Book Reviews by Genre: Fantasy

The Song of Achilles book jacket
Miller, Madeline
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller is a stunning and deeply moving retelling of the Iliad that captivates from beginning to end, earning a solid 5 stars. Miller skillfully weaves a tale of love, friendship, and heroism, focusing on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. The narrative beautifully explores the complexities of their bond, providing a fresh perspective on the legendary characters. Miller's prose is both lyrical and evocative, effortlessly transporting readers to the ancient world. The emotional depth and nuance she brings to the characters make this retelling a triumph, resonating with readers on a profound level. "The Song of Achilles" is a masterpiece that seamlessly combines rich storytelling with timeless themes, earning its well-deserved 5-star rating.

Reviewer's Name: Caroline
The Midnight Library book jacket
Haig, Matt
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

TW: A main theme of this book (and thus the review) is suicide. If this topic makes you uncomfortable, I would suggest finding a different book.

“The Midnight Library” is a story about Nora Seed, whose life has not gone how she’s expected. Worse yet, she feels as though it’s all her fault and her regrets weigh heavy on her. One night she decides to end her own life, but she wakes up in a library with her elementary school librarian. That’s when she gets the opportunity to live the lives she could have led if she’d made different decisions.

As the story goes along, we see many of Nora’s alternative lives. Some of them are just as disastrous as her regular life (her best friend dies, her husband cheats on her). Others are nearly perfect, but can’t be truly satisfying when she didn’t create them. I was glad that some of the alternate lives were good, otherwise it would have seemed like Nora’s original life was simply the lesser of two evils. All of them are interesting to read about. Another interesting aspect of the book is the library itself. The author knows when to reveal information and when to keep things vague.

There aren’t many characters to keep track of. Nora is the main character, and the reader gets a good sense of her interests and aspirations through her various lives. Her friends and family all get a decent amount of depth as well, though they’re not in focus most of the time.

I can’t pretend that I really resonated with the message of the book. I would have preferred if it focused a bit more on the good things that could happen in Nora’s future rather than the good things that happened in her alternate lives. However, that could be a problem exclusive to me.

Overall, I would recommend this book to almost anyone. It’s a fast read and a good story.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Life of Pi book jacket
Martel, Yann
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martel recounts the major events of Pi's life before going into detail about him being stranded on a lifeboat with a tiger. It has frequent anecdotes about zookeeping and religion, especially near the beginning. The main character, Pi Patel, is an extremly likable main character. Though he is not particularly colorful or eccentric, his devotion to God and resilience make the audience instantly emphasize with him. Richard Parker, the tiger, is also made interesting. Though he doesn't do anything out of the realm of possibility, it's always left unclear how he's going to respond to the current situation. The rest of the characters are not particularly deep, but they all serve their purpose.

The plot is fairly simple, focusing more on describing Pi's struggle in detail than twists and turns. Sitting on a boat for seven months is hard to make interesting, but this book rises to the occassion. Every change in circumstance is explored, and Pi has to respond in creative ways. In between the speeches about how to train a tiger and why a hyena is dangerous, there are themes about faith that are masterfully done. While I can't say I agree with everything that's said about religion, I do appriciate how it is explored.

I would reccomend this book to animal lovers, people who enjoy survival stories, and anyone looking for a unique story that will keep them hooked.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
Mistborn: The Final Empire book jacket
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A high-stakes fantasy book about love and sacrifice, Mistborn is absolutely outstanding and a definite read for people who love fantasy. As with any excellent fantasy book, the worldbuilding is enthralling, and the magic system is incredibly distinctive yet easy to grasp. The characters are complex, relatable, and flawed, complemented by the third-person omniscient narration. With this cast of characters, the reader will be taken on multiple emotional rollercoasters before the book concludes. And yes, of course, there is romance layered on evenly throughout the narrative. While it does follow a typical plot, a revolution, or overthrow the corrupt leader, it is done uniquely, and there are twists, and there are turns. Honesty, I could not predict the ending and was left gaping on how intense the book got within the last quarter. As I said, I one hundred percent recommend Mistborn. It is an unforgettable read.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
Genres:
Witcher
Sapkowski, Andrzej
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In the second collection of short stories that start the Witcher saga, Sword of Destiny helps to further broaden the setting and characters that would eventually be used in Blood of Elves . Following somewhat chronologically and expanding upon ideas first covered in The Last Wish , this collection continues to flesh out characters like Geralt and Yennifer while also introducing characters like Ciri. While they're fine stories by themselves, they pale in comparison to long-form novels like Blood of Elves, mainly because of their episodic nature.

I applaud author Andrzej Sapkowski for using these short stories to introduce the world-building of the Witcher series. While some writers might just make character sheets for their characters, he actually puts them in interesting situations to see what they would do. From a writing standpoint, I'd recommend this method of concept development as it gives certain edge cases or rarer character interactions to see where the limits of the characters lie. After all, figuring out what works in short form helps the longer pieces feel grounded. It helps when there are such strong characters to work with, though.

My only qualm with this collection was that nothing was particularly memorable. Sure, if I had read this before Blood of Elves, I might feel differently. As it is, I already know how Geralt handles himself, what drives Yennifer, and how Ciri has more going for her than even she knows. Since I'm writing this review many months later, I had to remind myself what even happened in it. Some stories in this book were covered in the first season of the Netflix adaptation, which made remembering them easier. Still, it's a solid collection and should be required reading for anyone who wants to get into the Witcher series.

Another great, but hardly memorable, collection of short stories, I give Sword of Destiny 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
The Sword Defiant
Ryder-Hanrahan, Gareth
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Sword Defiant" by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan is the greatest exploration of what lies beyond the "happily ever after" that I have ever read. There are two main protagonists; Aelfric the Lammergeier and his sister, Olva. Aelfric, or Alf, is a member of the most famous adventuring party, called the Nine. They famously defeated a malevolent force of darkness 20 years before the events of "The Sword Defiant". Large elements are immediately reminiscent of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. However, rather than focusing directly on battles, duels, and direct combat, Hanrahan instead uses these 20 years to explore how a world is altered after a massive war through Alf's perspective. My least favorite part of "The Sword Defiant" was when Olva was the primary focus. Olva's sections take an even larger step back from action, but the purpose of Olva is unclear even after the climax. I struggled to understand the purpose of Olva. She appeared to just be a thing that Alf needed to protect, or she appeared to be just a tool for the author to see the world from the view of a commoner. This leads to the best part of the book: the world-building. Every single detail about the environment, the populace, culture, class division, species division, species interaction, species history, magic, and more felt important to understand. Each of those elements were also explored, typically through Alf. The Nine have their own interesting backstories, and each member also represents an archetypal Dungeons and Dragons character. Too many beautiful interactions occur between members to present but even the smallest remarks are hitting on the previously mentioned elements of world building. There are the typical fantasy races like Dragons and Dwarves, but there are also the stranger ones like Vatlings and Witch Elves. When Gundan (a dwarf) talks about the Elves, it's always something negative. When anyone ever mentions Peir (the dead one who sacrificed himself 20 years ago), they always talk about his best characteristics. The ending will make that interesting, as well as the development of the secret villain in the end. All in all, this would have been the best fiction book I have read this year if it wasn't for the slog also known as Olva's sections.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
Genres:
The Poppy War book jacket
Kuang, R. F.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

When I picked up The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang, I sought a good, possibly wonderful, fantasy book, as one would expect from a New York Times best-selling author. What I was not expecting was to be enlightened and disturbed to the same degree within its 544 pages. Now let me back up; The Poppy War is a historical and grimdark fantasy that draws its plot from mid-20th-century China, with the main conflict based on the Second Sino-Japanese War. The book provides insight into the brutality of war and its aftermath. While the book is based on the Second Sino-Japanese War, the author does a wonderful job constructing an immersive plot and charming characters taking creative liberties to make the book a story of its own. I would highly recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Lucia
hp sorcerer
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Harry Potter was an incredibly amusing read, with amiable characters that truly made the story stand out. This novel is a must-read for people of all ages. It has an air of mystery, is captivating, and provides entertainment. The book portrays real-world events in a fantasy world.
The characters, including the main character Harry Potter, are relatable and undergo character development while making mistakes. One of the great features of the novel is how each character has their own unique strengths and weaknesses, and each one has a distinct way of feeling. For instance, Neville Longbottom is a shy boy, but his loyalty to his friends and his house team is unwavering.
Harry Potter is a book that can be enjoyed by all ages, as it accurately portrays the struggles that come with different stages of life. Even though Harry is a wizard, his teenage problems are relatable to those of a typical teenager. As a reader, you can judge the characters in the book based on the tone of the novel. Relationships are also a significant feature of this novel and are portrayed differently depending on the type of relationship. For example, the relationship between a sibling and a friend is distinct but can be differentiated only by the tone or mood portrayed accurately.
This book is an absolutely enchanting experience, overflowing with captivating magical creatures, spells, and enchantments that will undoubtedly keep readers completely engaged. The characters are exceptionally well-crafted and relatable, while the plot moves at a fast pace, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat.
The author's vivid and immersive writing style transports readers into the heart of the story, allowing them to experience it as if it were their own. At Hogwarts, Harry befriends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. The trio works together to unravel the mystery surrounding the Sorcerer's Stone. In their quest to counter Voldemort's plan to use the stone to regain his body, Harry and his friends embark on a perilous adventure.
Overall, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a timeless classic that continues to interest and entertain readers of all ages. It is a must-read for anyone who loves fantasy, adventure, and magic. I highly recommend this book to anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Reviewer's Name: Sam
hp prisoner
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the Harry Potter series. This book is a must read if you enjoyed the previous two books.

Harry Potter, a wizard going into his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has a connection to the escaped serial killer, Sirius Black. Black now is thought to be trying to murder Harry Potter on behalf of Voldemort. Dementors are sent to the campus of Hogwarts in order to keep students safe from Black. Hermione is juggling taking 12 classes and being busier than ever. Her cat is set on killing Ron's sick rat creating tension in the trio. Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, helps Harry cope with the awful affect the dementors seem to have on him. Meanwhile, Harry tries to discover the tie between Black and himself.

I read this book because I was a fan of the previous two books in the series. The characters and setting in this book make it easy to fall in love with. The author uses imagery to make it feel as if you are really there with the characters. This made the book an absolute blast to read. The ending tied everything together and prevented loopholes in the plot. I disliked the ending in the regard that Harry didn't get his happily ever after.

Reviewer's Name: Reese B.
Rowling, J.K.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the Harry Potter series. This book is a must read if you enjoyed the previous two books.

Harry Potter, a wizard going into his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, has a connection to the escaped serial killer, Sirius Black. Black now is thought to be trying to murder Harry Potter on behalf of Voldemort. Dementors are sent to the campus of Hogwarts in order to keep students safe from Black. Hermione is juggling taking 12 classes and being busier than ever. Her cat is set on killing Ron's sick rat creating tension in the trio. Professor Lupin, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, helps Harry cope with the awful affect the dementors seem to have on him. Meanwhile, Harry tries to discover the tie between Black and himself.

I read this book because I was a fan of the previous two books in the series. The characters and setting in this book make it easy to fall in love with. The author uses imagery to make it feel as if you are really there with the characters. This made the book an absolute blast to read. The ending tied everything together and prevented loopholes in the plot. I disliked the ending in the regard that Harry didn't get his happily ever after.

Reviewer's Name: Reese B.
Constellations of Scars book jacket
Ousley, Melissa Eskue
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This is definitely an eventful book. "Constellations of Scars" follows Amelia Weaver. For unexplained reasons, she grows pearls on her skin every month. Her mother keeps her shut inside the house, restricting her freedom. One day she decides to escape and try her hand at the real world. She ends up working for a freak show, though they are unaware of her own oddity.

Let's start with the characters. Amelia herself is perfectly acceptable. She doesn't have any noteworthy character traits, or anything to help her stand out besides the whole pearl thing. However, her motivation is clearly defined and all of her choices make sense. Gabe is probably the best character in the book. His backstory is interesting, and his somewhat reclusive demeanor is off putting without being unlikeable. Unfortunately, most of his character development happens within ten pages. Peter is... interesting. I'll talk about him in the spoilers section.

The best part about this book is the writing. It keeps the reader engaged the whole way through. While the descriptions are detailed, the author does not dwell on them long enough to bore the reader. One interesting thing about this book is the chapter length. While there are long chapters, there are also chapters that only last a few pages. I found that this kept the story at a fast pace, further keeping me involved.

The plot is the main failing of the book. Spoilers from here on out. It starts off strong, setting up themes of isolation and hiding. Several conflicts were set up, most notably Amelia's mother and the possibility of the world finding out about her secret. However, all of these conflicts are suddenly solved halfway through the book. From that point on, it shifts to a thriller about Peter secretly being a serial killer. I'm not kidding. There are hints that Peter isn't as nice as he appears, so it doesn't come out of nowhere. However, it drastically shifts the course of the story, to the point where it feels like two separate stories.

Despite this criticism, this wasn't a bad book. I enjoyed myself while reading it. Furthermore, it's a quick read (perfect for car trips or bedtime). If you're looking for an engaging story with twists and turns, this is for you. If you're looking for a cohesive story with interesting themes, this book isn't for you.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Time Traveler's Wife book jacket
Niffenegger, Audrey
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Time Traveler's Wife", written by Audrey Niffenegger, is the fictional account of Henry DeTamble, a man with a unique genetic condition that causes him to involuntarily time travel, and his wife Clare Abshire. The narrative follows their love story as they navigate the challenges posed by Henry's sporadic disappearances and unpredictable reappearances at various points in time. I really enjoyed how the plots all came together; while Clare aged normally, she would see Henry at different stages of his life. For example, when Henry time travels, he sees Clare when she is 13 and when he is 35. Another time Henry was 28 whilst Clare was 20. Clare's development was linear, while Henry's was sporadic. I would recommend this book to adults who enjoy a good love story. However, there is some adult content in the book so I would not recommend it for children or teenagers.

Reviewer's Name: Finn G.
Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century
Fu, Kim
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Canadian author Kim Fu provides 12 entertaining, oft challenging and daring stories in her latest award-winning collection (Feb. 2022, 232 pages).
She does a skillful job of taking extraordinary circumstances, such as a tween girl sprouting wings and turning that into a believable rite of passage. In another, a Bridezilla meets a sea monster and what follows is a witty commentary on social expectations and ecological consequences.
All the stories blur the lines between reality and the fantastic, and the weird and mundane, all while shining a spotlight on human contradictions concerning sexuality, death, guilt and technology.
As a result, all prove memorable for different reasons, making this collection one of the few worth reading in its entirety.
AWARDS: An NPR, Book Riot, Chicago Public Library, Tor.com, South China Morning Post, Ms. Magazine, and Shelf Awareness Best Book of 2022; 2023 Pacific Northwest Book Prize Winner; Time Magazine Top 10 Fiction Book of 2022

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue book jacket
Schwab, Victoria
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is about a French girl who did not want to get married and prayed to a dangerous higher being made a deal. The deal makes Addie cursed to live until she gets tired of living and not being able to remember as she lives. Throughout the novel Addie is alone for 300 years her only company this higher being who enjoys to mock her. Finally after 300 years someone remembers her.
The novel is written in a bit of a slow pace, but it slowly builds up as it goes on. The novel switches between the past of characters lives and the present. The ending is a little surprising. The book is worth the read.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Hana
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

If you have read the Hunger Games series, then you know that President Snow is the main villain and set a iron grip on the Districts of Panem. I you haven't read the trilogy, then might I highly suggest you do.
This book takes place decades before the trilogy starts and we read through Coriolanus Snow's eyes before he becomes the president and monster of Panem. Coriolanus has already set himself up to be in a position of power even as a young adult, and after his city was besieged, and his parents died, the Snow name and fortune left in ruins. Coriolanus Snow has decided that he will never be the weaker side again. The Hunger Games were not a new event for Panem during the time yet they were never popular, now though Coriolanus and his class are each assigned a tribute to make the Games finally noticed. Coriolanus has been assigned the girl of District 12, perhaps the worst choice available, or so he thinks.

Reviewer's Name: Xzavier
The Hunger Games book jacket
Collins, Suzanne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The "Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins is a suspenseful novel about 16-year-old Katniss in the dystopian land of Panem. In this world, the 13 districts protested against the government. In punishment, they must provide two tributes (one boy and one girl) from each district. When Katniss's sister was chosen as tribute Katniss stepped up to protect her. Now she must fight to the death with the other 23 tributes for a chance to continue with her life.

Reviewer's Name: Cailyn
Sleeping Giants book jacket
Neuvel, Sylvain
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Sylvain Neuvel's "Sleeping Giants" is the first book in a series of three fantastic novels about alien technology and what it means to be human. This book was lent to me by my father, so I knew it had to be amazing. I was not wrong in that assumption. My favorite part about this book is likely the most divisive part: the format. This book is explained in an interview format, between each character and a mysterious interviewer that is developed further in the later installments of this series. At first, I wasn't sure if I would like how jarringly different this format is; sometimes it is noticeable when the author wanted to convey some important information, but the constant interview made the information difficult to show. It wasn't exclusively interviews; occasionally a mission log was used for variety's sake. My least favorite part of the book is actually what wasn't included in the book. It sounds picky, but I think that this book had room for more. The cliffhanger, while masterfully executed, came too soon. Not enough happened before the book ended, so I was left immediately scrambling to acquire the other 2 books in the series. The book, and especially the series as a whole, is absolutely surprising at nearly every step. Characters assumed narratively immortal die, and enemies turn into friends that save the world in the third book. Each character had interesting flaws and contrasting personalities, so each character introduced to us through the mysterious interviewer felt like someone you could meet walking down the street. All in all, this book is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
Tress of the Emerald Sea book jacket
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The book "Tress of the Emerald Sea" was a brilliant standalone book set in Brandon Sanderson's "cosmere" (his unique term referring to the general world where most of his books take place). I didn't actually choose to read this book; my uncle lent me this book because I love nearly all of Brandon Sanderson's books. After reading this magnificent book, I am very thankful for his generosity. I enjoyed the development of the protagonist, Tress, over the book the most. Tress stays kind throughout the entire book, but her bravery develops as she grows from a timid cup collector to something I don't want to spoil, but she gains a massive amount of bravery in the pursuit of kindness. I didn't enjoy the ease at which the final boss was dealt with, but the conclusion was relatively tidy and neat. This is the type of book where I constantly need to ask myself, "How did the author think of this"? Spore oceans that kill you but still float ships? Cup collectors creating chaos? Nothing was offensively predictable, and the little twist right at the end reminded my instantly of Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away's little twist at the end regarding the protagonist's parents. I won't say this has been the best book that I've read this year, but that is only because the year is still young and Brandon Sanderson's kickstarter had 3 other books in it.

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ryder
Other Birds book jacket
Allen, Sarah Addison
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"Other Birds" is a slice of life story with mild paranormal elements. It does not have a high stakes plot, but rather focuses on the personal struggles of the characters. Overall it is a very refreshing and relaxing read. The paranormal element is not explored much, but it adds to the book's charm. The prose is lovely, especially regarding descriptions of food.
All of the characters are fairly interesting. Charlotte, Mac, and Lizbeth were my favorites. They all had interesting pasts and clear personalities. Zoey and Oliver were also interesting, but felt a little under developed. Lucy is only present for about a dozen pages. She's not so much of a character as she is a mystery, and she serves that role well.
The twists in this book are all fairly solid. I guessed one of them immediately, but it still felt impactful. I didn't guess one, but it didn't add anything to the story. Two of them were genuine surprises, and added depth to the story.
This book is not incredible, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and heartwarming. I would recommend it to lovers of character driven stories.

Reviewer's Name: Rose
The Magic Fish book jacket
Trung Le Nguyen
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This graphic novel has a really interesting way of storytelling- it has multiple stories running simultaneously that add depth to one another. The author uses fairy tales, like the Magic Fish, to represent the actual characters in the main story. It follows a young boy who struggles to tell his mother he is gay and he experiences a crush on one of his close friends. It touches on some sensitive topics but ends really sweetly. Another bonus is the gorgeous artwork and use of color in the different storylines. Despite being a quick read, it was meaningful and a good story.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren