Book Review – The Daylight War

The Daylight War is the third of five books in The Demon Cycle by Peter V. Brett. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get through this series because I am enjoying it. I had to re-read the first book, The Warded Man, so that I could remember the details before plunging ahead into the later volumes.

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Here is the blurb:

On the night of the new moon, the demons rise in force, seeking the deaths of two men both of whom have the potential to become the fabled Deliverer, the man prophesied to reunite the scattered remnants of humanity in a final push to destroy the demon corelings once and for all.

Arlen Bales was once an ordinary man, but now he has become something more—the Warded Man, tattooed with eldritch wards so powerful they make him a match for any demon. Arlen denies he is the Deliverer at every turn, but the more he tries to be one with the common folk, the more fervently they believe. Many would follow him, but Arlen’s path threatens to lead him to a dark place he alone can travel to, and from which there may be no returning.

The only one with hope of keeping Arlen in the world of men, or joining him in his descent into the world of demons, is Renna Tanner, a fierce young woman in danger of losing herself to the power of demon magic.

Ahmann Jardir has forged the warlike desert tribes of Krasia into a demon-killing army and proclaimed himself Shar’Dama Ka, the Deliverer. He carries ancient weapons–a spear and a crown–that give credence to his claim, and already vast swaths of the green lands bow to his control.

But Jardir did not come to power on his own. His rise was engineered by his First Wife, Inevera, a cunning and powerful priestess whose formidable demon bone magic gives her the ability to glimpse the future. Inevera’s motives and past are shrouded in mystery, and even Jardir does not entirely trust her.

Once Arlen and Jardir were as close as brothers. Now they are the bitterest of rivals. As humanity’s enemies rise, the only two men capable of defeating them are divided against each other by the most deadly demons of all–those lurking in the human heart.

So this isn’t the book to start with and you should go back to read The Warded Man if you want to get into this series. While book 2, The Desert Spear, goes off on a tangent to explore other characters, their stories all converge in this third book.

After reading The Desert Spear, I understand Jardir and Inevera better, but I’m still rooting for Arlen in this tale. I do like that the other characters from The Warded Man, Leesha and Rojer, have both evolved to have their own goals and story amid everything going on.

This book does end in a literal cliffhanger, so be warned that you’ll need to pick up the fourth volume, The Skull Throne, soon if you’re reading this one.

Have you read any of this series? Let me know in the comments above.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising is the third and final book in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone Trilogy. I also listened to this in audiobook format, narrated by Lauren Fortgang.

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Here is the blurb:

The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

So this final book in the series brought everything together to quite a satisfying conclusion. I had guessed some aspects of the ending but not enough to spoil anything about it. I particularly like stories where the magic and the history come full circle and resolve something about the world, and this book certainly satisfies in that respect.

I don’t want to spoil anything by saying more here, but if you enjoyed the first two books, you will likely appreciate this conclusion.

For my review of book 1, Shadow and Bone, look here. Or for book 2, Siege and Storm, look here.

Have you read the whole series? What did you think? Please let me know in the comments.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm is the second book in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone Trilogy. I jumped right into this after finishing the first book and also listened to this in audiobook format (narrated by Lauren Fortgang). If you want to read my review of the first book, Shadow and Bone, you can find it here.

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Here is the blurb:

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

This second book picks up with Alina and Mal trying to find a life together in a new land. But of course, they can’t live happily ever after when this is only book 2! Parts of this second book irritated me because at the beginning it felt like the author was reverting to the same forms as in book 1. I started to tire of having the Darkling threaten to hurt Mal in order to get Alina to cooperate.

But once a certain privateer arrives on scene, the events took a fresh turn. Now I did get tired of Mal being surly and Alina hiding secrets throughout the book, but at least the characters change as the story unfolds. I also figured out one character’s secret before it was revealed, but the clues had been there.

The mythology and the history of grisha magic begins to be more important in this book which leads into the resolution of the story in the last book.

Have you read any of the Shadow and Bone books or watched the Netflix show? Let me know in the comments.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – Shadow and Bone

I started to listen to this series (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo in audiobook format (narr. Lauren Fortgang) after I started to watch the recent Netflix series encompassing the events of this first book, Shadow and Bone.

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Here is the blurb:

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

The country of Ravka is loosely based on some Russian or Eastern European cultures and is a tough place to live for the average peasant. I think it is that aspect, together with the romance aspects that gave this story echoes of the Hunger Games.

However, this is very much a fantasy setting, with magic and monsters aplenty. Interestingly, this is also a world in which technology has advanced in spite of magic, even to the point where it starts to threaten those in power. I found this book very easy to follow and it sped to a satisfying conclusion. While the story isn’t complete in the first book, it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger either.

The television show follows the book very closely, but mixes in events and characters from one of the author’s other series (which I have yet to read). Even if you haven’t read the books, you could watch the show without any spoilers for how the series ends.

Have you read Shadow and Bone or watched the show? Let me know in the comments.

Find more of my book reviews here.

Book Review – The City & The City

I had wanted to read something by China Miéville for some time and this novel came up in one of my book clubs. So I finally had my chance. The City & The City is a stand-alone novel that tied for a Hugo Award for best novel, won the Locus Award, World Fantasy Award, and Arthur C. Clarke Award, and was nominated for a Nebula Award.

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Here is the blurb:

When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.

Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives.

What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities.

Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.

Overall, this book just wasn’t for me. I found the author’s writing style hard to follow and I can’t pinpoint exactly why. Something about the sentence structure and the way he writes dialogue made this a hard book to get into.

The story started off intriguing enough with a murder investigation in a strange mish-mash of coexisting cities, their separation enforced by the mysterious power of Breach. I felt like the plot dragged and it wasn’t until about two-thirds of the way through the story that it became more suspenseful.

This next part is a little spoilery:

What bothered me the most about this book is that the most fascinating aspect – the nature of the two cities and rumor of a secret third city – was not the point of the book. The murder is solved and has a mundane explanation, while the third city is just a red herring. Meh.

Have you read anything by China Miéville? Would you recommend a different book of his based on my problems with this one? Let me know in the comments.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The Wind Through the Keyhole

The Wind Through the Keyhole is a story set in Stephen King’s Dark Tower world. Chronologically, it is book #4.5, set between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. However, the bulk of this story is not Roland’s, but rather his narration of another tale.

I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by the author himself. Actually, The Dark Tower series were some of the first audiobooks I ever listened to.

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Here is the blurb:

Roland Deschain and his ka-tetJake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy, the billy-bumbler—encounter a ferocious storm just after crossing the River Whye on their way to the Outer Baronies. As they shelter from the howling gale, Roland tells his friends not just one strange story but two . . . and in so doing, casts new light on his own troubled past.

In his early days as a gunslinger, in the guilt-ridden year following his mother’s death, Roland is sent by his father to investigate evidence of a murderous shape-shifter, a “skin-man” preying upon the population around Debaria. Roland takes charge of Bill Streeter, the brave but terrified boy who is the sole surviving witness to the beast’s most recent slaughter. Only a teenager himself, Roland calms the boy and prepares him for the following day’s trials by reciting a story from the Magic Tales of the Eld that his mother often read to him at bedtime. “A person’s never too old for stories,” Roland says to Bill. “Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old. We live for them.” And indeed, the tale that Roland unfolds, the legend of Tim Stoutheart, is a timeless treasure for all ages, a story that lives for us.

I’m sure it’s been at least ten years since I read the original series. It was nice to revisit Roland and his ka-tet, even if the story doesn’t dwell so much on them, but more on Roland’s past and a second story within that story. I think that placing this book after Wizard and Glass makes sense since that entire book relates Roland’s backstory as well. I’d have to re-read the series to see if it truly works there, as anything that follows the phenomenal Wizard and Glass has a lot to live up to.

The story of Tim Stoutheart was more involved, with greater room for character growth and a more intricate plot than Roland’s investigations into the skin-man. In many ways, it felt like an older fairy tale. I think that was partly because it filled that role for Roland in the way that it had been read to him by his mother, but also because it was set in a vague past and pitted the hero (Tim) against two different types of evil. However, the book doesn’t completely neglect Roland, showing some of how he deals with the loss of his mother. So in that respect, Tim’s own quest to save his mother is echoed by the recent loss of Roland’s, at his own hand.

Have you read The Dark Tower series? What did you think? Would you read it again with this book slotted into it’s place? Let me know in the comments.

Find more of my reviews here.

Book Review – The Ten Thousand Doors of January

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow is a book that intrigued me when it was first released in 2019. I finally had a chance to read it, and it is the best book I’ve read so far in 2021.

In the early 1900s, a young woman searches for her place in the world after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

This book can be described as a portal fantasy – where Doors open into other worlds and the story follows the characters who travel through them. Yet it is also more than this and is not a simple adventure through one such Door. The novel is written as a book within a book, with January reading sections of the strange book from the blurb as she explores her own glimpses of these worlds. It becomes more complicated than that, but I don’t want to spoil how this book evolves as you learn what is going on.

The characters were believable and January has to struggle through situations made worse by her race and gender. Every time she is told to “know her place” I wanted to slap someone. But she has friends who stand by her side through everything, and her dog, Bad, who never willingly leaves her side.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January was nominated for both the Nebula (2019) and Hugo (2020) Awards, as well as the World Fantasy Award and Locus Award for Best First Novel. I’m sure this book will end up as one of my favorites for 2021.

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Book Review – Black Leopard, Red Wolf

I listened to Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James as an audiobook (narrated by Dion Graham), and while this book is technically listed as book 1 in a series, it can be read as a single contained story.

Here is the blurb:

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?

I’m torn with my reaction to this book. It was certainly a unique read, but it is very much not going to be for everyone. From the beginning, this book depicts specific violence, including torture, rape, dismemberment of children, slavery, and cannibalism. The themes in this story are dark, and the author doesn’t shy away from any of it.

That being said, the fight scenes are very well-written and I could follow every bit of the brutal action. The fights are also pretty realistic in that they end quickly, the wounds are gory, and the narrator in this audiobook edition is brilliant in terms of his inflection and pacing (actually for more than just the fights).

The story is also full of sexual innuendo and acts, and it covers a full range of sexual preferences. This aspect felt a little unnecessary in a few places, but for the most part fit in with the overall tone of the story.

The timeline in this book is convoluted and Tracker’s story is told as he relates it to an interrogator after all the events. Within this story, parts are told out of order, and I felt like this device wasn’t necessary. It made a complicated plot with an extensive cast harder to follow than it needed to be.

Otherwise, I did actually like this book. Once I had the characters straight in my head I had to read on to discover what was truly going on. Tracker is not privy to the truth behind his search and has to decide who to trust and why everyone wants to find a mysterious boy. There is no clear good and evil here and everyone is acting for their own personal reasons.

This book is noted to be book 1 in The Dark Star Trilogy, but this volume wraps up the main events by the end without any cliffhangers. I can see the potential for a greater story. Given the complicated nature of this book, I’d probably have to reread it before continuing with the series in the future.

Have you read Black Leopard, Red Wolf? Let me know what you thought in the comments. Please follow the links to help support this blog.

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Book Review – Red Seas Under Red Skies

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. You can read my review of it here. (Please click on my Amazon links to help support this blog.) In keeping with my recent goal to finish or catch up with series that I enjoyed, I set out to read the next two books.

This review is for Red Seas Under Red Skies, book 2 in the Gentleman Bastards series. You should read the first book as it is important to know what happened to the characters before this one. However, the plot of this book is relatively contained and doesn’t absolutely require knowledge of the past events.

Locke Lamora and his best friend Jean Tannen have fled their home of Camorr in the aftermath of the events in book 1. Now destitute, Locke sinks into a drunken depression and resists Jean’s attempts to rouse him. They eventually start anew in the island city of Tal Verrar, known for its gambling and games. The story is told in alternating timelines to depict this, much like in book 1.

The two thieves flaunt the rules, of course, and scheme to break into the legendary vaults of the Sinspire. At the same time, they are recruited to work for the Archon of the city in a way that they cannot refuse. After trying to play both sides against each other, the plot leaps to the Sea of Brass, where Locke and Jean have to pretend to be pirates, never having sailed a ship before.

Of course their ruse doesn’t fool the real pirates, and things just get more interesting from there. I have no idea how all of these plot threads were brought together at the end, but somehow they were. The ending was satisfying but also heartbreaking, leaving some things up in the air for the next book.

The pirates are basically the best part of the book. There’s swashbuckling, sword-fighting, sailing, and ship battles! The characters were great, and the author works Locke and Jean into their lives perfectly.

I have already read the next book, The Republic of Thieves, so look for that review soon. Despite the devastating events that occur, there is much humor and enjoyment to be found in these books as Locke and Jean scheme to outdo themselves with each successive heist.

Read more of my reviews here.

Book Review – Master of Sorrows

Master of Sorrows by new author Justin Travis Call is the first book in a fantasy series (The Silent Gods). I received an e-book of this novel from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Please click on my Amazon affiliate links to help support this blog.

I picked this book up because I loved the cover and the description in the blurb sounded very unique.

You have heard the story before – of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.

But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?

What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world . . . or destroy it?

This concept was in line with some ideas that I’ve had for some of my own fiction and I love to subvert some of the typical fantasy plots and themes. However, I found that this book didn’t do enough in that respect.

Annev is a young man who lives in a strangely isolated village, where he studies and trains to become an Avatar of Judgement, along with some of his best friends. This training involves solving obstacle course-like puzzles, practicing combat skills, and learning about artifacts and magic. However, the use of magic is forbidden, so the goal of the Avatars is to search out dangerous magic items and lock them away so that no one can use them.

As Annev nears the end of his training, the rivalry between him and other students heats up, as the rules state that only one acolyte can graduate to the level of Avatar. Annev has to pass his trial, but feels guilty that if he succeeds, then his friends must fail. He searches for a way to bend the rules while keeping ahead of his enemies.

This part of the book took much longer than I had thought it would. Most of the story occurs in Annev’s village, and we never get to see much of the outside world. The main narrative is broken up by short sections that relate the mythology of the gods, but I had trouble making this relevant to the current events in the book (although it does come together more at the end).

Overall, Master of Sorrows read more like a traditional fantasy quest-style tale than I had wanted. And while Annev has some dark aspects to his character and a huge secret, he is still a good person at heart. He tries to do the right thing all along, and while that engenders sympathy and makes me want to root for him, I’ve read that story many times before.

Master of Sorrows is the first book in a series but still reaches a satisfying conclusion to most of the events relevant to this volume. The greater story still needs to be told, and Annev’s ultimate fate is still unknown.

Read more of my book reviews here.

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