Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Fantasy

Beowulf
Heaney, Seamus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The mighty hero triumphs over evil and saves the people from utter destruction. Sound familiar? Of course it does, it’s the basic plot line of the cliche hero’s tale that everybody knows. However, all of these tales most likely spawned from Beowulf, the oldest surviving English poem written in Anglo - Saxon around the 11th Century A.D. Beowulf is an epic poem that begins with Hrothgar, King of the Danes. Hrothgar’s people live in peace when they are attacked and threatened by a monster named Grendel, who kills off the Danes everynight in their mead-hall, Heorot. So in comes Beowulf son of Ecgtheow, a mighty warrior from Geatland who promises to defeat Grendel and bring prosperity back to the Danes. Beowulf is an amazing poem as it not only tells the classic tale of the epic hero and his journey, but contains hidden meanings aside from literal. Beowulf has no known author, but contains elements of factual history, which tells us this may be a tale describing actual events. This piece of literature is a traditional master piece and should be preserved as an example of how words and tales can evolve over decades. Reviewer Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
The Cottingley Secret
Gaynor, Hazel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“ I said my story had many beginnings, and the day the camera arrived was one of them. After all, without the camera, there wouldn’t have been any photographs. Without the camera, I wouldn’t have a story to tell...”

The Cottingley Secret is a story about fairies, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and an old bookshop in a Irish harbor town, what is not to love about this book.
This story is a modern retelling of the real historical legend of the Cottingley Fairies. After coming to live with her cousin Elsie Wright in Cottingley England, during the height of the first world war, Frances Griffiths and her cousin both claim to see real live fairies at the bottom of the garden. The cousins soon prove their claims by photographing the fairies in the garden. These real live photos soon catches the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wholeheartedly believes the girls and proceeds to publish several of these photos in a magazine. Soon after, the girls and the fairies became a national sensation and through the country into the grip of fairy fever. This marks the beginning of a time that would define their lives and have them keeping secrets until the day of their deaths.

Meanwhile in modern day Ireland, Olivia Cavanaugh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and soon discovers a manuscript that recounts the story of Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. As she reads through the manuscript, written by Frances, she soon discovers she has more in common with her than she ever imagined.

Hazel Gaynor connects past and present in a way that is both modern and extremely touching. I really connected with Olivia in this book. As she, and the reader, reads through Frances and Elsie’s story, she finds strength to face her painful past and let go of a life that has always been planned out for her to pursue a life that connects her to the desires of her heart.

Filled with amazing literary prose, a beautiful atmospheric environment and strong characters, this story is historical literary fantasy at it’s best.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
The Stand
King, Stephen
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

The book "The Stand" by Stephen King is a novel about a disease. It starts out at a gas station where the disease is first seen in the novel. This book has many different characters as it progresses. The main antagonist is the embodiment of evil. He is basically the Antichrist. Although I didn't like this book as much as some of Stephen's other works because I have a short attention span and some parts are not attention grabbing. It is still a very good book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes horror. This novel is very unpredictable which is one of the main reasons I like it as much as I do. Because there are so many characters in this book, it was very easy for me to relate to their situations.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Tabitha V.
Awards:
Every Heart a Doorway
McGuire, Seanan
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A fascinating and dark book. The premise is enjoyable. I adored the thought of a home for kids who went to other worlds. The kids could be summed up in one word: PTSD. And they were perfect, with complex backstories and hopes and dreams. The world's were even better, from the silent Hall of the Dead to the Moors, a world hovering between the lightning strike and the resurrection. I couldn't put the book down. In fact, I wish it was longer so I could spend more time in the rich world with its people. From a dapper mad scientist to a girl who ran on rainbows, they are all unique. And I love them for it. I love their interactions and their longing for the world's they had seen. The question was, who would murder to go back to the place they considered home.
Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Morgan J.
Genres:
Hearts in Atlantis
King, Stephen
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

When I started Hearts in Atlantis, all I knew about it was that it was written by Stephen King and there was a movie of the same name that was likely based on it. As I began to read, I found myself enthralled by the coming-of-age story that presented itself. I had no idea it connected to the Dark Tower series, but that detail was almost ancillary, a neat little connection into a bigger picture. Having made it half-way through the book, I wanted to follow the main character’s development into adulthood but, then the story suddenly stopped.

Instead of following a story that had engaged me, the focus shifted to a completely different character, only loosely tied to the events in the first half of the book via one of the characters, who was now in college. Almost in a fractal fashion, this story was half as long as the first, with each successive story growing shorter and shorter, while still being connected to the first narrative in some way, no matter how loose that connection might have been. Finally, the story returns to the main character of the first section, but only stays long enough to say goodbye.

I absolutely loved the first story in this “collection,” and by its strength alone, I would recommend this to anyone. However, the second half of the book felt too disjointed to be interesting, especially with all the emotional energy I had invested in the first story. Sure, they were somewhat interesting in their own ways, showing the relentless march of time toward the modern era, but they simply lacked that fantastical little spark from the first story (incidentally, the same spark that was connected to the Dark Tower series).

A great story with almost unnecessary add-ons, I give Hearts in Atlantis 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Awards:
The Girl in the Tower
Arden, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Katherine Arden's The Girl In The Tower is just as good, if not better, than the first book, The Bear and The Nightingale. Filled with more Russian Fairy tales, atmospheric literary prose, rich and strong characters, and the same enchanting setting of Medieval Russia, this book picks up right where the first one left off. It follows the story of Vasya, now a grown up woman she, instead of conforming to the role woman in her day usually play, of marriage or life in a convent, chooses instead a life of adventure. Leaving her home and traveling the vast Russian Wilderness while dressed as a boy, she soon is called upon to defend the city of Moscow and finds the threat greater and more deadly than she imagined. While fighting this threat, only she can stop, she is also forced to protect her secret as she comes upon her brother and attracts the attention of the Grand Prince of Moscow.

Part of what drew me to this book is the fairy tales, yes, but also the historical setting of Medieval Russia. Katherine Arden does a masterful job of weaving fantasy elements with real life historical details only a great historian would discover. Blurring the line between history, fantasy, and reality this book and, more importantly this series, is contemporary historical fantasy at its best. It is a sketch not only of real life in Medieval Russia, but also displays the power of story and demonstrates the importance of fairy tales and the lessons they can teach us.

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie M.
Awards:
The Bear and the Nightingale
Arden, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A perfect winter read! A beautiful atmospheric retelling of the fairytale Jack Frost set in a wintry town on the edge of the Russian wilderness in Medieval Russia. Plus a strong independent female protagonist who risks everything to save her family from the evil forces all around her! What's not to love! Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale is a must read! This novel has it all mystery, magic, adventure, and love! With well developed characters and beautiful, atmospheric, lyrical writing that makes you almost feel the cold wind on your skin and see the snow flakes falling this book cannot be passed up! I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out, The Girl in The Tower!

Reviewer's Name: Tawnie
Children of the Mind
Card, Orson Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Just like Xenocide before it, Children of the Mind is difficult to separate from the previous books in the Ender’s Game series. In fact, Xenocide and Children of the Mind are considered by Orson Scott Card to merely be two parts of the same book, separated at a point in the plot that makes sense.
Even further to the point, I would consider Children of the Mind the last “part” of a story that stretches across four books. While it was easy to take Ender’s Game by itself, every additional piece of the story needs the previous parts for it to have the full impact of what Card was trying to accomplish.

What’s most interesting about this series is how each book has a different focus, almost putting them in distinct genres. Ender’s Game was militaristic sci-fi, while Speaker of the Dead was more along the lines of a mystery. And while Xenocide was the philosophical heart of the series, Children of the Mind was almost a romance in comparison. I appreciated the loose strings and sub-plots being tied up by the end of Children of the Mind, especially when it came to defining the relationships between the characters I had come to know over the last few books.

Even though the basic plot of these last three books was a simple “avoid destruction” motif, the complexity of the whole scenario did require the amount of text dedicated to it. Each element of these stories came into play in some fashion to create a satisfying ending. I’m still in awe of the technological foresight and brilliant solutions to fundamental physics limitations that Card was able to develop in these four books. I rarely have found a series that has been so consistently good across all parts of its story, and I believe the saga of Ender Wiggin is now my new favorite.

A satisfying ending to an incredible series of books, I give Children of the Mind 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Xenocide
Card, Orson Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Much like authors Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were well ahead of their time in their science fiction writing, Orson Scott Card once again shows that he understood some of the key concepts of our universe. Written in 1991, Card’s Xenocide deepens and furthers the continuing adventure of Ender Wiggin that he began back in Ender’s Game . Picking up where Speaker for the Dead left off, Xenocide adds a powerful adversary while also tying plot points back to the first book in the series. In this sense, the tight intertwining of Xenocide with its predecessors makes it difficult to separate and review by itself.

I appreciate what Card has done by creating a multi-book narrative that requires the reader to have started from the very beginning of the story.
While Xenocide is not nearly the end of the series, as made clear by the astounding twist near the end, it does pull enough unresolved threads from Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead to create the next segment of the story. In this sense, the whole story is a multi-book epic so well-written that no detail or specific piece of continuity is overlooked. Plus, with so much history behind it, Xenocide reads at a frenetic pace, just trying to “beat the clock” of an almost assured planetary destruction.

Surprisingly, if you told me that there was a sci-fi book comprised almost entirely of dialogue and profound, philosophical arguments, I would probably assume it was boring (or at least written by Robert Heinlein). And yet, Card has brought the reasoning proposed in the previous books of this series and pulled them through to their logical conclusions, creating an engaging discussion of artificial intelligence and sentience, while wrapping the whole thing in the context of moral arguments for and against exterminating an entire species. There are no easy answers in this book, but Card has masterfully included concepts like cloud computing, interdimensional travel, and genetic engineering to get his point across.

A fantastic continuation of Ender Wiggin’s story that leaves the reader begging for more, I give Xenocide 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
White Tiger
Chan, Kylie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Kylie Chan mixes modern life with traditional Chinese mythology in her enthralling tale. The story follows Emma, a nanny for a young girl of a wealthy business man living in Hong Kong. As Emma becomes more and more connected with her charge, she become more entangled with a mystery that surrounds the household. She soon discovers that her employer is an ancient Chinese God, and is pursued by demonic forces. Kylie Chan writes with a faced-pace adventurous quality that keeps readers on their feet.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: Lynzie M.
The Wise Man's Fear
Rothfuss, Patrick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Wise Man's Fear is the second installment of the KingKiller Chronicles following The Name of the Wind. Rothfuss continues Kvothe's tale as he learns to navigate new worlds and new relationships. Unlike many sequels, A Wise Man's Fear is not lacking in adventure or astute characters. Having left the university, Kvothe faces assassination plots, powerful fey, and a trial by powerful mercenaries. In this book, we really see Kvothe become a hero and stretch his legend across the four corners of civilization. Rothfuss writes with the same dexterity as seen previously, and he always leaves you wanting more.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: Lynzie M.
Genres:
The Name of the Wind
Rothfuss, Patrick
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Name of the Wind follows the story of Kvothe, a highly clever, not so childish kid who faces perils uncommon in this world and the next. Name of the Wind is not just another coming-of-age story. Rothfuss weaves an incredible story of intrigue. This book, while a little daunting at first, is worth every page. The use of language is masterful and Rothfuss manages to keep readers engaged every step of the way.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: Lynzie M.
Awards:
Genres:
The Sword of Shannara
Brooks, Terry
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: an unassuming character is given the task to use a magical item to destroy a great evil that once terrorized the world. To help this character on their quest is their best friend, a magic-wielding individual, a ranger with a love interest, a dwarf, and some elves. Look, I get that The Lord of the Rings redefined the fantasy genre in the 1950’s, but why were fantasy writers still replicating this formula twenty years later? I only half-paid attention to this derivative plot, mostly because I already had an idea what was going to happen.

Now, I will admit that The Sword of Shannara isn’t completely a 1-for-1 rehashing of The Lord of the Rings, but enough of it is similar that it feels almost too familiar. The plot does divert from the Tolkien formula, but probably not until about halfway through. It was at this point where some interesting and original characters finally arrived on the scene. A mute rock troll and his thieving friend were quite entertaining, and I would almost prefer if the story was about them instead of about this titular and fabled sword of legend.

Just enough of this book was different enough to make it engaging. Sure, some of the same Lord of the Rings plot points were there, albeit in a different order, but the details were just unique enough to give the characters their own little side quests. I know it 's hard to introduce an entire fantasy world in one book, so I’m willing to give this trilogy a bit of slack, but only as long as the next book in the series goes in a new and original direction and doesn’t just follow the Lord of the Rings template.

Moments of originality in a mostly derivative plot, I give The Sword of Shannara 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres:
Yellow circle with a drawn map on it against an orange background
Coelho, Paulo
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I first picked up this book when I was in maybe 6th grade and I absolutely hated it, I had no clue what it was about and why it was an "adventure" book that didn't really have a lot of action in it. Having picked up this book again this year (and actually finishing it this time) I can honestly say this story made me want to reevaluate how I have lived my entire life. The story follows a boy named Santiago as he searches for his personal legend, in other words, the reason he is alive, his purpose. This is a book that makes you want to go out and chase your dreams no matter what, and it is beautifully written. The novel takes you through the ups and downs of life and proves that sometimes your hard work is worth it in the end, whether you accomplish what you set out to do out not. I think this is a book where the messaged can’t be fully realized until your a little bit older, but to anyone struggling with what they want to do in life or even just where to start, this book is amazing, it made me feel like anything is possible. Just read it, I promise it’s good.

Reviewer: Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle K.
Awards:
Warbreaker
Sanderson, Brandon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

For the last few years, Brandon Sanderson’s name kept coming up amongst my writer friends. I had never heard of him, but they had been fans of his writing for some time. In my goal to read all the unread books I own, I found that I had obtained a Brandon Sanderson book many years ago as a prize during my first National Novel Writing Month. Even with the daunting page count, I decided to give Warbreaker a read. All I can say is that it was refreshing to finally read a fantasy book written by someone who genuinely knows what they’re doing.

I’ve read a lot of books recently that I would consider “amateur,” but Sanderson proves he’s a professional in this tightly written book. From incredibly interesting and entertaining characters to expertly placed foreshadowing to a fascinating magic system, Warbreaker is fully original while also maintaining the tropes and structure of a high fantasy novel. The twists in the plot continued to grab my attention as the mystery surrounding these characters unfolded. As I read, I had a few qualms with minor points in the story, but Sanderson managed to quash these negative points by the end of the book.

I have stayed away from the fantasy genre for a long time because I know how lengthy some of these book series can be, and I didn’t want to become invested in something that might not even reach its penultimate conclusion.
Fortunately, Warbreaker is well-encapsulated in its own, standalone story.
Sure, there are hints at what the future may hold for some of these characters, but nothing was particularly pressing or “cliffhanger-ish” in this book. Either way, consider me a believer in the fantasy genre, and in Sanderson particularly. Maybe now it’s time I started to dive into his other works.

An original and highly entertaining fantasy story, I give Warbreaker 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Genres:
A gold crown on a yellow background
Martin, George R.R.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Clash of Kings is the second book in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. After adoring the first book, I was not at all disappointed with the second. The immensely complex fantasy world only continues to grow and develop in this book, as do the characters. George R. R. Martin perfectly juggles all the different storylines, making them all interesting, suspenseful, and fascinating. His characters are so 3-dimensional that characters the reader hates in the first book begin to be shown in a new light. I very strongly recommend this book to anyone that read A Game of Thrones. Every paragraph in this book is so richly embellished and detailed that as I read these books, I felt like I was learning the history of another country.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Genres:
The Two Towers
Tolkien, John R.R.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The second installment in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Two Towers," takes up the challenge of doubling up on the success of Tolkien's previous novel. This is a daunting task, as fans clamored to the brilliant and wonderfully crafted masterpiece of "The Fellowship of the Ring". Though after having read and thoroughly reflected upon Tolkien's most recent work, I am pleased to say that he was able to exceed my expectations.

The novel begins directly where the last left off, with Frodo Baggins having been taken hostage by a group of vicious orcs. In spite of this setback, he is still on a quest to destroy the mystical ring, but as is to be expected in such a story, his journey is neither simple nor straight-forward.

Along the way, Frodo makes encounters with a number of new characters, ever-diversifying this creative and beautifully crafted story. Their journey stands witness to a number of conflicts, wars, and battles, with various different social groups across the realm taking part. Through it all, as Frodo inches closer to his destination, the faded shadow of Mordor- where the Dark Kingdom and Sauron await- gleams in his foresight.

I originally picked up this novel immediately after the last, and am glad to have read it. Some may not enjoy the novel quite as much, due to the fact that the language is very particular and can sometimes present readers with a bit of a learning-curve. However, the story manages to continue to enhance the rich narrative setup in the previous novel, and does a wonderful job with transitioning the story forward. Tolkien’s colorful and imaginative lore’s, histories, and descriptions truly make this novel a must read!

Reviewer’s Grade Level: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ethan M.
Beowulf: a New Verse Translation
Heaney, Seamus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Beowulf is a classic heroic epic written one thousand years ago; I read the version that Seamus Heaney translated into modern English. This translation was excellent, managing to balance the original style and rhythm with a clear and understandable tone. Beowulf is a traditional hero. As a result, some of the plot points are fairly predictable. Nevertheless, I would recommend this epic poem to anyone who enjoys Tolkien or other fantasy series. Reading Beowulf, it is easy to see where more contemporary authors got their inspiration.
Reader Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Caroline J.
Awards:
A Dance with Dragons
Martin, George R.R.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Not only has the release of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" book trilogy garnered international acclaim, but it has also brought together a diverse community of fans, all of whom share an appreciation for the masterpiece they see in Martin's work. From novel to novel, Martin has continued to enthrall his fans with plots upon counter-plots, timeless lore, and brutally realistic characterization. Suffice it to say, fans were displeased when the six-year waiting period struck between the third and fourth installment. Now, with "A Dance with Dragons" well past its release, fans beg the question, "How does the fourth novel stack up to its prequel 'A Feast for Crows' and the other books?" To answer that question, I would say A Dance with Dragons has trumped the three previous novels, and exceeds the quality of Martin's previous work.

In A Feast for Crows, the plot left out the happenings of Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys. Luckily, however, this new novel pays most of its 1000+ pages to these plotlines. With the war over, attempts for peace in King's Landing are made, but as Tyrion reaps havoc in the capitol, he flees across the Narrow Sea to meet with the rumored "Daenerys Targaryen".

She has done quite well for herself, having managed to take power, wealth, and respect form the former masters of Slaver's Bay. Though as old conflicts are settled, new ones arise, and Daenerys soon finds that governing over a foreign city is a challenge.

Up in the North, the 998th lord commander of the Night's Watch, Jon Snow, faces distrust among his brothers. Yet in spite of their squabbling, a bigger threat looms across the Wall, with the Others inching closer to the Seven Kingdoms.

In addition to these major plotlines, there are of course reappearances from a range of other characters. Their plots are befit to twists, turns, and outright bewilderment, able to surprise even some of the most observant readers.

I read this book immediately after finishing the last, and can say that I am pleasantly surprised with it. The plotlines continue to complicate, and intrigue readers ever-further in this timeless trilogy.

One complaint I would file with this novel is that due to Martin's fragmented writing style, for which certain books focus primarily on particular plotlines, I felt that some information was hard to remember or keep track of. I would definitely recommend brushing up on a summary of "A Storm of Swords" beforehand, as a way to refresh yourself on those details.

If you decide to not continue with the trilogy, my recommendation has to go to J.R.R Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. While it's true that the novels are highly similar, Tolkien's work makes up for some of the imperfections in Martin's.

Overall, from my opinion, A Dance with Dragons is certainly an improvement on the last installment in the trilogy, and stands to be one of the better "Song of Ice and Fire" novels. If you are this far into the series already, I would have to say that it's worth continuing. The timeless and rich storytelling found in Martin's novels makes for a read that simply cannot be passed up!

Reviewer Grade: 10

Reviewer's Name: Ethan M
The Time Keeper
Albom, Mitch
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mitch Albom is one of the most creative authors I've ever read. The Time Keeper is an amazing read, as it makes us question how we view time. Time is one of the driving forces of our everyday lives, yet we treat it as a simple, inanimate object. The Time Keeper focuses on two characters: A teenager who wants time to go faster and an old man who wants it to go slower. But there is also a third character: The Time Keeper. An old man in a cave, locked away from humanity, subject to hear all the voices of Earth pleading for time to go faster, slower, or to stop altogether. This book is very interesting, and I absolutely recommend it.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Genres:

Pages