Tag Archives: fantasy

Edition Review: American Gods x Anansi Boys (B&N Collectible Edition 2016)

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The moment I saw this beautiful edition online, I knew I just had to have it. I’m a big Gaiman fan so imagine my excitement when I learned that it’ll be available in my country.

The cover art was designed by Jim Tierney. I love the silver and blue theme. The typography design really stood out against the black leather base. It’s a truly gorgeous piece.

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The exterior theme extends to the inner jacket. The page trims are also coated with silver.

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The paper is smooth and thin, kinda like The Bible. The book also has a ribbon marker, so no need for bookmarks.

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The book is a bit heavy so I don’t recommend it for casual reading. I bought this book with the intent of displaying it so I don’t really mind the weight. Overall, this is a beautiful edition that any Gaiman fan would love. Definitely worth every penny!

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Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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2 Stars


“In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don’t believe that.

The gods rule us still, they have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind.”

Imagine Graceling meets Princess Diaries and you’ll have something like The Red Queen. Mare, the heroine of the story, discovers that she possesses a power she’s not supposed to have. Of course, inevitably, she becomes a key figure in a rebellion against a corrupt and prejudiced system. Basically, in this world, there are two kinds of people: Reds and Silvers. Reds are normal humans bound to serve, while the Silvers are elite humans with special abilities and destined to rule over all. That’s the status quo, has been for centuries, and of course, the rebellion seeks to change that. I won’t say anything more about the plot to avoid spoiling so I’ll just spill my thoughts regarding the substance of the book.

This book had a lot of potential. It started off strong. However, as the world building was set-up, it started to become a little chaotic. First of all, world-building is very important to me. When I read Fantasy, may it be YA or High Fantasy, I expect to be fully immersed and introduced to its world. There has to be consistency and clear visuals in my head. Although the book clearly described Norta, I found a lot of elements to be disjointed and frenzied. Medieval, steampunk and other eras were all mixed in together which made visualizing a clear world a bit difficult.

I also had a problem with Mare. I found her character weak. She didn’t have a very strong conviction. There were times I questioned what she was really fighting for. The love triangle also felt forced and pathetic. I mean, seriously? The characters fell in love with each other without much basis. They barely had any substantial interaction, they barely knew each other, and they’re willing to risk their lives for something so feeble? I’m sorry but just don’t buy it. It felt like a high school infatuation more than anything else. The character development was so weak I didn’t make any connections with any of them. I didn’t feel anything for their suffering, for their deaths, or triumphs. Nothing. It was hard for me to root for Mare because she never showed me enough to make me believe in her.

Overall, this was a very disappointing book. I understand how some people might love it, especially YA readers. But for hardcore Fantasy readers like me, this is way not up to par. I get how some people see similarities between Red Queen and Graceling because of the special powers, but believe me that’s as far as it goes. It’s like comparing freshly brewed Columbian coffee to a hotel’s free 3-in-1 sachet.

Will I read the second book? Probably. But I won’t be running to the bookstore to get it.

 

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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3 Stars

“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.”

It was hard for me to rate this book because I really liked it, a lot. My only beef is that I had a small problem with connecting to the characters, hence the three stars.

When I started reading this book, I immediately thought of how similar it was to Legend; only this one was set in medieval fantasy and had the main characters’ genders reversed. As I read further, I saw more similarities, but I also saw how different they were. I don’t want to compare, so I won’t.

Ember is a strong and intense book. It’s brutal, gritty, but also light for a fantasy novel. It’s not as rich or as dark as say A Song of Ice and Fire or as complex as The Stormlight Archive but it has the right amount of action, blood, foreshadowing and tragedy to create good fantasy. In terms of world-building, Ember doesn’t stray too far away from the main setting which is Blackcliff. Other places were mentioned but not really discussed or introduced thoroughly. The book’s map art showed a vast world so I suppose those will be explored in the following books. It was evident that the setting was strongly inspired by Ancient Rome so the way I visualized it somehow resembled that era.

My main issue with this book is the voice of the main characters: Elias and Laia. It was really hard to connect to them and there were times wherein I was confused as to whose POV I was reading. Their chapters weren’t too distinct. I also had trouble rooting for Laia. She was weak and her lack of resolve annoyed me. I felt like she was just a leaf being dragged around by the current. Ironically, the character I liked the best and empathized with the most was Helene, a non-POV character. I love her (I hope she becomes a POV character in the next book). I also thought Laia’s transition from a wimpy slave-girl to a courageous fighter at the closing chapter was too abrupt and not smoothly executed.

Now to the good bits. I love the grit and raw violence in this book. It wasn’t afraid to shed blood and to depict the brutalities of war. My favorite scene in the entire book was the battle at the amphitheater. Although I already expected it to happen, it was still difficult to read through. That was the moment I connected to Elias the most. Not just him but to all the Masks. What the Augurs made them do was brutal, not bloody-brutal but really heart-wrenching brutal. A true test of character. That was an incredible scene.

It’s clear that there’s a bigger picture and a bigger war at hand. One that involved not only the Empire but also the other races: The djinn, the fey, the ifrits, the ghuls. I have a theory, and please do not read any further if you want to avoid spoilers. It’s clear that the Nightbringer is the main antagonist in this story and the Commandant is just one of his pawns. It was mentioned that the djinns were betrayed by the early men which caused their downfall and triggered the Nightbringer’s vengeance . My theory is that the Augurs, who said that they were guilty, were either one of the first men who possessed the learned magic hence their immortality and magical abilities, or they were the fey who gave men the knowledge that caused the djinn’s defeat and they were now trying to make amends by making things right. I’m really curious about this bit of the story. It kinda reminded me of Kingkiller and its Lanre mythology.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to the next one. This is a good divergence from the usual young adult dystopian novels that plague the shelves these days. If you like books like Legend and are into fantasy that doesn’t heavily rely on magic then this is the book for you.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

3 Stars

“I am a myth, a very special kind of myth that creates itself. The best lies about me are the ones I told.”

I read this book early last year and forgot to write a review until it was too late, so I took advantage of the long vacation to read it once again—thus, here I am writing this while feelings and emotions are still fresh.

It took me ages to finish this book the first time I read it and although I finished it a lot quicker the second time around, it still took me longer than how I usually peruse fantasy novels. The reason for this was the pacing of the frame story. See, Name of the Wind covers two timelines: The present, wherein Kvothe tells of his life story; and the past, the story being told. Truthfully speaking, I found the frame story a bit slow, too slow to my liking, that it took me ages to get past the opening chapters. I remember giving up reading the book multiple times because of it. However, once the real story began, the book became very difficult to put down.

“I would pass over the whole of that evening, in fact. I would spare you the burden of any of it if one piece were not necessary to the story. It is vital. It is the hinge upon which the story pivots like an opening door. In some ways, this is where the story begins.”

Name of the Wind’s magic was one of the things I loved most about it. Of course, there is “knowing one’s true name”—a concept that has been used in fantasy literature throughout history, but more importantly, I was fascinated by Sympathy. It was interesting how the author used concepts and laws borrowed from real Science and built a magic system around it—it can give you quite a headache too if you tried too hard to understand it. The school setting reminded me of Hogwarts, but not quite. Familiar but foreign. I get why people say the book has similarities with Harry Potter but seriously speaking I think that’s as far as it goes. Name of the Wind has its distinct charm that cannot be found elsewhere.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The stories within stories were fascinating and absorbing. The world was carefully built, and although it took me awhile to be submerged in it, the dive was worth it. Rothfuss is a great storyteller. He has a way with words—his prose dances and flirts with you like music, and I think this element shines through the brightest whenever Kvothe speaks of Denna. You’ll understand what I mean once you’ve read it. For now, I’m eager to read Day two.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

3 Stars

“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I should, but I didn’t. The Night Circus had a very good story, a solid concept, it sang a distinct sound. I get why some people saw some splashes of Gaiman in this novel. This book is incredibly descriptive and visual, the settings are always described in a way that make them very easy to imagine. I believe this book is a treat for imaginative minds. At first, I truly felt like a kid being thrust into a candy shop for the first time—but too much sugar can harm your teeth—and I think that’s what happened to me here.

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

This is probably one of the most visual books I’ve read, and therein lies its greatest strength and weakness. The introduction to the circus was marvelous. In fact, I personally think the Prologue was the strongest chapter in the entire book. The first encounter with the Circus was enchanting. I could smell the caramel, popcorn, warm cider and candied applies in my head. It seemed as if I was literally there at the circus! But as the book went on, it felt forced and redundant. There were moments wherein I felt like the narrator was trying to push how great, grand and magical the circus was every chance he could get, raining the reader with a barrage of adjectives. It became too wordy. It felt like I was being forced to believe it—forced to smell the deliciousness and sweetness of the liquid caramel whose scent wafted through the air as it was drizzled in a slow pour, like maple syrup on a hot plate of pancake, on top of the warm and freshly-popped popcorn with melted buttermilk butter, held inside a fantastic bucket of black and white stripes with a sprinkled print of glittering stars. See what I did there? Too much of a good thing is not always good, and I think that’s why I found it difficult to truly love this book.

The characters were interesting, so varied, and likable in their own right but they felt so far away. Do you get what I mean? I liked them but I never got to invest myself in them. It never became personal, never intimate. At the end of the book, I knew I read a good story but I didn’t feel anything—except perhaps a slight craving for caramel-drizzled popcorn.

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

5 Stars

“Power is an illusion of perception.”

Phenomenal. The second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Magnum Opus not only lived up to the expectations of Way of Kings but also exceeded it. Honestly, is Sanderson partly digging his own grave here? Now that he has given us these two marvels, every book he writes after this will be expected to match their quality and that’s no easy feat!

“You will have to see the truth, child, before you can expand upon it. Just as a man should know the law before he breaks it.”

In Words of Radiance, we learn more about the orders of the Knights Radiants, the nature of spren, the Voidbringers, the magic system that binds Roshar and, most importantly, we are given more pieces of the massive puzzle that encompasses all of the Shardworlds’ eventual fate.

In Way of Kings, my favorite characters were Kaladin and Szeth. They still remain to be among my favorites but Adolin and Shallan have been added to that beloved list as well after reading this book.  Shallan reminded me too much of Sansa in WoK but here I got to see her strengths, her wit, her resolve and her weaknesses. Funny how her dark past made me like her more. I hate perfect damsels in fiction and she proved to be far from one. In this book, some of Szeth’s shroud of mystery were dissolved only to be replaced by another of greater and even more exciting proportions. I think I practically squealed from my seat when Nightblood made an appearance. What is Brandon Sanderson playing at here? Not that I’m complaining or anything—this twist will surely make a very interesting third book. If you’ve read Warbreaker then I’m sure you’ll be familiar of what I’m talking about.

The fight scenes in WoR were not as intense as WoK’s battle at the Tower but they were still pretty marvelous. The first half of the book was a bit slow but I didn’t mind. There were a lot of things going on and it was important for the readers to get through them carefully or they might miss some important things. All in all, this was another brilliant book for The Stormlight Archive and the moment I flipped the last page I was already aching for more. Seriously, how long do I have to wait until the third book comes out? You need to read this as soon as possible so that we can wallow in the misery of waiting together! Yes, I’m serious. And yes, you need to grab this book now if you haven’t already. If you do already have it but have yet to start it, why Stormfather, what are you waiting for?! Start flipping those pages! Epics like this aren’t made to wait!

“But the sky and the winds are mine. I claim them, as I now claim your life.”

 

 

My review for The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1)

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.”

After reading Way of Kings, it’s clear to me that Brandon Sanderson held himself back with great restraint when he did Mistborn. This book, this beginning of a grand, ambitious, luxurious and what shall become an epic fantasy series, is what happens when he lets it all go. This is how fantasy books should be like! There’s a reason why Fantasy has always been my favorite genre. Nothing can pull a reader into a totally different world the same way it does—completely and absolutely, the kind that makes you truly forget where you are and who you are— and Way of Kings most definitely did that to me.

 “A story does not live until it is imagined in someone’s mind.”

This world—this massive world of magic, depth, war, of places and people that can only ever exist in the realm of our minds—has wholly captured me. Sanderson’s magic systems, his world-building, a cosmos so rich and so vast… his stories are like the fantasy books of old. The thing I’ve always admired with Tolkien’s work is the thought and effort put behind it. His Middle Earth has its own history, its own mythology, and its own life apart from the lives of the characters that dwell in it. Sanderson’s books are the same. All of his books are connected, coexisting, intertwined, enclosed inside the same universe—bounded inside one cosmos. Different worlds, Mistborn, Elantris, Warbreaker, and now Way of Kings—each has its own story, its own rules, its own chaos, yet they are all connected by a string that only we readers know of. Sanderson gives us a small piece of the grand puzzle for every book he gives us. I truly applaud Brandon Sanderson for the grandness of the world he has created.

“The prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”

I noticed I was too overwhelmed by the grand scheme of things that I forgot to actually write about Way of Kings alone. Well all I can say is that this is one hell of a start for an epic fantasy series. It’s fantastical world is filled with colorful cultures and characters that will hook any fantasy fan. The story is told from the point of views of very, very different people with, at first, seemingly urelated lives. One by one their individual stories mesh and I’m sure more of them will collide in the following books. The characters are complex, intriguing, annoying, frustrating, yet fascinating all at the same time. I admit I have my favorites: Kaladin and Szeth. I’m looking forward as to how their stories unfold and clash in the next book. This book started off slow but not in a boring way, but in a controlled pace—a needed control for us to see more into the characters and their histories. The first half of the book was a perfect expository to the pool of action that followed. I swear I was at the edge of my seat while reading the battle at the Tower! I couldn’t sit down at all fearing for the lives of my favorite characters. The book ended in a way that made me want to run to the bookstore and grab Words of Radiance at once.

There are good stories, and then there are great stories. I strongly believe that The Stormlight Archive is one in the making, and I am in for the full ride.

 

My review for Words of Radiance (Stormlight Archive #2)