Review: Mercedes Lackey – Aerie

Aerie
Mercedes Lackey

Kiron has assisted with the union of Tia and Alta, yet things are not as simple as they seem. Despite the Great King and Queen uniting the lands, without a common enemy the common people are divided. While on patrol, Kiron spots a lone rider from the border town – unfortunately dead. Have the Magi returned?

Half the time Kiron acts very teenager-y and the rest of the time a bit childish! He spends a lot of time second-guessing himself and being grumpy. I’m not certain how many years have passed since the other novels, but I would guess at least 3-4, since there are a lot of new dragon wings (complete wings of 9). If he’s the chief of the Jousters, he needs to get a wriggle on!

There are a lot of missed connections in this novel, and parts where I felt like a sub-story had started, yet wasn’t completed. For example, the original ‘wing’ has a huge discussion on how to deal with the oldest Jousters, and they decide that a new wing is a great idea. But none of the shuffling is ever realised. We just jumped from this concept straight onto Kiron with a new wing finding the body.

I wanted something comfortable to read that I wouldn’t need to review (since I’m still behind)… So I reread Joust and Alta, then Sanctuary (oops, I haven’t reviewed that one either). My memory of this novel was a bit rusty, I just haven’t read it as many times as the others. And no wonder why! There’s not enough dragon training here for me, and too much politics and self-doubt. I seem to remember this originally being a trilogy, and then turning into a quartet. You don’t need to read this novel to enjoy the others, and I personally found it a let down.

Review: Raymond E. Feist – King of Ashes

King of Ashes
Raymond E. Feist

The Fire kingdom has been betrayed an decimated. But a Prince may have survived… Hatu, Hava and Donte are being raised in the way of the Hidden assassins, and Hatu has to constantly hide both his affection for Hava and his fire red hair. In the mean time, a blacksmith’s apprentice is getting ready to perform his Masterwork and go out into the world.

The thing for me about this novel was the pacing. It was just so incredibly slow! I figured that the three perspective would end up together eventually, but that ‘eventually’ wasn’t until the end of the novel (trust me, I haven’t spoiled it for you). The multiple perspectives worked against the suspense in this novel. Despite the blurb being very keen to state that there is a price on Hatu’s head, and the Hidden ones ulterior motives, I didn’t feel a sense of danger.

I actually liked the blacksmith the most. He was portrayed as a simpleton for the most part (not worldly etc) but he wasn’t as gullible as he might have seemed. His character didn’t ring true for me – why didn’t he go back to the town if he was so concerned? And in the end, I didn’t see his place in the bigger picture at all.

I was surprisingly disappointed in this novel. Raymond Feist is a huge name in fantasy and so I was really excited to be lucky enough to receive a review copy. Maybe this set up my expectations to be too high. It was easy to be bogged down in the details of life and not see what the novel was trying to set up. The whole novel feels like a set up for the last chapter – maybe the action will occur in book 2?

I’d read the second novel in this series, but I wouldn’t reread this one. There wasn’t enough depth or foreshadowing for me. I found myself constantly comparing it to The Way of Kings by Sanderson and finding it lacking.

HarperVoyager | 5th April 2018 | AU$39.99 | hardback

Review: Christelle Dabos – A Winter’s Promise

A Winter’s Promise
Christelle Dabos

In a world that has been rent apart by a vengeful God, humans still exist on floating chucks of world – the ‘Arks’. Ophelia is from Anima, where the houses behave like their inhabitants and she can move through mirrors & read objects with a touch. Unexpectedly she is betrothed to Thorn from the Pole, a bleak icy wasteland with an implacable Court that is out to kill her.

Oh ouch! Those twists! Poor Ophelia. All I could think of was Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where the hapless Ophelia drowns herself. In comparison, this Ophelia is pretty spunky! I think she is quite brave for surviving in that toxic environment.

What else appealed to me about this novel? I enjoyed the plot line because I couldn’t predict what would happen next. That’s what’s good about this novel – it’s an entirely new world idea to me. Also I will always have a soft spot for people who can read objects.

Wow, reviewers are divided on this novel. Some label it derisive and misogynistic, others love it! I can see the opinions of both camps. To be clear, I read this novel in the English translation, and I am actually really keen to see the second novel translated. I’d even consider learning French to read it if I had no other choice.

That being said, I can certainly agree that Ophelia is mainly a pathetic creature who doesn’t stand up for herself at all. But it’s her role. Much as we all want women to stand up for themselves all the time, I don’t have a problem with a heroine that sneezes endlessly and feels lost. In a way it makes her more relatable. I look forward to some really solid character development in the second novel, otherwise I will be disappointed.

I’m giving this a 4 star review before I change my mind and give it 3 stars.

Text Publishing | 1st October 2018 | AU$22.99 | paperback

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.