Ghosts of Eden is an interesting take on the orphan ends up in an adventure trope. Kayla’s family passes away, leaving her a twelve-year-old orphan. She and Gary, a college dropout and notorious junkie, get to spend the summer with her uncle Xander, an uncle she’s never known or heard of. Both Kayla and Gary are haunted by nightmares while reality starts to transform and strange things, too strange to be real. Their uncle isn’t who he seems to be, and soon they find themselves in a dark adventure that may chance the way they see the universe, forever.
The author has an amazing imagination, and knows how to tell a story well. Despite the surreal elements, the world of Kayla and Gary felt quite real. It was hard to figure out which was reality and which wasn’t, though, but I thought that added to the surreal qualities of the book. As usual, DarkFuse delivers another excellent story....more
I wanted to like The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1). Really, I did. I enjoyed Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter series, and although I haven’t read any of Holly Black’s books yet (shame on me), others have told me what an amazing author she is. Granted, the synopsis of this book read like a summary of Harry Potter, and I saw the similarities, but I still hoped the book would be different enough. Alas, turns out it wasn’t.
The basic plot eerily resembles Harry Potter. A young man, Callum Hunt, goes to a magician’s school to learn control his magic. Except, Call doesn’t really want to go – all his life, his dad told him to stay away from magic. His dad wants him to fail The Iron Trial, the rest that allows certain kids into magic school, called the Magisterium. But despite Call doing everything he can to fail, he gets accepted anyway. He’ll discover what secrets the Magisterium holds, and if it’s really as horrible as his dad warned him about…
All right, so I’m all for how people should still be allowed to write books about kids going to magic school. Harry Potter did it, sure, but it’s been done before, and it’s been done after (I’m thinking “The School of Good and Evil, which was also about a magic school). But…There’s a difference between having the same basic plot (kid goes to magic school), which is no biggie…and rehearsing just about every single thing from the Harry Potter books.
The villain here is a one-dimensional baddy called “The Enemy”, supposedly because people are too afraid to say his name. Ring a bell? The main character has two best friends: a boy and a girl (again, Harry Potter similarities). And then the most OBVIOUS one – at birth, called was marked by the Enemy. The parallels are MORE than just ‘kid going to magic school’, and they’re annoying. They made me roll my eyes. They even made me upset. I can only tolerate so many similarities, people.
On top of that, the book just doesn’t have anything original. Not a single thing. The plot is boring and overused, bordering on cliché. The characters are stereotypes and two-dimensional. The magic system is flawed, the world building needs serious work. Connecting to any of the characters, even Call, was almost impossible. The pace is slow, especially from the moment Call enters the Magisterium, and it drags on for pages on end, even taking some detours in the plot.
The surprise at the end was a fun twist, but one that I saw coming from miles away. I know I’m not a middle grader and that middle graders might love this, but I seriously doubt it. Kids are picky nowadays. They too want good world building and characters they can root for. So even if the writing isn’t always stellar, they at least want a decent plot and plenty of action, none of which they’ve given here.
If you want a good fantasy book for middle graders, pick up the Lockwood & Co series. It’s infinitely better than this one....more
Little Miss Evil is an original, entertaining story about Fiona, the daughter of a supervillain, or evil genius if you will, who lives in a vulcano, spends her days with her dad’s minions/soldiers/army and his newest inventions (including an arm that shoots fire for her thirteenth birthday) and in short, is anything but normal. It’s the first story I’ve read featuring this premise, and it was definitely unique and entertaining.
After Fiona gets her birthday present, everything starts going wrong. Her dad’s enemies (another supervillain) attack, and they manage to kidnap her dad. Now it’s up to Fiona to lead her army into battle and save her dad. But then their enemies send them a message: give them the NOVA (a nuclear bomb that could turn the city into radioactive ashes) or they will kill her dad. Fiona asks her friends (fellow supervillains’ kids, since no one else will talk to her at school) for help. But can she save her dad, without giving them the NOVA?
So, the story was fun and entertaining, and sometimes I even laughed out loud. Middle graders will love Fiona’s humor, the flamethrowers, the submarines, and everything that makes these supervillains engaging. Fiona is fun, too. She struggles with being the kid of a villain, and she wants to be an ordinary person – she’s not sure if she ever wants to be a supervillain herself. She’s easy to relate to, and her personality makes her a good protagonist for this kind of book (where the main character could’ve easily been evil too, which is harder to relate to).
But…the book’s major flaw is its lack of characterization. Fiona has a personality, but most of the other characters lack one. Even her dad lacks real personality, and so do her friends and just about any other secondary characters. Ruby could’ve been awesome, but she too didn’t have much of a personality, so she didn’t stand out at all and turned out to be rather bland.
The story is simple and straightforward, but it’s entertaining all the same, and I don’t mind those traits in a middle grade book. The book sure has humor, too. So really the only thing I can complain about would be the lack of characterization for everyone except Fiona, but don’t let that stop you from reading this one. It’s like Despicable Me, but from the POV of a kid....more
The Hawley Book of the Dead has an original, surprising premise, and delivers with great writing and outstanding characters. The book starts off with a bang, introducing us to Revelation, “Reve” Dyer, who accidentally kills her husband. They’re a duo of magicians and illusionists, but one night, one of their tricks goes wrong and she kills her husband on stage. Reve is broken up about it, and along with her three daughters, she struggles to pick up the pieces of her life. Afraid the person who murdered her husband (the intruder who switched her trick pistol) is after them, she gathers her girls and moves to Hawley Five Corners, a small town founded by her ancestors.
But living in a secluded farmhouse in the middle of a town she grew up hearing so much about, Reve discovers things about her history that she never thought possible. She finds the Hawley Book of the Dead, an ancient journal with strange power that might save her or destroy her. Reve tries to uncover the journal’s secrets, and hopes it might help protect herself and her daughters, for it seems the person who murdered her husband has chased them to Hawley…
The book has an amazing amount of lore behind it, and I enjoyed uncovering the secret of the Hawley Book of the Dead. It also has a good amount of mystery and even some thriller-aspects. The middle part lagged a bit, but I found that this helped build up the supsense. I began to really care for Reve and her daughters, and I didn’t want anything to happen to them. The characters were well-rounded and interesting. Reve’s sorrow and grief is so realistic you instantly feel bad fo her.
While the plot was interesting, it was the magic that brought this book to the next level for me. I liked the history behind it, the introduction of the book, and in general, the whole magic system. The writing was great too, with vivid descriptions and an unique setting....more
The Shadow of the Unicorn II: The Deception is an imaginative, fun read for middle graders and tweens. I haven’t read the first book, but I didn’t have to in order to understand this one. So first, I’ve never read a book featuring unicorns before, but I love horses, so I wanted to give this one a shot. Writing from the point of view of unicorns can’t be easy. Even just anatomically, horses differ a lot from humans. They do feel the same things though, at least in this book: loyalty, friendship, sadness. The book is told from the POV of Ulysees, a young colt growing into adulthood. The world is afraid of unicorns, so they must live in a secret hideout. But when Ulysees and his best friend Téo follow an abandoned trail and are discovered by humans, the entire herd must make a run for it, afraid of getting discovered by the humans.
I liked all characters, but in particular Ulysees. Icharus was interesting too – he thought the younger unicorns a lot, and though he might be ruthless, it was interesting to find out why. The unicorn’s skills are unique too. Obviously the author has an impressive imagination.
This book was totally unpredictable, and with such amazing and original main cast, it’s a great read for middle graders. The book has a positive message too, and I was glad not all humans turned out to be villains, although it was fun to see humans in the roles of villains for once....more
The One Path is an interesting fantasy read that deals with demons, angels, and upcoming armageddon. Lucifer plans to impregnate some poor girl to make her give birth to the antichrist, which might mean the end of all things good. So God needs a prophet to help battle demons. Unfortunately, he makes a rather odd choice, and picks out Thomas, who is just about as regular and plain as one can get. But Thomas is God’s choice for the Last Prophet, and who are we to argue with that?
Thomas sets out to prevent the end of the world, but luckily, he soon gets help from his sidekick, Myrrh, a genius who is possessed by a fallen angel, which is useful at times, but might be dangerous too. With some help from the Pope, they’re on their way to battle demons, but things don’t always turn out as planned and Thomas finds himself in danger more often than not. Will they be able to halt the devil’s plan?
The book offers an unique blend of fantasy and religion, and stays true to the bible in a lot of aspect while still being original and entertaining. The writing style is engaging, and I could connect with the characters right away. The plot moves fast too, and it managed to surprise me a few times. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
I had some trouble with Snake in the Grass first, because it’s the fourth book in a series, and I hadn’t had time to read the other parts before I started this one. But once I got the hang of things, and figured out who was who, the book turned out to be a pleasant read. I’m sure kids will love it.
The characters are interesting and three-dimensional, in particular Jaycee. She’s very authentic, a good representation of middle school girls, what they care about, what they don’t care about, and what matters to them. Yet at the same time she’s not generic, but special, creative and imaginative, and also quite brave.
I particularly liked the scenes in Mallory, the whole storyline with the missing envoy. The plot worked, in Mallory as well as in the regular world, and you soon feel for these characters, and want them to succeed. The dialogue is spot-on, and sounds very realistic, especially Jaycee’s dialogue. The book also has an appropriate amount of humor, which kids will like too.
It’s an imaginative, well-plotted adventure that I’d recommend to middle graders and young teens. And occassionally, an adult who enjoys middle grade books (like me, for example)....more
I have to applaud Lioness of Kell for having one of the most diverse casts I’ve ever come across in a fantasy book. Often, fantasy novelists stay stuck in the typical fantasy set-ups, as if there are no disabled people or people of color in fantasy settings, and if they are, they only get to play a minor role. Here we see a female person of color in the role of the protagonist, and instead of jumping to stereotypes, Maud is realistic, genuine, a regular person, with flaws and troubles. She’s part of a society of strong warrior women. Think of what it would be like if Xena, Warrior Princess joined a group of other Xena-like women. It works well, and it adds a lot of extra layers to the plot. While strong and independent, Maud faces issues too. She’s still only eighteen, and she acts like a teenager sometimes, which I enjoyed and thought made her seem more realistic.
The pages are filled with a great cast of varied characters, and they really make the plot come alive. One of my favorites was Basil. I liked his wit and humor. But really, all characters are three-dimensional, come with a back story, and each brings something interesting to the plot.
The fantasy setting is amazing, adding in so many original elements. The author obviously spent a lot of time building this fantasy world, and it shows in its rich details.
Fantasy fans who enjoy great world-building and a diverse cast of characters, will definitely enjoy this book....more
This was an interesting read. H.A.L.F: The Deep Beneath is the first book in a trilogy, and it sets the mood nicely. We’re introduced to H.A.LF. 9, who was created to be a weapon yet ended up being too powerful and impredictable. His makers kept him sedated, but now the sedation has worn off, and he’s more alive and deadly than ever before. As a hybrid, only half-human, H.A.L.F 9 makes an interesting character. The author does a great job portraying him, his choices, and why he chooses to be anything but what he was meant to be – a killer.
Erika Holt and her friends run into H.A.L.F 9 by accident during a night out in the desert. When things go dire, H.A.L.F 9 — Tex — shows up to save Erika and her friends. Erika feels a strange connection toward the hybrid, who struggles to escape from the Commander, who wants him back, no matter what it takes. Tex and Erika had an interesting bond, and I can’t wait to see how it develops in the second book.
The characters are strong, in particular Erika. She didn’t have a great childhood, what with an alcoholic mom, but she has a lot of strength. Tex is intriguing too, because you never quite know how he’ll react.
The book starts out with a bang, and it keeps on going right until the end, fast-paced all the way through. If you like scifi, give this book a shot. I for one, am curious about the sequel....more
Gifted is an intriguing novel about fifteen-year-old Frank Sampson, a forensic sorcerer who would like nothing more than to be left alone, but as one of the most promising pupils of the academy he graduated from, he’s often enrolled in work for the police force. This time around, he gets to help solve the murder of the Bishop of Oxford, who seems to be missing his head. Yet from the moment he arrives, Frank wonders if the body even belongs to the Bishop, and he gets a bad feeling about all of it. Especially about working alongside Marvo, his police colleague, who is about his age and has the keen ability to spot things others can’t. In a world where grown ups slowly go blind or completely lose the ability to see by the time they hit thirty, spotting things others can’t, is high in demand.
Frank is Gifted, which means he has the ability to perform magic. As a forensic sorcerer, he can do things like see it the head matches the body, how long the person has been dead, and all kind of things. Magic also doesn’t happen “just like that” – rituals and spells are needed. It’s all rather elaborate, and that’s what I like about it. It’s so completely unlike magic in other books. This magic needs incantations and spells and complex rituals – it’s not like the Harry Potter books where characters just wave a wand. Also, the book has a much darker undertone, with the mention of necromancers, of raising the dead, and of course, the murder waiting to be solved. “Who killed the Bishop and why” is the number one question throughout the book, but meanwhile we’re introduced to this amazing world of magic and witchcraft.
The world building and setting is the main reason why I gave this book five stars. I loved all of it. Seriously. From the spells, the summoning of demons and how that works, to Frank’s work place, to how the whole magic society works, to how outsiders deal with the gifted, everything about it makes sense. The book reminded me a lot of Lockwood & Co, another favorite of mine, but whereas Lockwood & Co deals with ghosts, and practically turned the whole world ghost lore upside down, Gifted does the same but with magic.
The characters are a mixed bag. Frank is spotless – I mean, he has tons and tons of flaws stacked upon even more flaws, but this makes him perfect. So human. So broken. Then we’ve got Marvo, who is flawed too, and who makes a great sidekick for Frank. I wasn’t too fond of Frank’s apparent infatuation for Kazia, the Bishop’s niece. He saw her once and fell head over heels for her – but then again, Frank is fifteen, and falling randomly in love is common for people that age, so I didn’t mind that much.
If you want an original magic system, and an intriguing setting, I would highly recommend this book. One of the most unique fantasy books I’ve read in years....more
Lover, Divine is an interesting book featuring the Greek gods. Since I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology, I really wanted to read this one. It turned out to be a pleasant read, focusing mostly on Apollo – or Liam, as he portrays himself throughout the book – the Olympian God of the Sun. The other main character is Siobhan Law, whose family acts as an egant for the Greek gods on earth. They’re called Influentials. From the moment Siobhan meets Liam, she falls head over heels for him. Liam, however, is on a mission of his own, and he won’t stop until Siobhan is his.
The romance was a bit too instant for me – I prefer a slower romance. But that’s probably the only complaint I have about the book. Both Liam and Siobhan are both interesting characters, especially Liam, given he’s a Greek God. The mythology and world-building is interesting, and the writing was strong....more
In The Portal & The Panther, Jon Parker is seventeen years old, and has lived a pretty normal life so far. That is, until one day he starts feeling ill at school, escapes to the boys’ bathroom, and transforms into a panther. His entire world is turned upside down when he realizes humanity isn’t the only group populating earth. Shapeshifters exist, and he’s far from the only person who can change into a panther or another animal. Apart from shapeshifters, there are also “intruders” who can control the elements with just a thought.
Layla, a fellow shapeshifter, helps him adjust to his new world, and his new powers. Along with her help, Jon must protect the world from aliens invading it from other worlds. Then a girl from his class, Kristin, who he’s always had a crush on, gets involved, and suddenly his mission turns a lot more dangerous and he risks hurting the girl he loves.
There’s a bit of a love triangle going on between Layla, Jon and Kristin, but I didn’t mind that much. Each character is likeable in their own way, particularly Jon. He’s flawed, suffers from a less-than-perfect childhood, and he’s easy to relate to. Layla is tough, but at the same time she had a vulnerable side too. And Kristin seems like your typical girl next door, but she has more courage than you’d give her credit for at first.
The story is engaging and well-written, and the characters shine on the pages. The world-building is impressive, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series....more
The Jewel of Kamara is an intriguing book focusing on Tempani of Amarill, a young noblewoman of mixed race. She’s an engaging protagonist, especially since women have so little rights in this kingdom, and her mixed race doesn’t make things any easier for her. Her position makes her rather unique, and gives her an interesting perspective.
While I enjoyed most of the characters, Tempani was definitely my favorite. She’s a rare protagonist, the kind who holds the balance between strengths and weaknesses, and even though everything is set in a fantasy world, she comes across as quite realistic, and her struggles are believable.
The world building was superb, and the plot was entertaining from start to end. Some of the topics touched upon, like oppression, and Tempani struggling to adapt to court life after practically being raised in a convent, were great additions to the story and made it all that much easier to relate with, and more enjoyable.
A well-written YA fantasy novel with original elements and an intriguing heroine....more
Back when I took Latin and Greek, I first heard the sotry of Odysseus, heard the mention of Homer, and I became enamored with the stories of tragic heroes, incredible journeys, the war on Troy, mythology and gods, and everything else these stories had to offer. Telemachus and Homer is a retelling of the ancient stories. Telemachus is Odysseus’ son, and when the latter comes home after twenty years, Telemachus must decide if he’ll keep on wasting his life, doing nothing more but wait around for his father to guide him, or if he’ll start to control his own life. Homer is a young woman – which is a clever twist – who proves an useful ally for Telemachus. Although blind, she has knowledge of all kinds of things, and the two of them must go on a quest to save Ithaca.
The premise is clever, and surprisingly, it works. The story and plot are engaging, and although some things are familiar (names, characters and settings) the story itself is original. Both main characters had their own strength and weakness. Homer feels undervalued, as does Telemachus. Both of them are searching for something more, a way to prove themselves to others, and to themselves.
While the plot and characters were great, some small details brought the book down from a five to a four star rating. The frequent use of adverbs, frequent use of the passive tense, and telling the reader how the characters feel instead of showing their emotions. These were minor details though, and I did enjoy the book, and would recommend it to other YA fantasy fans....more
Nanovision is an intriguing, engaging YA novel mixing science fiction and fantasy. The book starts out with sixteen-year-old Daniel Raye coming home from school at the final day of the year, ready for the summer holidays. Unfortunately nothing goes as planned. Some hit men are after his dad, and when they notice Daniel, they start beating him up too, and leave him for dead.
Daniel wakes up in the hospital, blind, and with no memory of what happened. He’s put in the witness protection program by the FBI and moves to California to live with an aunt he’s never met, Ethyl. She runs a bio-tech firm called NanoBytes, and does everything she can to cure Daniel’s blindness. She feels sorry for the boy and grows very fond of him. One of her experiments works, using DNA from animals and insects. The experiment works a little too well even, because Daniel gets x-ray vision. And when the mob is on his heels again, his new ability may save his life.
The book starts with a bang, and it keeps a fast pace until the end. The story is imaginative, the characters are engaging. I particularly liked Daniel, and Ethyl, and their relationship. The book managed to surprise me a few times with twists I didn’t see coming.
The only thing I’d have to mention is the editing. I didn’t notice any glaring errors, but we do get the usual pitfalls: showing instead of telling, not using ‘said’ but rather a plethora of other words, like ‘apologized’, ‘acknowledged’, ‘observed’, and so on. It was a little distracting, but still, I enjoyed the story, and the author obviously has a talent for storytelling....more
Henge is hands down the most original YA novel I’ve read all year. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve read all year, if not the absolute favorite. While the writing wasn’t spectacular (the writing was all right but not amazing), the characters were fantastic and the world building blew me away. In terms of world building, this book ranks right up there with Harry Potter.
It’s actually similar in some ways (and totally differnet in others). Our protagonist, Morgan, is a fire user who has the ability to command fire at will. Her dad is opposed against magic because of what happened to her mother, but either way Morgan decides to participate in a contest to get selected in Arthur’s Round, a group of elite young magic user. One of them will be chosen as Maven – and it’s always been Morgan’s dream to become the Maven. Even more so, she once had a vision about it.
Morgan wins second prize after a boy named Merlin, but because she has no official magic license, she isn’t allowed to participate in Arthur’s Round. However, for some reason she’s allowed in anyway and despite her Dad’s protests, she goes. Along with other magic users – fire, water and wind, and a healer, Guinevere who she becomes friends with, Morgan trains to become the most powerful magician she can be in order to become the next Maven. But the past has a way of catching up with her, and although powerful, the boy who beat her at the contest, Merlin, is very powerful as well. Is he a friend or a foe? When her life becomes endangered, Morgan will have to figure out who she can trust.
I’ve been in love with the Camelot legend for decades (well, a decade at least) so to see it in a contemporary, original context makes my heart race. And all the familiar characters drop by yet they’re totally original at the same time. Morgan is an easy to like protagonist. She’s been shaped by her past, always watching her back, always weary. At the same time she’s independent, intuitive, strong and this definitely isn’t a girl who needs a boy to make her feel special. She’s quite capable of holding her own.
I’m dying to read the sequel to this book. It’s a rare gem, and I would recommend it to everyone who likes the Arthurian legend, Camelot, and just YA fantasy in general....more
In Gabby, Angel of God, Bo is a grieving widower when he first meets Gabby. He’s struck by her beauty, her easy-going ways, and she sparks something inside of him that he never thought possible. In fact, she’s almost too good to be true, helping those in need, wanting to take care of everyone, and in general just being a good person. Although caring, she’s also quite tough and capable of standing up for herself and others. But Gabby is actually an Angel, and she’s come to help Bo find his path to the destiny God has written for him a long time ago. Bo never thought something of the sort would be possible, let alone would happen to him, but it does so either way.
The story is a little bittersweet at times though. Because while Bo falls for Gabby, she won’t let her own desire interfere with God’s orders and the mission she’s been sent to do. Bo on the other hand will lose another woman he loves. Of both characters, I liked Bo the most, probably because it’s easier to relate to him, with him being human and all. Gabby comes across as angelic, unattainable, harder to comprehend for the reader – which makes sense, of course, but this made it easier to relate to Bo’s struggles than to hers.
There’s an interesting view on the supernatural in the book, on religion and divinity, all while bringing a heart-warming and inspiring story. Ideal for the holidays, and in general for anyone who likes books that reflect on spirituality and faith, or just a good read for that matter....more
In An Emerging Threat, we meet two men who try to find the source of the darkness spreading across the Islands, a fantasy realm. One of them is Oliver, a young scholar. When the citadel where he lives is destroyed by strange creatures, and everyone he knows dies during the attack, Oliver is an orphan in the truest sense of the word. He has no one to turn to, no one to guide him – nothing except a map left by his master. He goes on a journey, following the map’s route, wanting to find the creatures that destroyed his life.
On the other hand, we have Ethan, who is warrior, a prince of Astar. It’s responsibility that drives him to find the source of the darkness spreading across his world. He has a strong sense of justice, a sense for what he believes is right. While based on the plot one would think Oliver would be more sympathetic (as princes can be stuck up, and Oliver is all alone, which draws sympathy) it’s actually Ethan who comes across as the most sympathetic character, and ultimately, my favorite. It’s understandable though. Oliver is an academic, brave in his own way but not driven by justice as Ethan is. He’s also often sad about what happened – which is, of course, a natural reaction. Both characters are entertaining in their own way, and I enjoyed reading about both their struggles and journeys, but for some reason, Ethan’s story just appealed to me more. I think it’s the “quest for justice” thing, or just that his personality seemed more interesting.
The world building is okay. We only get a little of it, and I assume more will be revealed in later books. The character development was all right, and the plot moved swiftly, but because it’s a short read and the pace was so fast, the book was finished before I could start to really enjoy it.
So far, the book offers a promise for more interesting things to come, and it’s a good start to a new series. Recommended to fantasy fans....more
In Divine Scales, Patricio might be an angel, but he’s definitely not angel. He yearns for the souls of evil-doers, but the families of his victims sing his praises because of a witch’s curse. The story offers an intriguing spin on the Little Mermaid fairytale, intriguing characters and a well-executed premise. Patricio is a complicated character, hard to connect with at first, but once you get to know him better, he turns out to be not as bad as one would think.
Marcela starts out as your typical love-struck heroine, but once you figure out that her over-the-top obsession is due to a spell, it turns all the more intriguing. Kind of like in the Little Mermaid, she trades her tail and voice to the sea witch, in exchange for the legs she needs to walk on land. But this magic also caused the witch’s curse that enchanted her in the first place, to be broken.
I can honestly say this book has one of the most original premises I’ve ever read. Angels and mermaids? That’s a first. And then the whole spin on the Little Mermaid, one of my all-time favorite fairytales (although the original always makes me cry). The writing is sublime. Both main characters are equally complex and intriguing, and the romance between them is sizzling. The drama is real here, not over-the-top exaggerated like in some romance novels. The character’s feelings sound realistic. The plot offered quite a few surprises.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good romance story with plenty of fantasy elements thrown in, and heaps of creativity....more
One of the Amazon reviewers compared this book to Steven Erikson’s “Malazan” books, and I couldn’t agree more. Outcasts of the Worlds holds the promise of something epic, of something extraordinary, providing a great balance between excellent plot and characters.
We followed different characters on different worlds, and based on the premise I thought this would complicate things, but actually it works rather well. Flynn was my favorite character. He’s struggling with so many things at once – coming to terms with his past, daring to face his future, his quest about his inner self to find out the man he chooses to be, all that makes him one of the most intriguing characters I’ve ever come across. The other host of characters we’re introduced to are interesting too, but they don’t reach the level of intrigue Flynn does.
The author does manage to introduce all characters in an unique way, not “seemingly at random”, but instead it all makes sense in the greater plot. The world-building is spot on as well, allowing the author to explore additional worlds in the next book in the series, and yet providing enough background setting to be believable.
The writing was enjoyable overall, and especially during the action scenes, it was top-notch.
I would recommend this book to all fans of science-fiction and fantasy. If you like solid world building and interesting characters, you’ll enjoy this one....more
The moment the synopsis of The Leopard Vanguard mentioned the Roman Empire and Caligula, I knew I had to read this one. And it even has tons of Latin! I took Latin classes at college, and I’m a huge fan of the Roman Empire and the matching era, so of course I wanted to dive into the world of the Leopard King Saga. It certainly didn’t dissapoint.
We’re introduced to Tullus, a Roman Centurion has only recently been promoted to be a member of the Praetorian Guard, but just a few months later, he already wants to resign, and start a new life with a woman he fell in love with. Things don’t go as planned though, and Tullus ends up setting out ofr his new life all on his own. He decides to join the circus and learn more about his magical talents. He befriends a man named Paullus, the circus ringmaster, and a magical leopardess Celestra who becomes his new partner in the circus. Tullus re-invents himself as the Leopard King, a famous entertainer.
But then, Paullus is killed, and the other members of the circus swear they’ll figure out who was behind the murder. Before he very well realizes it, Tullus and Celestra are immersed in layers of polictical intrigue, and have to face Paulllus’ killers, while they search for a deadly secret with the power to destroy the Empire.
I pride myself on my knowledge about the Roman Empire thanks to hours and hours of classes on the subject, but the knowledge T.A. Uner possesses about that era, is truly astonishing. Everything works: from the corruption, the political intrigue, to the day-to-day tasks. The portrayal is so accurate it’s almost scary, and I could certainly imagine living in that era along with Tullus, Celestra and everyone else.
It’s the little details that make this book shine, like the historical accuracy, the Latin, the names. It all works well – so bonus points for excellent world building.
The plot and characters are solid too, and some of them turned out to be quite surprising, showing more depth than I’d thought at first, or showing their hidden colors as the book progressed. The writing was good too, slightly wordy at the start but that seems to match the genre (with it being fantasy), so no real complaints there either.
I look forward to reading the sequel. Highly recommended to anyone who’s a fan of the Roman Empire....more
From the synopsis, one wouldn’t expect Shawndirea to be an epic fantasy story, but it is. Ben Whytten is an entomologist and one day, instead of capturing a butterfly, he captures a fairy named Shawndirea. And not just any fairy – Shawndirea is destined for the throne of Elvendale. But Ben accidentally ruined the fairy’s wings when catching her. He vows to take her back to her home, a realm named Aetheaon. To get to that realm they must pass through a portal rift in a haunted cavern called Devil’s Den.
Once he passes into Aetheaon, Ben comes across a whole set of characters, some good, but most evil, and out to hurt Shawndirea and stop her before reaching her kingdom. Pretty much any fantastical creature passes the line, from wizards to zombies, to immortals looking to gain power. The book is definitely on the darker side of fantasy, and hosts not only an interesting cast of characters but also an engaging plot about a journey slightly reminiscent of the one Frodo makes in Lord of The Rings, and filled with thrilling adventures along the way.
With great writing and an amazing amount of creativity, Leonard D. Hilley II makes his characters and plot shine....more
Cursed Heroes: The Beginnings is the story of another universe, parallel to our own, which has fallen into chaos thanks to greed and lust for power. It’s up to the Brothers Will, a group of unconventional heroes to keep the balance of power so the universe isn’t overrun by complete chaos. This book tells the beginning of their story, where they came from, how they evolved, as it follows the struggle of one young boy.
The story is engaging, and quite short, the length of a novella. But the characters are established well, and the world-building is all right too.
An entertaining book with fast-paced writing....more
This book was pretty amazing. I LOVE Robin Hood. It’s always been one of my favorite stories, and I loved this fresh take on it, with Scarlet posing as a boy in Robin Hood’s gang of thieves, and slowly falling for Robin. Robin was amazing too. This is one of the best romances I’ve read in a while. Great story!...more
Imagine King George III as a vampire. Now, imagine a steampunk, dark fantasy world, in which people worship the gods of Industrialism, as opposed to the rest of Europe, which still practises christianity.
The novel starts off by introducing us to the three main characters as youngsters: Nicholas, James and Isambard. When something terrible happens, Nicholas and James are shocked, but Isambard gains a strange connection to the machines that rule their world. He becomes an engineer, and gains royal favor as a result, while he works with the mechanical creations that have him mesmerized.
Numerous years later, Nicholas returns to the Engine Ward, a district in the heart of London, where he starts to work for his childhood friend. But as Isambard wants to set up a Wall, that would shut out the dragons (yes, you read that out) that threaten the city, and he gets the approval of the King, he begins to suspect something is wrong. He informs Nicholas of his suspicious that the king wants to use the wall not to protect the citizens of London, but to keep them locked inside while he unleashed an army of Sunken: flesh-eating monsters.
You can’t say that The Sunken doesn’t have an element of originality – it’s easily one of the most original books I’ve ever read. And the most amazing part is how skillfully S.C. Green manages to combine all the elements of this book: flesh-eating monsters, vampires, alternative history, steampunk machines, and dragons. When you read it like that, you’d never think it works, but it does. The London the author creatures is a dark and threatening place, but at the same time it’s also vibrant and lively, and one of the most thrilling fantasy settings I’ve read about.
I loved Isambard – he was my favorite main character, because he’s just so complex. It ward hard to think about what he’d do next. That’s not to say the other characters aren’t complex either, for example, Nicholas has a few struggles of his own and has some tough choices to make.
The writing was excellent, the characters engaging, the plot suspenseful from start to end. There aren’t enough words to say what an amazing read this is – I’d recommend you just pick it up and see for yourself. ...more
This isn’t exactly a retelling. None of the characters from the old fairytale keep their personalities – not even the story stays the same. I would’ve been able to live with all that, had it not been for how these new characters were completely and utterly immature, especially Izzie. Dialogue was cringe worthy, and overall, I had to force myself to continue reading....more
Steampunk is either hit or miss with me, and this one was definitely hit. Lena is a great character with an interestin personality. The world-building is solid and the writing is great. This is one of those books that’ll leave you thinking even after you finish reading....more
The book is interesting, and once you get past the first few chapters (it starts out okay, but turns boring rather quickly), make it through half of the book, and all the heaps of world building, then the story picks up. Unfortunately it waits too long for that moment, so while it’s an okay read, it’s nothing special. The world building intrigued me though, so I may have to pick up the sequel....more
I’m absolutely and utterly in love with the Lockwood & Co series. When I reviewed the first book, The Screaming Staircase, I had no choice but to give it a 5-star rating, considering it was easily one of the best books I’d ever read. The Whispering Skull, the sequel, is no different at all.
The world Jonathan Stroud has created in his books is downright amazing. It’s an alternative version of London, one overshadowed by ghosts and other entities. In the sequel, Lucy, Anthony and George are back, and they’re still struggling with Visitors, quarrelling with Kipps, and trying hard to establish a reputation for themselves amongst the other, more reputable agencies. Fortunately they’re in a better position than in the first book – after solving The Screaming Staircase case, their reputation has vastly improved, and they get more job offers.
Then a new client, Mr. Saunders, hires Lockwood & Co to be present at the excavation of Edmund Bickerstaff, a Victorian doctor with a bad reputation. The trio shows up for the excavation, and all goes well – until George’s curiosity gets the better of him, and he takes a closer look at an object hidden inside the coffin. Afterwards, George acts strange, but neither Lockwood nor Lucy looks for anything behind it. That is, until they hear the contents of the coffin have been stolen by a thief – and the object inside the coffin is potentially more dangerous than anyone realizes.
On top of that, the ghost jar starts acting up again. Lucy is the only one who can hears its whispers, but this time around, the jar seems to have an even more sinister message from the beyond.
As inspector Barnes asks for the trio’s help to locate the stolen object, he also enlists Kipps and his team – and the challenge is on. But if they want to defeat the evil hidden inside the coffin, they may have to find a way to work together, or this might be the one job that’ll get them killed.
Lucy, Lockwood and George are amazing. I loved their dynamics in the first book, and here, they’re spot on again. Lockwood is still as secretive as ever, but part of the veil covering his past, is lifted. We see him in a more positive daylight, not just some Indiana Jones-type who doesn’t care much for his companions. Lucy is a lucky girl to work with him, that’s all I’m saying. Talking about Lucy, she is still struggling with her own powers, and part of what makes her interesting is how real the struggle feels. She’s afraid of her abilities, afraid sometimes of the ghosts closing in on them, and that fear is real and palpable. I also liked her bickering with George – you’d think the two of them would get better along after what happened in the first book, and maybe they do, but only up to some point. There’s still too different to really get along.
The plot is fast-paced, and once again, completely blew me away. Everything about the book screams originality, from the setting to the plot (creepy object found in coffin, and the trio having to run all across London to retrieve it) to the characters. The world-building is hands down amazing, and the author should get an award for that feat alone. Everything matches, everything works, and the end result is simply amazing.
This is my favorite series ever, and I can’t wait to read the next part. Mr. Stroud, you better get writing, or I might have to sent a Type 3 your way. ...more
An excellent read. The author transports readers to a magical world crawling with monsters, magic, and power. The Darkling is easily one of my favorite villains of all tme. The writing is sublime, the world-building outstanding....more