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Initiate: The Unfinished Song January 31, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 1 star, Fantasy.
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Initiate: The Unfinished Song

by Tara Maya

(also available in paperback)

From Amazon:

DEADLY INITIATION

A DETERMINED GIRL…
Dindi can’t do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi’s clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

AN EXILED WARRIOR…
Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn’t commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don’t kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father’s wars and his mother’s curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her… assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

I’ll start off by saying that this book simply wasn’t for me. It may be a matter of taste. Having said that, I can’t even begin to tell you what the book is about even though I read about 30% of the book before I had to stop.

Don’t let the description deceive you. Maya writes about more then two characters. The author kept switching from character to character and then she’d introduce new characters on top of that. I was confused and muddled in no time at all. The transition between characters wasn’t smooth either. The rhythm of the book was stuttered and stilted.

None of them were ever given a chance to fully develop. Then, just when I started relating to one particular character she’d switch to another and it would be like she’d forgotten about that particular character completely. It was extremely frustrating. Maybe things changed for the better later in the book, but by that time I had run out of patience at the number of cast members I had to keep up with.

Plus, I was so busy trying to keep up with the cast of characters that I could barely keep track of what the world was really about. To be honest with you, it didn’t really capture my interest once I tried to concentrate on it.

There were tribes. There were dancers. There were faeries. There was a labyrinth in there somewhere. It sounds like good ingredients for a great story, but in reality it came out flat and tasteless.

It was at this point that I gave up and decided to read something else that was more worth my while. I truly wanted to like it, but as Kafka once said, “If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it?”

1 of 5 stars

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To Play the Lady January 30, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy.
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To Play the Lady

by Naomi Lane

(also available in paperback)

Jenna Mallory is a tomboy of common blood who has been sent to be a Queen’s Lady in the Kingdom of Sevalia. Her magic is of the direct result of her mixed heritage unlike the noble blood of the other ladies of the court. When her magic is discovered a scandal ensues.

Even worse then that, she discovers a Dark Mage hiding in the eastern mountains that threatens the kingdom. He takes more then a passing interest in Jenna and her magic. Jenna finds out that coming to court will be more challenging then just learning to be a lady.

This is a rich coming of age fantasy novel. There is plenty of magic but there is a lot of her development that I considered very touching and sweet. Nothing too saccharine sweet though.  There’s even a budding romance.

Jenna is an extremely likable character that is well-developed. I found her tale easy to follow and the book was easy to read on the whole. It wasn’t a fact paced adventure, but it still had a nice rhythm to it. She’s an awkward young girl, but that makes her all the more charming.

The only criticism I have to offer is that the villain was a little too cliched and contrived. Still, that still didn’t detract from the charm of the book.

I look forward to the next book in the series and I was severely disappointed when I learned it wasn’t already published.

4 of 5 stars

Destruction From Twins and Four Hundred Days January 29, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 2 stars, 3 stars, Fantasy.
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Destruction From Twins

by L. Carroll

(also available in paperback and on NOOK)

From Good Reads:

Part I (Destruction From Twins)
When a selfish enchantress seeks to steal mystical powers from her twin sister, she sentences the world of Lor Mandela and its inhabitants to death. In an effort to preserve itself, the soul of the planet appoints a Child of Balance named Audril Borloc who must solve a prophetic riddle known as the Advantiere. All hope seems lost, however, when shortly after her fourth birthday, Audril disappears without a trace.
Desperate to save their world, Lor Mandelan spies travel to Earth in search of the little girl with black hair and bright blue eyes-traits that on Lor Mandela are exclusive to the ruling family, Borloc. Instead, they find seventeen-year-old Maggie. While the age difference between the girls is obvious, Maggie has the Borloc traits-evidence enough for the eager spies. They devise a plan to get Maggie to Lor Mandela, but will their scheme be successful? And what if they have the wrong girl? Who will save Lor Mandela then?

Part II (And So It Must End)
Maggie Baker has always wished for a more eventful life. Unfortunately, she is about to get it. Following an earthquake that no one seems to have felt but her, her mundane existence is thrown into a roller-coaster ride of twists and turns as she suddenly finds herself bouncing back and forth between her hometown of Glenhill, Iowa and the distant world of Lor Mandela. On this strange planet, Maggie must learn who to trust, and who to fear. More importantly, she must find a way to convince the Lor Mandelans that she is not the Child of Balance, and her family and friends in Iowa (and herself for that matter) that she is not going insane.
Amid fighting a two-headed creature, being captured by a lawless band of Shadow Dwellers, and falling head-over-heels for the enchanting son of an evil warlord, Maggie sees the lines of the Advantiere unfold around her. It isn’t long before she discovers that her blasé reality could be the real fantasy, and that the fate of an entire world may actually depend on her.

I had a few problems with this book. One of them was that the charcters were rather shallow. I never seemed to ever become fully connected with any of them.

Also, the jokes in the book always fell flat with me. The author’s sense of humor just didn’t fall in line with me and it irritated me more often then not.

For another thing, the battle scenes made no sense. What 17-year-old girl from modern Ohio is going to jump into battle with no qualms about killing a man? With a sword? Without breaking a sweat?

As much as I had problems with the story, I did find it imaginative and inventive.   I also found Carroll’s writing style to be engaging enough to not be considered awkward or untidy. Enough so that I kept reading. I even read on to the next book.

3 of 5 stars

Four Hundred Days

by L. Carroll

(also available on NOOK)

From Good Reads:

When Audril, the heiress to the Lor Mandelan throne, sneaks away to Earth to save one of her dearest friends, she finds that a power hungry tyrant from her own world has begun systematically obliterating towns and cities to get her to turn herself over to him.

On Earth, she meets a wildly eccentric old lady named Teedee Venilworth whose imaginary butler/fiance supposedly holds the key to her success. But how can someone help if he doesn’t exist? Could it be that creatures who dwell in shadow are not exclusive to Lor Mandela?

I had the same problems with this second book as with the first book. The characters didn’t develop any further with the series as I had hoped they would. In fact, there didn’t seem to be any time devoted to character development whatsoever.

I had even more problems with the plot this time around though. The villain’s actions seemed even more implausible then possible. It was frustrating to say the least and I was forced to put down the book for forced time outs several times.

Still, I read on because there were other plot events that were compelling enough to keep me going. I had to find out what happened next. This is despite the fact that the more I read the more I felt like the events were starting to feel contrived and even cliched.

The book did end in a cliffhanger but I’m forced to wonder if I’ll even continue to read this series. I usually don’t give up on these things, but my enjoyment was so little that the likelihood of my going on with this series is in serious doubt.

2 of 5 stars

Alice in Deadland January 28, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Urban Fantasy.
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Alice in Deadland

by Mainak Dhar

(also available in paperback)

From Amazon:

Civilization as we know it ended more than fifteen years ago, leaving as it’s legacy barren wastelands called the Deadland and a new terror for the humans who survived- hordes of undead Biters.

Fifteen year-old Alice has spent her entire life in the Deadland, her education consisting of how best to use guns and knives in the ongoing war for survival against the Biters. One day, Alice spots a Biter disappearing into a hole in the ground and follows it, in search of fabled underground Biter bases.

What Alice discovers there propels her into an action-packed adventure that changes her life and that of all humans in the Deadland forever. An adventure where she learns the terrible conspiracy behind the ruin of humanity, the truth behind the origin of the Biters, and the prophecy the mysterious Biter Queen believes Alice is destined to fulfill.

A prophecy based on the charred remains of the last book in the Deadland- a book called Alice in Wonderland.

I’m not normally a fan of zombies, but I am a fan of “fairy tale” spin-offs. When I read the description and the reviews on Amazon for this book and I saw the price for this book I thought I’d give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

This book was unexpected in many ways. For one thing it took place in India. Not your typical locale for a sci-fi/fantasy book or one you’d find a blond-haired Alice. For another thing, she doesn’t end up in another reality. She remains firmly planted in one dimension. It’s just not that kind of fantasy.

Also, as the tale unfolds, the events start to become almost plausible. Turning into something more of a conspiracy theory type story rather then just a fantasy/sci-fi story. I started thinking “Gee. Something like this could happen.” Maybe not with the undead, but something similar. It positively gave me chills down my spine. Added to the chills the rest of the book was already giving me, it made for a good spook book.

Dhar weaves an action-packed and intelligent plot with a very likable heroine. His characters are nicely developed and nicely fleshed out. His world evolved at a good pace with the story and didn’t overly dominate the action. In the end, I was rooting and cheering for this Alice and her companions as she fought the evil doers in the Deadland.

4 of 5 stars

The Last Mage Guardian January 27, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy.
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The Last Mage Guardian

by Sabrina Chase

(also available on NOOK)

This magical tale starts out with Ardhuin. She’s a mage, except there are no female magicians in her world besides herself. So her great-uncle trained her in secret up until his death. Now she’s not at the seminary where her parents think she’s supposed to be, but she’s residing in a chateau in Bretagne — left to her by late great-uncle.

Her great-uncle left her more then a chateau. She is his heir as one of the Mage Guardians of Aerope. He also left dire warnings of magical attacks prior to his death.

That’s when a stranger in the from of Dominic Kermarec arrives at her doorstep. It’s up to her to find out if he’s part of the magical attacks and she’ll have to travel to the ends of Aerope to find out the why of the mystery behind it all.

Her adventures are wild and fun. She’s a well-developed character that grows and evolves as the story moves on. Her strength is admirable.

The correlations between Bretagne and Britain and Aerope and Europe are obvious, but charming. Science and magic co-exist in this otherworld.

The plot isn’t obvious and it had me guessing until the end. I didn’t know who the villain was, which made the story quite delightful.

The Last Mage Guardian was slow to start, but easily evolved to a quick pace that had me easily absorbed to the end. I had thought that, as this was one of her first works, Chase might have had a rougher time with it, but her writing style was true to form. A very strong novel that doesn’t disappoint.

This book is fun, engaging, and full of quick-wit. I’m glad I followed through and looked into further works by this author.

4 of 5 stars

The Woodcutter January 26, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 5 stars, Fantasy.
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The Woodcutter

by Kate Danley

(also available in paperback)

One of Odin’s Hellhounds is running loose and is killing the Princesses of the Twelve Kingdoms of Man, including Cinderella. The Woodcutter, keeper of the peace between the Kingdoms and the Realm of Faerie, is responsible for returning the hound and finding out who is responsible for this atrocity.

He encounters all manners of fairy tale figures through his fantastical and wondrous journey. From Snow White to Rumpelstiltskin, from Queen Titania to Odin himself, we meet them all. Not only do we meet the great figures from classic fairy tales, we meet dryads and pixies too.

I had a glorious time reading this book. I truly couldn’t put it down. It was a fast read and not a very long book. Yet it was a complete story. Nothing was left out.

The Woodcutter is a fascinating protagonist and a noble one. The climax of this story doesn’t disappoint either. I won’t give anything away, but it was truly heart-stopping.

You can see why this book took so many awards, like the Garcia Award for Best Fiction Book of the Year. It doesn’t disappoint!

5 of 5 stars

Firehearted January 25, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy.
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Firehearted

by Sabrina Chase

Ronne, an exiled swordnoble, is living in a deserted outpost of the vast Empire when she decides to shelter a dying barbarian warrior. Erith, the barbarian who is an outcast from his people, miraculously recovers from his wounds. Much to the chagrin of Ronne who hadn’t really thought he’d survive his wounds.  Despite the fact that the Empire may discover her harboring an enemy, she continues to shelter Erith in the face of winter storms.

With his help and the help of other loyal Empire soldiers, they discover a betrayal that cuts deep into the vast realm of Ronne’s people. Along with the aid of new magics they discover, they work to fight the evil that invades the land.

I’m always a bit reserved when I start books that I got for free.* I quickly lost all reservations after the first two or three chapters. Chase’s writing style is easy to lose yourself in.

She also has a masterful way of seamlessly switching between the perspectives of Ronne and Erith. I don’t know many writers who can do that without making me dizzy.

The adventure is fast-paced without leaving you breathless. There’s an easy flow to the adventure that you fall into rhythm with. It’s engrossing and hard to put down. Yet not so intense that you need to take a deep breath and step away from every now and then.

Her characters are nicely developed and I found myself really responding to Erith. He was a fish out of water and I’m sure we’ve all felt like that at some point or another. For me, he was the easiest to relate to.

The cultures she wove into her world were fascinating and reminded me of several here in our world. Enough so, that I kept trying to see the correlation and the differences. She didn’t fully flesh all of them out though. She gave just enough for you to get the feel for them and for me, that was enough.

It was a well-rounded story and it made me wish this was the beginning of a series.

4 of 5 stars

*It’s no longer available for free, it costs $2,99. Still worth the cost, in my opinion.

The Black Prism January 24, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 3 stars, Fantasy.
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The Black Prism

by Brent Weeks

Gavin Guile is the Prism, the most powerful man in the world. He is high priest and emperor, a man whose power, wit, and charm are all that preserves a tenuous peace. But Prisms never last, and Guile knows exactly how long he has left to live: Five years to achieve five impossible goals. But when Guile discovers he has a son, born in a far kingdom after the war that put him in power, he must decide how much he’s willing to pay to protect a secret that could tear his world apart.

Since I read the Night Angel Trilogy first and I loved it, I eagerly delved into Weeks’ next book. I ended up comparing the two more often then not and not often too favorably.

I thought that The Black Prism’s plot was a bit too complicated. I found myself plodding through the first 60% of the book and I was forcing myself to get through it. Trying to navigate through the plots twists and turns was like trying to play a mental game of Twister with myself.

The characters weren’t as fully developed as the characters were in the Night Angel trilogy either. I thought that many of them lacked depth and I wanted more out of them by the middle of the book. In fact, I was so dizzy with the way Weeks switched from character to character without fully fleshing them out I nearly cried out with frustration.

The magical system in the book is interesting yet at the same time it gets overly complex. There are so many things to keep up with in this book, it was hard to really keep pace with where the elaborate plot and the sub-plots were actually going.

Around the 60-70% mark I started to get into the book. The characters seemed to stop diverging into sub-plots and I could finally see a culmination of sorts.

I did like the twist in the book. It was surprising and unique. I also think I’ll read the rest of the series since the end of the book really grabbed me. I’m just very unhappy with the first half of the book.

3 of 5 stars

The Pearl Savage and Savage Blood January 23, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Steampunk.
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The Pearl Savage

Savage Series

by Tamara Rose Blodgett

(also available in paperback)

The Pearl Savage has two cultures. The sphere-dwellers and the clan-dwellers.

A cataclysm separated the two cultures. This restricted the sphere-dwellers in a force field that would shield them from what they believed would be toxic air for 140 years.  The clan-dwellers survived the cataclysm and live outside the spheres in the Outside.

The sphere-world is very steampunk in essence. From the force field that encases their world in a sphere to their machinery, everything runs on steam.  Their culture is very Victorian as well.

Clara is the Princess of the Ohio Sphere. Her mother Queen Ada is a drunken despot bent on marrying her to the sadistic Prince Frederic.

Within the clan-dwellers, there is a group called the Band. They are the protectors of the tribe. They kidnap Clara in the hopes of gaining diplomacy with the sphere-dwellers and ultimately rescue her from the Prince.

We find Clara and other female characters needing to be rescued from dire situations time and time again. I found this exasperating to say the least.

Nonetheless, I found the plot and the concept of the book novel enough to keep me engrossed within the digital pages. Blodgett’s style of writing is easy to keep pace with. Her characters, which may make me want to smack them at times, are still sympathetic and likable. For these reasons I couldn’t put the book down.

4 of 5 stars.

The Savage Blood

Savage Series

by Tamara Rose Blodgett

(also available in paperback)

In the second book of the Savage Series, Clara travels alongside Matthew and Bracus to Cape Cod.

Again, we find the females of the group needing to be rescued time and time again. Again, I grew weary of this theme but I found myself entranced by the overall plot of the series and the book so I read on.

I also grew tired of the number of romantic interests that waxed and waned in Clara’s horizon. I felt it was overdone and contrived.

Yet, I like the easy style of writing Blodgett has. It was easy to pass the time and before I knew it I had finished the book.

She also introduced new elements to the plot that intrigued me. I won’t say what they are as they’d be spoilers. I think spoilers are anathema.

Be warned, the book ends on a terrible cliffhanger, but it does have me looking forward to the next installment. That makes this book a success, despite it’s pitfalls.

4 of 5 stars

Stealing Souls January 22, 2012

Posted by thehypermonkey in 4 stars, Fantasy, Short Stories.
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Stealing Souls

by Ian Doyle

This is a short story steeped in Victorian Romance. It features Lord and Lady Gallatin who run an agency that investigates mystical matters.

The book’s backdrop is an alternate London where magical and mystical beings abound among which there’s a wooden boy which their current case revolves around.  The purpose of their case is to remedy the matter of the displaced soul in the wooden boy.

The London in Doyle’s book comes alive with the adventure. His characters are vivacious and vibrant. The ending has a surprise twist, which I found particularly delightful. This is a fast and fun read, which makes it an excellent way to spend a few moments of extra time.

4 of 5 stars