Category Archives: Fantasy

ARC Review: Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels#8) by Ilona Andrews

5 gems
 magic shifts

First off, thanks a lot to Alexis Nixon and Ace Publishing for allowing me to read this book.

Now this is what I felt like when I got a mail telling me ‘Why yes, you can obviously have an early copy of Magic Shifts. You didn’t even have to ask.’ (okay she did not say that, but you get the idea)

fangirling hard

and yes i did this too…

yay2

There are going to be some spoilers of Magic Shifts in this review. They will be minor in the grand scheme of things, but any Ilona Andrews fan knows that any spoiler is a big spoiler when it comes to the Kate Daniels series.

It’s been a couple of months since Curran stepped down as the Beast Lord and Kate claimed the city. The suburban life is as good as their life can be, though it’s an adjustment. While Kate and Curran are happy that they don’t have to get sucked into the Pack politics anymore, Curran misses the challenge of making the Pack run like a well-oiled machine.

When the Pack offers them an ailing Mercenary Guild, Curran has found a new challenge for himself. Except the Guild is in shambles, the Clerk is gone, there’s no one to man the tables so to say, and all the mercenaries have a bad attitude to boot. The mercenaries don’t need Curran coming in and saving them, but then again Curran never cared much for what others wanted.

This time around Kate and Curran are supposed to save Eduardo, the were-bison form the Pack. With no sign of Eduardo, his fiancee, George, is in a turmoil. So she goes to the two people she knows can help her. True to their nature, Curran and Kate do everything in their power to help George and save Eduardo., sometimes going above and beyond to help them. With hoards of ghouls in town and the strange gigs the Kate and Curran are doing for the Guild, they know that their unknown enemy is one of the strongest they’ve ever met.

With one of the oldest supernatural creatures in town wreaking havoc in Atlanta, Kate and Curran don’t have much time to play house or just be. For them, it’s a race against time to save a friend’s life and keep Atlanta whole without losing their lives in the process.

Let me just say this: Holy sh*t! This book was bloody awesome. Kate and Curran are in full form, fighting death, vanquishing enemies, saving friends and meeting Roland for dinner when they have some free time. While I love all the books in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Breaks wasn’t my favorite. I was disappointed with the lack of Curran for half the book, but that is not the case in Magic Shifts. I also forgot how much I loved Kate the Mercenary rather than Kate the Consort, and I was reminded of that in this book. Kate kicked ass in this book. Totally and completely kicked ass.

Magic Shifts took me thorough a whole concoction of emotions. I obviously loved Kate’s kick-assery. Put Kate and her sword together and there’s bound to be magic. I enjoyed Kate being the family woman. Interacting with Curran and Julie, making them breakfast, asking about their day. And when Kate went up to her neighbour and told her to leave Curran alone, all I thought was ‘You go girl’.

Kate’s sarcastic humor is an unsaid favorite. But what I loved most in this book was that there was a point when I wasn’t sure if Kate and Curran are gonna make it. And not like in Magic Rises. I honestly thought they were on the verge of being over, but then they found their footing and worked their way through their problems. Then there was a point when I was crying my eyes out and saying ‘NO! NO, YOU CAN’T DO THAT! That’s so unfair. What am I gonna do now?’ That was a total *headpalm* moment with me literally crying buckets. That was also the epitome of Kate’s strength and to some extent her powers.

I was also glad to find out that all the characters I thought would leave with Kate and Curran did leave with them. Yayy me!! Some were unexpected, but all were welcome. Christopher makes an appearance in this book too and like always I enjoyed Kate’s interactions with him. Saiman too graces us with his presence, and honestly, that man needs to stop doubting Kate. When is he gonna realize that Kate is THE BOMB?  Watching Julie turn into a mini-Kate was fun in itself, but she too is getting stronger with each passing day. I’d love to know her role in defeating Roland in the future books.

As with all the Kate books, there was her trademark humor, her banter with not just Curran but also other people. Her intrinsic loyalty towards her family and friends. Walking into trouble headlong and saving lives. This book has all the elements that are present in the classic Kate Daniels books by Ilona Andrews.

There’s not a single thing in Magic Shifts that I didn’t like or that I’d like to change. This book, for me was perfection. I have already read it twice and when it comes out tomorrow, I’m gonna be reading it again. This book is Ilona Andrews at their best.

This review also appears in The Ever Romantic Arts

 

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Book Review: Midnight’s Kiss (Elder Races #8) by Thea Harrison

3

Midnight's Kiss

In the latest Novel of the Elder Races, two souls who have long buried their passions are about to be consumed…

Ever since their scorching affair ended years ago, Julian, the Nightkind King, and Melisande, daughter of the Light Fae Queen, have tried to put the past behind them—and distance between them. But when a war breaks out between Julian and Justine, a powerful Vampyre of the Nightkind council, they find themselves thrown together under treacherous circumstances…

Kidnapped as leverage against Julian, Melly is convinced that her former lover won’t be rushing to her rescue. But when Julian gives himself up to save her, they both end up Justine’s captives. Armed only with their wits and their anger, Melly and Julian must work together to escape. But will they be able to ignore their complicated history, or will the fiery passion that once burned them blaze again?

It seems that I have arrived at the stage where I am losing my appreciation for Thea Harrison’s writing. Or it just might be my irritation with vampire romances. To get to the point, though nice, Midnight’s Kiss did not impress me much.

Julian and Melly’s story was good. It involved political manoeuvres and suspense build up. Action sequences and group fighting scenes were written nicely and the thankfully enough the plot had more than just romance and sex.

What I had an issue with was that the characters weren’t exactly drawn with clean strokes. For Instance, Melly’s character imbibed different personas; but they didn’t sum up. She has the benefit of being brought up as the heir to her mother but at no point in the story did I see her proving her mettle. She had some backbone, yes but there is no way I would label her as a kick-ass heroine the author wanted to portray her as. How can I call a woman cool who calls her mother “Mommy” ??

Julian’s character though strong and driven lacked a certain amount of foresight that he should have gained during his tenure as a Nightkind King. He is loyal, driven and hot-tempered but his soul yearns for peace but this is a secret yearning of his.  The author makes his self-realization – an important part of the plot in the novel so; it can actually be accepted. On the other hand, I did not see much character growth in Melly.

I even had issues with the characters which were not occupying the centre stage. They were either established in certain relationships that sprang out of nowhere or they came up with some mystery moves that necessitated explanations which were missing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author had been merely testing the waters to check if stories about secondary characters would be found interesting by the readers. Honestly, I find such developments annoying.

Another issue I had with this book was that few characters were portrayed very differently previously. I remember reading The Wicked(Elder Races #5.5). I genuinely liked that book and enjoyed it. I remember Bailey and Julian in that book. And the portrayal of both these characters had made me interested in reading their stories. While Julian’s different persona I can live with, Bailey’s depiction in this novel was not something that could I could align with her previous impression.

Nevertheless, I will credit the author for a few well written scenes. On the whole, while I found the last book just tolerable enough, this book was a definite step-up. The writing and plot-development was good enough to keep me interested in the series still. The good thing is that the next book in the series is about Graydon. I am happy with that. It will be good to read a Wyr romance once again.

For my review of Night’s Honor (Elder Races, #7) click here.


Book Review: Half the World (Shattered Sea #2) : by Joe Abercrombie

3.5
half a world

 

 This review contains major spoilers from the first book in the series. Those who are yet to read it, should skip this review. 

The first book ended with Yarvi becoming the minister and thus the right hand to the King of Gettland. He chose to leave the ambition of becoming a King in favour of breathing. Plus, he knew he could do so much better from a position where he was operating from behind the curtain all the while wielding the real power.

In my honest opinion, Half a King was a very apt title for the first book. Notwithstanding the fact that Yarvi does not actually sit on the throne, it is an indisputable truth by the end that Yarvi with his new position will hold half the strings that run the kingdom of Gettland.

In consideration with the first book in the series, Half The World clearly begins after an unannounced period of time has passed, by which time Yarvi has settled himself very well in his new role. FurtherHalf The World  portrays Yarvi thriving. Previously, he was used to scorn and used to be laughed at as he was “half a man”. But now, he is observed with awe as well as wariness. He is now famed to be:

“a deep cunning man”.

Yarvi is seen calculating the odds of winning the battle against those who threaten Gettland’s survival. He observes and assesses the need to put things in motion and so he gets things moving. If he needs to get his hands dirty, he has no qualms about it.
Yarvi is never to be let down. He is persistent and smart enough to change tactics when it is needed in lieu of failures. He acts ruthlessly and takes some cold-blooded steps but he has already realised that a wise man has to often speak the bitter truth but a smarter man has to make the cruellest of choices. It is quite clear that his character operates and thrives in different shades of grey.
Abercrombie puts Yarvi into the mould where he is seen indulging in what would most commonly be called “backseat driving”. And if the ride doesn’t go his way, he has planned for contingencies upon contingencies.

But Half the World is hardly only Yarvi’s story. The author introduces the readers to two new characters: a prickly natured girl named Thorn and a brave but calm warrior Brand.

Thorn has had a difficult time proving herself in the male-dominated society. Her father was a great warrior before he perished and she had a yearning to become a warrior herself since she was a kid. Now, in her teens she unwittingly ends up murdering a fellow trainee and is therefore sentenced to face death. When Yarvi offers her a chance at life, she readily accepts. Yarvi ensures that Thorn is then transformed into a lethal fighter, her killing instincts, the very reason she was doomed is then turned into the reason for her survival and then glory.

Brand’s righteous heart has always landed him in trouble but he cannot live with a heavy conscience. Knowing Thorn is innocent, he tries to save her. Every good deed is punished, so is his. His reward entails the crushing of all his hopes for the future-for a better life by his comrades. Yarvi then takes Brand under his wing.

This novel sees Yarvi, Brand and Thorn on a mission to find allies to aid them in the upcoming war against half the world.

I was suffering through a reading moratorium brought about by life getting in the way of things. I was not sure that I would be able to accord this book with the concentration or time it deserved. But as soon as I picked up this book, I forgot all my worries and was completely at the author’s mercy. I found the opening scene powerful. It was a good strong opening which ensured that the reader would not only be able to sympathise with Thorn’s miserable situation, but also be concerned regarding her future.

Unlike its predecessor, this novel employs multiple POVs which in my opinion serve to enhance the quality of the narrative. The subtlety with which the narratives are handled ensured that I could easily distinguish between the voices of two different characters, for which the author deserves praise.

I admire the fact that the author draws his characters with a number of flaws. Thorn possessed a number of them. In addition to that, Thorn doesn’t lose her pride quite unlike Yarvi who learned to be humbled during his struggle to survive. Due to this, the journey she makes from an impatient and insolent girl to a somewhat-wise woman was a very interesting one.

Brand’s character can be well understood from Yarvi’s words:

A man who gives all thought to do good but no thought to the consequence… that is a dangerous man.”

Indeed the old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes true for Brand. He does take the moral high ground in comparison to his peers but he is never a hypocrite. His journey from a boy to a man is the outcome of an exposure to the depravity of the world he lives in. The glorious war is nothing but the tyranny of the rich and mighty on the poor and the weak. Once Brand has a glimpse of the heartbreaking reality, he emerges the stronger for it. His development leaves him an even more balanced and wiser man. He acknowledges that he might be a brave warrior however his soul yearns for a peaceful life.

Abercrombie further instigates a romance between the two that quite frankly was not really required. On the other hand, Thorn and Brand’s romance isn’t neat and clean. It has its share of awkwardness associated with adolescence. The insecurities and angst is handled nicely and on the whole it is a nicely woven twist in the story. Surprisingly, it specifically adds to the ending with Thorn and Brand choosing such different places for themselves in the world.

Set in a post apocalyptic world, this story is fast-paced. The gritty truth of the pitiful life aboard a vessel during war times is revealed without any unnecessary profanities by the ones who suffer through it. On one hand, apart from the well-written battle scenes, nothing much happens in this book. On the other hand, the political intrigue and the diplomatic games take the front seat. Not at all complying with what is expected, this novel brings up some friends for the protagonists who are much welcomed and unexpected but at the same time dishes out Yarvi’s confrontations with some old enemies. Abercrombie pitts the brain versus brawn in this book and just like the last time, he doesn’t underscore brawn at all.

This book has driven characters and is held by a focused narrative. There are a few similarities that it shares with the first one. Thorn, very much like Yarvi is seen fighting against the odds. Previously, Yarvi’s naivety was questioned, this time it is Brand’s goodness. Very much like the previous book, a lesson is learned at each step of the journey, and of course, this book also involves a voyage like the previous one. It also remains true to its depiction of the harshness of war and a disillusionment with it. Like the last time, there were a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming. In fact, most of the book is unpredictable, apart from one major plot move, which I was sadly able to guess. Still, I enjoyed the book thoroughly. On a side note, I would definitely suggest a re-reading of the previous book before picking up this one though, to better re-acquaint oneself with the world and re-emerging characters. It would definitely double the enjoyment.

 Half the World is a marvellously written book. I couldn’t rest before I finished it. It didn’t drag when not needed and served as a remarkable middle instalment to this series. I am all prepped to read the next one and I am glad that the last book is coming out in July and I won’t have to wait long.

For my review of  Half A King (Shattered Sea #1) click here .


Book Review: Seized (The Pipe Woman Chronicles #1) by Lynne Cantwell

4 gems

seized

 

It’s been two years since I read this book, but it’s still fresh on my mind. A well fleshed out, interestingly written book that will intrigue you and suck you in.

Seized by Lynne Cantwell is very different from your usual paranormal books. You don’t have a bad-ass heroine who loves to fight, but that does not make Naomi Witherspoon any less kick-ass. She is also a lot older than your usual heroines.

Naomi Witherspoon is a 35-year-old, working as a mediator in a law firm, rather than as a litigator. Unlike her fiance and the rest of her classmates, Naomi works in a law firm to help people rather than to make money. But if by working in a top class law firm helps her buy a condo, then that’s just a bonus right? But why does it feel like working for a firm that supports soulless corporations means compromising herself?

All these questions are answered through the course of the book. She is a skilled mediator, she has an almost uncanny knack for getting people on both sides of a dispute to agree. But lately it seems that whatever she says people have to do it. Is that the reason her boyfriend Brock proposed?

Naomi realises that there is something going on with her. But what? She finds the answers when she goes to a sweat lodge with her best friend Shannon. There she meets Joseph Curtis and his grandfather Looks Far Guzmin, who helps her find out the truth. The stories Looks Far tells his audience reminds me of Patricia Briggs’ River Marked.

Looks Far’s home is in danger and Naomi mediates the case between him and Leo Durant who is being represented by her former fiance Brock and her old firm. What she doesn’t realise in the beginning is that the God’s have a hand in this whole fiasco. Now she needs to mediate the case between the White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman, who amped her powers of persuasion and the Norse Trickster god Loki.

Ms. Cantwell dishes out Native Indian culture on a platter to us. Seized is a good combination of fantasy, religion and moral human philosophy. It is well written with great characters. Ms. Cantwell manages to suck you into the story from the beginning and traps you in it till the end. Even after the story finishes you can’t help but pick up the next book.

This review also appears on The Ever Romantic Arts.


A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab

4.5

a darker shade of magic

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. 

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive — trickier than they hoped. (Goodreads)

***** I received an ARC copy of this book from Titan Publishers. This is an Honest Review*****

This is my first Schwab book and it is a fascinating, multidimensional setting of three Londons, which are unique for being the point where three geographically differing worlds overlap. This is a wholly original and refreshing new story with an air of antiquity to it. The story, its complexity, the flavour and atmosphere of the overlapping worlds pull you in from the first page. The world building is remarkable and the prose is nuanced and lyrical.

The characters are satisfactorily complex. Not extraordinarily so, but enough to delight in. Kell is a Traveller – a rare species of people capable of travelling between the three worlds. Worlds of differing amounts of magic, technology and life. He wears a unique coat and acts as messenger for the Red Crown. (I will admit, I really liked Kell’s coat and loved whenever the parts about it came.)

Lila is a cross-dressing thief who aspires to be a pirate. To have an independent and free life with no shackles, no restrictions, no bonds. There’s a stimulating balance to him, and common sense that is welcome in both. The rest of the main characters comprise of the Red Royal Family which includes Prince Rhy, the closest person to Kell; the current rulers of White London and their Traveller and messenger Holland; and a bartender and owner in Grey London.

Kell and Holland particularly, are the truly complex characters of the book. They straddle the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, weak and strong. Lila is refreshingly independent whose ambitions are not put on hold for anything or anyone. However I wish there had been more interactions with Rhy, the prince. His relationship with Kell and personality are all seen through Kell to significant depth, but I wish there are had been more, to get a sense of him as a reader. Especially considering the developments that take place because of him.

The length of the book didn’t faze me, only made me eager to know what would happen next. Kept me on my toes, so to speak. Yes, it takes its sweet time to progress and has a leisurely pace, yet I never felt impatient with the story or for the end to come, nor did I despair over how much was left to read. The thought in my mind was – What will happen next? How will the story move forward? Where will it go? And what will happen once we’ve reached there?

Explaining this without giving details is difficult, but I will say that I did not expect the ending. I am ambiguous about it. On the one hand I expected it to end on a cliff-hanger, especially since it was apparent that there will be sequels. But that did not happen. The danger which I expected to continue into the next one was temporarily halted with the resolution of the part of the story and struggle that this book dealt with. I also did not particularly care for the Rhy-Kell plot in the second half.

I felt the writing slackened towards the end, especially considering the standards of the first three quarters of the book. Suddenly things happened swiftly and not smoothly. It came across as rushed. All the pent up tension and anticipation was not fully and satisfactorily carried through, did not match the build-up. At the end I felt – That’s it?

Other than that, A Darker Shade of Magic is a remarkable story with a mystical charm and I can’t wait for more of the worlds and their stories to unfold. And I will definitely be reading more of Schwab’s works in the future.

a-darker-shade-of-magic1


Book Review: City in Embers (Collectors #1) by Stacey Marie Brown

4.5 gems

city in embers

One thing I’ve learned about Stacey Marie Brown? She never disappoints. I loved her Darkness series and now I’m in love with the Collector series too.

If you’ve read the Darkness series, you’ll know that City in Embers takes place right before and after the Electrical Storm caused at the end of Darkness of Light.

Zoey Daniels has been tossed around from one foster home to the other for most of her life. And she has seen some unimaginable horrors that no girl should. She was used to having no home and no family, but all that changes when she is put in the same foster home as Lexi, a crippled, wheelchair bound girl. Zoey finds a sister and best friend in Lexi. Lexi is what inspires her to turn her life around and make something of herself. Soon after high school, Zoey is recruited by a super secret government agency called Department of Molecular Genetics (DMG).

Zoey is a powerful Seer, a person gifted with the Sight. She can see the true form of the fae, she can see behind the disguise they put for the sake of the humans. She is a collector for DMG. What does it mean you ask! She apprehends fae and takes them back to the lab so that they could be researched, tested, and used to save human lives. She has no sympathy whatsoever for any of the fae. She has been taught that they are monstrous beats and are to be despised. It is here that she meets the love of her life, Daniel. Another reason to become a better person and live a better life.

But when the Electrical Storm hits Seattle, her life is completely tossed around. She lost the only people she cared about. I didn’t much care about Daniel’s death as he wasn’t the guy for Zoey. She was a complex girl with hidden dark tendencies. She only presented to Daniel the kind of woman he wanted to see. He never would have been able to accept Zoey exactly as she is. I was sad about Lexie’s death though. She was a free-spirited, fun girl. Despite her disability, she tried to live her life to the fullest. And for a 12-year-old she really had a dirty mouth on her.

The devastation that hits Seattle, completely turns her life around, as Zoey finds herself joined at the hip with a Wanderer, Ryker and a monkey-sprite, Sprig. With Ryker comes a hoard of other problems. What ensues a hate-hate and then a love-hate relationship between Ryker and Zoey and an uneasy, awkward acquaintance. Now that Zoey is on the other end of the knife, with the hunter becoming the hunted, Zoey has to run from not only the DMG but also from the men out to hurt Ryker.

Zoey was a strong woman. She was dealt too many bad hands, but she came out a survivor through it all. It is hard not to respect her and even admire her. Every time she fell, she got back up and fought back.

Right now, while writing this review and listening to music, it suddenly hit me that these few lines from Katy Perry’s Roar explains who and what Zoey is perfectly.:

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion

Another favorite character was Sprig, the monkey-sprite. He was just so adorable. He provided the much-needed respite from all the sadness and heavy-duty stuff going on in the book. I think he was also the reason why Zoey and Ryker didn’t kill each other. Sprig and his love for honey was just plain adorable. And for some unexplainable reason he knew a lot about blue balls. Makes you wonder. Huhh!

Ryker. What should I say about Ryker? Well he certainly was a big pain in the behind, but he grows on you. He treated Zoey like dirt calling her human, as if that was an insult. To him it was. But that’s okay. Soon he gets his head out of his lovely tush, at least halfway out. Once you find out more about his past who understand why he is the way he is. Ryker, like Zoey, is a complex character and Stacey has a knack for writing complex characters. Her characters are never easy. They are never black and white. They are always, always complex and with shades of grey. And why shouldn’t they be, real life can be a bitch and people are not always about rainbows and unicorns. She has proved this point all through City in Embers. The dichotomy of life is there for you to see. The ugly truth is staring you in the face and you can’t walk away from it. In fact, in this book you see more of the ugly side of life than the pretty one.

The action, the buildup, the emotions, the characters. Nothing about this book was a disappointment or predictable. At no point in the book could I guess the turn of events. Stacey reels you in through her masterful storytelling. Her world building is perfect. She doesn’t dump info on you and neither does she give you too little. With her kind of writing, it’s hard to keep the book down. In fact as soon as I finished it, I wanted the second book right then. If you haven’t read it, go read it. You won’t be disappointed.

I also enjoyed enjoyed the bonus material on West, a fellow Dark Dweller from the Darkness series. It was just a small sneak-peek and I’m looking forward to more of West’s story.


Book Review: Wild Hyacinthe by Nola Sarina & Emily Faith

3 gems

wild hyacinth

Asher Chain is a ridiculously handsome businessman who has no shortage of women. But he is also an incubus, which means he tempts and seduces any woman who comes his way whether he wants it or not. The death of the women he kills is inevitable. Asher lives with the guilt of the women he killed, in order to survive himself. When he meets the tattooed, girl with blue-streaked hair, he wants nothing more than to befriend her and no matter however much he wishes to make her his, he keeps his distance and keeps her alive.

Aria Hyacinthe left her home and the demons that plagued her home back in the past. But her terrors don’t stay contained in the past. Living in a car and working as a waitress has attracted the attention the gorgeous Asher, a man she dared not dream about. Aria never thought, she’ll ever have anything to do with a man like Asher, but since the moment she meets him, she can’t stop thinking about him.

After an accident, Asher offers Aria a safe haven. At his loft. Asher is adamant to keep his distance, lest he be the death of her. Whereas Aria finds it rather difficult to curb her desire and attraction towards Asher. And living in close proximity to him, only amplifies that attraction.

Asher’s sister, Gypsy was a rather cold and distant woman, but when it came to her brother, she was protective, caring and loving. In quite a few places you find that she is unable to understand Asher, but no matter what, she is always there for him and loves him more than anything in the world.

Overall, Wild Hyacinthe is a good book, but fairly predictable. You figure pretty early on what is going to happen. Well, at least I did. There is also this constant talk of sex, which after a point of time just irritated me. Aria kept trying to convince Asher to have sex with her, and , Asher constantly tried to say no. This goes on and on for a few chapters. Finally when Asher and Aria find out the truth about themselves and each other, they manage to hold on and get to their HEA.

Nola Sarina and Emily Faith have come up with an intriguing story, one that hooks you from the very beginning. It’s humorous and fun to read. But despite it all, the book is fairly predictable and sometimes even gets on your nerves with all the hullabaloo about sex. An overall decent read, but I feel, it could have been better.


Book Review: Fireblood (Whispers from Mirrowen #1) by Jeff Wheeler

3.5

Fireblood

I had completely forgotten the book’s blurb when I started it and that doubled the enjoyment I gained from reading it. To put the story succinctly, Tyrus is playing a dangerous game, and his motives seem dubious. But his game does not end with his involvement, rather it makes pawns of his niece, nephew and a flippant young warrior. Now, as the world is slowly fighting its death, the evil ones are set on the continued destruction of the world to remain in power. Annon, Hettie and Paedrin are on their own. They are united for a cause which seems like a pittance in comparison to the reality they are forced to confront. And when they do, they not only have to fight to survive but have to save thousands of lives too.

 Fireblood started with a glimpse of the past which is the base through which the story starts. The scene was interesting and almost prophetic in nature. A scene like that makes one assume. I assumed. But I found that assumptions took a back seat to the events that unfolded in the book.

The first half of the book develops rather slowly. It might irritate a few people, but it gave me enough time to accustom myself to Wheeler’s style of writing. I found his writing to be slightly uneven for my taste. Sometimes the narration was slightly choppy and failed to capture my interest and at other times it was written very well and involved me completely.

Annon, Hettie and Paedrin strangely reminded me of the characters from the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Thankfully, even though the circumstances where the world is to be saved and relationships are similar, the resemblance of the book with the cartoon ended there.

Jeff Wheeler creates such characters that it’s quite easy to identify oneself with them. However, I sometimes did find instances where the characters seemed somewhat one-dimensional. The characters were written nicely but it felt that maybe the author could not guess the exact reaction or emotion that the character went through. It didn’t happen much but when it did, the dialogues and the scenes fell flat. In addition, Jeff introduced us to a lot of characters. It’s a worrisome undertaking since these side characters gained prominence as well when the story developed. Now, I’m eager to read their perspectives and I’m hoping earnestly that they are well constructed and don’t suffer through similar one-dimensional depiction.

The key characters are young in age but quite mature in their understanding of the world. Further, every character had his or her share of secrets and their actions further complicated the story. There were remnants of childishness which showed through here and there, still, the ease with which they embraced the harshest of truths, belied a mindset of a person who is in their mid-twenties. I can’t count this as a shortcoming though because of the upbringing that the three had. And ofcourse the dangerous world they live in. To have a look at the key characters:

Annon’s maturity was something gained due to his profession. He is a Druidecht. Someone who maintains harmony between the nature-spirits and the humans. He was my favourite character in the novel. The most well-balanced character who is not impulsive. Even though sometimes his nature demands it, Annon can overcome his emotions to handle the situation. Hettie was a complex character who evoked my sympathy as well as mild rejection due to her actions in different circumstances. At the end however, I was rooting for her as much as I was for the others. On the whole, I found that Paedrin might have been the only character that disappointed me. I had high expectations of him owing to his upbringing and his wisdom, however, he was the one who acted like a teenager the most. Still his crucible was not easy to cross and his pain was the most potent to me as a reader.

Jeff Wheeler successfully evoked my emotions. I failed to predict a single percent of the story and that makes me give this book a huge bonus score. The magical and mystical world is well-developed, though I guess I would have benefitted more if I had availed myself of the glossary given at the back. But my imagination was thoroughly engrossed in building the world in the way the author described it. Fantasy is one of my favourite genres and the author utilises all the leeway provided to a story in this category. A highly detailed world, the only flaw I could find seemed to be that the travel and distance didn’t take as much time as I had anticipated. Nevertheless, the medieval world is perfect for the plot that the author introduces to the readers. But even more perfect is the way in which the whole world and its inhabitants are involved in layers of overlapping connections. The bonds, the shifting alliances, the hidden agendas, the politics, all are unexplainable and unforeseeable elements that make the story interesting.

It doesn’t happen often enough for my liking that I stumble upon a book that I really like, which has beeen written by an author previously unknown to me. This time, thankfully it happened.

 Fireblood takes you into a world of mystical magic, graceful spirits, sinister plots, and drudge politics. It does not allow you the luxury of a correct guess regarding the plot and even though the story has a number of twists, the medium-pace makes it easy for the reader to follow the events without any threat of being overwhelmed.

Despite its shortcomings (and the cliff-hanger), I am glad that I got to read this book (through netgalley) and can’t wait to pick up the next one in the series.


Book Review: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

4.5

afterdark

Translated from Japanese by Jay Rubin.

A short, episodic novel set during a single night from midnight to dawn, After Dark begins with Mari, a young student reading alone at a Denny’s in an anonymous city, probably Tokyo. Her solitude is broken by Takahashi Tetsuya, a young trombone player who claims to have a common acquaintance with Mari, her older sister Eri Asai. Through the rest of the night the novel follows Mari’s encounters with Takahasi and other people, all awake during the night, caught in their own circumstances. There is also Eri Asai, a beautiful model caught in an extended sleep, and her connection to a businessman struggling with the aftereffects of his actions.

The narrative is temporal, with each chapter taking place at a precise time. The prose is sharp, hypnotic, detailed and mystical – the events are being narrated by a mysterious, collective “point-of-view”, a neutral observation. There is a cinematographic quality to it, with detailed descriptions and precise, sometimes abrupt, movements of the “point-of-view” through the city, from one place to the next. It lends the story an enigmatic and uneasy feel.

The novel is somewhat characteristic of magical realism with its touch of other-worldliness in a normal, real world; a heightened awareness of mystery; authorial reticence, etc. Though the novel has no plot, seems to have no purpose, it still captures our attention. It’s not a novel for the purpose of entertainment or escapism, rather to pause and mull over the events and circumstances of the characters. It asks questions, but doesn’t answer them. The characters’ conversations are sometimes non-sequitur, and range from the mundane to the philosophical, forcing us to pause and reflect, to dwell on what is happening and what is not, even if we ourselves can’t find an answer.

One of the stronger themes seems to be alienation in a modern world, a metropolis. Alienation of the reader from the story; alienation of the two sisters from the world, each other and themselves; alienation of Mari from the other people she encounters who are so different from her. And despite it, the inexplicable and surprising things that make for common grounds and lead to a connection, an understanding between two people. The novel also explores the idea of mysterious and nocturnal things that lurk around during the night, and hover at the edges of our worlds.

This was my first Haruki Murakami  work and probably a good, short introduction to a kind of writing that has captured my attention. I hope I read more of his works. After Dark is a mysterious novel with wonderful writing and I really liked it.


Book Review: Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews

4

Magic Breaks

***This review might contain a few spoilers from Magic Rises (Kate Daniels#6)***

To say I had been awaiting this novel would be an understatement. It is one of those few books which one prefers to have on autobuy or pre-order. Ilona Andrews are that good.

Magic Rises had left us feeling happy for Kate and Curran – beautiful ending! Sad too, because Aunt B died a tragic and painful death, and we will miss her. A lot had happened in the book and there were a lot of questions raised after reading it.

Previously, Hugh was the evil serpent who maintained the persona of a charming gentleman till the end. It had made me interested to look forward to the time Kate came across him again. But his portrayal in Magic Breaks ripped off the persona of charm to reveal why Hugh is the right hand man to Roland. He came across as an explosive, ruthless and temperamental bastard. Add to that the fact that he is highly powerful and intelligent, and you have the formidable enemy Kate tackles in Magic Breaks.

In a nutshell, Magic Breaks has Kate scrambling together all her intelligence, connections and skills to protect the pack and prevent a war between the People and the pack. All of this happens while Curran is away. Then, due to a betrayal, she is imprisoned in a cell and almost starved to death. Afterwards, she gets to meet with her father. With all of that and more, you can safely surmise that this book is jam-packed with awesomeness.

To take a look at the emotions evoked while reading the novel, there was not a single scene where one or another emotion didn’t have me in its grasp. I just could not bring the emotions under control. Any time I let out a sigh of relief, the story threw another wrench in it, and I was left holding my breath in anticipation.

The world which Kate lives in has always been full of danger, but the new experiences and location took the danger to new heights. While Kate has to fight a large part of the battle against Hugh on her own, she holds strong. This book again proves Kate’s competence as the leader/alpha of the pack. However, I have to say, I am more than a bit tired of the hypocrisy of the pack. She bleeds for them, and they never accept her as one of their own, or as one worth fighting for. It grated on my nerves, especially in this novel, and I am happy at the way the book ended.

I had previously come across opinions where people were unhappy with the book because Curran was MIA, but I have no complaints. His absence was very much required, else Kate couldn’t have owned the show (and  she very well did!). Like Kate, I awaited Curran’s arrival anxiously.

Kate’s faith in Curran, her belief that Curran will save her is humbling. There is no other word for it. That’s what I felt. Afterwards, while facing Roland, Kate is the kick-ass heroine we love her for. She is also intelligent. I loved the fact that she decides to live for herself, leaving her upbringing behind. For her to survive she knows what she must do and she does it, no qualms about it. No second thoughts or procrastinating her decisions.

Curran’s love, support and acceptance of Kate, is awesome. It made me want to give him a tight hug.  Any lesser man or someone who loved Kate any less would have run, which makes me love Curran even more. Whatever grudges I held against Curran from the previous book, dissolved into dust in this book. I am cheering for Team Curran now.

Enough about the heroes, let’s have a look at the bad guys. There are very few villains you look forward to. Before Roland’s arrival it was Hugh. After Hugh lost his cool and became (in my very honest opinion) a sadistic and crazy ass, the mantle for the villain was taken up by Roland. And so again, we have a villain who is charming and lethal, but this time every quality is multiplied by a factor of 10 to portray the magnitude of reality.

A lot of stuff happens in the book, but to disclose the events would take away half the fun in reading it. Things which were earlier discussed upon, with the almost 100% possibility of never happening, actually happen in this book, which makes it a great read. The events in the book lead to an end with unforeseen consequences, but it makes me look forward to the next book even more.

It is quite hard to talk about the book without gushing about Curran, or about the dialogues, or  about the suspense or the events. In the first reading of this novel, it is not that easy to grasp the humour in all the scenarios but that is because we are constantly reeling in shock over one event or another. However there were a few times when I did not feel drawn in. These few moments were interspersed throughout the book, but I guess they didn’t lessen the fun of reading because of the impact the rest of the story was having on me. Kate’s sarcastic sense of humour helped as well.

I had a few issues with the novel. For instance, the whole scene with Ted Monyohan. I thought he would get what was coming to his-arrogant-ass but I was sadly disappointed in the manner the whole episode concluded itself. It seemed obvious to me that even though Ted suffered through horrors, in the end, he is the one whose ambitions become reality. Though it will be interesting to see the impact this conclusion will have on Kate’s life, I did not like the bloodshed. Overall, some parts of the book happily astounded me, few made me laugh but a couple left me disappointed.

Nevertheless, Magic Breaks is a great blend of suspense, action, angst and awesomeness. I for one, am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.