Fiction

Book Review: Blood of Elves

Blood of Elves
Author: 
Sapkowski, Andrzej
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I’ll admit that I had a bit of a head start understanding the Witcher universe when I picked up this book. I’ve played a few hours of The Witcher 3 on my Switch, and I watched the first season of the show on Netflix. Would the lack of this prior knowledge have hurt my chances of understanding this high fantasy? Not likely. Arranged as a series of vignettes, Blood of Elves reveals its characters and setting based on a collection of almost everyday scenarios. While this approach made understanding the overarching goal of the series difficult to discern, it did make the characters quite a bit more realistic and relatable.

When it comes down to it, this book is about its characters. Geralt, Ciri, and Yennefer all stood out to me as unique and well-rounded individuals who each had their own stories to tell and plotlines to follow. And while their interactions are all intertwined in some way, their individual journeys allow them to shine in their own way. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed listening to this audiobook: it wasn’t so focused on building the world where these characters lived (like most Tolkein-esque high fantasy). Instead, this book made sure I understood who these characters were and what challenges they have faced and will face in the future.

Two scenes/stories stood out to me in this book that I feel need special praise. First, I have never before read a book that had an entire fight/training sequence performed exclusively in dialogue. There were no character actions other than what was described through what the individuals said to each other. To be able to do this so well is an achievement in writing in and of itself. Secondly, I found the story where Geralt meets a monster “expert” to be incredibly humorous. This bit of levity helped to keep the book from getting too dark and morose, which was welcome considering some of its content.

A fantastic character-based high fantasy, I give Blood of Elves 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Ringworld

Ringworld
Author: 
Niven, Larry
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

It can be difficult to judge a book, especially one as critically acclaimed as Ringworld, with 50 years of scientific and societal progress between when it was written and today. On the one hand, there are many scientific concepts explored in this book that we almost take for granted in modern sci-fi. On the other hand, the stink of 1970s misogyny doesn’t age very well, and this book is a prime example. Even today, sci-fi authors are still trying to dig out from the sexist tropes that books like this perpetuated throughout the genre. It’s a complicated, uphill battle, but we’re trying to be better than this.

For 1970, I do have to admit that the science presented here is relatively revolutionary. Unfortunately, the descriptions were occasionally a bit dry and felt more like reading a textbook than a sci-fi adventure. I could appreciate how Niven described the indescribable scale of something as massive as the Ringworld. Additionally, the alien races were well-rounded and had complex physiologies and backstories that made the group dynamic entertaining to read. However, the only thing well-rounded about the women in this book were their bodies.

Aside from the considerable age difference between the two romantic leads being an acceptance of pedophilia, it’s clear that Niven only thought of women as objects. This is disappointing because the story could have been more interesting if the female characters had any agency other than being driven by pleasure or luck. I have to recognize that this book is still a snapshot of its temporal circumstances, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse it in today’s society. Acknowledging that it’s from the 1970s, modern works should be more aware of these flaws when using such a pivotal science fiction book as a base for today’s books.

Some great science with not-so-great misogyny, I give Ringworld 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Full Moon: A Novel of the Dresden Files

Full Moon: A Novel of the Dresden Files
Author: 
Butcher, Jim
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

I haven’t read a lot of the urban fantasy genre, but series like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files is what I’ve come to expect. There’s a certain amount of logic that goes into combining fantasy elements into modern settings, and—if done well—can bring a story to life. Fool Moon (a delicious play on words, if I do say so myself) continues to take the noir twist from Storm Front and applies Harry Dresden’s magical skills against werewolf foes. Perhaps Storm Front wowed me with the concept of a detective magician so much that I thought Fool Moon was slightly weaker in comparison.

For starters, I felt there were too many factions to keep track of in this book. Half the time, I was trying to remember if the werewolves in question were the good guys or the bad guys. Granted, the ambiguity of the factions’ intent helped drive the plot, but they all felt so similar that I had difficulty telling them apart from each other. I was also somewhat confused with what was happening in the climactic battle, even if it eventually made sense. Additionally, there was a scene in this book that basically forced Dresden to make some obvious connections without it having to come quite as naturally as I would have liked.

All this being said, I did appreciate how the story integrated most of the common lore surrounding werewolves. Nothing was entirely cliché, but it was comforting to be able to see how certain well-known elements of how werewolves work helped to maintain the fantasy continuity. If specific topics like werewolves were handled this well by Butcher, I cannot wait to see how other fantasy elements are seamlessly integrated into this alternate Chicago.

An excellent fusion of fantasy and modern setting with a few weaknesses, I give Fool Moon 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Brave New World

Brave New World
Author: 
Huxley, Aldous
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley, is a personal interpretation of society’s attitude towards technology. It takes place in a future, either dystopian or utopian, where technology reigns supreme, and humans are created in a lab. It offers commentary on where humanity’s values are placed, and where they should be placed. The characters have to choose whether or not conformity is the best option, and whether numbing the pain is better than understanding the suffering. Written in the 1930s, Huxley has a surprisingly modern style and understanding, and knowing that he was unsure of the future makes it an even more exciting book.

Reviewer's Name: 
Malachi

Book Review: Bridge to Terabithia

 Bridge to Terabithia
Author: 
Paterson, Katherine
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

This book is about two unlikely friends who create an imaginary world with many kinds of animals and beasts. Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke become friends when Leslie moves and becomes Jess’s neighbor. But they really get to know each other when Leslie is the only girl to beat Jess in a running race.

One day, Jess and Leslie use a hanging rope to swing over a little river that is nearby, and that’s when they start to rule, as king and queen, the imaginary Terabithia.

There, the two friends have adventures as they try to rule over their subjects, and keep peace and order in Terabithia. Some of these subjects include hairy vultures, squogres, and other spirits, both good and bad. Squogres are massive squirrel-like creatures who are constantly growling, and they wear strange golden helmets with a spike on top, like a Triceratops.

With this book keeping you imaginative, with some sad and happy parts, I'm going to go with 3/5 stars for The Bridge to Terabithia.

Reviewer's Name: 
Gurman

Book Review: Phule's Company

Phule's Company
Author: 
Asprin, Robert
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Phule’s Company combines humor and a great amount of detail in a single book. It also contains a good amount of growth mindset. Even though it's a novel, I think anyone could learn Growth Mindset from this. Though the humor is hard to see, it really is funny in a lot of ways. Some of the names are clever versions of household items, such as duct tape. Overall, this is an excellent book for anyone looking for a sci-fi.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale
Author: 
Atwood, Margaret
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

This novel followes the life of "Offred" who is part of the first wave of women during the Gilead regime. "Offred", whose real name is never revealed in the book, is a Handmaid whose sole responsiblity is to have children to sustain the rapidly declining Caucasion population. She tries to accept her life as a Handmaid, but is haunted by memories of the time before Gilead when she had a family and was free from the oppressive society she currently lives in.

I really liked how Atwood discloses minimal details about "Offred" which makes it clear that what is happening to her can happen to any woman. The novel is set in a utopian society, and it's very interesting to read the rationale behind the establishment of the Gilead regime and how sexism and anti-feminist retoric is a constantly looming problem in society. The novel is told through "Offred's" perspective, and personally, I felt she was a bland character, but her story itself was interesting. The book hangs off on a cliffhanger, and I'm definitely going to read the sequel and watch the Hulu adaption after!

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club
Author: 
Tan, Amy
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Joy Luck highlights mother-daughter relationships in the midst of generational conflicts. The Joy Luck daughters, Jing-mei, Waverly, Rose, and Lena, are first generation Chinese-Americans living in San Francisco during the 1980's. They feel their mothers are overbearing and do not understand their desire for independence. Ironically, their mothers feel they are losing their Chinese identity and became Americanized.

I love this book! The book is structured like the traditional Chinese game mahjong, and each of the daughters and mother's stories are complex and thought-provoking. Although it's set back in the 80's, a lot of its themes regarding mother-daughter relationships and intergenerational conflicts are relevant amongst first-generation immigrants and families today. Among the eight main characters, Jing-mei is my favorite, because she's really the only daughter that fully embraces her hyphenated identity.

This book is different because it tells the story of eight women who are so similar yet so different at the same time. I really recommend this to anyone looking for a female dominated novel!

Reviewer's Name: 
Nneoma

Book Review: Pretties

Pretties
Author: 
Westerfeld, Scott
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The plot and characters in this book were Amazing! I loved the twists and turns along the way. The story ran smoothly and everything moved at a great pace. If you are interested in a highly engaging, futuristic, adventurous book, this is highly recommended! You will find yourself deep in the pages and unable to put the book down.

Reviewer's Name: 
Kate

Book Review: Shapechangers

Shapechangers
Author: 
Roberson, Jennifer
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Cheysuli chronicles come off with a great start. I enjoy this book for the lighthearted style and consider it the best of the series. The detail is amazing, the picture painted is excellent, and the character development is perfect. The series is a fantasy about generations of shapechanging people conflicting with their nemesis race, the Ihlini. I would highly recommend this book to people who love fantasy.

Reviewer's Name: 
Ethan

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Fiction