Monthly Archives: July 2015

Ferals

Title: Ferals

Author: Jacob Grey

Caw lives in the park with the crows—birds he speaks to, and understands. He’s never thought too much about his ability. When Caw steps in to help a girl named Lydia, he’s thrust into the center of a nefarious plan. He meets others who can understand various creatures, good and evil. In a war he never imagined, he’ll have to find out the truth behind the Spinning Man who terrorized the city eight years ago. And all of his power will be put to the test . . .

This was excellent. The descriptions are precise and fluid, painting the city, the characters, and the action in brief strokes that convey a wealth of meaning. Nothing bogs down the action, and there’s plenty to go around. I also hugely appreciated the deft touch in drawing out characters.

Here’s a short snippet to give a taste: “Since then many crows had come and gone. Sharpy. Pluck. One-legged Dover. Inkspot, with her taste for coffee. Only one crow had remained at his side since that night eight years ago—mute, blind, white-feathered Milky. Glum had been a nest-mate for five years, Screech for three. One with nothing useful to say, one with nothing cheerful, and one with nothing to say at all.”

The crows themselves (mostly Glum and Screech) can be quite humorous, too. Their banter, plus the fact that only Caw can understand it, is frequently good for a laugh.

I liked Caw a lot. He’s in a hard spot, living a hard life, but it’s all he’s really known and he’s used to it. He doesn’t complain. He finds a lot of freedom in his own way of life, and I particularly liked his decision at the end regarding his future. He has no concept of hygiene or manners, mostly because his only companions have been crows since a young age. This leads to a number of very interesting interactions with more normal members of society.

I like Lydia, too. She’s stubborn, bold, and resourceful, and even though she can’t talk to crows she’s not about to be left out of the action. Her determination to do right by Caw, though, doesn’t always work out the way she thinks it will. And in the end she’s willing to give him the freedom to be who he needs to be, even though she would prefer he decide differently.

The magic in this book feels just right. The only nitpick I had was that the way it’s passed down seems to make it hard to propagate and easy to go extinct, so it seems there should be fewer ferals (not that I’d vote for less critter action). But Caw learning about his abilities and the extent of them was intriguing, as was the glimpses of what others can do. And the book ends with a tantalizing promise of more to come . . .

Also, props to the artist of the English hardcover. The cover was what first caught my eye, and I love the dynamic pose, the unique angle on the crows in flight, the way Caw is obscured by wings, and the hints of a city. I will probably get this in hardcover, especially if the cover art changes for the softcover.

All in all, this was a quick, fun, and a very solid start to what I hope is a series (the ending certainly implies there will be another book). At least one more volume, I hope. But the end still resolves quite a lot, so although I will eagerly be waiting for the next adventure, this one doesn’t have a horrible cliffhanger. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Advertisements

The Dark Griffin (The Fallen Moon #1)

Title: The Dark Griffin

Author: K. J. Taylor

The black griffin had nothing, not even a name, when he was cast out on his own. Against all the odds, he survived, grew, thrived. But his territory bordered that of the humans, and humans disliked the wild griffins.

Arren had everything, especially considering he was a Northman, a people best known for being slaves. But he had a griffin, Eluna, and that meant the opportunity to be more than any Northman ever was. Even if he couldn’t get any respect thanks to his heritage.

But when their paths cross, both the griffin and the man will lose everything. As Arren’s life spirals farther out of control, he becomes consumed by only one thought: revenge.

Perhaps the cover gives too much away. I enjoyed this a lot, but given that the cover shows Arren flying with a griffin that obviously isn’t Eluna, it manages to spoil something that doesn’t happen until almost the end of the book. That being said, it was still a good fantasy novel for the first bit. I liked the black griffin’s side better than Arren’s side, but the human perspective is needed to show off the city, its griffiners, the prejudices against Northmen, and set up some of the political dynamics that ruin Arren’s life.

Then there was a twist near the end which automatically raised my interest in the sequel quite a bit. And I’m really hoping Arren doesn’t find a way out of it. For one, that seems a kind of hard thing to recover from, so what he’s already got is way better than the alternative. For another, I suspect it will raise his battle potential tremendously and allow for some awesome fight scenes to come.

In that respect, most of this book is setup for what happens near the end, which presumably is the launching point for the rest of the series. Arren’s life goes steadily downhill, punctuated only briefly by the love of his friends. Although it’s a good insight into how relentless abuse can twist up even a nice man into a monster, it was a little hard to read because I wanted Arren to get justice sooner.

I fully expect both sets of offspring—man and griffin—will have a large role to play in the future (and I have a pretty good idea who the female is that talked the black griffin into having her), but I do hope it’s more than just a more personalized set of enemies to set against the two.

This is a darker book. I liked how the themes of prejudice were explored, showing that even someone who isn’t originally inclined to violence, like Arren (though he may have more of that heredity than he expects) can get pushed off the edge with enough pressure, thus in a way confirming his own stereotype. And how someone outside, like Flell, has such a terrible grasp on the whole situation, even though she’s seeing a lot of the same things he is, but not seeing the same significance behind them. But on the flip side, the whole Arren-being-humiliated thing just kept happening—I certainly wasn’t expecting most of the book to be about that. The overall story could have been stronger if he’d gotten together with the black griffin sooner.

I also liked how the griffins were handled. They can do magic, which appears to be related to the color of the griffin, and I hope future books showcase more powers. And they’re not just griffin-shaped-people, but actual creatures, with their own set of instincts and behaviors that can sometimes cause a lot of problems when living with a species that they might otherwise consider prey. Eluna and the smuggler, for example, is perfect. A nice, sweet griffin with much affection for Arren not only kills a man but outright starts eating him.

I felt like the plot fell apart a little towards the end, when everything got crazy (really, Arren? I was expecting him to get framed, not for him to actually do something that stupid). But all in all I enjoyed it. It feels a bit like an origin story so far, setting up Arren and the black griffin for presumably a much greater future conflict. Oh, and don’t read the jacket description for the second book until you’ve read the first book or you’ll spoil one of the best parts. I rate this book Recommended.

The Gate of Gods (The Fall of Ile-Rien #3)

Title: The Gate of Gods

Author: Martha Wells

Tremaine has already done far more for the Ile-Rien war effort than she ever expected: discovering other worlds and finding the Gardier who are bombing Ile-Rien are world-hoppers, hunting down the Gardier where she finds them, and even marrying Ilias to secure an alliance between Ile-Rien and the native Syprians, whose world the Gardier are using as a staging ground for their attacks. But when talk turns to freeing the locked-down city of Lodun, she’s at a loss. This is more a job for the sorcerers. But nothing goes as planned, and soon Tremaine and her friends are caught once again in the machinations of enemies on every side.

This is a bit of a hard book to summarize, since much of the plot is focused on character, and on unraveling the way the world-gates work so the Rien can (eventually) free Lodun. Actually Lodun is just a set of bookends on most of the plot, as it’s mentioned early on and then by time it comes up again I’d quite forgotten that was the reason all of this started.

Like the rest of the series, this is well-written, although for some reason the plot just never grabbed me as much as other books I’ve read by Wells. Tremaine remains an interesting character: ruthless with her enemies and herself, but falling in love with the man she married. The subtle character details are excellent. And I still really enjoy Giliead and Ilias’s brotherly relationship. The cultural distinctions between the Rien, the Syprians, and the Aelin are shown instead of told.

Overall this was a good cap on the series. The mysteries resolve in a somewhat surprising fashion, a few villains like Ixion get long-awaited comeuppance, and there aren’t any loose ends. If you’ve read the previous two books, I’d recommend this one, but I certainly wouldn’t start here if you haven’t, as much of the conflict and drama grows organically out of everything that happened in the first two books.