With Daniel Swensen’s Orison, I was hooked the moment I read the first sentence. Swensen immediately dragged me into the world of Calushain and the li...moreWith Daniel Swensen’s Orison, I was hooked the moment I read the first sentence. Swensen immediately dragged me into the world of Calushain and the lives of its denizens in a way that brought the city to life, from a den of thieves to the high halls of Calushain’s queen. While reading, I really felt that this place existed that I went on, well after finishing the book, thinking about the world Swensen created within Orison. The sheer quality of the writing, storytelling, and world-building completely blew me away. As a writer myself, this is the level of storytelling I aspire to.
As for the characters, we see the story unfold through several different characters, all of whom come alive within the book’s pages, but none so much as Story and Wrynn. I love thieves, and I love magic, and while I enjoyed reading about Ashen One-Howl (and loved the descriptions of magic involved with his side of the story), Wrynn was probably my favorite character. I have a fondness for wizards, and with a wizard whose powers have been throttled by unknown reasons, I couldn’t help but fall in love with Wrynn. Story is likeable in that young, dream-driven girl kind of way, but it of course gets her in quick trouble. In the novel, all the characters are pulled along by greater schemes, manipulated into difficult situations by the wills of the dragons, a complex plot that is difficult to understand until the very end. The magic is so well entwined in the world and the religion so realized that both directly affect every character involved, and each character has to figure out how to survive in the wake of all that power.
Orison is an engaging read. I could hardly put it down until I finished (if I had a choice, I never would have put it down). I would recommend this book to any reader of fantasy. The rich world and characters will delight and surprise you. With a promise of more to come, I look forward to discovering more about Calushain and the characters within.
[Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the author] (less)
When I started reading this book, I was laughing by the second page, and I really connected with Jay as a character. The author...moreA fun, touching story
When I started reading this book, I was laughing by the second page, and I really connected with Jay as a character. The author brings Hipstopia to life with such finesse, it was easy to imagine as a real place, even if the concept seems absurd at first. It works here.
My only complaint is that it ended too soon! But there's a sequel on the way, so I look forward to reading more about Jay.(less)
As someone who has already self-published two books, most of this book was old hat to me. However, I l...moreGood for writers unfamiliar with self publishing
As someone who has already self-published two books, most of this book was old hat to me. However, I learned a lot of it the hard way, through trial and error. APE probably would have saved me a lot of headaches had it existed two years ago when I first self published. I would definitely recommend it to complete newbies.(less)
Excellent world building and stunning fantastical creatures
I enjoyed this novel immensely. The author does a fantastic job of bringing the worlds of t...moreExcellent world building and stunning fantastical creatures
I enjoyed this novel immensely. The author does a fantastic job of bringing the worlds of the Rift and Kelsh to life with the descriptions of the locales and their people. It truly felt like a real place, not just a backdrop to the characters.
The main characters Kalen and Breton are interesting in their own right, as are the side characters. There were times that I got lost in the groups of names when a lot of characters were introduced at once, but I think all the characters who were meant to stand out held their own. I look forward to seeing what happens to them next.
The creatures of the novel are perhaps the most brilliant aspects of the novel. The yadesh, which I imagine to be beefy gazelle type creatures, are unique creatures with a mysterious, unknown mythology behind them. They are sentient and speak telepathically, and they seem to be grand, noble creatures. I still want to know more about them and how they came to be the mounts to Kelsh's knights. Then, there are the skreed. Beasts born of magic, seemingly slaves of the Danarite priests at first, but I expect there is much more to them. The horses have a special quality to them too, characters in their own right.
I hesitate to give the book more than four stars, mainly because I was confused more often than I would like, whether it was not really understanding what was going on, confusion over where the characters were, or how the characters got from one scene to the next. That last part has a lot to do with the dual, switching POV, but I often had no real anchor at the beginning of a scene to root me in the story, leaving me understandably confused.
All in all, it was an enjoyable read, and I look forward to the next book.(less)
The Wizard and the Rat follows two distinct characters, Rat and Hyral, and their journeys to overcome their pasts.
Hyral is an enthusiastic wizard pla...moreThe Wizard and the Rat follows two distinct characters, Rat and Hyral, and their journeys to overcome their pasts.
Hyral is an enthusiastic wizard plagued with failed pupils. He follows the path of Chaos—which is described beautifully in the book, as is all the magic—but his students continue to fall prey to its power. In the beginning of the book, he’s forced on a journey to set things right by his superiors, set on a path to face his latest failure before he can cause any more harm. I love the idea of the failed wizard, and so his story was immediately interesting to me.
Rat is immediately sympathetic, burdened by a hard life in the Low and the stigma of being gay. I think the author did a fantastic job of conveying Rat’s homosexuality and care for the other characters in the book—in both the present story and his past, and I think it was Rat’s overwhelming ability to love, despite all the terrible things he’s suffered in his life, that really allowed me to connect to him as a character.
The book introduces several other secondary characters as well, who all felt like real people. I enjoyed seeing the different cultures and races on Hyral and Rat’s journey, and the world really felt like a real place to me. The author’s world-building is fantastic, and I think it’s the book’s greatest strength. The setting is rich with detail and culture, from the arcane halls of Tandos to the gritty, repugnant streets of the Low in Haven. Though, I didn’t really like Haven as a setting, not because the author did a poor job of describing it, but because it’s just a really nasty place.
I absolutely loved the magic system in the book. It was never confusing, never overwhelming, and the author did a fantastic job of describing the use of spells, between simple spells like starting fires to combat spells in the middle of battle.
The story was engaging and unpredictable. I never knew how things were going to end for Rat and Hyral, which was a refreshing change from the abundance of more formulaic fantasy novels.
I recommend this book for readers who like their fantasy a little grittier and soberingly realistic, rather than the usual idealistic fare.
[reviewer’s note: I received an advance copy of the novel from the author]