Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Fear of Death: Volume 1

Fear of Death: Volume 1 (Flares Of Serinor, #1)Fear of Death: Volume 1 by J.R. Dimesiss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The world of Serinor is a dangerous place filled with magic. Even in places such as these people try to live their lives. Army Cadet Daas lives a split life and does so with honor despite the shadow of death never far from him. Clora too has death creeping nearer. She'll do what it takes to survive, even though she may not know how.

My first thought after finishing Fear of Death: Volume 1 is that so much feels disconnected. The books description gives the picture of a more cohesive story than the book tells. The rising danger is described in Interludes that appear to have no impact on Daas and Clora's stories. Daas and Clora are the main point of view characters and their stories are entirely separate. If they didn't both live on the continent of Serinor, I'd say there was no reason for them to both be part of the book. I don't think I've read a book with point of view characters that don't appear to impact one another at all after the first book. There's not even a hint that they may cross over as the book concluded.

Fear of Death mostly revolved around dialogue. The characters talk to a lot of people and the world expands through the dialogue. There are a few interesting moments of magic being on display and people being engaged in battle, but otherwise it's mostly just talking.

The point of view characters had some personality. Daas is serious, studious, and polite. He's an Army cadet who enjoys to read which seems to be an oddity in his world. Unfortunately for him, he has a secret that threatens to end his life if it's ever revealed. Cora is curious, uneducated, and vulnerable. She's lived a hard life in her short time being alive. Cora had been a captive and is determined not to go back to that life.

Fear of Death: Volume 1 is a story with some potential. I can't tell where the story is going, but in a bad way. Much of the tale felt aimless which is not a good thing for a first book. I'm mildly curious to see how the story progresses.

2.5 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Shorefall

Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy, #2)Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sancia and her friends despite the odds, saved Tevanne and themselves from destruction. Three years later their firm Foundryside is trying to change Tevanne for the better by sharing scriving with everyone...and stealing it from the Campos when necessary. After the one of their most ambitious capers, Sancia gets a warning. Someone is attempting to revive one of the hierophants and Sancia and her friends hold the only chance of stopping it from happening. Hierophants are people who through their immense scriving ability, have convinced the world they are gods. Sancia and her friends must not fail. If they do, who can stop a god?

Shorefall is a book where the pace never seems to let up. After the opening sequence, we go from one disaster to the next. Each one seemingly worse than the one before it. It had a magical mission impossible sort of feel to it.

I have to admit that I forgot everything about Foundryside except Sancia, Orso, Clef, and scriving. I'd recommend rereading Foundryside before picking up Shorefall for that reason. Robert Bennet Jackson doesn't take time to slow down or go over much that happened in the previous book either. I really appreciate that generally, I just didn't remember much about the first book.

The book's main theme seemed to be the perils of human nature. Various characters pontificated on how every new technology eventually gets used to hurt people. The fact that the weak and needy suffer while the vile thrive. Three different groups were trying to change the world for the better, but none could agree what would truly change things for the better. That was largely what fueled the conflict.

I did appreciate the relationships between the Foundryside gang. Orso with his fatherly relationship with Berenice was especially touching. Gregor and Sancia wanting to belong and finally feeling as though they did. Sancia and Berenice's relationship was the backbone of the book.

Overall I enjoyed Shorefall and I'm curious to see how the series concludes.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Arcanist Fables

Arcanist Fables (Frith Chronicles, #5.5)Arcanist Fables by Shami Stovall
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

War is coming thanks to the Second Ascension and the birth of new god creatures. Members of the Frith Guild and the Second Ascension are making their preparations for the battles to come and the book shows those preparations from their prospectives.

First and foremost, if you expect to see or learn anything new about Volke Savan prepare to be disappointed. Volke is mentioned, but no notable information about him is discussed. With that being said, the book is incredibly illuminating in regards to the Second Ascension. I'd mention details, but they are all significant spoilers.

Arcanist Fables isn't quite what I expected. On a plus we do have multiple point of view characters including Illia, Adelgis aka Moonbeam, Calisto, Hexa, the Kirin arcanist Orwyn Tellia, Everett Zelfree, new characters Ezril Rivers and The Keeper of Corpses, Fain, Ryker Blackwater, Mathis Weaversong (Luthair's first arcanist), and Rhys. The downside is the stories aren't all told directly after the book World Serpent. Many of the stories take place during World Serpent and some are before it. I was hoping for more current information on the characters, but that's a mixed bag with this book. The majority of the stories that happened during or before World Serpent didn't feel that worthwhile, but those that happened afterwards did provide some interesting prospectives and information.

The majority of the characters behave just the way you would expect. I was not a fan of Ryker. I hope he's not whining all the time moving forward. Ezril Rivers and the Keeper of Corpses were an unexpected plus. It will be interesting to see what the story has for them moving forward. Though not being a point of view characters, we learn a lot more about Theasin Venrover and the Autarch. Everett Zelfree's opinion of Theasin continues to be proven correct over time. Theasin is a particularly vile individual. I hope we learn more about the Autarch as he's far more complex than the outright villain Theasin.

Arcanist Fables was a solid story and seem to be necessary reading for those who plan to continue the series.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Dragon Mage

Dragon Mage (Rivenworld, #1)Dragon Mage by M.L. Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aramon Raythe is an outcast in his own hometown. Something about him is different than others and he's ridiculed for it as a result. Little does he know that something old and powerful stirs within him. Something strong enough to save the world.

Dragon Mage is an ok young adult story. It has some fresh takes to it in it's magic system that involves seeing colorful auras, knots, and beings impervious to magic. The story is one filled with emotions as nearly every characters emotions seem to be described throughout.

This story felt like 4-5 young adult stories in one book. It has 99 chapters, not counting the prologue and epilogue, and it is almost 1,000 pages long. I respect the fact the author is giving the reader a lot of content for their money, but I don't know that it helped the story. I didn't feel the story was so compelling that I wanted to read so much of it in a single read. I was initially drawn in by the boy who seemed to be on the autism spectrum and was referred to as a true savant. He couldn't express himself well through words, he has obvious idiosyncrasies, he's obsessed with knots, and he has no friends. I found that kid interesting. I loved him finally making a friend in Markus and meeting Master Ebra the traveling bard. There are many heartwarming moments like Master Ebra telling Aram's mother:
"Your boy's not simple, ma'am. Aram is very smart. He just sees the world a bit differently than the rest of us."


The story falls heavily into tropes from there. Deadly mistakes are made, the first of many life threatening injuries are dealt, and nothing will ever be the same again. When I say many life threatening injuries, I mean I have never seen a character so often near death yet never seems to suffer any true long term physical issues because of it. We have villains with unclear motives and some who only want power. The bad guys initially seemed to have good reason until we learn that's simply untrue.

I also want to note that the term Dragon Mage is never used in any part of the book. On top of that, a lot of people use dragons in the book so the dragon aspect isn't all that special.

I was also disappointed at the way the final battle was handled. I don't wish to spoil it, but it took me a few pages to realize a certain character had died. It was surprising consider the significance of the role the character played throughout. I also didn't care for the development that the story didn't foreshadow whatsoever.

To be fair, Dragon Mage may simply not have been the best choice for me. I don't really care for young adult books and I didn't realize this book was 100% young adult.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The First Step

The First Step (A Thousand Li, #1)The First Step by Tao Wong
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Long Wu Ying knew what to expect in life. He'd be a farmer like his father and live a simple life, that was at least until he was conscripted into the army. Due to unforeseen circumstances Wu Ying was offered a spot with the Verdant Green Waters Sect and a life as a cultivator. Now he's entering a world he never imagined and life as a cultivator.

I really wanted to like The First Step, but I honestly found it bland. It reads largely like a rough draft waiting for the finer points to be added. We have the hard working farm boy trope with Wu Ying along with the obnoxious nobles who believe they are better than everyone else. What the story is missing, is personality. Wu Ying for example doesn't have one unless hardworking has become a personality trait and no one told me.

Unfortunately on top of the characters having no personality, the story also lacks descriptive action. The battle sequences are vague and easily forgotten. The author chose to describe fights using form names as though all readers are familiar with them. Perhaps for a reader with more familiarity, it would be more than enough. I found it lacking.

The First Step was unfortunately disappointing for me and I won't be continuing the series.


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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Nolyn

Nolyn (The Rise and Fall, #1)Nolyn by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nolyn, the son of Nyphron and Persephone and heir to the Empyre has been reassigned after 500 years of exile. Nolyn has been sent to the front lines in war and is certain he's being sent to his death. Fortunately for him he's been assigned to the Seventh Sikaria Auxillary Squadron, an already noteworthy squadron who has a legendary warrior among it's ranks. New legends are beginning in the midst of deception and tragedy.

Nolyn is supposed to be one of three bridge books between Legends of the First Empire and the Riyria Chronicles / Revelations. For those familiar with the mentioned series, there is a lot of familiar occurrences happening. The story revolves largely around the first two half human and half Fhrey people in existence, Nolyn son of Nyphron and Persephone and Sephryn daughter of Tekchin and Moya. The story is largely told from their perspective though there are additional point of view shifts to other characters.

It seems to me that one of the largest themes throughout all the books in this world is history repeats itself, history is forgotten, and history is rediscovered. Nyphron or someone serving him has largely forgotten the contributions of the humans to help him become the Emperor. Humans are second class citizens while the Instarya largely behave like the Miralyth before them. Nyphron has outlawed magic and many have forgotten about its very existence. There are still embers of the past, of a better way, waiting to be rediscovered by all and rekindled.

I enjoyed Nolyn overall, but I largely feel as though I know too much of the world at this point for these books to have the same emotional impact for me. We've seen the beginning in The Legends of the First Empire and the conclusion of events in Riyria Revelations. Seeing the specific events that put things into place is enjoyable, but not quite as rewarding. The events I'd truly love to see more of is Turin/Malcolm/Rex Uberlin vs Trilos. That's the unknown tale in the midst of the familiar and what I'm most curious about at this point. I also realize their battle largely occurs in the shadows and goes unseen. Bringing it to the forefront may not be likely. I want to find out if Trilos is still the thorn in Turin's side in Riyria Revelations or if he's been dealt with before then.

Nolyn is an interesting history lesson and I'm curious to see what happens next.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, August 11, 2021

The Desert Prince

The Desert Prince (The Nightfall Saga, #1)The Desert Prince by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fifteen years have passed since humanity won the war with demonkind. Many believe demons are extinct and that many of the exploits of the saviors of humanity are purely fiction. Things are peaceful and that's the world Olive Paper and Darin Bales have grown up in. The hardest part for them is being the children of legends. Both struggle with the expectations placed on them and do their best to meet them. However one night when both Olive and Darin step off the greatwards, they learn the demons aren't all gone and the world isn't nearly as safe as they thought.

I'm honestly full of mixed emotions about The Desert Prince. Stepping back into the world of the Demon Cycle so soon after the events of The Core seemed to present challenges for Peter V. Brett and I didn't love the way he handled them all.

The book undoubtedly had some good parts. The theme of the characters learning who they are is a prominent one. Olive was born as an intersex individual and assigned the sex of female because the alagai hora believed it provided her a better chance of survival. Olive has fully visible, and by Leesha's belief, working male and female parts. This presents a challenge as the world has been told Olive is woman. She has to hide her male parts and often must stay away from the eyes of others. It leaves her feeling isolated and unsure of herself. Darin has limited control of his powers and every morning is like fire on his skin as the sun rises. People expect to see the Deliverer Arlen Bales in Darin, but he is quiet and withdrawn. He doesn't like to fight. Both Olive and Darin fear they are disappointments.

Some other strong parts are every prominent Demon Cycle character is mentioned outside of Ragen and Briar. Most are seen if only for a short while. Doing that helped Brett balance making the book accessible to a new reader as well as involving those who read the Demon Cycle. The fighting is intense and crisp. Much more sharusak, hand to hand fighting, is seen than magical attacks.

Unfortunately there were quite a few negatives for me, most prominently being this story is young adult through and through. This was hard for me as I loved the Demon Cycle, so seeing things be handed over to the children was challenging. Still after finishing the book, it's hard to imagine the heroes of the prior series even needing the help of the children to succeed. While the characters learning who they are is a good thing, it's also a significant aspect of young adult stories.

As a reader who read all the Demon Cycle books and novellas multiple times, having the point of view shift to the first person point of view of Olive and Darin was frustrating. It's like seeing the Demon Cycle from the kids table. We are getting a new perspective, but from the young teenage protagonists as they learn about their world. The kids, especially Olive, learned new things that were large aspects of the earlier books. I get it's helpful for the new reader, but I just wanted to skip those parts.

I didn't like the strange mix of passivity and privilege displayed by Darin and Olive. Due to the world being so safe, Darin seems more content to hide in a shady spot than to learn anything about Demon fighting. Olive is being pushed into being a duchess and focused entirely on female things, despite the fact she has a world changing secret hiding in her bido. Olive is largely unprepared for the real world while Darin is running and hiding from it. I don't love either of them as protagonists, but I find Darin slightly more intriguing.

The Desert Prince isn't what I expected, but out of my love for the world I'm sure I'll continue in the series.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

World Serpent Arcanist

World Serpent Arcanist (Frith Chronicles, #5)World Serpent Arcanist by Shami Stovall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As Volke is reunited with his friends with the Frith Guild, the Second Ascension are seeking to bond with god creatures. The Frith Guild is determined to locate the person meant to bond with the World Serpent and beat the Second Ascension to it. Meanwhile Volke is training himself, an apprentice arcanist, and preparing for the possibility that the next battle may be his last.

The World Serpent Arcanist was a good book. I was hoping for another book like Plague Arcanist that was truly intense and dropped many of the young adult elements the series has gripped tightly to. Unfortunately that's not the case as young adult romance drama takes up a good bit of time...that and traveling.

Regarding romance; the romance in the book is definitely one of its major drawbacks. The first few books were normal enough for young adult where Volke liked Atty, Illia liked Volke, Zaxis liked Illia, and no one knew who Atty liked. This was all perfectly normal. Now Zaxis and Illia are a couple and things keep getting stranger outside of them. Volke is basically catnip and practically every young woman is a cat. I'd call it a James Bond situation, but Volke is basically helpless and doesn't know what to do. These young women skip past appreciation for Volke's help and nature and go straight to love. From my vantage only one character's affection seems real enough to make it past the honeymoon phase. All the unreal romance makes me cringe and roll my eyes at times.

This book was far more introspective as Volke is concerned with what's most important to him. He's always willing to lay his life on the line for what's right. He sacrifices what could be the easy and happy path in order to protect others.

I felt this book was a bit more crowded and no one character got enough page time. With Volke being reunited with the Frith Guild and the crew of the Sun Chaser being around nearly everyone fell to the wayside. Evianna may have been the next most prominently featured character. Master Zelfree came up often, but Volke's initial team and the Sun Chaser crew felt largely like after thoughts.

The World Serpent Arcanist was interesting and I'm hoping the series gets even better moving forward.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Plague Arcanist

Plague Arcanist (Frith Chronicles, #4)Plague Arcanist by Shami Stovall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Volke Savan finds himself in a place no arcanist would ever choose to be in, infected by the Arcane Plague. Volke has months before the plague changes him into someone unrecognizable and Luthair is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to avoid losing another Arcanist. There is one hope, Theasin Venrover. Theasin bragged that he will cure the plague, but it's not clear where he headed after Thronehold. Volke is forced to leave the Frith Guild on his quest. He is joined by Theasin's son Adelgis, the former pirate Fain, the Doppelganger Arcanist Karna, and the crew of the Sun Chaser. Together they seek Theasin for his cure, before Volke is driven mad.

Plague Arcanist had me hooked. From the moment Volke was infected by the Arcane Plague, I've been desperate to see him recover. The journey to Theasin is long and winding.

Witnessing Volke's character time and time again is one of the strongest parts of the book and series. Volke is a young man who should hate people and only think of himself because of the way the world treated him. Instead he wants to defend the same people who couldn't be bothered with his presence. I appreciate how Karna can't seem to get past Volke's genuine kindness and willingness to help others over himself. It's what draws her to him and makes her want to understand him.

I also appreciated the new characters and the development of the existing ones. Volke's influence has a strong impact on Adelgis, Fain, and Karna primarily. Adelgis is left changed by the near death experience of the Abyssal Leech, but his loyalty to Volke is clear. He's also a bit unnerving with the development of his powers. Fain has gone under quite the transformation. It was only two books ago where he wanted to kill Luthair, but now he stands with Luthair and Volke in their time of need. Karna is quite interesting as she delves to learn more and more about people and their nature. Her favorite subject being Volke.

Plague Arcanist is filled with unexpected twists and turns. I was hooked before I even picked up the book. The last few chapters were truly emotional and excellent. This is my favorite book in the series thus far.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Coliseum Arcanist

Coliseum Arcanist (Frith Chronicles, #3)Coliseum Arcanist by Shami Stovall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Grand Apothecary of Fortuna, Gillie, has developed a way to guard against the Arcane Plague. In order to get the resources needed to put the defense into place, members of the Frith Guild head to Thronehold. Their goal is to beseech the Queen of Thronehold for resources. Unfortunate timing finds that a new sovereign dragon has hatched, which complicates matters for the guild. People flock to Thronehold for the bonding ceremony and a grand tournament that is taking place. Strange events are happening and Volke Savan has taken it upon himself to investigate.

Coliseum Arcanist almost feels like a response to anyone who might have said the first two books in the series felt like young adult. The tone grew darker and the stakes become deadly. While that happened Volke remains the same overly chivalrous individual, doing anything to uphold his values and protect others. I really appreciated the way the world is growing and how the danger is increasing.

Coliseum Arcanist is a true world builder of a book. Volke finds a guide to Eldrin that Adelgis's father wrote. It was a subtle way to expand the knowledge of the world while not feeling like a simple information dump. The tournament and the new environment introduced the reader to different Eldrin and also showed greater details of the strength of familiar ones.

There is so much more I'd like to say about the Coliseum Arcanist, but it feels too spoiler like for my tastes. I'm quite excited to see where the story heads next.

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