Category Archives: Young Adult

The Men of the Kingdom Part II (Overlord #6)

Title: The Men of the Kingdom Part II

Author: Kugane Maruyama

Series: Overlord #6

Sebas must own up to the snowballing mess that his involvement with Tsuare has become. But even after he and Ainz come to an agreement, it’s not over—the Eight Fingers have taken the offensive. Now the forces of Nazarick, the Blue Roses, and the Eight Fingers are set to collide . . .

If volume 5 was almost entirely setup, volume 6 is almost entirely payoff. And what a payoff! From Sebas’s nervous confrontation with Ainz to a much bigger Eight Fingers raid to the conflict with Demiurge, this volume races from high point to high point.

Yet it’s not all action. There’s plenty of humor, too, whether it’s Evileye unexpectedly falling in love, Ainz stumbling across Demiurge’s plots and trying desperately not to derail them, or the fight between Nabe and some of the other maids.

And if you’re reading between the lines, there are some intriguing things going on behind the scenes. I didn’t even realize until I was reading comments on the anime episode but Pandora’s Actor is actually the original “Ainz” confronting Sebas—there are a few small clues but it’s never outright stated. And there are additional revelations that call earlier events into question.

So this volume is loaded with so many good moments it’s hard to pick a favorite. I love watching Ainz scramble not to look stupid in front of his subordinates, and the multiple mock-fights between the various members of Nazarick. Sebas is awesome (“Just a little bit stronger” indeed).

This book finishes out season 2 of the anime. I would recommend reading it even if you’ve seen the show, as some things get more exposition here, especially all the quick scenes at the end. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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The Shield of Kuromori (The Sword of Kuromori #2)

Title: The Shield of Kuromori

Author; Jason Rohan

Series: The Shield of Kuromori

Kenny Blackwood only meant to save his new friend Kiyomi from an untimely death—but what he’s unleashed in her might be worse. With an oni’s lifeforce now powering her body, she’s starting to adopt oni mannerisms and habits. So he’s determined to find her a cure. No matter what it costs . . .

I didn’t like this one as much as the first. I did actually enjoy Kiyomi’s changing personality, as I felt that saving her in the prior book was a big cop out, and seeing that the action has ongoing consequences has made that more palatable. But Kenny is in the process of throwing everything away for the sake of “fixing” her, and it’s not hard to see that this is going to land him in a whole heap of trouble in the long term.

(Besides, she doesn’t seem to be losing her essential personality. It’s basically her with new eating habits and anger management issues. Which is to say not very different from before at all.)

The book is still packed with a variety of weird Japanese monsters. This time, though, there’s a particular gang of them in addition to the random surprises. And this gang is acting much more intelligently than the rest. I liked the mystery of what was actually going on with the telescopes. (And the humor involved in the whole setup.)

I was less fond of the new human characters. I loathed Stacey. Pushy girls that will pretend to be in danger to get a reaction just hit all my “please someone kill you quickly” responses. But she’s wriggled her way into Kenny’s life (mostly by blackmailing him) so I guess the story will be stuck with her in the future too.

Overall I was mostly annoyed as I read this book. Annoyed at Kenny for pretending to go along with people only to abandon them when they were counting on him. Super annoyed at Stacey. And I’m not sure I care about the series enough to finish it out, especially since that currently means tracking down a copy of the third book. Maybe if my library gets them I’ll reconsider. For now, I rate this book Neutral.

The Sword of Kuromori (The Sword of Kuromori #1)

Title: The Sword of Kuromori

Author: Jason Rohan

Series: The Sword of Kuromori #1

Kenny Blackwood is on his way to Japan to meet his father, but he hasn’t even arrived before things start going weird. From the fuzzy animal in the luggage compartment to the various monsters that are wandering around, the various invisible residents aren’t able to hide from him. The problem is they hate being noticed. And like it or not, Kenny’s coming into this on the heels of his grandfather’s formidable reputation . . .

I liked the sheer amount and variety of monsters in this. Starting with the tanuki, Poyo, and branching out from oni and kappa to less familiar (but mostly deadly) creatures, Kenny’s experience of Japan is a menagerie of folklore.

I also appreciated that the story tried to give some depth to why Kenny is being drawn into all these things. He has family history with the work his grandfather did in Japan just after WWII, and that’s tied to why so many youkai are transferring old grudges or alliances to Kenny.

The romance was less appealing. Half the time Kenny and Kiyomi are fighting, and then just as suddenly they’re crushing on each other. The mood swings happened often enough to really annoy me, as sometimes there’s no buildup at all and suddenly he’s desperate for her. I also don’t like the trick pulled at the end. Taro’s offer lacked much impact because he’s not really there in the story except as a background character until that moment.

The card game also felt like a letdown. Since the rules are never explained, it’s hard not to feel like a random “I win” for whichever character is winning. There’s no sense of tension because we can’t follow the game, so all the games shown are basically two-turn affairs where the first player looks like they’re doing well until the second player crushes them.

Although ironically the thing I find hardest to believe is that he actually LIKED natto.

Overall this was okay. I didn’t like it as much as I hoped, but all the monsters helped keep my interest enough to finish. I rate this book Recommended.

Shatterglass (The Circle Opens #4)

Title: Shatterglass

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Circle Opens #4

Tris simply wanted to get some shopping done when she spotted a man trying to blow glass and summoning lightning into it. But the man is an unrecognized and untrained mage—which means Tris now has to teach someone much older than herself. Someone who’s afraid of lightning. And if that weren’t bad enough, someone is killing female entertainers and leaving their bodies in public places . . .

This is my favorite of the four. Tris is grumpy, sharp, and fusty, so she gets a student who’s not only older than she is, but equally bullheaded. I love how Tris has braided her stored powers into her hair, and how she’s managed a form of air-conditioning by taming winds to always blow around her. The little glass dragon is the best pet, too.

It’s interesting, too, how Tris, despite being the most powerful, is also having the hardest time actually finding employment. Her powers to disrupt and channel weather would be excellent in a war but are rather harder to use in day-to-day life, as she’s not eager to throw nature out of balance.

I liked Keth. He’s got his own history with both glassblowing and lightning, and he’s not at all impressed by Tris. He just wants to get on with his life as a glass crafter, but magic got in the way. And he’s got personal reasons to want the murderer caught, so he drives himself past his limits again and again in pursuit of answers.

Overall this is a good read, and while it doesn’t exactly close doors for the future of these four unique mages, it’s been a fun journey to see how life is going to look as they become adults. I rate this book Recommended.

Cold Fire (The Circle Opens #3)

Title: Cold Fire

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Circle Opens #3

Daja and Frostpine are in the snowy north. Daja’s just hoping to learn more smithcraft and work on her own projects, but soon she’s in over her head. A firebug has been setting fires—and Daja wants to use her living brass to make a fireproof suit to help combat them. And the two girls she discovers with magic need to be taught, which means Daja is responsible for finding them teachers and helping them get grounded in the basics. At least she’s found a kindred soul in Ben, the man with a passion for fighting fires.

I’m not exactly sure why this is my least favorite of this quartet. Maybe it’s all the snow and cold, or the fact that the firebug is revealed relatively early and the rest of the book is just waiting on Daja to pick up on the clues. Or the really annoying old lady. I appreciate that the story tried to show she had more to her than just her cruelty, but that still doesn’t make me sorry for her getting what she so richly deserved.

Despite that, though, it’s still a solid book. Daja has always been one of the more mature, and her challenges here stretch her in a different way. It’s a little about dreams and what happens when they break, whether that’s simply the expectation that someone is a good person, or the dream of a normal life that suddenly went up in smoke.

I rate this book Recommended.

Street Magic (The Circle Opens #2)

Title: Street Magic

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Circle Opens #2

Briar is traveling with Rosethorn through the market when he spots a girl polishing magic into a stone. But his inadvertent discovery puts both himself and Evie in the middle of a gang war. Everyone wants a good stone mage, in this city within ancient cliffs, and some of them are willing to go to any lengths to get one . . .

It’s fun seeing the contrast between who Briar was and who he’s become. He’s still much less polished than his friends Sandry, Tris, and Daja, but as he interacts with the gang members here he’s realizing he cleaned up a lot more than he expected. And his defenses of his way of life—even in the face of evidence and Evie’s skepticism—show that he’s still got a number of cherished illusions about the good of who he used to be.

Evie is amusing, too. She’s not really interested in being anyone’s pawn. Briar is required to either train her or provide a teacher for her, though, and he’s got to work around her distrust. I like that both of them are street-smart, but it means different things.

Rosethorn has much less of a role in this book, sadly, but she also doesn’t really fit into the gang war type of story this becomes. Still, when she does show up she’s as ornery as ever.

Overall this is a quick read. I rate this book Recommended.

Magic Steps (The Circle Opens #1)

Title: Magic Steps

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Circle Opens #1

Sandry is alone again. This time the circumstances are a little different—Briar, Tris, and Daja have all gone on long journeys with their teachers to various countries. But Sandry remains at home, caring for her uncle, who recently had a heart attack. Then Sandry spots a boy dancing magic, and because she discovered him, she has to teach him. Life complicates even more when a trade war turns deadly, and the killers are using a form of magic no one can detect . . .

This book opens a new quartet about Sandry, Daja, Tris, and Briar, but unlike before each book has a chance to showcase each one individually, as the other three are in different countries.

It’s nice to see how much Sandry has grown. She (and the rest) are now accredited mages at 14, which is such an accomplishment that Sandry doesn’t usually tell anyone. It does mean, though, that when she spots magic in Pasco’s dancing, she ends up as his teacher.

This gives a lot of depth to the story. Sandry is both trying to solve a string of murders as well as manage an apprentice mage who is easily as stubborn as she is. Just convincing him he HAS magic is a job and a half. She’s now stepping out as an adult into a new world of responsibilities, and finding her own place in the world.

I like that the magical abilities are continuing to branch out. From the dance-magic to a weird unmagic, the powers continue to surprise. And the characters are also solid.

Overall this quartet improves on the strong points of the previous. Unlike those, however, it is less required to read all the books in order, as each one more or less stands alone. I rate this book Recommended.