The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

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Genres: Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin Group DAW Hardcover
Publication Date: March 27th 2007

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.”

Told from two different perspectives, Kote a down on his luck innkeeper tells the story of his childhood when he was Kvothe. When he was beginning to become a hero.

Rothfuss has set up a story more masterfully than I have ever seen done, or can hope to see again. The tale begins with an old, rather boring, innkeeper but quickly switches to a story of his youth told in-universe in his own voice. He weaves a thrilling tale of magic, dragons, death and romance covering a span of several years.

The world of The Kingkiller Chronicles is complex, but Rothfuss manages to set it up throughout the story. Never drowning the reader with information but giving them just enough to keep thirst at bay. The series itself is split into three books, each representing a day on which Kvothe shares his story. The set-up for the narrative is beyond brilliant.

The story itself is not fast, but the steady pace is supremely satisfying. Despite being only the first of three days Kvothe experiences many mishaps and adventures. He is not altogether a noble hero, but he’s a good person and it’s easy to connect with him. His pain and joys will become the reader’s as soon as they delve into his story.

The cast is wide, so many characters are left without development but Rothfuss has made sure that every character is exactly developed enough to serve their purpose. Kvothe and several others are deliciously complex while side character’s feel alive without being overly complicated.

This is the work of a master. Unlike much high fantasy it does not waste a single page of some seven hundred. There is no padding here, Kvothe is telling his story in exactly the way that it must be told. It mixes brilliantly adventure, fantasy and memoir. Rothfuss makes even the mundane enjoyable.

Not a dull page. A breathtaking world with a relatable protagonist. And, though I hate to use these words, a must-read for all fantasy fans. A true epic.

For Fans Of: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Genres: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: by Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: November 8th 2016

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“One to be a murderer. One to be a Martyr. One to be a Monarch. One to go Mad”

Catherine Pinkerton dreams of becoming a baker, but as a noblewoman in the kingdom of Hearts much more is expected of her. In fact, it seems like the King wants to ask for her hand in marriage! Catherine has no desire to be royalty, even less when she starts falling for the handsome court joker. Cath is determined to follow her dreams and find happiness, no matter what society or her parents want.

Some of the best stories are the ones where we already know the ending. I knew Meyer had set out to write an origin story for the Queen of Hearts and yet I was still so twisted up in the book that I began to believe in impossible endings just as much as every character did.

Unlike some retellings or in this case a pretelling, Heartless perfectly captures the whimsical world Caroll originally wrote. There is such care put into developing all the characters who would chronologically later be involved in Alice’s story from the mock turtle to the duchess. Meyer also manages to incorporate another famous rhyme fitting it in nearly seamlessly.

The world and characters are so masterfully crafted that it is easy to forget the inevitable end. Although there were a few loose strings, none of them were enough to really affect the pleasant reading experience. It’s also true that the romance is a little fast and the plot a little meandering at points. No book is truly perfect but I have fallen in love faster than the main characters.

Meyer’s choice to make a standalone bittersweet tragedy is wonderful. This could have definitely been a successful series should she have chosen to pursue it – but it’s more poignant when it comes to the end we are all waiting for. Meyer is unmatched when it comes to retelling fairytales, and though she chose to stay closer to the original source material with this particular book it was still incredibly successful.

A perfect prequel to a well-loved classic. This is not a book that will win every reader’s heart, but it’s quite possible you’ll be absolutely mad for it.

For Fans Of: The Looking Glass Wars

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Del Ray
Publication Date: May 19th 2015

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Magic was singing in me, through me; I felt the murmur of his power singing back that same song.”

Every ten years The Dragon takes a girl from the valley. Everyone knows that he will take Kasia. Agnieszka doesn’t want to lose her best friend, she prepares for years knowing that the loss will happen. The people have to give up a girl so that The Dragon will protect them from the evil wood. But when The Dragon comes it turns out he doesn’t want Kasia after all…

It’s very rare that standalone fantasies exist, and perhaps there is a reason for that. It’s very limiting to build a world and characters in such a short span of time but that is something the book succeeds at. The fault here is the plot, the characters and perhaps the writing style itself.

Novik manages to craft a complex world, with a magic system and politics in a little over four-hundred pages. Something it takes many writers several books to do. There’s a wide variety of characters but they all sort of feel the same. People in the villages are all interchangeable. Agnieszka’s main trait is being impressively powerful and dirty. The Dragon is a jerk. Kasia is wooden and one-note. Characters all have a single motivation and build their bland personalities around that.

There are some faults of course. I went in expecting to wholly love every inch of this book, so maybe I set myself up for disappointment. I didn’t like the romance. It felt out of place, underdeveloped and unnecessary. Not every book needs a romantic thread and this one certainly didn’t. The age gap is weird, their relationship is weird – it just feels like the book would have been better off without it.

The plot does feel a little dragged out but, for the most part, it’s fast paced and interesting. There’s very little focus on the political side of Novik’s world which I feel was a misstep but the main points still get across. The ending was…strange and left some questions unanswered but it was satisfying in a way. It was never properly foreshadowed so it felt pulled from thin air. It also robbed the Wood of being a unique villain to a pretty standard fairy tale one.

It is difficult for me to put my finger on exactly where this book went wrong, why exactly it isn’t the five-star dreamboat I’d hoped it would be. It felt sort of bland. The main character is stronger than anyone ever in history and learns special secrets and it just feels unfair. Deaths are common in this book, but not a single character we care for dies. It’s a safe, standard fantasy in the end. Novik built a wonderful world – but it’s not that different from many others.

I wanted to love this book, but it felt tedious to read and aside from the “shocking” ending it was all standard fair.

For Fans Of: The Bone Witch

Lumberjanes Vol. 3 by Noelle Stevenson

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Genres: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, LGBT+
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Publication Date: April 5th 2016

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Fighting monsters is the easy part. Back home is where the really scary stuff is.”

It’s free day at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types. Mal and Molly try to go on a peaceful picnic which turns into a terrifying adventure. Meanwhile, April, Jo and Ripley try to earn some of the more mundane badges that the camp has to offer.

Unlike volume 2, volume three actually seems to fit together. It keeps the same scrapbook style but focuses heavily on one plotline (aside from the first comic which seems to be filler). We get a full story about Mal and Molly in an alternate dimension intercut with the other girls’ hijinks back at camp. It’s a much more satisfying collection with a clear plot arc. Plot is often an issue for volumes as they’re just a collection of comics but this one flows quite nicely.

Unfortunately the art has continued to go downhill. Keep in mind art is very subjective so many may enjoy the new style but I personally found it offputting. While it is much cleaner than some of the previous issues the girls all have pretty similar faces and bodies now and it just wasn’t an attractive style for me. It’s enough to make me consider not picking up the next volume.

Ripley is another downhill slope. She’s gotten incredibly tiresome. Many cartoons and kids media have the wacky fifth wheel character who’s random and loves eating – it’s a whole archetype. it’s never been an interesting or good archetype though. There is good character development and plot going on around Ripley and she just feels like an annoying joke character added for some “wacky” humour.

On the bright side Mal and Molly really have some great relationship development here. We’ve seen plenty of chaste kisses (though not one on the lips yet) and it’s so CUTE. It’s wonderful to see a lesbian relationship being portrayed in media for children with the same innocence that heterosexual relationships are portrayed with. The highlight of this whole volume.

Overall Lumberjanes is still an excellent read for children. It’s wholesome, informative, has great role models, good humour and fun adventures. But it’s losing my interest as an adult reader – and although it obviously was not intended for me the best entertainment can be enjoyed by all ages. It’s definitely something I would get for any young girl but I might hesitate when recommending to older friends.

For Fans Of: Gravity Falls

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

Genres: Screenplay, Fantasy
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: November 18th 2016

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“See, they’re currently in alien terrain, surrounded by millions of the most vicious creatures on the planet. Humans.”

Newt Scamander doesn’t intend to stay in New York for long but when a series of events leads to his case being opened and the magical creatures inside escaping an adventure ensues. Newt must avoid being captured by MACUSA (the American ministry) while trying to rescue his creatures from the dangerous New York City streets in 1926.

Why bother reading a screenplay when you can see the movie? An often asked question, but I submit that the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay is absolutely worth reading.

While the movie is definitely more exciting, I felt a deeper connection with the characters through the screenplay. The occasional thought or emotional direction included makes the characters feel real. There is also the benefit of being able to reimagine characters whose actors you didn’t particularly like while keeping those you adored.

Furthermore, the book’s design is stunning. The art from the cover is present inside the book as well. Whimsical drawings of magical beasts and delicate designs cover to cover. It isn’t often you see a book this beautiful put together when the images serve no purpose to the story but it is absolutely stunning. Even if reading the screenplay is superfluous to you this book is a necessary to own beauty.

It’s funny, fresh and a sort of grown-up version of the magic we all feel from the Harry Potter series if very much present. Of course this isn’t the story’s best form, it was always intended for the big screen. There are a few discrepancies about magic and the way it’s used that don’t seem to line up with the original canon but overall it’s a whimsical story with a charming and lovable new protagonist for the audience to root for.

At least for Potter fans this book is a must-have to complete your collection. Others might be better off seeing it in theatres and deciding just how much they love the story before deciding to invest in the screenplay.

For Fans Of: Iron Cast

 

Magekiller by Greg Rucka

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Genres: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Publication Date: August 9th 2016

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

“The problem with magic is that it cheats.” 

Marius and Tessa make their living by killing mages. For Tessa it’s a job, for Marius it’s purpose. When they’re hired by a very unexpected and unwelcome client they end up in a world of trouble – luckily they’re saved by something worse. The end of the world.

I desperately want to love anything written in the world of Thedas as much as I love the games that take place there but Magekiller falls incredibly short of being anything remarkable. The six comics are brought into a volume but there has been no effort made to really bring them together. There’s no break between comics so you got from a dramatic moment to the characters explaining the basics of who they are with no indication that a comic ended. The six comics really don’t tie well together at all.

For so few comics there’s a surprising amount of plotlines – and almost none of them find a neat ending. It’s not satisfying to end up with your arms full of loose ends and a sappy rushed conclusion. Neither Tessa or Marius really experience any character development. It just feels like a mess. It’s a bunch of action sequences with minimal plot and character – which isn’t what Dragon Age should be.

The art style is alright, there are points when it’s a little sloppy. Tessa’s skin colour seems up for debate she ranges from very lightly tanned to deep browns with little care for lighting. The cover art for all the comics is impressive but the inside is just passable.

There’s a cameo for a few well-loved characters from the games, and that’s pretty interesting. The actual story and bulk of the comic, however, fail to be even close to satisfying.

For Fans Of: Asunder

 

Lumberjanes Vol. 2 by Noelle Stevenson

Genres: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Publication Date: October 13th 2015

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Someone tell me what’s going on or I am going to freak out, no one else is freaking out the appropriate amount right now.”

In the newest instalment of the Lumberjanes franchise Mal, Molly, April, Ripley and Jo deal with a new set of paranormal challenges. From dinosaurs to meddling Greek Gods nothing is impossible at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types.

Lumberjanes remains a strong and enjoyable comic series for girls and women everywhere. The story feels a little choppier and the pacing is a little fast but the heavy focus on the characters and friendship between the girls keep the story steady. The further inclusion of Jen, the sensible cabin leader, is also a great choice to give the girls a straight-(wo)man.

Being a collection of comics, it doesn’t read as smoothly as a graphic novel nor is the plot as complex. However, the choice made to style the volumes as “field guides” with each issue opening with a badge description is brilliant. It brings the book together and gives readers a little extra info about lumberjanes and what their camp is like.

The art does suffer a big in this volume, there are some issues that look way better than others and it still feels like Stevenson could have illustrated the issues herself for a greater effect. Still the diversity of the girls and the creative designs of their foes can be appreciated.

Lumberjanes continues to be fun for all ages if a little juvenile, a great feminist read if a little over-the-top, but mostly just a perfectly enjoyable story about a bunch of girls who are friends.

For Fans Of: Gravity Falls

Rat Queens Vol. 3 by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Genres: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Publisher: Image Comics
Publication Date: April 13th 2016

2 OUT OF 5 STARS

After stopping the end of the world the Rat Queens make their way to Mage University. Something has happened to Hannah’s father, and they intend to find out what. But nothing ever goes as planned when the Queens are involved.

Rat Queens is a series that started with a bang…but is, unfortunately, fizzling out. The third volume’s story is much more disjointed and the arc is much weaker. Hannah is the star, which is fine, but the other girls seem to be nothing more than background characters. Betty gets a huge reveal that’s pushed out of the spotlight for Hannah’s story. This is unfortunate because so much of Rat Queens relies on the amazing group dynamics and not the girls’ abilities to hold stories on their own.

The narrative isn’t as clear as previous volumes. There’s a lot of jumping around that makes very little sense and some filler side-stories who’s page space might’ve been better used on the main plot. Perhaps it’s a bit because this plot arc was too large to fit in one volume – but it ends up feeling poorly planned and just like nothing much has happened. The humour and sass are also almost completely missing from this volume.

The art style is, for the most part, a loss. The previous illustrator gave us diverse bodies and regular looking women. The new artist emphasizes large busts and butts and beautiful faces. They feel much more like fanservice than powerful women now. Some panels are quite beautiful, but there are plenty of panels that are poorly rendered perspective or just feel lazy.

The Braga special was the high point of the book. It showcases Braga as a transgender character without making that the focus of her story. It’s an absolutely interesting and beautiful piece in an otherwise subpar volume.

It is a shame to see something so mighty fall – but I still think that there is a chance for Rat Queens to pick itself back up again. Volume 4 could prove to be as much of a winner as Volume 1. We’ll have to wait and see.

For Fans Of: Nimona

Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson

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Genres: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Publication Date: April 7th 2015

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

Five girls: Mal, Molly, Ripley, April and Jo attend Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp. They’re excited to spend a summer experiencing friendship to the max! But the area around the camp has other plans – talking statues, hipster yetis, rabid foxes and some kind of Holy Kitten? The girls will have to use all their Lumberjane skills to get through this mess!

The first volume of Lumberjanes contains a fun and quirky plotline about friendship, girl power and fighting supernatural forest monsters. It focuses on girls and their ability to solve any issue. It has strong female characters that are strong in different ways without condemning any particular types of girls. April is not less for being more traditionally feminine. Unfortunately, the message can be a bit too strong at points. Which is fine for younger readers, but for adults you can already see the message loud and clear it’s frustrating to have it shoved down your throat to make sure you know this is feminist.

The art is adequate. I’m not a fan of the style and I much prefer Stevenson’s which is used on the cover. The art in the book isn’t BAD – it’s just not as clean and cute. It’s sketchy and why is April the only one with actual eyes? I’ll never not be bothered by the fact that she’s the only one with eyes. It also feels a bit like some of the body type diversity is lost without Stevenson. The characters are tall and thin or short and chubby depending n the different panel but Mal’s thickeness or Jo’s lankiness never really come through. It’s definitely not enough to dock the book more than a point and certainly not worth putting the book down over but it is a slight dissapointment.

The characters get little development, but they’re so colourful and clearly separate from each other that it’s easy to love them anyways. This is definitely a story you read for the characters and the relationship between them and the plot and art are only so-so. There’s plenty of great friendship moments and a decent dose of humour.

A great series for young girls readers – and maybe even older women if you like supernatural hijinks.

For Fans Of: Gravity Falls

Half Bad by Sally Green

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: March 27th 2014

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“But the more store you set in visions the more they have a habit of coming true.”

Nathan lives his life in a cage. As the son of a white and black witch, he is considered an abomination. He needs to find his father if he is to receive his gift and survive his seventeenth birthday. With white witches hunting him and no one to trust, Nathan has to search for help in darker places.

Half Bad takes witches and magic from whimsical into an edgy and gritty setting. There is very little magic used in the first book so it feels less like a fantasy and more like an allegory for race relations that just switched skin to witches. Although with more magic and whimsy it could still be a stunning allegory while actually being as thrilling as it should have been.

The downfall is the characters. They all seem sort of flat and stagnant. Either nice or not nice. Nathan’s sister is terrible to him past the point of regular sibling rivalry and that thread is barely explored. A lot of witches are evil just because they love being cruel and seem to have very few motivations. Nathan himself is a bland character who has little dialogue and trouble deciding if he’s a violent killer or a boy trying to do his best. Though the latter might be explained by his dual heritage.

The romance feels largely useless. It serves the plot very little and Annalise doesn’t have a character other than hot and interested in the protagonist. The romance could have been introduced more effectively later in the trilogy but as it is the romance feels totally out of place in the plotline.

The plot alternates between a fast and slow pace. There are exciting parts and parts that felt incredibly tedious. The o[pening chapter used second person while not actually referring to the reader which was unpleasant. The whole novel is building up to Nathan’s  “Giving” which ends up being sort of a flop. For all the build-up it got it wasn’t even a remotely exciting event.

Half Bad wasn’t an entirely unenjoyable story but it feels too much like the filler before the adventure. If I read a book about witches, I want magic full stop and Half Bad simply did not deliver.

For Fans Of: White Cat