The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan – Review

Cover- Legion of Flame

Published: June 27, 2017

Publisher: Ace Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Draconis Memoria #2

Pages: 592 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Empires clash and a fell power stakes its claim in the second in a new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven’s Shadow Trilogy.

For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood–and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed–to fuel and protect its empire. But now, a fearsome power has arisen–a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it.

Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire and for all of civilization.


First of all, Iet me just say that I liked the print version infinitely more than the audio version of this series. The audio version of The Waking Fire dampened my enthusiasm for a book that I would have otherwise enjoyed and I decided to forgo that route on this installment. I’m quite glad I did because I managed to finish The Legion of Flame in a pretty timely manner and as you can see by the page count above, it’s no small book.

The Legion of Flame picks up immediately after the events of The Waking Fire and promptly introduces readers to a new POV. Though Sirus appeared in the first book, I have no recollection of him which really says something about both my memory and the lasting impact the book had, huh? Sirus is hiding from the legions of Spoiled and drakes dominating his city but is shortly captured, transformed, and essentially enslaved to the White. The White drake of legend has decided to wrest control of the world from the humans by either burning/devouring them or transforming them into Spoiled and this POV follows that journey.

“This is a kind of legion never seen before. A legion of flame, with which our monster-god will burn the world to cinders.”    – Anthony Ryan

Claydon Torcreek and the crew of the IPV Viable Opportunity are intent on journeying southward to the arctic ice based on a vision Clay had near the end of The Waking Fire. Their journey is quite perilous, though perhaps no more so than the journeys of our other characters, but the result could save the world from the White drake’s horde. Clay’s journeys have both had very classic adventure vibes, the first akin to explorations into the heart of Africa and this one reminiscent of documentaries I’ve seen on explorations of both the North and South poles with more than a dash of Indiana Jones thrown in. Stories like this make the world feel bigger!

Lizanne Lethridge remains my favorite of the characters because I’m partial to espionage. She remains as formidable as ever and surprisingly humble for one hailed as a hero and given the moniker Miss Blood for her actions at Carvenport. I actually prefer her role in this book- she contrives to infiltrate the Corvantine prison-city of Scorazin where she intends to track down the source of another of the Mad Artisan’s designs. I found myself relishing her POV chapters above the others because they were brutally fun and piqued my curiosity.

Overall, I thought the story wove together very well though there are some elements that I found irritating. I can’t explain it, but I struggle to enjoy many stories where past peoples were more advanced than those presently living. I always get a serious case of the eye-rolls when I read it particularly when it’s suddenly revealed and characters are simultaneously amazed and reduced to mere brutes intellectually. Also, I’m pretty sure they did more traveling than Bilbo Baggins and he managed to kill (or at least help kill) the dragon in only one book. Other than this, I enjoyed the story and will definitely be continuing on with at least one more installment!

Soul of the World by David Mealing – Review

Cover- Soul of the World

Published: June 27, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Genre: Fantasy

Series: The Ascension Cycle #1

Pages: 656 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A brilliant debut epic fantasy with a unique magic system and unforgettable characters.

It is a time of revolution. in the cities, food shortages stir citizens to riots against the crown. In the wilds, new magic threatens the dominance of the tribes. and on the battlefields, even the most brilliant commanders struggle in the shadow of total war. Three lines of magic must be mastered in order to usher in a new age, and three heroes must emerge.

Sarine is an artist on the streets of New Sarresant whose secret familiar helps her uncover bloodlust and madness where she expected only revolutionary fervor.

Arak’Jur wields the power of beasts to keep his people safe, but his strength cannot protect them from war amongst themselves.

Erris
is a brilliant cavalry officer trying to defend New Sarresant from an enemy general armed with magic she barely understands.

Each must learn the secrets of their power in time to guide their people through ruin. But a greater evil may be trying to stop them.


Honestly, I’ve been eager to read Soul of the World since I stumbled across it on Goodreads several months ago and had high expectations. I’m glad to say that overall it lived up to my hopes and, though not quite perfect, it was a riveting debut. It’s got everything I could possibly want in a fantasy book- a complex magic system, battles, and the comforting trope of the chosen one, though in this case it’s chosen ones.

Set in a colonial, flintlock fantasy era, Soul of the World provides a fascinating reflection of North American colonialism with more than a dash of French Revolution stirred into the mix as well. Personally, I love this era with all its finery and cries of egalité in the streets. There’s such upheaval and it lends itself quite well to a fantasy story. The need for a leader or hero in New Serresant is an opening that anyone with enough charisma or influence can fill which isn’t necessarily a good thing for anyone involved. While the elite are embroiled in their machinations, the soldiery is up against a foe that seems to know their every move, and the streets of New Serresant are about to erupt in riots. People are crying out for equality and a proper meal. All in all, it’s a rather compelling setting and atmosphere conducive to a tale of epic proportions and I haven’t even mentioned the tribes that exist beyond the Veil! The tribes were fascinating and had just as much as drama as the pseudo-European nobility found in the colonies. I’m glad to see the tribes played a significant role in the story and didn’t fall by the wayside as the colonial drama unfolded.

The magic system in Soul of the World is comparable to the story line in its complexity. It doesn’t overwhelm at the beginning and the reader is introduced to new concepts in digestible amounts. I found that as the story progressed it got more and more confusing because the basic rules (which were vague) were no longer applicable. Let me give you a brief and simplified overview. First of all, you have Binders which use the energies found along leylines to summon power. They can enhance their senses, break bindings, set things on fire, and heal to name a few abilities. Second we have the tribal people’s gifts which are more varied and rely on spirits. Guardians gain the blessing of beast spirits each time they defeat a great beast, meaning they can mimic its abilities. Shamans can see the future and the women have elemental magic. Lastly we have those individuals like Sarine, who has an invisible companion called a kaas, which is a gem-like serpent creature that grants her some unique powers. Like I said, this is much simplified but you can begin to see how much of a role magic plays in Soul of the World.

Soul of the World was an excellent debut and a fine addition to my book collection. The whole point of the book is to introduce readers to the characters that will possibly be ascending to a semblance of godhood. The interludes give readers a glimpse of those who currently hold that title and how they work to hinder or help those that may replace them. I found the introduction to the larger purpose to be somewhat unenlightened and felt that it really needed more than a bare handful of chapters to really make me care. The characters however… I loved the characters. Each of the main POV’s was inherently good and very likable. Erris d’Arrent and Sarine were awesome, though I wish the two could have properly met and had a nice chat together. Arak’Jur, guardian of the Sinari tribe, was just so darn honorable! Even the secondary characters were well-written and I would love to have had POVs for a few of them, especially Reyne d’Agarre. If you’ve debate whether or not to invest your time in this rather hefty book, you can stop now. It was a top-notch read that I would highly recommend and can’t wait to see where the sequel will lead!

Waiting on Wednesday – Iron Gold by Pierce Brown

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where bloggers feature a book that we just can’t wait to get our hands on!


cover-iron-gold

Alright folks, time to feature what may be my MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF 2018! I am SO, SO thrilled that Pierce Brown continued to explore the world of the Red Rising trilogy and I can’t wait to see what old favorites may show up again. Iron Gold is set after the events of Morning Star (decades after?) and will show the results and consequences of the choices made by Darrow and his compatriots. This is something that isn’t often done after a series is complete- the reader is usually just left to make assumptions and form their own opinions of the after effects. I expect this series to be just as traumatizing as the first and I look forward to it!! Iron Gold will be released January 2018.

Kangaroo Too by Curtis C. Chen – Review

Cover- Kangaroo Too

Published: June 20, 2017

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Kangaroo #2

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

Set in the same world as Waypoint Kangaroo, Curtis C. Chen’s Kangaroo Too is bursting with adrenaline and intrigue in this unique outer space adventure.

On the way home from his latest mission, secret agent Kangaroo’s spacecraft is wrecked by a rogue mining robot. The agency tracks the bot back to the Moon, where a retired asteroid miner―code named “Clementine” ―might have information about who’s behind the sabotage.

Clementine will only deal with Jessica Chu, Kangaroo’s personal physician and a former military doctor once deployed in the asteroid belt. Kangaroo accompanies Jessica as a courier, smuggling Clementine’s payment of solid gold in the pocket universe that only he can use.

What should be a simple infiltration is hindered by the nearly one million tourists celebrating the anniversary of the first Moon landing. And before Kangaroo and Jessica can make contact, Lunar authorities arrest Jessica for the murder of a local worker.

Jessica won’t explain why she met the victim in secret or erased security footage that could exonerate her. To make things worse, a sudden terror attack puts the whole Moon under lockdown. Now Kangaroo alone has to get Clementine to talk, clear Jessica’s name, and stop a crooked scheme which threatens to ruin approximately one million vacations.

But old secrets are buried on the Moon, and digging up the past will make Kangaroo’s future very complicated…


Still full of crazy spy missions, wormhole pockets, and bizarre descriptions of the time, Kangaroo Too was a tremendously fun second installment. I’m surprised at how little buzz I’ve seen for Chen’s sci-fi spy series and hope that my reviews of both Waypoint Kangaroo and Kangaroo Too will persuade you to try it out. These would make fun vacation reading material!

This time around Kangaroo and Dr. Jessica Chu (Surgical) have been assigned to go rendezvous with a contact on the moon in an attempt to track down Sakraida, former D.Int and turncoat. Everything is going according to plan until Jessica Chu gets accused of murder. They’re super-secret government agents so no big deal, right? WRONG! Dr. Chu is in custody and Kangaroo offers himself up as her defense attorney, which couldn’t possibly go wrong. Things only get more interesting from this point on – moon terrorism, secret government projects, moon bases, robot hordes, and clones. Every page was something new and/or exciting and kept me turning pages in anticipation of the next wild action scene. The combination of the characters and plot keep the pace moving along smoothly with nary a moment of boredom.

Kangaroo Too was definitely a fun read on par with the first book, Waypoint Kangaroo, and I was left with a certain sense of eagerness for the next installment. Curtis C. Chen has done a great job of incorporating humor into a serious plot arc. I was left with a goofy smile plastered on my face, pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed the antics of Kangaroo despite typically being put off by “funny” books. This book would work well enough as a standalone for anyone thinking of jumping in now, but as with all series, you’ll miss some key points/event from the first book.

Currently Reading: 6/19/17

Cover- Legion of Flame

The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan

Another heifer of a book on my reading list this week. Can’t wait to dig into this one and here’s to hoping I like it better in print than I did audio for the first one. I think I like the cover for The Legion of Flame more than the first book’s cover, which was AWESOME.

 

 

 

Cover- The Flight of the Silvers

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

I mentioned this one in my Stacking the Shelves post on Saturday… decided to go ahead and read/listen to this one before I read the sequel. So far it’s interesting and I have a favorable first impression. We shall see how the pacing goes – it’s over 600 pages in print.

A Gathering of Ravens by Scott Oden – Review

Cover- A Gathering of Ravens

Published: June 20, 2017

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Standalone

Pages: 320 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: 

To the Danes, he is skraelingr; to the English, he is orcneas; to the Irish, he is fomoraig. He is Corpse-maker and Life-quencher, the Bringer of Night, the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent. He is Grimnir, and he is the last of his kind–the last in a long line of monsters who have plagued humanity since the Elder Days.

Drawn from his lair by a thirst for vengeance against the Dane who slew his brother, Grimnir emerges into a world that’s changed. A new faith has arisen. The Old Ways are dying, and their followers retreating into the shadows; even still, Grimnir’s vengeance cannot be denied.

Taking a young Christian hostage to be his guide, Grimnir embarks on a journey that takes him from the hinterlands of Denmark, where the wisdom of the ancient dwarves has given way to madness, to the war-torn heart of southern England, where the spirits of the land make violence on one another. And thence to the green shores of Ireland and the Viking stronghold of Dubhlinn, where his enemy awaits.

But, unless Grimnir can set aside his hatreds, his dream of retribution will come to nothing. For Dubhlinn is set to be the site of a reckoning–the Old Ways versus the New–and Grimnir, the last of his kind left to plague mankind, must choose: stand with the Christian King of Ireland and see his vengeance done or stand against him and see it slip away?

Scott Oden’s A Gathering of Ravens is an epic novel of vengeance, faith, and the power of myth


Amongst the readers of the grimdark subgenre, A Gathering of Ravens has been highly anticipated and for good reason. To me it read like Beowulf meets the History Channel’s Vikings and held all the gravitas of an epic of old.

The story itself feels quite dense and isn’t something I could read all in one go. I read small chunks of story over the course of several days and still wish I could have spread it out a little more so it could be properly digested. Nonetheless, it was well written and I enjoyed the meandering journey taken by our characters Grimnir and Etain. Grimnir is known by many names, but for our purposes let’s simplify things and say that he is an orc from legend. Grimnir is on a journey of revenge and Etain is his unwilling guide to England and beyond to Ireland. Eventually she willingly accompanies Grimnir further than she truly needs to because someone’s got to retell this epic story of revenge, right?

A Gathering of Ravens is much more plot driven than character driven, making it more difficult to really bond with the characters as you read. I found that I didn’t particular care about their fates because I felt removed from the plights, successes, and failures they faced. I did warm to them by degrees as the story progressed but it took to around the 50% mark for this to happen. Grimnir’s revenge (a cool alternate title) is the primary plot arc, but the interactions between Etain and Grimnir’s respective beliefs is a close second. Prior to her capture, Etain was disguised as a monk and headed to the monastery of Roskilde to pursue her passion and bring the Danes to Christ. Grimnir is a believer in Odin, the great end time of Ragnarok and all the other Norse mythos that goes along with that. The two butt heads frequently, especially at first, but once Etain and Grimnir traverse the roots of Yggdrasil she cannot deny that the world has depths of which she was unaware. Grimnir also cannot deny that Etain’s belief in Christ is powerful and potent against his kind.

Overall, A Gathering of Ravens was very good and I would go so far as to call it a classic in the making, if only because of the subject matter and the skill in which Oden wove this story. This is essentially a story of revenge, but if you look a bit deeper, it is also a story of what happens when two worlds collide. Christianity is pushing out the Norse mythos, causing strife between those that believe and those that do not adding an additional layer of depth to an already detailed story. I look forward to checking out more of Scott Oden’s books in the future and hope to find some more awesome historical fantasy.

Stacking the Shelves: 6/17/17

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland

YAY for bookmail surprises! I had requested this months ago and lo and behold, it showed up! I really can’t wait to read this mash up of fantasy, history, and government agencies. Thanks to William Morrow for the finished copy.

The Song of the Orphans by Daniel Price

I was approached about this book and despite it being the second book in a series, I accepted because the premise was SO intriguing. I can’t wait to check this one out. Thanks to Blue Rider Press for the finished copy.

Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

Anything from Michael J. Sullivan is an automatic add to the TBR, thus the second installment in The Legends of the First Empire series made its way into my possession. I’m excited to see how the story continues to develop. Thanks to Del Rey Books and NetGalley.

Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

I recently caught up on The Great Library series just in time for the third installment. This turned out to be a haul full of great sequels! Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley.

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

This is probably in the top 5 for most anticipated YA sequels for 2017 and I snagged an eGalley! I’ll probably read this one as soon as my schedule allows and I’m sure it will involve a binge read session. Thanks to Harper Teen and Edelweiss.

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana

Books with libraries + Indian cultural influence = potential awesomeness. Sounds like it has some pretty basic themes underlying, but hopefully the author will have made it something really special. My thanks to Razorbill and Penguin First to Read.

Purchased Books:

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

By now it’s no secret that I love Laini Taylor’s books and I’ve already featured this as my current read… and now I’ve finished it. I highly recommend the audio version of this series! Review to come in a few weeks.

The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price

After receiving a copy of The Song of the Orphans I decided that I should probably read the first book (duh). The overview I read was thorough, but still didn’t satisfy my desire for details!

Review: Godblind by Anna Stephens

Cover- Godblind

Published: July 11, 2017 (US)

Publisher: Talos

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Godblind #1

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

For fans of Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, and Mark Lawrence comes a brutal grimdark fantasy debut of dark gods and violent warriors.

The Mireces worship the bloodthirsty Red Gods. Exiled from Rilpor a thousand years ago, and left to suffer a harsh life in the cold mountains, a new Mireces king now plots an invasion of Rilpor’s thriving cities and fertile earth.

Dom Templeson is a Watcher, a civilian warrior guarding Rilpor’s border. He is also the most powerful seer in generations, plagued with visions and prophecies. His people are devoted followers of the god of light and life, but Dom harbors deep secrets, which threaten to be exposed when Rillirin, an escaped Mireces slave, stumbles broken and bleeding into his village.

Meanwhile, more and more of Rilpor’s most powerful figures are turning to the dark rituals and bloody sacrifices of the Red Gods, including the prince, who plots to wrest the throne from his dying father in the heart of the kingdom. Can Rillirin, with her inside knowledge of the Red Gods and her shocking ties to the Mireces King, help Rilpor win the coming war?


I was initially drawn in by the cover art for Godblind, but quickly found myself interested for many more reasons than that. The synopsis was intriguing and the prospect of a brand new female author publishing some serious grimdark work had me sold! Now the real question is whether or not it was as awesome as hoped…. Well it was pretty great.

Let me go ahead and warn you that Godblind is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. I’ve read piles of books featuring violence of all sorts, but a particular scene from this book takes the cake- it actually made me feel a bit queasy which has never happened before. Even now as I recall it I find that I am perturbed. The violence was not gratuitous and changed the course of the story as it had been progressing up to that point, but wow, I wish I would have skipped that scene. Godblind is a dark, gritty fantasy where hope is lost and society is at a tipping point- primed to crumble only to be rebuilt in a crueler, colder fashion with blood as its mortar.

Anna Stephens introduces a truly impressive cast of characters from the very beginning with each POV having only enough pages to draw you in. I was impressed to find that I could actually remember who the characters were after about two POV chapters each, which is a testament to her writing skills in my opinion. That’s not easy to do and there have been a few too many books where I’ve spent hundreds of pages reading only to find that I have no idea who half the characters really are. Rillirin was a particular favorite of mine- she was a slave of the Mireces but escaped when she knifed their king and left him in a puddle of blood. I liked her personality and her story arc, which took her from fearful slave to persistent warrior in training. There was a surprising amount of betrayal this book and I was often second guessing motives and doubting allegiances. I also spent much of the book mulling over what exactly ‘godblind’ meant but it’s sort of explained nearer to the end.

Overall, Godblind was quite good, but perhaps a bit too brutal for me to say I enjoyed it, though I certainly have an appreciation for Anna Stephen’s storytelling skills. If bloody, dark, and brutal fantasy is your thing then you should probably give this book a go! I found conflicting US release dates (thought it was June 20 until 5 minutes ago) but I’m going with Amazon’s declaration that it will be released July 11 in the US.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi – Review

Cover- The Collapsing Empire

Published: March 21, 2017

Publisher: Tor Books

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: The Interdependency #1

Pages: 333 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

 

Synopsis:

The first novel of a new space-opera sequence set in an all-new
universe.

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.


I’m so glad I decided to check out The Collapsing Empire! Many of my fellow bloggers enjoyed it and I thought Old Man’s War was great, so I decided to move this to the top of my audiobook list. Scalzi has provided readers with a tremendously entertaining story yet again with such amusing characters foiled by a despairing plot.

As the title proclaims, the empire is on the brink of collapse because the Flow- an unexplainable space/time phenomenon that allows for speedier space travel- is beginning to show signs of degradation. This is not a unique occurrence, but it is exceedingly rare and has resulted in the total loss of two systems in the last millennia which, for the Interdependency, was a traumatic blow. The failure will surely spell the end of the empire, unless the new Emperox, a physicist, and a foul-mouthed house representative can find a solution in time. This of course has all the hallmarks of an interesting story, but Scalzi’s characters always make an otherwise serious plot into something with a humorous edge.

I found myself rooting for the ‘good’ characters and even sympathizing with those that I suppose you could deem ‘greedy villains’. I felt that Cardenia Wu-Patrick was by far the most developed of the characters and her ascension to the throne was done elegantly and believably. She wrought the most emotion from me and I got vibes of Behind the Throne and The Goblin Emperor from her side of things. Kiva Lagos was entertaining, though I didn’t find her character development to be anything but superficial. Marce evoked much the same opinion from me but I think he has the potential to become much more interesting and gain depth as the story goes along.

John Scalzi’s latest space opera is action packed and grabbed my curiosity by the horns and didn’t let go until the final page. I had a fantastically good time listening to this and caught myself smirking on multiple occasions at the dialogue and the dastardly machinations of the houses Lagos and Nohamapeton. Everyone seems to be a pawn to everyone else and it was a crap-ton of fun to see how plot threads tie to together and how the pieces fall. I hope the next installment will prove to be as exciting as The Collapsing Empire!