THE LEOPARD left me conflicted. I tell my fellow NaNoWriMo writers to "start in the middle," because it throws the reader into the plot, theoretically...moreTHE LEOPARD left me conflicted. I tell my fellow NaNoWriMo writers to "start in the middle," because it throws the reader into the plot, theoretically in an interesting place. This book certainly did that, though the caveat to the aforementioned writing advice is that you have to inform your readers later in the book so they know what was going on beforehand. I don't feel like THE LEOPARD ever really explained very much, which affected my enjoyment of the book. It seemed like it could be part of a larger story, one that I wasn't familiar with, and sometimes that shook me out of the story. It sounds like there is a book related to this world that possibly explains backstory for characters we see in THE LEOPARD, but I had no idea about that when I picked up the book from Edelweiss (it's marked as book one in a series, after all!). I wish I had read that, honestly, because I think I would have liked the book more.
Also, I don't feel the blurb does this book justice. True, the first part does deal with The Leopard, an assassin who carries a curse in his essentially-immortal life, and just wants to be rid of it. We also meet his servant/partner, a simple man who is more than he seems; but just what that more is, we don't learn, which is really frustrating. Then the book delves into the lives of a completely different set of characters, again with hints at backstory which I feel I should know, but never do. This split makes the blurb seem odd, since it mainly focuses on the assassin, which a small bit about the other characters. I've read that this is really just part one of a two book series that really should just be one big book. I can't fault the publishers for that too much--I understand printing costs and other things like that, but I feel like too much was left for book two.
Now, it sounds like I'm bashing the book. It's actually very well written, and the world-building is stellar. It's not just another medieval-esque setting as typical of most fantasy novels out there, but instead has an interesting Middle-Eastern desert vibe. The gods and goddesses of this world are real, if perhaps not directly involved in everyday life. And when one character has an up close and personal interaction with one of them (or does she?), the author depicts the crazy-making of such an event with loving detail. Indeed, there is plenty of loving detail for all sorts of things in the book, and this makes for lyrical passages that are quite nice, and action scenes that are punchy. I just feel like the characters needed more motives (why are half of them doing what they're doing?).
I would highly recommend reading the previous related book for more backstory before reading this one, or wait until the next book comes out and read them together. It's a good story, but it seems like something is missing.
Received as a free digital ARC via Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.(less)
There's only one reason you're reading this review: you want to know if the last (for now) book in the series is worth it. If you liked the series pre...moreThere's only one reason you're reading this review: you want to know if the last (for now) book in the series is worth it. If you liked the series previously, you'll like the last installment. Seregil and Alec are up to their old schemes--they may not be in Skala the entire book, but they have to deal with some pretty nasty magic, and there are some heartbreaking moments interspersed with witty banter along the way. As opposed to quite a lot of fantasy novels out there, the title makes sense pretty quickly.
Per usual, Seregil and Alec manage to find themselves in the middle of a magical catastrophe that might just engulf their world in unending darkness. I'm not sure if it was just the fact that I've read a lot of fantasy so I picked up the clues quicker, or the author was being a little more blatant about the plot, but I felt like everything was laid out clearly and I picked up the twist as the points were revealed. Apparently S&A are suckers for the darker magics coming after them, but you should expect that type of story by now. New readers will probably enjoy the plot anyway, but there are lots of details a veteran will appreciate. I reread the whole series before reading this one, and I'm glad I did, because I caught all those little tidbits for the true fans. I also realized just how much the author puts her characters through; it was particularly hard to read the parts of SHARDS where the characters are going hungry (or worse, thinking they've eaten something truly horrible), and there are plenty of wounds, both physical and mental, that must be healed.
I went through this book pretty fast, and felt that the ending was a satisfying way to cap the series. This book won't change anyone's mind about the series, but it's a good solid fantasy read. I enjoyed the interaction between S&A and the other characters; everyone seemed to have a reason to be there in the middle of all the magic, and they acted as realistically as they could when confronted with ghosts and darker things. The end of the book is open, though not a cliffhanger. Readers will have to believe that our heroes will go on with their lives, happy. If you like the series as a whole, you should read this one and finish the Nightrunner experience.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.(less)
THORN JACK is a bit of a mind trip. The setting is suitably trippy, the characters are realistic even if they aren't human, and the romance is torture...moreTHORN JACK is a bit of a mind trip. The setting is suitably trippy, the characters are realistic even if they aren't human, and the romance is tortured. There were points when the writing seemed unnecessarily drawn out, but I couldn't stop reading. Our heroine, Finn, moves to Fair Hollow with her father for his teaching job, and to escape painful memories of her sister's suicide and her mother's death. So we have a fish out of water story right off--but something is different in Fair Hollow. Something sinister, even supernatural. And then Finn meets Jack, and his friends--and Finn becomes caught up in something out of a fairy tale, and not a Disney one.
There are a lot of elements in THORN JACK that will remind readers of other books. The university echoes Hogwarts, the romance treads close to TWILIGHT territory, and the plot, with its labyrinthine politics and shifting loyalties, will call to mind Shakespeare's tragedies. The story itself is based on the fairy tale of Tam Lin, which I've never actually gotten around to looking up, and I should, since a lot of stories use it as a foundation. The characters have realistic lives, and the atmosphere is evocative and dark (which really should be a clue to anyone; when all the houses look abandoned but play host to awesome, hallucinogenic parties, shouldn't you be suspicious?). Sometimes I was frustrated with the pace of the novel; at one point I would be reading pretty fast, and be interested, but other points the story would turn convoluted and loop back on itself ("hey, wait, didn't she already do that?"), and my reading speed (and my enjoyment) took a dive. Occasionally the descriptions delved into creepy visuals, sometimes breaking me out of the story with the shock.
For a debut novel, THORN JACK is pretty good. The plot could use a little tightening, and the magic needs a more solid base. There are more stories in this world, so maybe we'll find out who (what?) the Fatas really are in a future novel. If you like your dark fantasy with a side of gothic mythology, check out THORN JACK. I'm interested to see what else this author has to say.
Received as a free digital ARC via Edleweiss in exchange for an honest review.(less)
I didn't realize this was another book by Cayla Kluver. I didn't like her character names in her first series, and I don't like them now. Usually char...moreI didn't realize this was another book by Cayla Kluver. I didn't like her character names in her first series, and I don't like them now. Usually character names seem like they fit together. Or if they don't, you know that character is from another place, and it makes sense. Here, all the names are weird, and they toss me out of the story every time. I had other books to read and gave up on this one, and I'm not too sorry I did.(less)
It's been a long time since I've read any books in the SHANNARA series, but THE HIGH DRUID'S BLADE promised to be a stand-alone, so I gave it a try. I...moreIt's been a long time since I've read any books in the SHANNARA series, but THE HIGH DRUID'S BLADE promised to be a stand-alone, so I gave it a try. It was funny reading some place and character names and having that little ringing bell in the back of my mind: didn't I read about that sometime long ago? It didn't matter, though, because this book does seem to stand on its own (it's the start of a new series). Readers more familiar with the world will probably appreciate the callbacks to other books, but for me, this clipped along like a typical fantasy. I enjoyed reading it, though it was a bit slow to get started. It really harks back to fantasy I read when I was younger: the plot is boy with a magic sword on a quest to save his sister. This is probably what made the beginning slow for me, since you read through all the bits about "there once was magic and now there's not, but here's this ancestral sword, and I have to use it as a weapon--and oh, look, it does magical things!" While not written badly, lots of books do this, and there's only so many times you can read similar passages before it gets a little boring.
Once we get into the rescuing phase, however, the action picks up. Time speeds along as our MC, Paxon, realizes he needs training after a sound thrashing by the villain, and Paxon goes to the druids (who have political machinations of their own). But wouldn't you know it, Paxon's sister gets kidnapped (again, by the same baddie), and now that he has the skills to take the villain on, he takes off in his airship to do so. Here's where the story turns dark: mind manipulation and magic come together to make for some scenes that will make you squirm, and a pretty satisfying finale. Obviously, given that this is the first in a series, there is more to tell.
This book makes me want to search out the old SHANNARA books I have and see if any of them aren't third in a series. If I come across the next book in this series, I'll take a look at it too. Terry Brooks may be recycling well-used writing tropes, but he does it well, and obviously people like his stories, so I guess he's onto something.(less)
THE DRAGON'S BOY is a sweet, short retelling of the King Arthur mythos. It's similar to the Disney movie "The Sword In the Stone" but it reshapes thin...moreTHE DRAGON'S BOY is a sweet, short retelling of the King Arthur mythos. It's similar to the Disney movie "The Sword In the Stone" but it reshapes things like Merlin and that sword in subtly different ways. For such a short book, there's quite a large twist at the end, but it's an interesting one. Sick of being bullied by the older boys at Sir Ector's small castle, Artos is happy to find a dragon who offers him wisdom in exchange for pots of gravy with meat. Artos complies, and learns, but soon is able to take his place with the other boys and ignores the dragon and its wisdom for a while. Of course, Artos eventually wants the dragon's help, but what he finds there is not what he expects. This is a short story, so we don't see how Artos incorporates his hard-earned lessons, but they are good ones, presented in novel ways. If you are a fan of King Arthur mythology, you'll enjoy this quick reimagining of how he gained the wisdom to become great.
Received as a free digital ARC via Netgalley and the publisher.(less)