This is another book that I read a while ago, so bear with the lack of depth in the review.
This book was given to me by Kristell Ink in exchange for t...moreThis is another book that I read a while ago, so bear with the lack of depth in the review.
This book was given to me by Kristell Ink in exchange for this review. My thanks to Sam who was the person I got in contact with.
When first I was made aware of the existence of this new novel, the author described it as “Fantasy with a twist of Steampunk (and a little romance).” Not what I would normally consider my cup of tea. However, there was something about it that intrigued me and drove me to plead Kristell Ink for a review copy – and what a pleasant surprise this read turned out to be!
Healer’s Touch is a mix of romance, steampunk and high fantasy done the right way and written in just the right kind of style. I have to say that this book has made me a fan of Deb E. Howell.
The plot is well planned and played-out. For a book that involves almost nothing but fleeing and travelling I must say I am impressed that it never once got boring. It is as fast-paced as the blurb says and constantly new things are added to the table; new troubles or new knowledge that makes the situation of our group worse by the chapter.
The universe is the author’s own and seems to be more well-constructed than is let on in this book, with a history that is merely hinted at here and there. It is clear that the world isn't the focal matter of the story.
The characters are very vivid and came alive before my eyes as I read. I love them all. Except Braph. I hate Braph with a passion. But another thing I really love is how it is not only the humans that play the vital roles in this story. The nature is used actively to underline the themes of life versus death, health versus destruction.
It is a world of contradictions; a world where mortal enemies fall in love, and where the knife that can kill the unkillable is made from the very source of life-energy.
The story is not particularly original. In fact, it reminded me extraordinarily much of another story I reviewed earlier this year, namely the novella High Witch by Mona Hanna.
In both stories the main plot revolves around an extremely powerful witch (or healer) fleeing from a man that seeks to use her to gain power for himself. There are many other similarities that I will refrain from mentioning to avoid spoiling anything, but I have to say that as far as comparisons go I really think this story is better developed than High Witch. Its themes and conflicts seem to run a lot deeper.
As I wrote in my review of High Witch: “I will start off by confessing that I am a hopelessly unromantic sort of person, so please take some of my opinions on this point a bit lightly. This story sure does contain its share of romantic twaddle!”
The romance is a vital part of Healer’s Touch, but it is not the most important thing. And also, Deb E. Howell does not twaddle. She keeps the romance interesting. It is intense without ever getting over the top.
When I first started reading this book I found it hard to put it down again. I don’t think it took me much more than a single weekend to completely devour it. And that says a lot for someone who is as slow a reader as I admit to be!
Healer’s Touch brought very real, very wet tears to my eyes on several occasions, and this is one of the signs that let me distinguish between good authors and great authors. The good ones tell you a story while great ones let you feel it.
Enter a world where power lies in patterns painted in the sand, the grass and on the skin of the people. Enter an imaginary universe where one invisib...moreEnter a world where power lies in patterns painted in the sand, the grass and on the skin of the people. Enter an imaginary universe where one invisible enemy can make an entire empire crumble under his touch, where angels and demons speak the words of prophecy and where magic might be mistaken for madness. This is the setting of Mazarkis Williams’ grand fantasy epic and at the heart of it all stands The Emperor’s Knife.
I find myself having somewhat mixed feelings about this book, though mostly I stand in awe of the great imagination that have made this story spring alive before the sensors behind my eyes. I feel positively inspired after putting this one down; my fingers are all but itching to get hold of the second book that should hopefully take the adventure to yet new heights.
The Emperor’s Knife offers exactly the kind of universe I love to encounter in fantasy; it is brimming with strange phenomena, captivating characters, mystery and suspense. I did not take me more than a couple of days to swallow up every word of it.
The book is very fast-paced, which is sometimes a very longed-for quality in fantasy series. However, I am of the mind that this one was perhaps actually TOO fast-paced. There were moments where I had to go back and read a paragraph over again because I thought I had missed something, only to discover that that something was indeed not there.
While I think the author has intended the fast pace and small omissions to bring up a sense of mystery and/or suspense in the reader, I think that more often than is quite alright it just ended up confusing me, making me worry if the fault was on my part, that maybe I had been inattentive at the wrong moment and missed something vital to understanding what was going on. Yet I don’t think so. I have seldom read a book as attentively as this one, namely because of its intensity – there aren’t really any filler-sentences in this book. Every other line seems to offer some important scrap of information or action.
Again, as I said, my feelings are of a mixed nature. I absolutely loved the intensity of this piece of fantasy literature, I just thought that the literary part could maybe have been handled a bit better, making the whole book a bit clearer. When I think of this book in my mind, I don’t picture it written with black on white, I picture it rather written like the blue and red patterns it describes; in some places it stands out bright and clear, in others the patterning is so pale you can only just make it out, while in yet other places it is not quite connected.
Even though the story featured many intriguing and sympathetic characters, my favourites especially include Sarmin, Mesema and Eyul, it lacked something; a depth of sorts. All of them encountered troublesome events and grief, yet I did not really feel it. I shed no tears for anyone, nor joined no merry laughter. I sat by like passive witness, watching and understanding, but unfeeling.
Maybe what I really miss in this book is a greater attention to details. It is all the small things that are missing; the silly little things that makes you BE the character instead of just seeing it. There are some nice details, but those are mostly in connection with the universe and the plot. The story is not very character-driven at all, they all just pieces of the grander scheme, again much like way the people in the empire are only pieces to be used by the pattern. The book itself is a pattern just like it.
In the end this is definitely one of those books that I will heartily recommend to any fan of the genre and to all others as well. All books are written to be read, though not all books are worthy of it. This one is. This one should never be considered a waste of anyone’s time.
Dance of the Goblins is a very compelling tale that can in one way be read as a critisism of humanity, it certainly raises various points and question...moreDance of the Goblins is a very compelling tale that can in one way be read as a critisism of humanity, it certainly raises various points and questions on the matter. It is the kind of book that makes you think even after you have finished it and put it away on a shelf to gather dust.
Then you might ask: Why then did you only give three stars? To that I have to say that my opinions about this book are very divided.
I don't know if I would call this novel High Fantasy. It seems mostly to be building upon the world that we know, although no name is given. There aren't many details about the world at all. In the beginning it can be a bit hard to understand what is where and why as you only get information in small portions along the way. It was really only around the last part of the book that I began to understand how everything was connected.
In one way this bothers me as one of my favourite things in high fantasy is the worldbuilding, but then in another way this was probably the thing that caused me to curiously keep turning the pages. If every information had been given to me from the beginning I think the rest of the book would have been quite boring. The structure of the book relies a lot upon revealing things slowly.
The characters are a bit too one dimensional for my taste. There are some very interesting figures in the book, but I don't really feel like they are living up to their full potential. The descriptions are either pretty flat or almost non-existant. The whole story is one big conflict between two worlds; there are a lot of differences of perspective among the characters - but I feel that those could have been explored a lot more.
I think it is safe to say that this is a very plot driven story. The plot is the strong factor in this book.
A short resume stolen from the book's Goodreads page: "At the centre of goblin society is The Dance, the spiritual exaltation of life itself which is central to the goblins' existence. In the human world above, life is austere and goblins only a myth. When Count Anton is drawn into the rhythm of The Dance, a clash between two worlds is about to begin...
Haghuf, respected elder among the unseen goblins, has only scorn for humans. Yet he is drawn into friendship with a human aristocrat by the Dance, the celebration of life that holds the goblin society together."
Of course something goes wrong and the two worlds clash. It is then up to the two friends to try and avoid the catastrophe that a war between the two species would cause. It is fairly clear all throughout the book that all sympathy is on the goblins' side; they are peaceful creatures who live in harmony with nature while the humans are rather seen as defilers of nature. I quite like this aspect. I gives the story a certain uniqueness.
The story takes quite a heavyly scientific view on the world and nature. The goblins seem to comprehend these things very well, the humans, however, are portrayed as partly blind and disillusioned in that regard, prone to superstition. I absolutely adore Jaq D. Hawkins for this.
I love the idea, I love the story - I am just really sad that there aren't more details, a little more colour. It is as if it is only brushing the surface of the issue. It is only 285 pages long, it would not have been a problem to expand a little more upon the depth of the story. Of course I do keep in mind that it is only the first book in the series, the next books will hopefully be going into more detail about everything.
Furthermore, I found that there were some slight inconsistencies within the book. It is nothing major (nothing so big I can actually remember it to offer an example), but again a little more attention to the details could have made this book just that notch better.
I have to be honest here, I have not become a particularly big fan of Jaq D. Hawkin's writing style after having read this book. To be fair, she started out by telling me that this was a first edition and that later editions have been improved upon. I do not know if it is only the typos that has been fixed or whether any more extensive improvement have been done, but I strongly suspect the first to be true.
There are a lot of typos in this edition, but to own the truth they were not what bothered me most; the whole language seems to be lacking flow somehow. Now, it is of course a possibility that it is just me that is being picky here (I do tend to be overly attentive to the language and grammar of the books I read). It did seem to get better towards the end and I am now finding myself unsure of whether it really did get better or whether I just began to get used to the unfamiliar writing style.
If anyone decides to pick up this book, though, I would definitely recommend getting hold of a more recent edition.
In the end I would rather apply the term 'interesting' than the word 'good' to this book. I was actually on the verge of giving this book only two stars, but that would not have been fair. I ended up asking myself wether I would read the next book in the series; to that my answer is definitely yes.
My curiosity has been awoken. This is a very original piece of work as far as I am concerned. If for nothing else, read it for its originality. Three stars is not a bad rating.
This book is a long read, its structure is highly unsual as it is based around the arena activities of a team of gladiators, the narrator is extremely...moreThis book is a long read, its structure is highly unsual as it is based around the arena activities of a team of gladiators, the narrator is extremely selective in which things it describes the life out of and which things it cannot really be bothered with. In truth, this is a daring book.
This book breaks apart from the conventional way of setting up a novel. Some will like it and some others won't, I suspect. As should be plainly evident by my rating I am part of the former group. But how does one go about reviewing a book like this?
This book has none of the things I usually really like about books, and yet it has so many things that I like - that I never knew I liked before I read this book. That might sound somewhat cheesy - and I am truly sorry about that because I am actually saying this in earnest.
I found the book to be in a state of general well-writtenness, which is usually always the first thing I notice. C.P.D. Harris has an easy, confortably familiar (without being boring, mind you) writing style that helps bring the book alive. Another thing that he has is a sense of using long-winded (this term is often used in a negative context, but this is not how I intend it) descriptions that nearly threatens to kill the scene - which they never truly do because there is always something else to it:
In the first chapter the main character, Gavin, is trying to pick out his weapons before his first fight. The narrator goes on at great length about every single weapon in the store, their pros and cons (which could be pretty boring if you are not paricularly interested in weapons) but also about Gavin's relationships with them, which is the really interesting part. You don't really realise it between all the technical details about weaponry, but by the time he exits the store you already know who he is; his personality, his disposition, his veiws on different matters. You have grasped his essence so that by the time of his first fight he is already your friend and you involuntarily cheer for him. This is sneaky - and awesome.
The narrator is omnicient, though following Gavin mostly, and dominating. Some people might argue that it is too description-heavy. There are points where you get the feeling that you are actually reading a history book about an ancient past that some wizened professor desperately wants you to grasp in full measure. I think this is part of the charm of the book, one of the things that make it stand out in the vastness of the high fantasy genre. This makes it feel more real somehow.
It does not do this without a cost though. One of the reasons for this heavy description is probably that the book revolves around the fights; there is simply not enough time between battles to show all these things through mere storytelling. In that sense it interferes with how the story impacts the reader; you don't exactly feel like you are in the story - you feel like you are hearing a historical account. But the fights are different; the fights are fast paced and gripping. These are the points at which you really get the feel of the characters. The fights bring balance to the story.
Yes, I love the fight scenes! Harris really manages to keep them interesting and varied. The changing constellation of Gladiators fighting together ensures that you don't get bored of the same moves being pulled all the time and the different enemies also help to offer differing challenges that has to be tackled in new ways. Some of the fights require pure strenght and ferocity while others require intelligence and deliberance. It never gets boring.
The structure of the story invites to be read in small chunks at a time, which is quite nice if you don't have so much time to read or if you read several things at a time. The story is simple and easy to follow even if some time pass between reading chapters. It might be long for an ebook, but this quality really justifies that, I think.
Even though the book is very description-heavy I ate it all raw. The universe is very interesting if not particular original. Magic is key here. Magic is seen as something dangerous that needs to be kept under strict control, meaning that those born with the gift (like the Gladiators) are kept under heavy superveilance at all times. Being one of the Gifted is in some ways more of a curse than a gift. This is a constant source of worry to Gavin, he experience quite a bit of inner turmoil that adds an extra flavour to the story.
Gavin fights for freedom, but he is troubled and full doubt. In the arena he does not shine as bright as some of his team mates, but all the time you have the feeling that he is brimming with unrealised potential. As the story progresses he becomes less certain what he is fighting for. By the end of the book he has reached a point where it just frustrates you that the next book has not come out yet because you desperately want to see him shrug off his troubles and become who you know he can be.
Much more could be said about this book, but then what would be the joy of reading it for yourself the first time? I recommend this book to all who enjoy a good fight, a bit of interesting universe and lots of diversity in races of foes and friends alike. I will definitely be looking forward to the next book in the series.
The Supreme Warrior is a curious little thing for me. In some ways it felt almost like a less innocent version of The Hobbit. It is not because the tw...moreThe Supreme Warrior is a curious little thing for me. In some ways it felt almost like a less innocent version of The Hobbit. It is not because the two books are that much alike, truly... There are just some elements that causes a resemblance. I happen to know that The Hobbit was the book that opened John Viril's heart to fantasy, and I think that that is clearly evident in this book. And this is only a good thing, mind you!
The author himself labeled this book as "an Epic Fantasy paced like a political thriller" and that is pretty much what it is. I have to say that, despite its minor deficiencies, this is an excellent debut novel. I greatly enjoyed every minute of it.
Of course it is not really fair to compare an upcoming indie author to the massive rock that is Tolkien (the foundation upon which most modern high fantasy is built), but I guess I am not a very fair person because I am going to do it anyway. The aspect that reminded me most of The Hobbit was the structure. In its essence this is an adventure novel too, I think.
The main character, Calidon, sets out with a firm destination in mind, yet he does not seem to be completely clear on how he is to get there, he just follows his companions. Underway he discovers things that had previously been hidden to him and his kin, he travels through many interesting places before finally reaching the end destination; most intriguingly the forest where the norns live and the last functioning dwarf realm.
The language is quite good, though it could have used a few extra read-throughs. I noticed a few rather unfortunate mistakes; the worst one being a misplaced name, causing one character to talk about himself in a situation where he was not present(!) - needless to say it took me a while to realise what was up and down in that scene after that. Also, John Viril has a very annoying way of setting up dialogue, breaking up the lines so you think a new person is talking while it is actually still the same. That also really disturbed my conprehension of what was going on until I got used to it about halfway through the book.
While John Viril does not share Tolkien's superior narrative style, he does put some other interesting elements on the table. I really enjoyed the fact that I had to use my brain a little to be able to keep up, for example. Also, that political thriller pacing probably helped a lot as there were no longwinded wandering along a dark and lonely path scenes.
I thought the universe was very interesting. There was not a lot of new under the sun, but he did manage to angle things nicely to make the world become his own. I especially loved the dwarfs and the norns, whom I mentioned already. I fell in love with both races on the spot. The norns, in particular, play an interesting role in the story! - I will say no more in fear of spoiling things for potential readers.
The characters were good and interesting, albeit not very original; they have all been seen before in other stories in one form or another. They were not the main attraction of the story for me. In fact I don't really feel like I know them very well. Even the main character seems a bit vague to me. We could easily have delved a bit deeper into them with great success.
This also prevented me from feeling any true impact from the things that happed. Of course I got a bit sad when one of the dearer characters died just when things were getting interesting, but I shed no tears for I did not know the person in question well enough (not that I usually cry a lot when reading, but I usually do have stronger reactions), which was a shame.
One thing I really did love was the quotes in the beginning of each chapter. That really created a wonderful feel of that training manual, though I think that this element could have been stronger implemented in the body of the story. Still, I think this part makes up for what it lacks in other departments. In a training manual type of story I guess you don't techinically need a heavy focus on characters since they are not the sustaining element - it would just have been an added bonus.
As for the ending, I have a bit of a divided opinion about it. There are a lot of loose ends that I am itching to get some closure on. I kind of need the "back again" in the "there and back again" for me to feel that the story has been fulfilled. I does not necessarily have to be a physical "back again" - it could be more in the terms of society going back to an equal or higher level of stability than where the it started. This story leaves off at a point where there is absolutely no stability. It is not an ending but a beginning to an even greater tale.
Luckily the author has declared that: "The book is intended for a sequel. I haven't plotted it yet, and a sequel to Warrior is behind a couple of other book ideas. However, I have a very definite direction I want to go with Warrior."
My only plead then is that he please, please go through with those plans! For the sake of the greater consistency of the work! In truth, I am only giving this book four stars under the premises that there will be a sequel. It is a great first book in an epic series.
I will not compare The Supreme Warrior to George Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series (well okay, obviously I am about to) because they are not at all on the same scale. I just think that there were elements here that reminded me slightly of that massively popular series. Of course, this can go anywhere from here (except that I already know a bit about where this might be headed), but I say there is potential here!
Now, someone give this man a proper editor! :P (and this would be the first time I write a review with a smiley in it - must be all this Sun Tzu-ish war-stuff that is making me eerily happy). I should just shut up and let you go about buying the book.
Once again, I find myself having divided opinions.
The Emperor’s Knife could easily have been a stand-alone novel. In some ways, it might even have bee...moreOnce again, I find myself having divided opinions.
The Emperor’s Knife could easily have been a stand-alone novel. In some ways, it might even have been better if it had been. But alas, the author decided to make a trilogy of the story begun in that first book.
While I am beyond excited at getter to know the amazing universe better, I do think that this sequel starts rather heavily dealing with the aftermaths of a finished story. It makes it a little tough to really get into it.
But once you are in the middle of it, you do get caught up in the entanglements and twists of the plot. It was not a page-turner for me like The Emperor’s Knife was. But still it kept my attention and built its own painfully slow suspense toward the end.
It is a story of strong elements.
A Distinctive Narrator’s Voice:
Mazarkis Williams has a brilliant flair for shaping the language into the most beautifully poetic prose. She has really managed to create her own distinctive voice as a narrator – a quality I admire greatly in an author. There is no generic use of language in her books. Even when the story is slow, it is never boring to read.
The story is slow in Knife Sworn. My thoughts of The Emperor’s Knife was that it was almost too fast-paced; this time around, it seems she has taken a slight detour in the opposite direction.
Strong Characters under Development:
One point at which Mazarkis Williams seem to do better in this sequel is the characters. I loved her characters in The Emperor’s Knife, but I thought they needed something more. In my review I asked for more depth, and I am happy to report that in Knife Sworn I am beginning to really feel some of the characters. Especially the young Grada blooms into a strong character that demands the reader’s attention.
I love the fact that none of her characters are perfect, they each have their problems they need to overcome. They come across as very human and fallible. And they have really grown a lot since the events of the first book - and the author seems to have grown with them. Her characterisations and development seem to be a little more refined in Knife Sworn. I cannot wait to see how these characters will evolve through the third book.
A Plot of Mysteries and Secrets:
The plot of this book seems a lot more subtle than the one in the first book. The immediate threat of The Emperor’s Knife has been deflected and the young prince Sarmin has won the throne that was his by right, but the troubles does not end there. Much bigger and more mysterious events lie in wait to threaten the empire.
In Knife Sworn we only get little hints and suggestions at what might come to pass. The reader is trapped in a world full of half-revealed mysteries and ancient secrets. That is the part that left me breathless and expectant after all the pages had been touched and turned. And I must admit that I am itching to get my hands on the last book of the trilogy so I can see the hammer fall already.
A Magical Ever-Expanding Universe:
What I love most about this series is still the universe. In The Emperor’s Knife we only saw a fraction of it, and it was mostly concerned about the amazing magic system that never ceased to make the reader go wide-eyed in awe. In Knife Sworn Marzarkis Williams slowly expands our view of the world. She still only shows us bits and pieces here and there, making us wonder.
Knife Sworn definitely leaves the reader eager to pick up the next in the series. It has its strengths and its weaknesses but at the end, it is a very interesting read. On the one hand, I found it somewhat less fascinating than The Emperor’s Knife; but on the other hand, it shows a visible growth of the author.
The Tower and Knife trilogy is definitely still a strong fantasy series, which I would recommend any day.
This book was given to me by Jo Fletcher Books in exhcange for this review.
The Witches of Jericho is a charming debut fantasy novel. It is written in a simple but entertaining style that takes you safely from beginning to end...moreThe Witches of Jericho is a charming debut fantasy novel. It is written in a simple but entertaining style that takes you safely from beginning to end. I especially likes how the author describes things by making picturesque comparisons:
"Toward the Sea every man, woman and child drifted each and every time they slumbered, like ghosts drawn to a graveyard." - (Kindle Locations 266-268)
"In those lives he always had a name. Yet whenever he awoke from the dream the name would always escape him like a puffy white cloud drifting off in a strong gust of wind." - (Kindle Locations 4795-4797)
The story has a strong main character, Sophia, that immediately demands the reader's sympathy. She is not the most interesting character in the book, though. There are other point of view characters that sneak in for a short notice here and there along the way, creating situations where the reader knows more than Sophia does about what is going on. This, I think, is handled very well and is in fact one of the things that made me really like this book.
The storyline concerning Sophia is not very interesting in or of itself. It is all the stuff that is going on around her that made me keep on reading. All the stuff that makes the universe come alive and makes it appear bigger than if we only saw it through the eyes of the main character.
I would definitely say that is mainly a plot-driven story, though. The universe is well-constructed and offers a lot of intriguing details even if it is by no means original or new in any way. The familiarity of it allows the reader to focus on the strong plot that is only just beginning to unfold, with a few hints as to where it is going, in this first book in the series.
I definitely feel a need to continue on with the series after this first installment, which has a pretty open ending as well as a bit of a cliffhanger offered in a very succesful epilogue. I am normally a bit sceptical about the need for either prologues or epilogues in books, but in this case I really like both of them.
I will maintain that this book is more intiguing than entertaining. It is not the kind of narration that makes you burst into spontaneous laughter or moves you to tears. It did not really impact me much in any kind of way other than to weave my imagination into a nice time-consuming pattern.
So far I am very impressed with this new author and I daresay that I do have some high hopes for the series. I am looking forward to see the next installment to see if he can keep this up without losing the reader on the way or ruining the greater consistency of the work.
In the end I give the book four stars because it is a highly well-executed piece of fantasy literature and a very impressive debut novel. I would strongly recommend it to any and all ebook readers out there; I think that even some people who do not usually read a lot of fantasy might find that this one appeals to them, though that is only my personal speculation.
Borrowing the words of the author herself: "This is the tragic story of how one character in my novel The Kinshield Legacy became who he is." - May, K...moreBorrowing the words of the author herself: "This is the tragic story of how one character in my novel The Kinshield Legacy became who he is." - May, K. C. (2010-08-25). Sole Sacrifice (a novella) . . Kindle Edition.
This character is Sithral Tyr, a loving husband and father from a peaceful clan. Unfortunately a strange sickness has taken over his village and is slowly killing off all the children. The village shaman stands powerless to do anything about it wherefore Tyr decides to take action, driven by his fear of losing his last living son.
It starts tragically with him burrying a dead son. But that is nothing compared to how truly tragical the story should turn out to end.
Sithral Tyr has lived a sheltered life among his own people of the little clan, but his quest for a cure to the sickness takes him into the larger evil-infected world of a big city. He is completely ignorant of their ways and even after he has been cheated several times he keeps naively trusting the people he meet.
I saw another review that claimed the story was naive, but I don't agree with that. They claimed that it was not neccsary to do the things Tyr does to save a child. Of course it is not. Another man could probably have found a better way. But that is not within Tyrs nature, and that is a part of the tragedy of the story. He is a men deeply distressed (he has lost several children already!) and he is completely ignorant of the world; he doesn't know where to go or who to turn to for help, he just follows whatever small traces he can find and incidentally ends up making poor decicions.
He never does completely regret his choices. He said he would do anything for his son and so he did. He knew the immensity of the price he would have to pay for actions, yet he did it anyway. He ruined himself out of love for his son (and out of ignorance of a better way to achieve his goal).
The story is written in a simple, flowing language. I found it to be rather boring and void of any personal character. This is probably the only thing that is holding me back from awarding the story five stars.
In the end let me say this: At first I was indifferent towards the loss of Tyr, then came laughter at his apparent ignorance of the world, last came the tears and the desire to pick up The Kinshield Legacy to find out what happens to him after this heartbreaking ending.