Monday, September 24, 2012

The Storm Dragon's Heart by David Alastair Hayden

 The Storm Dragon's Heart by David Alastair Hayden

Synopsis: Turesobei dreamed of adventure, a way to prove he was no longer a child.
Wizards should be careful what they wish for.

Destined to become his clan's next high wizard, studious Turesobei has constantly struggled to live up to other people's demands and expectations, but now he's had enough.

When his treasure-hunting father arrives with important news to discuss with the current high wizard, Turesobei spies on their secret meeting and accidentally foils an assassination attempt. As a reward his father invites him on an expedition to find an artifact known as the Storm Dragon's Heart.

But when disaster strikes, their quest becomes a race for survival.

Aided by a sassy ninja cat-girl and a mysterious diary that transforms into a winged familiar, Turesobei must face deadly cultists, vengeful spirits, and a mad wizard from a rival clan who's determined to use the artifact to destroy Turesobei's homeland.

The Storm Dragon's Heart will delight readers with a thrilling tale of exotic lands, mystical creatures, forbidden love, and fast-paced adventure. 

Richi's Review: In full disclosure I received a free eBook edition of this book in exchange for an honest review.

One of the great things about this fantasy book is that it is based on an Eastern/Japanese culture. This makes it much more original then many other fantasy novels.

In the first quarter to third of the book there is not much action, but a lot of world building and character introduction. Personally I didn’t find this a problem as it was very interesting, especially considering the originality of much of it. Once you get pass that part there is plenty of action, with more balance between action and character/world development.

The main character Turesobei is a teenage wizard who is being trained by his grandfather the high-wizard. He is a good character who wants to do well and please his grandfather. Although he is somewhat reluctant in his role as the high wizard’s apprentice and is more keen on going on adventures with his treasure hunting father.

Turesobei has help from a number of allies. First is Lu Bei, a familiar that usually takes the form of a book. He is a great concept and a very interesting personality. He aids Turesobei with knowledge and helps him with his spells, but he also has information that he keeps from our hero.

Also helping Turesobei is a cat-girl called Iniru. She has ninja skills and a lot of attitude. She has a great personality and makes a great contrast to Turesobei. Her race is a lot less formal than the Turesobei’s making for a lot of interesting interactions between the two.

Onudaka’s is another companion who is a great warrior and helps Turesobei in many ways and giving him great advice.

Turesobei has an interesting family dynamic, his grandfather is his teacher who is an excellent mentor in the way he both annoys and inspires his pupil. Turesobei loves his father and wants to be with him, but his father has been off on adventures most of his life and not with his family. Turesobei loves his sister and they have a somewhat playful relationship but they clearly care for each other a lot. Turesobei doesn’t get on with his mother.

The romance part of the book is actually well written for a young adult/fantasy book. It takes time to build up and goes through a believable development.

The magic system is good, basically the wizard get worn out from casting spells and can even pass out if they use up too much of their energy. This is great as it stops the wizards becoming too powerful.

There is a good amount of humour in the book which helps with the story.

One problem I had with the eBook edition of this book was that it sometimes would skip pages. I had to use the Publishers Default settings, and sometimes had to turn them off and on again to get it to turn pages correctly.

I really hope there will be more books to this series as there are some unanswered questions. The characters in the book are excellent, the story is fantastic. The world building is very interesting and it was great to see an fantasy book based on Japanese culture rather than the traditional European.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Falstaff’s Big Gamble Review by Hank Quense

In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Falstaff’s Big Gamble brings together three of Shakespeare’s characters, Hamlet and Othello from the plays of the same and Falstaff from Henry IV and Henry V. The characters are thrown into a fantasy world. The stories of the characters in this book are different to the original plays, and you don’t have to know them to enjoy this book.

Hamlet is a dwarf and prince of a small realm called Denmarko, his father is recently deceased and the kingdom is now ruled my Hamlets uncle and mother. Hamlet is happy with this; as he would much rather work as a bee-keeper than a king. Hamlet is visited by a ghost (not his fathers because he is too busy in the after-life) and told his father was murdered and he must be avenged.
Othello, a Dark Elf has just been assigned as Minister of Homeland Security of Dun Hythe a large city. He soon discovers that the city has major problems, the city walls have fallen down, and there is only a small untrained militia that could be called upon to defend the city if needed. Piracy is rampant and threatening to disrupt merchants coming to the city and they are the chief source of income. Even worse, the internal security is a mess and crime is on the up, mainly due to dwarf warriors that have flooded into the city due to a nationwide peace. Finally the traffic police known of the Troll Patrol have a bad attitude, perform badly and only make traffic worse. Othello’s life gets harder after meeting his new wife’s grandmother who is the Godmother of the cities crime syndicate, and he is faced with the decision of helping her or facing her wrath.
Falstaff enters Dun Hythe in search of his latest money making scheme/scam. He tricks Othello into finance him in an effort to stop pirates. Falstaff uses the money to turn to piracy himself.
The characters separate stories begin to entwine and war between the two nations looks likely.

The story and characters are excellent; while they are based on Shakespeare’s plays and have that feel about them they are very different and the author has breathed new life into them. The characters are especially strong and full of life; this applies to both the three main characters and the secondary characters. Emila, who is Othello’s sarcastic troll secretary, Nark her brother and Othello’s aide, and Poulet who is Falstaff’s faithful companion are the highlights of the secondary cast. One of my few criticisms of the characters is that Othello was too weak as almost every good idea comes from one of those helping him and he doesn’t come up with anything himself.

The three themes, Shakespeare, fantasy and crime are brought together well and it doesn’t feel tacked together.

There is a good amount of humour in this book, for the most part it brought a smile or a chuckle but there was a couple of laugh out laugh moments too. I was concerned over an early line, when Hamlet says “to bee or not to bee” when referring to bee-keeping, this line was way too cheesy for and seems like something you would hear in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, but fortunately humour in the rest of the book is much funnier and better thought out.

There was a lack of action sequences compared to other fantasy books, but perhaps this is appropriate given its Shakespearian background.

Overall this was a good story with larger than life characters. The fantasy, crime and Shakespearian elements are brought together well, but you don’t need to be familiar with the plays to enjoy the book. The humour is good but mostly smiles and chuckles rather than rolling around laughing. This would be great for fans of fantasy that are looking for something a little different.

Thank you to Hank Quense for sending me a copy of this book and a huge thank you for signing it as well!