Fantasy

Book Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season
Author: 
Jemisin, N. K.
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy book with such a unique magic system in place. I truly enjoyed the amount of thought that went into a world where the main source of power was that of the earth itself. From magma to solid obelisks, the ability to control the vibrations of the planet (either to amplify or dampen) had an interesting and logical follow-through in its characters and storyline. I’m honestly looking forward to eventually starting the next book in the series since the world was built so well. It’s no wonder that it ended up winning the Hugo Award for that year.

While I suppose The Fifth Season is also partly a pseudo-post-apocalypse story, it was only shown in small snippets and references here and there. Consequently, this would make this story almost “modern fantasy” in comparison to some of the classics. Additionally, this would explain some of the character elements added with little to no explanation or relevance to the plot. It sometimes seems like the sexual encounters and fluid genders of these characters are included o merely hit a checkbox of “inclusivity.” Sure, people who relate to these characters feel like their represented, but if these traits don’t affect the plot, then it doesn’t matter about their sexuality at all.

I also found the bold choice of second-person POV to be a bit jarring when it spliced in the more traditional third-person narrative. Initially, I thought these segments were striking in the way that it pulled me into the story. That was until I was given a name and a purpose and any number of other traits that made the “you” in the story into a character that was basically repeated throughout. I get how these different characters interacted to tell a much broader story (which is again, part of the book’s strength) I just didn’t care for the reader’s identity to be given to them via the second person POV.

A uniquely written and crafted fantasy with one or two minor flaws, I give The Fifth Season 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Waste Lands

The Waste Lands
Author: 
King, Stephen
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Before I got into reading the Dark Tower series, I saw the movie adaptation. It’s honestly what inspired me to get into the books. While I was a little disappointed with The Gunslinger , The Drawing of the Three showed me the series’ true potential. Moving on from my favorite book in the series, we have The Waste Lands. It's sort of a mash-up of the two earlier books in terms of characters and plot points. However, it's ultimately less than the sum of their parts (and that’s mostly due to the ending). What strikes me with The Waste Lands is how it could have been better than it was.

Those who have seen the movie version of The Dark Tower will recognize a lot of scenes, if not a huge chunk of them. I can see why they cut the two most interesting characters from the film, especially since everyone ends up splitting off to go on their own journeys almost as soon as everyone finally comes together. And while I did appreciate the weird “robot animals” and the riddle motif, I was ultimately frustrated that this core group of four characters didn’t have more time to show what their inter-personal dynamic would evolve into.

At the very least, the strength of the overall series and the thorough and vivid descriptions of this fantasy world were enough to overcome my misgivings about this book. It’s still well done on a technical level, even if some of its better moments are likely to be explored in future volumes. The cliffhanger ending was a bit of a bummer, though, especially since it might be a while before I can get the next book in the series from my library any time soon. I’ll still read it eventually, though, if for no other reason than to see how these characters fare in their travels.

A great book with some wasted potential, I give The Waste Lands 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Prince Caspian

Book Review: Prince Caspian
Author: 
Lewis, C.S.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are drawn back into Narnia 1,300 years in the future to help Prince Caspian defeat a terrible king and gain the throne.

This book was not nearly as good as The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I listened to it on audio and while the narrator was good (Vanessa Regrave), the story left something to be desired. I know Prince Caspian is young, but he sounded like a whiny child to me. Over all, it was pretty good, but not great.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Monster of Elendhaven

Author: 
Giesbrecht, Jennifer
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The Monster of Elendhaven follows two characters – Johann, the eponymous monster, and Florian, a mage that ultimately forces him to do his bidding. Mages are forbidden to exist in Elendhaven, and the locals in power kill Florian’s family, so Florian is out for revenge. And he’ll use Johann to ensure he gets it.

It’s rare that I wish a book was longer, but that’s definitely the case here. The worldbuilding was spectacular, as was the prose, but the plot was pretty basic, and the end jarring. I could have spent much longer in this dark, twisted world with our dark, twisted characters. I kept thinking of Patrick Suskind’s book, Perfume: A Story of a Murderer, as both of our characters were somewhat similar to the protagonist of that book. There’s a romance that I wouldn’t have minded so much, but again, it wasn’t given time to breathe in this short little novel.

TLDR: This book is nasty in that deliciously evil sort of way. If that’s your thing, you’ll love it. I wish it were a bit longer.

3.5 stars. Thanks to NetGalley and Tor for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Tiger Queen

Book Review: Tiger Queen
Author: 
Sullivan, Annie
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

When I saw that there was a retelling of Frank Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger”, I got excited. I remember reading and loving that story in school, but I wondered how such a short tale could be retold. Stockton’s story serves more as a jumping off point (never fear, though – the choice between lady and tiger is made and we get to see the fallout). We open the book in the arena of drying up desert kingdom where “supplies or tiger” is used as a common way of determining justice or punishment, but of course, our king cheats to ensure justice is actually served. As resources get lower and the proletariat gets more uprisey, its up to our main character, Princess Kateri, to save the kingdom.

The plot in this is fairly standard. If you are a regular reader of YA fantasy, you’ll know where the book is headed a few chapters in. The characters themselves are nothing special, although the author transforms Kateri in a believable way. You’ll hate her at the start and root for her at the end. I wish the Desert Boys had been Desert People – why no girls? Since Kateri is such a strong hero, I thought the complete and almost total lack of lady fighters was suspect. I also wanted more tigers (if you don’t like to read about animal cruelty, maybe skip this one). It’s based on a story called “The Lady or the Tiger” – give me ladies and tigers!

There’s clearly a lot not to like, but the some of the worldbuilding was spectacular. Sullivan builds a desert world complete with lethal creatures (watch out for those sand snakes!), interesting cuisine (make sure you eat the right lizard tongue) and well, ok, I mostly liked the animals she invented. I wasn’t compelled to read the book, as, like I said its pretty obvious as to where it was going, but the worldbuilding was enough to keep me at least somewhat engaged and the author gets points for writing a standalone. I can easily see this book being dragged out to a duology and I’m glad everyone involved resisted that temptation.

TLDR: The book had potential for days, but I found the execution to be a bit lacking. Fun worldbuilding details make what is otherwise a rather routine YA fantasy more interesting. 2.5 stars rounded up to 3.

Thanks to Blink and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Tiger Queen will be released on 10 September, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings
Author: 
Sanderson, Brandon
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

The highlight of The Way of Kings is assuredly the masterful world building. Sanderson manages to craft a fantastical and believable world with unique quirks and mountains of lore. With an exciting narrative to boot, this book (over a thousand pages long) tends to threaten other menial activities such as sleep. Though occasionally losing momentum through its frequent shift of character viewpoints, The Way of Kings is definitely a worthwhile read with compelling characters and gripping action.

Reviewer's Name: 
Evan T

Book Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Book Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Author: 
Lewis, C.S.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I listened to this on CD. The narrator was fantastic. The book was also fantastic. Well written, aimed at younger readers, but still enjoyable by adults. There's a reason why this book is a classic. The story had me thinking about bravery and forgiveness, but the Edmund story line was a bit frustrating. His siblings were kinder than I would've been, although I have to remember that he was just a child. All in all, a must-read, or listen.

Reviewer's Name: 
vfranklyn

Book Review: The Hunters

The Hunters
Author: 
Flanagan, John
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

The Hunters is a brilliant book written by John Flanagan. Hal and his Brotherband chase down Zavac through rough waters. The Herons know that Zavac is cornered, but beating him is going to be tricky. You have to read the rest to know what happens!

This book is packed with action and excitement. Another aspect that I love about this book is Hal’s courage. He shows massive amounts of courage through the story which makes his crew more faithful in him than ever. I would rate The Hunters 5 out of 5 stars. It was so good that I could not put it down. If you are interested in this book, I would recommend reading the whole series.

Reviewer's Name: 
Hayden S

Book Review: The Odyssey

The Odyssey
Author: 
Homer
Rating: 
1 star = Yuck!
Review: 

The Odyssey is an epic poem written by Homer, and it is a literary classic about two great quests. Ten years after the fall of Troy, Odysseus still hasn't returned home to Ithaca, and his house is plagued with suitors wanting to marry his wife, Penelope. His son, Telemachus, feels overwhelmed but is sure that Odysseus isn't dead. With the help of the goddess Athena, he sets off to search for his father as the reader learns more about Odysseus's previous journey and resulting enslavement. Telemachus encounters many obstacles which shape him and build his confidence by the end of the story.
Although this book is a classic and was probably very popular in ancient Greece, it is not an enjoyable book to read. There is too much unnecessary dialogue, and the plot is excessively long. Due to the old language and lengthy descriptions, reading The Odyssey is a very strenuous task.

Reviewer's Name: 
Alexa H

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: 
Rowling, J.K.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

To all readers wondering what happens after Harry leaves Hogwarts, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gives an interesting take on the idea. This is a play script, written by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany. It is about Harry's son, Albus--who is sorted into Slytherin--and his best friend, Scorpius Malfoy. In an effort to bring back someone from Harry's past, they travel through time and make some major mistakes--even bringing back the darkness that Harry vanquished. This book is about the bond between friends and family. Although it is creative and definitely makes an effort to continue the Harry Potter legacy, the story seemed forced the plot wasn't enjoyable.

Reviewer's Name: 
Alexa H

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