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

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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

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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-)

Fantasy

Review: New Sight by Jo Schneider

New Sight book cover
Image from Jolly Fish Press; used by permission

Title: New Sight

Author: Jo Schneider

Genre: Fantasy

Releases: April 22, 2014

Most sixteen years olds’ biggest worries revolve around school dances and good grades, but Lysandra Blake has a much bigger problem to worry about: She wants to rip peoples’ eyes out.

When Lys finds herself tied down in a psych ward after attacking her own mother, everybody around her is convinced she’s gone insane. The doctors don’t have answers, and Lys is about ready to give up when the mysterious Mr. Mason appears, telling Lys that she’s not insane—she’s addicted to a rare and deadly drug that she has no recollection of using. With this knowledge, Lys is thrown headfirst into a world of daunting, magical powers that are not only unbelievable; they are extremely dangerous.

The synopsis sounded a lot like there would be psychic powers, but it was listed as fantasy, not paranormal. So I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but magic and psychics are both good with me. Plus, the mental illness angle sounded awesome. So I figured I’d try it.

Lys was interesting. She was protective and brave, and didn’t really think about herself when someone else was in trouble. But she could be naive and slow to pick up on things (or that could just be that I picked up on stuff faster than average). I absolutely loved the fascinating descriptions of her mental-illness thing. Even though the narration was third person, I had to double-check that fact because her emotions came across so well.

Brady, a fellow inmate/drug-addict/whatever-you-want-to-call-him, was my favorite character. He was the light-hearted, fun one, who always seemed happy and optimistic. The ending definately raised my opinion of him, too.

I only half liked Kamau (another inmate). The reader part of me thought he was a little too much of a perfect love interest (at least until the end when he started to play much more into the plot). The teenage girl part of me wished I could find a sweet, caring guy like him.

New Sight kind of had an ensemble cast. I say “kind of” because even though there are a lot if I were to name them all, they were never onstage all at once. So the story didn’t usually feel too crowded, but there are far more characters I could mention if I had the space.

This synopsis is one of those that gives you a teaser of the first few chapters – because that’s about how long this one lasts for. Then it moves on. There’s a group working against Mr. Mason which may or may not be evil (or maybe Mr. Mason is the evil one). Lys and a group of friends go on the run from these people. And that’s about as far as I’ll go, for risk of spoilers – but it gets better.

I absolutely loved the idea behind New Sight. This kind of magic isn’t exactly original, but that it acts kind of like a psychic power and kind of like a drug…brilliant!

New Sight was original, fascinating, brilliant…and I wish spoilers weren’t a problem, because I’d love to mention so much more of the plot. There’s so much more than you read on the back cover, and it gets so much better. I totally enjoyed the read. There’s not much sequel room here, but I’d be interested to find out what Jo Schneider is writing next.

I received a free ARC of New Sight from the publisher. Their generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Fiction, High Fantasy, Young Adult

Review: Healer’s Touch by Deb Howell

Healer's Touch book cover
Image from Deb E. Howell

Title: Healer’s Touch

Author: Deb E. Howell

Genre: High Fantasy

For Llew, a young pickpocket who lives on the streets, the real problems begin when she survives the gallows. Forced to run, she persuades a group of fighters escorting a girl to her wedding to let her travel with them. On the journey Llew faces hostile tribesmen, desperate bandits, and the enmity of her own companions should they find out who and what she is: a girl, a fugitive, and a feared Healer. One of the fighters, Jonas, possesses superhuman prowess as a warrior, and carries the knife able to ‘kill the unkillable’; the knife that can kill Llew. Despite being of races at war for centuries, they are drawn to one another.

I picked this up for two main reasons. First, I liked the concept of a girl with the gift of healing by hurting other people. And second, it was free.

Honestly, I probably shouldn’t have finished this book. It was far too loose in the morals department. Sex with random people was commonplace for almost all of the characters. For the most part, I liked everybody – especially tough and determined Llew and dangerous Jonas – but they were all a bit too promiscuous for my taste.

Besides the excessive sex, my other problem with Healer’s Touch was getting a little confused. There was the exact number of Llew’s traveling companions: there were somewhere between three and six guys, and between nicknames and minor roles, I’m not really sure. And with not knowing how many men there were, it was hard to keep track of how many knew Llew was a girl (that was one secret that didn’t stay secret for long). And the last confusing part was the various magic people. Llew was one kind of healer person, and Jonas was one kind of something else, but I think there were two other types – or maybe subsets of types? Still not sure about that.

If you manage to keep track of everything and don’t mind the sex, it was actually a pretty good book. Llew is trying to come to terms with the destructive nature of her power and trying to avoid the witch hunt that’s after her. Jonas is known for killing her kind. And Jonas’s evil half-brother Braph has “magic” that is powered by blood of people like Llew. Plenty of action, but more magicky stuff than fights, and lots of suspense.

The plot managed to keep me interested, which is the only reason I finished it. It had a good basic story. Unfortunately, the excessive sex killed it for me.