Trial of Intentions (Vault of Heaven #2) ~ Peter Orullian

Trial of IntentionsISBN ~ 978-0765325723
Publisher ~ Tor Books; First Edition (May 26, 2015)
No. Of Pages ~ 672 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy, however, they chained the rogue god—and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortal kind—in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that contains them has protected humankind for millennia and the monsters are little more than tales told to frighten children. But the Veil has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have come through. To fight them, the races of men must form a great alliance to try and stop the creatures.

But there is dissent. One king won’t answer the call, his pride blinding him even to the poison in his own court. Another would see Convocation fail for his own political advantage. And still others believe Convocation is not enough. Some turn to the talents of the Sheason, who can shape the very essence of the world to their will. But their order is divided, on the brink of collapse.

Tahn Junell remembers friends who despaired in a place left barren by war. One of the few who have actually faced the unspeakable horde in battle, Tahn sees something else at work and wonders about the nature of the creatures on the other side of the Veil. He chooses to go to a place of his youth, a place of science, daring to think he can find a way to prevent slaughter, prevent war.

And his choices may reshape a world . . . .

The second title in the Vault of Heaven series, Peter Orullian’s Trial of Intentions is a mesmerizing fantasy epic that turns the conventions of the genre on its head

5 Thumbs-UpYes, this is the second instalment in the Vault of Heaven Trilogy, and yes I have read the first book although I did not review it on here; the reason for this being it is a major player in my English Literature thesis.  Unfortunately though, for this book, it is not a standalone read and therefore the first must be read to make any sense of this one.

The main protagonists are many in both books, and their stories continue in this one; we see them grow from the children we first met in The Unremembered to adults that are still connected to their inner children at times.  I usually go into great detail about my likes and dislikes of characters in the books I read, but with this cast of characters I felt the mixed emotions one has when confronted with Family and all the imperfections they bring with them.  At times I just wanted to shake some sense into them and ask ‘why?  Just why?’ and at others I was in my full cheerleading garb, pom-poms and all doing high kicks to spur them on.  One thing I did find disappointing was the forced humour in the dialogue, this had come so easily in the first book as it does between friends, but in this one it seemed as if they were just trying to keep the humour going at all costs.  I am hoping that this stilted humour is more a result of the events the characters have been through up to the end of this novel, and not an indication that the Author has lost his humourous pen.  Rather than just continue expanding on characters from the first novel, the Author brings new ones into the storyline, and some that were introduced in Book One become integral to the storyline in this novel.

Unlike Book One, Trial of Intentions is up and moving from the very first chapter; the reader has moments where the pace slows down enough for them to calm their racing pulses before picking up and propelling them through to the very end of the book.  Something I was pleased to find in this second instalment that was present in the first was a musical quality that accompanies the writing of this Author; in gentle areas easy listening folk music is brought to mind in the way the language is placed on the page and I found myself reading everything rather than skipping the ‘song’ sections as I do in Lord of The Rings or The Hobbit; even when the action really picked up it was as if somewhere just out of view there was a rock guitarist playing some riff to accompany the action.  Whereas Clockwork Angels by Kevin J Anderson was music (an album of the same name by Rush) to words, this is a book that could be translated from words to music.

All of the major plotlines end on a cliff-hanger that leaves the reader waiting with baited breath for the final book in this trilogy, hopefully it won’t be as long as the wait has being for The Doors of Stone, book three of The Kingkiller Chronicle.  Despite the cliff-hanger endings, unlike so many books that finish in this manner, this one does not leave the reader feeling that the book is unfinished and that the Author decided they’d had enough and sent it off to the publisher as is.

I highly recommend both this book, and the first in the trilogy, for those who love to read this genre.  It was expansive, it was epic and it was rich with hidden things that come out when the novel was reread (I have to say I am on my fourth reading of this book).  Like an onion with its layers, this second instalment added a depth and richness to the world in which it takes place, and I hope that the Author continues in this way in Book Three.  I will definitely be waiting to read the next novel by this Author.

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Review: Inkheart (Inkworld #1) ~ Cornelia Funke, Anthea Bell (Translator)

InkheartISBN ~ 9780439531641
Publisher ~The Chicken House
No. Of Pages ~534 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Scholastic,

Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.

Characters from books literally leap off the page in this engrossing fantasy. Meggie has had her father to herself since her mother went away when she was young. Mo taught her to read when she was five, and the two share a mutual love of books. He can “read” characters out of books. When she was three, he read aloud from a book called Inkheart and released characters into the real world. At the same time, Meggie’s mother disappeared into the story. This “story within a story” will delight not just fantasy fans, but all readers who like an exciting plot with larger-than-life characters.

5 Thumbs-UpThis book is the first of the Inkworld Trilogy, with the others in the series being Inkspell and Inkdeath.  I first was introduced to the world of Inkheart through the movie of the same name, and from watching this numerous times and also mentioning how I would love to read the book my Husband surprised me with the Trilogy.  I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about starting Inkheart, as for the movie to be so good I felt that maybe the book was truly terrible; thankfully I was wrong.  There has also been a lot of debate as to whether this Trilogy is suitable reading for the age group it is aimed at (8-12 years), but as parents are the ones who know their children it is not for me to pass comment in this area.

Surprisingly, for a book aimed at this age group, the Author has managed to create characters that are rich and full of life, so much so it almost feels as they may just come off the page and enter the real world alongside the reader.  It would have been easy for the Author to just make her characters cookie cutter images and move on with the story, but they endow them with all the personality traits, flaws and weaknesses that go into making us all so uniquely human.  Through the book the reader learns about love and loss, hatred and deceit and, although it can become a little dark at times, there is nothing that would make anyone think that these characters could not possibly exist outside the written word; I think that was the beauty of the book for me.  The Author has written a storyline that revolves around characters coming out of the book, and carries this theme into them whether they are major leads or just passing through on their way to another story.  The Author skilfully manages to keep any secrets the characters may have well hidden, making them not easy for the reader to guess until they are revealed at exactly the right moment, and in exactly the right way; a skill that many other Authors of this genre would do well to learn,

The world in which the book takes place is also very real, there are no made up locations in this book; the reader can visualise a place in Europe where all the scenery described is there.  With the colourful houses, I was transported to parts of Italy and Southern France which also included the mountains which seem to be always looming in the background in this region.  I could smell the ocean and feel the change in the wind when a storm was approaching.

This is a book lovers book, whether they like the fantasy genre or not, whether books in this age group are their thing or not.  This is a book that understands those among us that love to smell books, don’t break the spines and would be devastated if anything happened to our collections.  This is a book that says ‘hey it’s OK to be this way.  I understand and you’re not alone’.  This is an easy novel to read, and pulled me in totally from about the 4th or 5th page not letting go until I closed the back cover on it two days later.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves to read, loves books and is open to the infinite possibilities that losing themselves in a book can bring.  I already have the remaining two books in the Trilogy lined up to read, but am trying to resist as I don’t want to rush through this world without having the time to absorb everything; who knows if I’m lucky I may even be ‘read’ into it.

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Joël Champetier 1957 ~ 2015

220px-Joel_ChampetierCanadian author and editor Joël Champetier died on May 30. Champetier’s first story, “Le chemin des fleurs” appeared in Solaris in 1981 and his first novel, “La mer au fond du monde” appeared in 1990. In 1983, he helped organize the first Boréal Congress and was on the board of directors for several years. Beginning in 1990, he held various positions at Solaris and was managing editor at the time of his death.

His other works included  ” The Dragon’s Eye”, “La taupe et le dragon: Roman” and “La mémoire du lac”.

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Review: The Art of Blizzard Entertainment ~ Blizzard Entertainment

art of blizzardISBN ~ 9781608870271
Publisher ~ Insight Editions
No. Of Pages ~ 376 pages
Links ~ Insight Editions, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Over the past two decades, Blizzard Entertainment has had a tremendous impact on the world of games and global pop culture. From its humble beginnings as a three-person console-game development studio in 1991 to the creation of the blockbuster Warcraft®, StarCraft®, and Diablo® series, Blizzard has a history of crafting stunning worlds of science fiction and fantasy. The company’s distinctive gameplay and storytelling styles have captivated an international audience numbering in the tens of millions whose passion cannot be quelled.

Twenty years after Blizzard opened its doors, the company’s World of Warcraft® boasts the title of the world’s most popular subscription-based massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and the studio is widely recognized as one of the leaders in creatively driven game development.

An epic volume of art and behind-the-scenes insights, The Art of Blizzard® celebrates the studio’s genesis by examining the creative forces behind these games and showcasing their artistry through more than 700 pieces of concept art, paintings, and sketches. Commentary on the art is provided by Blizzard Entertainment’s own Nick Carpenter, Sam Didier, and Chris Metzen, who’ve each played important roles in shaping Blizzard’s game universes over the years.

5 Thumbs-UpWeighing in at 8lbs, this is a coffee table book in the true meaning of the word; my knees went numb as I was reading it on my couch.  Although, if you use the links above, it is hard to find a copy of this book for under $50, I found mine in the bargain priced section at Barnes & Noble, and if you want to splash out more money Insight Editions are selling a specially bound version.  However, if you already own all of the Collector’s Editions of Blizzard artwork books, this is probably not a purchase you will want to make, as many of the illustrations featured in it are in the previously mentioned books.

With over 700 illustrations this book covers the artwork from such iconic Blizzard games as Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft, with accompanying commentaries by the artists themselves.  It gives the reader a fascinating insight into the creative talents of the company as well as providing a visual history of Blizzard games.  What I found particularly interesting about this book was how clearly apparent the evolution and refinement of the artists techniques became as time passed, it was almost as if I were seeing physical proof of their confidence in what they were doing growing before my eyes.  Another aspect of the book I liked was the fan art submissions and how some of them were actually recruited into the Blizzard team.  This book covers everything from the early sketches right up to the completed box artwork; one of my favourite in the Diablo section was the Mistress of Pain.

Full of magnificent scenes and characters, what little text there is in this book has been thoughtfully placed so as not to intrude on the main stars of its pages, in fact in some places the writing is rather quite difficult to find and read.  This didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book in any way, but for anyone who has a visual impairment and wants to read the text for the back story to the images it may prove to be a challenge.

However, this book does not just focus on the well know side of the company, in this book there is also a section with conceptual art for games that never were as well as a spoof chapter containing holiday themes using the more well-known characters.  In reading this book you actually get a sense that you are in the same room with the creators, listening to them discuss, accept or reject ideas for the next project whilst also sharing with them a trip down memory lane.

I would highly recommend this book whether you are a fan of Blizzard games or just a lover of fantasy art; this book touches all the bases..

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Review: The Legend of Drizzt Collector’s Edition, Book I (The Dark Elf Trilogy #1-3 omnibus) ~ R.A. Salvatore

DrizztISBN ~ 978-0786953707
Publisher ~Wizards of the Coast
No. Of Pages ~944 pages
Links ~ Amazon

Drizzt Do’Urden made his first mistake the moment he was born: he was a boy. In the rigid matriarchy of the dark elf city of Menzoberranzan, that makes his life forfeit. But when his own mother tries but fails to kill him, Drizzt’s path is set. He must find a way to escape the treacherous Underdark, even if that means setting out alone into the no less dangerous World Above. 

This trilogy is the first three books in the story of Drizzt, and as such they can be read as standalone books.  In this review I will be writing about the first in this trilogy ‘Homeland’, as to review all three books in one place would lead to an almost novel length piece of writing in itself.

The male protagonist is a study of contradictions and unanswered questions; why do certain things happen to him that he either does not react to or goes completely over the top?  Despite the huge holes in his back-story I actually quite liked Drizzt and his intent, be it on purpose or just by accident, of not wanting to conform to what was expected of him.  This side of his personality gave him depth and an almost lifelike quality.  However, as I said earlier there are, in my opinion, so many question about this character that remain unanswered I did feel at times as if I were walking in fog, constantly losing my direction.  The way in which this Author portrays the female characters in this book was interesting to me, as he endows them which what could be seen as being primarily male traits.  They are cruel to the point of making the reader wince, ambitious and powerful; they are the main force behind any battles that takes place and are not at all reticent at showing their disdain for the males in their charge.  I found this to be a refreshing take on the female role in a fantasy novel, and it added considerably to the book.

The book moves along at a steady pace, and the Author has taken some time with his world building, and the description of the lead characters home provides the reader with a sweeping vista in which to place him.  Again though, as in the character development, I felt as if there were something missing here, almost as if pages were missing from my copy of the book.

Despite feeling confused at times whilst reading this, I will be reading more by this Author in the hopes that some of my many questions will be answered as the series progresses.  I would recommend this book to any lover of the fantasy genre.

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Review: The Abhorsen Chronicles (The Abhorsen Trilogy, #1-3) ~ Garth Nix

AbhorsenISBN ~ 978-0061441820
Publisher ~ HarperTeen
No. Of Pages ~ 1232 pages
Links ~ Abe Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sabriel
Every step brings Sabriel closer to a battle that will pit her against the true forces of life and death—and bring her face-to-face with her own destiny.

Lirael
With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil, which threatens the fate of the Old Kingdom.

Abhorsen
The Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone are missing, and Lirael must search in both Life and Death for some means to defeat the evil Destroyer—before it is too late.

2 Thumbs-UpThis is a huge book even by my standards, and to add to the confusion it is one of those that, by some strange reason is known under a different title depending on where in the world you live; for example in the Authors native Australia this book is entitled The Old Kingdom Chronicles.  It is also a trilogy that not many fantasy readers appear to know about.  As for me it took me some time to actually finish reading this, and that was not due to its size.

The characters in all three of the books, in my opinion, could have benefitted from a lot more time spent in their development.  None of them really gripped me and made me want to invest more of my time in getting to know them.  I really was expecting to like the characters, but they were flat and very one-dimensional people who seemed to enjoy a lot of walking.  You would have to read the books to understand that reference.  Having said this, the character of Sabriel in the first book of the three was, by far, the most interesting of any in the Chronicles; she is a determined young woman with a definite plan for her life.  When curve balls are thrown at her she is able to adapt and think on her feet making her the most impressionable of all the characters in these books.  What really would have  helped the characters come into their own in these books would have been more background and explanation into how they learned their skills and came to be in the place they are when the books open.

The world in which these books are set could have been so much more.  It was a wonderful concept but I felt that the Author really did not do it justice and, like his character development, it would have benefitted from more time being spent in the descriptive aspects.   At no time did I feel as if I had actually been transported into this world and was experiencing the events occurring; in a good fantasy novel a reader should feel themselves transported to the alternate world, as that is part of the pull of this genre.

After buying this trilogy on the recommendation of a friend, I now wish that I had kept my money in my pocket and will be donating my copy to the local library.  If long and plodding fantasy books are something you enjoy, this is probably the book series for you; if not I would recommend you give this a miss.

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Review: Redwall (Redwall #1) ~ Brian Jacques

RedwallISBN ~ 978-1862301382
Publisher ~ Red Fox
No. Of Pages ~ 352 pages
Links ~  Amazon, Redwall Abbey

Redwall Abbey, tranquil home to a community of peace-loving mice is threatened by Cluny the Scourge – the evil-one-eyed rat warlord – and his battle-hardened horde of predators. Cluny is certain that Redwall will fall easily to his fearsome army but he hasn’t bargained for the courage and strength of the combined forces of the Redwall mice and their loyal woodland friends.

4 Thumbs-UpThis book, and the subsequent others that followed became a staple in our house as my children grew up, or rather as my son grew up; he couldn’t get enough of them.  So I was greatly surprised when I came across them in a box the other day, and decided to start my journey through them again at Redwall Abbey.

This is definitely a children’s book and as such it has a simplified cast of characters that younger readers can easily connect to and travel with on their adventures.  Through the characters in these books young readers can learn a lot about life and the differences between us, without being overwhelmed and feel as if they are being educated while they read.  There are villains which will make you boo and hiss; good guys that will have the reader cheering them on and wishing them well , but all of them are animals and I mean this in the literal sense.  For those who have not read any of these books their main characters, and the remainder of the cast of hundreds are mice, foxes, rats (boo hiss) and badgers.

The book is excellently written, its descriptive wording makes the reader savour the sentence, the act or the food.  I loved the way in which the food was described, in fact in some places it actually made my stomach growl.  Another thing that would keep young readers engrossed is the way in which the Author is able to change settings and points of view without coming over as confused.  Through this constant change the reader is able to experience both sides of the conflict laid out in books pages, and gain knowledge of the strategies used in both camps.

This is an excellent read for both the intended age group and any adult who is looking for something simple and interesting to read to while away a few hours.

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