Book Review: Hearthfire by Emmie Mears

Publishing Date: July 2018

Publisher: BHC

ISBN: 9781947727519

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.4/5

Publisher’s Description: Carin has never known hunger. Born into the Hearthland, a lush world of fertile fields and abundant resources, her biggest worry is whether she and her three friends will find their true names on their Journeying. But when one of them is murdered on the morning of their departure, Carin’s peaceful world is stained with blood. Forced to confront the truth, Carin must decide her own fate. Remain silent and allow the murder of the earth itself—or risk her own life in exile and break the spell.

Review: Well , this was quite the world spanning saga. Multiple quests, following a multitude of characters of the YA bent. Inter-leaved within is this broad acceptance possible love interests in the form of flirting that is expected of most authors covering their base(s). The author does a good job of minimizing the interactions so that it doesn’t feel forced, but it is so noted for the time spent on building the scenes. The characters are built wonderfully and continue to change with the added burden of time spent in in-hospitable surroundings. The creatures uncovered are surprising in the creative way they are built. The bats are certainly alien in presentation while retaining a kindness that exceeds that of their charges.

What I really liked about this novel was the author’s voice. It rings loud and true throughout the novel as something that is tangibly different than other’s in the genre. She takes character development in a different direction than expected. The outcomes to interactions with strangers are as unexpected as the exchanges between known comrades. This gives the world and the cultures residing within, their own unique flavor while retaining an understood medium of exchange. I don’t know if this was the author’s intent, but whether intended or not, it worked beautifully.

This novel is at once visceral and compelling. The quests are rife with confrontations and grisly exchanges. The Magic is subtle and hard to reach thereby rendering it a rare and valuable commodity. The only downer, and it is a big one, was the use of this weird pro-noun/noun gender-less naming convention that did more to distract than enhance the story line. It is never adequately explained and is used in concert with normal naming conventions. The author needed to stick to one or the other, or at the minimum, abandon it’s use when the Nameless go overland. It really buggered up the whole novel.

From great heights this novel fell but was still supported on the strength of the characters.

 

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Book Review: The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup

Publishing Date: November 2019

Publisher: North Star Editions

ISBN: 9781631633775

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 3.3/5

Publisher’s Description: Tessa has heard her grandfather’s stories about the fabled barbegazi since she was little. Now, after his death, she’s determined to see the gnome-like creatures for herself and prove her grandfather wasn’t just a confused old man.

Review: Initially, I was surprised at how good this novel was. Despite the YA intent, this author puts everything together in seamless fashion. Tessa’s emotive internalization’s drive the novel in directions that are unexpected in outcome. Scenes that you expect to play out in a certain way, end up delightfully itinerant.

About midway through, the story line started to languish under Tessa’s constant inner dithering. So much so, that I started flipping pages to find some action in the form of movement. Tessa is an uncomplicated kid and spending an inordinate amount of time in her head makes for a pretty boring time. I am not sure that middle grade children (intended audience) would think Tessa’s mental processes are sophisticated enough.

I really liked the interactions between Gawion and Brownie while Bahne brings up the rear in “Snidley Whiplash” fashion.  A solid read for the YA crowd that teeters on greatness.

Book Review: God of Broken Things by Cameron Johnston

Publishing Date: June 2018

Publisher: Angry Robot

ISBN: 9780857668097

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.8/5

Publisher’s Description: An outcast magician must risk his body and mind to save the world from horrifying demons, in the heart-pounding epic fantasy sequel to The Traitor God.

Review: The only downer about this novel is that it ended….or it feels like Edrin, Eva and all the rest of the players have walked into the sunset.

Edrin continues to develop into a more complex (and entertaining) character with Eva and Layla providing supportive positions to Edrin’s development. Layla is still a static player while Eva begins an individual transcendence as Edrin plies her inner sanctity. There is always this hope, that the author plays upon throughout the novel, that somehow, Eva will experience physical wellness in the form of magical transformation. The transformation expected never occurs, only to be replaced by something eminently more viable. This drives the story line in a way that completes the novel so much better than expedient artifice.

I was hoping for a quest or some adventure out of Setharis and you won’t go wanting in that department. The Clanholds saga jumps right off the page starting with Edrin’s creepy Grandma to the war that rages in the valley. A very diverse and compelling array of scenarios unfolds as you ride the rampant beast of movement.

A great escape for the reader, that sadly, ends too soon.

Book Review: Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

Publishing Date: July 2018

Publisher: Angry Robot

ISBN: 9780857667793

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.6/5

Publisher’s Description: After ten years on the run, dodging daemons and debt, reviled magician Edrin Walker returns home to avenge the brutal murder of his friend. Lynas had uncovered a terrible secret, something that threatened to devour the entire city. He tried to warn the Arcanum, the sorcerers who rule the city. He failed. Lynas was skinned alive and Walker felt every cut. Now nothing will stop him from finding the murderer.

Review: I am really surprised that there are not more reviews on this work. As the author was kind enough to send me a copy, I thought a considered review in return was the least I could do.

One reviewer thought that the action was favored in lieu of character development.  Following the story line, the author did a very fine job infusing the characters’ growth with the movement. Although Edrin is set in his ways (as he is a grown-ass man) he continues to surprise and morph into someone that elevates others above self.  He begins to look at the grande picture rather than opt for myopic inversion, as evidenced by his internal struggles.

As Lynas bears his conscience, so does Charra help guide his life choices. They are fairly static in representation yet help build Edrin’s character without the overbearing cost. I like the author’s intent to replace these two with Layla in subsequent novels. A blending of both by dint of birth.

“The Broken God” already beckons me on, so get this for the creativeness of the story line and the vibrant characterization.

Book Review: David Mogo: Godhunter by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Publishing Date: July 2019

Publisher: Rebellion

ISBN:9781781086490

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.3/5

Publisher’s Description: The Gods have fallen to earth, and chaos reigns.Though broken and flooded, Lagos endures. David Mogo, demigod and godhunter, has one task:  capture twin gods and deliver them to the city’s most notorious wizard. No problem…right?

Review: So here’s the deal. I like movement that builds the characters that play in the story line sand box, especially in SciFi/Fantasy novels. Things like; lengthy internal dialogue that covers anything from scene descriptions to backstory tend to halt the movement. This stuttering really lends itself to non-fiction novels. I get that author’s are trying to enrich the pages with humanistic blather but you can only take so much angst ridden, soul searching hero-rhetoric. And boy howdy this has it in spades. Where you expect to jump into the action from a pre-determined point, soon becomes pages and pages of internal dialogue and ruminatory drivel that interest is quickly lost to pervasive narcolepsy.

Although the characters never develop in a way that captures their “being”, they do jump off the page from the get-go. David Mogo is interesting in magical heritage as well as his applied avocation of God Hunter. Papa Udi brings this ancient and caring demeanor that grounds the plot while adding dimension in the form of wizardry. The Gods and Godlings are fairly one dimensional as I guess all Gods are that view humanity as cockroaches.

The plot is not complex at all, and follows the hero fantasy formula where you have reluctant involvement warring with righteousness and God like potentiality. It is not hard to guess what David Mogo will become as it is inferred from the beginning.

While the writing is technically good, the compilation didn’t work for me.

Book Reivew: The Third Coin by J.A. Howard

Publishing Date: June 2014

Publisher: Apple Isalnd Press

ISBN:9781500550912

Genre: Fantasy/ YA

Rating: 4.4/5

Publisher’s Description: Bea Brightman is smart; smart enough to know that being popular matters. And after attending eight schools in as many years, she’s got making friends down to a science. That is until her famed archaeologist father moves them to New York City in search of an ever-elusive coin. There she meets Nisha Lakewood who may hold the key to finding it. The only problem is, Nisha wants nothing to do with her.

Review: A very intricately crafted novel that is surprising in delivery with an attuned sense of creative intent. That surprise may have to do (in part) to the Scooby Doo cover art coupled with the Publisher’s Description lending itself to teens flouncing about with one-dimensional interest.

Bea is a superbly written character and draws you in with her focus on the mundane and insightful commentary. A great role model for kids yearning to be comfortable and at peace with who they are without regard. Inter-scholastic pressures not withstanding, the story line takes a comfortable turn into the fantastic and immediately pulls the reader into rooting for the home team. Meanwhile there is this constant build of uneasiness coupled with moments of positive interaction and clarity. This is very intelligent writing that keeps the reader yearning for mystery while providing a comfortable base in the form of family and friendship.

A few bad reviews rounds out what is considered generally favorable by the Goodreads crowd. There was nothing consistent in their dislike of the novel that I could find. One reviewer said there were plot holes everywhere but I think she meant “pot holes” as I could not discern the holes that she was referencing. Sure there are impossible events but this is a work of fantasy. “Preachy writing style” and “Annoying parts” are also referenced without elaboration. Yet I suppose the author deserves this kind of coverage as she rates reviews without content as well (“Becoming” by Micheal Obama).

All in all, a read I looked forward to every night. The ending hints at continuance so lets see if the characters continue to grow.

 

Book Review: Billy Blacksmith: Demon Slayer by Ben Ireland

 

Publishing Date: January 2019

Publisher: Ireland Ink

ISBN:9780997786026

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Rating: 2.7/5

Publisher’s Description: Billy has spent his whole life keeping his head down in school and trying to survive the endless parade of foster homes.When a three hundred pound spider emerges from under his bed intent on drinking his blood, Billy discovers he is the main player in an ancient war between demons and humans. With his best friends Ash-Lea and Greyson, and a reformed demon as his ally, Billy prepares to face an invasion of demonic spiders and the General that leads them.

Review: A short read that encompasses all the things YA. Teen angst, demons and giant portal hopping spiders rounds out the story line. I will say that in our current era of “So it is above, as it is below” brand of secularism, it is not surprising to find writers embracing the “Demons are good” rhetoric. This progressive societal branding only diminishes those who embrace it while programming young minds to accept the negative as palatable and normative.