To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini

During a survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira Navárez finds an alien relic that transforms her life and will alter the course of human history.

I had early access to read part one of TSIASOS and I wasn’t enamoured with it. I enjoyed the writing style and the immersive storytelling, but the story wasn’t drawing me in. I had decided that I wasn’t going to bother reading the whole book, but then I was sent a surprise copy from the publisher and felt too guilty to ignore it. Already having read part one meant I could launch straight in to part two, which was just as well because the story still wasn’t really doing anything for me. However, I powered through and I have to say, I’m so glad I did. Part three really picked up for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book.

The writing is excellent. TSIASOS is hard sci-fi, and Paolini really seemed to know what he was doing. It’s quite a leap from The Inheritance Cycle, which is epic fantasy at its finest. They both have long, epic adventures and plenty of action, but the sci-fi nature of TSIASOS makes it a much more technical and intense read. I’m not a big sci-fi fan myself, and some areas did have my attention drifting, but I could appreciate that it was probably very well done and would definitely recommend to sci-fi fans.

The crew of the Wallfish were an absolute delight. I didn’t love Kira as the protagonist, but she grew on me as the story progressed. I do have to give special mention to Itari, who I adored. I’d love a spin-off filled with [Itari here]. There’s plenty of humour and comradery throughout the story, which provides some light relief from the intense plot.

I would say that my biggest complaint about this book is the sheer size of it. I would definitely advise reading an e-version (unless you’re a hardcore physical-copy lover), as it was very difficult to carry around and took me almost two full months to read because it was too big for me to carry in my handbag and take into work with me. I would say, though, that the fact that my only real negative about this book is the size of it, rather than anything to do with the content, is a very good sign.

I was disappointed to discover that there were no space dragons, but I did very much enjoy the space squids.

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

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Into the Crooked Place – Alexandra Christo

43550637._SY475_When a new magic threatens to destroy the realms, a gang of crooks must come together to do whatever they can to stop it: Tavia, a busker of illegal magic; Wesley, the criminal underboss of Creije; Karam, an underground fighter and Wesley’s bodyguard; and Saxony, a crafter in hiding on a mission to avenge her family. The unlikely team embark on a quest across the realms to defeat the sinister Kingpin and his dark magic, and save their home.

Into the Crooked Place was a fun read but it felt a little juvenile. The plot was pretty standard for a fantasy adventure, and the writing style is decent, but something about it felt very teen. Which isn’t a bad thing – it’s a YA novel, after all – but it just felt a lot simpler and ‘younger’ than the other YA fantasy novels I’ve read recently.

My biggest problem with this book was the characterisation: The main characters are a group of crooks and criminals. It’s an important part of the plot, but the author really struggled to get this point across while also keeping them likeable and entertaining. Instead of the characters having unpleasant personalities or actually doing anything particularly criminal, the author simply tells us repeatedly in the narration how dastardly and crooked they are. Wesley in particular is supposed to be this feared and heartless criminal leader, but actually he comes across as smart, witty and really quite sweet, likewise the rest of the main gang. I understand that it was necessary to make these characters likeable to the reader, and I enjoyed reading about them, but it completely failed in being believable that they were dangerous crooks.

What was good was the fast-paced and exciting plot, and the way that the characters came together. They all at least vaguely knew each other and were connected in some way – even if they didn’t necessarily get along – so coming together as a team did make complete sense, while their competitive banter was very amusing.

I don’t know if I’ll bother reading the second book when it’s out, but I did enjoy this fantasy romp.

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

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Heartland – Lucy Hounsom

29502271Kyndra Vale has reconnected Mariar and the lost land of Acre. But with the return of Acre comes the potential threat of invasion. In a preemptive measure to secure peace, Kyndra and her friends venture into enemy territory, where they find considerably more danger and unrest than they anticipated. Can Kyndra find enough allies to achieve her goal and ensure the safety of Mariar?

I waited far, far too long between finishing Starborn and starting this, but fortunately the plot isn’t too complicated to get to grips with, even if you can’t really remember what came beforehand.

To be honest, I wasn’t particularly bothered about continuing this series (which is why it took me so long to get around to it), but since I already had a copy of Heartland, I decided to give it a go. A good thing, because I ended up enjoying this book much more than the first.

Kyndra is still struggling to come to terms with who she is, and is still quite boring. The good news is that there are lots of other characters to liven things up, including a romantic interest for Kyndra to make her a little less doom-and-gloom-y. The story is split into a couple of simultaneous threads, with Kyndra & co traversing across Acre, getting into multiple fights, while Bregenne and Gareth take a trip to Umvast on a serious mission of their own. We’re also introduced to Char, a slaver who starts being harassed by strange people who seem to think he’s their leader. I could happily have read a book entirely devoted to Gareth and Bregenne’s journey. They’re a fantastic duo and their plot-line was definitely the most interesting to me.

Heartland is a proper fantasy adventure, and has persuaded me to finish the trilogy, despite my earlier trepidation. I will be buying myself a copy of Firestorm after I’ve published this.

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

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A Trail Through Time – Jodi Taylor

43445723._SY475_Having died and been placed in an alternate universe of sorts, Max is reunited with Leon and looking forward to a peaceful life together. Unfortunately, they don’t even make it past breakfast. On the run from the Forces of Darkness, aka the Time Police, Max and Leon travel from 17th century London to Ancient Egypt to Pompeii, eventually taking refuge at St Mary’s, where the fight against the Time Police comes to a head.

A Trail Through Time has the Chronicles of St Mary’s back on the up. I was quite disappointed with the previous book, but in this one the lighthearted humour and general madness is back. As this story is essentially made up of a chase through time followed by a massive battle, the pace is fast and exciting, with almost non-stop disasters and witty quips.

I’ve always enjoyed Max as a main character, but it was definitely a relief to have her back to being less serious again. Although there are still a couple of darker, more serious themes, the overarching feeling is one of joy and general excitement, which is definitely what I want from this series.

Suffice it to say, A Trail Through Time has restored my faith in Jodi Taylor and the Chronicles of St Mary’s. This series can be very same-y, so a break is definitely needed between books, but I’m looking forward to reading the next one when enough time has passed.

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

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Crowfall – Ed McDonald

42615701._SY475_Crowfall is the gritty conclusion to the epic Raven’s Mark series. The power of the Nameless lies broken. The Blackwing captains are being picked off one by one. The Deep Kings have grown stronger. Ryhalt Galharrow has spent six years in the Misery, absorbing it’s power in preparation for one final mission to defend the Range and stand against the Deep Kings, but all power comes with a price.

I can say honestly that the Raven’s Mark series is one of the best epic fantasy series I’ve ever read, and Crowfall was an excellent conclusion. It is engaging and thrilling throughout, and brilliantly written.

Galharrow is a fantastic main character, incredibly likeable despite being so rugged and grumpy, and he goes through some great character growth. By Crowfall, he has crossed over the edges of insanity, which is presented very effectively. I thought the inclusion of the ghosts of Galharrow’s past was very well done, and it was also nice to have some of the beloved characters we lost along the way to still be present in ghost form in the final book.

I would love to see this series turned into a movie, but it would need the full Lord-of-the-Rings treatment. It is an epic adventure with big battles, amazing scenery, gruesome creatures, magic, emotion and a whole lot of heart. I’ve seen other people refer to this series as GrimHeart, and I know exactly what they mean.

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

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Sampler Review: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars – Christopher Paolini

48829708Note: I was lucky enough to have early access to Part 1 of this book, so this is a review of just Part 1 of the story and NOT the entire book.

During a survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira Navárez finds an alien relic that transforms her life and will alter the course of human history.

I was super excited to get to read some of Christopher Paolini’s new book. I absolutely adored The Inheritance Cycle and couldn’t wait to get stuck in. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars is a totally new story, in a totally new location: Space. I really enjoyed the writing style. It’s fully immersive and very easy to read. Unfortunately, the story just didn’t grab me. I can’t put my finger in what the problem was. Maybe it was that I didn’t care much for Kira, the main character, or maybe it was that I’m generally not massively into space-fantasy. Or perhaps it was just the fact that it wasn’t Eragon. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I didn’t find the story gripping enough and, knowing how long the full book is going to be, I don’t have enough interest in it to read the whole thing.

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

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The Unspoken Name – A.K. Larkwood

48336125._SY475_On Csorwe’s fourteenth birthday, she is due to be sacrificed to her god – a destiny chosen for her at birth. But when Belthandros Sethennai shows up and offers her an alternative, she escapes death by running away and becoming his personal assassin. So begins an adventure in two parts: firstly infiltrating Belthandros’ home city and helping him to reclaim power, then going in search of the Reliquary of Pentravesse. Csorwe has to go through a lot to complete her mission, facing her past and making unexpected decisions about her future.

The plot of The Unspoken Name is quite ambitious, mixing high fantasy with a kind of science-fiction and a heck of a lot of action. There are gods, gore, magic and a decent amount of banter, but also some more meaningful elements regarding the choices we make and living with the consequences of our actions.

There was some excellent world-building, with the scene being set without too much time spent of descriptions, as well as some great character development. The story spans over 8-9 years, giving a lot of time for characters to grow and change in quite realistic ways. Csorwe was a good heroine, but I especially loved Oranna, Shuthmili and Tal when we got to know them better. Tal and Oranna in particular bought the majority of the humour to the book, and stopped what was quite a dark story from becoming unbearable.

One of the other great things about this book was the queer romance. Csorwe is 100% queer and faces absolutely no discrimination for this. The romance is relevant to the plot, but the fact that it’s a queer relationship isn’t mentioned or pointed out at all because, well, why should it be?

The Unspoken Name is a very exciting and well-written novel, remarkable for a debut. I would definitely recommend to fantasy fans.

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

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The True Queen – Zen Cho

43502690._SY475_Sisters Sakti and Muna wake up on the shore of Janda Baik under a curse and with missing memories. Determined to discover who cursed them and how to break it, the girls had to England to the Sorceress Royal’s academy for female magicians. But, on the way, Sakti vanishes, leaving Muna alone and terrified of what may have become of her sister. Finally arriving in England and enlisting the help of the magiciennes of the academy, Muna embarks on a mission to enter the Unseen Realm and rescue her sister from the Fairy Court and the powerful Fairy Queen.

First things first, I haven’t read the first book in this series, Sorcerer to the Crown, and you absolutely don’t need to. I understand that some of the characters appear in the first book, so it might be helpful for background information, but the main characters are different and The True Queen reads perfectly well as a standalone novel.

The narrative voice is quite ‘posh’ and old fashioned, which made it feel quite stilted and not particularly smooth to read. I didn’t really like this at first, but it really grew on me because it fit with the time of the story and the fact that the main characters were not native to England.

The story is fun, with some very sweet relationships and charming characters. Henrietta was an absolute delight, while the rest of the cast were also very likeable. The only real flaw was that the none of the characters seemed to feel any particular urgency to get on with important things, like rescue Sakti and prevent a war between England and Fairy – which really seemed like it should have been a priority. Instead they were quite content to be having balls and generally faffing about, before getting on with anything actually productive.

The True Queen took a few chapters to get into, but I enjoyed it overall.

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

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Spit and Song – Travis M. Riddle

48516172._SY475_Kali is a merchant who longs to travel the world, trading good and seeing the sights. Puk is a musician with a drug addiction who has hit rock-bottom and finds himself stranded in an unfamiliar city with no way back home. A chance meeting and an illicit job opportunity bring the unlikely pair together on an epic journey that could change both their lives.

As usual, I am blown away by Travis’ originality. The creatures in this book are like nothing I’ve seen before. Set in the same world as Balam, Spring, there are one or two familiar species, but also many more completely new and unique ones. The world-building, scenes and characters and all brilliantly developed, so the entire thing is very easy to picture while reading.

The plot is a little bit slow-paced, but this isn’t a bad thing. The story focuses much more on the journey Kali and Puk embark on, rather than their destination. They spend a fair amount of time making plans and preparations, discussing their ambitions in life and singing songs. However, there are still some pretty action-packed parts along the way.

The characters are brilliant. I loved Puk – he was rude and sarcastic but extremely likeable, while Kali had a good amount of attitude as well. My favourite character by far, though, was Voya the ujath.

The only thing I didn’t really need was all the very detailed descriptions of the different food items the characters consumed throughout the book. These were just a little distracting and unnecessary to me but, that being said, it was wonderful to see just how much thought the author had put into every element of the story.

Lastly, how stunning is that cover? And look out for me in the acknowledgements!

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

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A Second Chance – Jodi Taylor

35150831In Book #3 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s, time-travelling historian Max travels to 17th Century Cambridge to meet Sir Isaac Newton, the Trojan War, and the Battle of Agincourt.

I enjoyed the first half of this book a lot. Max’s trip to Cambridge to see Newton was as hectic and funny as ever, while the Troy adventure was detailed and (although maybe not historically accurate) really interesting. Some of it was a little bit heavy going (the Greeks did massacre the Trojans, after all), but generally not too difficult to read and added a good level of seriousness to an otherwise light and entertaining story.

However, about halfway through the book, the plot takes quite a surprising turn and the rest of the story focuses much more on some of the ongoing relationships of the series. I actually thought some of the author’s decisions were pretty lazy in terms of plot development, until things played out further and her plans became a bit clearer. Although I could accept that she had things play out a certain way for a reason – not just laziness – I’m not totally sure I liked what she did with the story.

The Chronicles of St Mary’s are still decent, funny and worth giving a go, but I hope Book #4 is better than this because there are too many of them to keep reading if they’re only going to be mediocre.

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