Category Archives: Young Adult

Shadows (Shadows #1)

Title: Shadows

Author: Sam Blood

Series: Shadows #1

Griffin has spent most of his life trying to forget the non-human friend he had when he was little. Before the accident. Before he lost his mom and his brother turned into a stranger. But a moment of rebellion sends him straight through a portal into another world—a monstrous world where none of the occupants are humans, but they have a mysterious connection to humans. Just what is the relationship between Shadows and humans? Why do so many want to kill over it? And what will become of Griffin, who has inadvertently stepped in the middle of all of this?

This was amazing. First, I just love the concept behind the Shadow world. Every occupant is nonhuman, and they range from familiar mythological creatures like satyrs and phoenixes to more unusual creatures like the half-parrot/half-dragon Cirrus. These all come together in a civilized society very like ours, with some adjustments for things like aerial traffic. And that’s before the story even gets into what, exactly, the Shadows are and why that matters.

I like how this book handles soulmates. Too often it’s a solely romantic relationship, or one free of the most serious problems. Griffin and Cirrus have a soul-deep connection, but it’s one that freaks both of them out, and as much as they both want it at some level, they’re also running from it. Watching their friendship blossom was one of the best parts of the book.

The humor is also extremely good. It felt like every few paragraphs I’d stumble over something else that cracked me up.

“I don’t want to die. And if you died, I’d probably feel like, slightly bad about that too.”

And:

“That was awesome! I thought you were as uncoordinated as I am.”
“Lots of laser force practice. You know, a shooting game back home.”
“You played this with your friends?”
“I was a bit of a loner. I just turned up and shot strangers.”
“This explains so much,” Cirrus says.

I seriously need to reread this and pull all my favorite quotes.

The characters are another strong point. Griffin is an interesting choice of protagonist, because he’s not a hero. He sort of wants to be. He deludes himself into thinking he will be. But in the end, he’s a single person contributing to both sides of a conflict that’s much bigger than himself, and his decisions, good and bad, hurt both sides. In other words, he’s a normal kid in way over his head.

Cirrus, of course, is just awesome. Awkward teenage boy, even if he is a different species. I love his snarky conversations with Griffin, and the way he’s struggling to handle his own heart. He wants his best friend back, but what happened ten years ago impacted more than just Griffin, and now Cirrus is unsure how to approach Griffin.

Hanna is another interesting addition. She’s lust at first sight for Griffin, but even he has to admit she’s got some issues that could seriously complicate their relationship.

“My Mum used to tell me something,” Cirrus says grimly. “She said be careful when trying to put a broken person back together, in case you cut yourself on the pieces.”

Which is why I liked how it worked out in the end.

Overall this was a lot of fun, and I’ve already bought the sequel. Highly Recommended.

(And one more quote, which contains small spoilers)

“Oh, and for the record: high-jacking the laboratory filled with my life’s work and trying to crash it into my place of residence: not appreciated.”

Advertisements

Monster Paradise (Web Novel)

Title: Monster Paradise

Author: Nuclear Warhead Cooked in Wine

Chapters: 989 (Ongoing)

Location: https://www.wuxiaworld.co/Monster-Paradise/

Lin Huang mysteriously one day was given a goldfinger and sent to another world. His abilities allow him to capture monsters into cards. Posing as a monster tamer, he aims to become the strongest.

This has a somewhat rough story, but I quickly got into it and enjoyed it quite a bit. I like the combination of card game mechanics, monster capture/raising, and the gradual power increases of a cultivation novel.

The monsters Lin Huang captures grow and develop as he does. Initially they’re all pretty blank-slate, but as they grow more powerful and intelligent, they start exhibiting more distinct personalities. Some of these lead to a lot of humor, such as one of the sword-fighting monsters developing an obsession with vegetables (and getting very possessive of his snacks).

The worldbuilding varies. The beginning is extremely confusing, and I’m still unclear what a goldfinger is referring to (it seems to be some kind of known card type in a game, but the oblique reference just doesn’t work for me). It’s almost completely irrelevant that Li Huang was pulled from another world, and the story would have worked just as well if he hadn’t been.

I don’t really care about characters other than Li Huang and his ever-expanding collection of monsters. I do like how the antagonists get a reasonable amount of development but so far haven’t stuck around for ages. They get dealt with fairly quickly, or else they get out of the spotlight so the plot isn’t bogged down in the same place for too long.

The story does play around in several different genres. Some of the monsters Li Huang hunts ends up more like a mystery story, as he has to investigate corpses and clues to try to find the killer. Some of them are straight up fights. And some of the progression, like him teaching a class for a semester, are kind of random. I didn’t mind the random bits too much but I can see where it would bother others.

Overall I thought this was still a fairly enjoyable read, and I’m kind of upset now that I’ve caught up and can no longer blow through multiple chapters a day. I rate this story Recommended.

Record of Wortenia War (Web Novel)

Title: Record of Wortenia War

Author: Ryota Hori

Ryouma is a high school student who was summoned to another world. Unfortunately for his summoner, he’s also someone with a well-deserved reputation for terrifying retaliation. After killing his summoner and escaping the castle, Ryouma sets off to make his own life in this new world.

I saw this is coming out officially and got curious enough to check out the web novel. So this review is based on a version of the story that may differ from the official books (which I am planning to get as soon as they’re released).

In general the story is aware enough of the genre tropes to not get too bogged down in them. Ryouma’s reaction to being summoned is a classic example: he takes only a few seconds to orient himself, decide whoever did this is not someone he wants to negotiate with, and kills them all.

On the other hand, this still doesn’t save the story from introducing a pair of sisters who were slaves, who of course immediately swear undying loyalty (and further slavery) to Ryouma. They’re the worst characters by far, with the most forgettable personalities, and the only saving grace is that they have a minor role after their initial introduction.

The heart of the story is Ryouma as he works his way up from a relatively powerless adventurer to a leader. I really liked the deep look at leadership. This mostly happens through examining other existing leaders and Ryouma’s analysis of their decisions.

Lupis, for example, is presented as fundamentally a good person yet a terrible leader. Her propensity to value loyalty the most means she ends up surrounded by people who can only agree with her and can’t see the problems in her strategies. Or even if they can see, dare not say anything, because to disagree is to be a traitor. I loved watching Ryouma initially support her, try to help her develop, and eventually conclude that he can’t help someone who won’t take honest criticism.

Ryouma, in contrast, is all about practicalities. He doesn’t fall into the trap of “the ends justify the means,” but he’s willing to use dirtier means if that’s what the situation calls for. Like using rumors to exaggerate his devilish reputation to reduce causalities, or hiring known bandit groups to raid enemy villages so they’ll pull back some troops. Ryouma’s style of leadership looks more at what motivates people and how he can tap into that to get them moving in the direction he wants. He’d rather enable his subordinates than try to do everything himself, and he’s capable of working with all kinds of people.

There’s also a group of summoned people working nefarious schemes in the background, but so far that’s been a very slow burning plot.

Overall, although there are places where the story stumbles, it’s been a lot of fun to follow. The first book doesn’t give the best idea of what the series will be like going forward, but once he gets dragged into the civil war in the second book, the story really gets going. I rate this book Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime #5 (Light Novel)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime #5

Author: Fuse

Format: Light Novel

Rimuru is off on his tour of the surrounding nations, so Benimaru and the other residents of Tempest are doing their best to run everything like normal. Only there are various plots afoot, and without Rimuru, Tempest is poorly equipped to manage them . . .

It’s really hard to summarize this without spoiling some of the best twists. This book covers some of my favorite material in the overall story.

The prologue alone sets out the more ambitious scope of this book: the Beast Kingdom allied with Tempest is under attack . . . by Milim? But explanations will have to wait for much later.

Mjurren, a magicborn working to carry out some of those plans, gets a lot of focus. I actually like the love triangle that unfolds around her because it’s so silly—one of her would-be suitors is determined to win by waiting for the other one to age to death. For her part, she views Yohm and his comrades more like a babysitting job, where she’s the only adult in the room.

And I love watching Rimuru break down and go more than a little crazy when he finds out what happened when he was gone. It’s all the little things he does that betrays his raging heart. And then he decides he’s putting his foot down. No more pretending the world is full of nothing but people with good intentions.

Raphael is another favorite. “It’s just your imagination.” The snarky little quips go almost entirely over Rimuru’s head. I love how Raphael is developing as a character, and the conflict between emotions and logic as sentience grows where no personality should even exist.

Overall this is a very solid continuation for the series, as it provides a lot of character development for everyone around Rimuru, introduces interesting new characters (and brings back one welcome old friend), and paves the way for a rather unexpected journey. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill

Title: Campfire Cooking in Another World with My Absurd Skill
JP Title: Tondemo Skill de Isekai Hourou Meshi

Not linking because this is getting published. Amazon has a good-sized sample. I read chapters 1-129.

Mukouda was a regular office worker who got caught accidentally in the hero summoning of three teenagers. Excusing himself from the situation, he goes off to find a job somewhere more peaceful than his arrival point, but his journey out is interrupted by a fenrir who insists on joining him for his cooking. Now he’s stuck trying to fill up his eternally-hungry companions, but at least he’s got an ability to buy things from an online supermarket.

I read the web novel version, so I’m not sure how much this changes from the novel version. The set up alone is amusing. Mukouda can see what’s coming as far as “heros” are concerned: war. Since he’d rather just be left alone to live a peaceful life, he asks for an allowance and high-tails it out of there. It’s a pity a legendary beast smells his cooking and gets addicted to being fed.

But Fer turns into an amusing ally, even if Mukouda has to work not to be bullied. Pretty much nothing can stand against the fenrir, who is willing to kill anything he deems tasty. So Mukouda does get a more-or-less peaceful life. He keeps gaining allies, as well, both in other people and more familiars. Ironically, they think of him as a legendary Tamer, and the few glimpses we get of the teenage heros confirms Mukouda has gotten far, far stronger than they have, despite all their Hero bonuses.

This is much more of a slice-of-life novel, with a great deal of attention devoted to the various meals Mukouda is preparing. Because of that, the pacing can feel really slow at times. I enjoyed the various bits of humor, but I do wish the story had included recipes, because it doesn’t get in depth enough to follow along.

Overall, this isn’t going to be a story for everyone. But for those who enjoy a quieter travel story about a boy and his (completely oversized and ridiculously overpowered) dog, this would be a good one to check out. Recommended.

Dragon Maken War

Title: Dragon Maken War

Translator: NaughtyOtter

Chapters: 220 (Ongoing)

https://www.wuxiaworld.com/novel/dragon-maken-war

For seventeen years, humanity fought the Dragon Demons over the right to choose their own future. Azell ended that war by killing their king, but was cursed in return. In an effort to defeat the curse, or at least buy time for his friends to discover a cure, Azell chose to go into a dragon’s hibernation. But he woke much later than expected. 220 years later. Now he’s adrift in a world he barely recognizes, but the Dragon Demon King’s followers are stirring once again . . .

This was AMAZING.

For as long as it is, the story is very tightly woven. Nothing feels wasted. We begin with Azell choosing to hibernate, and when he wakes his complete disorientation to the world at large makes an excellent starting point to exploring the wider world.

I really like the sense of history in this story. The story bounces back and forth, from Azell’s original lifetime to the present, to the great figures that were only legends in Azell’s day, if they were known at all, to the consequences of the war that worked out through over 200 years. Azell might have been a hero, but that just meant his mysterious disappearance had severe consequences for the lands he was supposed to govern.

One more amusing consequence of the time gap is that Azell can’t find anyone who will believe him when he tentatively floats the idea that he’s actually THE Azell known for killing the Dragon Demon King. He has to pose as his own descendant.

The characters are very good. Azell’s struggles go much farther than his need to rebuild his body into something approaching what he had back in the day. In what was to him no more than a moment, everyone he knew was relegated to the pages of history. Some of the longer-lived races actually did survive long enough to meet him again, which is its own kind of awkward, especially when that two-century gap brought major changes in personality. But he never gets bogged down in that contemplation. Character moments are there in spades, and noted, but the focus is first and foremost on the action/adventure.

The friends and comrades Azell picks up are also well-drawn. From the arrogant princess Arietta whose attempted abduction drives much of the early plot to curiosities like Yuren, a human who betrayed the organization that tried to brainwash him and turned terrorist against them in response, everyone has their own struggles and history that drive them. Even people like Carlos, Azell’s friend from the original war, still has a significant role even though most of that is Azell’s memories, or the traces he left behind.

It also delves quite deeply into the villain side. Atein is a wonderful villain. He’s complex, having been revered as a hero before his role in the war—someone so old his ideas of morality are quite questionable by anyone else’s standards. I love his reasoning, and how Azell correctly spots that he’s turned into just the sort of being he used to suppress for being “too dangerous.” Which is Azell’s accurate evaluation of Atein. Powerful, immortal, and trying to bring about a perfect world by various means . . . and his only gaping blind spot is the fact that humanity is not perfect, or perfectable. Any problems must mean the experiment was flawed and something different will need to be tried, because this time it might work and people will live happily and peacefully.

But Atein being off screen for much of the plot means we get plenty of time with the members of the organization he left behind. Old Dragon Demons that Azell remembered, and the newer recruits from children or grandchildren or even humans enlisted to the cause. But every character brings something meaningful to the story, so that contributes to the plot feeling focused despite the length.

Another highlight is the fight scenes. As might be expected, Azell is in conflict from nearly the moment he wakes up (which, honestly, isn’t that much different from before he went to sleep). I love that Azell relies heavily on technique, tricks, and skill over power, because even when he regains much of his power he’s still barely even with many of his enemies. And these techniques work at a level I rarely see described in fiction. Azell’s fighting is heavily biased towards senses—using his own to their fullest and confusing or blocking his enemy’s. Even more intriguing to me, a battle between top-level magicians looks like basically nothing from the outside, because both of them are working on cutting off the other’s spells before they can even start. Actually needing to defend against the spell means that mage has already lost ground.

So the fights are tense, thrilling, and frequent, but rarely repetitive. It’s not unusual for things to turn completely on their head during a battle, with a massive reversal sabotaging a previously predictable or close fight. Honestly this is one of the best books I’ve read period for fight scenes. It’s also good at imbuing a lot of heart into those fights. Some fight for the love of fighting, some for petty status squabbles, some for ideals, and some of the best for the hope and trust they put in another while making the ultimate sacrifice.

Overall this is a very good book I would encourage anyone to read. The translation can be a bit rough in the beginning, but it soon smooths out, and the story is compelling from the first chapter. First thing I’m doing after finishing it is going back to read it again, because WOW. The only downside is that it isn’t finished yet, but at the rate the plot has been going, I’m optimistic that the author has already planned everything out and it’s just a matter of getting there. Highly, highly recommended.

The Dungeoneers (The Dungeoneers #1)

Title: The Dungeoneers

Author: Jeffery Russell

Series: The Dungeoneers #1

Durham has a quiet life as a city guard, until a case of mistaken identity assigns him to a group of dwarves who are professional dungeon-crawlers. Their hunt for a necromantic artifact leads them deep into an ancient ruin, and the centuries-old secrets hiding within could destroy them all . . .

This was fun. It’s at once both a bit of a spoof on typical fantasy and gaming conventions, and a more serious look at what would happen if dungeons were tackled by a team of professionals instead of a typical random group of adventurers.

I particularly liked the chickens.

The dwarves are clever in more than just the usual ways, too. When Durham reveals he’s an orphan, the collective horror is hilarious. Because being an orphan means he’s obviously set up for some trope about his ancestry or potential to trigger, and that’s the kind of thing that turns a job into an “adventure.”

The ending was also hilarious. Between all the shenanigans that mess up what’s supposed to be the grand finale, and especially the final fate for the villain, the comedy portion was strong.

Overall this is a good read. The personalities of the crew, the traps in the dungeon, and the inadvertent adventure that sneaks up on them was fun. I rate this book Recommended.