Sunday, June 30, 2013

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Legacy of Krazatan: Book I: A Hero's Birth by Tylor Kranyak

Legacy of Krazatan: Book I: A Hero's Birth by Tylor Kranyak
 Synopsis (from back of book): Kai Un'kari is a young man from a backwater fishing village. All his life he has dreamed of travelling the world like his late father. In an unfortunate turn of events, he gets his wish when war breaks out between Horagothien and Austranvia, forcing him to leave his home. Upon meeting a man named Lukan, Kai finds out that he is destined to become a great warrior and the next wielder of the holy sword, Tenjin. He sets out on a journey to find the Tenjin so he can use it to bring peace to all the warring nations of Pangaea, and in turn prevent the second coming of Krazatan, the Chaos Dragon. Will he succeed in his quest to find the holy sword, or will he fall victim to the vast dangers of the wilds that have claimed the lives of thousands before him? About the Author: Tylor Kranyak lives in "Steel City" Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He started writing at the age of 14 in 2004. Recently he graduated from Humber College in 3-D animation.

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

This book is aimed at a young adult/adult audience and is not suitable for younger readers due to some bad language and scenes of a somewhat violent nature.

There is quite a lot of world building in this book, especially near the start. It didn’t matter too much as this is the first book in the series and is to be expected. Each part of the world building is interesting and short enough too avoid becoming boring. Most of the time the way that it is told seemed natural although a few times it felt a little clunky. Also with the amount world building at the start, it was hard to retrain some of the information; fortunately the author provides small reminders later in the book when it becomes relevant.

The story itself is a fairly traditional coming of age/fantasy novel where the young hero lives in a backwater village dreaming of a more exciting life, there are hints that he has greater powers. Then one day a mysterious stranger turns up allowing the young hero’s adventurous life to begin and he starts to master his special powers. That is not to say the story is completely unoriginal, there are plenty of new and rarely used ideas, or twists on traditional ones. For example early on the hero is forced into conscription by his country’s army, but in a twist on what is normal in a fantasy novel, the government is actually a nice one instead of an evil dictatorship, the soldiers are kind and take care of the new conscripts, we are also told that new soldiers are trained and placed at outposts before they are sent to the frontlines.

The animals in the book are also an original concept. They are reptiles that resemble dinosaurs, this was interesting and exciting. It was also well written and presented in a believable manner, they really felt like the where part of the world’s ecosystem and were real living creatures and not tacked on or artificial as often happens when dinosaurs are in books or movies. One downside to this originality was that it would sometimes get confusing with all the different species and remembering which was which. A glossary would be beneficial or perhaps a few more reminders when the creatures are in the book especially early on.

There were quite a number of story threads going on throughout the story, especially considering that there is only one P.O.V. Fortunately the author does an excellent job of reminding the reader of what has happened when an older thread returns to the story, providing enough information without going overboard. Some of the threads are left open to be completed in the rest of the series.

There were a few minor inconsistencies or moments that didn’t seem quite right. For example (minor spoilers ahead, highlight to read.) why was there a need to remove Kai’s name from the records, his entire squad was believed to be dead so why not just take on a new identity, also is seemed wrong to change his birth name in his records to the name he went by anyway, if someone was looking for him it would still be easy to trace him. It also seemed odd that the traders would have picked up surplus weapons when there was a war going on. At one point we are told the hero is the only one in his village that likes snow, but at another point we are told he played in the snow with his friends.

The characters are written very well. Kai, the main character whose point of view we follow, has real thoughts and feelings, he is afraid of dying, he has feelings of regret over those he is forced to kill and he misses his friends and family. He has an interesting personality; generally kind and wanting to do the right thing, but he also has a darker side that sometimes emerges. One nice twist on what normally happens in fantasy novels was that the lead character doesn’t become suddenly great at fighting or powerful in magic. When facing veteran opponents he doesn’t fair very well, often he only wins his battles through luck or quick thinking.

The magic system is also nice, as it takes time and energy to be able to cast spells, and if a user tries to do to much they can end up severely injuring or even killing themselves. This brings a nice balance to the world, preventing those with magic becoming too powerful and prevents you thinking a mage will always win a fight. It also makes you nervous when the main character uses magic because he may end up harming himself.

Lukan, Kai’s mentor is an interesting character. He is a nice balance between being firm with Kai but with a kind and caring side. This is a slight change from your typical gruff mentor which always seems to be the case in fantasy novels. I did feel that he left Kai alone too often, especially considering Kai is supposed to be “the chosen one.”

There were some religious/Christian elements to the story. It is probably best described as inspiration for the story, and regardless of your personal beliefs, you will be able to enjoy the book.

The novel details the journey of the hero, which takes him from one side of the country to the other. About three quarters of the book covers about a quarter of the journey in terms of the distance traveled. At that point of the story it almost had a ‘Lord of the Rings’ feel to it, where you look at the map and follow the story thinking “Wow they have so much further to go.” Then next eighth of the book covers the reminder of the journey with the rest of the book detailing what happens once they get there. This made the last ¾ of the journey feel rushed and I felt like I was missing out on what happened on that part of the adventure. But I guess it’s better to be left wanting more than wanting less.

On the whole the pacing is excellent, moving along fast enough to keep the story interesting, but spending enough time on each part of the story and having necessary slower moments as well.

The descriptions are excellent as well, there is plenty of detail to allow the reader to visualise the world, but not so much that the story begins to drag.

Overall I would rate this as an excellent book, 4 ½ stars. It is an interesting story that is different enough to make is somewhat original. The characters are excellent, and the world setting is exciting and original, especially the animal species that are in it. The many threads are written very well as are the descriptions. It was just missing that special something that would have made it a perfect five star book, but still this was an excellent story, that is well worth reading and I will be on the lookout for the next book in the series.

Rating 4 1/2 stars

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn

 Children of Fire by Drew Karpyshyn

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.

Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

In full disclosure I won an Advanced Readers Copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

The first third of this book details the birth and early life of the “Children of Fire”, they are born under different circumstances, one is a prince, another the daughter of a minor noble, a third is the son of a farmer the forth is born in a brothel. They live their separate lives, but there are certain similarities and overlap.

One of the few criticisms I have for this part of the story is we are often told how many years have passed since we last read about the character we have just switched to, but we are not always told how old they are now.

I thought the author was successful at giving enough reminders of a character when the POV switches back to them. This helped me remember who this character was and what was happening with their part of the story. There was never too much of a recap which would have slowed the pace.

All four characters were interesting without being exceptional. I wanted to hear from them all. I was interested in reading about whoever the current POV character was and wanted to hear what was happening to them, but simultaneously I also wanted to hear from characters I hadn’t read about for a while.

The characters each have their own personalities, which were consistent but also developed as they continue through life.

The rest of the book details the characters at about 18 years old, and it is were there main part of the story starts. We no longer have the rapid jumping forward in time and the characters lives begin to cross over more.

I thought the secondary characters were well written and realistic. Most of the major players believe that they are good people trying to do to the right thing and they are working towards defeating the great evil (a character known as the Slayer). Each of them had different believes and different ways of dealing with the Slayer, often at odds with the other characters. Sometimes what they do is helping one of the main characters and at other times they are harming them. This led to ambiguity for these secondary characters making them more interesting.

It was also interesting to see how the main characters behaved when the met with one another. Sometimes they would work together which was great, but sometimes they were at odds with one another which was very interesting as I had grown to like all of the characters and wanted them all to succeed.

The descriptions are fairly good, perhaps a little short compared to most fantasy novels, but there is always enough there to clearly follow what was happening. The short descriptions did help keep the pace up as well.

The story is very good, while it is true to say there isn’t really anything original about it, there are defiantly strong similarities to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of time, as well as some similarities to Tolkien, Terry Brooks and other traditional fantasy authors. I didn’t think it mattered too much since the story is exciting and enjoyable.

The pacing was fast, it didn’t really feel like an epic fantasy, but more like a movie, mostly due to its light concepts, familiar ideas and high amount of action. This did make for a fast and enjoyable read even if there was nothing exceptional about it.

There were quite a few times were a character acted in a way that seemed to be in a way to set up plot or start a piece of action (such as when Jerrod started a barroom brawl when he was supposed to be protecting Keegan and keeping a low profile) rather than act in a way that would be realistic or consist with the character.

I thought the world building and the magic system was well developed. We are told about it in a way that felt natural and are given the information at an appropriate time. There was never a time that I felt this went of for too long, if anything it was too short.

There wasn’t a map included, although this was an ARC so perhaps there will be one in the final edition. I really felt like this book would have benefited from having one, there are a few kingdoms and many cities and it would have been nice having a clear way to see how they were all linked.

There is nothing particularly wonderful about this book, it is not original, the magic system and world are traditional and the characters are good without being exceptional. But somehow the author makes the story interesting, exciting and easy to read

Rating: ****

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Dark Energy (Star Child Saga, #1) by C.J. Atticus

The Dark Energy (Star Child Saga, #1) by C.J. Atticus 

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Will Robinson versus the Terminator in this science fiction, middle-grade series that follows a young boy’s struggle to eradicate a rather unique glitch that his science project unleashed into the techno universe.

Johnny Starrider’s plight begins when he teams up with his twin brother Jody, who’s a real pain in the Sunspots, to study a strange cosmic radiation barreling through the solar system. They already argue over everything: the top bunk, haircuts, and who pilots through the Aurora Borealis. Their experiment is no different.

What the boys end up capturing is Dark Energy. It moves galaxies. But can it move the human heart? The brothers suffer a spiteful sibling rivalry and it causes them to overlook a conspirator’s devious plot until too late. If Johnny and Jody can’t resolve their differences, their home, family, even mankind may cease to exist. For the brothers, however, "reconciliation" is a planet they have never visited.

Review: In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
For a large amount of this book I didn’t like any of the characters. Johnny is arrogant, self centered, uncaring, he misbehaves but is never punished, he is popular and liked by most of the other characters, but I didn’t like him.
John, the father of the twins is awful. He treats his boys completely differently; he loves Johnny, praises his achievements and doesn’t discipline him at all, even when his son behaves badly (such as stealing a spaceship and nearly killing himself). With Jody he doesn’t notice any of the good things he does, and punishes him severely for any mistakes, even for things beyond his control, he also never calls him ‘son’.
Jody was a dark character, and had negative feelings for his brother and father. These feelings are understandable since they both treat him so badly, I knew I should feel sorry for him, but for some reason I didn’t like him. When I got about halfway through the book I realized what it was, he only has these negative thoughts and feelings, and there is nothing more to him. There were a couple of nice moments with his mother, and if there were more of these then perhaps he would have been likeable.
While it can make for good reading having some characters to hate, having all the main characters hard to like made it difficult for me to enjoy this book.
There were some enjoyable or interesting moments and plot points, such as Jody’s interactions with Johnny’s girlfriend, and the interactions with the robot I/O.

Fortunately the characters do develop into being nicer people. This first occurs about half way through the book, but it doesn’t last for long and the boys go back to being mean to each other. Then towards the end of the book they both start being nicer to each other and I was finally invested in them.
There were also several clichés in what characters said, for example a teenager talking their girlfriend on the phone where they both say “You hang up first”, or another time when someone who is getting yelled at by a authority figure, gets so afraid they forget what their name is when asked. There were many of these unrealistic and cliché moments.
One other problem I had with the characters, and this one is just a minor one, was the author’s choice to name a father and son with almost identical names. There was several times, especially early on when this was confusing.

The pacing for the early part of the book was pretty slow, especially for a middle grade book. Other than the odd hint of a few things, there was not very much that felt like it was important to the long term story. Most of what was happening was almost everyday things rather than anything that was exciting or adventurous.

I thought it was a little tech heavy for a middle-grade book, and it felt more like a young-adult book with the amount of technological talk that went on in the book. I also felt that it talked about the technology but never really explained how things worked.

I had some problems with the writing style and editing. There were quite a number of times when there were conversations between three or more characters and it was unclear who was talking at any one time.
Also there would be times when the story would jump forward in time with little explanation of what happened. This made the story confusing and hard to follow.

The story itself was good, although it wasn’t particularly original. Once it got about two-thirds of the way through the book, when the characters started to be nicer and the pace picked up, it turned into an interesting and exciting story that I enjoyed.

Overall this was quite a good book. The story was interesting once it got going, although it did take quite a while for the pacing to pick up. The biggest problem I found was that the characters were unlikeable for the majority of the book.

Rating (3 Stars)