Today's Decameron

A love for (fantasy) stories!

Blackwing by Ed McDonald – a journey starts! — September 18, 2017

Blackwing by Ed McDonald – a journey starts!

I received Blackwing by Ed McDonald from NetGalley; I thank the publisher, NetGalley and the author for this opportunity – all my opinions are my own.

Blackwing has been trending on Goodreads for quite some time and it has been praised by the vast majority of the readers. I could not wait to start and make my own experience!  This is the synopsis and I am itching to get started!

Nothing in the Misery lasts…

Under a cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, created when the Engine, the most powerful weapon in the world, was unleashed against the immortal Deep Kings. Across the wasteland, teeming with corrupted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies are still watching—and still waiting.

Ryhalt Galharrow is no stranger to the Misery. The bounty hunter journeys to a remote outpost, armed for killing both men and monsters, and searching for a mysterious noblewoman. He finds himself in the middle of a shocking attack by the Deep Kings, one that should not be possible. Only a fearsome show of power from the very woman he is seeking saves him.

Once, long ago, he knew the woman well, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to unmake everything they hold dear and end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled and the gods he’s supposed to serve.

Ready, set, go!

 

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Red Sister (book #1 of the Book of the Ancestor) by Mark Lawrence – Gush review — March 20, 2018

Red Sister (book #1 of the Book of the Ancestor) by Mark Lawrence – Gush review

I have received the arc of Red Sister by Mark Lawrence about one year ago, a gesture that I appreciated so much and I apologize for the delay in posting this review; the opinions expressed in here are my own.

There’s a boundary between what lives and what does not. It runs a boundary between what loves and what does not. It runs through all things, and around them. It’s a path that is hard to follow but each step taken is a holy one. When you walk the Path you approach the divine. The Path flows from the Ancestor and the Ancestor waits at the end of it. At the end of all thing.

We are mortals though. We are flawed. Poor vessels for divinity. Each step is harder than the last, the Path twists and turns, it is narrow and in motion, the power that gives is … difficult to contain. Sooner rather than later everyone slips from the Path no matter what their heart desires, no matter how pure their fate.”

Imagine a convent where nuns take in (young) girls to educate them hoping they will join the convent. Now, imagine it with a twist: The sisters do not only practice the arts of the soul (and healing of it); some of them are trained to become assassins, master assassins. Incredibly sharp tools as deadly as they can be, with uncanny abilities to reach where others cannot.

It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure the you bring an army of sufficient size.

Now, add a bit of magic; specifically, imagine that the world is built on only four potential traits, based on four tribes: (i) Gerant – the (gigantic) size gives you away; (ii) Hunska – you are extremely quick; you are also dark-haired and dark-eyed; (iii) Marjal – you can do lesser magic; and (iv) Quantal, you can walk the Path and do greater magic. To possess all of them would make a person The Chosen One; and, in general, the more traits one possesses – in the purest form – the more powerful the individual is.

The magic system does not appear particularly complicated on paper; I would state that the world of the Red Queen’s War is more complex than this (at least for what transpired in book one of The Book of the Ancestor) yet it is delivered with vivid imagery and uncanny skills in describing fights and wielding abilities. In addition, the magic system is spiced up by allowing an individual to have a combination of all the four skills above. Well construed and thought-through; and it shows in the story, the plot is clearly well developed around these abilities. Possibly, this is one of the expected standards for Mark Lawrence’s stories: Having a clear vision, no loose threads and consistency in applying the skills without clashing.

The book is told from Nona’s point of view; I would almost state that it’s Mark Lawrence’s trademark: The ability to deliver an extremely powerful story even when the point of view is only one, even when the story is mostly kept in the dark and slowly unveiled.

The plot is never boring. Not only I felt like getting to know the characters more and more through the eyes of Nona (who is an extremely intriguing character herself) but also the action is there pretty much at all times. In all fairness, action does not equal to a great story but the right level of action at the right time is a difficult balance to strike and I feel that Mark Lawrence is extremely capable in this respect. One of the most interesting facts about this plot, in my opinion, is that this is hardly a linear story; there are many side stories, opening new chapters and small developments to discuss and introduce characters and their interaction, that make the world and, especially, the cast of characters so magnetic.

The characters are also fascinating. The convent of Sweet Mary presents extremely deep characters, from abbess Glass to sister Pan. Abbess Glass might be one of my favorite mentors in fantasy. Strong, witty, brains working at full power at all times, willing to risk it all; but also an incredibly manipulative as well.

Let me quickly introduce a couple of characters and what I love about them.

Nona – strong and detached young lady. She has an innate sense of justice, of what is right and wrong. Difficult to connect with people for her history. It also appears that she always have someone who is her enemy, some justified (for instance Raymel) some not justified (Ara). Her ability to reconsider the skills of the opponents is also uncanny. As is her stubbornness and resilience. She also selflessly helps her friends, being friendship a bond Nona barely understands (especially at the beginning of the story) and dedicates herself fully to it. Friendship is not given lightly. The best sentence to describe her, it’s a quote from the same Nona: “I was born for killing – the gods made me to ruin.

Quite frankly, Mark Lawrence delivers one of the best female lead characters in fantasy. I am impressed by the amount of authors that are able to portray characters so well (Django Wexler is the best in this with Winter, yet Nona quickly won my heart).

Hessa – handicapped yet powerful, brave and independent; she is instrumental in the development of Nona as an individual and crucial for Nona to understand how others behave. Ultimately, Hessa is the most loyal and unconditional friend Nona has; which Nona appreciates since the very beginning.

Arabella – the strength that she emanates with her presence is breathe taking. The relationship with Nona is strong and the development of the relationship is one of the best aspects of this book.

Tacsis family – Raymel specifically is an incredibly powerful and interesting enemy that goes beyond the confines of the training grounds. And an influential (and rich) family behind an absolute psycho!

In short, this is a beautiful story, filled with powerful characters, strong personalities and bonds that are build and bonds that are painfully broken. A story of redemption and mystery, a clash of wills and enemies that are hiding in the dark. Just a great start to a brand new series by Mark Lawrence. Well done, sir.

Let me also tell you that Grey Sister is about to be released (April 3rd in Europe, if I read the information correctly online) and let me tell you that I have been in a hype mode ever since I re-read Red Sister.

Mage’s Blood (book #1 of the Moontide Quartet) by David Hair — March 19, 2018

Mage’s Blood (book #1 of the Moontide Quartet) by David Hair

Take magic and Crusades; two continents, Yuros and Antiopia, separated by the ocean and connected temporarily every 12 years. Add political intrigue, both driven by personal ambition and wish to destroy opponents. Flavor the story with European, Middle-Eastern and Indian traditions and you have an incredible recipe of powerful characters and story lines that are extremely captivating.

David Hair does an incredible job in creating a fantasy world in which a clash of cultures and goals is inevitable. There are two worlds ready to fight, the Rondian Empire on Yuros trying to conquer the other, first by establishing a foothold on Antiopia in the reign of Javon; the other, Antiopia, divided internally yet protected (and managed to some extent) by Antonin Meiros and his creation, the Leviathan Bridge and opposed by those who want to fight the shihad. It is clear that both continents prepare for a holy war.

When Kore made this land, he made two great continents, separated by vast oceans, and he commanded his sister Luna to make those waters impassable, so that East should never meat West. Learned, noble, enlightened West and base, depraved, idolatrous East should never meet, under Sun or Moon – so it was written. But Meiros, an Ascendant too craven to join the liberation of Yuros from the Rimoni yoke, left the fellowship of the Three Hundred and built that cursed Bridge and from that Bridge do all of our woes come!

The Rondian Empire is significantly inspired by European traditions, from Christianity to the empire being ruled by a spoiled puppet (Constant Sacrecour), controlled by his mother (Lucia Fasterius) a powerful, demanding and ruthless woman. The Rondian Empire bases most of its strength against Antiopia on the presence of mages (mostly based on Yuros but not exclusively); their origin of mages is based on the story of Johan Corin, a man who preached a simple life, collecting followers and, after this death by his sister (and lover) Selene, there was the creation of the Blessed Three Hundred, the first magi, who abandoned the principles inspired by Corin and became the rulers of Yuros also by creating the Rondian Empire.

On Antiopia, there are several points of view; one in Antonin Meiros, trying to prevent the war. There are the followers (and abusers of the faith) of Ahm leading to the shihad, trying to push to prepare groups to fight against mages (through the soul drinkers and mages).

Besides the underlining preparation for the holy war on both continents, there are several story lines that intertwine and connect in different points. Hair’s characters range from absolutely evil to inspired rulers; from young and scared individuals, to those who have lived a full life. The influence of Middle Easter and Indian traditions really add value and depth to the story; the book refers to different religious systems, to different triggers and dynamics for the decisions of the characters, some who are, are becoming or state they are religious fanatics.

Despite being a book that introduces a world, the pace is quite fast, the momentum building is extremely powerful. It spends time introducing characters, introducing the world, the magic system (which is wonderfully layered, complex and understandable) and the religions.

Another positive aspect of the book is that the decisions of the characters seem realistic, whether one might agree with them or not; there is pathos in the outcome and the implication of the decisions. Moreover, the book is packed with action, twists and turns, continuously building momentum and by the end of the book I found myself hooked to the story, vested in the characters’ stories and wanting for more.

If you love fantasy, if you are looking for some diversity in your reads and if you wish to incorporate Middle-Eastern and Indian vibes into your reading, this is the perfect book for you.

Have you read this book? If not, does it interest you? Let me know your thoughts down below!

A Time of Dread by John Gwynne – Day 1 — January 25, 2018
A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1) by John Gwynne – the journey — January 24, 2018

A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1) by John Gwynne – the journey

A Time of Dread is the first book in the second fantasy series by John Gwynne, called Of Blood and Bone. I loved his first series, The Faithful and the Fallen; a classic fantasy story compelling, with a strong plot, great characters; it was also an emotional story. A sword and sorcery fantasy with interesting twists (for instance, giants are a big part of the story!); the series also had another relevant factor which is a clear distinction between the good and the bad guys; John Gwynne also created two new races, to associate with the two sides: Ben-Elim (angel-like creatures) and Kadoshim (demon-like race).

A Time of Dread was published earlier this month, specifically on January 11, 2018 by Pan MacMillan.

After a quick glance at Goodreads, “A Time of Dread has 4.63 stars (out of 5)! Impressive!

A couple of additional notes: A time of Dread takes place in the same world as in The Faithful and the Fallen, only 130 years after the final events of the prior series. I like the fact that John Gwynne capitalizes on a world he spent time building and imagining, making sure that there was the right balance. I am hyped, ready to start this new adventure!

As a first time, there is the audio book for the story. Looking forward to checking that out and hopefully it will live up to the expectations .

My Hero Academia vol 1 by Kihei Horikoshi — January 21, 2018

My Hero Academia vol 1 by Kihei Horikoshi

In an effort to expand my reading horizon and try to incorporate more international aspects in my life life, I decided to read some manga in 2018.

My Hero Academia was a Christmas present and it was simply spot on. A reminder of good values, of the difficulties of pursuing dreams. It is a story of sheer will, of having a dream and pursuing it no matter what, to work very hard (even beyond that) to make sure the dream does not die. It is an inspiring story, really.

Obviously, story telling in a manga – or comics in general – is extremely different from a purely written story. Details have to be embedded in the drawing work and wording competes in a limited space, hence the need to be concise yet impactful. Hence even the adaptation in English of the manga has a huge impact in the overall success of the series.

This series is actually a Shōnen manga (manga series for teenage boys); yet, this classification really does not capture how this story can talk – and talks – to many more audiences, from women to more adult readers. Due to its setting, it might also be a story that more closely connects with the big Western names of comics (Marvel and DC Comics) which mostly address superheroes, super powers and the danger that these power might pose in the world (like the X-Men). In fact, My Hero Academia is set in a modern day Japan in a time in which 80% of the population has developed superhuman abilities while the remaining 20% is relegated to be “just” human. The rise in superhuman abilities (called quirks in the story) implied that the world is split between wrong-doers and good-doers. Villains and heroes; being hero also comes with significant perks, such as being government employees, being recognized in the streets and making more through advertisement and becoming celebrities. Kohei Horikoshi actually takes advantage of this detail in a very clever way, I find, and in the back cover he introduces some heroes advertisement; like the one on the first volume.

Mt. Lady in a hair product advertisement

My Hero Academia (at least in volume 1) is the story of two main characters, better one main character and his idol. Izuku Midoriya, a teenager who has a dream: to be a superhero; and All Might, Midoriya’s inspiration. Yet, to be a superhero you need a quirk; unfortunately for him, Midoriya is part of the 20% who has no quirks. This has not proven to be a limitation for him though: One does not need to have a quirk to be a hero. So Midoriya studies the existing heroes, their abilities, their fights, their tactics and fills several books with all that information, making him a virtual library of hero knowledge. In addition, he has a heart of gold and the aptitude to be a hero; he is willing to put himself in harms way to protect others. And he proves it by protecting people from a villainous attack despite being quirk-less. And this is the turning point for his ambition and future. This selfless act shows Midoriya as worthy of All Might’s attention. Midoriya’s act is the turning point in both lives introducing one of the best initial twists of the story; or setting the mood for the story, I guess.

The story also starts introducing other great characters, Bakugo, an explosive teenager (not only his quirk, also his personality); Ida, a composed young man with incredible speed; Uraraka, possibly one of the cutest characters of the whole series, a positive influence in the story really.

My Hero Academia is a remarkable work, genuinely a great story, represented visually in a very appealing way. An introduction to a brand new world, successful in introducing the characters and the dynamics that begin this world.

The Assassin’s Apprentice (book #1 of the Farseer Trilogy and book #1 in Realms of the Elderlings) by Robin Hobb — July 1, 2017

The Assassin’s Apprentice (book #1 of the Farseer Trilogy and book #1 in Realms of the Elderlings) by Robin Hobb

Shame on me for not having started to read this series (and all that come afterwards!) and learn about the queen of fantasy. Robin Hobb is most certainly an incredibly gifted author and the book genuinely reflects the intricacy and interest that the story brings with it.

Let’s start with the basics.

The Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Published March 1996 by Voyager

I also love the cover that was used in the 2011 publication, lovely, simple, cool and highly influenced by the miniatures on books “printed” in Medieval times.

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I had so many thoughts while reading the book and I was entirely excited about every single line I was reading. Actually, the more I write about it, the more I feel like starting Royal Assassin immediately.

So let’s delve into the review! I know the book has been out there for quite some time but I still think the spoiler warning is key to avoid accidental spoilers!

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First and foremost, the book is a first person story and it is so successful in that. I rarely like books told in first person – it is difficult to keep my attention, to keep having the same point of view and not be fed with the character. This book instead could not be better, it took me a long time actually to rationally realize that the book was told in first person.

There is an aspect that mostly characterizes and makes the book stand out from other fantasy stories: The characters and their interactions; there is something magical and unique about the relationships that Hobb describes. Very authentic, very personal and very realistic I found. Fitz is an abandoned child, left in the care of a man he does not know, and having to find his way being a bastard son of a prince of the Farseer family.

He had to find his way in a difficult place, trying to be mostly invisible, trained to be invisible yet he is unique. I also love his fatherly relationships with Burrich and Chade, especially the one Fitz has with Chade, a man who lived a very similar life. Yet, there is one of the most important relationships that is cultivated in the second half of the story, the connection Fitz develops with Verity. Verity is so interesting, a great prince and a model king-in-waiting.

I also genuinely loved the magic system which is an aspect yet is not developed just yet, or at least I hope it is just the beginning of something more!
The Wit and The Skill, they are just spectacular. I love the use of the Wit, the ability to bond with animals; and I wish I had that ability in real life! And I love the Skill, the ability to use the mind, I guess it might be telepathy. I also like how the Wit is considered an ability that needs to be hidden (for fear of ones life really) and how it is considered secondary than the Skill. In particular, the Skill is actually fostered and trained in the Six Duchies. The training is quite brutal and we will find out that Galen, the teacher, attempts to kill Fitz in several occasions and that he is an ally to Regal and his plot to destroy Fitz (as collateral damage in this delusional approach to gaining access to the seventh Duchy with capital in Jhaampe.

Finally and most importantly. HOW COOL IS THE FOOL? I cannot wait to know all about the Fool. Who is he/she? Where does he/she come from? What skills (or Skill) does he/she have? There is so much to know and I cannot wait to understand who he is and what he does and how he does it!

Also, final thought is that you need so many tissues to get through the deaths of the dogs. They are so important, vital really to Fitz and his development. Fundamental really but the deaths hurt, they genuinely affected me.

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Have you read the book and/or the trilogy and/or the series? Do you agree with my comments above? Have you a different experience of the Six Duchies? Write your thoughts in the comment section below!

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1) – Gush review — June 18, 2017

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1) – Gush review

I just recently finished Age of Myth by Micheal J. Sullivan, published on June 28th, 2016 by Del Rey. Not only this is a gush review but the book is an actual 5 start out of 5 – hoping that the series will continue to impress me the same way!

I have read the Riyria Revelations last year and I had a blast. The best aspect of the series is the amazing relationship between the two main characters. After reading this book I believe it is safe to say that the aspect of Michael J. Sullivan’s stories that stands out are the characters and their interaction. There is one more element that I want to praise which is that each chapter start with a “quote” from the Book of Brin and, albeit is not an original idea, I just enjoyed every single quote being perfectly tailored to the events or narrative of the specific chapter.

When I found out there was going to be a brand new series, I just could not wait to read the new series by Micheal J. Sullivan. The book is moderately long – around 400 pages in its hardcover – yet I could not put the book down, it took me about 3 days (during the week) to finish it. I felt entirely invested in the story and the characters; it genuinely felt like Micheal J. Sullivan’s book yet with an additional level of maturity, a writer who has improved his story telling skills and it most certainly paid off, at least for me. And The Legends of the first empire is the hardcover book debut for the author: Well done – and deserved professional achievement!

Also, allow me to praise the cover of the book (MINOR SPOILER AHEAD: which actually depicts a scene of the book, possibly one the pivotal moments of the story contained in this book) which reminds me of the Impressionists, since it is an outside scene and it almost feels like the painting style is less precise and more brush strokes like.

Age_of_Myth.jpg

And now, beware of the spoiler!

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First things first. In the introduction, the author provides us with some general points of reference to the series – for instance, it takes place around 3000 years before the Riyria Chronicles and does not spoil any of the other stories he wrote so far. The most important (or at least interesting to me) aspect of the introduction is that the series is completed, before the first book was published. As a reader I understand there is going to be continuity in the publication – better said, the delay in publication would not depend on the story not being written – which is always a good anchor to stick to a story!

Let me start for the ending – because my review will be pretty much unusual, focusing mostly on the characters rather than the story itself – by stating very simply that it was one of the best endings I have read in quite some time. It opens up a significant plot twist or development and it does it without revealing much and, at least for me, I did not see it coming. Not at all. I will get into some details in my characters’ review!

The story itself is a “traditional” fantasy story, in a traditional fantasy setting. It is interesting to know that the world is pretty much divided between humans (called Rhune) and the gods (called Fhrey). One last side track from the review of the characters, is that the Fhrey are actually significantly more complex in social structure than the humans know, having different clans – and importance associated with the clan – and the highest are the Miralyth to which the royal family pertains to!

So let me quickly bring your attention to the characters.

Raithe, a young man who has fighting in his blood but wants to break free from it and his biggest dream is to settle down and have a family of his own in a peaceful place. The story though brings him since the very beginning to the opposite, making him the first (and so far) only Godkiller that the Rhune have. Raithe is fierce though and does not back down from a challenge, even when it seems impossible for him to survive, such as when he confronted the Galantias knowing that he would not be able to defeat seven gods and a couple of extras (specifically a giant and a goblin).

Malcolm, one of the funniest (better, sarcastic) characters in the whole story; ready to entertain the audience with the story of the Godkiller although he has an important part to play in making Raithe the Godkiller. He is also a slave of the Fhrey. Most importantly, he has a special ability to know gods unconscious by using a stone to knock them out. He is also a fairly good warrior – although he tries to hide it – which makes sense in light of the ending. He is (or was?) the slave of Nyphron and the last chapter showed that Nyphron seems to be stirring part of the narrative with his choices. But where were these choices lead? What motivated the decision? Most importantly, can we trust Malcolm?

Suri, the your seer with an extremely unusual behavior – more a wild animal rather than a human – and a tight bond to Minna, her loyal wolf who seems mostly a dog and, most importantly, with a taste for the adventures Suri takes her to. She is also a key initiator of the events in this story, bringing news to Persephone of impending doom for the Rhune, although she cannot clearly see what the actual danger is. She is also key to several development of the story and becomes the adopted daughter of Persephone through heart-breaking events. Furthermore, she is even interesting for the Fhrey – she is the only human who seems to know how to wield the Art (or magic really) which appeared to be a trait unique to the Miralyth only – and Arion takes a keen interest in her!

Persephone, probably the best character that Micheal J. Sullivan ever wrote in my opinion. We get to know her in a time of grief having lost her only son and husband to a bear attack (or what seemed to be a bear attack). A woman who was the wife of the chieftain of Dhal Rhen and is asked to leave her home to make space to the new chieftain. She is a strong and clever woman who has a heart and a keen interest in keeping Dahl Rhen wealthy and safe. She finds herself disputing many choices of the new chieftain primarily driven by her experience and common sense – not to mention guts that few have in the dahl. Her relentless search for the truth and will to protect Rhen are ultimately the shield that protects the village and start the events at a grander scale – is she going to unify all the human clans to fight against the gods?

Arion, a Fhrey woman with the ability to wield magic, a powerful, fair and accomplished lady who, after starting tutoring the young prince Mawyndule, is asked to find and bring back the leader of the Galantias who appears to have deserted. She also appears to have a complicated relationship her mother but the most important part of the dialogue I believe is around the Door. What role will the Door play in the next books? I cannot wait to explore the relevance of the Door . Arion is also the protagonist of one of the most impressive displays of power in this story, more powerful than all the Galantias together, in a great fight sequence! In addition, she is curious, openly so and not biased by the ranks and races, and Suri will peak her interest. She will be so interested in Suri – and her ability to use the Art – that Arion will pretty much take the side of the Rhune when Gryndal comes to kill Nyphon and the Rhune in the dahl incidentally.

Finally Nyphron and his Galantias, deserters because they claim did not want to kill an entire Rhune village in search for the Godkiller. Yet, it appears that Nyphron’s father taught Raithe’s father to fight, skill that were passed over to Raithe. I have to confess that I felt the Galantias were extremely underused in this book but I believe that the ending warranted their presence from early on. I cannot wait to see what Nyphron’s schemes are and what his goal truly is!

– – –

Have you read Age of Myth? What did you think about the book? Are there other elements that you would consider relevant in the book that I have not highlighted?

If you have not started reading the book just yet, I strongly encourage you to – or at least to add this book in your TBR list. This is an extremely rewarding story, if you are a fantasy reader!

 

 

 

The Masked City (Book #2 of the Invisible Library series) by Genevieve Cogman — June 4, 2017

The Masked City (Book #2 of the Invisible Library series) by Genevieve Cogman

“A secret agent. A missing assistant. And a world in danger.” Another amazing story by Genevieve Cogman (an amazing author who I hope you will discover and love as much as I do) with an intrepid, strong-willed and clever woman as the protagonist. A true strong female lead. A 4 out of 5 stars book!

This is the perfect summary of a great book that I enjoyed thoroughly. I would summarize the book a fun and classy story with a Victorian setting with a unique fantasy world; in other words, Tommy and Tuppence (yes, Agatha Christie’s detectives!) meet a fantasy version of McGyver (in the sense that Irene can make the most out a of magical version of a pin and a straw).

This book exceeds expectations in a number of areas. For instance, the writing style is impressive – the accuracy in the use of terms and the attention to details in building the dialogs.

But before we venture any further, let me use my favorite warning! Beware of the spoilers!

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The characters are great (for lack of a more elaborate word) and their interaction and friendship is the main driver of essential decisions of the characters in the book. And allow me to side track for a second. I heard so many positive comments about Truthwitch especially in light of the friendship between Safiya and Iseult. Quite frankly I just saw a one sided friendship in that case. So, in case you are a fan of Truthwitch, I urge you to experience The Invisible Library in which I believe there is a much healthier and realistic friendship.

Another asset to this book is the use of two majestic opponents on the verge of destroying all the worlds in order to determine who will rule. In essence, Fae – the masters of Chaos – and Dragons – the guards of Order – are on a verge of a conflict because of Kai’s kidnapping by the hands of the Gauntes, a Fae power couple with grand schemes and goals, wanting to be the most influentials Fae in existence. A great villain couple with understandable achievements and a clear will to become more important than they currently are. To some extent, I almost envisage the Gauntes as the Beckhams (no, I am not implying anything about the Beckhams, but the Gauntes are this incredibly interesting couple, famous and influential, independent yet strongly connected and with common goals; not to mention, particularly classy which is the main reason why I think Victoria Beckham was my impersonation of Lady Gauntes).

I enjoyed the change of scenery: The Invisible Library took place in London. The Masked City took place in Venice at its peak with fun tweaks to the history as we know it. I loved the description of the Carnival – and in this Venice, you can find Carnival all year long. The use of the city landmarks, the use of the gondolas and of the mist, the reference to Italian food.

There is another detail of this book that I truly enjoyed: Why should always be the prince to save the princess? Well, this book decides to do something about this and takes the prince – a Dragon prince no less! – and puts him in a “tower” unable to free himself and hoping that his friend and mentor, a woman, would come to rescue him. It actually took me a while to realize that the book was actually based on this preamble, I almost considered an obvious choice but there is a deliberate choice in choosing to revert the traditional fairy tale roles.

 

The main reason why I did not give 5 stars to the book is that it feels, to me, a “lighter” read compared to other amazing stories I am currently reading (Red Sister by Mark Lawrence, the Shadow Campaigns by Django Wexler, Gods of Blood and Powder by Brian McClellan, The Faithful and the Fallen by John Gwynne). But it is a mere personal taste factor that comes into play here – otherwise, this is just an amazing book (and series!).

 

I am looking forward to your thoughts about this book! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

The Crimson Campaign – book #2 in the Powder Mage trilogy. Gush review! — February 14, 2017

The Crimson Campaign – book #2 in the Powder Mage trilogy. Gush review!

Let me have my excited fangirl moment on this book. I am loving this series, I devoured this book (it genuinely took me only two days to read, sleeping was not as important as continuing reading this story). I believe this is another fast paced story; there is constant activity, the parties clearly are going through a lot. Yet it does not feel overwhelming. It is simply astonishing McClellan’s ability to condense all of this in one book.

As for this review, I want this to be mostly a collection of thoughts about the characters and their story lines. I genuinely love each of them; I have my favorites as always, and there is only one character I am not feeling much for (and to point fingers, Vlora) but I will expand a bit more later.

Just some details about the book and the publisher first!

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan, published May 6th 2014 by Orbit

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Tamas
Gavril and Tamas relationship is adding a level of complexity to Tamas’ story line that is amazingly clever. It adds depth and interest to the human side of the parties.
Tamas is trying to get out of Kez alive, following his less than perfect strategy. Yet, it appears that he might have been betrayed. So is there still a Kez informant in this army/side?
I wonder if this story line took some inspiration from Napoleon’s Russian campaign – most notably his retreat. It also feels fairly authentic in the description of what a band like this would go through. Yet, the description never happens from the foot soldier’s perspective (which is a very smart choice) so it is difficult to judge.
Vlora – who grew on me with the novella – returned to be pretty meh. Sure, she messed up with Taniel and she is paying for the consequences. I just do not think her relationship with Tamas really helps her character develop – it helps in fleshing Tamas out though.
As always the dialogue between Olem (now Colonel) and Tamas are just hilarious.

Taniel
Taniel really got himself in an awful place. After waking up from the coma, he becomes even more addicted to a different substance. He wants to forget until news of his father’s death reach him and he resumes his role as the hero (despite his reluctance to do so) and goes to the front to battle against the Kez army.
Mihali keeps being this odd character, Adon reborn. The god and the chef, the god who manipulates through just breathtaking food. Yet, I want to see more of the Kresimir and Adon confrontation which is not happening yet – maybe book 3?
Also, Pole – I want to know a lot more about her and her magic. She is this “savage” with impressive (yet not disclosed) magic abilities. The more I read about her abilities, the more I think about voodoo religion especially when the description is about the dolls Pole makes. She is also fierce and brave, I have not seen a single instance in which she looked/sounded scared.
Mihali’s death was totally uncalled for and it genuinely had an impact on me: the brother who tried to stop the massacre, the brother who loved humans more than anything else was killed by his own brother in a moment, in a flash of blinding light.
Yet, I loved the confrontation between Taniel and Kresimir, it was an intense and felt moment; and I was absolutely enthusiast about Ka’Poel’s fundamental intervention (prior to the events) and her following Bone-eye sorcery with dolls (hundred of dolls) and scary immense power that can wipe the whole world, really.

Adamat
Adamat has one of the best family man driven stories I have read in a while. His family is all that matters to him and he is going through a lot of loops to get them back. He rescues most of his children at the very beginning of the book; yet his wife Faye and his first born Josef are still missing. This will send him in a mission to rescue them and win against this opponent Vetus. He is going to ally with the Proprietor and Bo who will help him in rescuing his wife. Faye has an amazing strong moment in the book followed by an extremely realistic PTSD moment – I cannot wait to continue reading about that.
Now that Josef still needs to be found, it appears he is also a powder mage – but how did Adamat not know about that before? This is a very odd situation.
Josef is going to be Adamat’s driver for the next book; specifically, he is going to be the drive to convince Adamat to help Bo in his quest. And what is going to happen to Nila?

Another character I am genuinely enjoying is Fell. She is stunning, creepy and mysterious. Very interesting – and I am wondering if she is not the daughter of Richard who is very secretive about why he hired/bought her. There is so much mystery around her and her abilities I cannot wait to read more!

 

Please let me know your thoughts down below!