aviary-image-1665805194427

It’s Corn! – a review of Renegades by Marissa Meyer

One of my friends might hate me for this. She recommended this book to me and I’m about to put it to shame. Sorryyyyyyyy.

Those born with superpowers walk either the line of the hero or the villain, and in the age where the Renegades govern and protect their people the line draws finer. Nova, an Anarchist whose hatred for the Renegades stems from them not coming to save her family, seeks to take them down and for humanity to lose their apathy within a crisis. Meanwhile Adrian poses as a vigilante alongside his Renegade position, taking the steps and measures the Renegades don’t have the guts to due to a corrupt code. These two keep their secrets tight when their paths cross, each preventing a terrible fate to their respective allies as plans unfold.

Worldbuilding served well in this novel. It became very clear the way this world worked from the get go, and exploring various hierarchies and law within the Renegades who govern it was very clear a lot of thought was put into this. The psychology and social studies of a world run by heroes was very clear and very well done, seeing regular humans gain apathy and putting blind faith into superheros who may not deserve the powers they hold.

While the characters had good motivations, I couldn’t pinpoint personality for a lot of them. The good guys acted the same, the bad guys acted the same. A lot of their personalities hinged around their powers, some of them in great ways and others in bizarre ways. It was a very mixed bag altogether, making these characters feel like a cartoon you’d catch on Saturday morning in the nineties.

This didn’t help with how corny this is. It felt Meyer was getting a lawsuit if she didn’t mention superheroes or villains every chapter. Or mention good and evil. Have characters contemplate or deny what side they stood on. God, it felt like I was being talked down to. The superhero genre saturates modern media enough for me to get the points she’s making with this novel and I kept wishing the story would move along and get to action like in the actual blockbusters showing in the cinemas right now.

Yes, you heard me. The plot was so freaking slow. It took forever to get into the second act of the novel because the lead female was too scared. Not to mention how many decisions the two characters made based on random affection for each other that was only there to move the plot along it felt like. Said affection, which I should add, had no payoff. And then not enough change happen to warrant this book as a fully fledged three act structure. My god, did the ending feel off and pessimistic.

I just realised that the longer I write this review the more mad I get about this book. Better stop writing before I rate it once star because a smidgen of good was in this.

Renegades gets a score of 2/5. Say superhero one more time. I dare you.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1665805083780

The Largest Hidden Gem – a review of Bad Faith by Jon Hollins

Finishing a series is much like tossing a coin. It will ruin the series for you or make it. It would be simple to just say that this final installment in the Dragon Lords trilogy had what the other books did and more. But you want details, so I must oblige.

The world is taken over by a single god whom outlaws order and embraces anarchy. Death and neglect spreads across the land under his guidance, or lack thereof. A rebellion dwindles in attempts to take him down, lead by a sorcerer balancing vengeance and the greater good. She will need help from first, the tyrants who once ruled the land wanting to take it back again, and second, allies that helped her free Kondorra for at least a year. The only problem is those allies are trying to escape the afterlife with enough power to kill a god again.

We gotta talk about how dark this novel was compared to the previous ones. Starting the series you would have never expected it to end like this, but it works so damn well I cannot express it enough. The cliffhanger the final book left you on was only the door to this darkness, which hit so hard even with the absurdity of so much more. What made you laugh before felt nearly sarcastic and maddening in this novel. Oh my god, was it entrancing.

Morality, greater good and power were central to this novel. And that was central to everyone’s character arc. Ethical frameworks was a favourite paper for me to study in university, and to see it in a fantasy world was like chocolate without the guilt. I was indulging in everyone’s arc and how they coped and battled with their morals. I love stories where people follow the same arc in different ways.

Lastly we need to talk full circles. This plot created a full circle moment in events, in characters and so many more moments. The entire plot was just plain brilliant. So much fell into place and made sense from the get go, combining with characters so cunning that the line between plot driven story and character driven story is blurred beyond recognition. This is a magnum opus of storytelling.

Such a magnum opus that I don’t know why it isn’t more popular. But more on that when we get to the series review.

Bad Faith gets a score of 5/5. That is how you finish a fucking series.

So now let’s into the series rating. Man, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. The last one was Arc of a Scythe which I completed back in January.

Fool’s Gold – 5/5, a D&D inspired wild ride of chaos and coin.

False Idols – 5/5, a perfect sequel and continuation of the motley crew’s lives as things get serious.

Bad Faith – 5/5/, going full circle in darkness and grit.

If five stars across the board didn’t convince you to pick up the series right now, maybe my anger that this series isn’t talked about more will. Not only does it have some of the most popular fantasy tropes right now (found family and dragons) but this series is totally unafraid and unfiltered. It makes you laugh until you piss yourself, shake your hands in fear and drop the book in shock. This will be my number one fantasy recommendation for literally any fan of the genre – Tolkein fans, those looking for a high fantasy gateway, D&D nerds… the list goes on and on. I will fight to get this the most talked about series in the world and knock Sarah J. Maas off her throne.

The Dragon Lords gets a score of 5/5. This is prized on my bookshelf.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1665804729135

No Longer New – a REview of The Monster of Portland by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Woo boy, it’s been a while since I read my first RE-view. It took long enough for me to get to the second book in the series, but here we are. We’re diving back into my pre-teen favourite!

Well, not quite. And I think my opinion still stands.

Jack and Jade Shield, now under the training of their grandma, have much exploring of their newfound powers to do. As these powers create much antics and they keep this secret from their mother and newfound school friends, other magical anomalies catch their eye. Rumors circulate about the fabled monster of Portland sightings, cats within the town are on the brink of war, and the twins soon learn that The Evil they vanquished may still remain in their new home.

I remembered this novel being the weakest out of the four books in this series. Still enjoyable, yes, but ultimately the first book beat it by a lot. Maybe it’s to do with when the world was first being explored back in the first Troubletwisters book the true magic and whimsy of the series came forth, and now all that’s left is to expand the world.

The characters improved a lot here, especially as Jack and Jaide start to come of age and become their own people. They were truly becoming their own people here as their insecurities took over, onces gained from the trauma of the previous book. And they weren’t dumbed down either thanks to their shared curiosity and selflessness. A perfect balance of youth and maturity for their age. The supporting characters were great as well, those knowing of The Evil and those ignorant really built up the world. Tara was a favourite of mine, especially when she connected with the twins.

Although in spite of that the plot was lacking. This novel almost felt like filler. Or maybe it is there to set up what’s coming in books 3 and 4. Regardless, the twins more or less started and finished in very similar places. They gained a best friend at school I guess and are able to understand their powers and the world around them better, but altogether finishing the book in terms of plot was just a massive and kind of happy “oh”.

I say almost like filler because there was some good worldbuilding and things being revealed here. This was what wound up being the most fascinating part of the novel to read. To learn more about how The Evil works was one thing, especially with it owning one of my favourite villain tropes. But we met more Wardens and learned about their abilities too! I think some parts of the worldbuilding felt insignificant as I don’t remember them ever coming up again, but they were fun in the moment.

That would summarise this book – fun in the moment. But it did kind of leave me wanting more, something a bit more substantial. Luckily two books remain, which if my memory serves me were pretty dang good.

The Monster gets a score of 3/5. I hope this world hasn’t gone stale that fast because it still captured me a bit.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1661814967586

Fairy Grit – a review of Knife by R.J. Anderson

It’s yet another pre-teen throwback! This was the first in the trilogy that I never wound up reading all of. I’m not entirely sure why. It might have been due to my library rental period running out? Ah well, at least as an adult I can get the book for myself again.

I found myself loving this book for reasons my younger self didn’t see prior.

Bryony is a fairy living in the great oak who longs for adventure in spite of the dangers outside, one such longing that lead to her encountering a human. Her years of punishment and ostracization over it come to a close when she become the apprentice hunter for the clan. However, her outside discoveries leave more questions than answers as she comes across question after question – why do fairies look so similar to humans? Why don’t they have magic anymore? Why does she feel depressed every day she’s away from her newfound human companion?

The premise of this book hinges on not being like other fairy stories. When I was younger this wound up perfect for me having read a hundred fairy related books when I was under 10 and was starting to get into grittier middle grade fantasy books. This book served as the perfect way for me to continue reading about fairies without “childish embarrassment”. It serves very well for that even today. I haven’t read a book with a pixie or fairy in it for ages and it felt so good to again with this mature take. I love a fairy that isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Character is a strong suit of Anderson’s, if not her strongest. It is very easy to get motivations of a character when you learn about them, which is by far the most important part of a character. She nails that like nothing. Those motivations become the building blocks for every character in this novel, from Bryony’s want to live a life unprotected by her queen to Paul wanting his life to have purpose again.

It was also fascinating for a world so small to be built out so much. To built out the scope for you, a majority of this novel took place in a house and backyard. But my god does this house and backyard have such a history built on so little! I don’t want to spoil a single detail. But as the series does suggest, this is no ordinary fairytale. It is never what you would expect, so I’m giving you no expectations but to expect that. This single tree that all of fairykind lives in, pun intended, has deep roots.

This novel had so many different kinds of plots in it to entertain you. Fantasy romance? You got it. Political mystery? Hell yes. Woodland mushroom fantasies? Metric buttloads. This is without a doubt the perfect bite sized book to get people into contemporary fantasy. Lore that’s easy to memorise and take in, a romance that’s easy to root for, an easily explained magic system and of course wacky hijinks. Who doesn’t love wacky hijinks?

So childhood me was right with book one. Now I have the remainder of a trilogy to complete for the first time…

Knife gets a score of 4.5/5.I’m so glad my childhood love of fairies made me pick up this book.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1661814906263

Better Politics Than Reality – a review of The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

My endeavor into this BookTok recommended series continues. So far it has been on the up and up. I will say that this book has improved from its predecessor, The Bone Season, so it intrigues me still.

But you want the juicy details, don’t you?

After returning from Sheol I and escaping the slavery of the Rephaim, Paige knows that the rest of London’s clairvoyant gangs need to stop this force that has aligned with their already oppressive government. But her gang lord Jaxon threatens her to keep her mouth shut or get flung out onto the streets. She must instead find a new way to circulate information by teaming up with other escapees, finding new allies amongst rival gangs and betraying her own. But how deep does this corruption go when the price on Paige’s head keeps rising?

Shannon absolutely shines in her worldbuilding, which finally got a chance to flourish in full in this book. While it was an interesting choice in the series to introduce the magic before the world (which I have seen in common beat sheets or at least seen comparisons of), it perfectly makes sense in the story and the world to do it in that order. The worldbuilding and when things were revealed helped us learn of the threat followed by what was at stake. And what was at stake was both bleak and beautiful at the same time. So much character was brought into the world and you can tell how much has been carefully put into Scion-ruled London and what is found within their shadows.

This is yet another book that made me realise how much I love sci fi and fantasy based politics. That is frankly ironic considering I want to be more knowledgeable on real life politics but I can never be bothered to pay attention until election season. Maybe if magic and monsters were involved I would be more interested, like in this novel! Gang wars and power balances were prominent in this world as Paige tried to work out how to save her allies in the underworld. And boy, does some juicy stuff happen – let me tell you.

Characters and their relationships greatly improved in this novel compared to The Bone Season. This may have been because Paige returned to relationships that she already established, but it was still great to see her connect and think over her new allies around the city. It was good to see Paige not as isolated and ostracized as she was fighting with in the previous book. She felt so much stronger and defined as a character with these connections she had made, fought for and against.

In spite of all these highs, I found the main fallback to be pacing. And that being quite a low. Too many points were reiterated too many times, and a few of the days that went by many of them could be skipped. This made some parts of the novel a slog as it told me things were happening and being set into motion, which they weren’t. A lot happened but it’s difficult to tell what was worthwhile aside from what coalesced in the climax.

Speaking of the climax, it left on quite the note. I eagerly await the chance for me to read book three.

The Mime Order gets a score of 4/5. The main lesson from this novel is that politics needs magic and monsters.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1661814727374

Feminazi Agenda – a review of The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna

I have never been in a position where I have waited for the next book in a series to come out so desperately until I read The Gilded Ones. And was I ever so glad to pick up the next book in the Deathless series after waiting for over a year since I read book one.

Was it worth the wait? Hell and back again, yes.

Deka awakening the Gilded Ones in a bid to free females from the patriarchy was meant to solve all problems, not bring more war and death to her kind. Still, as the Nuru it is her and her friends’ duty to fight for it. However, after rescuing another divine figure from oppression she discovers that the oppressors may have something more powerful than the goddesses she follows. It is now her duty to find out more about these potential weapons and priests to stop them. However, more about the world gets brought to her eyes the deeper she searches, and lies about all she knew come to light.

The action in this was phenomenal and always had me on the edge of my seat! What really captivated me this time was how in these action scenes there was always so much more to focus on than just the task at hand. Forna knows how to emphasise stakes and dive into a character’s mind during battle, be it fear or curiosity, and to shape the battle to recite a character’s mindset.

Character was another strong suit in this novel. Trauma was a common adversary amongst Deka and her allies, which was fascinating to explore amongst all of them. And even then each had their own arcs to follow. Deka and Britta were favourites of mine for their friendship alone. I want a best friend like what they’ve got going on. Minus the whole bloodshed and warrior lifestyle maybe.

Worldbuilding was expanded upon so well. So much was culturally and politically shared during this is made my heart sing to see the world expanded. The world was clearly reacting to the events of the previous book in the series and it impacted the plot so well. No single decision or repercussion was ignored. And the mythos of this world too! Such a great mythos and exploration of magic along the way.

All in all, in the way the plot and themes were developed this book is a perfect sequel. It all made great sense in developing the discussion of feminism and non-male rights. I haven’t read a book, or a series, that talked about this topic so well, so insightfully and so un-campy. Which makes sense considering Forna’s educational background. It is a blessing for her to bring her studies and her own insights into this book for people to read. Minus the triggers, I think anyone should be reading this for the valuable insights it contains about feminism and not feminazis.

The Merciless Ones gets a score of 5/5. A perfect score for a perfect sequel that left an impact on my feminist viewpoints.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1660964970570

Oh Gods – a review of Soul of a Rose by S.D. Huston

I was excited to learn that the second installment of the Clash of Goddesses trilogy was a retelling of my favourite Greek myth I was so excited to get into it. Even then it didn’t become my favourite part of the novel. There’s a lot to enjoy in this novel.

When Rose’s family hides an eagle wanted dead by the Greek Goddess Artemis, her beloved Lugh dies to protect her family and their allies. The Morrigan, a powerful Irish Goddess, says that Rose can save him by venturing into the afterlife and facing the harrowing challenges there to bring him back before he resurrects without his memories. When she takes that choice, her trials reveal more and more lies Rose’s mother kept. But meanwhile, Greek and Irish must decide whether to fight or form alliances for their own personal goals and the threat of the world losing its magic.

Characterisation was once again a strong point of this novel. I think what makes this characters stand out is how easily you can envision how they act. For me that’s what makes characters stand out the most, and each acted in such unique ways that even subtle differences made all the difference. Even minor characters without POVs were thoroughly well established characters when their motivations came into play. This made for a very engaging cast of characters.

It was interesting to see the worldbuilding expand in the ways that Greek and Irish myths collide. The original tale of Orpheus and Eurydice was the inspiration for this, but it evolved so much from that to create its own story fueled by Irish mythology. I especially loved when not only Greek gods and goddesses left their marks in the world, but when early stages of Christianity were seeping its way into the world too that was a very interesting approach to take. It is not often that multiple mythologies are looked into and not often that they interact. I really liked Huston’s take on the matter.

Rose and Lily’s plot was very fascinating and engaging. Both were sent on their own missions to save those they loved in their respective ways, but each took different paths of self discovery and evaluation in the process. Their character arcs and their own characters were huge driving forces in their respective stories. I couldn’t say the same for Hera and the Morrigan and how most of their chapters were filled with conversation, but it still wound up good overall.

Which leaves one book left in the trilogy. Let’s just say it ended on some very intriguing notes. I can’t wait to see them resolved in the final installment.

Soul of a Rose gets a score of 4/5. Gods should clash more often, but maybe with less talking and more magic and fighting.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1656574654883

Still Salty at the Movies – a REview of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This book was in desperate need of a reread. I barely remembered anything about it thanks to its terrible adaptation that was played five too many times by teachers.

On the bright side, that made me fall in love with this series again. Even when reading it for a second time and knowing how it ends.

When middle schooler Percy Jackson vaporises his maths teacher, he quickly learns that it wasn’t some kind of hallucination. He’s a demigod, the son of a Greek Olympian God, who is forced into refuge at a summer camp for those like him. Unfortunately, his mother was unable to get to safety with him. So when the opportunity to save her arrives on the brink of a war between Zeus and Poseidon, Percy takes his satyr best friend and an overachiever daughter of Athena with him across the USA to confront Hades, who is believed to be the one causing this all.

Going back over ten years ago, this was the hype of everyone in my senior classes at primary school and ultimately what got me to read this series. I genuinely don’t know if my enjoyment of it was solely so I could talk about it with my friends or me actually enjoying the story. This was especially when The Lightning Thief was the least favourite of mine as a kid.

Upon rereading it, I don’t know why!

The characters – incredible. These twelve year olds especially have so much depth to them! Better than the way I’ve seen adults and teens written by a landslide. Each have their own goals and fears that don’t define them, with little quirks and personality traits that give them each a chance to shine. My god, it is so hard to pick favourites in this cast! Unlike the movie in which everyone was turned flat, especially Annabeth. They did Annabeth dirty in the adaptation.

Next we need to talk about worldbuilding and how seamlessly Mythology fits into this world. It’s in the plot like crazy, feeling a lot like a modern day Odyssey for preteens with the inclusions of quests and tropes found in some of my favourites. The story feels like so much of its own in spite of the mythology roots. The way the monsters fit into the world is perfect! A seamless example of how to add the fantasy to an urban environment.

And oh my god, the writing style. I remember the writing style being what made me fall in love with this book and inspired me to write, but I don’t remember it being this damn good! It has cheesy and unexpected comedy, things to wrench out your heart and some of the best imagery I have ever read. Not once did I read a cliche metaphor or simile and it was so refreshing! I will admit that the foreshadowing was a bit in your face and timed a bit too close to reveals, but I can forgive it slightly on being a middle grade book.

Regardless, this is still so readable and fun to read, I can now confirm being an adult, for all ages. Top 10 books to read before you die. Because all 10 of those are Rick Riordan books.

The Lightning Thief gets a score of 4.5/5. I already predict that the Disney series won’t do this book justice.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1656574413678

Big Shocker – a review of False Idols by Jon Hollins

I was hyped to get to this sequel. Fool’s Gold was already a huge hit, falling in love with the series mere chapters into it.

The hype live up! The hype lived up!

Dragons may no longer rule over Kondorra, but they’re still a threat as the rest of the continent accepts them. Corrupted human governments are taken over by manipulative dragons who claim to be the new gods. The only people not subjected to this vision of a new world are the five heroes who slayed the dragons – Quirk, Will, Lette, Balur and Firkin. It’s up to them to make the remaining governments and empires step up, and to save the people already swayed the wrong way.

It was fantastic to see the world built out from the previous books. The first book focussed on a single empire on the continent and the corruption there, and to see the rest of the world, especially with characters directly linked to it, was so enlightening. Universities, churches and governments galore! And of course how the dragons attempt to get to them. So cool! It really brings out the ingenuity of Hollins and how he comments on problems we too face in a campy presentation.

This plot hit me hard in so many ways. Between character arcs, relationship tensions and the fate of the world itself, there was so much to guess about and be blind to for bigger reveals. Literally – when you think you know what’s going on and how it would all end the carpet animated and traps you in a little corpse burrito. And what a fantastic predictability and unpredictability it became! Not too much or little of either.

The characters were great as usual, but I have to give credit to Quirk and her character arc in this novel. She became my favourite this time around. Her devotion to her sense of duty and morality and the internal conflicts surrounding that were very engaging – a perfect look into her mind.

One thing I want to highlight is the ensemble characters, the ones without perspective chapters and were there for their own purposes. It is not often that the non main characters are so crucial to building up the world, conflicts and stakes, and to have so many. These were all done very well where it feels so real and with each crowd group being unique.

And now book three awaits. So much exciting content awaits.

False Idols gets a score of 5/5. When the going gets tough, the rating goes up.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1652582723783

It’s Evolving! – a review of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

This novel was described as gritty little sibling of Avatar The Last Airbender. I see the comparison, but this novel was so much more it it. I had heard so many good things about this trilogy!

But it left me with an opinion of a novel that I never had on this blog before.

Rin manages to escape an arranged marriage by being the only person in her town to make it into Sinegard Military Academy, but in no ways does her hard work stop there. Her prejudices and rivalries at the academy force her to struggle even further, until one of her kookier professors teaches her the forgotten art of Shamans – the ability to channel the powers of the gods. As war between Nikara and Mugen lingers, this power may be what the empire needs to win it. But what at what cost for Rin?

I really liked the characters in this novel, for the most part. Towards the end there were some contradictory things that the characters did, and at times too many in one scene. It still made them enjoyable, each with little quirks and dimensions that made even the most similar characters still unique enough.

The world and the magic was very fascinating, rich and entertaining. We managed to get a look at a fair amount of the world in this first book, and the unique influences from our own world combined into a fantasy world unlike any I had ever seen. At times it was too rich I’ll admit. There was a lot of information to process about the way the world was run, and they weren’t presented in ways easy for me to pick up. It may be for others, though.

There was a lot of military jargon – especially in the middle – that slowed it down for me. A bunch of strategy and meetings – they were good and interesting when they first came in, but then there wound up being too much of it as it went on. Like I get it, it’s a military centric story, but this made me long for different things to happen.

I think a lot of it was the book hooking me at the start with things that were unique and that I liked, but by the end it evolved into not the story I expected or one that appealed to me. It was very well written and very engaging until then. I’m not faulting the book for this at all. There are people out there who would eat this up, but I am not one of them. This is a very good book, don’t get me wrong. But after reading this I realise it wasn’t for me.

So while I say I didn’t like this book, I can still see myself recommending it to people who like this kind of story. I hope someone can love this more than I do.

The Poppy War gets a score of 3.5/5. This is good shit for somebody else.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1649987084068

Not Quite My Boo – a review of The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

This is the first book that BookTok has convinced me to buy.

In an alternate near future, the Scion government rules over London in attempt to prosecute the illegal acts of clairvoyance and the communion of spirits. The most powerful clairvoyants are found in underground gangs amongst the many districts, including Irish immigrant Paige Mahoney. However, when she gets arrested she isn’t killed or brainwashed like she expects to be. She is taken to the off-grid city of Oxford where her kind is enslaved by otherworldly Rephaim to keep the world from destruction. Paige soon discovers that her particular branch of clairvoyance is very sought after, and she must both utilise it and hide it if she wishes to escape.

Fantasy Dystopia is a genre less talked about than other fantasies, and the worldbuilding of this book just goes to prove how good it is. In retrospect I realise it was a lot of information, but it was present and explained in ways that made perfect sense. I’m a huge fan of magic centric worldbuilding and seeing the implications of it. The abstract ways the aether and spirits worked to the will of clairvoyants was especially entertaining for me, especially from the perspective of Paige who was blind to them but could still sense them. Better still was the contrast of the urban and typical dystopia of London put against the archaic and rustic Oxford, very well captured introductions to these key locations which I hope to see more of in the future.

Flashbacks were used a lot in this novel, but for once it didn’t annoy me how often it was used. That’s because they added to the story, the main character and supporting characters who appear later in the plot. It also became a unique way to build out the world, with the flashbacks being in different locations to the present. I’ve read and reviewed other books where flashbacks have been pivotal yet ruined the experience, but this novel done it in a way that made so much sense and became very entertaining to get through. I was happy to come across another flashback as a result.

However, like many other novels this one suffers from the same issue – the lead romance feeling unearned! There were moments where I looked at it and saw it coming, but even when the kiss came to fruition I couldn’t help but wonder how things escalated so quickly. I’m not denying that they care for each other, but to a romantic kind of degree? I didn’t see any thoughts of it that way until the final chapters. It felt like the kiss was shoved in there at the end instead of later in the series to do service to some kind of audience – what kind? I’m not sure.

Moving onto characters and relationships, which was a mixed bag altogether. Few of the characters stood out in spite of clearly unique personalities, and while relationships were there and solid I felt like they could’ve been expanded upon more. This made the stronger characters, such as Jaxon and Nick, cast the rest of the cast in shadow and have the emotional stakes involving them get dampened.

Luckily there will be more books in the series to get to know the characters that are still sticking around. I am still very much looking forward to what the rest of the series holds.

The Bone Season gets a score of 3.5/5. What a wonderful world, but the characters constructively need more work.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1648362804172

Natural 20! – a review of Fool’s Gold by Jon Hollins

Have you ever read a book that gave off huge D&D vibes? I’m not sure how many of you have played it, but this book combines the greatest parts of D&D into a fantastic read.

We’re talking dragons, found family and the perfect plot I have ever read.

Dragons rule the land, as does their greed. The people are poor due to ever increasing taxes, one person among them being Will, who lost his family’s far due to their greed. He’d want anything to give the dragons a piece of their own medicine. But as Will meets some newfound allies, they suggest the impossible – stealing from a dragon. And Will may be the only one of the group with the knowledge to do something downright ridiculous to gain riches.

This novel was unafraid to be loud. I love novels of this caliber – where the characters are uncensored, both serious and comedic, and while they plot may be tense it is not afraid to be ridiculous. It takes those absurd moments in stride just as much as it did the dark ones, balancing and distributing the two with precision.

The characters were made excellently, especially the four pivotal characters; Will, Quirk, Balor and Lette. And even the occasional perspective from the antagonistic dragons! They shone as individuals with their own personal backstories, fears and things that made them tick. It was so hard to pick a favourite, but that didn’t matter. As the found family trope normally goes, they were at their best when working together as a team.

I had never read a novel structured to the degree of perfection that Fool’s Gold was. I need to read more novels with heist plotlines because this one was so good! Hollins masters the way he reveals plans, mishaps and characters doing their own things in a way that constantly keeps you on your toes. Even when I had these expectations in place for whether the heist would succeed or not – or what parts of it – I loved finding out how things went wrong and predicting how such things would be fixed. Altogether, very entertaining.

I will admit I’m not usually a fan of dragons. However, the way they were built into this world was so refreshing and pivotal to the way people lived. Dragons are pivotal to the culture of this series, unlike other fantasy stories I have read that feature dragons, and the power that they hold is very well explained and implemented. They rule the world to the point where even though they are powerful, they are lazy about certain things. This gave the dragons so much flavour and I loved them so much in this novel.

It’s easy to say that this novel is among my favourites now. I bought the rest of the series as soon as I finished this first book, and I can’t wait to read it all. I desperately need more people to fall in love with this novel too – so pick it up, damnit!

Fool’s Gold gets a score of 5/5. Perfect for fans of D&D and not fans of D&D – basically it’s amazing.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1648362462195

Inspired My Own Novels – a RE-view of Troubletwisters by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Welcome to our first RE-view! Where I take books I have read – but not reviewed – and return to them with a critical eye to see if they were really as good as I thought they were as a kid.

First off we’ve got a novel which, upon re-read, features the seeds to inspire my debut novel, Aster’s Coda: Exposure.

A bizarre incident that exploded their home forces twins Jack and Jaide Shield to meet and move in with their eccentric grandmother. Though the small town and even the house they live in provides many curiosities, none are greater for Jack and Jaide than Grandma X’s suspicious activity in the house – how the scent of hot chocolate affects their short term memory, her cat sometimes talks to Jack, and Jaide getting caught in the wind. And when they start to get attacked by animals with pure white eyes, they suspect she could be behind it.

Let’s start off with describing my attachment to this book and this series when I first read it. This was the first book series I read when I left primary school and it somewhat marked another step in me moving away from books about fairies. I loved it within the first chapter, with the dark fantasy twists on a middle grade book that even disturbed me now – ten years since this book came out. In retrospect, this novel features many tropes that wound up being favourites of mine. The way is uses magic, mind control villains, and contemporary fantasies. The magic is really what sucks you in the most.

Upon reading it again, however, I noticed the behaviour of the characters and the way they were described were a little bit shallow. The difference in the twins’ personalities were fairly minute at the start, their mum and dad had fairly typical parent behaviour, and the side characters were introduced with little impact. I would say that the only characters that didn’t seem flawed in that way were Grandma X and her cats. They were all very entertaining.

The magic system and the plot were still very strong. Simple, yes, but very strong. Simple plotlines or premises can end up making stronger stories in my eyes, and this is no exception. This made for moments to be described in engaging and disturbing ways. Nothing was taken away from this novel upon a reread in terms of a great experience and story.

So while my opinion of this novel may have gone down, it is still very good and very treasured to me.

Troubletwisters gets a score of 4/5. This novel walked so my own novel could run.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1646708530069

Just Here For The Ride I Guess… – a review of The Iron Wyrm Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

I’ve spent a long time looking for a vintage fantasy story to appeal to me. This one appealed to me in concept and I spent a while looking forward to reading it.

Sadly, this ain’t it.

In a steampunk version of Victorian London, sorcerers possess magic and mentaths possess inhuman minds. However, mentaths are being killed for a plot that Prime Sorceress Emma Bannon suspects will put the crown at risk. She seeks out to protect mentath Archibald Clare while investigating this plot, one which Clare has natural interest in himself. And it appears this plot goes far deeper than either had hope, potentially involving the ancient dragons that grant Londonium’s power.

The plot did exist, but it was very difficult to follow. I’d blame the writing style personally. It was written like an investigation from Sherlock Holmes (which I haven’t read, so I don’t know if this was a copy of the same style), but things were very difficult to follow along with. It felt like a large amount of coincidences that the characters either knew or had connections to the next pieces of the puzzle. For it being a murder mystery, I never felt like I had the chance to solve anything. Even when things got explained – that’s a red flag.

I may have liked the magic system if it was ever explained. It had potential to be for sure – dark and light magic that had connections to dragons and was in an inner pool that reset every sunrise. But this system wasn’t clear until about half way and none of the technicalities were even explained. When people want to enter a fantasy world, they would typically want to be immersed in it. This system and world felt elite, like it was reserve for people with an IQ over 300. On the bright side, where spellcasting scenes or fights were involved the quality of the scenes increased a fair bit.

While the characters were distinguishable, the way they were was… controversial. It was by gender, race and accents. This was literally how I could describe the cast of protagonists in the climax: British Male, British Female, Queen of England, Insane British Male, Indian Male, Italian Male, German Male. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you anything about the personality of any of them except for Insane British Male. There’s indefinitely more to characters than that.

The Iron Wyrm Affair gets a score of 2/5. The book itself proclaims it is too good for me, and I don’t have the class for it.

Yours in writing

Amy

aviary-image-1645335905609

Give ME Mercy – a review of I Am Mercy by Mandi Lynn

My plight to read more books by indie authors AND AuthorTubers continues. Historical fantasy is a genre I wanted to read more of, and this one was promising.

But do you know what’s worse than a promise being broken? When that promise comes from a book.

The Black Plague is ripping through Aida’s village. Death and hatred surround her as her near-white eyes brand her as a witch. To save her people, even when she is shunned, an actual witch promises her the power to do so – a trick. Aida is instead granted immortality and a slumber that leads has her wake up hundreds of years in the future in an unfamiliar town. Without the sense of touch to ground her to reality, she wanders the world in a pessimistic eternity.

Here’s the biggest problem with the book, and it isn’t even what’s written in it. It’s the blurb and the way it was marketed. I was promised a story about a girl becoming a witch and curing the Black Plague and I didn’t get that. I got a story about a girl becoming more or less a ghost and then coming to terms with it over the course of hundreds of years in hermitage. This is not the first time that a book blurb has fooled me, and I HATE when authors do this now. A blurb is meant to promise the readers that something will be happening, and the plague became completely irrelevant about 80 pages in. I was robbed of the story that hooked me in and that I wanted to read! That affects my opinion of it a lot in a negative way.

Now let’s move on to the actual content of the book.

The actual writing of the book was very nice, however. The writing style was very compelling and reflective, especially when considering the interesting lack of the sense of touch. That put a lot more attention on other senses that were absolutely beautiful when written out and described. It created a very visual experience. One filled with very beautiful language that draws you in and makes you keep reading.

But that thing to read was sketchy. Lynn clearly had no clue what the plot of this novel was going to be about. The main conflict felt like it changed every chapter and the book left more questions than answers – a literary sin! The premise of the black plague never being mentioned again is very obvious – but then there were characters that were never interacted with again, plot points left lose in the wind, and trajectories that were never once foreshadowed. While I recognise now that this was a prequel I didn’t read the original of prior, this is NOT how you write one.

One thing I’m always checking is how distinct characters are from each other. This was done very well. You could see it from characters who were there for a long time or just a chapter. They were each characterised very well, showed their purposes and flaunted them. Or… most of them. There wound up being a very large cast of characters towards the end that I wonder why they were given a name or introduced except to set up the original story this was a prequel of… I guess?

In summary, it once the betrayal of the focus on the Black Plague happened it was very difficult to discern was was worth remembering or not. I’m probably gonna forget about this book anyway, with pleasure.

Don’t break promises.

I Am Mercy gets a score of 2.5/5. If your novel is not about the Black Plague, then DO NOT say it is about the Black Plague. Simple.

Yours in writing

Amy