Category Archives: Fantasy

Review: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

2 Stars

Tea is a bone witch.  Feared and ostracized even in a world of magic, her power of necromancy is something that is reviled, especially when her power reveals itself when she brought her brother, Fox, back from the dead.   Her power is discovered by another Bone Witch and she is taken under her wing to learn the art of her craft, one that comes at a price.

The story is told from two viewpoints.  We get the story of Tea’s early life directly from her memories and recollections.  She takes us through her life and the changes that came with it after she was discovered to have the gift of necromancy.  We watch her grow into her power and watch the interaction between her and her mentor and also her and her brother.  The relationship between Tea and Fox is definitely worth more than 2 stars.  The second viewpoint is from a bard that is telling her story from an interview with her.  The switch between the viewpoints can be jarring at times.  You finally get into a piece of the story only to be violently taken out of it to hear about something from the other viewpoint.  It was disconcerting and disconnecting.

The world is expansive and immersive.  But it comes at a price.  It’s very easy to get lost.  There is a glossary at the end, but it makes it very cumbersome to try and remember what leader goes where and what country is what.  It doesn’t really help with some of the other things like new words.  There’s so much to learn about this new realm that it really comes at a cost to the overall story.  It’s just so easy to get lost and bogged down in the beautiful prose.

This will probably appeal greatly to a lot of fantasy readers, but this one just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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Review: The King’s Traitor by Jeff Wheeler

4 Stars

This is the third installment in the Kingfountain series and picks up seven years after The Thief’s Daughter.  Owen has gone from a frightened child, cowering in the kitchen to one of the most trusted confidants of King Severn Augustine.  He has watched his King grow ever more ruthless and mad with power.  Owen knows that it’s just a matter of time the King will fail, someone will come to topple this man he has loyally served yet come to fear and revile.  This man who has taken so much from Owen and still demands more.

Owen is ordered by his King to incite war with a neighboring kingdom.  His appetite for power has taken over his reason, Owen sees this but feels he has no choice but to obey.  Or at least appear to do so.  It seems that Owen has an agenda of his own.  It seems that there is a limit to Owen’s loyalty.  He’s been robbed of everything that he has held dear.  His protector, his mentor, his safe haven and his true love.  As Owen’s understanding of his fountain-blessed powers grows, he begins to understand the role that he must play.

Watching Owen grow over these three books has been a treat.  He has gone from a scared little boy into one of the most formidable men in the realm.  His presence and power is only enhanced by his humanity and his internal struggle with what is truly right and what is wrong.  He is taken through a gauntlet of trials and tests, each one harder than the one before.  You spend much of the book wondering if Owen will truly do the right thing or will he fall into the same trap that his King fell into before him.  Will he take the power for himself or will he allow it to transfer to its rightful owner?

There is even more magic in this book and while we are only introduced to a couple new characters, they have a huge impact on Owen and the story as a whole.  There are times where the prophesy and the powers of the fountain threaten to take over the entire narrative, but the author skillfully brings everything back together again as the story runs its course.

I was dreading the end of the book, but only because I didn’t want the story to end.  I didn’t want to leave Owen and his world.  It was bittersweet to see the story end.  I was happy and sad at the same time.  I truly enjoyed how the saga unfolded and how it concluded.  But all the same, I would really love to see Owen and his friends again.

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Review: The Thief’s Daughter by Jeff Wheeler

3 1/2 Stars

This is the second installment of the Kingfountain series, the sequel to The Queen’s Poisoner.  To get the most out of this book, you will want to read the series in order or much of the plot will not make any sense and you will not get a full scope of the setting and the machinations in place.

It is now nine years later and Owen Kiskaddon has grown from a shy and nearly mute hostage into a strapping young knight, one of King Severn’s most trusted advisors.  He has been living in the North, being trained by the Duke of Horwath and growing up along side his best friend and granddaughter of the Duke.  Owen and Evie have deepened their friendship into something more.  The future that Owen and Evie see for each other seems bound to be destroyed by the machinations of their King, a man who demands loyalty above all else.

A test of that loyalty comes in the most unexpected way.  A challenger has appeared to try and take the crown from King Severn.  A pretender who is claiming to be one of the King’s nephews, who were believed to have been killed if not by the King, then by his command.  This threat is taken seriously by the King, are  man who has lived under the shadow of these rumors for the entirety of his reign.  King Severn charges Evie and Ow en with securing an alliance with their neighbors, the very country that has been harboring the man who claims to be one of King Severn’s “lost nephews”.

There is also the appearance of a new poisoner, trained by Mancini, who is now the head of the Espion, the spy network.  She becomes a very pivotal character throughout this book and her loyalty is inspiring as is Owen’s struggle to be loyal to his King without betraying his own heart.  There are many twists and turns and a lot of action and intrigue packed into this book.  There is also more focus on the Fountain and the magic that comes from the Fountain.  We get to see how not only Owen uses this magic, but how it grows and manifests itself and how others use it as well.

There are a lot of twists and turns in this book and it was nice to see Owen as an adult rather than an eight year old child, scared of his own shadow.  He’s turned out to be a very strong young man.  The conflict between his heart and the loyalty he feels toward his King is an amazing struggle and you really do feel for Owen as he struggles to find the right path.  I didn’t always agree with the path that the characters did end up taking, but they were well thought out and well written.

I did get tired of the whole loyalty thing, it was the whole reason that I dropped half a star.  I understand the strong ties that are formed and wanting to be loyal to your leaders and those you admire or even fear.  But it’s harder to take when the person you are giving your loyalty to doesn’t deserve it.  Time and again, King Severn has proved himself unworthy of the loyalty that Owen, Evie and others show to him.  But time and again, they ignore their reservations and their own feelings to keep an increasingly unstable leader happy.  At this point, it’s become blind loyalty and I don’t think that does any favors to a character as strong as Owen.  We’ll see what happens in the next installment.

Again, the author is using historical context and figures to draw the world in which Owen lives.  He has re-imagined what the world would have been like had King Richard III survived the Battle of Bosworth.  The similarities are very clear for anyone who has ever looked into the history of King Richard III and the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.  A fantasy novel with real historical context, pretty cool if you ask me.

 

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Review: The Ruby Brooch by Katherine Lowry Logan

2 Stars

As the sole survivor of a car accident that took the lives of her parents and best friend, Kit MacKlenna struggles with survivor guilt.  This is especially hard for Kit because as an EMT, she was trained to save lives and she feels that she failed to save her loved ones.  She comes home to her family seat, a sweeping horse ranch, only to learn that the life she knew was built on a lie.  In a letter from her father, he reveals that she was abandoned as a baby 160 years earlier and the only clues to her identity are a blood-splattered shawl, a portrait of a 19th century man and a Celtic ruby brooch, which her father claims has magical powers.  Kit decides to continue her father’s search for her true identity and solve her birth parents’ murder.

Kit travels back to 1852 and arrives in Independence, where she meets Cullen Montgomery.  He is a San Francisco bound lawyer who is leading a wagon train over the Oregon Trail.  Against his better judgement, he helps Kit join his wagon train.  She passes herself off as a widow and makes fast friends with one of the families on the train as she hires their son as a driver.  But Cullen doesn’t believe Kit is who she says she is and he is determined to find out why she’s lying and what she’s hiding.  Especially after a series of accidents and miraculous survivals show Kit to be more than a simple widow.

As someone who has read a lot of fantasy novels, it’s not too hard for me to suspend belief and accept the supernatural and unusual.  But The Ruby Brooch wants me to not only to accept the existence of magic and time-travel, it also wants me to ignore basic science and common-sense.  I just couldn’t do it.  I could accept that Kit took her iPod and a solar charger with her and could listen to music, it might just be possible to do so.  But to be able to watch YouTube?!  Also, people were far too accepting of Kit’s behavior.  They just shrugged it off instead of being distrustful of her.  The only person who even has a hint of distrust is Cullen but he tempers that against his growing feelings toward her.

I had a lot of high hopes for this book.  I was really hooked by the description and the first few chapters did have me looking forward to Kit’s adventures.  I did appreciate that the author made Kit a fairly strong female lead and not a typical damsel in distress, though she does seem to find herself in trouble more often than not along the trail.  Unfortunately almost all of the characters followed a typical stereotype.  You had the crusty but heart-of-gold sidekick, the ever-faithful and strong mother, the little girl that reminded Kit of herself, and of course the dashing hero.

The romance between Cullen and Kit was more annoying than interesting.  At times I wanted to just scream at both of them.  Granted, I think most novels with a romance angle have many readers doing the same thing as we get frustrated with the characters lack of common sense!

The writing wasn’t bad and it was a quick read.  I just couldn’t get interested in Kit and Cullen the way that many other readers have been able to.  There wasn’t a connection for me.  There are other books in this series, but I’m not sure I’ll be checking them out.

 

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Review: The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler

4 Stars

Anyone who knows their fifteenth century European history will recognize the story that inspired this book.  Imagine if King Richard III lived.  Imagine that in 1485 he walked off the field of battle instead of having his corpse dragged through the streets.  Names, places and events have changed.  Magic has been added.  But the underlying story is still the same.

King Severn Argentine has taken control of the throne.  He is accused of murdering his young nephews to take the throne.  He’s accused of murdering his wife, his child, his brother and as many other atrocities as his enemies and the populace can dream up.  He lives up to his fearsome reputation.  He destroys his enemies and those who have betrayed him.  He takes their children hostage and destroys entire families.  He belittles, degrades, ridicules and keeps his subjects in constant fear.  The Duke of Kiskaddon gambled and backed the wrong horse.  He failed to come to his King’s aid and for that, he has been ordered to prove his loyalty.  He must send one of his children to be fostered by the king, kept as hostage in exchange for the Duke’s loyalty.  If the Duke fails, his child dies.

Owen spends much of his time learning the castle and grounds, trying to escape his keeper.  He also spends a large amount of time in the kitchen where he has made fast friends with the cook and her husband.  He has a box of tiles that he sets up in intricate patterns and then with one push, the chain reaction knocks them all down in turn.  This is where he meets his first true friend and ally in the castle, Evie.  He also meets the woman who is going to help him save his life and become indispensable to King Severn.  He meets Ankarette, the Queen’s Poisoner.  She had been tasked by the former Queen (who is now in sanctuary) to get rid of King Severn, but she failed.  She was thought to be dead, but is back once again in the castle, this time she is tasked with saving Owen’s life.

Ankarette has a plan to save Owen, one that will not only save his life but possibly the lives of his family.  Not only that, it may bring him to the point where the King can’t do without having Owen by his side.

There is plenty of intrigue and action in this book.  It was fun for me to read, already knowing the history of King Richard III and seeing the parallels to King Severn.  The characters were fun too, especially Mancini.  He was definitely the comic relief!  Many of the characters are not well rounded or their appearance is not very well explained.  There are some conspiracies that seem to be going on that aren’t well explained to the reader and don’t go anywhere in this novel, but seem to be setting up for sequels.

My biggest problem with the book was the fact that the main character is an eight year old.  I know that this is a fantasy book and that it’s possible for younger children to be wise beyond their years, especially those who have magical abilities.  But other than that, it was a nice little fantasy novel.  I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel to see what happens to Owen and Evie.

 

 

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The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

3 Stars

This is the last book in the Mistborn Trilogy.  There will be some spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the previous two books.  I would recommend starting with The Final Empire first.

Tricked into releasing the divine power hidden at the Well of Ascension, they now know that this power was an evil and dark entity who is determined to see the utter destruction of the world.  The mists are engulfing everything, staying later everyday and killing people at random.  The ashmounts are spewing ash at an alarming rate, covering everything and choking out what little plant life there was in the world.  Somehow Elend and Vin are sure they can somehow stop this destruction from happening.

This is the last book in the trilogy and you do get the necessary explanations and loose ends tied up.  There is an ending, though it may not be as satisfying as many of us had hoped.  The same disappointments that I had from The Well of Ascension are back again.  Everyone doubts themselves, everyone is depressed and ready to give up.  Evil is taking over.  There’s nothing to live for.  Why do they even try.  Most of this book was just utterly depressing.  It was hard to slug through this epic 700+ pages of doom and gloom.

Faith and belief were the overwhelming theme to The Hero of Ages.  The last two books touched quite a bit on religion, faith and the power of belief.  But this book really ramps it up.  Sazed has lost his faith and seems to be coming undone.  He no longer believes in any of the religions he has studied and no longer tries to convert anyone to a religion because he no longer believes in them after watching so much death, including the death of his new-found love.  Vin and Elend also have their doubts and their crisis of faith.

Some of the more minor characters are able to shine a little more in this book, especially Spook.  His transformation was one of the more interesting parts of the story.  I was very satisfied with what happened to this once shy and quiet young man.

There were a few twists and surprises.  Some seemed to be there just for the sake of the surprise.  They didn’t add as much to the narrative as I had hoped.  While it was still a very strong novel, I think that the emphasis on faith and belief muddied the waters a bit and took away from the struggle for life.  The battles were almost afterthoughts and the climax was mostly anti-climatic.

If you were a fan of the first two Mistborn novels, you’ll want to read this one just for the sake of finishing the trilogy.  I was just sad that it didn’t end on a stronger note.

 

 

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Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

3 Stars

**If you haven’t read The Final Empire yet, there are some small spoilers**

I loved The Final Empire.  It was one of the few books that I’ve almost given 5 stars to.  So I went into this book with pretty high expectations.  I absolutely loved Vin in the last book and I was really looking forward to watching her come more into her powers now that the Lord Ruler is gone and they have a real chance at freedom and a fair government that is inclusive of everyone.  But after 1000 years of oppressive rule by the Lord Ruler, there is now chaos as everyone seems to want to grab a crown and become a leader.

Elend Venture is now King, but his throne is tentative at best.  His father, Straff Venture, has already led his army of fifty thousand to Elend’s front gates.  The Assembly that he gathered to have a voice in the new government does nothing but squabble and Vin is busy fighting off assassination attempts.  Things start to look even more bleak as another army decides to march up to their gates.  Luthadel is now under siege and it falls to Vin, Elend and the crew that Kelsier brought together to somehow weather this storm and keep their revolution alive and keep the oppression from the past from dominating again.

Vin continues to hone her Mistborn skills, experimenting with new alloys and pushing the very limits of her power.  She fights off assassins and spars with another Mistborn that seems to want to seek her out.  She’s also known as Lady Heir, she has now taken the place of Kelsier who was known as both the Survivor and the Savior to the people that his actions helped free.  She finds that she’s becoming the center of a new and budding religion which leaves her feeling uncomfortable and unsure.  Add to that to an already full plate and to a woman who is already questioning herself and her validity and ability to live up to anyone’s standard, and you have a recipe for disaster.

A new problem develops that threatens not only the new government, but seemingly the entire world.  The mists that enveloped the world at night are becoming bolder, they are also present during the day.  It is said that the mists are killing people and bringing chaos in its wake.  The mists were kept at bay by the Lord Ruler but seem to have become stronger now that his influence is gone.  There is also a shadow within the mists that haunts Vin and makes her believe that the old prophesies are once again coming to pass.

It started well for me, I was hooked once again in this world of Allomancy and Feruchemy.  Magic and power that comes from elemental metals.  The characters were the same and it takes up very close to where The Final Empire left off.  But then it got bogged down and dragged on.  Nearly every chapter we have to listen to either Vin or Elend whine.  It was depressing and annoying to watch them become whiny little Emo brats.  I wanted to smack both of them over and over again.

Being that this is the second book in a trilogy, I didn’t expect to have the loose ends tied up and I really didn’t expect an explanation for everything.  But I was surprised by the lack of explanation for a lot of things.  There were threads that didn’t go anywhere, some that disappeared and some that just didn’t make any sense.  For me, this really detracted from what was otherwise a great story.  Also, the amount of time spent on faith, belief and religion was borderline annoying.  I wasn’t sure when this went from a fantasy novel to a religious tome.

It’s still a good story with some great action and the characters are still wonderful.  I was just underwhelmed with this book.  I’m hoping that the last book in the trilogy will give answers to the nagging questions and tie everything back together in at least a somewhat neat fashion.

 

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