Monthly Archives: July 2017

Dragon Orb (Dragons of Daegonlot #1)

Title: Dragon Orb

Author: Shanlynn Walker

Series: Dragons of Daegonlot #1

Daxon longs to be chosen by a dragon, to be a dragon rider, as so many are in his home of Daegonlot. But at sixteen, he’s old enough that he’s starting to accept it won’t happen. Then a wild dragon appears, gives him her egg, and provides him with a unique opportunity. Although the hatchling refuses to bond with him, they can still be friends . . .

This is well written and interesting, weaving a few layers of mysteries into an otherwise straightforward story. The summary encompasses most of the story, actually, which is the main thing that bothers me. It’s so short! And the end doesn’t feel like any sort of conclusion, more like the break before a next chapter.

That said, I liked the world. The dragon riders have their own town in the mountains, but it’s on a floating island. However, since the story begins from the point of view of a very old wild dragon, she provides some history on the various races of elves, dwarves, and men. The wild dragons are a lot more interesting than the tame ones—deliberately so. And the story of the first dragon rider has some interesting twists.

I didn’t think the quotes heading up each chapter were particularly relevant (and the fact that most of them were from Earth people was a bit incongruous . . . I would have preferred some kind of dragon rider lore), but they didn’t really detract because they were so short.

I would like to continue the series, but I may wait until the third book drops, since the second one also looks to be relatively short, and I doubt Daxon will actually find answers to some of the biggest questions in so little time. I rate this book Recommended.

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By the Silver Wind (The Summer King Chronicles #4)

Title: By the Silver Wind

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #4

The pieces are in place: Kjorn and Shard are uniting the various races against the wyrms, renewing old ties and forging new alliances. But Shard is uneasy. He wants to settle things peaceably, and Kjorn is fired up for war. Even though he knows war may be the ultimate answer, Shard continues to try dreaming with Rhydda, the old female wyrm. Meanwhile, in the Silver Isles, Sverin’s reign of terror has come to an end. But the pride is beginning to fracture as it waits for the return of its king . . .

This was a little slower than the other three books, which wasn’t entirely a bad thing. It would’ve felt way too rushed to simply have the alliances, but the slow task of running to various groups and convincing them was less interesting to me than a more action-packed plot. Mbari is amazing, though. I like all the lions, who are both mystical and playful.

It was also very interesting to see Sverin interact with his pride from a position of weakness, not power. He’s the last character I would’ve expected to actually learn something from all he went through, but he does, and he changes (and there’s a hint of a thing going on that I really didn’t expect, but frustratingly Sverin’s decision cuts a lot of things short, and I wish he hadn’t done that).

I also like how so many things come full circle here. Kjorn and the Dawn Spire. Shard and the Silver Isles. The missing piece of the puzzle that finally explains the presence of the wyrms, and why they hunt gryfons above all else.

Although I didn’t have quite as much fun with this as I did the earlier books, it’s still a good ending. This book finishes off the series very well, and although there’s a lot of room for more books in this world, the particular tale that started in Song of the Summer King does close here. I rate this book Recommended.

A Shard of Sun (The Summer King Chronicles #3)

Title: A Shard of Sun

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #3

With a newly-hatched dragon, Hikaru, under his protection, Shard must find a way not only to escape the wyrms but honor the promise he made to Hikaru’s mother. Meanwhile, Kjorn has flown all the way from the Silver Isles in search of Shard, but even though he finds traces of Shard everywhere, he can’t seem to locate the gryfon himself. And Kjorn, son of Sverin, son of Per, has the infamy of Per dogging him. Will Shard succeed in his quest to understand the history behind Per, the dragons, and the wyrms, and ultimately secure peace or victory? And what changes will Kjorn inadvertently bring to this new land?

First: Hikaru is absolutely adorable. He’s such a happy dragon, but Shard can’t help remembering that Hikaru’s lifespan will only be a single year. It’s a fascinating contrast. The dragons have a rich culture, but their short lives means the generations turn over incredibly fast, and Shard’s best sources of history are stories passed down a hundred generations, with all the complications that ensue from that much secondhand information. I also like the inversion of dragons as incredibly long-lived (well, the wyrms are, but these are dragons too). And Shard playing father is also very cute, as he tries desperately to be a good role model for Hikaru, who constantly surprises him.

I liked seeing Kjorn maturing too. He’s come a long way from the arrogant son who thoughtlessly took on many of his father’s more destructive beliefs and shipwrecked his friendship with Shard because of it. And he’s challenged in ways his size and strength can’t fix—winning trust, building alliances.

I also appreciate how even the most minor characters have their own lives, their own stories, and often, their own character arcs. The wolf that Shard saved from gryfons has grown up—and is struggling to be the kind of wolf that can win Catori’s heart. Or take Caj, who is torn between his wingbrother oath to Sverin and his love for his Vanir mate, and does everything he can to be honorable and faithful to both when they are completely at odds with each other.

All in all these continue to impress. The world has so much depth and detail, and I love the thread of redemption that breaks through evil. Because the ultimate goal is so much more complicated than simply killing a tyrant, of whatever kind. Real, true peace must break the cycle of violence—not ignoring the wrongs perpetrated but rising above them. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Skyfire (The Summer King Chronicles #2)

Title: Skyfire

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #2

Shard can’t afford to linger on the islands he’s known all his life. The Aesir came from over the sea, and knowing the reason for that long quest might provide the way for him to break through Sverin’s ever more despotic rule. But he also has the destiny of the Summer King to wrestle with. No one can tell him any more than the old song, a song known by many different species. If Shard is to be a king, how? If he is destined to unite the pride, how can he do it without perpetuating the cycle of war?

It’s a rare series whose second book is better than the first, but this is one of them. Shard’s tale interweaves with the story of those he left behind, and, surprisingly, neither one drags. Shard’s growing happiness contrasts against the growing misery of the rest, but both of them have incredible challenges that seem insurmountable.

I liked getting to know a new set of gryfons. Shard has a chance to see how a pride might look when it isn’t isolated and pushing hard for its own survival. There’s still dysfunction, but overall it’s a much healthier place. I particularly liked Asvander. He’s a little more than he appears, but it’s also true Shard’s own emotions cause him to misjudge him.

Also fun was seeing Shard interact with both eagles and lions. The various races all have their own flavor of legend, and although they seem to have an almost universal dislike of gryfons, there’s a lot of commonalities too.

Overall this continues to be an engaging fantasy with strong characters, hard choices, and plenty of surprises. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Song of the Summer King (The Summer King Chronicles #1)

Title: Song of the Summer King

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #1

Shard is a young gryfon eager to prove himself—for as one of the conquered Vanir, he has extra reasons to be cautious of his Aesir king, who hates the Vanir. Not that Shard remembers the Conquering, which happened when he was a kit. But Shard is soon drawn into a web of conflicting loyalties, and he will have to decide where his heart truly lies. . .

I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, and finally got around to it since the first book showed up free. I never did get over my dislike of how gryfon is spelled (despite this being one word that has about a dozen legitimate spellings), but the story was very good.

There aren’t any humans or human variants here. Shard is a gryfon, and the various other races he meets includes wolves, ravens, and so on. I liked that a lot, since it meant the story could focus on characters with wings and claws and fur and feather. It doesn’t overdescribe the gryfons or their way of life, but the details are plentiful and immersive.

I liked Caj, and how he wasn’t at all who I expected (or who Shard expected, come to that). I liked the different tribes of Vanir and Aesir, and how they value different approaches to life, and how Shard seems to be the only one able to see good in both sides, which makes him feel caught between choosing one path or the other. The Aesir did horrible things to the Vanir, true enough, but for all that Shard recognizes they aren’t necessarily evil. I liked that the tribes are also physically different, which leads to some interesting contrasts between Shard and his wingbrother.

And then the end had to go and tangle everything up. Not that it was a bad ending—but it changes everything for Shard, and who he thinks he is, and who he chooses to become. He’s just not there yet. The next books should be interesting indeed. I rate this book Recommended.

The Harbors of the Sun (Raksura #5)

Title: The Harbors of the Sun

Author: Martha Wells

Series: Raksura #5

The Raksura are furious. And afraid. Jade, Moon, and a handful of others left the Reaches to prevent the frightening dreams and visions no one could understand—and instead may have caused them. Now on the trail of the Hians who betrayed them all, they can only struggle to recapture what was lost, and hope they aren’t too late.

This finishes out the duology that started in The Edge of Worlds, though it has some interesting ties back to the earlier Raksura books as well.

Like the other Raksura books, this one features a plethora of strange cities and alien races. I like the hints of earlier eras mingled with later, like ruins other races repurposed for their own ends. And the glimpses blend very naturally into the story. Moon is on a journey, but the story has additional threads with Jade, with Bramble and Merit, and with the court of Indigo Cloud they all left behind.

I like the characters a lot, too. It’s so amusing to see Pearl and Malachite finally meet: two feared/respected reigning queens with very strong opinions who aren’t used to anyone telling them no. It’s interesting to see how Stone and Moon, despite both being well-traveled, are so different in their approach to other cultures. And of course the half-Fell queen that nobody has any idea how to handle.

I also appreciated not only Jade’s choice near the end, but how efficiently she makes it. She knows exactly what’s at stake and acts first, knowing she’ll have a chance to think about the consequences later.

Although the end neatly closes out the duology, this is a rich world that would easily support more stories. I’ve always enjoyed my time in this world and this book continues that. I rate this book Recommended.

Sword of the Stranger (Movie)

Title: Sword of the Stranger

Content warning: There’s a ton of blood, but not really any gore. Also a few brief scenes of someone under torture.

Kotaro is a young boy on the run. With only his faithful canine companion, Tobimaru, he struggles to avoid the soldiers after him. Then a chance encounter with a nameless samurai offers him hope of returning to a place of safety.

I watched this streaming, and liked it so much I immediately ordered a copy. This isn’t a particularly deep movie, but it’s a lot of fun. Kotaro is stubborn and a bit high and mighty, but he’s also frightened of the soldiers and loves his dog very deeply. Tobimaru alternates between being cute and rising up to defend his master however the situation requires (the scene of him riding in a sling was just adorable). And the nameless man is an excellent swordsman who struggles with the memories of the war he left behind. The journey changes all of them.

On the enemy side, we have the native Japanese who are suspicious (but supportive, for now) of a group of Chinese who are building some grand project. Of particular note is a blond-haired, blue-eyed man the Chinese brought with them, who hungers to fight a worthy opponent. (The comments about him being a barbarian and a demon are perhaps not intended to be jokes, but I found them very funny. No assumption of blond-haired, blue-eyed innocence here.)

Also the hostage situation is one of my favorite parts of the film.  I love when these kinds of things go sideways since so many stories play it straight.

Because the Funimation stream doesn’t offer the Japanese, I can only comment on the English dub, which was very good. Aside from one secondary character whose introductory lines were a weird monotone, everyone had top-notch voice acting. I was especially impressed with Kotaro and the nameless samurai. Kids in anime can sometimes sound a bit weird, but Aiden Drummond really nailed Kotaro. And Michael Adamthwaite did a great job breathing life into No-Name. I also really liked that the dub kept the Chinese portions intact (Funimation’s stream, at least, shows subtitles on these parts). Since the Japanese don’t understand what the Chinese are muttering to themselves, it’s nice to have the foreign language to reinforce that.

Overall this is perhaps a bit too eager to throw around lots of blood splatters, but is otherwise a movie I plan to show my friends. I rate this Recommended.