Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) ~ Brandon Sanderson

mistbornISBN ~ 978-0765311788
Publisher ~ Tor Books
No. Of Pages ~ 537 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Macmillan

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?
In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage – Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

4 Thumbs-UpIf you have a need to be anti-social for a while, and don’t we all at some time or another, this is the book for you and despite its title it is the first in the Mistborn series.  After featuring it in an article of what people might like to read while game of Thrones was off the air, I decided I would give this a try to see if it really was a worthy substitute.

I was immediately pulled into this book from the first line, and soon felt comfortable with characters that I came to regard as the mains in this epic.  There is a strong female who, despite all odds, manages to survive and then actually thrive in this bizarre environment the Author places her in.  Add to this a loveable rogue who teaches her everything she needs to know about using her newly found powers, and this all adds to up characters that readers can connect to and want to follow on their travels. However, not all the characterizations in this book are as well done as these two I have mentioned, some of them were lacking in descriptiveness and I found myself at some points hard pushed to remember their role in the plot.

It is often hard for an Author in this genre to come up with something new and different, but it appears in this book.  The ‘magic’ used in its pages was unique and used items that I had not come across before in other books.  From the way the magic is described and explained it is obvious that a lot of thought went into this system as the Author wrote this book, and it works well as it plays a major part in the action of which there is definitely plenty.  When writing about the battles waged using this magic, the Author was very careful to stick to the rules he had created and applied to it, and there was not a point where I found myself having a ‘hang on, didn’t you say….’ moment.  World building was not skimped on either in this novel, it is not just a strange environment that happens to be there, but has a history behind how it came to being, and this is just as interesting as the plotline itself.

The downside for me whilst reading this was the dialogue, it had a tendency to take the safe road, and use dialogue that can be found in most books of this genre which made some of the conversations a little unbelievable and also, in some cases, as if the book itself were intended for a much younger audience.  However, this was just a minor peeve and didn’t pull away from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for an epic fantasy read that will keep them engrossed with every turn of the page.  I will definitely be reading more in this series.

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Review: Witches of East End ~ Melissa de la Cruz

WitchesISBN ~ 978-1401323905
Publisher ~ Hyperion
No. Of Pages ~ 272
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The three Beauchamp women—Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid—live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful existences. But they are harboring a mighty secret—they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there’s Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache,

For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hide her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it’s time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them.

I initially thought that this was going to be an engrossing and quick read starting as it did with a wonderful description of the town where the main storyline was to take place.  This idea was quickly dismissed when the younger of the two sisters was introduced.

The main characters of this book are the ‘witches’ mentioned in the title and, in my opinion, the Author could have left the younger sister out of the book altogether and it would not have done any harm.  She is written as being perfect in a non-perfect way and, after struggling through this book for almost half its entirety I finally got fed up of reading about her heaving boobs and put the book to one side.  I did like the character of the Mother; she was practical and quite strong with her elder daughter possessing a lot of her traits.  However, these two characters were not enough to keep me ploughing on until the end.

Locale descriptions were wonderful, and they make the reader feel as if they are walking the dunes, can hear the crash of the waves and, in some instances long for a life in a sleepy small town that the world does not mess with.  But again, this was not enough to keep me reading and was definitely not enough to bolster up a lacking plot, if in fact there were any in the book at all.

I can’t in all honesty recommend this book to any other readers, except those who are diehard fans of this Author, and I very much doubt that I will be reading anything written by them again.  For the pure reasoning of not finishing the book, it now holds the dubious place of being the only one I have reviewed that I did not finish and, therefore, have not given a rating to.

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Review: Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #1) ~ Chris Wooding

retribution fallsFrey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn’t just a nuisance anymore – he’s public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don’t. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he’s going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It’s going to take all his criminal talents to prove he’s not the criminal they think he is …

4 Thumbs-UpIf you are a Browncoat who is lost in lamentations over the cancellation of Firefly, this is the book for you.  I’m not saying it will replace the crew of Serenity, but it will go a long way to fill the void and feed the need for a good pirate/cowboy steampunk western.

The individual crew members of the Ketty Jay are introduced to the reader one by one, with each revealing their story, apart from the Captain.  To say he was a work in progress would be an understatement as his character was developed and grew and the novel progressed.  Most of all the characters are loveable on the Ketty Jay, maybe not so much their motives and reasoning at some points, but they each have something about them that will have the reader wanting to learn more about them and join them on their adventures;  Id’ join them if we could leave the Captain behind as I just could not warm to him and thought him to be a bit of a spineless human being.  As in all the good adventure stories the villains, are well just that, villains.  From the description of these characters, right down to the personalities they each have there is nothing that could have the reader mistaking them for being anything else than what they are…baddies.

Although, in my opinion, the story takes a while to get underway this is not a bad thing, as in these ‘slow’ moments is where the set-up for the adventure begins and when it starts it definitely moves along at a cracking pace and does not disappoint at all.  Through great writing the Author is able to provide a perfect balance of sadness alongside humour and wraps it all up in the form of shenanigans.  There is magic, gun play, sword fights and daemons; so enough of everything to appeal to most reader.

I would highly recommend this novel to all Browncoats, steampunk fans and lovers of the type of adventure novels that are so hard to come by today.  I will definitely be reading the remaining ‘Tales of the Ketty Jay’ novels.

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Review: Daughters of the Witching Hill ~ Mary Sharratt

witching hillIn “Daughters of the Witching Hill,” Mary Sharratt brings history to life in a vivid and wrenching novel of strong women, family, and betrayal inspired by the 1612 Pendle witch trials.

Bess Southerns, an impoverished widow lives with her children in a crumbling old tower in Pendle Forest. Drawing on Catholic ritual, medicinal herbs, and guidance from her spirit-friend Tibb, Bess heals the sick and foretells the future in exchange for food and drink. As she ages, she instructs her best friend, Anne, and her granddaughter, Alizon, in her craft. Though Anne ultimately turns to dark magic, Alizon intends to use her craft for good. But when a peddler suffers a stroke after exchanging harsh words with Alizon, a local magistrate tricks her into accusing her family and neighbors of witchcraft. Suspicion and paranoia reach frenzied heights as friends and loved ones turn on one another and the novel draws to an inevitable conclusion.

4 Thumbs-UpMany people know of the hysteria and events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials, but for those readers in England this novel predates those trials by 80 years and takes place in Pendle Lancashire.  Until reading this, although I was aware of witch trials taking place in my homeland, I was not aware of how differently they were conducted to those in the Colonies.

This novel is told in the voices of the two main protagonists, both actual historical figures which adds weight and substance to them as the reader follows their story to its conclusion.  As always when actual people are placed in fictional works some liberties are taken with them, but this in no way takes away from the book, in my opinion it just adds an extra dimension to what is in the pages.  Through the eyes of the two women we can enter the world of the poor in the early 1600’s.  As the reader journeys through their world with them, they are able to experience all the happiness and heart-break that came into their lives.  Regardless of the poverty and hardship of the period, these are two strong women characters that, despite their lack of formal education, resonate with intelligence and compassion.

More than anything this excellently written book could be seen as a lesson in dominion.  Catholicism has been forcibly replaced by the Protestant faith, but rather than have the enlightening effect intended it makes society become more superstitious and paranoid as their lives are now filled with contestant threats of damnation without the solace offered by the Catholic faith of that time.  The extensive research the Author has so obviously done, not only on the witch trials but also on the ‘pulse’ of society at that time makes this an engaging retelling of the poor of the Pendle region, if not of the whole country.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone with an interest in the subject matter, or who loves to read historical fiction.  I would definitely read more by this Author.

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Review: Clockwork Angels: The Novel ~ Kevin J. Anderson, Neil Peart

Clockwork AngelsIn a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels through a lavish and colourful world of steampunk and alchemy, with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.

For more than two centuries, the land of Albion has been ruled by the supposedly benevolent Watchmaker, who imposes precision on every aspect of life. Young Owen Hardy from the village of Barrel Arbor dreams of seeing the big city and the breathtaking Clockwork Angels that dispense wisdom to the people, maybe even catching a glimpse of the Watchmaker himself.

He watched the steamliners drift by, powered by alchemical energy, as they head towards the Crown City — never dreaming that he is already caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos, between the Watchmaker and his nemesis, the Anarchist. Owen’s journeys begin at a fabulous carnival with clockwork wonders beyond his imagination, and take him aboard airships, far into the Redrock Desert to seek lost cities, through storms at sea to encounters with pirates … and give him a chance at love

4 Thumbs-UpBefore I review this book, I need to point out that I haven’t heard the album of the same name by Rush, so this review is based solely on my thoughts about this book. This is a book that I may have picked up in a store because the cover intrigued me but may not have actually purchased, so it being a free gift from Emerald City ComicCon was a plus.

From the first page the reader is introduced to the main protagonist, and it is through his journey into adulthood that we are introduced to the world he inhabits.  Initially I was under the impression that, because of his naiveté, this character could not possibly be the one who the storyline would centre around; I was sure he would be chewed up and spit out like so many broken watch parts, but this was not the case.  This character is not a complex or multifaceted one in anyway, but he is written with traits and questions in his mind that will make the reader think; order or chaos, life and death, freedom of choice and success or failure, are all covered and encountered by the main character as he journeys through this book.  I enjoyed travelling with this character and joining in his adventures so much that, by the time I finished this book I felt I would miss  our time together and I hoped his future would hold good things for him.  As much as I liked this character, I did feel that the Author would have done this book a great service by providing an equally despicable and thoroughly unlikeable villain as a counterpart but, despite there not being such a character it really did not pull away from my liking of this book as a whole.

Steampunk is always a great genre to find action and adventure set in semi-quasi historical settings, and this book was no different in this respect.  However, if you pick this up and read it purely as a steampunk fantasy you will, in my opinion be missing out on so much more and possibly some of the best pieces of this book.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in French literature (parts of it carry a strong resemblance to Voltaire’s work) and also those with an interest in philosophy.  This is a book that needs to be read slowly and savoured with time given over to the thinking it will provoke.

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Books, Boobies and Beheadings… Oh My!!

Unless you are a hermit living on a small rock in the Outer Hebrides, Game of Thrones will be a part of your life whether or not you like it.  Since being adapted as a series by HBO this tale of murder, intrigue and politics is being discussed at the water cooler everywhere.  But winter is definitely coming, if it hasn’t already arrived for these fans, as the show is now taking a ten month break before the next instalment.  So, to prevent withdrawal symptoms in GOT fans becoming so severe they turn into White Walkers, below is my suggestion of reads that will keep you going through the break:

Wheel of timeTitle – The Wheel of Time Series
Author – Robert Jordan
There are fourteen books in the series, all of which continue the same story, weaving towards the ultimate climax. Books 12 through 14 were completed by fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, who was chosen by Robert Jordan’s widow after he passed away. Robert Jordan left behind an abundance of notes and audio recordings, which allowed his family and Mr. Sanderson to tie up the series in a way that very closely matches his original vision.

The first book, The Eye of the World was published in 1990 by Tor Books and has been in continuous print ever since. It is published in the United Kingdom by Orbit Books. Each book the series has appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, and each one since the eighth (The Path of Daggers) debuted as #1.

Description ~ Wheel of Time is a story that takes place both in our past and our future. In his fantasy world, the Dark One, the embodiment of pure evil, is breaking free from his prison. The overall plot is about a man who learns that he is the reincarnation of the world’s messiah and is once again destined to save the world from the Dark One — but possibly destroy it in the process. This saga is not only his story, but the story of an entire world’s struggle to deal with war and change, destruction and hope.

memory sorrow and thornTitle – The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Trilogy
Author – Tad Williams
Description ~ In Osten Ard, a land once ruled by an elvishlike race known as the Sithi, the human High King is dying. And with his death, a long-dormant evil is unleashed on the land as the undead Sithi ruler, the Storm King, seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood. Driven by spell-inspired jealousy and fear, prince fights prince, while around them the very land begins to die, poisoned by a sorcerous force sworn to annihilate the humans whose ancestors had driven the Sithi from their rightful home long ages ago.

Only a small, scattered group, the League of the Scroll, recognizes the true danger faced by Osten Ard, only they hold the knowledge of times past, of threats fulfilled, and of a riddle of swords, which holds out the one small hope of salvation. And to Simon — unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League, and unwittingly touched by magic both good and ill — will go the task of spearheading the search for the solution to this riddle of long-lost swords of power, a quest that will see him fleeing and facing enemies straight out of a legend-maker’s worst nightmare!

ElderlingsTitle – The Realm of the Elderlings Series
Author – Robin Hobb
This series currently includes 13 books, which should be read in order to make the story more logical and cohesive; The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders Series, The Tawny Man Trilogy and The Rain Wild Chronicles.  Also coming out in August 2014 will be the next trilogy in the Realm of the Elderlings, The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy.

Description ~The first in this series of books, the Farseer trilogy, takes place in a part of the Realm of the Elderlings known as the Six Duchies. It is the tale of Fitz, son of Prince Chivalry, a royal bastard born on the wrong side of the sheets then cast out into the world, friendless and alone. Only his magical link with animals – the old art known as the Wit – gives him solace and companionship. But the Wit, if used too often, is a perilous magic, and one abhorred by the nobility. So when Fitz is finally adopted into the royal household, he must give up his old ways and learn a new life: one of weaponry, scribing, courtly manners… and lessons in how to kill a man secretly as he trains to become a royal assassin.

mistbornTitle – The Mistborn Series
Author – Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn is the name of Brandon’s epic fantasy trilogy. The first book is technically Mistborn: The Final Empire, though people just tend to call it Mistborn or Mistborn 1. The entire series consists of The Final Empire (2006), The well of Ascension (2007), and The Hero of Ages (2008).

Description ~ A thousand years ago, the prophesied hero from lore rose up to overthrow a great and terrible evil. Only, he lost, and the Dark Lord took over and has been ruling with an iron fist for a thousand years. Ash falls from the sky in this barren land, and mists come every night, deep and mysterious. In this setting, a gang of thieves decides that the prophecies were all lies and that they can’t trust in some fabled hero to save them. They decide to take matters into their own hands, and plan a daring heist of the dark lord himself, planning to use the emperor’s own wealth to bribe his armies away from him and take over the empire.

And finally a novel (excuse the pun) suggestion:

GOT Title – Game of Thrones Series
Author – George R.R. Martin
Calling this the Game of Thrones series is a lie really, the actual title of the series is A Song of Ice and Fire, with Game of Thrones being the first of five books to date.  The other four are;  A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons.

The story of A Song of Ice and Fire takes place in a fictional world, primarily upon a continent called Westeros but also on a large landmass to the east, known as Essos. Most of the characters are human but as the series progresses other races are introduced, such as the cold and menacing ‘Others’ from the far North and fire-breathing dragons from the East, both races thought to be extinct. There are three principal storylines in the series: the chronicling of a dynastic civil war for control of Westeros between several competing families; the rising threat of the Others who dwell beyond an immense wall of ice that forms Westeros’ northern border; and the journey of Daenerys Targaryen, the exiled daughter of a king who was murdered in another civil war fifteen years previously and now seeks to return to Westeros and claim her rightful throne. As the series progresses, all three storylines become increasingly interwoven and dependent on each other.

So, here you are.  I hope something in the above list may be able to carry you through until you can once again feast your eyes on Westeros.

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Guest Review: Echoing Sacrifice: Traveler ~ Jessica Dodson

When writing their novels the reader knows that each Author has their own unique style and it appears by this review by Author Lex Allen, that is spans into the writing of reviews of other peoples’ work.  Lex gave this book a 5 star review.

echoing sacrificeStill reeling from the death of her parents, thirteen-year-old Khyl Livingston’s entire existence revolves around the care and protection of her brothers. But when an accident strands her in Dolimar, a world populated by both humans and dragons, she finds yet another child in desperate need of protection.

Rever barely survived the slaughter of the Echo Dragons at the hand of the Betrayer. When he meets Khyl, old wounds at last begin to heal, and their growing friendship distracts him from his need for vengeance. But the courageous Traveler couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Betrayer returns to Rever’s home, this time with an army and the intent to carry out a deadly bargain with the greatest threat in all Dolimar.

Bound in friendship and united by common purpose, Khyl and Rever stand against the Betrayer and his allies in order to save an innocent child from a fate worse than death. Dolimar itself hangs in the balance, and one wrong choice could cost them everything they hold dear.

Including each other.

Dear Jessica Dodson,

I am writing to personally thank you for committing the time and effort it must have cost you to write “Echoing Sacrifice: Traveler”. Without the slightest insincerity, I have to tell you that I think that this book will one-day become a classic among fantasy/world-building stories and novels. It must take a special kind of imagination, perseverance and aptitude to put together a novel of this magnitude and complexity while maintaining an easy to read level of dialogue, narrative descriptives and a huge cast of characters.

The premise—teenage girl from our world (Khyl – First Creation) enters the parallel universe (Dolimar) of Rever (Echo Dragon Clan) and promptly jumps into the hunt to save the SouthKing’s daughter (both human) while fighting against the evil of the Betrayer, aka Vayne (human – King of Feinden), his son Cyre, along with the bandit dragons and the EastGate guardian, Tymbos (dragon) and his Keeper, Tumulus (half-human dragon).

There are too many characters to mention them all, but those above are the lead actors in this marvelous tale of a parallel universe that’s a mixture of indescribable geography and scenes, creatures and dragons. I can’t begin to adequately describe, nor thank you for, the meticulous attention to detail that you incorporated into this story. The entire concept of dragon clans—their differences in colors, sizes, characteristics and talents is mind boggling!

Unlike the climax of many books that are part of a series, you designed an ending that is fully satisfying, in and of itself, while clearly leaving an opening for the sequel; a book I am eager to get my hands on. In short, I want you to know that I believe that “Echoing Sacrifice: Traveler” belongs on the bookshelf right between the classic high fantasy of “Lord of the Rings” and the science fantasy/creature horror series that is “The Dark Tower”.

In closing, thanks again and please get the sequel out there quickly!

Sincerely – Lex Allen

Author:
No Heaven
No Hell
Reviewer – Readers’ Favorite

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