The Gods of Love – Nicola Mostyn

38333559._SY475_When a strange man bursts into Frida’s office claiming that she is a descendent of Eros, the god of love, and destined to save the world, Frida has him removed by security and laughs the whole thing off. But after a weird meeting and an attempted kidnapping, Frida starts to think that maybe the man calling himself the Oracle was telling the truth.

Usually, I love any book based on mythology, but this one really wasn’t that great. I think it was the comparison to Bridget Jones and Neil Gaiman that got me: it’s really nothing like either. Granted, The Gods of Love would fall under the same genre as Bridget Jones, being a typical comedy/romance novel with a feisty female lead, but it simply doesn’t have Jones’ heart and wit. The comparison to Gaiman honestly makes no sense to me whatsoever. So it has some gods and some mythology in it; it takes a lot more than that to be anything at all like one of Gaiman’s books.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with what it is, once the false comparisons are removed. As far as books of this genre go, this one certainly wasn’t bad, but it could have been so much better.

The story is fun and fast-paced, with a good amount of magic and fantasy thrown in there. Despite love being a prominent theme throughout the book, the romantic element between the characters is quite slow-build and not overdone. I liked that the story wasn’t all about the relationship between Dan and Frida, largely because I struggled to feel the chemistry between them a lot of the time. It rather felt like they were forced together for the sake of having a romantic story-line in a book about love.

Frida herself, I didn’t love. She was clearly supposed to be a strong, kick-ass female, but to be honest I found her a little bit annoying.

The Gods of Love is a light and decent enough read. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t special.

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War of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

44780383._SY475_Following on from the events in book #2, Reign of Mist, tensions are running high across the realm. Bleak and Casimir are searching for the one thing that might give them an advantage over Ines, while the others are preparing for battle.

The Oremere Chronicles has been one of my all-time favourite fantasy series. It has everything: magic, action, humour, spunky characters, giant wild cats, friendship, betrayal, epic battles, a little bit of romance, fantastic world building and great plot development.

There are so many strong female characters. These books are very feminist and filled to the brim with powerful women, but the male characters aren’t pushed to the side or forgotten. Every single character brings something significant to the story, and they all have unique, memorable personalities despite there being so many different characters. I could go on for hours about each character individually, but my best advice would be to read the book and fall in love with them yourself.

There is a teeny bit of romance, but that is very much a minor element in the plot. It was actually a cross between very enjoyable and quite frustrating because I shipped everyone in this book. Especially Bleak – I shipped her with almost every other character: Dash, Bren, Fiore, Cazimir, Henri, even Swinton once or twice. To be honest, I think I’d have been happy with any outcome on that front.

Being the third and final part of the trilogy, the story comes to an eventful – and at times traumatic – climax. I won’t spoil it, but prepare to weep in between moments of triumph.

Overall, this series was truly excellent. I loved every second of all three books, and War of Mist did not let the series down at all. It might even have been my favourite. I can’t wait to see what Helen Scheuerer comes up with next.

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

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Reign of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

39216289.jpgIn book #2 of The Oremere Chronicles, it is all kicking off. As more people learn the truth behind the deadly mist and King Arden’s treachery, war is brewing. Scattered across continents, Bleak and her friends are forced to choose sides, forge their own alliances and prepare themselves for the battles ahead.

I adored book #1 in this series, Heart of Mist, so I was really excited to get straight on with reading book #2. It didn’t disappoint.

At the start of the book, all our main players are separated and spread out across the continents. This meant there were a few different threads to follow simultaneously. Initially, I was concerned that this would make the story too complicated (and one of my favourite things about this series has been the relationships between characters, so splitting them up was not so good), but fortunately the whole gang was reunited fairly quickly and all my concerns were dispelled.

The plot progresses much quicker in this book. There are a lot of characters to follow and a lot of politics to cover, but none of it felt rushed or lacking in detail. The pacing was pretty much spot on to keep the story moving and maintain excitement. The story really comes to life through Scheuerer’s brilliant writing, fantastic characters and strong world-building.

I haven’t enjoyed a YA fantasy series this much in so long.

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

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Heart of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

34865933All Bleak wants is a cure for her power. The ability to hear the thoughts of others may seem like a gift, but when the only way to drown it out is through copious amounts of alcohol, it’s more of a curse. Despite never telling anyone of her abilities, Bleak is suddenly snatched from her home by the King’s Army and summoned to the capital. But the journey doesn’t quite go according to plan as Bleak is rescued by the queen of a nation if female warriors, the Valian Kindred. Saved from one form of captivity and pulled straight into another, Bleak finds herself right in the middle of a power-struggle, with a much bigger role than she ever could have anticipated.

It’s really difficult to guess which YA/New Adult Fantasy books are going to be good, and which are going to be mediocre. As a serious fantasy lover, I haven’t come across many that I thought were bad, but truly great ones are few and far between. Heart of Mist is one of them. I absolutely loved it, from cover to cover.

I pretty much loved every character. Bleak was probably my least favourite, but she’s got tough competition and, with the full cast supporting her, she’s a fantastic protagonist. I adored Fiore from the moment we meet him and thought he would be my instant favourite, but then we were introduced to the Valians and suddenly everyone was my favourite. Even Swinton really grew on me as the story progressed.

The plot is fairly slow paced, but because the characters were so fantastic and I know there’s more to come in the series, I was totally fine with the pacing. The story has a good amount of depth to it, with the main story line being backed up by a couple of mysteries which I’m really looking forward to finding out more about.

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

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The Raven Tower – Ann Leckie

39395857.jpgFor centuries, the Raven has watched over and protected the kingdom of Iraden. His power is sustained by the sacrifice of Iraden’s ruler, the Raven’s Lease, every generation. But when the Lease disappears without paying his debt and a usurper takes the throne, the power of the Raven appears to be dwindling. Is he even there at all? It is left to Eolo, loyal aide to the true heir, Mawat, to uncover the truth hidden inside the Raven’s Tower.

The writing style is really interesting. It’s written in the second person, from the point-of-view of The Strength and Patience of the Hill, to Eolo, the character who the story follows. This has the effect of placing the reader inside the story, using a really unusual technique. However, this was a bit of a double-edged sword because, while being new and different is both good and impressive, it took me a really long time to get used to the style which stopped me from being able to get into the story.

The lore in this book is very good. The system of the gods and their magics has been well thought-through, and I love gods and mythology so this really worked for me. It was interesting to be following the humans and the gods simultaneously, but it was sometimes a bit confusing because it took a minute to work out which thread we were on with each new chapter.

The Raven’s Tower is a good book, and a solid piece of fantasy-fiction. But the pace is slow and it took me a looooooong time to read, despite not being that long. For that reason alone, I can’t give it full marks, but it is worth a read.

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

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Bored Of The Rings – The Harvard Lampoon

45298617.jpgThis funny, rude parody of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings tells the story of Frito the boggie and his friends, Goodgulf, Arrowroot, Legolam, Gimlet and the rest as they head off to destroy a magic ring in the pits of Fordor.

Honestly, the best thing about this book is that they managed not to overdo it. The entire Tolkien trilogy is covered in less than 200 pages and, somehow, no vital aspects of the story are left out. The first book is parodied in a lot more detail than #2 and #3, but that’s really for the best because, although it’s funny, Bored of the Rings would have dragged if it had been much longer.

The humour in this book isn’t subtle in any way. It is silly, rude and childish, often falling back on the simplest forms of wit (Uncle Dildo being a prime example), and yet it is somehow very clever. There are quite a lot of cultural references that are out of date (e.g. Goodgulf is apparently a reference to a brand of gasoline), but enough of it has withstood the test of time and will be amusing to most generations.

The funniest parts were almost definitely the character names and their altered personalities. Arrowroot, son of Arrowshirt, a useless dolt instead of the handsome, heroic Aragorn and Tim Benzedrino (Tom Bombadill) as a drugged-out hippie were my favourites.

I’d never read a parody before this, and I can see both sides of why people do or don’t like them. On the one hand, I don’t feel like I’ve gained anything having read this book. But on the other hand, it did make me laugh.

I received a copy of the 50th anniversary edition of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Once Upon a River – Diane Setterfield

36678391.jpgOn the night of the winter solstice in a pub on the Thames, the regulars are telling stories as they do most nights, when a stranger bursts through the door carrying the dead body of a little girl. A few hours later, the girl wakes up. Nobody knows who she is and, when multiple families come forward to claim the child as their own, nobody knows who to believe.

Once Upon a River is a magical fairy tale, but it has a very long-winded plot. There’s a lot of build up to “something’s about to happen”, ending in comparatively little actual climax. The book isn’t actually especially long, but it took me ages to read and I would have found it impossible to read in one sitting. It just didn’t flow particularly well and was quite hard work to get through.

There are loads of different characters, to the extent that we don’t really get to know most of them properly. The only ones I got to know well enough to particularly like were Rita and Daunt, because they appear in multiple threads of the story. Most of the other characters were very forgettable (in fact, as I sit here writing this, I can’t remember the names of any others).

I liked the way the story was told, from the point-of-view of a narrator who was not part of the plot but felt like an integral participant in the book. It is written in a way that feels as though the narrator is telling you the story, but without ever explicitly inserting themselves in the narrative. This has the effect of drawing the reader in and, had the story been more engaging, would have been a wonderful style.

Once Upon a River had a lot of potential to be a great book but, unfortunately, didn’t quite live up to it.

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

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Ravencry – Ed McDonald

36666672It’s been four years since the events of Blackwing when Nall’s Engline drove the Deep Kings back across the Misery, but all is still not well. A new power is rising: a ghostly apparition known as the Bright Lady has developed a fanatical following, and an object of great power is stolen from Crowfoot’s highly protected vault. Galharrow and his Blackwings must recover the object before it can be used, a mission which takes him deeper into the Misery than ever before.

Blackwing was an excellent, absorbing fantasy debut, and Ravencry is somehow even better. The story continues with one or two new characters as well as the wonderful ones we’ve already met.I loved following Galharrow again, he really is a brilliant main character and – after the loss of Ezabeth – he’s even more damaged and tormented than before. Luckily, this does absolutely nothing to make him weak or whiny. If anything, it makes him even more heroic.

The scene-setting and story-telling is exceptionally good. There is no extensive or excessive description of landscapes and events, and yet everything is super easy to picture. Another strong aspect is that there is no definitive ‘good’ vs ‘bad’. Apart from Galharrow who is the obvious hero, both sides of the fight seem to be relatively bad. Instead of working for anyone in particular (he’s under Crowfoot’s control, but is reluctant about it), Galharrow fights for the survival of his city and not a righteous ‘good’ side.

The story is emotional, funny, action-packed and addictive. It is a fantasy-adventure through and through, with some very dark, gritty elements. I am beyond excited for Crowfall.

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

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The Girl King – Mimi Yu

41832496Lu is destined to become Emperor when her father dies – to become the dynasty’s first female ruler – while Min, her sister, is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then, in a shocking betrayal, their father names their cousin, Set, as his heir instead. Lu is forced to go on the run to keep her life and fight for her birthright. During her escape, she meets Nokhai: a wolf shapeshifter and the last of his kind. Together, they set off to find an army to retake Lu’s throne. Meanwhile, Min is left behind with Set and his mysterious adviser, a monk named Brother, who is determined to awaken an ancient power hidden within her.

I enjoyed this book. It didn’t particularly stand out in any way, but it was a standard, enjoyable YA fantasy. It follows the same formula as many other YA novels, with your expected characters and tropes, but it was still good.

Lu and Nok’s story line was definitely the best part. Lu was a strong character, because she really developed. She started out feisty and stubborn (and kind of annoying), but as the story progressed she grew into someone more caring and determined. She wanted to get back what she felt she deserved, but she also wanted to make things better for other people as well. I also found Nok very likeable. His relationship with Lu was predictable and unremarkable but very sweet and I liked reading it.

Min, on the other hand, I didn’t like so much. She had so much potential to be a unique character and really make the book stand out from the rest, but instead she remained childish and pathetic even when she’d discovered her powers. She didn’t grow at all, all that happened to her was that she got some magic and had a tantrum. I didn’t particularly enjoy her story line, but it did provide a necessary break from Lu’s thread, which would have gotten kind of boring without the cuts to the palace to see how Min was getting on.

Another point of note is that this is supposed to be an Asian-inspired fantasy, which I’m sure will attract many readers. Unfortunately, other than the characters having Asian names and a few mentions of Asian-style clothing, there isn’t anything about the culture integrated into the plot. If you changed the names of the characters, the story would read exactly the same as any Western-based YA fantasy, which was kinda disappointing.

My overall view is that The Girl King isn’t a special or unique book, but it is enjoyable and I will certainly be reading the next book when it comes out.

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

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Blackwing – Ed McDonald

36402955.jpgThe republic faces total annihilation at the hands of the Deep Kings. With Nall’s Engine failing, the only thing standing between the people of the Range and certain death is an unpredictable no-man’s land called the Misery. Tasked with the protection of a powerful spinner named Ezabeth Tanza, Captain Ryhalt Galharrow finds himself wrapped up in a world of conspiracy, secrets and treason.

Blackwing is a piece of truly excellent fantasy fiction. It has everything you could possibly want (magic, adventure, epic battles), without any of the usual tropes or clichés. The plot is multi-layered, with the surface story of Galharrow and Ezabeth and the overarching fight between the Deep Kings and the Nameless. This two-tiered style of story-telling was excellently pulled off, without one overshadowing the other.

Galharrow is a brilliant lead character. He’s grumpy, gritty and determined; battle-hardened and flawed, in no way irritating or infuriating. I also really liked his mismatched team of soldiers, especially Nenn.

I liked the fast-paced and gritty nature of Blackwing. There is a romantic element in the book which, in my opinion, didn’t add much to the story but didn’t take anything away either. It is, frankly, shockingly good for a debut novel and an absolute must-read for fans of fantasy and adventure.

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

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