Windrose Chronicles – Magic and Technology

Book Review : The Silent Tower
By Barbara Hambly

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

In a world where wizards are relegated to ghettos, it is no surprise to see one murdered in the street. But for Stonne Caris, a young warrior monk who sees the killing and gives chase to the culprit, there is nothing ordinary about seeing a murderer disappear into a black, inky portal. The Archmage sends him in search of Antryg Windrose—a half-mad mage who understands the nature of these passages between dimensions.

On the other side of the Void is Joanna, a programmer as mild as Caris is deadly. She has spent her life in cubicles, staring into computer terminals, as far from heroism as she can get. But when the power that is crossing between dimensions draws her through the Void, she finds herself battling to save a world she never even knew existed.

With intricate world-building and complex plot twists, The Silent Tower is a compelling introduction to one of this generation’s greatest female fantasy writers.
(Courtesy of Barnes and Noble)

Adult Point of View

When summer hits I like to read an older book, it might be one that I remember reading as a teen, or something fun, light and magical. I can’t believe that books from the ’80’s are now considered “old”, but my kids inform me they are positively ancient. As far as they know Hambly was Austen’s best friend (but I digress.)

The Silent Tower was originally published in 1986. As with all the books I like from this decade, the female protagonist is strong, but she still has weaknesses. I was surprised by the complexity of Hambly’s plot and had to pay attention to keep up with the parallel universes, the computer jargon and magic. I know I didn’t absorb all the technical details surrounding the computers, programs and geeky-tech stuff, but I could gloss over it to the main plot and enjoy the story.

I liked this series because of the characters:

Joanna Sheraton gets befuddled in social circumstances, she’s very intelligent and a scatter-brain. She has let life happen to her instead of determining her own destiny, until she is confronted by magic. Once she is faced with a new reality she plucks up and gets to work on solving problems. She always has her purse with her, though non-magical, it reminds me of a bag of requirements – it always has just what she needs. Every woman could use a purse like that!

Antryg Windrose, a wizard, is considered dangerous by his peers and has been locked up in a tower that suppresses his magic. He is particularly adept at sensing the Void and can travel through to other parallel universes. The one problem, besides having been trained by the most evil magician of all time, is that he is mad.

Stonne Caris, raised with some magic, and committed as a ninja-type warrior is faced with the problem of his own humanity. He was trained to be no more than a tool, a sword for the wizards. The problem is a tool cannot make choices, and Caris is faced with many sticky situations and has to become human again.

 

3.25 out of 5 stars

-Michelle

 

Book Review: The Silicon Mage
By Barbara Hambly

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

It was impossible, Joanna knew. When she betrayed her lover Antryg Windrose to the Council, he had been sentenced to death. Then she had believed his brain was possessed by the Dark Mage Suraklin, though now she knew that Suraklin had chosen Gary Fairchild. But guilty or innocent, Antryg was separated from her by the awesome Void between the worlds, far from any hope of rescue.

Nevertheless, she had to save him. Suraklin was planning to gain immortality by placing his mind in a computer that would get its power by draining the life-force from all on both worlds, dooming everyone to eternal misery and hopelessness. And only Antryg was strong enough a wizard to challenge the Dark Mage.

Once again, Joanna dared the fearsome tunnel through the Void, praying desperately that Antryg still lived and that she could find help to free him. If not…But she refused to think of that. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Joanna was faced with a terrible decision in the first book and chose incorrectly. Gary Fairchild was oily in the first book and now he reeks of evil, not really an improvement to recommend him as a boyfriend. At least she finally knows the truth about Suraklin, and even more importantly about love – and herself.

The Silicon Mage introduces a new character, a sentient being from another universe who is technologically advanced. Imagine his surprise getting stuck in this backward world? He tried to become a god, but it didn’t really suit his palette. Antryg continues to be one of my favorite character as he rolls with every situation, from royals to peasants to monsters. He has a completely forgiving nature of Joanna’s mistake and still maintains that he is mad. I wonder if he doesn’t have the most sense of all.

3.25 out of 5 stars

-Michelle

 

 

Book Review: Dog Wizard
By Barbara Hambly

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

On any given day in Los Angeles, you might meet a person claiming to be a wizard from another world. In the case of Antryg Windrose, it happened to be true.

Though Joanna Sheraton was an A-1 professional hacker, she could honestly say that computers weren’t her whole world—nor was the city of Los Angeles, the United States or the planet Earth as most people knew it, for that matter. Because Joanna had crossed the Void between universes into another reality, where magic was the only true science.

There she’d met Antryg Windrose, a mad renegade wizard, who, owing to a rather bizarre set of circumstances, now lived with her in sunny California—seemingly as far away as he could get from his former colleagues on the Council of Wizards. Most of them considered him a charlatan…a mere dog wizard who lacked the proper discipline needed to wield magic. Yet when monsters began invading the Council’s world—abominations from across the Void—even those mages not convinced Antryg was responsible knew that he was their best chance of combating the terror.

So they pooled their power to Summon him back, a call he fully intended to ignore…until they took away that option by kidnapping Joanna. Then he had no choice but to try to rescue her, though he knew it might cost him his magic, and his life.
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

 

One of my favorite moments is when Antryg lists wizard as a former occupation on his resume as he applies to be a bartender. The owner of the bar had lived in L.A. for a long time and didn’t seem surprised, though perhaps that was because Antryg reassured him that he had never accepted money as a wizard.

Dog Wizard is the culmination of all the preceding events, full of monsters, atrocities, technical geniuses, failed warriors, wizards, computers, piqued royals, betrayal and, of course, love. Antryg and Joanna seem to be on a merry-go-round between universes with the Void as their ticket gate. I continue to enjoy their relationship the most. Each is independently interesting and even more fun when they’re together.

3.25 out of 5 stars

-Michelle

 

Book Review: Stranger At The Wedding
By Barbara Hambly

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Kyra was preparing for her final wizard test before the Council. But suddenly, something was twisting her magic, weaving sinister portents of doom into even the simplest of her spells. Then she knew for certain that her young sister Alix was soon to marry–and soon to die. And so she journeyed back to the family who had disowned her. To save her sister, Kyra would have to face down her father’s rage, stand firm against the venomous rivalries of her family’s enemies, and confront the Inquisition. Then she must defeat a still deadlier foe–if only she could find it! (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Stranger At The Wedding is set in the same universe, but is not an extension of the story surrounding Antryg and Joanna. It is also less complex than the first three books and could be read as a stand alone. Strong subjects are touched on, such as, a pedophile, but nothing is overly descriptive.

A minor character in the third book, Kyra, is now the protagonist. She has a strong will, a sharp tongue and unusual fashion sense. Kyra’s sister, Alix, is sweet and young. She is smart, but prattles which hides her intelligence. Alix is soon to wed a man, whom she doesn’t know and the biggest problem is that she loves a totally unsuitable man.

The final resolution seemed flat to me. Kyra can’t leave behind her magic and she can’t marry the man she comes to love. It felt like she ends up with half of each, but only for the next couple of years – the time he feels like he can run away from his responsibilities as the heir to a shipping dynasty. I don’t know how there could have been a better ending since the world created wouldn’t allow for their marriage.

3.25 out of 5 stars

-Michelle

 

Other books from the ’70’s, ’80’s & ’90’s by female authors I recommend are:

The Raven Ring by Patricia Wrede
Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
Beauty by Robin McKinley
Howls Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

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Interview With Patrick W. Carr – The Author of The Staff and Sword & The Darkwater Saga

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Interview with Patrick W. Carr

 

Michelle:

Hello Patrick,
I’m absolutely delighted to interview you today for talesuntangled.wordpress.com

I discovered your book, A Cast Of Stones a few years ago and it instantly became a favorite. You have such an inspiring gift as an author, surpassing the quality of many other contemporary authors, and you’re a math teacher! What was your motivation to write a novel?

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Patrick:

I’d read to my kids for years, and one day I decided to write a story that was about them. That’s probably a fairly typical beginning, but I had so much fun at it that I never wanted to stop.

Michelle:

Being a teacher and father are already two full-time jobs, when do you find time to write?

Patrick:

Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different approaches. I used to write at night, but found that after teaching all day, I didn’t have enough mental gas in the tank to write much or write well. A few years ago I settled on writing early in the morning before anyone else gets up. I wake up at 5 and start the coffee then take Mel (the dog) for a quick walk. When I come back, I have a big cup of joe with a couple of squares of dark chocolate and within an hour I can usually get 700-1000 words in. The odd thing is that they’re usually pretty decent even though I’m not a morning person. I attribute that to the fact that the creative part of my brain must wake up before the analytical part does. That way I’m not critiquing every word as it goes onto the page.

Michelle:

In The Staff and Sword series Errol Stone has a fantastic arc as a character, from a drunkard to a hero. You have stated that your books are character driven. Do you plan the characters first when developing a book?

Patrick:

It’s not the first thing, but it’s definitely the second. The first thing that happens is usually the “what-if” moment that drives the story. For example, in The Staff and the Sword, the what-if was “what if the Church still used lots to decide everything?” For The Darkwater Sage the what-if was “what if the clues to a crime that could change your world were hidden in your mind.” A funny side note: I entered A Cast of Stones into the Genesis competition years ago at ACFW and one of the judges told me it would never get published because it had a teenage drunk as the protagonist. Turns out, that was one of the things people liked best about it.

Michelle:

There are so many instances of a publisher telling a writer why their story won’t be published; you are among some famous authors!

All of us have challenges and that is why we all love Errol as a character. If he stayed a hapless drunk it just wouldn’t have worked

Another broken character is Willet Dura in your second series, The Darkwater Saga. It appears that Willet’s scars are deeper than Errol’s. How would you define Willet compared to Errol?

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Patrick:

When I wrote Errol, I set out to write a character who was very obviously flawed. Since it was a medieval-ish time frame, alcoholism worked well, though I did think about some type of drug abuse. I’m glad I chose alcohol. I think drugs would have been too uncomfortable for a lot of people. I got an email from a fellow years back who had been sober for quite a while through AA, and he was nice enough to tell me that he thought I had totally nailed the longing and shame that went into being an alcoholic.

For Willet, I wanted a character whose scars were inside, down deep in his psyche and heart. My Dad was actually the source of inspiration for him. Dad fought in the Korean and Vietnam War and came back with heartbreaking losses and PTSD. Over the years, I saw him struggle with what the war had done to him and I’ve come to appreciate that as one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen. I took the idea of loss and PTSD and re-wrote it in terms of a fantasy world. Willet is broken in a few ways, but God (Aer, in my book) has a way of using Willet’s brokenness to solve problems and bring healing to others. It’s his wounds that make him so empathetic to the other characters in the book.

Michelle:

With your characters you approach some tough subjects, like alcoholism and PSTD, which is why they feel like real people. Because Willet’s scars are internal from the horrors of the Darkwater the series has a darker tone. Was this your intention?

Patrick:

I had always intended for the series to have the tones that they do. When I wrote The Staff and the Sword, I was striving for an epic fantasy that had a warm tone to it, like the feeling I get when I settle down to read a good book in front of the fire during winter. For The Darkwater Saga, I was actually going for a noir-ish feel similar to the classic detective stories by Raymond Chandler about Phillip Marlowe. Originally, The Darkwater Saga wasn’t going to be a medieval epic at all, it was going to be a modern-day detective series. My agent and publisher convinced me to stay with epic fantasy, which is why you have this kind of genre-bending series of books. In short, yes, they were both intentional (if I hit the mark on the tone I was going for), but The Darkwater Saga had a fairly convoluted path getting there.

Michelle:

You totally captured the intended tone in both novels! One of the things I like about your books is that they have distinct tones, characters and plots. It shows that you have done extensive world building.

Even though characters are so important, because they are driving the plot, you still must have a system to develop the stage for the story. How do you work through building a plot with your robust characters?

Patrick:

Ha! This is going to sound a bit complicated. Most people envision writing styles as a continuum with “plotters” on the left and “pantsters” on the right with a line joining them. Most people find themselves somewhere in between, though there have been notable writers who were purely one or the other. Robert Ludlum, for example, was a ferocious plotter, so much so that he had to do very little editing to his first draft.

I tend to view the writing continuum not as a line, but as a triangle made up of three points: plot, improvisation (writing by the seat of your pants), and characterization. This describes how I write. I have a fairly well-defined idea of the over-arching plot issues of my story, if not the minutiae. Then I lay out a set of characters in exhaustive detail. I know stuff about them that never makes it into my book, but I keep it in my head. And I keep developing them until they seem as real to me as the people I know. At that point, I put them in the story and I introduce the inciting incident (which is actually one of many) and I sit back and I think. Okay, such-and-such has happened. Knowing so-and-so as well as I do, how is he going to respond.

And I continue to do this over and over again throughout the story until I have a book. It’s a combination of writing approaches that allows my characters to remain true to themselves as they accomplish the plot, but also allows for improvisational surprises in the story. I can’t count the number of times one of my characters has surprised me when I’ve tried to force them to react according to the plot, but they want to behave according to their nature. One of the first, and strangest, compliments I got from my editor at Bethany House was that I write characters like a woman. I like to think of myself as a manly sort of guy, so I kind of took exception to that. Then she told me that all of my characters, even the minor ones, leapt off the page, they seemed so real.

Michelle:

I agree with your publisher, I have often talked about how important characters are in reviewing a book. If the reader can’t identify with the characters, the plot is flat. All of my favorite authors have exceptional characters like Errol and Willet in your books.

You have published your books as CBA rather than ABA (Christian vs Mainstream). Why did you choose this particular venue for publishing?

Patrick:

I don’t really have a preference for where my books get published. There are pros and cons to both. For The Staff and the Sword, since the allegory is VERY overtly Christian once you get past the first level, it made sense to seek out a publisher of Christian fiction. Bethany House was wonderfully supportive for a guy like me who had never been published before. After the first series, they offered to publish the second one, pretty much on faith. I didn’t have a very well-defined idea of what The Darkwater Saga was going to look like. I think it certainly could have landed in either ABA or CBA and I would have been comfortable with either. In fact, as an attempt to reach a broader readership, I asked Bethany House to have it classified as “Fantasy” instead of “Christian Fantasy.” Alas, while Bethany House was willing, the distributors were not, and despite our request, it was labeled as “Christian Fiction” because it came from a Christian Fiction publisher. If you find The Darkwater Saga in B&N or Books-a-million, you’ll have to look back in the corner of the store where they hide books of faith.

Michelle:

How do you define writing a Christian novel?

Patrick:

The definitions vary. I know some people who have a very narrow definition, meaning you have to have a confession of sin and a conversion story, and I know other people whose definition is broad enough to include a moral (fairly clean) story written from a Christian worldview. I work better by example. I would say The Chronicles of Narnia is expressly Christian, but the Lord of the Rings is not at all, even though Tolkien was quite devout. The Staff and the Sword falls somewhere between Lewis and Tolkien, but I think is closer to Lewis. The Darkwater Saga also falls between, but is closer to Tolkien (with a bit of Conan Doyle thrown in for good measure).

Michelle:

Wow! That raises more questions in my mind to mull over. I hadn’t thought about defining Christian fiction by authors like Lewis and Tolkein. I had thought of more recent authors, but I like your way of thinking more. I enjoy fiction with a sense of moral, but not one that is beaten over my head. I think you have placed your books just right.

Fans of your books will want to know if you can reveal any developments in the next installment in The Darkwater Saga?

Patrick:

Absolutely. First, this may or may not be the last book with Willet Dura, time (and sales) will tell. However, this will wrap up the current story and we find out the exact nature of the Darkwater, answer the cliffhanger that is Ealdor, and we also learn quite a bit about Bolt’s past as an Errant. Of course there’s a ton of other stuff going on, which makes this last installment the beefiest in an already beefy series. The editing and rewriting has been intense!

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Michelle:

I can hardly wait for the next book!

And, please tell us you have another series in mind! Will it be another fantasy (I like fantasy because it is so flexible as a genre)?

Patrick:

Actually, at this point I have at least three more series in mind, two of which are trilogies — and may or may not be associated with The Darkwater 😉 -– and an ongoing series that I hope to start on fairly soon. Yes, everything is fantasy, though I have a few ideas for some stand-alone books that are not, or, at least not epic fantasy. As always, the biggest constraint is time, but I’ve got another decades’ worth of books to write before I have to go looking for new material.

Michelle:

Just like you started writing because of your love of reading to your children, I believe many avid readers secretly hope to be authors (myself included). What advice would you give to them?

Patrick:

Don’t wait for the muse to show up. She’s wonderful and inspiring and capricious. Set a time to write each day and crank out as many words as you can. The muse will get tired of having you show up without her (she hates being left out) and she will finally consent to accompany you. Keep writing whether you feel inspired or not!

Michelle:

Thank you so much for spending so much time with me today and giving such thorough answers! I plan to read everything you write and am glad to hear that you plan to keep me busy for the next decade. I hope that muse continues to accompany you at 5 am 🙂

-Michelle

Patrick:

Thank you, Michelle. It’s been my Pleasure.

-Patrick

 

To keep in touch with everything Patrick W Carr is up to go to his official website www.patrickwcarr.com/

 

 

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The Hollow Crown – Will The Kingdom Flourish After The Fall Of A Tyrant?

Book Review: The Hollow Crown
The Kingfountain series #4

By Jeff Wheeler

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Following the downfall of a tyrant in the Wall Street Journal bestselling Kingfountain trilogy, years have passed in prosperity for the kingdom of Ceredigion. Now, as the time comes to celebrate the new king’s nuptials, the specter of a new enemy emerges to destroy all that has been painstakingly built in those years.

Tryneowy Kiskaddon has grown up learning military and diplomatic strategy from her father, one of the king’s closest advisors. She feels her destiny lies in defending the kingdom as a knight, not as a Wizr as her parents have decided, though no lady of the realm has taken up the sword in a century. As she seeks to understand her own Fountain-blessed powers, she studies in the tradition of her mother while training in secret and closely following the realm’s politics, alarmed by her mother’s vision of an impending clash and a devastating future.

But the pieces on fate’s game board are in motion, and on the eve of battle, a threatening force irrevocably changes the future of the kingdom and her own. Does Trynne have what it takes to maneuver Ceredigion’s key players into position and outsmart the kingdom’s enemies—even those still concealed in shadow?  (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

 

I didn’t know how I would feel about Wheeler’s staging for this series. Each book leap frogs ahead a considerable number of years creating a partial new cast of characters, in addition to some of the previous players. I have ended up enjoying this method because I feel like we are transported to the critical points in the history of Kingfountain and leave the dross behind. Where would be the interest if the kingdom were to flourish? A new conflict arises from outside Ceredigion, but we don’t know if the factions within the kingdom can work together to obliterate the threat.

The protagonist, Tryneowy Kiskaddon (usually called Trynne) is filled with self-doubt and is trying to understand her role that has been chosen by the power of the Fountain. She is perceived differently by others because 1- her parents are powerful leaders and supporters of King Drew (her father is Owen Kiskaddon and mother is Sinia the Wizr), 2- she was disfigured in an attack while young, and she has been uncomfortable with being seen, 3- she is female (and as all women know from first-hand experience that alone is a fact that changes everything). What’s even better is that Wheeler based his character on a young woman who lived in his neighborhood who had developed Bell’s palsy as a child, whom he admired. Her character is also an arch-type Lancelot, frustrated in love and determined to defend the king. He chose great models based on the outcome of the character, Trynne.

I love complex characters and Trynne isn’t the only one. Iago Fallon Llewellyn, the son of Iago Llewellyn and Elizabeth – the Lady Evie, is a mixture of youthful exuberance, rudeness and impatience. Fallon is not the character I would choose for Trynne to love, and though she loves him, it seems they are not destined to be together just like their parents, Owen and Evie were never to marry. Fallon at times is grating because he is so full of bravado; he desperately wants to prove his worth and this is his achilles heel. I want to believe that he will end up being more good than bad, but at this point it is up in the air if he will turn on his homeland because of pride.

Morwenna Argentine, the daughter of the deposed King Severn, is another complex character. She is self-possessed, beautiful, talented and Fountain-blessed. She has spent much time isolated as she lived with her father in a distant estate. Being isolated she has had no friends, but finds a friend in Trynne. There are many who don’t fully trust her because of her parentage, but she has worked to prove loyal to King Drew as she has learned the art of becoming a poisoner. She travelled the ley lines to the country that has threatened the kingdom and warned them of the impending danger.

Through the course of the action we are left with more loose ends than tied knots, so now I will be tied in knots waiting for the next book. I highly recommend this entire series. Wheeler is a gem of a writer!

4 out of 5 stars
4 star

 

-Michelle

If you have enjoyed Wheeler as an author I would highly recommend reading A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr and The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. I am confident that you will love their books.

A few older books to try would include The Raven Ring by Patricia C. Wrede, Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley.

 

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A Gathering of Shadows – Where Does The Magic Reach?

Book Review : A Gathering of Shadows
Shades of Magic #2

By V.E. Schwab

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I have mixed emotions about this series.

Cons

Schwab uses cliche phrases, such as, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Every high school english teacher tells their students to avoid cliches.

Periodic language is another problem. Schwab releases the F-bomb about 4 times in the book. Since they’re in a different, alternative universe with different languages, must we be submitted to foul language from our own world? She has developed a vocabulary of Red London epithets which I prefer; they are clever and don’t have the same sense of being crude.

The characters fail to progress. Too much time was spent on the separation of Kell and Lila, where each is eaten up by their choices, but unable to progress into making new choices. Another character which didn’t develop was Rhy, we already knew that Rhy wasn’t picky about his lovers. There are a couple of steamy scenes; one, an encounter with an unnamed girl, and another steamy kissing scene with a man (but I’m not revealing his name). I can’t say that this added anything to Rhy at this point. He has become more brooding after his brush with death, but as a secondary character it didn’t seem that important, yet. The king and queen of Red London probably had the biggest shift in their characters, now they have revealed that they loath and blame Kell for all that has befallen their true son, Rhy.

A plot devise that has been used (think Harry Potter) with contestants from other nations competing for the glory of being the best magician feels overused. It served it’s purpose to bring Kell and Lila back together. The contests are not a blow by blow description, which is actually a pro, but she moves to the essence of each battle.

I’m a little confused if this is a young adult book or was it written for adults. It feels like young adult; it’s brooding, hyper-emotional, has a devil-may-care attitude towards authority and has a romance. It’s as if the alternative universes had to come together just for Lila and Kell. With that said, I wouldn’t want my kids to read this book until they are over 16 years old. My library has it listed under adult fiction, but sometimes they are funny about their placement of books.

Pros

The magic system is different than other fantasy series. I always like originality. Because the traveling magicians need to use blood for some of their magic it is a darker twist than some series.

I know this sounds contrary to one of the cons, but overall I find Schwab to be above average in her writing. She uses some creative metaphors that are fitting, such as, Lila’s smile being described as a knife.

Once the story gets moving it clips along at a good pace. This one had a bit of a slow start, but once Kell and Lila were both in London it moved fast and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. I plan to read the third book, so that is always a good sign that I’m enjoying a series even if it has points I pick at.

The stirrings of White London and the culminating events that have led to Holland’s rise in power (after he was thrown into Black London at the end of book 1) were an interesting plot development. I honestly would have liked to see more out of White London in this book, instead of having to wait for the sinister dealings that will be laid out in book 3.

 

3.5 out of 4 stars
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  • Michelle

A good author to check out would be Brandon Sanderson if you enjoyed this series. He has done a lot of writing; he is well known for his Mistborn series, but I also enjoyed books like The Rithmatist and The Emperor’s Soul.

Another good author to discover is Patrick W. Carr who is currently writing his second series. The first series begins with A Cast of Stones and the new series starts with a novella, By Divine Right.

I would love to hear your suggestions for authors you enjoy!

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Vengeance Road – Classic Western Style Revenge Anyone?

Book Review : Vengeance Road

By Erin Bowman

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

I have not read many westerns in my life. Vengeance Road is what I would consider to be a classic western. It was grittier than I expected for a young adult novel.

Kate, the protagonist, is ornery. From the moment we meet her she is solely focused on her quest for revenge, to the point of being one dimensional as a character. She doesn’t turn her head when a certain cowboy walks by, she doesn’t long for a pretty dress and she certainly doesn’t pine away for someone to take care of her. I can’t say I particularly liked Kate, until she gets shot on page 88. After being shot it would be ridiculous to keep up the fiction that she is a boy. Too many novels become ridiculous as a girl disguises herself as a boy, becoming silly and highly unrealistic. Kate’s deception adds another layer of tension with her relationship with the Colton brothers, Jesse and Will. It was a logical time for the other characters to discover her identity and made the novel more interesting.

As a western, Vengeance Road is peppered with murder, poker, cowboy cussin’ and saloons. It is missing the quintessential gun fight on a dusty road in the middle of town. The painted ladies help Kate, and Will describes Evelyn as his favorite whore. Sex is all off page. There are some kissing scenes which are passionate, but the characters break it off because they need to have a clear head for revenge against the Rose gang led by Waylan Rose.

Bowman does a good job developing Lil’s character in the last half of the book. We don’t know her full backstory, however, we know that she had been captured after the man she would have married was killed. She is not loyal to Kate, but rather recognizes she has a debt and she wants to return to her people. Liluye has dignity, self-respect, a sense of justice, faith and is resourceful. She does not feel that she is a second-class citizen. As an Apache, she has a different mythology that she shares with Kate as an insight into her chosen path. We get a small peek into the Apache’s lives as they celebrate a girl of about 13 entering womanhood. Liluye’s belief in Ussen, their god, helps her to find peace with Jesse who had never been kind or polite. Liluye was one of my favorite characters even though she was a secondary character.

Westerns offer many classic themes in literature; a quest for justice and revenge, an extension of mercy and seeking forgiveness. How different is Kate’s thirst for revenge than Edmond in the Count of Monte Cristo?  I love the Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a difference mostly in the style of writing and time period. I was mostly fascinated that Vengeance Road was written by a woman because, other than having a female protagonist, it seems more like a book written for boys.

I didn’t absolutely gobble up this western; I think we can safely say it isn’t my favorite genre. Bowman kept a close hand as she slowly revealed twists in the plot. The writing was interesting and a step above many YA novels. I always love an unforeseen twist! The first third was a might tiresome for me to read, but the last two thirds picked up the pace to a gallop.

I loved the cover illustration!

3.5 out of 4 stars
3-half-star-hotel

  • Michelle

A modern twist on a western to try that I recommend is Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. It is actually the fourth novel in a series, but can be read prior to the other three without too many problems.

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Thick As Thieves – Books Worth Rereading

Book Review: Thick As Thieves
The Queen’s Thief #5

By Megan Whalen Turner

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments,. Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia.

A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead.

Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships—new and long-forgotten—beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little kingdoms of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis hang in the balance. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

Advantages of a Megan Whalen Turner book:

Great writing
Sympathetic characters
Plot twists
Well thought out world building
Great connections within story; not revealed until the end
A hidden complexity
First 5 books are written and available

Disadvantage of a Megan Whalen Turner book:

It takes her a very long time to complete a new book and once you start you will want to finish reading the series!

Review of Thick As Thieves

Kamet was introduced as a minor character in The Queen of Attolia, and now he is the main character in Thick As Thieves. Kamet has an interesting struggle. He is caught not wanting to go to Attolia, which he sees as an uncivilized country soon to be swept away by the Mede Empire, and his incumbent death as a result of his master having been poisoned, most likely by his brother the emperor. Kamet misjudges the soldier sent by the King of Attolia, seeing him as stupid rather than honest. Overtime they build a friendship, which is something Kamet has never really had as a slave. Slaves don’t really do favors for each other.

In Thick As Thieves, Kamet tells stories of Immakuk and Ennikar, legendary heroes who interact with a pantheon of gods in the Ensur mythology (adopted by the Medes), to the soldier accompanying him on his journey. Immakuk and Ennikar have trials with maids, being lost, being dead, attacked by monsters and needing each other’s friendship. To help clarify these two heros; Ennikar is described as strong, brave, but not described as smart. Immakuk is described as noble, brave, canny, wise. This is the typical kind of layer Turner adds in her books that I enjoy. It’s also another reason to reread her books. It’s fun to look for the clues laid out for the surprise ending.

I also love how Eugenides is always misunderstood and underestimated. He isn’t introduced until the end of the novel, though Kamet understands completely that Eugenides has sent the soldier to help in his escape.

I want to explain how funny Thick As Thieves is, but cannot do so without a major spoiler. In this case, you will have to just believe me that the circumstances conspire to create laughter for the audience, much as the other books within the series.

This is the best quote I can find that doesn’t give away anything strategic in the novel that I found amusing:

     “‘It so happens,’ said the Attolian, ‘ that sometimes a young soldier comes to the city from deep in the country and he meets a man in a wineshop who offers to show him the town and introduces him to a ‘lovely girl’. And after the lovely girl has soaked him for all the money in his pocket, the man will offer the soldier a loan. The really naive ones get into so much debt to their ‘friends’ that they have to ask for a touch from the guard’s treasury, from funds set aside by everyone in the cohort for emergencies like this. Until the money gets paid back, they eat their meals standing up in the dining hall.’
I wondered if the Attolian had ever been a backward boy from the country eating his meals standing up. When I saw the flush creeping up past his collar all the way to the roots of his hair, I knew he had.” (p. 203)

I highly recommend Turner as an author. I am a little torn if her books should be a 4 or 5 star recommendation. As the series has continued I am tempted to go back and raise all of their star power in my reviews because of the thoughtful weaving of the tale over the last 20 years. She is a remarkable writer!

4 out of 5 stars
4 star

 

-Michelle

If you have enjoyed Turner as an author I would highly recommend reading The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler and A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr. I am confident that you will love their books.

My daughter has been in college and no longer has time to review books with me. Now my younger sons occasionally have something to add to the reviews, though they are not as interested in reading at this time. I continue to read lots of YA literature in the hopes of finding gems for my children to read.

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Death Comes To Pemberley – Please Just Kill Me Now

Book Review : Death Comes To Pemberley

By P.D. James

Spoiler Alert!

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Summary

The world is classic Jane Austen. The mystery is vintage P.D. James.

The year is 1803, and Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband Bingley live nearby and the orderly world of Pemberley seems unassailable. But all this is threatened when, on the eve of the annual autumn ball, the guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland. As it pulls up, Lydia Wickham – Elizabeth Bennet’s younger, unreliable sister – stumbles out screaming that her husband has been murdered.

Two great literary minds – master of suspense P.D. James and literary icon Jane Austen – come together in Death Comes to Pemberley, a bestselling historical crime fiction tribute to Pride and Prejudice. Conjuring the world of Elizabeth Bennet and Mark Darcy and combining the trappings of Regency British society with a classic murder mystery, James creates a delightful mash-up that will intrigue any Janeite.

From the bestselling author of The Murder Room, Children of Men and A Certain Justice, comes a wonderful mixture of the nation’s greatest romance and best-loved crime fiction. In 2013, this novel was adapted as a miniseries by the BBC, starring Matthew Rhys as Darcy, Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Bennet and Jenna Coleman as Lydia Wickham. (Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

P.D. James makes a coy apology to Jane Austen for dragging her characters through the trauma of a murder, concluding that Austen would have written this story better herself. The author was correct! She should have stopped, reconsidered and never written this book.

I finish nearly every book I start. I finally looked at the book, sitting on the table, on the sofa, and the floor, and realized the location wasn’t the problem, it was the book that had the problem. I didn’t want to read it.

My first big problem was the character of the Colonel, Darcy’s cousin. He is bossy, controlling and horrible as he strides across the page. Next, I didn’t feel the connection between Darcy and Elizabeth. All the characters seem like parodies of the original. Nobody felt authentic. Last, the story was convoluted. After reading half the book the locals belief of a malevolent spirit living in the woods has barely been touched upon. The plot made more sense in the movie.

I jumped to the end of the book to see if some of the character problems were resolved. They weren’t. The Colonel is still overbearing, Darcy is flat, Lydia is still a brat, ect. The only good thing is that the Colonel is leaving to fight Bonaparte.

It is rare to enjoy a movie more than the book, but in this case that is true. I was very disappointed in the book. I’m giving it a mere one star because I couldn’t finish the novel. There was nothing particularly sensual or violent in the book, other than the one description of the victim. If I wasn’t appalled by the characters I would have given it two stars.

1 out of 5 stars
1 star
– Michelle

Other Regency Era books that I enjoyed would include An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aiden (I haven’t read it in years, but I remember loving the first one – it tells the story from Darcy’s point of view), Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede (totally silly since they have magic, but so fun) and Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron (Jane is a sleuth solving mysteries – again, I read it a long time ago, but it was fun).

If you have read a modern Regency novel and enjoyed it please share your suggestions!

 

 

 

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