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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-04-14 22:46
Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder (2016 Review)
Storm Glass - Maria V. Snyder

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Four years attending the Magician's Keep, and Opal believes she's nothing but a disaster and a disappointment. Instead of being able to learn and practice new powers like other students, her one and only ability is placing a thread of magic within the glass figures she creates, which can then be used as a means for cross-country communication. Definitely not combat related, thus she is shocked to learn the Master Magicians have an assignment for her.

(WARNING: This reviews contains MAJOR spoilers.)

I quickly fell in love with the world of the much conflicted Ixia and Sitia all the way back in Poison Study. Not only was the book a perfect reminder of why I love immersing myself in works of fiction, but it created pleasant excitement for the future instalments penned by Snyder. It was then unfortunate that the following segments of the series only declined, leaving me disappointed and pessimistic. What my gripe essentially stemmed from was the character development of Yelena, and how she evolved drastically into a famous, almighty Soulfinder than could accomplish everything and anything. But whilst Yelena's magic varied to the extreme, Opal's was very limited... At first. It offered zero offensive and defensive capabilities, but it was extremely useful and beneficial to the Sitian council and magicians as a whole. This, after the sheer extent of Yelena's power growth, was refreshing and I welcomed the unique simplicity. Imagine my irritation that as the book progressed, new magical discoveries were made, each more powerful than the last. It's an easy assumption to make that history will repeat itself.

Opal suffered through quite a lot in her ventures, and made more one than one mistake along the way. Her insecurities could've been endearing, but I felt they became a little too much when she continuously refused to accept praise or compliments of any kind. She also displayed a hunger for power, which in itself was slightly off-putting, though to be fair, if I were considered a "one-trick wonder", I'd probably feel sour about it as well. Despite these faults, which definitely threatened her likeability, I thought she was an average protagonist with the potential for improvement. Perhaps if she was given room to breathe and grow into her own person, and not overshadowed by Yelena, which of whom played a part in this book and was mentioned regularly.

Of course the love triangle ticked me off, as they usually do. I just don't understand how they can appeal to anyone. It seemed, at least to me, that Opal settled with Ulrick because Kade didn't reciprocate her interest - it's ALWAYS selfish, in one way or another. It doesn't matter which one I favoured (Kade though), it just becomes unbelievably tedious.

However in regards to the other characters, I believed there to be a satisfactory variety. I actually became a little fond of Leif, whereupon I initially hated his immaturity. Zitora I liked, Pazia was a tad annoying, as was Ulrick. Kade was a delight, and I immediately wished him the love interest. The plot itself was eventful, yet at times confusing as it veered off into different directions. I don't think it needed to be as complicated; sometimes a straightforward story does the job just as well. I very much liked the in-depth look at the Stormdancers in particular, and I would've loved if they were focused on a little longer. Hopefully they make appearances in the next two books of the Glass trilogy.

Speaking of glass, I enjoyed the detailed scenes of craftsmanship found throughout the pages. I never thought I'd find an interest in such a thing, but the writing was very well done and inspired me to perform some additional research. I do appreciate when an author can ignite enthusiasm on a certain subject otherwise ignored.

In conclusion: Looking forward to delving into more Chronicles of Ixia, but let's hope they rise to the standard of the very first. It just strikes me as the protagonists get overly powerful, which takes all the fun out of them struggling for their survival.

Notable Scene:

The roar of the wind and sea ceased the moment the monster wave engulfed me. For one heartbeat, my world filled with gurgling sounds and foamy green light. Then the force of the crashing water slammed me into an unyielding object. The sea grabbed my limp body and tossed it about. Confusion dulled the pain until my forehead smacked into a jagged rock.

© Red Lace 2016

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/04/14/storm-glass-by-maria-v-snyder-2016-review
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-03-08 01:15
Hidden by Benedict Jacka
Hidden - Benedict Jacka

Hidden by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whilst rumours of his master's return circulates throughout the mage community, Alex Verus, Diviner and known "outsider", chooses to ignore the gossip and focus on something else entirely, such as rebuilding damaged friendships. An interruption comes in the form of abduction when Anne, his once housemate and valued companion, disappears in her home. Taking it upon himself, Alex doesn't hesitate to stage a rescue mission, which just so happens to lead to a shadow realm, belonging to the one and only Dark mage, Sagash.

(WARNING: This reviews contains spoilers.)

I started reading this series (Alex Verus is nine instalments long), in 2014, as it was one of the few in the genre that had a male protagonist. Being largely into Urban Fantasy at that time, it didn't take a genius to notice the staggering amount of females that dominated. Alex's trouble-making was thus refreshing, yet always struck me as having some issues that I just couldn't ignore. For one, the plot-lines primarily consisted of Alex saving women - not that I have a problem with the odd damsel in distress; I'm not a fragile flower that gets offended by a man coming to the rescue of a lady, but with the amount it happened it got repetitive pretty quickly. The fourth book, Chosen, turned the tables, and Alex was the one in need of saving by the strong females he surrounds himself with. I appreciated that instalment considerably more than the rest, hence my rating of four stars. This one, however, seems to have returned to its roots - the rinse and repeat of Alex being good at everything in full force.

The events that transpired in this one, whilst interesting to an extent, were very clearly filler. However I admit, I actually liked the concept of a shadow realm; the very personal domain of a Dark mage, where their deepest, most sinister creations can take form. In general, I find the darker side of mage society to be far more interesting in comparison to the lighter side. This isn't to say Light mages are dull - on the contrary, there's a lot of shady stuff going on there, but they strike me as far, far too political, at least for my tastes.

There's a part of me wishes the overall tone of the series was more adult, for the simple reason as to allow the malevolence of the Dark to shine through on a much more heinous level. As it was, I felt a little underwhelmed by Anne's recollection of her past - which consisted of her being forced to kill others in an arena. Yes, murder is ugly, but it just didn't shock me as much as I'd like, especially when it's been stated that Sagash was twisted and, most definitely, bad on all counts.

It's at this point that readers are very much aware of Richard, and his impending and much anticipated return. Richard's been a very prominent character from the beginning - Alex has never missed an opportunity to ramble on about his past trauma as his unwilling apprentice. I was hoping there would finally be some sort of reunion or confrontation, and whilst it did happen, it certainly wasn't as explosive as I wanted it to be. Despite being all together anticlimactic, it nevertheless set the foundation for what I assume to be the next book.

As for the characters themselves; Alex still had his obvious faults, but he remained likeable in personality. I'd most assuredly have him as a friend if I could, even if he'd probably get me killed. I've always been fond of Anne, though I considered her a little bit over-dramatic here. Arachne wasn't in it as much as I'd like, but I was thankful for Luna being absent for a large portion. The character I disliked the most was Sonder - he was the definition of annoying, clearly stealing Luna's spotlight in that regard. The introduction of the blink fox was, of course, the most memorable aspect - I hope it returns as a permanent ally! Goodness knows Alex will need it.

Veiled is the next instalment of this series and it was first published in 2015. It's currently on my reading list.

In conclusion - Yet another addition which I considered average, at best, and more than definitely filler. Hopefully the next will be more relevant and include dear ol' Richard!

Notable Scene:

It didn't make me any happier. My crude ability to see the future didn't make me any friends - the opposite, if anything. I had knowledge, but there wasn't anything I could do with it. I was left just as isolated, hating the people who'd ostracised me. Until one cold autumn day when Richard had stepped onto the schoolyard where I was standing, promising me everything I'd secretly wanted if I'd follow him and call him master. And I'd said yes.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/03/08/hidden-by-benedict-jacka
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-17 22:33
The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter
The Darkest Torment (Lords of the Underworld) - Gena Showalter

The Darkest Torment by Gena Showalter
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Baden, former Keeper of Distrust, has something new living inside him, something darker than any mere demon. Bound to the King of the Underworld, he struggles to fit into his new role of assassin, however his biggest challenge comes in the form of Katarina - a dog trainer that happens to be the wife of a very troublesome man.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

Let me start by saying that this instalment's number twelve in an ongoing series (Lords of the Underworld), and at the beginning - it's been seven years since I picked up the first book - I absolutely adored Showalter's steamy and mythological world. My very first reviews are of this series, where I found the characters, the stories, and the sexual heat all new and captivating. I even gave five star ratings to a couple, The Darkest Pleasure and The Darkest Passion. I had nothing but praise.

That time has unfortunately passed.

Whilst these books will always have a place in my heart, and I'll probably, against my better judgement, continue on until they come to a final conclusion, I'm truthful to myself in that I'm not enjoying them as I once did. At this point I'm just regurgitating my complaints, and it feels more like a chore to get down my thoughts. I'll however try and be coherent about my reasoning - why do I now largely dislike what was once beloved?

- The characters tend to fuse together, becoming indistinguishable. They're too similar, often having the same mental outlook, the same behaviour and even the same dialogue. Say a bunch of them were in the same scene and it wasn't directly stated who was speaking, well, I honestly wouldn't be able to tell them apart.

- The sex has become stale and it fails to thrill me anymore. What was once downright dirty has turned tame. I don't need an excuse to prefer the eroticism that once dominated the romance.

- Plot inconsistencies are plentiful. I'm not even going to go into detail, but it's clear that Showalter made a decision to change already established storylines. Baden's past in particular completely confused me.

- The writing's declined on a monumental level. Full sentences are a thing of the past. Example:

Heart pounding, she jerked her hands away from him. “Sex...from me?”

“Yesss.” A hiss. “Only from you.”

Only. Amazing how one little word could send pleasure soaring through her, warming her. “You told me never to touch you.” Which she’d just done, she realized. My bad.


Which brings me to the dynamic of Baden and Katarina, and how she ultimately considered him an animal in need of training. When someone doesn't even think of their significant other as an actual person, then there's undoubtedly something wrong with the relationship. I liked the hellhounds, though, but that's the only thing, and it's not enough to justify a higher rating.

As for the whole William and Gillian debacle - I just didn't care.

In conclusion: I initially rated this two stars, however I believe one to be more appropriate in regards to how I feel. I'm not into this series anymore, but I feel an obligation to trudge onward. If only I could walk away.

© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/17/the-darkest-torment-by-gena-showalter
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-13 13:13
The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson
The Devoured - Curtis M. Lawson,Jason Sprenger

The Devoured by Curtis M. Lawson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Desperately on the trail of his missing son, an old Confederate solider will stop at nothing to reunite the remnants of his family, even if he has to slay every trace of Utgard filth along the way. Finding unexpected companionship in a young orphan, the gunslinger closes in on the god responsible - Thurs, he who hails beyond the stars.

(WARNING: This review contains spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Curtis M. Lawson for giving me the opportunity.

If I wasn't so pessimistic about book to movie adaptations, I'd say this would make a brilliant film - in fact, I imagined it as such; Lawson's stunning use of words did wonders to create vivid imagery inside my head. I found myself thoroughly impressed by the intelligent, highly attractive prose, and by how each scene seamlessly came together to tell an exciting yet ultimately tragic tale. Despite being a short novel of less than two hundred pages, it expressed itself with a lot more substance than other full-length books I've read. A part of me wishes it was longer, but I realise it may have lessened the overall impact.

The character of the "old man" was probably the pinnacle; he was so utterly badass, and believe me when I say I don't use that term lightly. Smart, skilled, and completely unapologetic about his paternal devotion - he's someone I won't forget anytime soon. I'm not saying he was a perfect man, far from it, but he owned every scene he was in. He was the sort of being that would draw an entire room to his entrance, and not just because of his (suspiciously) large size. Emmett, however, whilst starting out with good intentions, truly lost his way as he succumbed to the unsavoury power of Utgard. I could relate with him in a way, in that I'm well aware of the pain of watching a parent slowly fade away. Nothing compares to that feeling of hopelessness, and if given the same opportunity, I'd have likely welcomed the same solution.

Moving on from that painfully honest bit of information.

As with all books I read, I tend to look deeper into things; for meaning in aspects that are probably meaningless. Both Emmett and his father shared a particular trait of being tall, bulky and at times, questionably strong. The fact that Utgard's a stronghold of giants, I was left contemplating a connection. Could it be, that the old man's ancestry is intermingled with otherworldly blood? If anything, at least, I can have my theories, incorrect and insignificant as they may be!

I can't say the Old Western theme has ever appealed to me, but I now feel inclined to seek out similar tales. Of course, few, if any, are going to have such a factual and accurate setting seeped in unforgiving folklore. The historic element of the American Civil War worked wonderfully with the touch of Norse and Native American mythology, and I was impressed with the knowledge poured into it. Either Lawson did his homework, or he simply knows his stuff. I also loved the brutality of the surrounding world- cannibals and witches, oh my! Seriously, sometimes witchcraft should be punishing, rather than glamorous.

In conclusion: The unnamed hero has been one of the coolest characters I've ever had the pleasure to read about. Whilst including both history and the supernatural, Lawson makes a short novel seem like an epic best-seller.

Notable Scene:

"Thought - critical, logical thought - that's what separates a man from an animal. That's what keeps us progressing further and further. That ability to think our way around any and every problem is why the Devourers fear us."

"And what about memory?" Hank asked.

"Memory is what keeps us strong in the toughest times, and it's what prevents us from becoming monsters when our hands are forced to kill. It's the memories of love and happiness that let us come home from the dark places where the world sometimes takes us. It's memory that lets a man find the strength to fight the gods themselves for what's right."


© Red Lace 2018

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/13/the-devoured-by-curtis-m-lawson
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review 2018-02-08 04:51
Eternal Samurai by B.D. Heywood
Eternal Samurai - B.D. Heywood

I didn't like Koji, I couldn't connect with Tatsu whose annoying overuse of Japanese made him even less appealing to me, I did not understand Arisada's love for a traitor and a cheater, I couldn't figure out why some of the characters were in the book to begin with, even less so why they deserved their own POV. Editing was poor. As in you're/your poor. Half imaginary star (since GR doesn't deal in halves) to make it up to 2 is for the truly evil villain. I liked him.

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