fantasy


The third and final book in the Gateways to Alissia fantasy series. I got an eARC from the publisher. Thanks!

Publication year: 2018 February
Format: ebook
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Page count: 352 on Goodreads

A small amount of time has passed since the end of the previous book, the Island Deception. The stage magician Quinn Bradley is enjoying his new-found real magical talents and has left the magicians’ island, Enclave, with Jillaine whom Quinn is hoping to get to know a lot better. They’re looking for Jillaine’s father and Jillaine has saved Quinn a couple of times already. Still, she’s keeping him at an arm’s length. But when Quinn stumbles upon a bounty hunter who is looking for him and realizes that he’s got a bounty on his head, Quinn and Jillaine decide they need to find out who is behind it. Jillaine is the daughter of Moric who’s one of the most powerful magicians in Alissia and who doesn’t approve of Quinn’s relationship with her.

Meanwhile, CASE Global’s soldiers Logan and Mendez are trying to find a way to get close to Valteroni Prime who is the ruler of Valteron, one of the biggest countries in this world. The Prime is also Richard Holt, a former CASE Global employee, a very intelligent and charismatic man who has defected to Alissia. The soldiers have an order to assassinate him when they can get close enough. Logan’s orders are getting increasingly violent towards anyone who might stand in the company’s way and he’s very uncomfortable with that. However, the company has taken Logan’s wife and children hostage to guarantee Logan’s continued loyalty. Also, he’s wondering if he can trust Mendez to help him get his family back. But first, they need to steal a Valteroni ship in order to get to Holt.

At the end of the previous book, anthropologist Veena Chaudri was taken captive by a Valteroni admiral. However, she has agreed to join Richard Holt and work against CASE Global. Now, she’s Holt’s ambassador, using her vast knowledge of the world to try to get some allies. Unfortunately, the only people left whom she can persuade to join Holt’s army are people who have been hostile to Valteron for generations.

Still, Holt, and Veena, know that the company will be coming to get him… and to make war in this world where the company’s technology should give them a great advantage. They need to be prepared and the rest of the characters need to choose their side.

A World Awakening is an exciting and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It has three POV characters (Quinn, Veena, and Logan) who are friends but now are pitted, essentially, against each other. They all have their own problems.

The secondary characters are interesting. I particularly liked Sella, the acerbic magic user whose idea of teaching magic is to put the student in as much danger as possible. The smart mules are also very entertaining and I enjoyed the introduction of the Tukalu warriors. However, I would have wanted to know more about Lieutenant Kiara and her sister.

To me, this book felt less light-hearted because CASE Global considers itself at war with Alissia and tries to take it over through violence. Quinn worries about this. Even Logan is somewhat disturbed because of the orders he gets to just eliminate innocent bystanders. In the previous books, we got hints that the company could be quite ruthless but now it’s clear. Unfortunately, that made some of the ending a bit strange to me. It’s also more focused on fighting than the previous books which makes it less unique than the previous books. (Although I have to admit that fantasy books focusing on naval battles aren’t that common, either.)

Otherwise, I again thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters and the humor were great, and the ending even had a couple of surprises. It’s an excellent ending which doesn’t leave plot threads hanging.
(more…)

Advertisements

The third and final book in the fantasy Divine Cities trilogy. It’s an excellent series and I strongly recommend starting with the first book, the City of Stairs.

Publication year: 2017
Format: print
Publisher: Jo Flecther Books
Page count: 440

City of Miracles starts with one of the bad guys killing Shara Komayd, the former Prime Minister of Saypuri.

13 years have gone by since the end of the previous book, City of Blades. Sigrud has lost his daughter, and his best friend and leader Shara Komayed has sent him away, before he could be arrested and tried for multiple counts of murder. Sigrud has been waiting for Shara to call him back and into action. Instead, he hears that Shara has been assassinated. So, he throws away his job as a logger and sets out to get revenge.

But to do that, he needs information about what Shara was doing and who killed her. He also wants to protect Shara’s adopted daughter Tatyana who has vanished. The more Sigrud finds out, the more he realizes that he doesn’t know about Shara’s final years. Shara has set herself against a powerful and ruthless enemy who has very far reaching goals.

This was a powerful and wonderful ending to a wonderful series. Bennett mixes espionage, mystery, and thriller with magic and divinities. He gives us a lot of new characters along with a couple of familiar ones. We get to see a bit more of Saypuri than in the previous books.

Sigrud has been a significant secondary character in both of the previous books but now we really get into his head and get to know what drives him and makes him unique. He’s a tortured man without a doubt but he’s also determined to do what must be done.

The story has a few twists I didn’t see coming and the ending is just perfect. (And as I greedy reader I’m going to ask ‘What will you write next?’)

The first book in the Risen Kingdoms fantasy series.

Publication year: 2017
Format: Audio
Running time: 18 and 27 minutes
Narrator: Erin Bennett
Publisher: TOR

Jean-Claude is a young, loyal musketeer to the king of l’Empire Céleste, Leon XIV, and the king has commanded Jean-Claude to go and witness the birth of a noble child. Jean-Claude has never been comfortable in sky ships but when the king commands, his musketeer spends six weeks on a sky ship. Even when the child will be born to the comte and comtess des Zephyrs who are evil people by any standard. After a terrible journey, Jean-Claude arrives just in time for the birth. But things go wrong because instead of a son the comte hopes for, the child is a girl and her left hand is malformed. Only Jean-Claude’s quick thinking saves the girl from a quick death because the Temple says that all malformed children are evil and should die at birth.

The king orders Jean-Claude to stay with the girl, Isabelle. She grows up in the vile household and her father tests her often for any sign of magic. Des Zephyrs are descended from saints and therefore have inborn magical talent for blood magic; as Sanguinare they command their shadows which require blood sacrifice. Unfortunately for Isabelle, she doesn’t seem to have inherited any magic. Her father makes it very clear that she’s a disappointment to him and even goes so far that when she and her best friend Marie are 14, the comte makes Marie into a bloodshadow. Essentially, the young girl’s spirit is dead, but her body still shuffles around, without a will of her own, and the comte can use the girl to spy on Isabelle, or anything happening near Marie. Driven by guilt, Isabelle takes on the duty of caring for Marie who can’t care for herself anymore.

Isabelle’s future is uncertain but she’s a smart girl and enjoys studying mathematics and science, including the science of magic. However, women are forbidden to study them, and she must do so in secret. Jean-Claude protects her as much as he can even though he has to pretend to be a wastrel and a drunk.

The story really starts when an artifex brings a message that prince Julio of the Kingdom of Aragoth wants to marry Isabelle in order to secure a peace between their two countries. Isabelle’s mother is King Leon’s aunt so she’s part of the royal family and can make such alliances. However, because of her congenitally deformed hand, many people see her as evil and even heretical, so she’s very surprised by the offer. But in the end, she’s eager to escape her father and to see the world and so she agreed.

However, she and Jean-Claude quickly realize that she’s in great danger. Not only are the people who want to see someone else married to prince Julio, there are many other factions in play. Julio’s father is dying and the battle for succession is just starting.

Isabelle is a very determined and compassionate young woman. She’s loyal to her friends and still takes care of Marie herself because her maids are too scared of the bloodshadow. She’s smart, too, and shows it. Jean-Claude is a middle-aged man who is also showing his age. Still, he adores Isabelle and doesn’t regret essentially losing a lot of years of his life while guarding her when she grew up.

This book has a very interesting world with magic and religion. There are two kinds of magic, at least as far as we know: blood magic and mirror magic. Blood magic is used in I’Empire Céleste and mirror magic is used in Aragoth which is traditionally Céleste’s enemy. Mirror magic makes for a great weapon for Isabelle’s enemies because the Glasswalkers can use mirrors to go to different places and escape them.

The world-building is very complex but woven well into the story. It has lots of intricate stuff and I think I missed some of them when I listened it as an audiobook so a relisten is in order before the next book. Still, I greatly enjoyed the book, the characters, and the world. The pace is somewhat slow at times (it’s not a thriller!) but never too slow for me. In addition to magic, this world has pistols and gunpowder, men who are half a person and half clockwork creature, airships and floating continents. It all works surprisingly well together! In fact, this is another excellent addition to the “fantasy musketeers” category.

Despite being the first book in a series, it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger and can be read as a stand-alone.

The third and final book in the Eternal Sky epic fantasy series.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 430

Steles of the Sky continues right where Shattered Pillars ended. Al-Sepehr and his assassins seem to be even greater threat than before and our intrepid heroes are really struggling to face him and his allies. Also, when the story starts, the characters have all over the map doing their own things.

Overall, was a good ending to the epic fantasy trilogy with some surprises, too. However, there’s definitely room for more adventures to some of the characters, and the setting is also in an intriguing place.

One of the lesser seen secondary characters starts to call themselves Iskandar which greatly amused me, because that’s one of Alexander the Great’s Eastern names.

Quotes:
“Like any weapon, it only takes one mistake for me to turn in a hand.”

“Comforting thoughts should be questioned more stringently than any others. For they are more likely to lead us astray, as we wish to believe them.”

“It was unwise to dwell on eventualities. Here and now was the only world. Anticipation bred misery.”

Collects issues 1-6 of Xena: Warrior Princess volume 2.

Writer: Genevieve Valentine
Artists: Ariel Medel, Julius Gopez

This limited series is set during season 6 when Xena and Gabrielle have already faced Rome and the current Caesar, Augustus, has made Xena into a champion of Rome, at least in bards’ tales. Xena and Gabrielle team up with a group of fierce female warriors to combat Rome’s cruel ways.

The comic references a lot of stuff from the show, such as Gabrielle’s friendship with Augustus, Xena’s relationship with Borias, and Ares’ obsession with Xena. It’s definitely aimed at fans of the show and I’d recommend watching season 6 at least before reading this. I, uh, really want to rewatch the show after reading this (but I’m in the middle of Flash’s third season and then have Legends of Tomorrow to watch…)

It’s very much in the sprit of the show, although it’s made clear that Gabrielle and Xena are more than friends (which the show didn’t).

I liked the first artist more than the second one. The shift was in the middle of fourth issue and it felt quite jarring to me since the styles are quite different. There’s some unnecessarily revealing female “armor” but no more than is usual to the show.

I didn’t love the comic but liked it quite a lot, especially because it includes our heroes going undercover (which on the show I either loved or cringed through one episode and never watched again). Recommended to fans only.

The second book in the Eternal Sky epic fantasy series.

Publication year: 2013
Format: print
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 333

Bear plays with lots of epic fantasy troupes here. It’s not my favorite Bear book but it could be because I’m not really that interested in epic fantasy anymore. Please read the first book “Range of Ghosts” first because she doesn’t waste pages recapping what came before (which is good IMHO).

Re Temur who is the grandson of the great but dead Khagan is still in exile, looking for his lover Edene who was kidnapped by ghosts. However, his quest has changed. Now he, and his companions, are also looking for a way to wrest power from Temur’s usurper uncle and to unite the steppe tribes once again. To do that, Temur has to find a band of loyal steppe soldiers. But first, he needs to rescue Edene from Ala-Din, the headquarters of the followers of the Nameless, the Scholar-God. They’re also assassins who are hunting the small group.

Samarkar-la is a wizard and a former princess. She’s only recently come to her power but has studied magic for years. She’s also in love with Temur and follows him loyally. She’s also looking for a way to stop the leader of the assassins. Hsiung is a mute warrior-monk and Hrahima is a warrior from a tiger-like species. They’ve become a tightly knit band of friends who are very capable of facing the challenges of the road and the assassins.

Meanwhile, a terrible plague is sweeping across the lands. The wizards in Tsarepheth are trying to fight it, while struggling with intrigue. Also, the leader of the Assassins, al-Sepehr, has sent one of his people to cement Temur’s uncle’s claim to become the Khagan, the king of all steppe tribes.

Much like in the first book, in “Shattered Pillars” the main group is moving from place to place with disaster and assassins on their heels. The people around them plot and plan and we see glimpses of them. This book has many POV characters, some of them new.

I like particularly two characters: Edene, who was a secondary character at best in the first book, rose to an unexpected prominence in this one. I loved her development. She was a spirited steppe woman in the first book and now she’s heavily pregnant with a magic ring which gives her extraordinary powers. She managed to escape her captors and encounters dog-faced ghulim who seem to worship her as a queen. She’s determined to keep her unborn child safe and also rescue Temur from whatever dangers he’s facing. And the best way to do that is to become the queen of an evil, mythical place! Loved that even though I don’t really see how she can have a happy ending. I also really grew to like Saadet who is the twin of one of the lead assassins. Her situation is very complicated and interesting.

This whole series is set in a world that has clearly been inspired by the Mongols and the Middle-East. There are some twists to the cultures, which I quite liked, too, such as the Scholar-God being female and yet her religion has been twisted into supporting oppression of women. Apparently, women are so holy that they can’t be seen by men or do anything but menial labor…

The series has a lot of women with agency which was great. Bear also plays with the roles that men and women usually play in epic fantasy books.

Quote:
“What was a book? Not just ink and fiber and stitchery: a series of processes. To a wizard, it was not a static object–but a human thought caught and bound, made concrete through sacred technology. Magic, then, and a deep form of it.”

The novelization of the first Underworld movie.

Publication year: 2003
Format: print
Publisher: Pocket star books
Page count: 375

I really enjoyed Selene, the gothic setting, and the world building in the movie Underworld. Unfortunately, I didn’t care for the romance which was the linchpin to the plot.

In the novelization the romance is present right at the start. Right at the beginning, before the gunfight at the subway station, Selene and Michael notice each other among the crowds and are immediately taken by each other. Unfortunately, I don’t find their romance in the book any more convincing than in the movie. Oh, I can just about believe that Selene, who has been a stoic werewolf hunter for 600 years without any romantic feelings at all, could find Michael attractive. But for her to quite suddenly abandon her coven for him in just an afternoon… is less believable. Then again, I’d also want any excuse to get away from Kraven, if I were Selene.

The book is very faithful to the movie, for the most part. There are some scenes which aren’t in the movie though it could be that they were cut afterwards or cut from the script. Since the book has multiple POV characters, we get to see the thoughts of most of the characters who appear in the film. Even though Selene is outwardly calm, she goes through more emotions in the book than in the movie. I understand that a stoic character can be difficult to make appealing to a reader. Unfortunately, her stoic get-the-job done attitude is one of the things I really liked in the movie, so the book kind of undermines that.

The book has around dozen different POV characters and unfortunately Selene was the only one who appealed to me. I didn’t care for Kraven in the movie either but his POV here is almost excruciating. He lusts after Selene but abuses her and everyone else around him.

The scenes are short with rapidly changing POVs. We do find out a few interesting details about vampire life which weren’t in the movie but otherwise it’s just a movie in a book form.

Next Page »