Monthly Archives: January 2018

Child of the Daystar (Wings of War #1)

Title: Child of the Daystar

Author: Bryce O’Connor

Series: Wings of War #1

The atherian and the humans don’t mingle. But when an atherian slave is left for dead and rescued by a group of desert traders, he fits into human society in a way the rest of his kind never have. Named Raz i’Syul, his actions will shape the course of kingdoms . . .

This is another great series with a draconic main character. Raz is unusual even for an atherian, as he is both male and winged. Unfortunately, he can’t fly, but it’s hard to tell if that’s because he was raised by humans, or because the wings aren’t capable of it. (And by the end there are hints this will change, which I hope is true.)

The characters have a lot of depth. Raz, being non-human, struggles at times with the things that mark him as different—not the looks, so much, but the bestiality that lurks underneath his conscious thoughts. He tries to stick to his ideals, but the world around him is falling apart. Can one person do anything meaningful against all of that? But the quotes heading each chapter are told from a historical perspective, indicating that he will, indeed, be instrumental in some fashion.

I wasn’t quite as fond of Syrah’s portions. Most of the story is about Raz, and he gets a full arc—not one that solves all of his problems, but one that resolves some things for his character and launches him on to greater things ahead. Syrah feels like she’s still setting up for some future development. With one exception, her portion of the story doesn’t touch on his, and it’s harder to see why her sections are important.

Overall, though, this was a compelling story, and I will be interested to see where it goes from here. I rate this book Recommended.

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Psyren (Manga)

Title: Psyren
Volumes: 1-16 (chapters 1-146, complete)

Ageha is a kid who likes to fight. He says he’ll solve problems for 10,000 yen, but that’s just an excuse to get into trouble. But when a former friend asks him for help, then disappears, he’s determined to figure out all the things she didn’t say and solve a mystery far bigger than he ever imagined . . .

This is primarily a mystery-driven story, so I’m going to try to avoid talking about plot or even characters as much as possible, since spoiling too much would ruin the fun. What I will say is that the story rockets through its twists and turns. The sci-fi angle starts by the end of the first chapter, and Ageha soon understands why Amamiya always looked so strung out. Now he’s stuck in the game as deeply as she is, and one false move will get them killed.

I really liked the characters, especially the four kids. Kyle was a particular favorite—he was rambunctious without being annoying, he had a neat darker-skinned character design, and his enthusiasm never lets up even when the situation looks extremely grim. And Ageha’s relationship with those kids, and his desire to protect them, changes their lives quite a bit.

Although Psyren doesn’t have the benefit of an anime, it does have the benefit of being complete. All volumes have been released by Viz, making it easy to acquire. (I can hope it gets the Ushio and Tora treatment of getting an anime adaptation well after the fact, but I won’t hold my breath.)

Overall this is another recommendation I’m glad I followed. The series is well worth checking out. It does end a bit fast, but the major story completes in a satisfactory way, and there were only a few bits that felt like they should have been fleshed out. I rate this series Highly Recommended.

Winter Tithe (Of Cats and Dragons #2.5)

Title: Winter Tithe

Author: Carol E. Leever and Camilla Ochlan

Series: Of Cats and Dragons #2.5 (same universe, but more of a side story)

Tokara Deldano and her family are preparing to celebrate the midwinter festivities, but an ancient legend has closer ties to her than she might expect. When trouble strikes the villages, Tokara’s main concern is the puppy she and her sister love, who has gone missing . . .

This is only tangentially related to the Of Cats and Dragons series (same universe), as it takes place in a different country with some distant relatives of Omen. The nods to Omen and Tormy were nice, but the story is ultimately its own, so it can be read without either book in the series.

I liked the strong characterization. Tokara was a believable little girl who grows up just a bit as her family has to deal with a legend intersecting their lives. I wish the end was a little more explicit about what became of Bumpus, because I was expecting a friendship between the two and I don’t know if that’s actually what happened, or if he’s just going to keep waiting more or less by himself.

All in all this was a nice bonus story, and I wouldn’t mind catching up with these characters again in a few years when they’re all grown up. I rate this Recommended.

As of this writing, the book was available on the author’s website, but not anywhere else online. http://ofcatsanddragons.com/books/

Radiation (Of Cats and Dragons #2)

Title: Radiation

Author: Carol E. Leever and Camilla Ochlan

Series: Of Cats and Dragons #2

Omen tried to stay out of trouble. Really. But when he and Tormy get the chance, he begs for a quest–and not just any quest, but something huge and important that only he can complete. So Etar, his divine brother, gives him one. Now Omen must hunt down another divine sibling in a world utterly desolate . . .

I liked the second book even better than the first. We get a lot more backstory on Omen, Omen’s family, and Templar. I love how the history is so rich that every story brings questions about a dozen more details. I never thought there was a reason behind the names in Omen’s family, and now I want to see a story about his parents since their lives were at least as interesting as his. And ouch, poor Templar. No wonder he’s always a bit on edge. Although it hasn’t stopped his sense of humor.

The friendship between Omen and Templar continues to be one of my favorite parts, even though in this book it took something of a backseat to Omen’s “epic quest” and an extended adventure for Lilyth, Omen’s sister. Templar and Omen arguing about who exactly is the bad influence on whom was hysterical, as was Templar’s succinct summation of Omen’s quest (quote below review for those wanting to avoid spoilers).

And the new characters were all compelling. I really liked Etar, a younger god that is more or less Omen’s brother. Kyr is just adorable despite his circumstances (and I have to wonder how much Tyrin will be able to influence him, since Tyrin is basically Trouble-capital-T). Tyrin is of course hysterical, especially the “identical twins” routine, or the way he takes things too literally.

Overall this series continues to improve everything I liked about the first book, and I can’t wait for a third. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Templar’s take on the quest:

“So basically what you’re saying is,” Templar stated when Omen had finished, “you wandered into an empty wasteland, got rained on, and came home. And that’s what you call epic?”

Night’s Gift (Of Cats and Dragons #1)

Title: Night’s Gift

Author: Carol E. Leever and Camilla Ochlan

Series: Of Cats and Dragons #1

Omen Daenoth just wanted to explore the city of Hex, free of guards or responsibilities. But when a pickpocket steals the bracelet that damps his psionic powers, Omen must race against the clock to get it back before his tenuous control slips.

I was intrigued enough by the sample to get the full book, and am so glad I did. I loved this. The banter between Omen and Templar (and later Tormy), the high octane adventure, and the solid worldbuilding made for an excellent read. There’s a lot of history that isn’t explained but only hinted at—like the city of Hex, which makes me curious to see more in this world. I wish Omen’s background got a little more attention (five bloodlines?) but since I read the second book before writing this I know some of it gets covered there.

Also this has one of the best reasons I’ve seen for not accepting consumables from elves: they’re insatiable druggies and have a tendency to lace narcotics into the food/drinks. At least one particular branch of elves.

I like Omen and Templar a lot. They’re both more than human, which leads to some interesting fights. Omen’s psionics and Templar’s magic can put on a flashy show, and their ability to heal damage means they can get into the middle of some intense situations. And it’s not just power—Omen’s clever use of song against the Mer or the way they get the box shows they can approach situations with brain in addition to brawn.

All in all this is a real treat, and I’m certainly going to read it again. From the sample clip I listened to, the audiobook also looks like a worthwhile investment. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Barid’s Story (Dragon Pearl #2)

Title: Barid’s Story

Author: J.F. Mehentee

Series: Dragon Pearl #2

Barid has set up as a blacksmith in a remote village, far from his former home. Waiting. Hoping. He left behind a friend, Noor, who was supposed to join him, but he has no way of knowing if Noor is even alive. And it isn’t safe to go back himself to check. But his life changes drastically when a monk arrives with an offer to come work as a blacksmith for the Dragons . . .

Once again, this story had very solid writing. I dislike the homosexual overtones to the relationship Barid develops with Noor over the years they train together, but I do appreciate Barid himself doesn’t know what to make of things, and tries to keep a lid on it so as not to cause big problems for the both of them. The other aspects of their relationship interest me more—Barid’s initial attempt to idolize Noor turning sour, the way both of them cooperate to push through their training, and how the attempt to help Noor’s father save face backfired.

I was happy at the way that worked out, though. Noor’s father had very specific ideas on who Noor was going to be, and didn’t take Noor himself into consideration. That Noor could succeed in a way that didn’t keep feeding his father’s control over his life was nice.

The warrior culture and training sequences were also fascinating. Kids are pushed very hard to become elite soldiers, but there are rewards as well as punishments, and the focus is about building them to be a team who would die for each other as well as well as their victory.

I do wish the story would’ve delved into Barid’s time at Sudaypur more. I wanted to see more of his life with his daughter, but the introductory scene is just a bracket to the meat of the story, which is the backstory of how he got to Sudaypur at all. Hotsuka has changed some from the previous book, but not all that much, and it’s funny to see the impression he makes from the other side. Especially someone like Barid, who is less than impressed by all the “miracles” and determined to stick to his position.

This stands well enough alone, so even if you didn’t read the first book it would be okay to start here. I rate this book Recommended.

Hotsuka’s Story (Dragon Pearl #1)

Title: Hotsuka’s Story

Author: J.F. Mehentee

Series: Dragon Pearl #1

Hotsuka used to be a Meijin, a celestial entity, the pinnacle of a soul after a multitude of rebirths. But he broke one significant taboo, and now he’s no longer Meijin, but retaining enough of that nature to not be completely Human, either. He’ll have to learn to adapt to the world as a creature in it, both for his own sake and the sake of his son.

It’s always nice to read a story with really solid writing. This one is well-crafted, and the story is also intriguing. Hotsuka (and all the Meijin, really) considers himself the highest form of life, but he’s confronted with the problems no one thinks exists when he makes a series of bad choices and ends up impregnating a human woman.

It’s interesting to see how the relationship happened, and the various consequences Hotsuka suffers because of it. I also found it interesting that Hotsuka is so blind to his own failings—he can admit, a little, that what he did to the woman was wrong, but he almost never thinks about her after the fact, focusing instead on his son. He doesn’t consider how easy it was for him to turn from “saving her”, which in turn granted her a life far worse than the one she used to have.

But the journey is about his own character growth, and how he begins to see humans as people he can’t just run roughshod over, imposing his own will. (I still wish he’d been forced to tie up the loose end with his wife, but it’s hard to wish more of him in her life.) He also discovers just what it means to be caught between races as he is, and how that lends him certain advantages over normal humanity.

Overall this was a pretty good read. The fantasy world is Asian-flavored but distinctive, and Hotsuka ends with a new purpose that I hope future books will explore more. I rate this book Recommended.