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Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Title: Year One

Author: Nora Roberts

Genre: Post-apocalyptic Fantasy

Opens: When Ross MacLeod pulled the trigger and brought down the pheasant, he had no way of knowing he had killed himself. And billions of others.

Blurb: The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed—and more than half of the world’s population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river—or in the ones you know and love the most.

As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City. At the same time, other travellers are heading west too, into a new frontier. Chuck, a tech genius trying to hack his way through a world gone offline. Arlys, a journalist who has lost her audience but uses pen and paper to record the truth. Fred, her young colleague, possessed of burgeoning abilities and an optimism that seems out of place in this bleak landscape. And Rachel and Jonah, a resourceful doctor and a paramedic who fend off despair with their determination to keep a young mother and three new born infants in their care alive. In a world of survivors where every stranger encountered could be either a savage or a saviour, none of them knows exactly where they are heading, or why. But a purpose awaits them that will shape their lives and the lives of all those who remain.

My Thoughts: Anyone who picks this up expecting one of Nora Roberts usual paranormal romances is going to be very surprised, maybe disappointed. I am reading reviews where people are saying it is a bad book because they feel cheated – come on poor excuse for a bad review – there is enough evidence around, even interviews given by the author, to give you a hint that this is totally different. YEAR ONE is dark, very dark – and good people die – but the story kept me glued to the pages for the most part. The parts I didn’t stay glued? When the icky bits happened. Icky bits? Come on – it’s the end of the world – organised law keeping has gone – it’s every man, woman and child for themselves. When Ross MacLeod killed the pheasant it landed on sacred ground – not sacred nice, but sacred evil and this action is the signal for the dark forces to escape and start to make the world theirs. How quickly ‘The Doom,’ as it becomes known, spreads is very, very feasible. A sick man and his sick wife spread the infection to other people as they travel from London to New York – very quickly millions of people get infected as each of the new victims carry their germs around the world as they fly hither and thither.

Jonah the paramedic, Arlys the reporter, Lana the chef and Max the novelist are the main characters in this first book, each of them immune, not all of them with powers. They gradually form up with other people as they all decide to get out of New York until, inevitably, they all join together just a bit past halfway through. I’m not sure why I said inevitably, because nothing is a certainty and there are a few twists and turns until the reader is brought to the end of book one. An ending which leaves the reader knowing that although things look for good now – it is going to get a whole lot worse – and the characters know it.

YEAR ONE is the scene setter, the world is falling apart and the characters are trying to work out their place in this new world. And the descriptions of the world’s descent into chaos is amazing, and those who live violently quickly come out into the open with no fear of repercussions, and fall under the influence of the dark without even being aware. So many horrible things happen, actions done by people are horrific –without even the dark magic influencing them – they are just psychopaths. There is a strong thread of magic, but it is part of the story stopping just short of enough to call it a fantasy. The magical elements are a result of the fall as people who had no idea they had this element now have it. The characters discuss among themselves how, and why, it is happening. But like the reader they have no answers – it just is.

There are still unanswered questions at the end of the book, but seeing as it is the first in a trilogy this did not come as a surprise. There is no cliff-hanger at the end, which I liked, but the world is splitting into good and evil – which I think would happen despite a magical element – and it is obvious that strong good magic is going to be needed to defeat the bad.

Whatever path Ms Roberts is going to take us down with this story in the next two books I feel that readers should be complacent – I for one am really looking forwards to travelling them with her.

For more about the author – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night.

With thanks to Hachette Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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Title: The Girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making

Author: Catherynne M Valente

Genre: YA Fantasy

Opens: Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.

Blurb: Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went away to fight in a war and her mother started working long hours to support the family. Now September is bored. Until one day as she does the dishes she is visited by The Green Wind and The Leopard Of Little Breezes who asks her to come with him to save Fairyland. The leader of Fairyland – the Marquess – is not a very nice person and there is something she wants but can’t get herself. That’s where September comes in she is ordered to fetch it otherwise Fairyland will become even more impossible to live in – September has a quest.

My Thoughts: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN is the first book in the fairyland series which is getting rave reviews across the world. However, I just didn’t get it, in fact I found it extremely difficult to get into the imaginative, but very odd, story and, importantly, none of the characters actually drew me in and demanded I stay. The closest character I came to like was the book-loving Wyvern called A-Through-L, and he was loquacious and boring.

Look, there was SO much going on in the story, often all at once, with lots of mentions of other past and future adventures being thrown into the mix every few paragraphs, making story was hard to track. Then on top of that there were lots of characters being thrown at me one after the other without me being given the chance to bond with any of them. But wait there’s more! The main problem was I didn’t even bond with the strange child who is the centre of the story, September. For me to really enjoy a story I need to have feelings about, or be able to relate to, the main character – even if it is a severe dislike – the character needs to evoke some sort of emotion from me. But author Catherynne M Valente aroused no emotions from me for September; in fact even September didn’t seem to care about what happened to September. So if the main character is apathetic to her own fate – why should I care whether she gets eaten by river monsters, or killed by a witch? Don’t get me wrong Valente obviously has superb mastery of the English language – but it was if she put so much effort into her words, and waxed lyrical about every little thing, that the story got lost amongst the descriptions. The world building was absolutely amazing – but then it was peopled with characters that remained as flat as the pages I was reading.

As I said, THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN has got rave reviews, so I am clearly in the minority here. It is listed for readers aged 10+, this stuns me as it would have to be a very advanced 10 year old who could read this. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 15. A lot of this is to do with the style in which it is written, not the concept of adventures in fairyland.

I kept think of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz – all bizarre stories if you think about them logically, but full of wonderful characters and words which pull you in – not leave you leaping for the dictionary every few minutes. In fact there is even mention made of a wardrobe that connects you to other worlds, so the author must be familiar with these works. Her version of a magical adventure just didn’t work for me – but as I have already mentioned it as lots of good reviews from other readers – so just but not my cup of tea

For more about the author – Click Here

D – Average – it was OK, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish.

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Title: The Kingdom of the Sun and Moon

Author: Lowell H. Press

Genre: Fantasy

Opens: Nesbit awoke in his underground nest with a start…

Blurb: The Konig is a tyrant. His subjects are starving. And all-out war is fast approaching. An emissary sent by the Konig stops by the remote mouse colony of Long Meadow, the peaceful life Sommer and Nesbit have shared is turned upside down and the brothers are catapulted into separate death-defying adventures. Sommer, level-headed and clever, is ordered to the palace to join the Konig’s illustrious Eagle Guard as it prepares to face a full-scale invasion by the much feared neighbour, Emperor Wolfsmilch, and his army of a hundred thousand forest mice. The small but spirited Nesbit is banished to the Forest of Lost Life for insulting the Konig, and must dodge hungry predators, and mice assassins, to stay alive. The brothers struggle to defy the oppressor who threatens everyone and everything they have ever known and loved. But time is quickly running out for both of them—and the fate of the kingdom hinges on one last, daring mission.

My Thoughts:

When I saw that this historical fantasy was set in the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria, I jumped at the chance to read it. I will be visiting the palace myself in in 2016 and thought it would help me get my bearings; even if it is a mouse-eyed bearing! THE KINGDOM OF THE SUN AND MOON is a fantasy adventure story marketed for children – however I think it should be read by older children, advanced readers, and young adults because while there is not a lot of blood and guts there is quite a bit of violence – mice being assassinated, peaceful mice being slaughtered, cats eating mice and the like. There is even a scene where a brave little mouse nearly gets his tail chopped off when he hides in carrot leaves in the kitchen!

The Konig is a chilling little character, a deliciously twisted and evil little mouse – a mouse equivalent of all the cruel despots that we have read about over the past 100 years plus. But like all tyrants – and an end to their reign does come eventually – and great sacrifices occur to get that outcome. I liked the adventure component of the story was well plotted and had interesting variations of the human world. The story did drag for me a bit in some parts, and was a little bit repetitious in other parts, and a couple of threads weren’t closed off for me satisfactorily – or else I missed the closure – an example of this was the owl and how/why it fitted in.

I liked how the author made up his own mouse words from the Austrian language around him; humans are menschen, food is essen and cheese is goldenessen. There was a glossary (and maps) but when you read an e-book these are virtually impossible to access without a lot of palaver.

Overall I think kids will love this story – mouse customs and fables, adventure, bullies, good guys, bad guys and lots of twists and turns.

For more information – Click Here

C – Above average – was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to Parkers Mill Publishing and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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Title: Wolves of the Witchwood & The Beast of Blackmoor

Author: Kate Forsyth

Genre: Children’s/YA Fantasy

My Thoughts: THE WOLVES OF THE WITCHWOOD and THE BEAST OF BLACKMOOR BOG are books 2 & 3 in The Impossible Quest series by Kate Forsyth; a fabulous adventure set in the faraway fantasy land of Wolfhaven. Four young teens band together to save their world. Tom, the son of the Wolfhaven Castle cook; Lady Elanor, the daughter of the Lord of Wolfhaven; Sebastian, a young squire who dreams of being a knight and thinks he is superior to Tom; and Quinn, who is an orphan, an apprenticed witch, and think she knows everything. Wolfhaven Castle is captured by Lord Mortlake who uses evil magic to achieve his goal, taking over the world. The 4 mismatched teens manage to escape with the help of the castle witch – who gives each of them a magical gift. With no time to tell them what their gift will do for them, part of the quest is also to unlock the mystery of their gifts. Now they need to try and awaken some legendary sleeping warriors from the past and overthrow Lord Mortlake and his evil plans for taking over the world.

Before they can bring the warriors to life the group need to stop squabbling and work together to find a Unicorn, a Griffin, a Dragon and a Sea Serpent. By the end of these two books they have found 3 of their mythical animals with one more to go. In Witchwood they meet Tom’s mysterious father and a blind witch, Wilda. On Blackmoor the team splits up (always a mistake) and reach one of the castles they are seeking military assistance from. As you would expect when only half way through a series all is not as it seems and the story races along to a life or death climax in the middle of a spooky bog in the middle of the moor.

Overall the books are a fast read as the group lurches from one crisis to another and the plot twists and turns. However, there is real growth in each of the main characters as they get further along in the adventure; they are learning about themselves and their gift, and become a team rather than being just thrown together due to circumstances.

I love the land of Wolfhaven – as with many fantasy novels the setting is medieval, with castles, bows and arrow, knights and a strict social hierarchy. Throw in magical creatures – both good and evil, witches, a talking pendant and tame wolves and you have a wonderful adventure. THE WOLVES OF THE WITCHWOOD really had just the one task to do with all the gang involved as they worked out their own social hierarchy, then THE BEAST OF BLACKMOOR BOG had a few story lines going with the group splitting up into different task threads and heading off in different directions to do what needed to be done. Kate Forsyth cleverly pulled the threads back into line by the end of the book and the teens moved off as one to start their quest for the final creature that they need.

I know I am not the age of the intended audience – but I am really enjoying the adventure. I like how each of the main characters are becoming aware of their weaknesses and finding their strengths. How they are losing sight of their differences and becoming unified in their similarities. The 4th book in the series – THE DROWNED KINGDOM – has now been released, with one more to go, BATTLE OF THE HEROES, being released in a couple of months.

For more about the author – Click Here

B – Great – I really enjoyed reading them both and recommend them to all my friends who like this genre.

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Title: Alistair Grim’s Odditorium

Author: Gregory Funaro

Genre: Children’s Fantasy

Opening line: The odd was the ordinary at Alistair Grim’s.

Blurb: Set in Victorian London Grubb, aged twelve (or thereabouts), has never known anything beyond his miserable existence as a chimney sweep, paid only in insults and abuse by his cruel master. All of that changes the day he stows away in the coach belonging to a mysterious guest at the inn that he is tasked with cleaning. Grubb emerges from Alistair Grim’s trunk and into the wondrous world of the Odditorium. The Odditorium is a flying house of mechanical wonders filled with supernatural beings and powered by a mysterious blue energy called animus. There’s no time for Grubb to settle into his new role as apprentice to the strange, secretive Mr. Grim. When the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is whisked off on a perilous adventure. Only he can prevent the Odditorium’s magic from falling into evil hands-and his new family from suffering a terrible fate.

My Thoughts: With a title of ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODDITORIUM I should not have been surprised that this was, at times, a very odd book. Aimed at the 8 to 12 age group the adventure was quite complex at times, and I had a hard time keeping up with some of the events. I worried that kids in this age group might as well; but then again they will probably have more brain cells than me still.

The basis of the story follows the magical adventure of a young orphaned chimney sweep called Grubb. When he arrives at the Odditorium and is discovered and hauled in front of the owner, Mr Grim, Grubb is told that he can stay and work for Grim but is not to ask questions, is not to cause trouble and is certainly not to touch anything. Well, a houseful of strange glowing mechanical objects is just surely going to tempt a young 12-year-old boy and very quickly, after being befriended by a talking pocket-watch that keeps asking what the time is, Grubb is on a manic adventure to save the Odditorium from the evil Prince Nightshade, assisted by a banshee, a witch, a fairy and some very odd living devices that all call the Odditorium home.

There was a lot going on and the story was quite long with a muddle of events, things, information and characters all being thrown at me at once; I hardly had time to absorb what was going on. I didn’t have time to get to know the characters and there was certainly no growth in Grubb from beginning to end. However, his circumstances certainly changed and the great revelation at the end means there will be more changes ahead – and maybe the subsequent adventures in future books will allow for growth in his character. Every so often the plot did slow – mostly when Mr Grim had something to say – and then he talked, and talked, and then talked some more, info dumping until my eyes glazed over and I wanted the action back – as exhausting as it was. Just as well there was enough excitement going on to entice me to hang on through the info dump until the adventure got going again.

ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODDITORIUM was not a bad book don’t get me wrong, the illustrations were terrific, the plot was good, there was action, magic and a good cast; just not a cast that I felt at one with. It just didn’t grab me completely, something was missing for me and I can’t quite put my fingers on it. I didn’t really relate completely to any of the characters as there was not enough time to get to know anyone. ALISTAIR GRIM’S ODDITORIUM is the first in a series, and there were some loose ends which will lead into the next stage nicely. I would certainly read the next one when it comes out but at this stage there is no date or title on the horizon. If you are a fan of Fantasy and you don’t mind long books with lots going on then I recommend this one for you.

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average – was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while.

With thanks to the Disney Book Group and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.

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Title: The Iron Trial

Joint Authors: Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Genre: YA Fantasy

Opening line: Callum Hunt was a legend in his little North Carolina town, but not in a good way.

Blurb: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail. All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst – and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It’s a place that’s both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

My Thoughts: THE IRON TRIAL opens with a mage massacre in an icy cave high up in the mountains. The only survivor is a baby – Callum, who is left with a permanent limp as a result of injuries sustained in the attack. His father turns his back on the magical community and raises Callum to distrust magic and drums it into him that it will result in his death. As you would expect, when he turns twelve, Callum is summoned to attend the entrance exams, or Iron Trials, to study magic at The Magisterium – a school for mages. No witches and wizards here – everyone is already a mage or mage in training. Callum promises his father to deliberately fail the test, but despite the fact that he doesn’t perform the way he is instructed Callum is chosen to be an apprentice by Master Rufus – the greatest mage of all. So despite his objections he starts his Iron year, the first of five years training.

Mages manipulate the four elements to work their magic, and then there is a fifth element – Chaos. The mantra used by the school is chanted regularly:

“…Fire wants to burn. Water wants to flow. Air wants to rise. Earth wants to bind. Chaos wants to devour…”

You can see from this that Chaos can be regarded as the problem child of the elements. There is only one Chaos mage, Constantine Madden, aka the Enemy of Death – and he is the cause of the mage wars – feared by the rest of the magical community he conducts experiments on humans and animals by putting bit of the void in their brains making them mindless, blindingly loyal to him and very nasty.

"It’s not like that. The Enemy was a great mage — maybe even the best — but he went crazy. He wanted to live forever and make the dead walk again. That’s why they called him the Enemy of Death, because he tried to conquer death."

The Magisterium is testing the young teens to find another Chaos mage to fight Constantine. Once the background is established the story begins in earnest – and what a wonderful subterranean world has been created for the Magisterium. There are labyrinthine like tunnels, deep underground rivers that only flow with a magical command, creepy caves, and a range of critters both cute and lethal. Callum is the central character but his fellow apprentices – Tamara and Aaron – eventually bond and form a team. Callum fears magic but eventually he realises that he needs magic to stay alive; which is especially essential because he is a magnet for trouble, acquiring an elemental lizard and a chaos ridden wolf pup (Havok) are two such examples. I loved Havok though, a lovely little 4-legged friend, and he plays a big part in the end of the book.

…”It’s from a play my father liked. ‘Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war.’ He’s definitely, I don’t know, one of the dogs of war”…

It was a good move for Callum’s father to keep him in the dark about magic because as Callum learns – so too does the reader. Aaron is a very good little mage in training, coming first in most of the tests, he is enthusiastic and eager to make friends – even with the grumpy Callum. Tamara is very busy with her studies she is under constant pressure to succeed and keep her family happy. All three grow in character as the story progresses and gradually are moulded into a great little team.

THE IRON TRIAL is the first in the series and sets the scene and takes the reader on a fantastic adventure with a twist at the end that left me gobsmacked but utterly pleased at the surprise and with the direction it looks like going for the rest of the series. But if there is one thing I have learnt from this book – expect the unexpected! Thoroughly recommend it was unputdownable.

For more about the co-authors – Cassandra Clare – Click Here and for Holly Black – Click Here

A – Excellent Stuff – a real page turner and hard to put down. I carved out extra reading time just so I could finish it. This book got carted into the bathroom with me, read over meals, read at work, and/or kept me up late at night. If this author has more work, I will certainly read it.

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Title: The Bloodstone Key

Author: Jenni Boyd

Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy

Opening line: It was a moonless night, and the sky was as black as pitch.

My thoughts: Set in a medieval land where the word of the King or Queen is law and a knight swore an oath guard the Sovereign and protect the weak. The land in question is called Zanna, and a place where mystical creatures and sorcerers of great power exist, powers that can be used for both good, and evil. THE BLOODSTONE KEY opens with the incumbent Queen dying, a secret closely guarded to protect the Princess, heir to the throne. The Queen despairs that her silly daughter has been spoiled rotten and is not fit to take over the throne. The Queen worries that her evil nephew, who believes the crown is rightfully his, will do whatever it takes to become King – including kill the queen and the princess once he finds out the Queen is dying. She is very quickly proved right and although the Queen tries to protect her daughter they are both murdered and he takes over the throne. Misery and despair spreads across the land as the new King and his evil sorcerer assistant destroy homes, crops and anyone who stands in their way. But there is hope, a legend that a child born of the gods will come and save the kingdom at its darkest hour. Surely that hour has come. A young woman is released from a tree – she has silver hair, no memory of who she is or where she has come from and all she is wearing is a chain with a bloodstone pendant around her neck. She is rescued by Elias, a masked man who cares for her, names her Sabina as he believes she is the child of the gods mentioned in legend, and promptly starts training her to kill. If Sabina really is the key to save Zanna then she will have to go into battle against the evil sorcerer and the murderous King.

THE BLOODSTONE KEY is a very good Fantasy adventure. It had fast-paced action, evil usurpers, danger, bloodshed, excitement, a touch of romance and enough misunderstandings for the story not to be over by the second chapter. Add to these magic, elves, centaurs, dragons and the mysterious heroine with powers and you can understand why I read it in a couple of days. I got a little confused in the first couple of chapters when the Queen and Princess were killed and Sabina appeared. The opening events were happening fast (well there was a little kingdom stealing going on after all) but once the story settled down I gained mental control of who was who and where they fitted into the scheme of things, I just let the story and mysteries unfold for me.

I recommend THE BLOODSTONE KEY to anyone who enjoys Fantasy Adventures.

For more about the author – Click Here

C – Above average. Was very readable and I really liked it but was easily able to put it down and walk away for a while

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With thanks to the author for my copy to read and review

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