not for the faint of heart, indeed. Ray is my hero, even at his thConfusing at times, but fantastic. Very gritty and even darker than the first book. Not for the faint of heart, indeed. Ray is my hero, even at his thuggiest! I have no qualms against giving this book 4.5/5.0 stars. Reviewed for Bitten by Books: http://bittenbybooks.com....more