Blood of the Prophet, Kat Ross

A 4*

“The seeds of self-loathing had been planted when he was very young. It is not easy to change, even when our adult minds know better.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

I loved The Midnight Sea and I jumped to Blood of the Prophet right after finishing it. And I was mildly disappointed. Sadly, Kat Ross had the same thing happen to her series that happens to most writers. The second book in the series loses its charm and doesn’t have the same attractiveness as the first one.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked the book. The history setting entwined with mythical creatures and the link between the real characters and fantasized protagonists make the story gripping and exciting.

Kat Ross showed us in The Midnight Sea that she is not afraid of killing the characters that we came to know and love. And it happens again in Blood of the Prophet, but that what makes the story interesting and what makes the reader on the edge of the seat, wanting to know more.

We get to know the characters better, too. Their stories are deeper and Nazafareen herself gets to grow in front of our eyes, showing us what is not expected.

The story is deeper than in the first book, painting the world around us, but with a story full of twists. We don’t know what to expect in every chapter.

But… For the sake of showing more of the world, we get to see less action, less adventure and the pace of the book is slower than it was in The Midnight Sea.

Besides, we get to see other characters’ thoughts and reasons. And we come to understand why they do what they do. Except sometimes it makes the story too obvious when we see the same event happen through the eyes of different characters.

But the book keeps us attached with the romance scenes, that are not forced but shown as they should, with the struggle that Nazafareen and Darius keep having to not get engulfed in the sin.

I recommend this book for those of you who loved The Midnight Sea but beware that it won’t be the same type of story. Richer but slower. I hope the Queen of Chaos will rise to the challenge of being as good as the first book of the series was.

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The Midnight Sea, Kat Ross

A 5*

“I took a step back. I couldn’t help it. His daeva? I’m not sure what I expected. Horns and a forked tail, perhaps. A creature as ugly on the outside as it was on the inside. But they looked just like us.”

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

This book is a hidden gem. It is only 0.99 on amazon kindle store. But it is good, enticing and engaging. It is also not appreciated enough.

The story swipes you up and doesn’t let you down till the end. From the death of Nazafareen’s sister until meeting Alexander the Great. It is engaging and addictive. The world is well constructed and richly developed. It might help that it is based on the real-world and our myths but Kat Ross entwines it with not typical monsters (Druj that possess a body and are not so easy to kill), and lies and control by the King of kings.

Kat Ross lets you in a world and then swipes it from under your feet. By Nazafareen’s side, we discover that not every story perfect, not everything you told to believe is true, that even the person you trust the most can sentence you to death or wound you to the deepest of your soul.

I have to say that the enemy in this book was perfect. Kat Ross managed to construct a character who is not evil just for the kicks of it, but because of deep, profound grief. His reasoning is sick and twisted but not unheard of. It takes us by surprise, but it is well thought and incredibly powerful for one of the main characters to become evil and the enemy to become your friend.

The Midnight Sea is an incredible YA book. Because it is not perfect. Because it hurts. Because it engages with complicated subjects such as amputation and grief. Because it shows the unpredictable nature of humans when you don’t know who you should trust. And because it demonstrates the power of religion and following your orders without question.

The romance in this book is slow-building and almost absent but it allows us to fall in love with the characters as they are with their faults and imperfect nature.

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Summoned, M.A. Guglielmo

A 4*

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions included in this review are my own and are in no way affected by the exchange.

I stumbled upon this book on NetGalley while searching for a fresh fantasy novel that would take me on a new adventure. And after closing the book, I do not feel disappointed with my choice.

Summoned takes you on an incredible adventure in distant lands of our world, lands that are not usually explored on pages of a book. It is not a standard setting with cliche characters. Well, maybe a little bit with Zahara who is party chick and Daniel a nerdy type of a game developer… Forget about what I said about cliche characters.

But going back to the setting, it explores Morocco and the Middle East, with a dive into different religions, myths, and legends, combining them all in one wonderful story. There was a drag in the story, by the middle of it, where there is almost nothing of interest happening and the passages get a bit boring.

But then the ending arrives, with unexpected turns and wild unravellings. Everyone gets a happy ending and the bad guy loses… This is good, but, for a good fantasy, there are some tragic events missing and more evolution and transformation from the characters needed to make it a great novel.

The characters are interesting in their own ways, with their own stories.

Summoned is a good fantasy novel that is seeking a new, non-cliche fantasy world, born in the modern age but constructed of the stories of old, twisted in a new way.

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Jimmy and The Crawler, Raymond E. Feist

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

I absolutely love Raymond E. Feist’s books. The Magician was one of the books that started an itch to write in me. The world that is created through the different sagas is exciting, attractive and full of adventure.

The Riftwar Legacy saga always stood a bit apart from the rest of the series. The three previous books were part of stories retold after the video games came out, which I must say I’ve never played. But even though, they allowed to come back to the loved characters and fill some holes that came in the latter book (only due to the fact, that I read the books in a different order than the timeline would indicate).

So when I finally had a chance, I procured a copy of Jimmy and The Crawler and started it immediately after it arrived.

Jimmy the Hand was, and still is, my favorite character from the Midkemia world. His ties in the different circles of the world, his incredibly swift and clever mind, his way of getting into trouble and getting out of it, made him the most attractive character for me in the series.

Jimmy the Hand and Arutha are the characters that I missed from The Serpentwar Saga and I wanted to have another taste of their presence in the books and The Riftwar Legacy was a good coming back to these interesting characters. Jimmy and The Crawler in itself was a good way to end the series that were opened for 13 years and needed closure.

I must say, Jimmy and The Crawler was too short for me, and for a high-fantasy world that Raymon E. Feist had created. It was only 150 pages, while other books tend to be somewhere between 400-550 pages. But as another reviewer said, I think Raymond E. Feist wanted to wrap the series, but he was no longer as interested in keeping the story long and entangled as it is used to be in the other books.

This is not a book for those who know nothing of Midkemia. Not only because this is the fourth and the last book in The Riftwar Legacy saga, but also because it is supposed that the reader will know different political tangles that have been addressed in the pages of the last sagas. This knowledge is needed to understand what is going on, why the relationship between the Kingdom and the Kesh is so difficult and why the demons are there.

But it is a book to read for those who love Midkemia and Raymond E. Feist’s writing.

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The Gift-Knight Quest, Dylan Madeley

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Chandra had yet to fathom why Jonnecht could not have lived and ruled for many long years, or why it was so urgent that she ascend immediately.”

I bought this book from a fellow writer on twitter. The name was interesting and the description, intriguing. I wanted to love this book so much, but I was mildly disappointed.

D.Madeley immerses us in a well-developed world, but it takes too much of a time. I think it was around 25% of the book when I was still wondering when will the fun begin. The introduction was slow-paced and far too long.

But I get that to build a complex world, such as the one in The Gift-Knight Quest there is need of a lot of description, legends and myths. I just only wish that D.Madeley wouldn’t take an omnipresent point of view, and a confusing one at that, to tell the tale.

The switch between characters happens so often and without any warning throwing you from one scene to the next and then back to the starting point. And amidst all of this are flashbacks that pop out of nowhere and you need to take a while to figure out what is happening and since when there is a war in the Empire.

Even though, it is a well-developed world with different political systems, cultures, and traditions. We get to see and meet all of them, through a little bit too-detailed descriptions.

We get to meet a lot of characters throughout the book, and they are all complex and well-developed, even if we can see only a glimpse of them in The Gift-Knight Quest. They all take their part in the interesting court intrigues, even if confusing at times, as we get to see what each of the characters wants and thinks.

I must say that some turns of events were unexpected, even if the hints were dropped all along the way. It makes us turn the pages and want to know what will happen next.

All in all, this was a catchy story, with some polishing left to do, which has an ending that will make you ask for more.

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The Tangled Lands, Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

A 4*

“Magic has a price.”

The Tangled Lands is a recollection of four different novellas The Executioness, The Alchemist, The Children of Khaim and The Blacksmith’s Daughter. Two of them are written by Tobias S. Buckell, the other two by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Each of the four novellas is unique, telling its own tale. But all of them are a part of a bigger story. The world where magic is available to all but has its dark consequences as the world is engulfed by the bramble that feeds on magic. We see the same character pass in all the tales, The Jolly Mayor, Majister Scacz, etc., but each of the novellas could be a stand-alone tale.

The writing styles vary from tale to tale and from author to author. P.Bacgigalupi’s novellas are slowly-build, while T.S.Buckell’s ones have more action in them.

But each one of them has incredible characters, heroes in Khaim constructed from ordinary men and women, thrown into a difficult life from which they rise up to the challenge. They are not your usual heroes who get everything they want, but people who suffer and manage to keep doing what they see right.

T.S.Buckell uses strong female characters. Women from everyday life. A daughter of an executioner and a daughter of a blacksmith. Molded by suffering and loss. Rising to the challenge to set things right even if it kills them, even if it means killing those who stand in their way.

The world we are thrown into is dark, with people suffering under the tyranny of The Jolly Mayor and Majister Scacz and living in constant fear of the paralyzing sleep induced by any sting from the bramble. It is somber and hopeless, full of people’s suffering. But it is easy to understand and relate to, while every person fends for him/herself.

The story is slow-paced, dragging over the pages. T.S.Buckell and P.Bacgigalupi do not develop the world to its extent, not giving us closure to these tales. It feels more of a prequel to another book (or series) and maybe it will be.

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The Journal of Blake, Adrienne Woods and Lea Cherry

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

The Journal of Blake Leaf is a recollection of Blake’s poems and his thoughts, one of the main characters of The Dragonian series. It is what it says in its title, a journal.

Even though it is marked as a prequel, it should be read after finishing The Dragonian series, if not it will spoil the second and the third book of the series. For those who get too tired of Elena by the end of the first book and just want to know the ending, should read this installment and then jump to the end of the fifth book.

The journal gives too much information, compared to the rest of the series in a fast-paced tempo. Even though, it does not cover much of the fourth and fifth books and doesn’t go till the end of the series which is sad. The last book might be the most interesting one. It would allow us to see the story from Blake’s point of view, his internal change and struggle.

The conflict between Blake’s consciousness and his dark side was something A.Woods showed during the series and we get glimpses of it in this journal, but there is little new insight on Blake’s character. Nothing new is added to the story.

It is confusing, but every person’s journal is. It has good poems and L.Cherry did a great job showing Blake’s character in them.

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Starlight, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“When it feels as if the darkness will descend, a united team will rise and defend. The power to see their destiny through, lies within the hearts of an unlikely two. Their strength, power and love as one, liberty brought by The Courageous and the Prodigal Son.”

Yes!!! I finally have finished this series. It was getting too long and too tiresome. So this is as much a review of this book, as of the whole series in general.

Most books of the series got a 3* rating because of the rich world created by A.Woods, with dragons and their riders, in a hidden country that is more advanced than the rest of the world, as dragons can create more advanced technology (weirdly, all the scientists Elena has met are just normal humans… not dragons). They did not get that rating because of the rich storyline or developed characters.

But this book was too long without a real reason for it. It turned around Elena, who created too much drama in her life. There was no action, no real adventure that we were prepared for, for the last four novels and two novelettes.

Etan is finally going to be freed in this last installment and the prophecy is going to be fulfilled, something we hoped for far too long. As the reward for all the waiting and four books of constant drama between Elena and her boyfriends, we get a 600-page book with only the last 100 pages of real action. And on top of that, while the final battle happens between dragons with their riders and wyverns with the magic wielders (who are just pure evil, because why not), A.Woods only shows us Elena in the castle with a confusing narrative of the events and no view on the epic battle happening outside. Enormous dragons fighting with devious wyverns outside. Legendary war, exquisite story… Talk about missed opportunities.

There ARE good things about this book. Paul is back and Blake is no longer dark. It certainly brings closure to many opened subjects in the last books. And there is a happy ending, not for everyone as there are characters who died useless deaths, but it is an ending.

But in general all the drama is too shallow, Elena is too superficial for all the series. The constant push and pull between Elena and Blake gets too old really fast. We were teased about their relationship on the first pages of the first book and it happens in the second half of the last book and it is not as attractive that it needed four books to develop. Only because I managed to sit throughout all the other books did I master some courage to finish this one too.

As with all the other books, there was this constant repetition of phrases, grammatical errors and confusing paragraphs. The characters’ reactions were not always within the normal attitude of the constructed persona and the same passages showed over and over again.

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Moonbreeze, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“The brave aren’t called the brave because they weren’t scared, Elena, neither the courageous, nor the heroes. All of those people written in history have one thing in common: fear, and plenty of it, but that is when true courage shows itself.”

Here I am, the 6th book I read in The Dragonian series, counting the novelettes, and the 4th one of the main series. I must tell, the characters evolution and the well-built world the story happens in hooked me from the first book.

After a bit of a disappointment with Frostbite, I wasn’t sure if to keep reading was worth it. I even took a pause when I was around 25% and read the novelettes.

When I first wrote a review, I gave it a 3*, but I changed it to a 2* shortly after that.

The plot is better built in this book than in the previous three. There was suspense, hope, and intrigue. Even though it was still too predictable as to who Annie was and where did Elena disappear after that kiss with Blake.

But, there was no point to this book in the general advance of the story. There was a lot of drama, self-loathing by Elena and even more drama. But it didn’t add anything interesting to the development of the series.

There is, also, the rape thing that happened to her. And yes, it is a YA genre, but it happens to girls of all ages and I actually like that A. Woods brought it up. I just don’t think it showed all the tragic part of it, and it didn’t add more layers to the main characters. Only a way to cover some plot-holes in the next book.

I want to take a moment here and talk about the romance in Moonbreeze. I don’t find it good. I find it shallow and too simple. The love/hate relationship Elena has with Blake, I found a bit annoying from the beginning. And now that Blake is good, with no evil trying to claim him, I understand Elena.

What I don’t understand why should we hear the main character say the same thought over and over. I get it, Elena doesn’t trust Blake, but I don’t need to be reminded of it every time Blake says something. Or what Blake himself thinks something, for A.Woods gives us the privilege to hear what Blake has to say about it. The split in the narration does allow the pause from Elena’s constant babbling but it just shifts into Blake’s babbling.

This part of the review is annoying because it will be the same thing I say from the first book in The Dragonian series. But seriously what with all the mistakes, missing words, and unrelated sentences? I just can’t repeat it anymore in every review I post, but I guess I will because the writers need to know what is the problem with their books.

Poison, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“When it feels as if the darkness will descend, a united team will rise and defend. The power to see their destiny through, lies within the hearts of an unlikely two. Their strength, power and love as one, liberty brought by The Courageous and the Prodigal Son.”

As well as Venom, Poison is a novelette in The Dragonian series. And as well as with Venom the review will much shorter than with a traditional novel. There are just not as many things to say.

At around 1/5th of the book I was more invested in the story than with the other novelette in the series, Venom. The story was not as shallow and much more attractive, but it was still a repetitive story about Elena’s feelings, doubts, and hopes.

The book carried in it the mistakes from the previous novel Frostbite, which was grammatical mistakes and no relationship between different sentences or paragraphs. But I won’t take much time discussing it. I feel like I will do it anyways in the next posts.

The only plus was the half love story that appeared between Elena and Emmanuel (even though it lasted for half a page) and her struggle with Blake. Thanks to this novelette, the transition between Frostbite and Moonbreeze is easier, but it was not a necessary addition to the series.

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