Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Last of the Ageless

The Last of the Ageless: A Post-Apocalyptic AdventureThe Last of the Ageless: A Post-Apocalyptic Adventure by Traci Loudin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

300 years ago the Catastrophe, an apocalyptic event, occurred as humans and aliens fought over the Earth. Today the descendants of the survivors of the Catastrophe are forced together to defeat the heinous threat of The Ageless, a group of mutated men and women like no other.

The Last of the Ageless is the debut novel of new author Traci Loudin. I had the fortune to beta read this novel and I have to say while I may be biased I feel she did a splendid job in writing an awesome novel. Traci hits the key areas I look for in novels. She has characters to care about and an intriguing storyline. She also adds in interesting abilities and a unique world.

Unfortunately I feel like I can't do the book justice in a review without entering spoiler territory and I don't want to spoil any part of it. The Last of the Ageless is a strong debut and I look forward to reading many future books by Traci Loudin.

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When All Is Lost

When All Is Lost: A Companion Story to The Last of the Ageless (The Ageless Post-Apocalypse Series #2)When All Is Lost: A Companion Story to The Last of the Ageless by Traci Loudin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Korreth is a slave. Under every circumstance I know of being a slave is bad at best, but poor Korreth and his fellow slaves have it worse than most. Korreth is a slave to a mutant army that uses him as a living punching bag and intends to enslave his village along with everything else in its path. When All Is Lost takes a look at one of the main series characters Korreth and shines a light into the dark world he's trapped in.

I must warn you to beware my bias as a beta reader of When All Is Lost, but it is a strong short story. I know everyone has a bad day, but likely none of us has been captured, chained, and forced to help train an army to enslave his fellow man...well that's just a normal Wednesday for Korreth. Perhaps I connected to him so strongly because no one should ever be a slave or perhaps it's because Korreth is just a really kind man, either way this is a great introduction to one of my favorite characters in the series. The Badlands army is coming, but no one except those enslaved by them even know they exist.

As good as When All Is Lost is, it's still a mere appetizer to the full course meal which is The Last of the Ageless.

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The Last Tail-Horse

The Last Tail-Horse: A Companion Story to The Last of the Ageless (The Ageless Post-Apocalypse Series #1)The Last Tail-Horse: A Companion Story to The Last of the Ageless by Traci Loudin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Tail-Horse is a quick and fun short story about two transmelding (shape shifting) brothers. The brothers Dalan and Mishnir have a distinct Native American feel to them as they respect the planet and animals around them deeply. This tale details one day of unexpected events when Mishnir takes Dalan into the woods to learn how to fly in his red hawk form.

First and foremost I have to admit that I was a beta reader for the author Traci Loudin for The Last Tail-Horse, so in all honesty my review may be a bit biased. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first read the synopsis for the novel and short stories for The Last of the Ageless, but I have to say I enjoyed them all more than I could've ever imagined from their synopses. Traci does an incredible job creating realistic characters that are easy to care about and relate to. Dalan is the first of Traci's complex characters readers meet in The Last Tail-Horse. Dalan is a kind caring young man with an incredible gift and heart.

The Last Tail-Horse is like a really good bread at your favorite restaurant. It's more than tasty enough to get you in the door and let me be the first to say the meal is even better than the bread.

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The Skull Throne

The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle, #4)The Skull Throne by Peter V. Brett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ahmann Jardir and Arlen Bales, the two men believed to be the Deliverers of the world by many, are missing after Arlen threw them both from a cliff during their fight to the death. Their respective followers are forced to regroup and learn how to move forward without them.

In Everam’s Bounty, Inevera attempts to keep a firm grasp on her power while keeping her sons, Jayan and Asome, from starting a civil war in order to claim their fathers’ throne.

In Hollow County, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn are summoned to the duchy of Angiers while hoping to gain additional aid from the Duke.

The duchy of Lakton is the next prize the Krasians intend to conquer as they move farther north in their goal to assimilate every man, woman, and child for Sharak Ka, the first war against demonkind.

First and foremost I have to admit that I’m unashamedly a huge fan of The Demon Cycle Series by Peter V. Brett. I’ve read every book and novella in the series multiple times. The Skull Throne is a worthy sequel and it sets the stage brilliantly for the series conclusion.

The Warded Man and Ahmann Jardir are missing in the story, but I was equally missing them. It was hard not having the series two strongest and in my opinion most interesting characters appearing constantly. The moments when they do appear in The Skull Throne are easily among the best moments in the entire series.

With the focus off of Arlen and Jardir, Peter V. Brett brilliantly manages to strengthen his other characters and his world. The void left by Arlen and Jardir effects Hollow County and Everam’s Bounty differently. In Hollow County, things continue going strong and are getting ever stronger without Arlen’s presence. I believe that’s largely thanks to the fact that Arlen taught leaders and left them to lead on their own. In Everam’s Bounty on the other hand things are in turmoil. Ahmann Jardir’s every word became law and the Krasians utterly depended on his leadership. In Jardir’s absence dissension reigns and every aspect of Krasian leadership is vying for control especially the Damaji, Jayan, and Asome. With Arlen and Jardir gone the world has also changed. The corelings priority has shifted away from razing Hollow County and Everam’s Bounty. Each waning, since the one in The Daylight War, hasn’t been an all out war or even a war at all. The Minds and Mimics haven’t been seen on waning, but don’t for a moment think they’re gone.

Leesha, Rojer, Inevera, and Abban all assume greater roles of leadership in The Skull Throne to fill the shoes of the missing Arlen and Ahmann.

Leesha despite being about 3 months pregnant at the start of the story finally seemed to get her act together. After a number of particularly head scratching decisions in The Desert Spear and The Daylight War, Leesha was once again the leader I expected she’d be at the end of The Warded Man. Leesha is faced with numerous hard decisions and she handled them well. The ward witch as she’s known by many has continued to give people valid reason to call her by that nickname. Leesha’s also shown why she’s Inevera’s zahven.

Rojer despite becoming a married man has continued being his reliable jongleur self. The influence of Rojer’s wives, Amanvah and Sikvah, can easily be noticed when he’s thinking to himself though. Rojer is forced to deal with the results of his actions and inactions while living in Angiers during The Warded Man.

Inevera proves once more in The Skull Throne why she’s such a dangerous adversary. Inevera is certainly not an enemy any wise person would choose. She sets the dama’ting and sharum’ting to showing off their true power in order to help secure her status as Damajah and secure Krasia’s leadership.

Abban, the profit minded khaffit, continues to influence from the shadows by a whisper. His prophecies of profit continue to benefit him. Abban as expected finds the most profitable path to follow once Ahmann Jardir goes missing.

Some other characters who particularly shone in The Skull Throne were Count Thamos, Briar Damaj, and Asome.

Count Thamos by the end of The Daylight War still seemed a mostly vain and greedy royal who was more concerned with his own interests than that of the Hollow. In this edition Thamos has truly shown his development into an honorable trustworthy man, leader, and Count. He loves his people and they love him as well.

Briar Damaj, the tragically orphaned half Thesan half Krasian boy from Messenger’s Legacy shone in his short time in The Skull Throne. We get to see just how dangerous a boy who has survived 10 years in the naked night and the bogs of Bogton can be. Briar was a major bright spot in the story and I hope to see him gain a larger role in the series final book.

Asome, the dama second son of Ahmann Jardir and Inevera, really shocked me in a great way. He is the opposite of his unthinking Sharum Ka brother Jayan; he’s clever, calculated, and capable. Asome is a true son to Krasia, Ahmann Jardir, and most of all Inevera.

The battles in The Skull Throne were as crisp and sharp as ever. Including one battle I'd list as the best one of the series to date. Peter V. Brett really excels in depicting battles and comes up with increasingly interesting ways to utilize his characters abilities. The magic continues to expand with many characters learning to use their ward sight just as Jardir and Arlen had in The Daylight War.

The consequences in The Skull Throne felt more significant than ever before in the series. Past due debts are collected in blood. Foolish choices in this one lead to death more often than not. I'm personally still in shock over many of the events that took place.

There is only one thing I want to mention that seemed a bit off to me. After finishing The Skull Throne, Renna seems an odd choice for the character featured on the cover. My problem isn't with the cover artwork which is absolutely amazing. My concern is Renna is not a prominent character in The Skull Throne. The previous novels The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War all had one of the most prominent characters on the cover with Arlen Bales, Ahmann Jardir, and Inevera respectively gracing the covers. Leesha, Rojer, Inevera, and Abban are all featured more in The Skull Throne than Renna. Leesha, Rojer, or Abban all seemed to be more fitting choices than Renna particularly if the goal was to avoid re-using characters to feature on the cover.

The Skull Throne was another great book by Peter V. Brett. I’d be lying to say I expected this book to go the way it did, but I definitely enjoyed reading it and I’m looking forward to re-reading it too.

5 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Agnieska loves her home in the valley and her small village, but unfortunately her village is located near a corrupted Wood. A wizard named The Dragon protects the valley from the Wood, but he does so for a painful price. Once every ten years he takes a young woman from the valley to serve him for ten years. The next choosing is drawing near and Agnieska is afraid for her beautiful graceful best friend Kasia. Everyone knows Kasia will be chosen until The Dragon comes and she isn't.

Uprooted was an unexpected treasure. I decided to read it because one of my favorite authors, Peter V. Brett, raved how amazing it was and saying it mildly he wasn't kidding; Uprooted really blew me away.

The story started slowly for me as it was told entirely from Agnieska's internal point of view. She explained the wood, her world, and all she knew about The Dragon from her thoughts. Events went from a calm walk to an exhilarating run shortly after Dragon's choosing and I was enthralled to the end.

I really enjoyed Agnieska as a character. She's every bit a tough 17 year old girl. Nieska is kind, caring, and more than willing to fight to protect who/what she loves. She's one easy character to root for which is great since the whole story is told by her.

The Wood made a frightening and enthralling antagonist. It was nefarious and truly evil. I personally can always get down with a strong good versus evil tale and this story is certainly that. The Wood creates a definite horror element and I felt myself frightened for the characters while facing the wood. I actually walked by a little wooded area and gave it a cautious sideways glance because of the Wood. I definitely started walking faster and farther away too.

One other part of Uprooted that made it special was that the entire story is told in a single book. The current trend seems to be everything is at least a trilogy but Naomi Novik left out any extraneous and over explanatory parts to make one incredible tale from beginning to end.

Uprooted's overall storyline, characters, and magic were exquisitely done. I feel like I've cheated myself by not reading any other novels by Naomi Novik. I'll have to rectify that soon.

5 out of 5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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