The Oracle’s Queen: Tamir Triad, Book 3

The Oracle's QueenAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: The Oracle’s Queen
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  Under the rule of a usurper king, the realm of Skala has suffered famine, plague, and invasion. But now the time for the rightful heir has come, a return to the tradition of warrior queens. And the Lightbearer’s prophecy is to be upheld at last: so long as a daughter of the royal line defends and rules, Skala will never be subjugated.

Now a mystical fire has burned away the male body known as Prince Tobin, revealing Princess Tamír, a girl on the verge of womanhood–and a queen ready to claim her birthright after a life in disguise under the protection of wizards and witches. But will her people, her army–and the friends she was forced to deceive–accept her? Worse, will the crown’s rival heir, friend to Tobin, turn foe to Tamír, igniting civil war in a fierce
battle for Skala?

Review:  It is a little shocking, if you consider how closely I came to not finishing the first book in this series, how much I ended up liking this.  I’ve said before that this just isn’t quite what I typically like to read in a fantasy book/series.  That is still true.  This wouldn’t be one of my first choices, but it would be one that I’d absolutely pick up and read again.

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Hidden Warrior: Tamir Triad, Book 2

Hidden WarriorAuthor: Lynn Flewelling
Book Name: Hidden Warrior
Series: Tamir Triad
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:  A trick of magic, a twist of fate.

As the orphaned nephew of the king, trusted companion to his cousin, and second heir to the throne of Skala, Prince Tobin’s future is clear. But not as clear as the spring in which a hill witch shows him his true face–and his secret destiny….

Now Tobin carries a burden he cannot share with even his closest friend, Ki, his squire. He is to rule–not as he is but as he was born: a woman. Given the shape of a boy by dark magic, Tobin is the last hope of the people of Illior–those who desperately seek a return to the old ways, when Skala was ruled by a line of warrior queens. They still believe that only a woman can lift the war, famine, and pestilence that have run rampant through the land since the king usurped his half sister’s throne. It is these outlaw wizards and witches who protect Tobin–and it is for them that Tobin must accept his fate.

With the unsuspecting yet fiercely loyal Ki at his side, Tobin must turn traitor against the only blood ties he has left. He must lift the masks of Skala’s rulers to show their true colors–before he can reveal the power of the woman within himself.

Review:  Thankfully this lacked much of the morbid factor that the first book had.  That opened up the story more for me to enjoy better.  It still skirts the fantasy genre line of what I like, though.  There are not a ton of elements that allow this to fit into that genre and is a big par of why it skirts that line for me.

Tobin’s whole situation is because of magic (which is mostly just background fact rather than situational substance), but outside of that and the extremely rare appearances of Brother there aren’t many instances of anything truly fantastical until late in the book.  Even then it isn’t really the focus of the story.   The focus is more on the characters themselves, their relationships and fighting rather than anything out of the ordinary.

I did like this, even though it isn’t my typical kind of read and is actually more of a young adult book, so I will be reading the last one in this series to see how it all finishes out in the end.

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Daughter of Blood: Wall of Night, Book 3

Daughter of BloodAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: Daughter of Blood
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Malian of Night and Kalan, her trusted ally, are returning to the Wall of Night—but already it may be too late. The Wall is dangerously weakened, the Nine Houses of the Derai fractured by rivalry and hate. And now, the Darkswarm is rising . . .

Among Grayharbor backstreets, an orphan boy falls foul of dark forces. On the Wall, a Daughter of Blood must be married off to the Earl of Night, a pawn in the web of her family’s ambition. On the Field of Blood, Kalan fights for a place in the bride’s honor guard, while Malian dodges deadly pursuers in a hunt against time for the fabled Shield of Heaven. But the Darkswarm is gaining strength, and time is running out—for Malian, for Kalan, and for all of Haarth . . .

Review:  So much better than the last one!  Instead of huge chunks of time seeming to just drag along like we saw in the first two books, this one picks things up and keeps a steady, intense pace throughout.  We also spend way more time with the focus being on our main characters rather than hopping all over between main and secondary characters.

Of the main characters, this one seems to focus most heavily on Kalan so we get to see his character growth first hand.  While we do see bits of Malian, they are small and with the little actual growth we saw of her in the last book and the short page time in this one, it feels like we’ve missed some important changes along the way.  That would have to be one of my only drawbacks to this, the fact that we saw so little of her.

The only other drawback, and it is more of a personal taste thing than anything, is the giant cliff we were left hanging off at the end of the book.  It is understandable that with an ongoing series that builds book to book that you aren’t going to see major story line resolutions and that is fine.  I’m just not a huge fan of a main character doing or experiencing something big only to not know the outcome.  As a major character, you know it can’t be world ending, but still.  Not a fan of the hang.  Sadly, I’m not seeing when the next one in this series is going to get released yet, so I’m going to have to wait a while to get any answers.  Otherwise, I liked this one the best of the series so far.

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The Gathering of the Lost: Wall of Night, Book 2

The Gathering of the LostAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: The Gathering of the Lost
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the towering mountain range called the Wall of Night is all that separates the people of Haarth from the terrible Darkswarm.

Five years have passed since the Wall was breached and the Keep of Winds nearly overrun. Five years since the Heir of Night, Malian, and her friend and ally Kalan went missing in the wild lands of Jaransor.

Now, in Haarth’s diverse southern realms, events are moving. From the wealthy River city of Ij to the isolated Emerian outpost of Normarch, rumors of dark forces and darker magics are growing. As the great Midsummer tournament at Caer Argent approaches, Haarth will have one opportunity to band together against an enemy in which few believe . . . or be lost forever.

Review:  This was a frustrating read.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still really liked this, but it took way too long to get to that point where I was still interested in what was going on.

It started out just fine and looked like it was going to continue from where the first book left of, but quickly turned into something else entirely.  Firstly with the entire focus being on the heralds from book one rather than on the two other major characters.  I get it.  Most of what went on was important to events later in the plot, but there was a whole lot of extra in there that could have been paired back.

Then there is another character perspective shift, one that made absolutely zero sense.  I had my suspicions as to the general path it was leading to, but there was just so much that, at that point, had no relation to the story so far.  A good half of the first 50% of the book fell into that “didn’t relate” realm that I very nearly called it quits.  Yes, I’m glad I didn’t as there was a really nice twist that helped, but it was just almost too much and it felt like a lot of the momentum that was built up in the first book got lost in this one during that apparently unrelated time.  By the time you actually got to the point where the familiar characters emerged and became a part of the story again and things got interesting with many of the magical aspects from the first book, it stalls out a bit again with the heavy emphasis on the tournaments.

In the end, we actually see very little actual page time or character growth from the two expected to be the focus of this series, Kalan and Malian.  What we do see is only just alluded to because there is a 5 year gap in the timeline of their story (which still makes them only 17 and 19, so still a YA book) so we don’t get to see what little growth they did have and how it came about.  That and the purpose behind the title of this book doesn’t even come into play until the very last 10% or so.  I do absolutely enjoy this series.  It is definitely unpredictable and doesn’t follow any set formula for a book in this genre.  There is just a lot of extra that tends to drag at the parts that are so good that it doesn’t break into the truly great class.

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The Heir of Night: Wall of Night, Book 1

The Heir of NightAuthor: Helen Lowe
Book Name: The Heir of Night
Series: Wall of Night
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


Blurb:  

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark–which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai’s former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian’s destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai–or Haarth–may have.

 

Review:  As with many new fantasy series (at least new to me), this one left me cautiously optimistic.  The world is wonderfully crafted and there is a full cast of interesting characters.  I was definitely pulled deeply into the story.

I was a bit surprised at the ages of a couple of the main characters because this wasn’t noted as being a young adult book.  Since Malian is 12 and Kalan is 14, this kinda sorta should have that label.  They aren’t the only big characters and all the rest appear to be adults, but Malian and Kalan are mostly the focus of this story.  I can say that many of the things I don’t like about YA books are not present here.  If anything, I had a difficult time remembering that those two were actually that young as they appear much more mature than their stated ages, so for me that was actually a plus.

I already have the next book checked out and ready to go, so I’m excited to see if book 2 holds up to what book 1 has built up so far.

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She Loves You, She Loves You Not: Julie Anne Peters

She Loves You, She Loves You NotAuthor: Julie Anne Peters
Book Name: She Loves You, She Loves You Not
Series: *
Order:*
Genre: Romance/Young Adult
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Seventeen-year-old Alyssa thought she knew who she was. She had her family and her best friends and, most important, she had Sarah. Sarah, her girlfriend, with whom she dreamed with about the day they could move far away and live out and proud and accepted for themselves, instead of having to hide their relationship.

Alyssa never thought she would have to make that move by herself, but disowned by her father and cut off from everyone she loves, she is forced to move hundreds of miles away to live with Carly, the biological mother she barely knows, in a town where everyone immediately dismisses her as “Carly’s girl.” As Alyssa struggles to forget her past and come to terms with her future, will she be able to build a new life for herself and believe in love again? Or will she be forced to relive the mistakes that have cost her everything and everyone she cared about?

National Book Award finalist Julie Anne Peters has written a compelling novel about coming out, finding love, and discovering your place in the world. Alyssa’s story will speak to anyone who has known the joy and pain of first love and the struggle to start over again.

Review:  I wasn’t a fan of this.  I’d have to say that is because this is not my genre of choice (another genre label mistake on the library’s part).  This book is a good example of why that is.

The majority of this book is really kind of a giant pity party held by the main character, Alyssa.  I get that is kind of part of the deal with this age range, but it is incredibly irritating.  I would not have picked this up if I had realized the entire book was going to be about a 17 year old girl.  I kept expecting something along the lines of her growing up and past that age (again, because of the label mistake).

I did read the entire thing and I think the only character in the entire book that had any redeeming qualities at all was Arlo.  I didn’t get anything at all from any of the other characters and that is the main reason why I couldn’t even rate this as an okay book for me.

Peeves: Unlabeled Genres

There isn’t much that is more frustrating when reading a book, and about a 1/3 of the way into it, you realize the book isn’t what you expected because it was missing genre labels.  This is something that has happened quite a lot recently, though, after a tiny bit of research, I think I have to lay this particular peeve squarely on my library’s shoulders.

My library tends to omit genre labels on an awful lot of their books.  At first, I thought that was because for some reason, the publishers or those marketing the books left those labels off in an effort to gain a larger readership as some labels will keep someone from picking the book up in the first place.  But after looking at a few specific books that were missing labels at the library, Amazon had them notated correctly, so it probably isn’t anyone’s fault but the library.  The three biggest labels they tend to leave off are Young Adult, LGBT and Christian.

The LGBT label missing is frustrating because that is a genre I read and I may miss a book that I might want to read because that label isn’t there.  Honestly, if someone isn’t going to pick up a book with the LGBT tag, then they are probably the type that is going to be pretty ticked to get into the book and realize what the subject actually is.  Leaving it off is just as likely to keep readers away from it as they are to bring them in.

Both the missing labels for Young Adult and Christian tick me off because I’m just not interested in either of those genres.  The only YA books that I enjoy are those by authors that I already love, and even then it is a stretch, so I generally don’t want to pick up a YA book unless I’ve specifically looked for it.  The Christian books are much the same, but more so because I honestly don’t enjoy any book preaching to me, no matter the subject.  Since there is a specific genre for this, it should be labeled as such.  And yes, my library does have this as one of their labels, they just don’t always use it.  Same as all the others.

It gets frustrating when I feel like I’ve wasted time reading a part of a book that I picked up based on the information I had from both the genre labels and the blurbs only to find out it so wasn’t what I was expecting.  It isn’t often that I will finish books that weren’t properly labeled.  Even the times that I’ve forced myself to plow through them, I normally don’t even like what I’ve read by the time I’ve finished.

I like it even less that I now feel like I need to look up a book in multiple places to ensure that what I think the book is, actually is.  Maybe by taking the time to do this I’ll read less books that I don’t like and more that I do.

Sworn to Raise: Courtlight, Book 1

Sworn To RaiseAuthor: Terah Edun
Book Name: Sworn to Raise
Series: Courtlight
Order: #1
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Seventeen-year-old Ciardis has grown up in poverty, a cleaner in a small vale on the outskirts of the empire. But beneath her empire’s seemingly idyllic surface lies a hidden secret. Whispers of an inept crown Prince are growing ever louder—intensified by the five year anniversary of the soulbond initiations.

Amidst scandalous whispers, Ciardis finds herself chosen to train for the Companions Guild. She leaves her home and sets off on a personal journey to become a Court Companion. A position she’d never thought possible for a lowly servant to obtain, she must prove that she has the skills to attract a Patron.

But she must master those skills quickly. If the legends are true, only Ciardis can harness the power to raise a Prince in an Imperial Court sworn to bring him down.

Review:  I don’t usually choose to read young adult books unless they are by an author that I already really enjoy, and often not even then, so picking up this book was unusual for me.  From what I could tell on Amazon, it isn’t actually classified as young adult, but based on the content of the story, it really can’t be considered an adult book.

The world this book was set in seems to be intriguing, but I didn’t feel as though there was really enough detail for me to really get more than just hints here and there of what could have been something incredible, which prevented me from really getting enveloped in that world.  There were even things that, on the surface, seemed a bit contradictory to what the world appeared to be.  In a magical, non-industrial type of world it is confusing to have mentions of things that lead the reader to think of modern or even steampunk types of things.  If those things are possible in that world, then it should be made clear, otherwise it is just confusing and difficult for a reader to imagine the world the characters live in.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of fantasy books that take advantage of the fact that since there is magic in the world that there are utterly simple solutions to complex problems, ie… the miracle, magical fix.  This books has that and to me, that is kind of like cheating.  You don’t really have to be creative to solve a problem, just introduce a character that can just magically make the problem go away without any effort at all.

Lots of bits and information in this book left me confused as to what, not only the world was supposed to be like, but the real end purpose of the storyline.  Since this is a part of a series, the overall plot seemed really thin, like there were lots of incomplete thoughts and ideas running around it in.  I’m not sure if it is because this was geared to a younger audience that it lacked depth (one of the reasons I tend to shy away from the YA books), but it felt like it was missing a lot that could have made it so much richer and more engaging.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad book.  I think that the series may have potential, but because there were enough things that bothered me and kept me from getting immersed in the story, I may not take the time to read more in the series.  If I do, it will be when I just don’t have anything else I want to read on hand.