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Epic Fantasy Archives - Page 4 of 5 - Canadian eReader

Genre: Epic Fantasy

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson – Full review – SPOILERS

Reading Roundup – 7th March 2014

Reading Roundup – 7th March 2014Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Stormlight Archive #2
Also in this series: Words of Radiance
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Kate Reading, Michael Kramer
Length: 48 hrs and 15 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The biggest release for me this week is Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance.  This is the second in the Stormlight Archive, Sanderson’s proposed 10 book epic fantasy series.  That was my biggest issue with The Way of Kings – Sanderson has planned it to be an epic tale right from the beginning so the large scope is readily apparent.  I’ve much preferred tales which have “grown in the telling” as the saying goes.  The Wheel of Time, for example, starts off focussed on our heroes from the Two Rivers and it’s not until later on in the series that we have epic battles and world changing consequences.  

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy The Way of Kings, although in all fairness I used Tor.com’s excellent Way of Kings Reread and Where We Left Our Heroes article to catch up with it.  I am enjoying Words of Radiance which I am listening to in audiobook format rather than reading.  I do enjoy Kate Reading’s and Michael Kramer’s narration.  However, this audiobook weighs in at a hefty 48 hours and 15 minutes.  I don’t expect to read much else in the next couple of weeks, so please don’t expect many other reviews over the next few weeks.

I understand that as Way of Kings was Kaladin’s book, this second entry focusses more on Shallan.  I look forward to hearing more about her and Jasnah.  Given the title I also imagine the Knights Radiant will play a large part in this book.  I shall, of course, give you a review of Words of Radiance once I’ve completed it.

In other news, Tor.com has started a reread of the Harry Potter books.  Check it out here.  These rereads are always excellent.  Generally, these are written by people who are already familiar with the books, who are rereading it for the umpteenth time.  They are usually expert at highlighting the key themes and foreshadowings of the specific chapters and I’ve often picked up a lot of nuances I’d missed on my own readings.  A notably different kettle of fish is the read of A Song of Ice and Fire by Leigh Butler.  This is Leigh’s first time reading Martin’s opus and so we get to experience her reactions to such significant events such as The Red Wedding.  It’s also fun to see which of her predictions are correct and where she is a little wider off the mark.  If you’ve not checked out these rereads I encourage you to do so.

Added to my library this week

In addition to Words of Radiance in Kindle and Audible format mentioned above, I also picked up Grave Assassin, the first in the His Fair Assassin series by Robin Lafevers.  I had been keeping an eye on this – assassin nuns sound intriguing – and this week it was on special offer on Kindle and with the special Whispersync for Voice deal, I was able to pick up the Audible format for a couple of dollars too.  Bargain!

Well, that’s all for this week folks.  You’ll hear from me again at some point once I have absorbed the Words of Radiance.

four-stars

Reading Roundup – 20th December 2014

Reading Roundup – 20th December 2014Various by Cassandra Clare, Kerstin Gier, Marie Lu, Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: Various
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Dystopian, Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy from Audible
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

As I may have mentioned before, my job requires me to work regular nightshifts.  Now, it’s a very reactive job, so some of the time you are waiting around for something to go wrong.  That is the point at which I rely on my audiobooks to get me through the nights.  I need to keep my eye on the computer screen at all times to watch for alerts, so I can’t really focus on a Kindle or other reading matter.  However, in those circumstances, audiobooks are a real lifesaver.  I can keep my eye on the screen while still enjoying my story.  Having my mind on the book also helps me stay awake.  As well as nightshifts, I also enjoy listening to a few chapters of a book before going to bed.  

With Whispersync for Voice it’s even awesomer.  During my breaks I can pick up the Kindle book for a bit of variety and it keeps my place.  I’m certain I wouldn’t get through as many books as I do if it weren’t for these nightshifts.  From January I’m moving to regular dayshifts so I fear my book consumption may drop, unfortunately. 

One production I listened to during this week’s nightshifts was the BBC Radio 4 production of Gaiman’s Neverwhere starring James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer and Benedict Cumberbatch which I picked up from Audible.  This is a wonderful production of a great story and I loved it.  McAvoy in particular really made me laugh with his interpretation of Richard Mayhew.  I understand it’s going to be repeated on the radio over the festive season, so I would definitely recommend catching this one.

When do you like to listen to audiobooks?  Let me know in the comments.

Added to my library this week

From Netgalley I picked up Hobbit Lessons – A Map for Life’s Unexpected Journeys by Devin Brown.  The blurb says: For generations, The Hobbit has been loved and shared by readers who thrilled to the challenges faced by the band of fourteen. Most didn’t realize, however, that some of life’s greatest lessons could be learned by going along on that journey. Discover these and other exiting truths from Bilbo Baggins journey—without the danger of being eaten by a dragon.  It sounded a fun read, so I picked it up.

Since I loved Cinder and Scarlet so much I used an Audible credit to preorder Cress, a book I also have on Kindle preorder.

I’ve been hearing a good deal of buzz about Veronica Rossi and when her Under the Never Sky was on special I picked it up on both Kindle and Audible.  I’m not 100% certain that the story will appeal to me, but for the price I paid I am certainly willing to give it a try.

So I’ll take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2014.  I will be posting a review on Monday 23rd December and will do a year roundup and anticipation of 2014 the on Friday 27th.  Have fun!

four-half-stars

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong – Review

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong – ReviewSea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Age of Legends #1
Format: ARC
Pages: 356 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong is the first in a new YA epic fantasy series.  It tells the story of Ashyn and Moria, twins who are destined from birth to take on the roles of Seeker and Keeper respectively.  In the world of the Sea of Shadows, the dead don’t always rest quietly, and it’s the job of the Keeper and Seeker to keep them under control and to send them to their rest.  Ashyn and Moria are new to the role and are inexperienced, and naturally, this is the point at which the dead choose to mount a full scale attack.  Their attempt to control and investigate this uprising brings them in contact with the upper echelons of power and all the accompanying politics.

I must admit I found this a difficult book to get into.  That wasn’t through any fault of the book itself I don’t believe; it just didn’t appeal to me personally.

What I liked

The relationships.  I thought the relationships between Ashyn and Moria and also between the girls and their respective love interests was well written and believable. I did feel invested in the pairings and I am glad that there was no love triangle.  They have enough work dealing with their trust issues.

The concept.  I did think the initial concept was interesting, although I wasn’t so fond of its execution.

The twist in the ending.  Mmmm, I didn’t see that coming, although in hindsight it was well set up.

What I didn’t like

Horrific descriptions.  I found that I was put off by the amount of blood, guts and gore mentioned in the book.  We get that these walkers are evil and that dangerous beasts lurk in the forest – I don’t think we needed quite so many descriptions of people’s innards being ripped out or their faces being dissolved by acid.

As I say, Sea of Shadows didn’t grab me personally.  You may enjoy it more than I did.  Let me know in the comments

I gave Sea of Shadows three and a half stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes

three-stars

Reading Roundup – 6th December 2013

Reading Roundup – 6th December 2013Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
Format: eBook
Pages: 433 pages
Genres: Classics, Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received a copy of Philip Pullman’s Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm free to review from Netgalley.  Growing up in Scotland, my parents often read to me or I read the original, non Disneyfied versions of traditional fairytales.  I can still remember being particularly horrified that, in the traditional version Snow White’s wicked stepmother was forced to wear burning hot iron shoes and to dance until she died and that Cinderella’s stepsisters had their eyes pecked out.  At my university, one of the courses you could choose to study was Traditional Fairy Tales, which demonstrates just how deeply embedded in the European psyche these stories are.

In this collection, Pullman chooses from among the many variants of the traditional stories, occasionally adding his own spin and after each story gives a little background into each tale along with an explanation of what changes he made.  it’s a fascinating read and well worth picking up.

I gave Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm four stars out of five

The Goddess Hunt by Aimee CarterThe Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Series: Goddess Series #1
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy
Format: eBook
Pages: 298 pages
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
five-stars
Having read and loved Aimee Carter’s Pawn, I decided to check out her Goddess Test series based on Greek Mythology, specifically the Hades/Persephone story.  While I enjoyed The Goddess Test and felt it was a fun read, well written and with engaging characters it didn’t engage me to the same extent that Pawn did.  I will probably pick up the sequels to The Goddess Test at some point though.

I gave The Goddess Test three and a half stars out of five.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken In Time by Alexandra Bracken
Series: The Darkest Minds #Novella
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
Format: eBook
Pages: 14 hrs and 57 mins
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
five-stars

In Time is a companion novella to Bracken’s Darkest Minds series and tells the story of Gabe, a young adult who has decided to become a skip tracer – a bounty hunter for escaped Psi children.  Of course, the first kid he tries to recapture is our beloved Suzume…  Like The Darkest Minds, In Time is beautifully written.  Unlike Darkest Minds it’s written from the point of a non Psi person, and one who is taken in by the government’s anti-Psi propaganda.  It’s beautiful to see how his attitude changes through his contact with Zu and that he comes to realise these kids are every bit as human as he.  I would suggest reading Darkest Minds before this as it explains the world more clearly.

I gave In Time five stars out of five.

Through Netgalley I received Under the Radar, a collection of cross-genre samples from Doubleday Canada and Tundra Books.  The first of these is Touched by Fire by Irene Watts, a wonderfully detailed historical novel set in early 20th century New York.  Elizabeth Wein’s Rose Under Fire tells the tale of a female pilot in WWII.

From the sample Little Red Lies by Julie Johnston seems to be a contemporary YA coming of age novel.  The sample didn’t grab me personally, but then again that’s not a genre I often read.  Death of a King by Andrew Vanderwal was the sample that intrigued me most.  This time travel historical novel seems to be in a similar vein to Connie Willis’ Oxford time travel series which I adored.  Of course, time travel stories are very execution dependent, but this is one I would be interested in reading in full.

Apparition by Gail Gallant is a supernatural YA ghost story.  it didn’t particularly appeal to me, but if ghost stories are your thing, you may want to check it out.  Thomas Wharton’s Tree of Story is in the epic fantasy genre from what I read in the preview.  The final book in the sampler is Paula Weston’s paranormal romance Shadows.  The main character, Gabe, seems interesting enough, but it is perhaps a little too early to tell from the sample.

If any of these interests you, please check them out at your bookseller of choice.

Added to my library this week

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday there have been a few great deals that I have picked up this week.

I picked up both the Kindle and Audible versions of Pawn, the first in Aimee Carter’s new YA dystopian series.  I absolutely loved it – expect a full review next week.

Ryan Winfield’s Park Service could be an interesting read.  It was less than $1 on Kindle so I decided to give it a go.  i’ve not read it yet, but  the synopsis sounds intriguing: From New York Times bestselling author Ryan Winfield, a thrilling tale of friendship, betrayal, and adventure.
What would you do if everything you had been taught turned out to be a lie? That’s the question fifteen-year-old Aubrey VanHouten must answer when he stumbles onto a post-apocalyptic paradise where the few remaining humans live on the run from deadly drones controlled by a mysterious Park Service.

I’ve been hearing great things about Victoria Schwab’s The Archived, so this week I finally gave in and bought it on Kindle.  In Schwab’s world, the dead are Archived and our heroine must work to prevent their escaping into our world.  From reviews I’ve heard, and from the sample, Schwab’s writing style is very engaging.

Another book I picked up on an excellent deal on Kindle was Kresley Cole’s Poison Princess.  From the synopsis, a group of mismatched teens must band together to save the world from a supernatural threat.  It could be either appallingly bad or very good, but for just over $1 I was happy to take that chance.

I absolutely adored Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, so this week I added her Fangirl and Attachments to my library in both Kindle and Audible formats.

Being a sucker for gentle cat mysteries, I added Lending a Paw to my Kindle library.  This appears to be a debut novel for author Laurie Cass, but I am happy to give it a try.

My second pre-order of the week was Dangerous Women, an anthology of short stories collected by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.  The list of contributing authors – including Martin himself! – is incredible; Jim Butcher, Diana Gabaldon, Brandon Sanderson…  The theme of the anthology is women kicking ass and taking names, so should be interesting.

One series I’ve been hearing a lot about and keeping an eye on prices is Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.  This week on Kindle the first book was priced at $1.99 so I had to snap it up.  For those of you unfamiliar with Uglies, it’s a YA dystopian series in which everyone undergoes mandatory cosmetic surgery at age 16.  But does the surgery only affect your appearance…?

Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series is another one I’ve been price watching.  This week the first book, Cinder, is available on Audible for only $6.

The final deal I picked up this week was Pivot Point by Kasie West.  This has a very intriguing premise; whenever our protagonist is faced with a choice, she is able to look into the future and see both outcomes.  That sounds very intriguing.  Thanks to The Perpetual Page Turner for alerting me to this.

Several months back, BBC Radio made a new production of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere with a cast list that was off the charts.  It included Christopher Lee, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McEvoy, Natalie Dormer.   I’d been keeping an eye out for it on Audible, so when I noticed it last week, I snapped it up.

In Other News

This week Amazon made the entire internet stop for a second and emit a collective “what the…?” when it announced that it is working on PrimeAir in which orders will be delivered within 30 mins by pilotless drones.  it won’t be available for several years (and what are the bets it’s a US only service?) but here is the concept video


However, what I found even more brilliant was the UK bookstore Waterstones’ response –  it announced the Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service:

Enjoy!

four-stars

One Great Year by Tamara Veitch – Review

one great year
One Great Year by Tamara Veitch – ReviewOne Great Year by Tamara Veitch
Format: ARC
Pages: 419 pages
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKobo
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

One Great Year tells the story of lovers Marcus and Theron and spurned suitor Helghul who are from the lost world of Atitala (Atlantis).  Marcus and Theron take on the role of Emissary, spiritual guide and leader to guide the world through One Great Year, the countless millennia while the world moves from a dark Iron Age to turn once again to a Golden Age.  Helghul acts as the counterbalance to this goal.  

After the initial setup, for a good three quarters of this book I became increasingly frustrated and disengaged.  My biggest issue was that I really, really didn’t like the protagonist, Marcus.  He starts off the book as whiny and self absorbed, unable to look beyond the separation from his love.  Several millennia and several cyclical regenerations later, the book finds him still whiny, still self absorbed and still obsessed with Theron.  What made it worse for me was his neglect of his sacred duty as Emissary – I had the impression that, as far as he was concerned, the world could turn to custard if he could be with his Theron.  I became really frustrated at the lack of character development for Marcus.  

In terms of the other two main characters, Theron was portrayed as goodness personified, so there was much less scope for character development from her side.  Helghul was your stereotypical evil overlord, except that I was frustrated that no solid reason for his actions were given at first.  Rarely does evil do evil for evil’s sake, or at least those who do make singularly uninteresting villains.  Usually, there is some solid reason, such as a desire for power or revenge.

Having said all that, this is all turned around in the last quarter of the book.  The underlying themes and character arcs that had been building slowly finally came to the fore and elevated One Great Year from a mediocre YA romance to a well written, thought provoking narrative.  I still can’t say I like Marcus any better, but I can appreciate his interesting character arc.

What I liked

The concept.  I loved the basic concept of our characters being guides to lead the world through a cycle of a dark age.  I also felt it was very well executed.  

Interesting themes.  Some of the themes explored in One Great Year are fascinating – these include, among others, the cosmic Balance, choice and free will, the cyclical nature of history and our world.

What I didn’t like

The slow character development and pacing.  See above comments.

One Great Year is a book with which you may need to persevere.  I personally felt the payoff in the last quarter of the book was worth it and gave One Great Year four stars out of five. 

four-stars

Reading Roundup – 11th October 2013

rubinrot movie

This week on my reading roundup I will be discussing some non-book format but book related content.  The first of these is the movie Rubinrot, which is the German made adaptation of Kerstin Gier’s Ruby Red.

Reading Roundup – 11th October 2013Rubinrot (Ruby Red) Movie directed by Felix Fuchssteiner
Series: Gem Trilogy
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Format: Blu Ray DVD 
Starring: Jannis Niewöhner, Maria Ehrich
Length: 122 minutes 
Buy from Amazon • 
five-stars

One of the trilogies I’ve loved most this year has been Kerstin Gier’s Gem trilogy.   I was very excited to hear that they were making a movie of it.  First the practicalities.  I live in Canada, so I was concerned that a Blu Ray bought from Amazon Germany would not play on my North American Blu Ray device.  However Rubinrot is sold region free in Blu Ray (DVD is European region locked).  It also comes with the English dubbed soundtrack.  I had no issues playing it on my Blu Ray player.  

I loved this movie.  The script and casting were excellent.  Maria Ehrich really captures Gwyneth’s humour and spirit.  I found myself liking Jannis Niewöhner’s portrayal of Gideon much more than I liked the character in the book.  Even the smaller roles are perfectly cast – most notable for me were Jennifer Lotzi as Gwyneth’s best friend, Lesley, and Justine del Corte as Madame Rossini.  Both actresses really made me smile with their portrayals of their characters.  

In terms of script, as I mentioned, the scriptwriters have succeeded for me in capturing the essence of our main character, one of the joys of the books.  They did make significant changes to the ending – the book doesn’t have a strong finale as it is intended to be read as a trilogy along with Sapphire Blue and Emerald Green.  This clearly wouldn’t not work in the film medium which needs a strong finish.  They adapted an additional confrontation to increase the drama.  My biggest issue with what they came up with is that it could be seen to foreshadow strongly a major plot twist of Emerald Green left unspoiled in the book.  

All in all this is an excellent movie, easily up to Hunger Games or Harry Potter standards.  If you’re a fan of the books, go check it out.  Clearly, German cinema goers agree with me – the box office returns appear to have been enough to greenlight an adaptation of book two, Sapphire Blue.  I look forward to that one, too!

I gave Rubinrot movie five stars out of five.

Emma Approved

The second non book content I wish to discuss is Emma Approved, the latest offering from the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  If you are a Jane Austen aficionado, or even a fan of top notch writing, and are not familiar with the LBD,  stop what you are doing, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go check it out IMMEDIATELY.  LBD and Emma Approved are transmedia (blog, YouTube, Twitter etc) modernised adaptations of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice and Emma respectively.  

The first two YouTube videos of Emma Approved aired this week in which we were introduced to Emma Woodhouse, lifestyle coach with a soon to be 20 for 20 success rate, her boss Alex Knightly and latest success story Annie Taylor.  While I was instantly smitten with Knightly, I didn’t warm up to Emma as quickly as I did to Lizzie Bennet.  In the first episode Emma comes across as arrogant, which I found rather off-putting.  By the second episode though her youth and vulnerability begin to show through, which is very endearing.  What I did love from the beginning was the Emma/Knightly dynamic.  One of the main themes of the original Emma is that the “brother” (Knightly) becomes the lover while the obvious love interest (Frank Churchill) ends up as more of a brother figure to Emma.  Our Emma and Knightly clearly have a close bond.  I look forward to seeing where Emma Approved goes.  

One of the strengths of the LBD was in the perfect casting choices made.  From what I’ve seen, this trend continues in Emma Approved.  My calendar is now set for the regular Monday and Thursday vlog posts.   

Dark Children of Naor by Justyna Plichta-Jendzio Genres: Epic Fantasy Format: ARC Pages: 237 pages Buy from Amazon • Kobo • iTunes • four-stars

I received a copy from the author for review.  It tells the story of Jansemi, a young woman whose family has been cursed by pursuit by demons and violent death since her ancestor’s betrayal of her vows to a goddess many generations before. It tells of her family’s history and her attempt to avoid her fate.

This premise was interesting and well executed.  The setup was well done, although at times I wasn’t certain where some of the subplots were going.  The characters were believable and each had their own motivations for aiding or thwarting Jansemi’s actions.  I liked that it wasn’t always clear whose side a particular character was on.

The author is not a native speaker of English and at times there were turns of phrase that weren’t quite natural.  However, this in no way impacted my understanding of the novel and in many ways actually enhanced the otherworldly feel of the book.

What I didn’t enjoy so much was that the novel was veering on the edge of the horror genre, a genre I don’t particularly appreciate.  This was most apparent in the violent, graphic and gory description of the demon’s attacks.

On the whole though this is a good read.  I gave Dark Children of Naor three and a half stars out of five.

Added to my library this week

Hello, my name is Evelynne and I am a bookaholic.  It has been seven days since my last update and I have added nine books to my library since then.  My excuse is, I’m about to start nightshifts again next week and will need some audiobooks to get me through the long nights.

In addition to the preorders of Emerald Green and The House of Hades, I bought The Book Thief by Markus Zusac.  This is not generally the type of book I read, set as it is in Nazi Germany, but I have seen so many positive reviews that I decided to check it out and was instantly charmed by Allan Corduner’s narration.  Here is a sample.   I bought The Book Thief in both Kindle and Audible formats.  

I adored Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, so I gave in and bought the sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight in both Kindle and Audible formats.

Another series I’ve heard great things about is Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy.  I picked the first book up, again in both Kindle and Audible formats.  The Whispersync for Voice offers are just too good to pass up.  incidentally, I’ve noticed that Amazon is really promoting this feature – I am getting the add professional narration option when I purchase from the website as well now.

The first five chapters of Marissa Meyer’s Cinder are available free on Amazon, so I picked up that, too.  I understand it’s an updating of the Cinderella tale, but set in space?  I guess I’ll know more once I’ve read the first five chapters!

polandbananasBOOKS recently posted on YouTube her interview with Alexandra Bracken, the author of The Darkest Minds series.  The story tells of child survivors of a plague which leaves them with superhuman powers.  This inspired me to check out the excerpt on Alexandra’s website and I was immediately hooked. In fact I regretted that I am in the middle of so many good books that I couldn’t continue reading immediately.  In any case, The Darkest Minds was added to my library in both Kindle and Audible formats.

This morning I learned that I had won an ARC of Mitch Alborn’s The First Phone Call from Heaven through a GoodReads competition.  I’m excited because, first, I never win ANYTHING and secondly, I enjoyed Alborn’s The Timekeeper so I’m sure I will enjoy this book.

The final book I added to my library this week is The Ruby Brooch by Katherine Logan.  This book came to my attention when the author followed me on Twitter.  The concept seemed interesting – Outlander, but set the old American settler days rather than Scotland – so I picked it up on Kindle.

five-stars

Irianeth by Anne Robillard – Review

irianeth
Irianeth by Anne Robillard – ReviewIrianeth by Anne Robillard
Series: Chevaliers d'Emeraude
Format: eBook
Pages: 468
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKobo
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Irianeth is the twelfth and final book in Robillard’s Chevaliers d’Emeraude, (Knights of Emerald) series.  In her native Quebec and also France Anne Robillard has a following like that of George R.R. Martin, complete with conventions and banquets, music and merchandise.  The series is, as of yet, not available in English, which is a real shame – it is a brilliant high fantasy series with compelling characters and wonderful worldbuilding.  If Anne or any publishing houses are reading this, please,  please publish this series in English so that fans the world over can share this fantastic tale.

However, as there is no English language version available, I will have to review the series for you. In terms of plot, Knights of Emerald follows a pretty standard fantasy trope: the Dark Emperor wants to take over the continent of Enkidiev and destroy it and, only the Knights of Emerald and their allies stand in his way.  Naturally, there is a prophecy predicting his downfall with both sides using magical means to ensure/prevent its fulfilment.  There are twelve books in the series of which Irianeth is the final one.  Although there is the overarching plotline of the final prophesied confrontation with the Dark Emperor, I would describe the series rather as episodic.  Generally, there isn’t one main storyline per book, but many mini adventures which feed into the character development and main story arc.

What elevates Knights of Emerald beyond your average high fantasy series is the excellent worldbuilding and relatable characters.  There is a whole hierarchy of magic users in Enkidiev ranging from your average Knight of Emerald, through master magicians, Immortals (who are the go-betweens between the gods and mortals) and the gods of Enkidiev led by the cold and distant Parandar.

Robillard has developed a whole history for her continent of Enkidiev and what I find astounding is to what extent that history has a real and vital impact on the lives of our protagonists.  In Robillard’s world, this attempt by the Dark Emperor to take over Enkidiev is the second such takeover bid in the history of Enkidiev.  The first assault was repelled by the first generation of the Knights of Emerald.  However, that first generation of Knights was seduced by the magical powers accorded to them by the Immortals and gods in order to fight off the Emperor and abandoned the code of chivalry.   When they refused to give up their power and cease using it to further their own selfish desires they were forcibly stripped of their powers and killed by the Immortal Abner.  This history is very much in the minds of King Emerald and Abner when they decide to resurrect the Order of the Knights of Emerald to face this second threat.  They decide to limit the powers accorded to this second generation of Knights to prevent this, which leads to some fantastic ongoing character conflict with the leader of the Order, Wellan.  Wellan resents this limitation when he is forced to watch his Knights and innocents die at the hands of the Emperor’s minions because his Knights don’t have the necessary powers to defend themselves.  Abner, for his part, must try to balance this need for additional powers with the risk of future abuses of that power.

Although the characters of the Knights of Emerald are living in a fantastical world, Robillard does an amazing job of keeping them relatable.  She doesn’t use the trope of having a character unfamiliar with the world act as an audience proxy.  Instead she has her characters deal with some very human issues in addition to the more fantastical ones.  Certainly, few of her readers will have experienced battling supernatural beetles to save a continent.  More will have experienced uncertainty about his or her ability to live up to others’ expectations, like our Lightbearer Lassa, or like Bridgess had to watch a loved one become involved with someone who is only using them or like Onyx allowed a need for revenge cause them to take actions that would have been better left undone.

The character who brings together this historical backstory and character development is Onyx.  Veteran of the first war against the Dark Emperor, he must reconcile his desire to protect and avenge his loved ones and the continent of Enkidiev with his all-consuming thirst for revenge on Abner for what he did to the first generation of Knights.  The fact that he is in a position of real power makes this a particularly key internal conflict for the Knights of Emerald and the continent as a whole, and Robillard describes this conflict beautifully.  In terms of well written, intriguing characters I would say Onyx is the Snape of the Knights of Emerald.

In terms of weaknesses in the series, pacing isn’t Robillard’s strongest point.  This is highlighted by the fact that by 87% of the way through the final book the three protagonists of the prophecy weren’t even on the same continent much less in a position to confront each other!  Clearly, in these circumstances there is no way for the ending to be anything other than rushed.

Robillard has a tendency also to take the safer route.  Two major characters were “killed” in the final book – that could have been a great opportunity to show the sacrifices made by the Knights to save the continent, yet the deaths didn’t stick.  For me, personally, this was a real disappointment.  Don’t get me wrong; I don’t enjoy having my protagonists killed off, but one of the major themes of the series is a code of chivalry, risking one’s life to defend the defenceless.  Having most of our heroes survive the conflict weakened this for me considerably.

Despite these weaknesses, Knights of Emerald is a wonderful, wonderful series filled with passionate and relatable characters and is well worth reading.

I gave Irianeth four stars out of five, but the series as a whole five stars out of five.

four-stars

The Godborn by Paul S Kemp – Review

godborn
The Godborn by Paul S Kemp – ReviewThe Godborn by Paul S Kemp, R.A. Salvatore
Series: The Sundering #2
Also in this series: The Companions
Format: ARC
Pages: 336
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: two-stars

I received a copy of The Godborn by Paul S Kemp free to review via Netgalley.  I should preface my thoughts by noting that I am not very familiar with Kemp’s The Twilight War trilogy and when reading this book I often felt as if I were a new reader to the Wheel of Time who had picked the series up at book four.  I had the impression that a lot of assumptions of previous knowledge about the world have been made and I often found it difficult to keep up.  I suspect that if you are already up to speed, you will have quite a different experience reading this book than mine.  This is reflected in the low rating I gave this book.

The Godborn tells of Vasen Cale’s quest to reunite the shards of Mask’s divinity which had been split among three people and to prevent Shar’s reincarnation which would lead to world destruction.  At least that’s what I think it was about.  I wasn’t very clear.

What I liked

The premise.  I felt the idea of pieces of divinity having to be collected and reassembled interesting and well done.

What I disliked

Lack of focus.  The Godborn is a relatively short book at only 336 pages, yet I felt it had a cast equivalent to that of the Wheel of Time.  Too often I felt that we spent a few pages getting to know a character who then disappears a few chapters later.  In such a short book this time would have been better spent concentrating on our main characters so that we actually care about them.  Without time devoted to them, our protagonists feel flat.  I couldn’t help comparing this to The Companions, the first in The Sundering series, which is a far more tightly focussed book concentrating on four or five main characters.

Likewise, I felt there were too many irrelevant plot lines.  For example, while I liked Brennus and his homunculi, his relationship with his brother and father and his desire for revenge felt irrelevant to the main plot line.  

Overemphasising themes.  Clearly light vs dark is a major theme in this book.  I understand that.  I didn’t need it rammed down my throat every five or six pages.  By the end of a few chapters I was groaning and shaking my head at yet another mention of Vasen’s shadows alongside the faith light of his shield or the silver hidden beneath the tarnish.  

All in all, I struggled to finish this book, and I suspect it was partly due to my lack of familiarity with Kemp’s previous work.  If you have not read them, I cannot in all honesty recommend this book to a new reader.  If you have read The Twilight War you may enjoy it a lot more.  If so, please let me know in the comments.

I gave The Godborn by Paul S Kemp two stars out of five.

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two-stars

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare – Review

clockwork_princess
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare – ReviewClockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Series: Infernal Devices #3
Also in this series: Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Daniel Sharman
Length: Length: 16 hrs and 24 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Clockwork Princess is the third and final book in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy, following on from Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince.  My view of the series was merely consolidated rather than changed by my reading of the finale – Cassandra Clare is excellent and writing characters and worldbuilding, not so great at pacing.

What I liked

The characters.  I adore Tess, Will and Jem and I felt the way their story was developed in this final volume was very well written and very touching.  I really felt for all the protagonists in the book.  We also get to see the development of Will’s relationship with Jem from their initial meeting through flashbacks.  I know some people disliked the epilogue, but personally I loved hearing about what happened to the characters after the ending of the story.  I also loved all the secondary characters – Charlotte, Henry, Cecily, the Lightwoods.  Writing characters and their interactions is clearly Clare’s real strong point.  I enjoyed the fact that certain characters were not necessarily evil, believed they were doing the right thing, but were still major hurdles for our protagonists.  

The narration.  Yet again the trilogy switched narrator.  All four narrators did a wonderful job, but I do much prefer it when the narrator is consistent across a series.  Daniel Sharman took the reins for this final book and did an excellent job.  One thing that did bug me, however; Will suddenly develops a Welsh accent!  Admittedly, there is ample justification in the story given what we learn about Will’s background.  I would have preferred it to have remained consistent with the neutral British accent he is given in the previous two books.  It’s hard enough adjusting to a new narrator without a main character’s accent changing.  It’s also interesting when the narration gives away a plot point.  At one point, a character enters a place and says a few words.  His identity is not revealed at that point in the book, but due to Sharman’s excellent voice work he was immediately identifiable to the listener.

Here’s a sample

 

The letters.  The plot was developed through the use of letters.  I thought this was a particularly efficient way of moving the plot forward without having to develop more secondary characters.

The action scenes.  There are definitely a lot more action in this book before and during the confrontation with Mortmain.  The London Institute Shadowhunters’ attacking Cadair Idris reminded me of Aragorn’s attacking the Black Gate in Return of the King or Lan’s defending the pass in Memory of Light.  I would have LOVED to have seen Henry’s face when that first automaton came to life “oh… crap!”

What I didn’t like

There was nothing I specifically disliked about the book.  It did enjoy it and was touched by Will, Tessa and Jem’s story.  However, for me it didn’t quite pack the emotional punch of A Memory of Light or Emperor of Thorns.  I suspect that was because I had been spoiled so certain fakeouts lost their impact when I knew they were going to be reversed later on.   

All in all, I gave Clockwork Angel four stars out of five.

four-stars
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