Book Review: The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

The Killing Moon (Dreamblood, #1)The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin

Wendy’s rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a good but disappointing book. I blame my likely unfair review on N.K. Jemisin for writing The Inheritance Trilogy first. Comparisons inevitable happened, mainly over the way The Killing Moon was crafted and presented. Where The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – a book I have now read twice and loved all the more the second time – focused deeply on the main character and her emotions and relationships, with the politics being a secondary issue, this book focused more on the politics and religion, as viewed through its main characters. The problem, I think, is that it really only skimmed the surface layers of these politics, as well as the characters. As a result, while I liked the both characters and the world, I did not fall in love with them because I was not able to get to know them well enough.

The Killing Moon takes place in an Egypt-based realm where dreams hold magic and those who wield the magic are, of course, the ones in power. At the beginning, Jemisin apologizes to Egyptologists for anything she may have gotten wrong, though she did not intend this fantasy world to be exactly like the real Egypt. At the end of the book in an amusing interview with herself, she commented that basing the world on reality was difficult and that she’d rather create her own worlds. I’d have to agree. There wasn’t an overindulgence in making everything like Egypt (but not like Egypt), but perhaps it became too much of a focus along the way.

One thing that disappointed me was the need to discriminate based on colour. The third major player in the book is introduced so:

“The black ropes of his hair had been threaded with cylinders of gold and strings of minute pearls, and this mane surrounded a face that was fine-planed and flawless, apart from the misfortune of his coloring.”

I had to reread that a few times to make sure I’d understood it correctly, and as the book proceeded, such discrimination over skin tone occurred several times more. As there were many other ways that the various peoples were categorized (ie castes, religious beliefs, location, occupation), I was surprised that Jemisin would choose to make this such a prominent issue. I am not familiar enough with Egypt and the surrounding area to know if this discrimination is common in reality, but in a fantasy setting, I wish Jemisin had chosen not to make discrimination by skin tone such a prominent factor in her story telling. Especially since one of the reasons why I fell in love with her works initially was because of her views on race and culture in fantasy. While she enjoys the fantasy books that have come well before her, she has, as I have, grown tired of the Euro-centric stories and characters. My friend and I are currently reading A Song of Ice and Fire and are amused by George R. R. Martin’s constant need to review his thesaurus in order to describe people of various colours from the lands outside of his main realm of Westeros. In Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, I was so pleased to find a world filled with people of all different colours and cultures yet, save for one or two moments, descriptions of skin colour served only to identify characters – not to discriminate against them.

None of this disappointment is enough to prevent me from reading the second book in the Dreamblood series. As I said, this was a good book and Jemisin has already proven herself to me through her first book and through her blogged thoughts. The characters and plot were interesting enough to keep me reading and enjoying. But I will do The Shadowed Sun a favour and read it before I continue on with the Inheritance Trilogy.
73660-new3stars

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Book Review: The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6)The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Tiara’s rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe has for, quite some time, been a movie that I’ve enjoyed, and I’ve enjoyed in just about every incarnation of it. I first remember seeing the movie as a young girl on PBS. I had to be around 6 or 7 at the time, and I was completely enamored with the movie. Now, at that time, I was also already a pretty avid reader, but it wasn’t until some years later that I realized that movie was based on a book–a book that was part of a series. You’d think as much as I love the movie(s) that I would’ve started reading the books well before now, and honestly, I did have all intentions of reading the series before becoming a grown woman with two children of my own. However, it didn’t quite work out that way. Better late than never, though, right?

I’m reading these books chronologically, even though this book and one other book in the series came a little later than some of the other books in the series. Luckily, Goodreads does have an option to see these books in chronological order, which is a very good thing because I wasn’t even aware there was technically a book before The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. And I guess I could’ve started there and read them in their publishing order since the other two books only really add a little history to the story, but I’m glad that I started it reading it like this.

Up to this point, the only thing I’d read by Lewis was The Screwtape Letters, which I did enjoy for its humorous way of dealing with Christianity, even though I know there was a stern message about being one of those self-righteous Christians whose “concerns” for other really point to a selfishness in their own hearts, who twist religion to better fall in line with their personal biases. I also like that the story came from the POV of the demon and not the sanctified.

This book chronicles the creation of Narnia and its first inhabitants including how the White Witch came to be and the creation of the wardrobe. The creation of Narnia in many ways parallels the creation as written in the bible right down to having a tree of life and a Adam (Digory) and Eve (Polly). Aslan even sang/spoke things into existence. However, Lewis added a creative flair to the old story and made it a really beautiful read as he described Narnia being born from nothing. I love stories that mark the creation of a new world. I enjoy seeing how different writers think a new world and its inhabitants would be created whether it’s from chaos or being called into being.

The queen was an evil accidentally introduced into Narnia during its creation, and I would’ve liked more backstory on the queen. We’re given just enough of her history to know what she was capable of and the hubris she dressed in, just enough to make her terrifying in the way that evil witch queens, such as Maleficent, are. She came from a dying world where she’d used the “deplorable word” rather than to lose to her sister, but we don’t know exactly what started this fight or if the sister was more evil than Jadis or if she were good. We only get to learn about how little regard Jadis has for life and how she would rather burn a world to the ground than give up her power.

She’s in a state of stasis when the children find her in her world, and she eventually ends up following them back to present day England and on to Narnia. As her world went to nothing, Narnia came from nothing. However, her magic wasn’t strong in Narnia, not like it’d been in her homeworld, at this point. So, she’s forced to bide her time, and Aslan takes precautions to protect Narnia from her influence, though he knows a battle will come.

This was a very quick read. The story is easy to get caught up in. I joked that the title of this book should’ve been Uncle Andrew, No because his playing at magic, with disregard to anyone but himself, is what opened up this new world to Digory and Polly. Which brings to one thing I noticed about the story. Maybe it’s just the way the book is written, since it is a young adult/children’s book (and I am an adult), but there was just something a little too plain cut about this story. There’s not much room for gray. Things are just inexplicably good or evil without much reason why. They just are.

For sure, this book suggests that even “bad” characters aren’t beyond redemption, but it just feels more like they’re “bad” because they just don’t know any better or they don’t know any other way to be, not because they have decided it’s better to be “evil” than “good.” And I’m bit surprised how much more complex these issues seem in the movies when compared to this book. Now, I know I am extremely early and should hold my judgment because I may end up having to eat crow for that statement.

I think this book has something to say about creativity and imagination, and how we can stifle ourselves by not believing in the magic of such things as shown through Uncle Andrew who denied the magic even though he felt it. In the end, he was unable to appreciate the true beauty of Narnia. We purposely silence the creative side of us in favor of being “practical” when those things are very important to who we are and how we view life.

I will definitely continue the series.

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Book Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Girl of NightmaresGirl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Supernatural

Series: Book 2 of Anna

Author Information: Twitter | Website

Tiara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve just finished reading this book. It’s 3:30 in the morning, and my Nexus 7 is on its last leg because I was too enthralled to plug it up. When I bookmarked the last page I’d read in GRRM’s 4th book, I told myself that I’d read a few pages of this to catch up and call it a night. I didn’t expect to fall so quickly.

In a matter of a few pages, the story started going many interesting places with a battle-weary Carmel breaking up with the gang (and by extension Thomas) because she no longer thinks she can handle the supernatural part of her life and the normal part of her life clashing any longer. We witness Thomas come into his own as a black witch and become much more confident with his powers, and, in his search to free Anna from hell, Can learns a few more secrets about his father and his blade, how it can aid him in saving Anna, and the price you sometimes have to pay for those you love. Read More

Graphic Novel Series Review: Star Wars: Legacy by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema

Star Wars: Legacy by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema

The Jedi and Sith infuriate me. They are the same side of a spherical coin, but they refuse to see that. I have complained about my frustration with these Force users before, but usually, my complaints are within reviews of Star Wars books, games, shows, etc that point out the hypocrisy and stupidity of the Jedi and Sith perceived dichotomy. Star Wars: Legacy joins this collection.

Legacy takes place 100+ years after the original trilogy and is about Cade Skywalker, who is, well, a Skywalker. If there’s a “fate of the galaxy” involved, then assume a Skywalker will be there, for good or evil. Unlike the rest of the Skywalker line, events in Cade’s life have made him choose to forget his legacy, no matter how many times ghost Luke pops by for a visit. When we meet Cade, he is a bounty hunter hiding his last name and his Force abilities and drowning his visions with deathsticks, while the Sith, Galactic Republic, Imperials and Jedi fight over control of the galaxy – and of him.

Legacy starts with typical Star Wars tropes, familiar names and character archetypes that initially disappointed me because I had hoped that a series that takes place so far into the future could step away from all that. There were the cool ship and the cocky pilot and the princess and the questionable friends and the stoic Jedi and the evil Sith and, of course, a Skywalker. But once the connections to what we know had been established, the story comfortably moved on, with Cade leading the way as the atypical hero who has no interest in saving the galaxy, no matter what his name might be. Of course we know that the galaxy saving is going to happen anyway, right? But the books do a good job of casting doubt about the how and why. Will Cade give in to the darkness within him? Will he take up his legacy? Who will stand with him?

The series also adds interesting dimensions with the overall politics of war and all the sides involved. The Sith remain the official Big Bad and the Jedi the Persecuted Good, but now the Jedi and Sith are no longer intrinsically connected to the Imperial/Empire and Republic respectively. The two political factions in the middle teeter between fending for themselves, fighting within their own ranks, seeking alliances, betraying alliances… It’s not as confusing as it might seem. In fact, the politics became one of the aspects of the series that I really enjoyed, which surprised me. I also enjoyed the space battles, which don’t necessarily translate well in this medium, but the battle tactics weren’t overly dramatic and there wasn’t any time wasted in the battle.

Despite the initial comparisons to movie counterparts, all the characters develop into strong players in their own rights. There are a LOT of characters, all of which are introduced in the primers, though not all play the prominent or support roles you might expect from them. My angry feminist initially poked her head out with the primer introductions for Moff Nyna Calixte with the glass ceiling accusations, Deliah Blue, the girlfriend with a wrench and Gunner Yage, the daughter that should have been a son. But, as with the rest of the series, everything moved on quickly from the basic tropes, and even the characters that appear only briefly are well established. Well, most of them.

Overall, an excellent entry into the Star Wars saga and one that anyone could get into, without knowing too much about the massive past.

3.5 of 5 stars

 

Archive Book Review: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris, #1)Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Libriomancers have the ability to “pull” things such as objects and even people/animals (albeit, it’s a bit dangerous to pull anything other than objects from the books) from books. Isaac is a libriomancer who has been delegated to a librarian job after something went awry during an investigation two years prior to this story. Isaac is part of a secret society whose job is, among other things, to keep magic in check. The society is headed by Johannes Gutenberg who is hundreds of years old, but now he’s missing. And vampires have shown up at Isaac’s door. So, of course, Isaac finds himself on the case.

As an avid reader, why wouldn’t I want to read about about magic centered around the power of reading? Isaac could be any one of us bibliophiles if you look over the paranormal part. He gets lost in the magic of the worlds that books create. Even before he became a libriomancer, they were his protection and his home. Being able to actually manipulate the power was just a perk of a love he already had. It was adorable how he’d get distracted just thinking about all the books inside a library and how he’d get upset if a book had been abused.

You’d think with such an arsenal at the libriomancers’ disposal that things would get out of hand quick, but Hines did a great job of adding many limitations to the magic.One of the more interesting limitations is the fact that the magic is “created” by readers in a sense, and a libriomancer just taps into that magic and bends it to their will. Also, certain books are magically “locked” to keep libriomancers, especially people who have no idea that they’re libriomancers, from pulling something from a book that could possibly cause chaos. I chuckled a little bit at the paragraph where Isaac mentions that J.K. Rowling was asked not to include a certain item in her future books.

Isaac is a bit Dresden-ish to me. His humor and attitude just made me picture Harry in his place more than a few times. But I’m starting to think that’s the usual archetype for the male paranormal hero just as many paranormal female heroes share many of the same traits. However, Isaac is a huge geek with a love for Doctor Who, Firefly, and science fiction novels–the latter two inspiring him to wear a brown duster. His companion is a loyal fire spider named Smudge who he pulled from a book and became too attached to to return. Smudge is prone to flaring up when danger is near and causes more than a few fire accidents.

I do have to give Isaac a few more props because he wants to use his magic. So many male and female protags in a paranormal book don’t want to use their magic or spend way too much time debating over what using the full extent of their magic could mean. Isaac is forbidden to use his magic, but he wants to use it. Yes, he talks about the possibility of losing himself in his magic, which is a very valid concern for a libriomancer, but he’s more curious about how doing certain things with his magic could shape their ideas on how their magic works. I loved that. He’d get excited about the prospect, embrace the ideas of how “book magic” could be fully shaped, and he’d even, at times, understand that he probably does not have enough control of his power to test that.

Then, there’s Lena. The moment Lena Greenwood entered the book, I knew that I was going to love her. She kicks ass like most female protagonists in a paranormal series, but her looks set her apart from them. Isaac described her as heavy set and beautiful. Notice I said “and” right there instead of “but.” Her weight isn’t treated as something “wrong.” Isaac doesn’t lament that she would be prettier if she was slimmer. In fact, when he described her, her being heavy set was just a matter-of-fact opinion coupled with the rest of his description about her. It doesn’t really come up again for him again except one other time, but another character did ask Isaac, “Who’s the fat chick?” I really appreciate Hines adding a beautiful female protagonist and love interest who isn’t a size 2 and whose weight isn’t analyzed from every angle as “something wrong with an otherwise beautiful woman.”

Lena is the lover of a psychologist who treats people like Isaac. (Libriomancers are susceptible to taking characters into their heads and forming multiple personalities, and her girlfriend, the doctor, has treated Isaac in the past.) She loves the doctor, but she begins to love Isaac, too. I wasn’t surprised when they became a threesome more in the way of a triangle with Lena being the pinnacle. I mean, how many times have we gotten a threesome in a paranormal romance book featuring a woman when she can’t choose between two men? However, I liked some of the reasoning behind it, aside from how they feel about one another, being that they both make Lena feel complete.

She’s able to have multiple sides to her personality because of both of them. She’s a magical being born from a book. Her nature is to be agreeable for her lover. She adapts to be a perfect mate for them. She can’t change that about herself. She can only be choosy about who she allows to shape her, which the ultimate form of trust for her. With two lovers, she’s finding for the first time that she can disagreeable if she likes because she can offer a differing opinion where once she could only be agreeable to a lover–whatever their whims. She’s finding a new dimension that allows her to be more than just what Isaac or the doctor wants her to be. She’s beginning to feel like she has true depth.

Anyhow, moving on.

One thing that annoyed me? All the name dropping. This is an issue that I’ve taken with many books that do so much name dropping. It always ends up feeling overdone to me.

Media that depends on pop culture references, whether it’s a book or some type of visual media (movies, television shows, etc.), leaves me feeling some kind of way–mainly because I always end up thinking: “Who is going to care about/know about these references in a few years?” True, Hines used some classics that are and will continue to be enduring, but many of the vampires/monsters take their names from authors popular at this moment like Stephanie Meyers and Charlaine Harris, who–no offense–I don’t see their current works being something that people will care much about twenty years from now. When writers root themselves so deeply in the trends that are hot right now in a story, it tends to make a story feel dated when coming back around to it, especially if that story isn’t meant to be about an era past.

I would’ve liked to have seen more originality as far as the books were concerned in the story, but I understand it being easier to reference books already in existence since most readers would already be vaguely familiar with most of them. And it wouldn’t require Hines to go into detail describing the book. But Meyerii vampires, also known as Sparklers, really? I do have to give Hines some props for books being an “unnatural” way of becoming a monster.

Even though libriomancers were the main magic practitioners talked about, there were hints of other interesting magic(like Isaac’s boss using music called “bardic magic”), and I hope we get to see a little more of those. I’m hoping to see more of Johannes Gutenberg and Ponce de Leon in future books because the bits of their relationship shown in the book was an interesting tease for readers. The story could’ve been a little stronger, but I did enjoy it and the characters.

73660-new3stars

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

I’ve been watching horror movies and reading horror books nearly as long as I’ve been reading. Nothing much scares me or surprises me anymore with the genre, but I still enjoy the genre because of the atmosphere the stories present as well as how the stories are told. I think horror novels are some of the more inventive lords of fiction. And while the BIG BAD may not scare me, I always find that there’s a certain amount of trepidation I feel for the characters, for lack of better word, when viewing/reading horror if the story is well crafted—even though I know 90% of the time they’re going to make it out of the story mostly intact. Anna Dressed in Blood was no different. I didn’t find the story scary, but I loved this certain level of eeriness this story possessed.

This book was recommended to me by Amazon because of other recent books I’d read at the time. I usually only give their recommendations a cursory glance at best, but the cover was a real eye treat, the title was interesting, and the fact that the protagonist was a male made we want to give this a try. I’ve had this book for a while, started it, but put it down in favor of something else. A friend and I buddied up and read the book together after finishing another book that I loved.

It’s not often that we get a male protagonist in the young adult genre. Perhaps that’s not a fair assessment. Maybe there are a fair amount of male protagonists in the genre, but if there are, they are obviously far outnumbered by their female counterparts and easily missed in the genre because of that. Here we have this teenage boy who has been slaying ghosts for the past three years of his life, moving from one haunted town to the next, secretly preparing for what he thinks will be the biggest fight of his life. Anna was supposed to be the true test of his skill, the slaying that would determine if he was ready for that fight. But even before he meets Anna, he becomes a bit obsessive about her, and after he meets her, he finds out that she’s not his usual phantasm.

I liked how Blake crafted the story almost like a modern ghost tale you’d tell your friends around the campfire, and it retained a level of intrigue that kept me turning, things rippled under the surface and were gradually revealed as readers moved deeper into the story.

I really have to applaud her in Cas’ character development. She did a wonderful job of capturing that youthful arrogance, pride, fear, and self-doubt. Something I feel so many young adult authors don’t do as well. This may be just a bias as an adult reader, but so many young adult authors exaggerate the things that define teenagers, which ends up annoying me to no end. It doesn’t feel natural. It’s like reading some gross caricature of teenagedom, their virtues and flaws magnified to a ridiculous degree. It’s hard to empathize with some other heroes and heroines for this reason even when I understand their position in the story. I didn’t have that problem with Cas.

Sure, the kids in this story did things that made me roll my eyes, but not in complete exasperation. It was more of an amused eye roll that I might give teenage antics in real life than an “unbelievable” eye roll. Now that’s not to say that there weren’t some moments when things did get a little too much, even for the fantastic nature of the story, but Blake had far less moments of that than many young adult authors.

I appreciate that Blake presented magic, even black magic, as not being inherently good or evil, but solely a weapon for the good/bad intentions of those who wield it. I get tired of so many books treating magic as a black and white, good and evil thing while ignoring the complexity that magic brings. I really liked that two of the good guys were practitioners of black magic (and Cas’ mom practices white magic), one even had a great deal of experience with voodoo, which is often maligned in fiction. So, it’s always nice to see an author trying to show the balance that white/black magic brings to the world without assigning good or bad to them.

I had a hard time believing that Cas isn’t behind in school even though he’s changed 11 schools in three years. I don’t care how smart he is because schools follow different curriculums and a whole host of other things that would have an affect on his education, especially with so much his focus going into the ghost hunter thing. I also didn’t think the murders that happened after Anna’s “release” were well done. I mean, it was predictable that they’d think it was her. I don’t have any problem with that, but it was a such a weak presentation and hardly seemed worth the effort of trying to cast doubt on Anna for the characters and the readers. There was nothing about those murders that made me even remotely believe that Anna had anything to do with them, especially since Cas says that there are numerous ghosts in any town. Most of them are nonviolent, but it’s conceivable that there would still be a few who were not.

I was also mildly disappointed in how predictable the deaths of Will, Chase, and Mike were. You could tell they were expendable characters to be used as cannon fodder to spare the other main characters. Mike’s murderous indifference to Cas’ life, drunk or not, seemed a bit forced and out of place for me. It seemed like she was trying to dredge up early sympathy for Anna by making her something of a hero for Cas, which was unnecessary as we learn more and more about through the story and eventually completely through her memories. And that, to me, was more than ample for readers to feel sympathy for Anna, especially when you consider that most violent ghosts are usually innocent victims who died angry. Anna was no exception.

Now, Blake played with theme of Anna being Cas’ savior instead of the other way around again later in the story, but that was exactly the moment when Cas needed her. I liked how Anna wasn’t a reduced to a quivering girl ghost who needed the slayer to rescue her after she relived the horror of her death. Instead, she was able to reconcile who she was with the monster that’d been placed inside her, making her more than formidable and in complete control of both aspects of herself. Now, some people may say that Anna being the supernatural protector is predictable, and that’s a fair judgment. But I liked that the main female protags in the story are not diminished by their male counterparts. Anna doesn’t protect more than she complements Cas. She doesn’t stop him from being who he is, but she’s more than aware when he needs her help. And I loved how strong she was, both mentally and physically, strong enough to not hesitate to make a pivotal decision in the big fight and strong enough to drag the BIG BAD down to hell or whatever, sacrificing herself in the process.

Carmel was another character I appreciated. Yes, she is the perfect All-American girl, but she’s not stuck on herself. I know we often get popular girls in stories with a golden heart as much as we get the bitchy popular girl, but Carmel is more than aware that her status gets her everywhere. She doesn’t dispute the arguments presented about that and isn’t beyond using her popular girl status to her advantage. And she’s also not the sweet girl who stands by helplessly. She has a protective streak a mile wide for her friends. She seems to lose most of her calm and cool demeanor when faced with situations she perceives as threatening to her friends more than herself. I absolutely adored the description Cas gave of her running in with an Amazon scream to help him and Anna at the end. Very reckless on her part, but she’d been presented as the type of person to do that, even when the odds were against her, throughout much of the story. And I love that despite the fact she was the popular girl she was seen as a warrior rather than a nuisance in her own right.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was such a fast paced great read that I was zooming through, eager to see what happens next, and I will definitely be reading the next part in this series ASAP.

b1dbb-new4stars

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance, #1)The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spoilerish. Hm. Where do I start with this? I really enjoyed this book. I would be lying if I said that part of the reason I picked up this book wasn’t because the writer is a woman of color. It’s so rare to see people of color writing and representing ourselves in high fantasy stories. I’m starting to see more urban fantasy novels featuring, and being written by PoC, but high fantasy still sometimes seems a little taboo for PoC. And maybe I’m wrong, and I just haven’t been pointed in the direction of the plethora of fantasy novels written by PoC because they’re hidden away in the AA sections and rarely mentioned if ever mentioned.

I found out about this book through Tumblr when people were posting fanart for the series, and the little information that I was able to glean about series piqued my interest. Once I started this book, I couldn’t stop reading. Yeine was a great narrator, not one of those narrators who spends too much time turning over every single detail they’re taking in and making a story feel convoluted with unnecessary information. I also liked that she wasn’t perfect. So many heroes spend a bulk of their story saying why they’re not perfect while being basically perfect with such irrelevant flaws that are really more like strengths. Yeine doesn’t have to remind readers she’s not perfect, you see it in her actions, her choices, and her responses. She’s a woman doing the best she can in a precarious situation and it shows.

I also liked this world that Jemisin created that seems to be a blend of so many cultures and religions. I found the history of the gods fascinating. Their perception and understanding of things differ so much from how a human experiences these things, and I think Jemisin captured their dichotomy between them and humans, even between each other, so well. I loved the “oh-so-human-yet-not” angle she played with the gods. They often remarked that humanity’s flaws were their flaws because they created everything.

I couldn’t help loving Sieh, Nahadoth, Zhakka, and even Kurue and Itempas. While I squealed all over Naha, Sieh, and Zhakka, Tempa (Itempas) was so fascinating to me, even though he didn’t make a real appearance until the end of the book. Just the nature of how humans and other gods spoke about him made him feel omnipresent and powerful–and even a bit terrifying. Because while Naha outwardly showed his danger, Tempa came off as cool, calm fury. When we finally “met” him, I wished we’d had more time to get to know him.

What I really liked about Jemisin’s book sort of falls in the same vein as how I feel about G.R.R.M.’s books in his A Song of Fire and Ice series. While these stories are set in fantasy settings where magic is present, there’s something real and visceral in how they portray characters. They manage to capture a lot of human nature in their characters and make it something more than just a fantasy novel. These stories really know how to make you relate to the characters and ruminate on their machinations.

Now, Jemisin works with the high fantasy and magic way more than G.R.R.M does, in my opinion, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that these are people–and gods–making mistakes, acting on emotions, and not just a “magic made ‘im do it!” scenario, which I highly appreciate.

There are characters I would’ve loved to explore in more depth like Scimina, Dekarth, and Relad. I felt like some of the revelations we came to about Dekarth and Viraine happened a little too quickly at the end there like it would’ve been better if more of this unfolded throughout the story instead of everything getting the big reveal near the end of the book, even if you pretty much suspect that’s how it will end. And I really wish we’d learned more about Darr. These are a couple of reasons that I didn’t give this a full 5 stars, but more like 4.5 stars.

Helluva story overall. I started the next book almost immediately, though I haven’t gotten in very far. Usually when I realize that the next part of a series won’t necessarily follow the characters that I’ve come to love, I feel a little apprehensive, but Yeine’s story mostly felt complete. (And I’m sure the gang will still factor in.) Did I feel Jemisin could’ve dragged this story on for a couple of books? Maybe, but only if she’d stretched out the story told in this book. But I’m actually excited to read about another character’s adventures in this world.

Note: This is an old review that I’m archiving for linking purposes.

Book Review: Stars Wars: The New Jedi Order: Traitor by Matthew Stover

Traitor by Matthew Stover

The issue I have with the Force is that the movies made everything so black and white. Give in to your hate and passion and poof, you’re dark side. The Sith have their code about killing all the things and power, and the Jedi have their code about not having sex and only killing all the things when you really, really have to. Both are annoying opposites and their philosophies and drama grow tiresome after a short time, more so when the struggle for every Jedi in the Star Wars universe includes going dark and staying dark, or going dark and finding redemption.

Thankfully, my recent gaming adventures into the Old Republic have renewed my faith in the Star Wars universe by providing numerous characters and stories that go deeper than the black and white/good and evil trope.

Yes, I did say Jedi Chicken.
Not to be confused with the
Jedi Bunny

Jolee Bindo started me down the path in KOTOR. In KOTOR2Kreiamy beloved and hated master (spoilers), truly broke this trope, and then Traitor took it all one leap further, with the help of a Jedi chicken named Vergere who was once a source of ridicule for me, but is now a subject of respect, curiosity and maybe even some awe and adoration.

I initially had trouble with the New Jedi Order series – though I only read the first book – mainly because of the new enemy, the Yuuzhan Vong. While I liked the idea of a dominating race outside of the Force, I got a little tired of the “organic app for that” way the Yuuzhan Vong could deal with every single thing (except Lando’s pocket world melters and those pesky Jedi kids). The events on Sernpidal broke the Star Wars bubble of heroes (not including Jedi Masters who need to motivate their padawans) never die and set the tone for the subsequent series.

I skipped several books to pick up Traitor, as recommended by my fandom hero, Beccatoria. That bubble breaking had continued (though I’d already spent enough time on Wookieepedia to know that) and we now have Jacen Solo (spoilers) dealing with his “death” with the help of Vergere who robs him of the Force, tortures him with pain and forces him to question everything he is and everything the Force is and is not, in order to find his own path that surpasses both the darkness and the light.

It is a very personal journey that we get to go on with Jacen that initially had me at about three stars, but once all was said and done and Vergere revealed her pride in her student/teacher, I found myself overwhelmed with curiosity about what this means for the future of the Jedi and Sith through Jacen’s … enlightenment.

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Graphic Novel Review: Dragon Age: Those Who Speak by David Gaider

Dragon Age: Those Who Speak by David Gaider
The Silent Grove re-opened a few issues raised in Dragon Age: Origins and the prequel book, The Stolen Throne, and added a few new ingredients. I was worried that Those Who Speak would fail to deliver an appropriate conclusion to all of that in a mere three issues – and I was right. Fortunately, Those Who Speak is not a conclusion, but rather an interlude where King Alistair and his companions, the pirate queen, Isabela, and the dwarven businessman, Varric Tethras, gain a new old ally and, more importantly, we get a further peek inside Isabela.

From book two onward, this is clearly Isabela’s story. Alistair’s hunt for his daddy and his dragon blood issues can wait. This is about the Pirate Queen that some players of Dragon Age II may have dismissed because of her penchant for sex, violence, sex, sex and abandonment. But in truth, despite being paid to accompany Alistair, she is fiercely loyal to those who earn her trust, even at cost to herself. Her devotion to her crew above all is admirable, as is her seemingly unbreakable spirit.

As much as I like the visuals, I wish David Gaider had taken the time to make this another Dragon Age novel, instead of a series of comics. In his novels, he has more room to expand on these characters and is skilled enough in his descriptions of the places, actions and events that he could have brought far more to the story and characters than we see here.

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The Stolen Throne (Dragon Age, #1)The Stolen Throne by David Gaider

I’ve recently finished two playthroughs of Dragon Age: Origins and in both, my Warden permitted the same fate for Loghain Mac Tir. It was the fate deserving of his crime against king and country, but I never could appreciate the reasoning given for his betrayal as there seemed to be so much more to Loghain. Hence my need to read the books that precede the game.

Gaider’s writing encompasses a lot of emotion, even in a character that seems limited to only a few. Barely 50 pages in, I already respected Loghain and even liked him, despite his harsh demeanor. Appreciation for King Maric was to be expected once it was established that he was much like his son, Alistair, in personality. But it was Loghain that I was interested in and the book did not let me down — though it also means I am heartbroken over Loghain’s ultimate fate.

Not that Maric’s story as the king seeking to reclaim his stolen throne was over shadowed by Logain’s story of the man whom he befriended, or the women whom they loved. Gaider put together an intricate tale of a kingdom torn, complete with well-written battles and action sequences. The characters are all well-fleshed out and their relationships go beyond the predictable romantic geometry. I can’t say more without getting into spoilers, but I was really surprised by the route Gaider took with the romances in particular. They were integral to the story and the shaping of the characters and I was surprised and impressed that Gaider did not aim for a typical happy ending for the king and kingdom.

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