Fantasy

Review: Equal Rites

Cover of Equal Rites, featuring a purple wizard hat with light purple designs surrounded by a ring of stars and the female symbol (a circle with a cross sticking out of the bottom)
Image from Terry Pratchett Books

Title: Equal Rites

Series: Discworld #3, Witches #1

Author: Terry Pratchett

Genre: Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Misogyny

Back Cover:

On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University–and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!

Review:

This is not technically my first foray into Terry Pratchett’s work, as I read Wintersmith in middle school, but literally the only thing I remember about that book is that the main character’s name was Tiffany, so I count this as my first Discworld experience.

And oh boy was it an adventure.

The two main characters are Esk and Granny Weatherwax. Esk is the girl who accidentally got wizard powers. She’s eight years old in most of the story, but except for a few moments of childish petulance/impulsiveness, she seems a lot older. She’s very intelligent and naturally good at a lot of things (probably the wizard power, but still), and I frequently forgot she was so young. She was the kind of “everybody underestimates me but I still come out on top” character that I love to read about.

Granny Weatherwax is the town witch. She knows a lot of stuff about herbs and magic and such, but her magic is just as much convincing people she’s magical (muttering nonsense “charms” and such) as actually doing magic. She very much has an air of being Too Old For This Nonsense but at the same time an attitude of Everything Will Bend To My Will Or I Will Make It Do So. And she can be very intimidating.

When you write it out, the plot is very simple. Esk gets wizard powers as a baby, Granny Weatherwax tries to turn her into a witch, but when the wizard powers get too much they decide to take her to the wizard school and convince them to take on their first female student so Esk can learn to be a wizard. But it’s the adventures along the way and the fascinating side characters that make it interesting.

For one thing, Esk and Granny Weatherwax keep getting separated. Esk is busy making her own way towards the Unseen University, wizard magic helping her along, and Granny Weatherwax spends a lot of the book annoyedly trying to find her. They both encounter interesting people and have unique takes on everything.

And while I’m on the subject of unique takes – this book has some of the best turns of phrase I’ve ever read. They’re creative ways of describing things and often don’t fit into the magical Discworld at all. Such as “a light that would make Stephen Spielberg reach for his copyright lawyer.” There’s a lot of lines like that, and a lot of really creative descriptions, and it’s overall delightful to read.

In short, I throughly enjoyed this foray into the Discworld, and I intend to return to it again. Maybe not with the next book in the series, since I’ve heard the Discworld books can pretty much be read in any order, but I’m sure my local library will have a few of these books that I could get my hands on.

The Witches Sub-Series:

  1. Equal Rites
  2. Wyrd Sisters
  3. Witches Abroad
  4. Lords and Ladies
  5. Maskerade
  6. The Sea and Little Fishes
  7. Carpe Jugulum

The Discworld Series:

There are over 40 books in this series. Just check out Goodreads’ list.

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High Fantasy

Review: The Glasswrights’ Progress

Cover of "The Glasswrights' Progress," featuring a blond girl standing in front of a castle
Image from mindyklasky.com

Title:  The Glasswrights’ Progress

Series: Glasswright #2

Author:  Mindy L. Klasky

Genre:  High Fantasy

Warning:  This review will probably contain spoilers of the previous book in the series, The Glasswrights’ Apprentice.

Back Cover:

Two years have passed since the Glasswrights’ Guild was shattered.  Now, living in the palace of Morenia’s new king, Rani is determined to rebuild it.  But a betrayal from within snares Rani in a deadly plot to conquer Morenia.  The bloodthirsty King Sin Hazar has an army like none other – utterly dedicated, completely obedient…and entirely comprised of children…

Review:

After reading the awesomeness that was The Glasswrights’ Apprentice, I raced to the library and snatched up this book.

But unfortunately, the sequel didn’t live up to its predecessor.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book.  But just liked.  Didn’t love, didn’t think it was awesome.  It was a good book, but it didn’t blow me away like The Glasswrights’ Apprentice did.

My main problem was with Rani.  She just seemed … passive in this book.  She said she wanted to rebuild the Glasswrights’ Guild, but it’s been two years since book one and she hasn’t done anything.  As far as the book says, she didn’t even think about escaping the army camp – not until Mair discovered King Sin Hazar’s plans.  I’m not sure what her overall goal was in the book.  To get home, maybe?

Another problem was with the storylines.  In the beginning, the book alternates chapters with Rani and a woman named Shea.  And I enjoyed both storylines equally.  But when the two storylines meet, Shea just drops off the map, and Crestman, a secondary character from Shea’s storyline, takes center stage.  I can see why Mindy Klasky added Shea’s storyline, but I wish she’d either made it Crestman’s storyline or given Shea a bigger part in the second half of the book.

One thing I do love about Mindy Klasky’s writing, though, is her brilliance with settings.  I mentioned in my review of The Glasswright’s Apprentice how the amazing setting had a lot to do with why I loved the book so much.  And I think the amazing setting had a lot to do with making this book good.  The setting for the majority of the book was the country of Amanthea, which has its own geography, customs, and intricate caste system.  Especially in the middle, the setting was the best part.

This was a good book.  Not epic but not terrible, better than “meh” but not really great.  Just … well, good.  I’m not sure if I want to read book three, The Glasswrights’ Journeyman, or not.

The Glasswright series:

  1. The Glasswright’s Apprentice
  2. The Glasswright’s Progress
  3. The Glasswright’s Journeyman
  4. The Glasswright’s Test
  5. The Glasswright’s Master
High Fantasy

Review: The Glasswrights’ Apprentice

Cover of "The Glasswrights' Apprentice," featuring a person with long blond hair in a black hooded cloak staring uneasily at an ornate throne room
Image from mindyklasky.com

Title:  The Glasswrights’ Apprentice

Series: Glasswright #1

Author:  Mindy L. Klasky

Genre:  High Fantasy

Back Cover:

Everything is measured by birth, and moving up in society is almost impossible.  That’s why Rani Trader’s merchant family sacrifices everything to buy her an apprenticeship in the Glasswrights’ Guild.  But being in the wrong place at the wrong time leaves Rani accused of the Royal Prince’s death.  Branded a traitor, Rani doesn’t know where to turn or who to trust – but she is going to clear her name.  Somehow.

Review:

I didn’t have high expectations for this book.  It was one of those I’m-grabbing-this-off-the-shelf-because-it-looks-slightly-better-than-the-other-books-in-the-adult-section kind of decisions.

And so I got my expectations knocked over and trampled on by the awesomeness that is The Glasswrights’ Apprentice.  The book starts with a suspiciously angry instructor and a murder.  And it just gets better from there.

Rani was an interesting character.  Normally, she wouldn’t be the kind of character I would really like – I prefer characters a little spicier than her.  But somehow, Mindy Klasky managed to make me like Rani anyway.  I enjoyed following her as she tried to solve the prince’s murder (although her belief that her brother could do no wrong grated on my nerves sometimes).

Normally, this would be the point where I mentioned other characters.  But even though there were a lot of characters in the book, Rani was the only one in all of it.  So, moving on…

The way they did their names was really awesome – you could tell what caste somebody was by counting the syllables in their name.  One syllable was the Touched, the casteless people.  Two syllables were traders and merchants.  Three syllables were guilds-people.  Four syllables were soldiers.  Five syllables were noblemen and royalty.  Rani tended to jump castes during the book (am I the only person who draws the connection between Rani and Jair?  Maybe that’ll play out in future books).

Funny thing – the entire plot would not be something I would normally read.  First, Rani’s trying to find the instructor she suspects killed the prince.  Then she’s trying to keep her identity secret so she doesn’t get executed for the murder, and then she’s trying to find her brother.  But somehow, it managed to hold my interest for the whole 300+ page book.  I think the amazingly well-developed (and highly interesting) setting helped with that.

I did have one thing that bugged me – any time Mair or the other Touched showed up.  Not that I had anything against them, but they had a funny accent to their speech, and Mindy Klasky wrote it like it sounded.  Which meant a lot of apostrophes.  Which meant it was a whole lot slower to read than the rest of the story.

I loved this book.  Now excuse me while I go find book two.

The Glasswright series:

  1. The Glasswrights’ Apprentice
  2. The Glasswrights’ Progress
  3. The Glasswrights’ Journeyman
  4. The Glasswrights’ Test
  5. The Glasswrights’ Master
High Fantasy

Review: Lightning’s Daughter

Cover of "Lightning's Daughter," featuring a person with long blond hair wearing a red cloak riding on a black horse
Image from risingshadow.net

Title:  Lightning’s Daughter

Series: Dark Horse #2

Author:  Mary H. Herbert

Genre:  High Fantasy

Warning:  This review will most likely contain spoilers of the previous book, Dark Horse.

Back Cover:

Gabria’s magic may have saved everyone on the Dark Horse Plains from Lord Medb, but it did very little to change people’s opinions.  Now, the clans face another magical threat – Medb’s right-hand man, Branth, is learning magic.  Despite the clans’ hatred, Gabria must use her magic once again, and hope they don’t kill her for it.

Review:

I got this book for twenty-five cents at a used book sale – and practically the only reason I bought it was because it was the sequel to Dark Horse.

And overall, it was very similar to Dark Horse.  Gabria was the same, just a little older.  Athlone was the same, too, just with a little more responsibility.  And the two plots were just about the same, too.

Last book, the evil magic user was Lord Medb.  This time it’s Branth.  Either way, Gabria must fight a magical duel with the evil magic user to save the world.  The setting changed a bit in this one – a temple, the city of Pra Desh, the plains – but the plot was just about the same.

There was a love triangle thrown in there, but it seemed forced.  I never had any doubts as to which guy Gabria was going to end up with, and half the time, I felt like the romance was just there for the sake of having a romance angle.

This wasn’t unique or outstanding, but it was a quick, interesting read.  It wasn’t amazing, it wasn’t terrible, and it wasn’t as good as Dark Horse.  It was one of those “meh” books that I could take or leave and not care either way.

The Dark Horse series:

  1. Dark Horse
  2. Lightning’s Daughter
  3. Valorian
  4. City of the Sorcerers
  5. Winged Magic
  6. Valorian’s Children
  7. Valorian’s Legacy
High Fantasy

Review: Dark Horse

Cover of "Dark Horse," featuring a person with long blond hair wearing a chain mail shirt, a red cloak, and a sword on a belt standing in front of a black horse with a burning town in the background
Image from risingshadow.net

Title:  Dark Horse

Series: Dark Horse #1

Author:  Mary H. Herbert

Genre:  High Fantasy

Back Cover:

After her entire clan is massacred by Lord Medb, Gabria takes on her brother’s identity to become a warrior and exact revenge.  But Lord Medb has resurrected the forbidden art of sorcery.  No mere sword can stand against him.  With the help of an intelligent, magical horse, Gabria is going to make him pay.  If she can keep her gender a secret long enough to learn the skills she needs…

Review:

This was a fifty-cent, bargain sale paperback – one of about ten I found in the fantasy pile.  I didn’t really have high expectations for it, but I figured for fifty cents, what the heck.  And really, I was surprised that I liked it.

Gabria was bold, stubborn, and very, very determined.  But she was also … unremarkable.  Now that I think about it, I can’t name a single characteristic that set her apart from the other characters (besides the fact that she was a girl masquerading as a boy).  She was just an average, standard character.

Athlone was also pretty unremarkable.  He was a fighter, and good at what he did, but he was still pretty standard.  Besides his instinct that something wasn’t quite right about Gabria, I couldn’t name one single unique characteristic.

The book was actually pretty standard, plot-wise.  Main character must learn special skills to defeat evil magician.  There were a few interesting minor details – like the fact that everyone in the book was a nomad, and the magical Hunnuli horses.  But other than that, it was interesting, but not really unique.

Really, the book was unremarkable.  It was interesting, but not outstanding.  I enjoyed it because I’m a high fantasy fan, but I didn’t fall head-over-heels in love with it.  I think this could serve as either YA or adult – the main character is seventeen, but it has an adult feel (although no sexual content, thankfully).

This is one of those hard books to review.  It’s not terrible, but it’s not wonderful.  It’s not boring, but it’s also not remarkable.  It was just…interesting.  High fantasy fans would like it, but if you’re not a fan of the high fantasy genre, this is not a book for you.

The Dark Horse series:

  1. Dark Horse
  2. Lightning’s Daughter
  3. Valorian
  4. City of the Sorcerers
  5. Winged Magic
  6. Valorian’s Children
  7. Valorian’s Legacy
Fantasy

Review: Mistborn

Cover of "Mistborn," featuring a short-haired girl in a dark cloak with a tall spire-like tower in the background
Image from Steve Betz

Title:  Mistborn

Series: Mistborn #1

Author:  Brandon Sanderson

Genre:  High Fantasy

Back Cover:

For a thousand years, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal Lord Ruler.  Every revolt against his cruel reign has failed.  But hope survives – and he bears the scars of the inescapable Pits.  A new kind of uprising being planned, this one built abound the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind … and the determination of a street urchin who must learn to harness the power of a Mistborn.

Review:

This is an adult book, and I don’t really like adult books.  This is a high fantasy book, and I’m not a big fan of high fantasy.  Really, the only reason I picked this up was because of the author’s name.  I’d read Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz books (a YA series that I absolutely loved), so I decided I’d give one of his adult books a chance.

And I’m completely glad I did.

Vin, the main character, I immediately liked.  She had trust issues, but I could see why.  And I was immensely happy that she decided to join with Kelsier.  It was fun watching the gifted thief girl attempt to play noblewoman.  She was smart, strong, brave, distrustful, and later, very dangerous.  She was also headstrong and stubborn.  I feel like I’ll give too much away if I say everything I liked about her, so I’ll just say she was exactly the type of heroine I like to read about.

Quick side note – Allomancy (the system of magic) is explained in the book by teaching Vin about it, so it felt like learning along side her.

Kelsier ties with Vin for my favorite character.  He had a dark (and, at the risk of sounding trite, tragic) past, but he was still optimistic.  He was also headstrong and impulsive, which is probably why he and Vin kept butting heads.  I haven’t yet come to a conclusion about rather he really was insane or not – but if he wasn’t, he was walking the edge quite a bit.  That wasn’t a bad thing, though; it added an element of unpredictable danger and excitement to the plot.  (And, I have to admit, what he did at the end is one of the reasons I’m not real interested in reading the rest of the books in the series.)

This book was really long (at least compared to most YA books), but it needed to be long to hold all the plot.  Armies, assassination plots, rebellions, oppressed people, bad magical guys keeping everyone in fear…The “original plan” at the beginning of the book changed so much that I don’t even remember what it was.  The twisting plot certainly kept me on my toes.

One thing I did wish, though, about the plot is that Vin had spent more time doing dangerous stuff and less time going to balls.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed most of the ball scenes, and they were relevant to the plot, but I wish there had either been less of them or more of other stuff.

One last thing I have to praise before I wrap this up is the system of magic.  It was brilliantly complicated – enough so that at first, I had no idea what was going on, and even at the end, I had a hard time keeping some things straight.  One main thing I liked best about this system of magic was that it had certain clear-cut limitations – large limitations, in some cases.  And the magic actually made some sort of scientific sense.  It followed logic and rules, and it could be defeated.

There are three more books in the series – The Well of Ascension, The Hero of Ages, and The Alloy of Law.  But honestly, I think Mistborn wrapped things up perfectly. I was fine with where Mistborn ended, and I’m worried that future books will try to drag out a good thing too far.

UPDATE: I re-reviewed Mistborn three  years later – read that review here.

The Mistborn series:

  1. Mistborn
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages

The Mistborn: Wax and Wane series:

  1. The Alloy of Law
  2. Shadows of Self
  3. The Bands of Mourning