High Fantasy

Review: Of Fire and Stars

Cover of "Of Fire and Stars," featuring silhouettes of two princesses on a blue background with gold calligraphy text
Image from Audrey Coulthurst

Title: Of Fire and Stars

Author: Audrey Coulthurst

Genre: High Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Death, burning alive, torture mention

Back Cover:

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile nations. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire–a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses–and her teacher is the person who intimidates her the most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine–called Mare–the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms–and each other.

Review:

I never used to be into books about court drama, but Of Fire and Stars completely changed my opinion.

Honestly, I wasn’t super excited about this book–yeah, it was queer and it looked good, but it wasn’t at the top of my list. I ended up picking it up because I needed another book and this one was easy to locate at the library. And it totally blew me away.

First, there was Denna. She was brilliant. She’d done a lot of studying in her preparation to become queen of Mynaria, but she was still “I’ve looked at this map twice and now I have it memorized” brilliant. I can’t find the words for what else I want to say about her–besides brilliant, there weren’t a lot of characteristics that stood out–but she was an absolutely fantastic character and the kind of person I’d hope to be if I were a princess.

Mare was, as it says on the back cover, an unconventional princess. She would rather wear riding breeches than ball gowns and valued independence above all else … and she also did quite a bit of sneaking out of the castle to gather information from spies, which was awesome. In retrospect, she was the kind of stereotypical tomboyish don’t-want-to-be-a-princess princess, but she didn’t feel like that while reading.

The cool part is the story is told in alternating perspectives, so you get both sides and the inner thoughts and feelings of both girls. And the romance between them is built slowly but the chemistry is undeniable.

It’s been a long, long time since I read a court drama book–which is a lot of what this is. Yeah, there’s some sneaking out of the castle and some “who’s behind this assassination?” but there’s also a lot of social niceties (and trying to do non-princess-y stuff without betraying all of the social niceties) and arguing with the council and “you have to do your duty because you’re a princess” stuff. And it was honestly fantastic.

Also, you know the trope of “main character is so much more powerful than other magic users”? This book uses that trope. But differently. It kinda turns the trope on its head and I love it.

I don’t have enough good things to say about this book. The characters were great, the plot was awesome, and even the setting, though a pretty standard high fantasy setting, was cool. I thoroughly enjoyed it. And though the ending wrapped things up nicely and a sequel isn’t necessary, I would enjoy one.

Did Not Finish, Fantasy

Did Not Finish: The Young Elites

Cover of "The Young Elites," featuring the title on a background of storm clouds. The "T" in the word "Elites" is replaced with a sword.
Image from Marie Lu

Title: The Young Elites

Author: Marie Lu

Genre: Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Parental abuse (physical and emotional)

Back cover: 

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

Read to: CD 6 of 8 (I “read” this as an audiobook)

Review:

I really enjoyed Marie Lu’s Legend, and The Young Elites has been on my reading list for a while. I finally picked it up because I was looking for audiobooks to listen to on my commute to work and it was part of my library’s small selection. And also because special abilities + vengeance = a dark fantasy that should be right up my alley.

As you might have guessed, I wasn’t the hugest fan. But there were really a lot of good things about this book, and what made me give up on it was actually relatively minor. So let’s start with what was good about it.

  • The world was fantastic. It felt like a fantasy southern Europe (like Spain or Italy) with Renaissance elements, and it was just plain beautiful.
  • The minor characters were pretty cool. Each was unique and had their own personalities and quirks, and there were those great characters you love to hate. (And there was even a bisexual male sex worker who was a major member of the Dagger Society and no one looked down on him for his sex work, which I thought was the coolest thing.)
  • The plot is barely touched on in the back cover, but it was not at all what I expected and it was great. (I’m not giving away any spoilers.)

All the main elements were solid and I enjoyed them. But like I said, it was minor details that I took issue with. Such as the fact that Teren is mentioned in the back cover like he’s going to be a major character and he’s really glossed over. I think he got three (very short) chapters in the entirety of what I read, and there were some interesting things going on with him, but the book doesn’t spend enough time with him to flesh it out and make it anything more than a confusing distraction from Adelina.

The romance was another minor detail that bothered me. It started off slow enough that I could look past it, but it was starting to pick up when I stopped. It was just so aggressively … trope-y? I’m not really sure how to describe it, but there was a bit of a love triangle even though it was obvious which guy was the “real” love interest and it had the whole we-both-like-each-other-but-we’re-not-going-to-say-anything-and-pretend-nothing-is-happening-even-though-it’s-obvious thing going on

The beginning is also very flashback-heavy with Adelina remembering life with her abusive father, and that was … it was hard. It was hard to read and hard to think about, and if you’ve experienced any sort of abuse it’s probably not going to be good for you.

There was one main issue that finally made me stop, though. Adelina is put in a position where she has to choose between the Dagger Society and her sister (it’s more complicated, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers). And there’s a huge running theme of her moral dilemma – should she tell the Daggers and ask for their help or just betray them? Several times she gets close to telling Enzo and chickens out. But then she’s presented with a perfect opportunity where they wouldn’t even suspect she’s been dealing with this for a while and she STILL DOESN’T TAKE IT. And that’s where I stopped. Being put in a bad position is one thing, actively making your situation worse because you don’t take the opportunities that smack you over the head is a completely different (and endlessly frustrating) thing.

I looked at the Goodreads reviews for this book, and there’s a lot of them that have nothing but good things to say about The Young Elites. And I can see why. There’s a lot of good things in here. It’s dark and poetic and has a solid world and a great plot. It just wasn’t the book for me.

The Young Elites series:

  1. The Young Elites
  2. The Rose Society
  3. The Midnight Star
High Fantasy

Review: Huntress

The cover of Huntress, featuring a black-haired girl wearing a black dress holding a long staff in front of her.
Image from Malinda Lo

Title: Huntress

Author: Malinda Lo

Genre: High Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Violence/blood/gore

Back Cover:

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Taninli, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

Review:

I picked this up mainly because fantasy gays. (Seriously, I had been complaining to my boyfriend earlier that afternoon about how there weren’t enough fantasy books with gay people and discovered this on my trip to the library.) I’ve also heard good things about Malinda Lo, so that was also a plus.

Even though there are some chapters from Taisin’s perspective, most of the book focuses on Kaede (but then again, so does most of the action). At the beginning, she’s at a school for sages, but she’s not very good at the magic stuff and prefers to be out in the garden or throw knives with the groundskeeper – kinda the stereotypical tomboy misfit. She has a bit of angst going on, but she’s still a fun character.

Taisin is Kaede’s complete opposite, a quiet, studious, and extremely gifted sage. You don’t get to know her as well as Kaede throughout the book, but I got enough to feel almost protective of her – yeah, she’s crazy powerful, but she’s also just a sweet little innocent girl who’s not really cut out for all the dangerous adventuring. Her and Kaede are a classic case of “opposites attract” and it’s adorable.

As far as plot goes, it was actually a pretty creative one. Most of the story focuses on Kaede and Taisin’s journey to the land of the Fairies, and the adventures and mishaps that happen along the way.  …Put that way it sounds pretty tame, but it definitely was not. (In case you couldn’t tell from the trigger warning.) People die. Sometimes very violently. Our main characters also have to kill some things. It’s a lot darker than I expected, but in a good way.

Some things I’ve seen about this book (online and also on the back cover) talked about its “Asian flair,” but though I was excited about that, it really didn’t come through at all for me. There was nothing in the setting that I recognized as Asian, the fairy part felt very Western … if you stretch a little bit I suppose you could describe some of the settings as Asian, but I didn’t see any of the Asian flair it promised, which was disappointing.

One thing that was refreshing, though, was there didn’t seem to be any homophobia in this society. It’s made clear in the beginning that some students at Kaede and Taisin’s all-girls school had clandestine relationships, and no one seems to bat an eye when they discover Kaede is only into girls (except her father, but that seems to be only because he wants to marry her off to a man for political reasons). It was kinda nice that Kaede and Taisin could be awkwardly and adorably gay without dealing with disapproving people.

Also, if you’re looking for a happy ending, this is not your book. (But it’s still a good read despite that.)

The main plot wraps up really nicely, even if the very end seems a little rushed. But as I thought about it after I finished it, there were a lot of plot threads that were just left dangling and questions that are never answered. And as far as I know, there’s no sequel – you’re just left with the unanswered questions and wondering what happened to those subplots.

Overall, it was a good book. Not great, certainly, but solidly good. I probably wouldn’t read it again, but I don’t regret this read.

High Fantasy

Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

Cover of "The Well of Ascension," featuring a short-haired girl in a gray skirt attacking what appears to be white, fleshy monsters
Image from Brandon Sanderson

Title: The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: High Fantasy

Warning: This book is second in a series, so this review probably has spoilers of book one. If you haven’t read Mistborn, proceed with caution.

Back cover:

Evil has been defeated. The war has just begun.

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

Review:

After how awesome Mistborn was, even as a reread, I jumped at this book (minus a small break to read Waistcoats and Weaponry). I barely bothered to read the back cover, I was so excited to get started.

I will confess, though, it took me a little bit to get into it. Mistborn wrapped up so well that there really were no open ends to explore in a beginning, and it almost felt like starting a brand-new book, plot-wise – it was 95% set-up. But it wasn’t long until I got absorbed again.

Almost all of the characters in The Well of Ascension were the same as Mistborn, but had different roles. Kelsier’s team has much smaller roles; Elend was a main character (and got a freaking lot of development, which I loved). Zane, Straff Venture’s Mistborn, was an insane (literally) but interesting addition to the cast. And kandra OreSeur had a much more prominent role, which made things interesting.

This book was a lot more character-centric than I expected. Half of the plot was the characters’ emotional response to problems. And because the characters felt real and human and full of confusing and contradicting feelings, it was awesome. It would probably be less awesome if you don’t like the characters, but I loved them, so no issue there.

All these characters were freaking smart. That’s most of what made the plot so gripping. The obvious answer is never the answer because the characters are too smart for that. Everything was hidden under two or more layers of deception. They were smarter than me, actually – I could never guess the right answer.

There is a lot of politics in this book. Elend and company are trying to create a whole new government – a semblance of a constitutional monarchy after a thousand years of dictatorship. Normally I don’t like politics, but I was actually kind of interested in these. Part of that was there was so much other stuff intertwined with it that it didn’t feel much like politics, and part of that was I loved the characters.

The two main parts of this plot are politics and emotions. It was fascinating watching idealistic Elend try to put together his dream government with former slaves and position-less nobles, and deal with it when it didn’t work the way he hoped. And then there was Vin. She had a lot of stuff to deal with, from her and the man she loves being (she thinks irreconcilably) different to her main skill being killing things. It had the potential to get boring and overdone, but since there were so many things, it didn’t for me.

I don’t want to say too much because 1, I don’t want to spoil it, and 2, there’s no possible way I could cover all the brilliant little details. So I guess I’ll just say the plot (once it got started) was the kind of plot that makes you want to devour a 600+ page book in a day.

Again, the Mistborn world is AMAZING. And in this book, we get to learn a lot more about this world. And not just the “so this is how that works” stuff – it was mostly mind-blown, “holy crap I did not see that coming” stuff. Even the characters got surprised by a lot of the stuff. Brandon Sanderson is great at writing a lot of things, but world-building has to be his best.

It’s really hard to discuss the individual elements of this book because everything is intertwined. Characters influence plot, world influences politics, and everything has an effect on everything else. But even though that makes it hard for me to review, I love it – because those kinds of books are the best ones, the ones that feel real.

My final verdict in three words: NEED BOOK THREE! Not only was The Well of Ascension fabulous (I might even go as far as to say better than Mistborn), it ended on a cliffhanger. So I definitely need to get my hands on The Hero of Ages ASAP.

The Mistborn series:

  1. Mistborn (sometimes subtitled “The Final Empire”)
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages

The Wax and Wayne Mistborn series:
(a companion series with Mistborn magic in the early 1900s)

  1. The Alloy of Law
  2. Shadows of Self (October 6, 2015)
  3. The Bands of Mourning (January 2016)
  4. The Lost Metal (tentative title)

High Fantasy

Review: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson, reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from Delicious Reads

Title: Mistborn (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:

I read Mistborn three years ago, and my final verdict was “it’s a really good book, but I’m not interested in sequels.” But Brandon Sanderson is my boyfriend’s favorite author and Mistborn is his favorite series, so he’s been “encouraging” me to finish the series for as long as we’ve been dating. And since I found myself with a lot of spare time to read during a family road trip, I figured I might as well reread the whole series.

Vin is skaa (basically peasant/slave), using her supernatural Luck to survive as part of a thief band in the brutal slums of Luthadel. She grew up with the promise that everyone would abandon her eventually, and spent her life perfecting the art of being unnoticeable. So when the story starts, she’s independent, smart, courageous, and very distrustful. Her character development is great, though, and as she slowly makes friends, she slowly becomes a better and better character to read about.

Kelsier, survivor of the Pits and orchestrater of rebellions, was awesome. Mainly because he was nuts. Sometimes he made me laugh from the sheer insanity of his audacious stunts. But his devil-may-care attitude contrasted with his intense devotion to the people he cared about, and his careless audacity hides a sad past. He is quite possibly my favorite fantasy character ever.

This review is going to be really long anyway, so I’m not going to mention any other characters. But all of them were great. Even the ones that seemed minor turned out to be important in some way. And they all have unique and different personalities.

As far as plot goes, it actually had a classic “hero’s journey” plot. To shamelessly paraphrase a fabulous Goodreads review:

[Kid with weird name] is only a [unimportant social standing], but suddenly discovers they [have weird and/or cool power or calling]. They are the only one who can [epic world-changing quest]. Luckily, even though they are totally new at this, they quickly become better than anyone else at [weird power or skill].

That’s not to say the plot wasn’t good, though. There’s a reason that plot is a classic – it works! Especially with Sanderson writing it. Watching Vin go from skaa thief to Mistborn and join Kelsier’s quest to overthrow the Lord Ruler was quite enjoyable (especially with Kelsier’s crazy antics), and I enjoyed watching Vin learn and grow. But quite honestly, the main reason this (I hate to say it, but somewhat uncreative) plot works is because of three things: Kelsier’s practically insane plans, the world, and the magic.

(Side note: The first time I read Mistborn, I complained that Vin spent too much time going to balls. I had no such complaints this time around – I thought it was a good balance. Although that could be because the balls were where the faint hint of romance happened, and I’ve become much more accepting of romance subplots as I’ve gotten older.)

The magic and world were FANTASTIC. Admittedly, I’ve only read five of Sanderson’s many works, but he is awesome at creating magic systems and building worlds. The whole world in this story, from the glittering balls of the nobility to the filthy slums to a landscape so bleak the idea of green plants seems strange, is brilliantly imagined and vividly described without including a lot of description. And the magic of Allomancy – metals-based and full of limitations, with powers ranging from amazing to almost useless-seeming – is amazingly original. If it sounds like I’m being vague, I am, because watching all the pieces fall into place for the first time is so much fun.

I actually liked this book more the second time around. The awesome magic and world were incredibly detailed, which I loved, but with something as unique as Mistborn, it’s easy to get lost. Even by the time I finished it the first time, I had a hard time keeping things straight. Rereading it three years later actually made it better, because I had forgotten enough that it was fun to discover again, but I remembered enough that I wasn’t totally lost and I could pick up on the nuances I missed the first time.

One thing I feel is important to mention – this is an adult book, but it’s not an adult book. It’s remarkably clean for adult high fantasy and even the word choices read more like young adult. (Plus Vin is only 16, so that certainly gives it a more YA feel.)

Mistborn was good the first time, but it was even better as a reread, mostly because I understood all the wonderful complexities better. This time, I actually am interested in reading the rest of the series – and not just because my boyfriend says I should. I would love to spend another book with these characters (but mostly that world…).

The Mistborn series:

  1. Mistborn (sometimes subtitled “The Final Empire”)
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages

The Wax and Wayne Mistborn series:
(a companion series with Mistborn magic in the early 1900s)

  1. The Alloy of Law
  2. Shadows of Self (October 6, 2015)
  3. The Bands of Mourning (January 2016)
  4. The Lost Metal (tentative title)
Fantasy

Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson, reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from Brandon Sanderson

Title: The Rithmatist

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Back cover:

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings—merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery, one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

Review:

This is one of those books where I’d planned on reading it at some point when I had some free time, but wasn’t going out of my way for it. My boyfriend is a huge Brandon Sanderson fan, though, and watching him get really excited about finding this in the library made me excited to read it, too.

I really enjoyed Joel. He was talented, ambitious dedicated to the point of stubbornness sometimes, and freaking smart. He made bad decisions sometimes, but he always had a clear, well-planned reason for it. He could also be a little hesitant and overly cautious, so I think he and impulsive Melody made a good team.

Melody was a surprisingly minor character, and to me, she was somehow both irritating and endearing at the same time. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or do something crazy and stupid. Her personality stood out despite her being not a major character.

The plot is kind of a murder/kidnapping mystery – kids disappearing from their houses and leaving trails of blood. Plus there’s the plot where Joel desperately wants to be a Rithmatist but can’t. Those are the main focus of the story, but there’s so many little threads weaving through the plot that it’s hard to condense it to just a sentence or three. (Although for me, the plot was secondary to the amazing steampunk-esque world and fascinating magic system.)

Who exactly is the bad guy in this story? I couldn’t answer that question until it was revealed in the end. One of the bad guys I never suspected; another, I waffled back and forth on his allegiances. Due to my plot psychic-ness, I was delighted to find that yet again, Brandon Sanderson managed to keep me guessing.

Brandon Sanderson may be the most insanely creative author I’ve ever read. The magic system of The Rithmatist was unique and absolutely amazing. Rithmatics uses chalk lines with different properties to make things happen – lines to defend themselves, lines to shoot at other things, creatures to attack other creatures, battles and duels and everything two-dimensional since it’s drawing magic. It was absolutely fantastic.

And I just have to mention the final scene – no spoilers, but let me just say it was epic. I didn’t see it coming, but I had a moment where I just wanted to completely fangirl and squeal, “oh my gosh that’s so perfect!”

I really shouldn’t have been so hesitant to read this book – after all, Brandon Sanderson is an amazing writer and pretty much anything he writes is guaranteed to be epic. Now I just need to know when the next book is going to happen.

The Rithmatist series:

  1. The Rithmatist
  2. Currently untitled

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

THE RITHMATIST scored a 3.8 (A)

High Fantasy

Review: Eon by Alison Goodman

Eon
Image from Alison Goodman

Title: Eon (or The Two Pearls of Wisdom) (Eon #1)

Author: Alison Goodman

Genre: High Fantasy

For years, Eon’s life has been focused on magical study and sword-work, with only one goal: to be chosen as a Dragoneye, an apprentice to one of the twelve energy dragons of good fortune. But Eon has a dangerous secret. He is actually Eona, a sixteen-year-old girl masquerading as a twelve-year-old boy. Females are forbidden to use dragon magic – the penalty is death. When Eona’s secret threatens to come to light, she and her allies are plunged into grave danger and a struggle for the Imperial throne. Eona must find the strength and inner power to battle those who wish to take her magic…and her life.

Eon has been languishing on my to-read list for years. Chinese mythology is fun, and girls disguising themselves as boys usually makes for some fun plots. I bought this on a whim back in February, and I just now got around to reading it.

Eon/Eona…first off, I’m not sure which to call her. Eona had spent so long repressing her femininity and being Eon that most of the time she was more Eon than Eona. So anyway, for the most part, I liked her. Occasionally I got annoyed that she didn’t figure things out sooner, but it could just be me being a plot predictor. But overall, I enjoyed watching her navigate the story.

The plot started out so simple. Eon the cripple was trying to hide that he’s really a girl and be chosen as the Rat Dragon apprentice. That’s all. Then after the ceremony where the Rat Dragon chooses an apprentice, things get messy. A ruthless Dragoneye intent on taking all the power, secrets being kept and discovered, lies told, allies and enemies and dragons making a delightful mess. The plot more than made up for anything I didn’t like about Eon/Eona.

Through the whole book, the names annoyed me. This was obviously China, but nobody had Chinese names! Then I got to the end and found an author’s note that said while the world was based off China and Japan, it was actually completely made up. So I can’t really complain about it, but I wish the note had been in the beginning.

I was quite pleased with Eon. And it ended on a semi-cliffhanger – bad enough that I’m definitely going to have to read Eona, but not so bad that I have to run out and buy it immediately.

The Eon duology:

  1. Eon
  2. Eona

Report Card

For more on my grading system, please see my About page.

EON scored a 3.5 (A-)

Urban Fantasy

Review: Win the Rings by K.D. Van Brunt

Win the Rings
Image from K.D. Van Brunt; used by permission

Title: Win the Rings (Cracked Chronicles #1)

Author: K.D. Van Brunt

Genre: Urban Fantasy

The Army’s most valuable weapon is not any kind of gun, missile or tank. It is kids—kids who are special, trained, lethal. Jace is one of them. She has been the property of the Army since they found her when she was five. But the Army does not control all special kids. Gray is one that got away, and he has spent most of his sixteen years hiding from the Army.

Now, the Army has found out about Gray and they cannot allow him to roam free. Operating on the theory that it takes one to catch one, Jace is sent out with a special ops squad to hunt Gray down, but Jace is not the only one pursuing him. She has competition, and the competition is after her too. What ensues is a desperate chase through city after city as duty and honor collide with love and sacrifice, as Jace must decide whether the enemy of my enemy might be my friend.

I was not super excited about this book going in. The cover was meh (yes, I judge books by their covers) and I didn’t understand the title, but the back cover copy sounded just interesting enough that I said, “why not.”

Jace reminded me a lot of Max from the Maximum Ride books, if Max had never escaped the School. And trust me, that’s a high compliment – Max is one of my all-time favorite characters. She didn’t have Max’s sarcasm, but she had the tenacity and the awesome kick-butt skills. I loved her.

I also enjoyed Grey, who was actually a point-of-view character. He was Jace’s opposite in many ways – much less violent and angry, and a lot fewer skills – but while I loved Jace for the awesomeness, I loved Grey for his humanness. He loved his sister and was willing to make a lot of sacrifices to keep her safe.

This was like the best of both plots. There was Jace’s side with the army stuff and impressing the heck out of people who aren’t accustomed to the idea of a shapeshifting teenage government agent. Then there was Grey’s side, living on the run, using his shapeshifting to steal from thieves, and trying to live some semblance of a normal life. Even the details of shapeshifting were great. It was all completely fabulous.

Win the Rings was a surprise hit for me. I absolutely loved it. And I can’t wait to read the next book, whenever it comes out.

I received a free review copy of Win the Rings from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Cracked Chronicles:

Prequel: The Demler Incident

  1. Win the Rings
  2. Currently Untitled (February 2015)

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WIN THE RINGS scored a 3.7 (A)

High Fantasy

Review: Thane by Travis Bow

Thane
Image from Travis Bow; used by permission

Title: Thane (Everknot #1)

Author: Travis Daniel Bow

Genre: High Fantasy

Timothy was only two years old when Botan was betrayed to the Huctans. He doesn’t remember the razing, or the harrowed escape, or even his own parents. What he does know is his love for his brother, his contempt for himself, and his powerlessness against the Huctans.

But the time for keeping head down and heart guarded is over. Timothy has a chance to join the rebels, to learn from the once-famous masters of combat and espionage, to throw himself into a cause that he would die for.

A chance to become a Thane. And he’s taking it.

I didn’t have super high expectations for this book. The summary was just vague enough that I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I had no idea what a Thane was (some sort of magician?), but the rebellion part was interesting enough to make me pick it up.

Timothy was a great character, and I could relate to him in a lot of ways. His social awkwardness around people his own age reminded me of me as a younger teen. And his desire to do something important, without having any idea what he should be doing, is a feeling I know very well. I loved him so much.

I also enjoyed Robert, Timothy’s brother. He was Timothy’s complete opposite in many ways, but he had strengths of his own. He wasn’t a major player in the beginning, but he became more important towards the end, and I’m looking forward to more of him in future books.

There were some interesting other characters, too, especially Timothy’s fellow thanes. None of them were majorly important, but they made great supporting characters.

I felt like this was a lot of a setup book. That’s not to say there wasn’t action or excitement or plot, because there was. But it focused on Timothy becoming a thane and setting up the major battles. There were rebels in Thane, but the actual fighting didn’t start until the end. There was lots of action here, but I bet there will be much more in the next books.

The thing I loved the most about the book was Timothy’s Thane training. It was like medieval spying, but better. I want somebody to put together a Thane curriculum, because I would totally buy that.

Thane blew my expectations out of the water. I thoroughly loved the story. And that ending…. Book two had better be coming out soon, because I want more.

I received a free review copy of Thane from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

The Everknot series:

  1. Thane

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THANE scored a 4.0 (A)

High Fantasy

Review: Daughter of Vengeance by David Temrick

Daughter of Vengeance
Image from David Temrick; used by permission

Title: Daughter of Vengeance

Author: David Temrick

Genre: High Fantasy

After being kidnapped from her safe, if unexciting, apprenticeship and suffering abuse at the hands of a minor noble, Michelle has had enough. A survivor at heart, she befriends a master assassin who takes Michelle as her apprentice. Her new taskmaster is demanding, but Michelle is resolute in her desire to prove herself worthy. After years of training and careful planning, she begins her life as one of the King’s many spies and returns to the world much more prepared for the trials that await her. A plot has slowly been unraveling which will destroy the fragile peace of the Kingdom of Rouen and plunge the world into chaos and war. Can Michelle rise above the short-comings and failures of her predecessors and set right the wrongs done centuries before? Will her life be the price she pays for the sins of others?

I’m not a massive high fantasy fan, but I do love a good assassin story. So it didn’t take a whole lot of convincing to get me to pick this up.

Michelle was not exactly what I expected. She was abused before she became an assassin, and with her past and her occupation, I expected she’d be a hard, bury-my-emotions character (or a crazy, angry one). But she wasn’t. She was more mildly traumatized than anything. I liked her, but she wasn’t what I thought she would be.

Michelle worked on her own quite a bit, and she traveled between batches of characters. So even though there were a lot of other characters in the book, none of them had really enough page time for me to comment on them.

The story starts out all nice and simple – Michelle is kidnapped and used as a concubine, an assassin takes out her kidnapper and takes her on as an apprentice. Then it goes all sorts of different directions. There’s assassin training, some magical stuff, good assassins and evil assassins, death threats, and even a messed-up romance. And, of course, lots of great action.

One thing I thought was a neat touch was the afterlife perspective. Michelle’s story was interspersed with her dead father’s reactions as he watches her life play out. Some of the dead relatives were great characters, and I thought the whole idea of her dad watching was cool.

Daughter of Vengeance needed a good copyedit. The punctuation was terrible and it became confusing character soup at times. But the story itself was strong enough that I’m willing to overlook it. Violence aside, Daughter of Vengeance was a good read.

I received a free review copy of Daughter of Vengeance from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

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DAUGHTER OF VENGEANCE scored a 3.0 (B-)