Dragon Age: Asunder by David Gaider

Genres:  Fantasy, Adventure
Publisher: Titan Publishing Company
Publication Date: 2011

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Cole wasn’t dead. Yet at the same time, he didn’t exist, and he walked amongst the living.”

Strange murders have been happening in the White Spire. Rhys stands accused but he is innocent, and he believes he knows who the culprit is. He is about to be punished for his alleged crimes when he’s sent on a mission to retrieve a wayward tranquil mage. What he and the others discover will change the Circle and the mages forever.

Gaider has proven himself in the realm of gaming time and time again. His plot crafting in the Dragon Age series is amazing, which is why it was so disappointing to see this book fall flat.

The story feels distant. There is plenty of description of setting and fighting, but I never felt absorbed in the story.  It feels flat and empty. The writing feels as though it has potential but it’s stuck in the wrong medium. The descriptions felt like descriptive audio for something meant to be seen, not read.

The characters never reach their full potential. There are good ideas but Gaider never delves too deep into most of their characters. The relationships (particularly Rhys and Adrian’s friendship) feel stilted. The characters feel like they have a single motivation each and very little depth otherwise. Adrian is a character who wants freedom no matter what and is very angry about it, and that’s her entire character.

It was mediocre at best and the only highlight was the character of Cole, who was later taken on by Weekes in the games and written better. This is not even going into how a tie-in novel fails to observe previous events or lore in game in favour of doing whatever Gaider wants. Even some event that were not player-choices, things that happened no matter the play-through, Gaider chose to ignore.

If I read another tie-in novel for this series it will more than likely be by Patrick Weekes as I have no desire to wade through another novel by Gaider. Weekes has already proven himself more capable in the character department, and I hope that will cross over into his novel work.

Gaider is a brilliant writer of games, the world he made for Dragon Age is a huge part of it’s success, but he seems incredibly out of his element with this novel.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Red Queen

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Genres:  Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: September 29th 2015

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Greed may do your bidding, but death serves no man.”

Kaz Brekker has been offered a huge sum of money to complete a heist that he almost certainly won’t survive. Brekker assembles an unlikely team of five other specialized criminals and sets out to perform the trickiest heist anyone’s ever attempted.

It’s very easy to notice bad pacing in a book, but we often overlook good pacing. Six of Crows flows in a way that there is never a second of boredom, but the story has room to breath. It isn’t slow or rushed and I just wanted to take a second to appreciate that. Pacing is incredibly important in a heist novel and Bardugo has nailed this on the head.

We are given several different points of view throughout the story, five of our main characters narrate regularly (though Wylan being left out still irks me a bit). It’s hard to juggle this many POVs while also having a sense of suspense and mystery. This is something that Bardugo has managed. There are plenty of surprises for the reader, things that the characters don’t reveal about themselves until later in the book, things that are planned and put into place and not revealed until later. It would be terribly boring to read if everything was laid out plainly, which is too often the case with multiple POV stories. Luckily Bardugo has managed to show us inside all of the characters without showing us all of any one character.

Six of Crows takes place in the same world as Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. This was a sticking point for me, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to read and enjoy this book without prior knowledge. That was not the case. The world is built, and perhaps it was a little confusing at first but it’s easy for readers old and new to sink into. The world, because it has had other books to build it, feels deep and full even if we only need to see slivers of it for this story.

There is almost nothing to complain about in this book. The romances were a little convenient, I never like seeing every character pair off happily ever after, but they were so well written it’s hard to take issue with them. They’re not happy, flawless relationships and each couple has to deal with a different set of issues. The cast is as diverse and the problems they face with each other and despite how fantastic the plot and setting are, the characters run the story.

There has just been an immesurable amount of thought put into each character, the setting, and the plan. This is a magnificently executed heist and everything gets explained. There are no moments of glaring plot conveniences, even when the characters fail with their plans. Nothing falls into their laps and it makes reading immensely satisfying.

Bardugo has written a book as intricate and amazing as any trick that Kaz Brekker could pull out of his sleeve, and I cannot wait for the sequel.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Eon: The Last Dragoneye

Eona: The Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

Genres:  Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Publisher: Puffin
Publication Date: April 19th 2011

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“History does not care about the suffering of the individual. Only the outcome of their struggles.”

After shedding her fake male identity, Eona is now part of the resistance supporting the true emperor. Eona must find the emperor, Kygo, and help him regain his throne from his traitorous uncle Sethon. The task becomes even harder as Eona learns more about her past and her dragon. Things are not as simple as they seemed and no matter what she chooses something will have to be lost. There is always a price.

It was sad to see such wonderful characters handled so flatly. There was very little development, and any real development was simply dismissed or reversed. We have characters who are just evil down to their core and characters who are just good down to their core. Occasionally a good character will have a sudden burst of anger but Eona is the only character allowed to exist in shades of gray. However, even Eona has not changed, despite what the book clearly wants to believe.

Eona is the same, although made slightly less interesting with her major flaw healed. She is not anymore wise or compassionate by the end of the second book. She is still impulsive, incompetent and has to be propelled forward by other characters. She is only useful for her power, though several characters insist they value her intelligence it is never displayed. She gets by on her dragon’s strength and her special swords telling her exactly what to do.

In the previous novel the action made up for this. It’s alright for the protagonist to be flimsy when the book is mostly fighting, but for some reason Goodman thought a love triangle had a place here. Eon: Dragoneye reborn was fantastic partially because it left out romance, the inclusion definitely weakened this sequel. Eona is a husk; she doesn’t really have a firm character and just does whatever will move the story forward. Two men she barely knows fall for her and both relationships are poorly developed, especially the one she chooses. The love plot really bogs the book down.

Eona: The Last Dragoneye still has enough action to hold attention. The world is expanded from the previous book and Goodman continues to craft it carefully. It’s a beautiful world with lore and most of the characters who populate it are interesting even if they never develop much. Eon: Dragoneye Reborn showcased so much potential. The sequel should have been woven into a unique and beautiful story, but instead it just feels alright.

It’s a fantastic premise and plot, but it’s kept from greatness by it’s bland protagonist and weak romances.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Throne of Glass

Warriors: Tallstar’s Revenge by Erin Hunter

Genres: Childrens, Adventure, Animals, Xenofiction
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 1st 2013

1 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Sandgorse chose his own destiny. Why should he get to choose yours, too?”

When Tallstar is just an apprentice tragedy strikes Tallstar is determined to blame a rogue, Sparrow, and needs revenge. He will have to leave his clan and family if he is to punish Sparrow properly. Along the way Tallstar will discover that sometimes your friends know you better than you know yourself.

This is definitely one of the weakest Super Editions Erin Hunter as written. The age old adage “show don’t tell” seems entirely lost on this novel. Characters are meant to be the best of friends suddenly over very few interactions. The two characters barely know each other and I’m supposed to believe their ond is more powerful than anything because the book tells me so.

Unlike the other Super Editions I’ve read it does very little to give insight into Tallstar’s life. Why does he become leader? He doesn’t seem like the sort of cat that deserves the position but the book conveniently skips over any development straight to his leadership ceremony.

It dawdles far too much on his appreticeship and his travels and it makes his development seem sudden. Tallstar spends a huge portion of his life seeking revenge and in a split second he decides not to, which is reasonable, but he’s also totally fine with how things have changed.

It was a good premise, but it would have done better as a single book in an arc. As a super edition it tried to cover too much and left the characters and relationships suffering for it. We hardly see any growth, the book just tells you how the characters have grown without any evidence. Erin Hunter has written plenty of better super editions and if you’re not a completionist, feel free to leave this one out.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Crookedstar’s Promise

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Short Stories
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: March 4th 2014

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Life isn’t easy, no matter where you are. You’ll make choices you think are right, and then suffer for them.”

A prequel to the wildly popular Throne of Glass series, The Assassin’s Blade follows Celaena Sardothien before her stay in Endovier. Five short stories following her adventures as Ardalan’s Assassin. Pirate Lords, new friends, love and loss, experience Celaena’s life before the popular series and learn how she became infamous.

Prequels are a very tricky business, and writing a prequel that adds something to the series is difficult. Maas has done an absolutely stunning job with hers. In a lot of ways The Assassin’s Blade is certainly better than some of the books in the series proper and it is the only book by Maas to bring me close to tears thus far.

When the readers know the eventual outcome, as most readers of this novel would, creating shock and sadness becomes harder. Despite this Maas wrote five beautiful stories full of adventure, excitement and chronicling the beginning and end of a relationship that has hung over the series since book one. She writes a character that readers know is doomed, and it’s still impossible not to fall in love with him.

This is all dwarfed by what this series of short stories does for Celaena as a character. She has experienced quite a lot of growth in the main series, but this peek into her past rounds her out even more. Celaena starts the series broken, and seeing how she breaks, while perhaps not necessary, is incredibly beneficial to the series.

Prequels are normally something that you can pick up if you really love the series, or just leave it if you’re not interested. The Assassin’s Blade is certainly not mandatory reading to understand the rest of Throne of Glass. However I would strongly urge all readers of the series to pick up this novel. The dimension this book adds to the main story and character would be a terrible thing to miss.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Game of Thrones

Eon by Allison Goodman

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 1st 2008

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“How brief and hidden were the moments of destiny.”

Eon was rescued from the slavery of the salt mines in hopes that he would be able to become the apprentice to a Dragoneye Lord. Eon has a crippled hip, but there is an even bigger obstacle in his way, Eon is actually Eona. Females have been forbidden from practicing dragon magic. Eon’s fate rests on his ability to be chosen during the ceremony, and soon the entire empire will rest on his shoulders.

Eon is a weak character. For a main character they feel terribly like an afterthought. The plot moves dragging Eon with it. Eon is one of the luckiest characters I’ve read of. Despite being crippled and having no real charisma or practical skills everything falls into place for them. Eon’s allies are able to carry his weight and do everything for him while occasionally his power will pop in to save him. At no point does Eon do anything useful that isn’t just directly some ancient power moving him. In fact Eon constantly puts more obstacles in his way.

Despite Eon being a disappointment several of the other characters, particularly Ryko and Lady Dela are multifaceted and well written. Lady Dela’s existence as a transgender woman, referred to as a contraire, is handled with wonderful tact. Even the minor cast seems to have their own motives and personality, this is the book’s saving grace. The cast of characters (excluding Eon) is diverse and thrilling. It might be difficult to sympathize with Eon, who takes remarkably well to being a lord and inconveniencing others, but it’s easy to feel for the rest of the characters.

The plot is fast-paced and thrilling. Despite being a longer book there are hardly any lulls. From political intrigue to full out battle scenes, and miraculously none of this time is stolen by some contrived romance. Goodman’s blend of asian cultures to create a fantasy world is pleasing, and the energy dragons at the heart of the plot are extremely interesting. At times the plot does seem to dive into convenience. For a large portion of the book Eon is searching for an object which may contain something important but halfway through without any explanation Eon is certain the object contains what he needs. A battle also ends on a rather unsatisfying note.

It is frustrating to watch Eon constantly fumble for answers that are relatively obvious but the supporting cast, beautifully crafted world and exciting plot more than make up for his shortcomings.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Throne of Glass

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Adventure
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: September 2nd 2014

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“She was the heir of ash and fire, and she would bow to no one.”

After surviving years as an assassin, suffering in Endovier and becoming the king’s champion, Celaena has new problems to face. Her destiny is calling and she must finally face who she really is. Meanwhile witches, fae forces and strange beasts are all rising up for a war. A war that needs Celaena to turn the tides.

Throne of Glass never quite captured my hear the way it stole everyone else’s. It was definitely a good book, but it never felt explosive to me. Heir of Fire finally manages to bring the series up to five stars in my eyes though. It starts a title slow but there is much more going on now than in the two previous novels. it’s also nice to see grief change Celaena. Too many heroes handle grief with too much grace. Celaena feels real and effected. The previous books really end up tying together well and very little is forgotten.

The POVs were fantastic in this book. From Dorian’s budding romance, Chaol’s struggle between duty and good, Celaena’s new path and best of all Manon Blackbeak’s training. Manon is a wonderfully written character with a (mostly) blackened heart. Her POV and plotline really brought the book over the edge ratings wise for me. I would read an entire series about Manon and the other witches.

This book is epic, tragic, and beautifully put together. It’s exactly what YA fantasy should be.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: A Game of Thrones

Snow like Ashes by Sara Raasch

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Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopia, Adventure, Romance
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: October 14th 2014

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Even the strongest blizzards start with a single snowflake.”

For sixteen long years the citizens of Winter have been nothing but Slaves the the Kingdom of Spring. Only eight Winterians have managed to hold on to freedom. A general, the future king and an orphaned girl called Meira among them. Meira has never even known life inside the Kingdom of Winter, but she will have to give up everything she wants and loves just for a chance at saving it. Fighting against dark forces beyond her understanding Meira is going to need to find strength she didn’t think she had.

This book is a fun read, but it just feels done. All the characters are archetypes left very bare and basic.  The world building feels half-thought out and very cliche. The names are cringe-worthy (the capital of Winter is Jannuari).The protagonist, while realistic is sort of infuriating. She throws tantrums and complains about her predicament which isn’t bad on it’s own but the other half of them time she’s raving about how she wants to help her people, how she wants to matter (apparently only as long as it doesn’t inconvenience her in the slightest). There’s a love triangle, which is you know great.There’s also the horrible trope wherein arranged marriage is terrible and the worst possible thing (even when the prince is kind, brave and respectful of her boundaries). However, on the bright side the magic system involving bloodlines and conduits is quite interesting for as long as it lasts. Unfortunately there’s just nothing spectacular about this novel.

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READ THIS IF YOU’RE A FAN OF: THRONE OF GLASS

Warriors: Bramblestar’s Storm by Erin Hunter

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Genres: Xenofiction, Adventure, Children’s
Synopsis: Warriors Super Edition: Bramblestar’s Storm is an epic stand-alone adventure in Erin Hunter’s #1 nationally bestselling Warriors series! What happened to the warrior Clans after the events of the fourth Warriors arc, Omen of the Stars? In this never-before-told story, readers will dive into ThunderClan’s continuing adventures under the leadership of Bramblestar.

The Dark Forest has been defeated, and Bramblestar is now leader of ThunderClan. But the warrior cats must now weather a new kind of storm—or all four Clans will be swept away. Join the legion of fans who have discovered the epic adventures, fierce warrior cats, and thrilling fantasy world of the mega-bestselling Warriors series. This stand-alone entry is perfect for new readers and dedicated fans alike.

Bramblestar’s Storm also includes an exclusive ten-page Warriors manga adventure!(source: Goodreads)

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

One of the over thirty novels in the Warrior Cats series, Bramblestar’s Storm still manages to stand-alone and requires no previous reading. Although a reader new to the series might be a bit confused at first, everything will be explained enough for a new reader.

The book is not without it’s faults, Erin Hunter (really several authors working as one) is notorious for forgetting their own characters and plots. Although no cats were raised from the dead this time, there were a few mistakes which might bother a fan who’s read more of the series. The POV feels a little weak, it’s a character we already know so much about and the story could have been more interestingly told through someone else. The book also feels bogged down by too many events in too small of a time-span.

On the other hand it is interesting and it does introduce a few new, interesting characters for the series to use in future books. There is also plenty of action with battles and a decent amount of drama between the different cat groups.

For an adult reader it’s enjoyable, but nothing remarkable. Slightly older children (the series does have quite a bit of death and violence), especially children with an interest in animals will definitely love this book to pieces.

READ THIS IF YOU’RE A FAN OF: THE OTHER WARRIORS NOVELS