Review: Sam Hawke – City of Lies

City of Lies
Sam Hawke

Jovan was first poisoned when he was seven to train him to protect the Chancellor’s son. His older sister Kalina should have had the role, but she was too weak. With Jovan and Kalina’s Tashi killed by an unknown poison, and the same with the Chancellor, the city must change or die. A siege adds pressure to the already tight city and tensions run high.

What I wasn’t too convinced by was Kalina’s ‘secrets and lies’. I’m pretty sure that except near the end, Jovan knew most of her secrets. I do agree with Kalina that Jovan should back off sometimes, because she needs the right to look after herself for a change. The interplay between the siblings was really believable.

I was caught up in this novel the whole time I was reading it, and I didn’t want to put it down for anything. I was craving a good fantasy after rereading Elantris, and City of Lies hit the spot. A bit of understated magic, some fierce battles and some poison makes for an exciting, plot driven novel that left me feeling sad when I finished it (happy sad, just sad I had finished it so soon!).

I love the notion of being raised by your uncle and your mother. It is in fact considered heresy to raise your children with their biological father. If you are wanting a child, all you have to do is go through the curtains to find basically a sperm donor! This means that women hold a lot of the power in this society.

The blurb reminded me ofΒ Three Dark Crowns, where one of the children is trained from birth to be immune to poisons – but the first choice in poisoner is deadly. Anything to do with eating also reminds me of The Sin Eater’s Daughter and of course the popularΒ Poison Study.

Uh oh. I didn’t realise that this was a first in a series, because the ending was so darn satisfying all by itself! I’m giving this one 4.5 stars, as it was almost good enough to read again.

Penguin Random House | 30th July 2018 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Review: Brandon Sanderson – Elantris

Elantris
Brandon Sanderson

Serene has arrived in Kae to discover that her husband to be has died, but that her marriage is still valid. Determined to make the most of it, she decides to bait the harsh religious gyorn to keep helpful occupied. At the same time, her would-be husband is not dead, instead he is afflicted with the curse of Elantris

I allowed myself to reread this one to put me in the right frame of mind to write a review. Knowing (vaguely) what would happen next didn’t stop me from being on the edge of my metaphorical seat. Ah! Serene! Why don’t you see what is in front of your face? I had forgotten the wonderful nuances that Sanderson build into this novel, and discovering them again was almost as pleasant as the first time.

Sanderson builds a unique world where magic is possible – just not very probable now that Elantrians get sick but don’t die instead of transforming into radiant Gods. It of course has Sanderson’s flare for never designing the same magic system more than once, and his characters are trying to jump off the page. I couldn’t put it down and found myself trapped reading it longer than I should have been.

There’s a little baby short story that is a companion for Elantris as a compliment to let the readers know what occurred within Elantris at the final showdown. Don’t get your hopes up, it really is very short and sweet. Sanderson has said that eventually he will write a sequel to Elantris, but even if he never does, Elantris is excellent all the same.

This one well and truly earned its five stars. I reread it and it didn’t disappoint, and it has only wakened my desire to reread my other Sandersons. I lent this book to a friend, and it changed her whole policy on star giving to books. She realised how wonderful Sanderson’s works really are!

Review: Laura Sebastian – Ash Princess

Ash Princess
Laura Sebastian

Princess Theodosia has been a captive since she was six and is Princess in name only. Brought out on State occasions dressed sumtiously but with an ash crown, Theo is punished for any uprisings by her people. When she is offered the chance to escape, she can’t decide whether to stay or go.

I found this novel lacking and predictable. Of COURSE she’s going to fall for an inconvenient guy. OF COURSE she’s suddenly going to gain a backbone. Theo is a perfectly fine protagonist, but she’s just not believable. Her behaviour, particularly when she betrays someone close to her, is just repulsive. I couldn’t get behind her quick changes in personality and pathetic excuses either.

Perhaps I can say something positive about the world-building. I certainly could imagine the confines of Theo’s room, with the Shadow’s niches all around, but the world outside that was opaque. Perhaps this was deliberate on the author’s part to make the reader feel like they too were trapped in the castle. I’d like to give the benefit of doubt here, since otherwise the scenery was nice.

It’s a 3 star novel for me. I have just reread Amy Tintera’s Ruina series which has a similar princess/prince storyline, and honestly it is far better executed! Go and get your hands on Ruina (and its sequels) and don’t bother with Ash Princess.

Pan Macmillan | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Elizabeth Kerner – Song in the Silence

Song in the Silence
Elizabeth Kerner

Lanen Kaelar has longed to explore the world since she was a small girl because she was abandoned by her travelling mother. When her father dies, she is determined to go to the Dragon Isles where no ship has returned from in the last 20 years. Not to be daunted, she goes anyway.

Apparently (according to the blurb) she has been exposed to the most horrible family life ever growing up. I was expecting her to be beaten every night and have to sleep on the hearth rug. Instead she just seemed not to fit in. Um, ok, getting married is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and your father not loving you much is painful, but you have a loving farm hand to help you out! When she sets out on her trip, it’s not like she’s being held back.

There is a lot of talking and not much action. Sure, they take out a too-friendly stableman which prompts a long story assisted by plenty of ale. But no action! No forward motion! Sigh. Nothing enough here to keep my attention.

This was a too-fluffy novel with an unconvincing story-line. For something that I was promised to have dragons in, the first third of the novel had no dragons. No plot progression much either. So I abandoned this novel in the interest of reading something else with a bit more pizzaz. I could afford to be picky, there was a whole bookshelf there for the reading!

Review: Patricia Briggs – Mercedes Thompson series

Mercedes Thompson series
Patricia Briggs

Mercedes Thompson, or Mercy to her friends, is a VW mechanic who just happens to have a werewolf for a roommate and a pack of werewolves for back neighbours. She also happens to be able to turn into a Coyote. Somehow she manages to get herself into multiple scrapes with vampires, the Government and the Fae despite wanting a quiet life.

I gobbled up 4-5 of these novels without taking notes on each one, so this is a group novel review. The picture to the left is actually the first novel in the series that I didn’t actually read (I just grabbed one off the shelf in a hurry and didn’t even realise it was part of a series). No matter, the novel stood well alone.

This is a fun set of novels because I wasn’t ever really sure what would happen next, and Mercy was a funny and engaging protagonist that resonated with me. Nothing like having a no-nonsense mechanic as a heroine. It reminds me of Mercedes Lackey’s Elves on the Road universe but seems to be a lot funnier with a better focus on the semi-human protagonist (but let’s admit that there is less substance to Briggs’ work).

I’ll give these novels a rousing 3 stars. If I owned them, I’d probably keep them on the shelf as light reading when I couldn’t be bothered with something that needed a brain and offered simple entertainment.

Review: Mindy Klasky – The Glasswrights’ Apprentice

The Glasswrights’ Apprentice
Mindy Klasky

Rani’s artistic skills mean that her Merchant parents have sacrificed their life savings to transfer her to the Glasswrights for training and a better place in life. Rani is the bottom of the apprentices but she follows her tasks diligently enough. When she tries to prevent the Prince’s assassination she unwittingly allows for his murder – on the run she has to solve problems so that she can be free once again.

Oh dear. The protagonist Rani was a bit of an ignorant idiot. There were so many clues there that she didn’t pick up. And also her determination to get to her brother got a bit old after a while. She knows what life is like out there now, and yet she continues along stupidly. I rather liked it when she returned to her Merchant roots! Also, surely she’s young enough to disguise herself as a boy. It’s not like they have photographs of her!

I’m not sure why I enjoyed this novel, because I agree with other reviewers that Rani was a total idiot. But perhaps that’s her grab. For once we don’t have a brilliant protagonist who foils attempts and saves the day. Instead, we have some other smart and wily characters who are perfectly capable of getting themselves into (and out of) trouble. Rani must have the touch of the Gods on her as well, because she’s just so stupid and can’t wriggle out of things by herself – other people have to make sacrifices for me.

This is a nifty novel I picked up at my sister-in-law’s house (right after reorganising her whole bookshelf). Unfortunately, she didn’t have the second novel in this series! The novel is from the 2000s, so I don’t like my chances of finding the second novel. 3 stars from me.

Review: Josepha Sherman (ed) – Lammas Night

Lammas Night
Josepha Sherman (ed)

Lammas Night is a collection of short stories inspired by a Wizardly Ballad written by Mercedes Lackey. The foreword tells me that originally it was going to be a collection of songs based on what comes next, but it was deemed that it wouldn’t be salable.

I’m not sure why this book was salable, I’m certainly not going to read it again. Maybe it was the fact that Mercedes Lackey’s name was on the front cover, despite Josepha Sherman being the editor? Although Lackey always says writing novels isn’t really profitable enough to live on (she’s married to Larry Dixon, another fantasy author). When almost every short story follows the same pattern (that was set out in the original ballad) it’s predictable and boring. And of course there isn’t enough time to become properly attached to the characters during the course of a short story. I don’t think there was a single character that I wanted to hear more about.

A couple of the short stories bucked the trend and approached the ballad’s ending instead and what same next. In some cases, it seemed exactly like it was a follow on from someone else’s short story. But I found it hard to tell since there were so many different characters’ names floating around in my head.

I didn’t read this in one sitting, instead choosing to pick up another couple of novels in between. I borrowed it while we were on vacation from my Aunt and so it was intended as a leisure read. I can easily give this 3 stars for readability but would advise reading it over time so you don’t get bored. I didn’t hate any of the short stories due to the writing style, but I didn’t love any either.

Review: Victoria Aveyard – Glass Sword

Glass Sword
Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow is back to being plain old Mare after the Red Guard’s audacious rescue and she knows what she wants to do next – hunt down the newbloods and then use them to kill Maven and kill his mother Elena. Having been burnt by Maven in the past, Mare doesn’t trust anyone. And can anyone trust Mare?

Oh yes! So remember how everyone was devastated by Sirus’ death in Harry Potter? I feel like the death in this novel of someone close to Mare should have triggered more of an emotional reaction from me, but I didn’t even flinch. Even when Mare succeeds at one of her major goals, I felt like it had happened too quickly for me to even appreciate it.

The ending to this novel would have been unacceptable if I didn’t have the next novel sitting on my shelf. Cliff hanger! But I still haven’t picked up King’s Cage. This novel wasn’t as breathtaking as everyone seems to feel. I actually read two other novels to completion while reading this one. I’m not sure what quite was wrong with it, it might have been Mare’s stubborn woe-is-me, I will never trust anyone again attitude for the whole novel.

What is with all the novels at the moment with admittedly kick-ass Princesses having to take their throne back for themselves? I’m thinking Ruined or Ash Princess here. Or The Selection, which I have not actually read. I’m sure there are more out there. Honestly after a while they all blur together.

I went to a Publisher get-together a couple of years back and received the first novel in this series as my free book. Then I recently got the third novel for review from the publisher but didn’t own the second novel. My fiancee bought it for me for our anniversary, and here I am reading it. A pity that I just found out that this is a quartet, and I’m not sure I’m interested in pursuing the series when I have so many other interesting things to read. 3 stars from me.

Review: Brandon Sanderson – Wax and Wayne (Mistborn #4, #5 and #6)

Mistborn – Wax and Wayne
Brandon Sanderson

This is a combined review of the three Wax and Wayne novels that are set in an era after the original three Mistborn novels (Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages). The Mistborn trilogy was actually the first set of Brandon Sanderson novels I ever read, so I had high hopes for these follow-on novels (please don’t laugh at my very old reviews). However, unusually for a Sanderson novel, I was kind of disappointed so I didn’t review them immediately.

The Alloy of Law’s first chapter was the best! I could have heard far more about Wax’s old life rather than his new one. It is interesting to return to the same stomping grounds of the original trilogy 300 years later, where technology has actually happened despite, or perhaps because of, the scarcity of magic. This is something rare for a fantasy series, although my beloved Ruined certainly has magic and technology battling it out. However, the city that Wax sees and the one he fights for frustrates me. Burn it all down and try again! And that bloody uncle of his…

Wax’s slow romance burns a little brighter in the second novel Shows of Self. This novel moved quickly due to Wax’s insistence on doing everything himself. Kandra tactics and the way Kandra have moved on from the original Mistborn series is explored in depth here, and some very surprising information comes to light. It’s nice to have a ‘God’ who actually responds, even if it is sometimes not in the way you expect…

The eventual conclusion of this series in The Bands of Mourning finally plays out the showdown of Wax and his uncle that readers have been anticipating from the beginning of the trilogy. The relative expansion of the physical world of the Mistborn saga allows Sanderson more scope for future novels (although I hope that is not the main reason for doing it). In addition, we also get a look at more Allomancy and Feruchemy which is the part of these novels that I am actually always excited about.

I’m actually going to give these 4 stars… Shock horror! I never expected to downgrade a Sanderson from a 5 stars, but these just lacked the awesome storyline and connectable characters of his latest stuff eg. LegionΒ or Steelheart. Don’t worry, I’m still going to be getting my hands on the latest novels in his epics (even if I’ll never forgive him for taking time off to work on that stupid Wheel of Time epic…)

Review: Amy Tintera – Allied

Allied
Amy Tintera

Em has finally freed Olivia and it looks like Ruina belongs to the Ruined again. But is that what the survivors want, when kingdoms such as Lera have far better pastures? Victory does not mean the same thing to Em and Olivia, and as the war with the other Kingdoms continues, each of them is going to have to make an impossible choice.

This novel is full of action, action, action. The battle scenes and killings almost seem non-stop. Talking might be Em’s preferred way of negotiation but with Olivia on the loose it’s just not possible! Cas gets some airtime, and Galo and Aren finally are forged into full characters with their own thoughts and motivations.

We get a bit more of a perspective from characters other than Em this time, but sometimes I wished I hadn’t! It did add to the suspense in some parts but in other parts I felt like the forewarning made it too predictable. Go and read this novel and find out for yourself!

When this novel arrived I had to stop myself from diving in straight away. When I read Avenged (the second novel) a short while ago, I had wanted to reread Ruined, but just couldn’t wait. This time, I reread the first two and was enveloped in Amy Tintera’s world just as firmly as before. This series is deserving of its 5-star rating.

Allen & Unwin | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback