Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Aethersmith (Twinborn Trilogy, #2) by J.S. Morin

 Aethersmith (Twinborn Trilogy, #2) by J.S. Morin

Synopsis (from back of book) War has come to Veydrus.

As Kyrus Hinterdale and Brannis Solaran work to understand the intricacies of their Twinborn connection, they must also analyze and unravel the game Jinzan and Denrick played to get a step ahead of them. While planning a war, and coming to terms with Juliana’s impending wedding to Iridan, Brannis knows that he needs to feed Kyrus more advanced magical knowledge and training if they ever hope to keep the Kadrin empire from destruction.

However, just as plans are starting to come together, a spell of Kyrus’ goes very wrong, and the two find themselves in an even bigger dilemma than ever. With the help of other Twinborn, they struggle to gain the upper hand in the war, and set everything back as it should be.

In full disclosure I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Holy crap this book is even more amazing than book one of the series! How is that even possible? The concept is original and just like book one it is perfectly executed.

There are a lot more twinborns in this book. The plot is more complex than the first book, with multiple story threads, points of views and plot. The truly amazing thing about all this it that even though it is complex, with so much going on, it really should make the reader’s head explode, but the author is so talented at explaining what is happening it rarely gets confusing or hard to follow. Not only does the author explain the story in such a way that it is easy to follow, but it is done in a natural way and it doesn’t feel like an explanation.

About the only time it could get confusing, was a result of having so many twinborns I had a hard time remembering who some of the secondary character’s twin was. They were usually named but sometimes I found I would need more detail to help me remember exactly who they were, especially early on. But this really was only a minor problem and for the most part the extra twins made the story even more interesting.

The descriptions are once again perfect, they are of high detail, allowing the reader to visualise the amazing worlds in the story, but not to the extent that it slows down the pacing or becomes boring.

The pacing and balance of the story was better than the first. Because of the nature of the first book, which was primarily focused on the Brannis/Kyrus point-of-view, and only switched when one of them fell asleep, it would occasionally spend too much time on action or too much time on a slower plot point then was natural. But because of all the extra characters in this book, this didn’t happen and the flow was much better.

The characters are once again fantastic, they have amazing but believable personalities. With the strengthening bond between Brannis and Kyrus their personalities begin to merge. But they still manage to remain individuals. The thoughts each character has, and the emotions they have are amongst some of the strongest writing in this amazing book.

Just like the first book, no-one is completely good or evil, they are much more complex than that. The good people have bad traits or sometimes do bad things, and the evil characters have good traits and sometimes do good things. Just like real-life, no-one see’s themselves as evil. Also there are plenty of people who you are left uncertain whether they are good or evil.

There are a couple of love triangles going on (possible better described as a love square), this is made even more complex as some of the characters involved are twinborns and share at least some of the feelings of their twin.

There are many very clever and well thought out ideas, some of them are large pieces of complex plot, but others are small details that help make the story more realistic and its characters more believable.

As well as Brannis and Kyrus personalities merging, their two worlds also are starting to blend. Magic is becoming more prominent in Kyrus’s home and technology is more prevalent in Brannis’s world. The two blended in such a way that there are things that incorporate ideas from both worlds (such as flying ships)

Sometimes it was clear what path a plot point would lead, but it was still exciting to read about as you want to find out exactly what happens once it gets there.

This book is even bigger than it appears, the edition I read had 445 page, but it also has a fairly small print and so much happens in this story it easily feels like a book with twice as many pages, but in a good way.

The book has a more epic feel to it, and you get to see more what is happening in the two worlds.

The book does continue the plot from the last one, and does develop the series wide story leaving some plot open for the final book in the series. But it doesn’t suffer with the normal ‘middle book’ problems, and is a strong story in its own right and doesn’t leave too many threads open.

One of my few real criticisms for this one was that at one point the characters are able to send messages to their twins while awake. This seemed inconsistent with the first book and most of the second and it wasn’t how I had perceived how the two worlds worked.

If you enjoyed the first book then you will love this book as well. It is even better (and I thought book one was close to perfection.) The story is more complex but the author skillfully writes it in such a way that it is never confusing. How he was able to keep up with everything while he was writing without leaving massive plot holes or without his head exploding I will probably never know. The characters expand and continue to impress on every level. The concept is original, something hard to do these days with any fantasy novel. I am eagerly awaiting the final book in the series, but also a little sad, because once I’ve read it this amazing series will be over. I really hope the author has more great ideas, either for the two worlds featured in this series or a new one.

Rating ***** + ♥

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Minno by James Barlog

 Minno by James Barlog
Synopsis (from back of book): It isn't easy being thirteen ... and being raised by your grandfather ... and having a name like Minno ... and then having to journey through a strange land. But Minno is doing the best she can.

For all her young life Minno believed her parents were dead. Then she learns they're alive, but they're in grave danger.

Her friend Hailey thought she was having a sleepover at her friend's house. Now she's Minno's ally and partner on an incredible quest. Together the girls embark on the adventure of a lifetime, where they face a veritable menagerie of strange creatures, both friendly and unfriendly to their cause.

Oh, yeah, then there's one evil high minister Craveaux, who must stop Minno while he steals all the magic in the kingdom for his own sinister purposes.

Minno has to save her parents, and along the way discover who she really is.

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

Whenever I enter a giveaway it normally falls into one of three categories, a giveaway that I REALLY want to win, and in the morning of when the giveaway ends, I rush on to Goodreads to see if I won it. Or it might be a giveaway that I would quite like to win, but I don’t go crazy trying to find out if I won. Or a giveaway I am not sure about but enter anyway. This book was in the third category, as it turned out I am glad I won this book because I loved it.

The story is great, my biggest fear and the reason that I almost didn’t enter was that this book would be girly. It really wasn’t the case, and the book could be enjoyed by males and females of any age.
The pacing is really fast, the exciting scenes and action is almost non-stop. It starts quickly and doesn’t slow for almost the whole book. I thought it was a little too fast paced and never gave me a chance to catch my breath. I found myself sometimes putting the book down simply to let my brain catch up with everything that had happened.
There are lots of great ideas in this book, many of them are original or rarely used, such as giant long-necked ladybugs, musical flowers and warrior bunnies. In fact most sections of the book had at least some original content to it, this was great to see as it is hard for authors to come up with a couple of new ideas in their book, to have so many is very impressive.

One of my few criticisms is that most of what happens in the story doesn’t effect what happens in the long term plot, it is simply the next stage in the journey. Most sections are exciting and interesting but if they weren’t there you would not notice that they are missing or that the story had jumped.

The descriptions have a nice level of detail, there is enough there to conjure up clear images of what the world looks like, but not so much that the story drags. It is very good that the level of detail is high, because the pace is so fast, it is really needed to follow what is happening.

The characters were good and likeable, with interesting personalities. I thought it was a really good idea to have one of the characters be mute, I thought it was brave of the author to keep her mute even when she moves into the magical world. Smallish spoiler she does get her voice later in the book, and I thought it was presented well. The girl acts in a way a person who had just found their voice would act, speaking her mind more often than most people and saying things out loud without realizing it.I also liked that fact (BIG spoiler) that the girls were not sisters/twins. At first it seemed likely that this was going to happen, neither girl has their parents, one lives with a grandfather, the other with foster parents. One girl has never seen or even has photos of her parents. It all seemed set up to reveal that they were twins or sisters, I was actually glad that this wasn’t the case because it would have been an obvious and predictable piece of plot 

The friendship is well written, they are kind and genuinely care about each other and their friends that they meet on the way, but and times they can get snippy with each other especially during tense situations.

The kids do sometimes speak in ‘teen talk’, fortunately it is not excessive so doesn’t become annoying and in fact gives it a more realistic feel.

The POV shifts rapidly in this book, it can shift back and forth over a few paragraphs. The rapid changes could get confusing at times. It also made it hard to fully understand and like a character since the POV kept moving around.

The book is also funny, at some points laugh out loud funny.

Overall I would rate this book 4 ½ stars. The story is fantastic, it is interesting and has a lot of originality or at least twists from the norm about it. Even though the main characters are two teenage girls, the book is not ‘girly’ or only enjoyable by teenagers. The pacing is fast, at times it was a little too fast as it made it hard to keep up. My biggest criticism is that there isn’t much of a long term plot, other than journey from one place to another, although as the rest of the story is so well written and the journey exciting it really doesn’t matter very much. Even though I wasn’t sure about this book I am really glad I won it.
Rating **** ½

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Lost Gateway by Josephine L. Brooks

 The Lost Gateway by Josephine L. Brooks
Synopsis: Invaded by Monsters
When Enyeto's calam herd is attacked, he finds some unusual creatures are to blame. Fearful of losing more animals, Enyeto tracks the creatures and destroys them. But these invaders are only the beginning. The creature's tracks lead him to a mysterious gateway where monsters are entering his world. His tribe is endangered. His shaman is clueless. And no one knows how to close the gateway.

Betrayed by Wizards
Faced with a problem beyond their understanding, Enyeto's tribe sends him to get help from the Outsiders. But a stable gateway between worlds is a prize no wizard can resist. Faced with a culture he barely understands, Enyeto falls prey to wizardly power games as they vie for control of this phenomenon.

In the Company of Witches
Only two back-country witches are willing to stand between Enyeto's tribe and total annihilation. Can he trust them, or do they also have ulterior motives?
In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

The story itself was good. It is an adventure story, where the main character is in a race against time to seal a portal before monsters destroy his tribe.

I thought some of the descriptions were too short, they were lacking in detail and there were many examples of “Show don’t Tell”. This was particularly bad during the action sequences. This made them less exciting and harder to follow. Sometimes it was also problem during long dialogue, where we are given plenty of interesting dialogue but not many details on things such as facial expressions, postures, tone of voice etc.

Some of the paragraphs felt too short, they were only one or two short sentences long, and the sentences on the next lines felt they all should have been part of the same paragraph.

Most of what happens is part of the main plot, while this is good for keeping the pace up, it did mean the story was lacking some breadth that you would get from having multiple plotlines.

There was some back story/world history in the book. These parts were interesting and well written. It was also fitted into the story very well, in a natural manner and at a time it was needed.

The pacing is fast and the story moves along nicely. The book is very short, the edition I read was 150 pages, there was also a large number of chapters given the length (31 in total), and other pages are stretched out because of the sentences over many lines when they should have been in one paragraph. With all this white space, the book is probably closer to 100-120 pages in length if it had a more normal structure.

It was an interesting twist that one of the main characters came from a tribe/nomadic group. This is not something we get to often see in fantasy novels and I enjoyed reading about this. I would like to have seen this to be more relevant to his story, other than some skill with the bow and affinity with animals, it wasn’t really important that he was a nomad. There were also times when he seemed to know things that he shouldn’t given his ‘sheltered’ life. For example (small spoiler), at one point he is imprisoned and looking at the door for a way to escape, examining the lock, hinges etc. for weaknesses. As he is a nomad he probably would have no knowledge of how doors work and it seems unlikely he would have any ideas how to plan an escape through it.

I did enjoy the Granny Fog Quotes that were at the start of each chapter. They were often funny, insightful and relevant to the story,

The characters were interesting with good personalities. Their thoughts and feelings were well written and they came across well.

Overall this was a good story and good characters, but it was one where you could tell it was the author’s first book. The details were too short at times, the structure sometimes felt wrong (broken up paragraphs and too short chapters) and the story stuck to the main plot and didn’t have much breadth. There were good points as well, the story was interesting and the characters were likeable with well written thoughts and feelings. I also loved the idea of one of the main characters being a nomad. The history of the world fitted in nicely and good to read about.

 Rating: *** 1/2

Monday, July 1, 2013

Free To Read

I started reading Storm Front, book one of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher today. It's the first book since the end of April that I have picked to read. Everything since then has been either Goodreads wins/ free from authors or books in the Wheel of Time series that I am reading as part of my 2013 big series challenge. While I have enjoyed a lot of those free books it is nice to get to pick what I am reading for a change.