Tag Archives: magic

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.

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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.

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #2)

3 Stars

“A man can only stumble for so long before he either falls or stands up straight.”

Reviewing this book was a struggle. I loved Mistborn—so much so that it was almost impossible for me to read Well of Ascension without any expectations. The truth is, I felt like a girl whose boyfriend has disappointed her, but does she still love him? Of course she does. That’s exactly how it was for me with this book. Let me tell you why.

“A man can only lead when others accept him as their leader, and he has only as much authority as his subjects give him. All of the brilliant ideas in the world cannot save your kingdom if no one will listen to them.”

Majority of Well of Ascension’s plot revolved around the siege of Luthadel and all the politicking that involved. In Mistborn, I was hooked in the political dance among the nobility, but for this book it kind of bored me. I felt like so much of it was stretched too thin that it almost felt repetitive. Another big problem for me was the redundant inner struggles of character, especially with Elend. So much was spent on his inner musings, on whether or not he was good enough. He questions himself, gets resolve—only to question himself again for the very same reasons several chapters later. This went on like a cycle throughout the entire book.

The conflict regarding the Kingship was interesting but it was played out too long that it became a bit boring as it went on, and to think that most of the story concerned warfare—I felt like it lacked the action that made Final Empires so enthralling. However, I must say that when the actual fight finally did happen, I couldn’t put the book down. The koloss army and Vin’s scenes were absolutely brilliant. Another nice aspect of the book was the new characters, Tyndwil and Zane. They were very intriguing, especially the latter one. I understood where Zane was coming from. In fact there were several times wherein I kind of agreed with him regarding how the others treated Mistborns, especially during Elend and Straff’s encounter.

The funny thing about this book is that the title, The Well of Ascension, actually didn’t play a huge a part in the story—not until the end at least. My favourite part of the book, aside from Vin’s battle scene at the end, was the “spy”. It was a twist that I absolutely did not expect and I totally loved it! I also liked how the author killed off some important characters during the war climax—in truth, I was saddened by those deaths (sadder than how I felt when Lupin and Tonks died in HP7). Maybe because I saw them as more human and more fragile—they grew on me since I first met them in the first book. The truth regarding the prophecies was also excellent. It was obvious that Brandon Sanderson plotted the big picture before he even began writing Final Empire. It made so much sense. Although this book didn’t please me as much as the first book did, I am still very much looking forward to Hero of Ages. Judging by the way things ended here, I’m expecting a lot more action in the next book. Crossing my fingers it won’t disappoint!

“At first glance, the key and the lock it fits may seem different. Different in shape different in function, different in design. The man who looks at them without knowledge of their true nature might think them opposites, for one is meant to open, and the other to keep closed. Yet, upon closer examination, he might see that without one, the other becomes useless. The wise man sees that both lock and key were created for the same purpose.”

Read my reviews for other books by Brandon Sanderson:
Mistborn: The Final Empire

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #1)

5 Stars

“Belief isn’t simply a thing for fair times and bright days, I think. What is belief—what is faith—if you don’t continue in it after failure?”

It’s been a while since I read a good fantasy book, a long while. I’ll be honest, I only first heard of Brandon Sanderson because he was chosen to continue The Wheel of Time, and it wasn’t until a couple of friends suggested Mistborn before I finally read a book of his, but I’m glad I did. Mistborn is a gem. I’ve read and finished several fantasy series but it’s been quite some time since any managed to hit my core, the last one was probably Bartimaeus (yes, it’s been that long).

Mistborn started off slow, in fact it took me a while to get past the first few chapters. However, once the story picked up, I couldn’t put it down. Brandon Sanderson is a master storyteller and a great world-builder. There’s something about his subtle storytelling that made it so easy for me to visualize and put myself in Vin’s world. His magic system was so intricate and so well thought-out it nearly put Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind structure to shame.

Continue reading Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #1)