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Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

Series rating: 4.5/5

Disclaimer: Yep, I’m cheating. I know posting a review of 4 books all together is probably bad form. However, I don’t want to go into enough detail about a series to give away what happens (on the off chance you don’t guess). Plus, I’m behind in my blogging. 🙂

Summary: In Academ’s Fury, Tavi is a student at the Academy learning to be a spy, despite the fact that he doesn’t have the ability to wield the furies that are the magic of Alera.  He faces many challenges, from fellow students who hate him to (another) threat to the empire.

In Cursor’s Fury, Tavi is now a bona fide cursor – a spy and diplomat of the realm.  He is sent to a post where he is an officer in the army, despite the fact he has yet to serve the mandatory years of service to the realm.  Due to enemy attacks and death in the upper ranks, he’s faced with defending an empire from the Canim with an experimental cohort of mostly untrained, untested soldiers.  Civil war also erupts, and Tavi discovers the Canim attack isn’t a coincidence.

In Captain’s Fury,  Tavi of Calderon, now Captain of the First Aleran Legion, realizes that despite his victory (or at least stalemate) the Canim, there is a greater threat – the Vord, who drove the Canim from their home, the same Vord that attacked the empire before.  Tavi must find a way to overcome the deeply-seated hate between the Alerans and the Cane in order to forge an alliance against this greater evil.  

In Princeps’ Fury, Tavi realizes the increasing obvious secret of his birth and parentage.  In a combined diplomatic and strategic mission, Tavi decides to escort the Canim back to their homeland and to aid them in their fight against the Vord.  What they find when they arrive is beyond their worst fears.  Meanwhile, all is not well back in Alera as nobles deny Tavi’s legitimacy and scheme. Tavi again must find a way to save the empire AND the Canim against all odds.

Reaction: Enjoyable. Yes, I realize that Tavi is constantly saving the day. Yes, enemies attacking the empire is predictable, but that’s part of the fun and that’s kind of the bread-and-butter of fantasy – it’s how we get to know the characters. As I believe I said before, it’s very Romanic. This basis lends it an air of historical fiction (almost), which I enjoy.  Tavi is a great character, as are his family and his lover. I can do without some of the other characters, but they also add to the story. My personal testimony is that I was absolutely sucked in and read the whole series in under a week… take that as you will. 

Definitely a must read for fantasy lovers. For all you others, it wouldn’t be a bad series, but you have to commit through at least Book 2 – I think it gets better after that point.

NOTE: Among other things, this post fulfills my challenge requirement in the Once Upon a Time Challenge IV, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

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Rating: 4 of 5  

Summary: The empire of Alera is filled with magic – the furies or elementals of water, earth, air, fire and metal.  Everyone has some talent, some ability to control an elemental in one of these areas – everyone except young Tavi. Tavi lives with his watercrafter aunt and earthcrafter uncle at one edge of the empire (that has a distinctly Roman air) – the area where the last great savage invasion entered, but where nothing has happened in the last 15 years.  While trying to find lost sheep, he meets Amara – a female spy sent to determine if treachery is afoot by the old but childless emperor – and gets pulled into a battle with the barbarian horde while evading a traitor. It is a classic tale of an empire threatened by an outside horde and internal treachery.

Reaction: Liked it. It started slowly for me, but then I got sucked in (and was late to work because I lost track of 45 minutes while reading during breakfast).  It borrowed heavily from the Roman Empire, in a good way. I enjoyed the flavor of powers the characters had in this book, since I’m always interested in a different spin on magic. And I liked that the characters didn’t follow the expected romantic paths – falling in love with the first person you meet outside your family is overdone. 🙂

I liked it – but I would also say it’s more of a fantasy book for fantasy readers just because of it’s classic fantasy plot and conflicts. If you’ve never read any fantasy, this may not be the one to start on. 

My Dad lent me the whole series last time I saw him (which I believe is complete!), so I’ll be reading the rest of the books in rapid succession.

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Rating: 2.5/3   

Reaction: As a child, Grace is attacked by wolves and dragged into the forest, but somehow saved by one member of the pack with glowing golden eyes.  For the next six years, her life revolves around this wolf to the extent that she misses him during the summer when he’s not around. When Grace finds a wounded boy with luminous golden eyes on the back porch, she realizes that he is her wolf in human form. Drama and teenage love ensue as Grace tries to find a way to stay with her true love.

As I said in my TBR, werewolf literature was bound to spring up. In fact, I thought Shiver had many of the same themes as Twilight – struggling to retain humanity against biological mandate and love blossoming against all odds, etc.  Positive: This story is a different twist on werewolves in that the men become wolves due to the season and the temperature, with no ability to choose this fate or form. That’s interesting. Negative: The plot progression and characters just weren’t believable. If I were dragged off by wolves as an 11-year-old child, I think I would be traumatized and never, ever wanted to see another wolf again… I would not have spent SIX YEARS fantasizing about a wolf’s great eyes. That makes the beginning is weak to me and so I started the book reacting negatively to a main character – never a good sign.  Once Sam is human, I liked the story more, but I still didn’t find it compelling. Perhaps the characters didn’t have enough depth for me to really empathize with them and get into the story.  (And Sam just isn’t the same quality of stud that Twilight’s Jacob is…) Not a bad read, but not my favorite.

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And the mini reviews continue to roll:

Rating: 4.5/5

Reaction: In this world, there are two types of people – those who are graced and those who are not. Those who are graced are marked by eyes of different colors, and have the ability to do one thing very, very well. For Lady Katsa, her gift is killing.  She killed her first man – a cousin who was threatening her – at the age of 8, and since that point has been used by her uncle to keep his enemies in check through fear. She hates her role, and hates her gift that almost completely isolates her, despite her near invincibility.  No one can best her (or even challenge her) in a fight, until she meets Prince Po. Po is a *cough – hot – cough* man from a different kingdom who also has a grace for fighting. Through their friendship, Katsa learns more about herself, her power and her ability to choose her path.

I loved it. The characters are likeable, and I love strong female characters. There’s an interesting mix of eras in this book, because Katsa has a very modern feel despite the fact she’s set in a fantasy (old) setting.  I can’t say I was surprised at the ending – the plot progresses in a predictable manner, but it’s a fun, pretty clean read. I also enjoyed Cashore’s idea of a “grace.” While many fantasy novels gift heros with special talents, I like that these folks have a visible sign of their blessing/curse.

It’s well done, and made me want to take up archery or fencing.  I will certainly read the next book!

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Rating: 4.5                                                     

Discussion: Percy Jackson, meanders through life as a budding juvenile delinquent to whom very odd things happen. He continually gets kicked out of schools for unbelievable occurences that may or may not be his fault.  Percy explains all this oddness away until his life is in such danger that his mother sends him to Half-blood Camp.  There, he realizes that he’s special – half mortal, half god.  In the company of a daughter of Athena and a satyr, Percy sets out on a quest (I do love quests) to save the Olympians from war by finding Zeus’ stolen master bolt – which many others think he himself stole!

Very enjoyable, light and kid-friendly read. I loved how Riordan refreshed my mythology while entertaining me with the tale of a 12-year-old son of a Greek god realizing that he is both cursed and blessed beyond mortals. I can see the St. Louis Arch out of my office window, so I also particularly enjoyed the part where Percy visited the Arch and got into a fight while at the claustrophobic top. I’ll have to read the rest of the series – it’s definitely worthy of inclusion in my top YA books!

Who’s seen the movie? Good?

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Another mini-review –

Rating: 4.5

Summary: Once upon a time, there was a boy named Keith. The boy who wasn’t particularly brilliant, but Maurice – a talking cat – was shrewd enough for them both.  Maurice worked out a pied piper deal with an amazing group of talking rats, who invade a given town with practiced skill and much “widdling” until the townsfolk were ready to pay a pied piper to get them out.  The scheme worked well, until they got to the town of Blintz. Initially, there isn’t a rat to be found, but then they realize they’re facing something much bigger. The cat and the rats face humourous questions of conscience, morality and philosophy – something they never faced before eating the radioactive waste from the wizard university.

Reaction: A good example of the ironic, sardonic wit of Pratchett. Taking a classic story and giving it a completely new twist is one of his trademarks, just as he does here. If you like subtle (or not-so-subtle mockery), this is a book for you. I particularly enjoyed every reference to “widdling” – I wish I could make up my own word.

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Rating: High 3/Low 4

Summary: After a mysterious accident resulted in the fiery death of her crush, Luce got yanked out of her ritzy college-prep high school and dropped into a court-mandated reform school for her senior year of high school.  This new school is full of surprisingly normal (though quirky) students, none more interesting than two delectable guys who catch her eye – Cam, an easy-going charmer who makes no secret of his interest in her, and Daniel, who runs so hot and cold that Luce wants to hate him… but she can’t. To top it off, Luce is haunted by threatening shadows that no one else seems to see. 

Reaction:

My first question: Was my high school the only one not filled with stunningly handsome guys? Even this reform school for supposed terrors is packed with hotties.  I know I’m asking for it every time I grab a YA book, but my sarcastic tendencies tend to flare up every time I start one that’s filled with the cast of a CW show.

Anyway, it was decent. The whole (fallen) angels-among-us concept was what appealed to me most about this book.  As I’ve stated before, good v. evil is my favorite fiction.  I’m not a huge fan of the book’s length/editing – 450+ pages seems unnecessary for what could have been said in under 300.  (My j-school profs would have a field day.)  I also thought there could have been more clarity in the writing and storyline, as many of the most interesting questions remain undefined and/or unresolved.  All that being said, it was fun and clean (though long-ish) read.  The strongest parts of the book are the first and last chapters.  You spend quite a bit of time during the other 400 pages waiting for her to step up and pick a boy, even though it’s immediately obvious where the story is headed and which one of the fallen that Luce will fall for. (Ha ha – punny) 

In sum, it was a book that made me more interested to read the upcoming second novel of the series than to re-read this particular book.

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