Friday, December 17, 2010

Shaman's Crossing- Robin Hobb

This is the first book in the Soldier's Son Trilogy. It broadened my view of fantasy and also my ability to understand the emotions of characters.

The story follows the life of Nevare Buvelle, who is the second son of a newly appointed lord. As dictated by tradition, Nevare is destined to become a Cavella, part of the king's cavalry. But before Nevare can enter the Academy, he must first reach the right age.
While he waits to come of age, his training already begins. This training comes in all forms. But there are somethings that only an enemy can teach you. So, his father is forced to put him in the hands of a 'trusted' enemy. But Nevare finds that he is in a position where he may learn more that he wants. He barely survives the experience, but makes it through and manages to put the whole incident behind him. Soon, the time comes for Nevare to attend the Academy where all the king's Cavella are trained.

Here, he finds himself in a precarious position due to discontent between the older nobles and the newer nobles who were recently appointed to their position, like his father. The cadets take sides based on their nobility, and a war of sorts starts in the Academy. But this may not be Nevare's biggest problem. Sinister events are about to unfold and Nevare is thrown right into the middle of it all. His past comes back to haunt him and he must defeat this new enemy before it consumes him and destroys all the king's Cavella as well.

If your concept of a good, epic fantasy consists of glorious battles, epic love stories and heroes leading an army to victory over some evil king, then you may have to reconsider you opinion.
Shaman's Crossing shows how a little bit of all the components of fantasy- magic, battles, empires, power struggles, adventure- can be combined without overdoing any of them. What do you get after all of this? One fantastic book.

The story shows how to interpret a characters personality by providing and in-depth view of his mind and thoughts. How Nevare looks at world, his denial of anything which is out of the ordinary and his opinion of his eccentric cousin Epiny provides an exciting and amusing story.

This book is a must read for any fantasy lover.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Lost Hero- Rick Riordan

This is the first book in The Heroes of Olympus series, which is the second series of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
This new series picks up after the events in the first one which was centered around Percy Jackson. Percy Jackson was a huge hit around the world and this new series promises to continue the sensation.

In this book, the main protagonist is Jason. He wakes up and finds that he doesn't remember anything, not even who he is. But to his two best friends Leo Valdez and Piper McLean, he has been around for months. Jason, however, is sure that he has never seen the two before.

While they are on a school trip, they are attacked. During the attack they meet two demigods, one of whom is Annabeth. Soon, they learn that they themselves are demigods, the children of the Gods and mortal parents. They also learn that Annabeth is searching for someone who has been missing for three days- Percy Jackson.

They are escorted to Camp Half-Blood where they hope things will clear up. But things just get worse. Problems are arising, Olympus has sealed itself off and Jason still can't remember a thing. Not to mention Piper has worries of her own, worries that shes afraid to tell anyone of. The three of them must set out on a quest to find out what is wrong and hopefully bring things back to normal.

I have to say that I liked Percy Jackson a lot, and this is perfect continuation to that series. Things are pretty much the same as before. The only thing that has changed is the characters. Even that isn't too different. All the old characters are there, minus Percy. But they don't really play too important roles; after all, this is a new series and the old characters need to move aside for new, fresher ones.

The pace is fast, and the story is entertaining. I like the new twist of the Roman Gods. It lends the new series a different touch from the older one. The Greek ones are still there, but the Roman ones heighten the interest in the new series even more.

Anyone who read and loved Percy Jackson will definitely want to read this book.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Immortal Prince- Jennifer Fallon

This is the first book in the Tide Lords quartet. It is a new and refreshing take on fantasy.

The basic thing is, there are a bunch of immortals. But some off them can wield magic form the Tide Star; they are the Tide Lords. But they can only do this when the Tide is at High Tide. At Low Tide, they are just regular immortals. The Tide has been gone for a thousand years now, so the immortals have blended in with the rest of the mortals and have faded from society. They are only remembered as legends.

One such immortal is Cayal, the Immortal Prince. He has gotten bored of immortality, so he wants to die. But that's a small problem considering he's  immortal. But he decides to give it a try anyways. So he murders seven people and gets himself a death sentence. Everything goes according to plan, except that he survives his hanging.

Word of this botched hanging reaches the King's Spymaster, Declan Hawkes. When the prisoner starts to claim that he is immortal, he decides to investigate. Since he thinks that the prisoner is a spy and wants to avoid another hanging by pretending to be crazy, he needs to find a fault in his story. He gets his childhood friend Arkady Desean, the Dutchess of Lebec, to interview him and try to prove that he is lying.

Soon, Arkady starts to realize that the world really isn't as she, and countless others, think it is. Things are starting to change and soon she gets more than she bargained for. Plots start to unravel as the Tide Lords start to resurface after their long absence.

I found the Immortal Prince a delightful book. It was very interesting with an intriguing plot. It has many twists and turns which leave you guessing over what will happen next.

The Tide Lords is an experience in itself and anyone who enjoys fantasy will surely like this.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The High Lord- Trudi Canavan

This is the final book in the Black Magician Trilogy. It was a good end, but could have been better. See my reviews for the first two books also- The Magician's Guild and The Novice.

The story starts off a year after Sonea beat Regin in a dual. She is finally respected by the novices and even her teachers recognize her exceptional power. Not to mention, she is also the High Lord's favorite. But Sonea is not very happy. She lives in fear of the High Lord, with the memory of the night when Akkarin killed the man branded in her mind. She can't tell anyone what happened in fear of what Akkarin might do to her, Rothen or the Guild.

She moves along in life, learning magic. But soon, Akkarin starts showing her books on Black Magic. At first, Sonea doesn't know why he is showing this to her. Slowly, a more devious plot starts to unravel in front of her and she starts to realize that Akkarin may be the least of her problems. 

Meanwhile, in the slums of Kyralia, a series of murders is taking place which has the Guild and Thieves both confused over who is responsible. However, Loren, the Guild's Administrator, has his suspicions but hopes they aren't true. He may be forced to do things which he has been trying to avoid for a long time. 

The High Lord picked up very nicely from The Novice, but the story soon started loosing substance. It began to pick up again towards the middle and finished with a satisfying ending. If it wasn't for that lapse in the beginning, I would have found it as good as the other two books. The way things happened for Sonea and Akkarin was quite unexpected. 

Thats pretty much it. I think for anyone who likes fantasy, the Black Magician Trilogy is a must.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lord of the Shadows- Jennifer Fallon

The final book in the Second Sons Trilogy. A truly epic book with a nice and entertaining conclusion which left me utterly satisfied.
Make sure you have finished the first two books before you read this review. My reviews for those books are: The Lion of Senet and The Eye of the Labyrinth.

Dirk Provin is now with the Lion of Senet after pretending his betrayal to the Baenlanders. He seems to have put his faith in the Shadowdancers, whom he used to loath. But this betrayal has cut one person more than everyone else- Tia Veran, who had finally begun to trust him. However, unknown to anyone, Dirk is still working to bring down the Shadowdancers and his intricate plan has required this deception.

Soon, he will have to notch up the risk factor as his plan requires him to tread a dangerous line; one false move and Dirk will fail miserably and probably bring ruin to everyone who supports his cause. Soon, Dirk finds that he must now trust a person to help him accomplish his task. He must trust this person to play along his lines and to exactly what he says. But this may not be too easy considering that the person is none other than Marquel, who is someone without any morals and who will do anything to help consolidate her power. Can Dirk succeed?

Meanwhile, the Crippled Prince has been kidnapped by Tia, although he isn't complaining. He has just discovered how he was being manipulated by the Shadowdancers and his keen on revenge. This affects what Dirk has planned, although for better or worse no one can tell until the end.

I have to say, I was actually a little sad when I finally put down the Lord of the Shadows. The trilogy had come to an end. The three books had provided entertainment right up to the very last word.

I still am amazed by the fact that such a brilliant fantasy series was written without a single bit of magic or a mention of another race except humans. And it was good. These kind of books are rare.
I have mentioned in my other reviews and I will say it again in this one- I love the extremely complicated plot. Nothing can beat the tension built up as you wait to see what Dirk's next move is, how he manipulates people, and how he wiggles out of sticky situations.

Now, I have to mention how the character build ups have improved form last time. I was disappointed with Marquel's character in The Eye of the Labyrinth. Now, she has redeemed herself and is a perfect nemesis. She and Tia provide that hindrance to Dirk's plans which give the whole situation a sense of reality. After all, things never work out perfectly.

There were many other things I liked about this book but you can only understand my feelings by actually reading the book.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mockingjay- Suzanne Collins

This is the third and final book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. If you haven't read the first two books yet, I wouldn't advise you to read this review just yet. Instead, take a look at my reviews of the first two books- The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.

After escaping the Arena of the Quarter Quell, Katniss finds herself one of the newest residents of District 13, which was supposedly wiped out by the Capitol. She made it out of the Quarter Quell but the experience and the fact that Peeta is a prisoner of the Capitol has left her in a mentally unstable state. She slowly starts to recover, but the slightest provocation could push her over the edge. But with support from her mother, her sister Prim, and her long-time friend Gale, Katniss pushes along. 

She finds that the leaders of District 13 have high hopes about her. She was the one who inspired the other Districts to rebel with her act of defiance in the Hunger Games. So, the leaders want her to be the Mockingjay of the revolution, a person to whom all the Districts could look up to. But Katniss has had enough of the revolution and is sick of how everybody is using and manipulating her. She doesn't want to involve herself anymore in it. But she needs to co-operate if she wants to see one person again- Peeta. 
Also, she will have to decide where her heart lays: with Peeta or with Gale.

Well, I have to say I really liked the first two books, and I was a bit disappointed with this one. I had high hopes for it, bu it didn't really meet my expectations.

The beginning of the book was a radical shift from how the other two books began. It kind of threw me off. The events here were quite vague and didn't really suit the suspense built up in the ending of Catching Fire. 
Next was that a certain speed was lacking. Probably because the first two books were thick in the suspense of the Hunger Games quite early on. 
I also found the narration by Katniss in her mentally disturbed states disorienting. I couldn't focus too much on the book because I was putting it down so often to give myself a break from it.

Although, I suppose this different style is what attracts many readers. After all, the book has gotten a good reception. So, I suggest you try the book out for yourself and see what you think about it. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Eldest- Christopher Paolini

The second book in Christopher Paolini's famous young adult series- the Inheritance Series. A much loved book which continues the story of  Eragon in an enthusiastic way.
If you haven't read the first book Eragon, then skip this review and look at my Eragon review here. Then decide whether you want to read Eragon and then come back to this.

The story picks up three days after the Battle of Farthen Dûr, which is a mountain where the capital city of the Dwarf empire, Tronjheim, is located. During the battle, Eragon killed the shade Durza, earning him the name of Shadeslayer. But he also picked up another memento- a huge scar across his back which wracks him with pain at the slightest excursion.

In the first chapter itself, things start to get interesting when the Varden leader, Ajihad, is killed by Urgals. Murtagh and the Twins are also presumed dead after their bodies could not be located. Also, Eragon could not scry Murtagh. Amid this turmoil, Eragon must now adventure to the land of the Elves to complete his Rider training. He must also find the mysterious Mourning Sage who saved his life after the Battle.

In Ellesméra, the capital of the Elves, Eragon finds many new surprises and challenges. As he gears up for war, his cousin Roran fights a different battle back home at Carvahall. The Ra'zac have returned looking for clues to Eragon's whereabouts. They threaten the lives of Roran and every other person there. Roran's battle affects the destiny of Eragon more than anyone can imagine.

Eragon was a very nice read, and Eldest continues the story in a satisfying way. I will not comment on the originality of the series as a whole which has come under a lot of criticism. I just look at whether a book can interest me as a reader. Eldest has done that.

Compared to Eragon, the tone of this book is more laid back, which kind of better in a sense since it lends the story a more uniform pace ( remember I had talked about an irregularity of pace in my Eragon review). The character development was once again good. The new point of views lend a more refreshing look to the story and avoids a feeling of isolation as Eragon was stuck in one place with no word on the outside world. Overall, I think Eldest was a much better job than Eragon.

For those who were impressed by Eragon, don't hesitate to give this a try. If you weren't impressed with Eragon, then you should still give this shot; you may find this better.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Amulet of Samarkand- Jonathan Stroud

The first book in the famous Bartimaeus trilogy, acclaimed as one of the best young adult fantasy series out there.

The main protagonist is a djinni called Bartimaeus who has been summoned by a child, Nathaniel. Nathaniel is an apprenrice under a mediocre magician Arthur Underwood who is the assistant magician in Internal Affairs of the British Government.
Bartimaeus is a 3,000 year old djinni who has served under a number of other masters before, most notably Ptolemy of Egypt.

Nathanial was abandoned in his early childhood by his parents. He was raised by Arthut Underwood and his wife. Mr. Underwood started to teach Nathaniel magic. Around when he was ten years old, a very strong magician called Simon Lovelace had come to Arthur's house for an event.  Simon taunted Nathaniel and finally, Nathaniel snapped. He attacked Simon but was overpowered. While this was going on, Arthur stood by and watched, too scared to intervene. This caused a deep seated resentment to build up in Nathaniel towards both men. He vowed to take revenge on Simon.

So, when he was twelve, Nathaniel summoned Bartimaeus and charged him to steal a valuble possension from Simon Lovelace- the Amulet of Samarkand. But this theft sets off a chain of events which hurtles Natheniel into an adventure he was not prepared for. Will he and Bartimaeus make it through and save the day?

There are many things I liked about his book:
First is that the story is very unique. The concept of London as we know it being run by magicians who control various spirit-like things is quite original.
Next is Bartimaeus' absolutely brilliant character. He is extremely witty and humorous, and can make light of any situation. I loved his footnotes. They provided an amusing break from the story by diverting just a little bit.
Also, I liked how the story went along. It wasn't boring nor was it a on-the-edge-of-your-seat kind of adventure. It was a simple narrative given a twist with Bartimaeus' way of telling it. There is actually a noticeable difference when the point of view changes from Bartimaeus to Nathaniel.

All people should give this a try. It's a light read and provides a good break.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Game of Thrones- George R.R. Martin

Undoubtedly one of the best fantasy books ever written. I'd put it all the way up there with Lord of the Rings. It really is comparable to it.
This is the first book in the epic series A Song of Ice and Fire. It begins one of the most complicates plots I have ever come across.

It was quite difficult coming up with a suitable synopsis simply because there are 8 main viewpoints. But I have done my best. However, it is quite short since if I tell too much, a lot of surprise will be lost.
There are three main locations in the book where adventures take place- The Seven Kingdoms, On the Wall, and The Free Cities of Pentos.

In The Seven Kingdoms, Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, is visited by his close friend King Robert Baratheon. He is offered the position of Hand of the King since the previous Hand, Jon Arryn, died. Ned reluctantly accepts, mainly because circumstances have forced him to: Catelyn, his wife, received word from her sister Lysa, who thinks that her husband, Jon Arryn, had been murdered by the Queen. So, Catelyn convinces Ned to go to court and investigate. However, things never go as planned. For anyone.

Before leaving, Ned sends his bastard son, Jon Snow, to The Wall to become one of its Sworn Brothers. He must face abuse from the other Brothers there and try to prove himself to everyone. But soon, a long forgotten evil re-appears and Jon finds himself in a new battle, one more dangerous than any being fought in the Seven Kingdoms.

Meanwhile in the Free Cities of Pentos, Price Viserys Targaryen and his sister Daenerys are on an adventure of their own. They are the last descendants of the Targarayens who were the kings and queens of the Seven Kingdoms before Robert and Ned came and brought them down. Now they look for an army to help them regain their kingdom. But in order to do that, they must go down unexpected paths, especially Daenerys.

This synopsis is lacking a monstrous amount of detail, but the fact is if I reveal any more, things start to get really complicated and confusing. Not to mention long. The events are never along one line for too long. Things seem to be going one way, then bang!, they've stared a different path. That's one thing that I love about this story and the series as a whole. It has such a wonderful and twisted plot that always manages to surprise me. Even towards the end of the book, when you think that you've gotten the hang of things, something always rocks you.
One thing I can say is, George Martin is not afraid to take risks with his characters. He will build them up, make them look extremely important, and then kill them. Not just in this book, but throughout the entire series. I think that was a spoiler. 

I simply loved the book, but I can't pinpoint the exact reasons as to why. You just have to read and experience it for yourself. That's exactly what A Song of Ice and Fire is- an experience.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Eye of the Labyrinth- Jennifer Fallon

This is the second book in the Second Sons Trilogy by Jennifer Fallon. If you haven't read the first book, The Lion of Senet, don't read this review. You can take a look at my review of The Lion of Senet here and decide whether you want to read the series.

The story of Dirk Provin picks up on the Baenlands where he is hiding after escaping the Lion of Senet, Prince Antonov. He spends his days amusing the kids there and playing chess with the mad genius Neris. But he cannot remain like this long because people are working hard to find him. Also, Dirk wants to do something to help the people of Ranadon who are in the grip of the High Priestess Belagren and her Shadowdancers, who continue the illusion of the Goddess who needs sacrifices to stay happy. The people believe that if the Goddess is unhappy, she will send an Age of Darkness which is bad for everyone.

Dirk, however, knows that the Age of Darkness is a perfectly logical phenomenon and has nothing to do with the whim of this Goddess. His proof lies in the center of a Labyrinth in the city of Omaxin. But the Labyrinth is sealed and the only man who can open it is the mad drug addict Neris Veran. Dirk needs to get the secret from Neris. His task is made more difficult by the fact that Neris doesn't want to give away his knowledge. Dirk must find a way to learn what Neris knows and try to bring down the Shadowdancers.

Meanwhile, on the island of Elcast, Wallin Provin has just died, and along with him any protection that Morna Provin had from Antonov. Not to mention Antonov and Belagren are looking for the perfect to bring Dirk out of hiding...

If I thought the first book was good, this has to be even better. I couldn't stop reading it. It held to the last word. I also mentioned in my previous review that there was a complicated plot. After reading this book, you can see that everything just got a whole lot trickier. You can also see that the final book is going to have one hell on an ending.

In the previous book, I loved the character of Dirk Provin. This time however, I have to say I found one character just not to my taste. It was Marquel. To me, she was just to selfish, evil and twisted to be true. The story builds up a kind of flow which Marquel keeps disrupting with her excess character. But the story is so gripping, you hardly notice it.

If you've already read The Lion of Senet, you don't need me to tell you to read this book.