Tag Archives: adventure

Convergence (Eve of Redemption #7)

Title: Convergence

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #7

Erik has been kidnapped, but his family is determined to get him back. But Erik isn’t the only problem facing Kari. The city is still smouldering from the aftermath of the attacks, and her body is warning her she can’t keep going with these kinds of adventures . . .

I received a free review copy from the author. However, I liked it enough I also bought the book.

As expected from the ominous news last book, Erik’s situation is grim. Captured by the demon lord he and the Silver Blades once bested, held deep within demon-controlled territory, there’s little chance he’ll be rescued. Yet knowing his siblings, he knows they’ll try.

I liked the unexpected way this worked out. The split viewpoint really helps here, as we can see Erik’s inside view of the situation, as well as Kris’s approach to infiltrating deep enough to have a chance at getting him back. But the complications—some good, some bad—keep forcing both sides to change their approach.

Also, I’m never going to get tired of these werewolves. Sharyn is just enough like the beshathans to cause some really fun interactions.

Kris is a very different leader from Kari or Erik. He takes account of the people with him, the situation around him, and is constantly planning. I like how he’s aware of the potential problems with having fighters who have never actually killed before, and how he deals with the psychological aspects of his team and the enemy. He’s also suitably epic in fights, although I get the feeling he’s got much more in reserve. His divine heritage works somewhat differently than Kari’s gift from Sakkrass.

I like that Kris is a Christian, and acknowledges that this poses a few theological difficulties in a world with multiple gods, but since the plot isn’t here to argue about such niceties, the story just notes it and moves on. In some ways his is a harder faith than Kari, who can interact more directly with her gods, but he’s rock solid in it. And it doesn’t stop him from encouraging Liria to connect with her own creator, Sakkrass.

I also liked getting more of Corbanis. He’s fighting for the family he’s just gotten back, and he’s also quite amusing when he’s really mad.

“Hang on, Aeligos gave me his lock picks,” Corbanis said. He pulled the shield off his back and slammed his girth behind it into the door, smashing the flimsy portal off its hinges with ease. “That was easier than he makes it out to be…”

Erik gets quite a nice arc too. I liked that some of his rough edges are knocked off almost unintentionally as he finds himself in uncharted territory. I can’t wait to see the ways this will change things going forward. I like how an earlier kindness cycled back around again and gave him so much.

We also get a bit of an update on Typhonix, which was nice. Some intriguing hints point to future stories, but for now it’s mostly an interlude to keep everyone up to date.

In an interesting twist, Kari herself isn’t a member of the rescue squad. She’s done so much the last several books, with not much of a chance to take a break, and I think it’s great we see some of that catching up with her enough to force her to tend to her own needs. Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s on vacation. With her house burned down, the Order a mess from the recent incursion, and various other things that crop up, a long journey might have felt like a break.

And by the end she’s MORE than made up for any lower-key things she was involved in before. Kari on the warpath is capable of some delightfully enormous mayhem . . .

I also found it hysterical that Kari finally learns the meaning of the insult she’s been so casually slinging around, and her reaction to the whole episode is priceless.

Overall this is yet another solid entry in a fantastic series. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Advertisements

Dark & Day (Dark & Day #1)

Title: Dark & Day

Author: Israel Grey

Series: Dark & Day #1

Jonothon lives in the Twilight—the border country that separates Dark and Day. But when he finds an ancient artifact, he might have set off the end of his world. Now he’s racing to keep the artifact out of the hands of the Queen of Dark, before the forces of Day are crushed . . .

This book is made of awesome. The sheer amount that’s packed into the story should make it feel confusing, but it all just works. Because Jonothon is of the Dark, we get more detail about the Dark. Loosely, it’s science versus magic, on a world where the sun only ever shines on one side of the planet. Both sides have a multitude of races, but the Dark also has mechs, cyborgs, and “hollows”—holograms. In fact body modification is so common in Dark that staying “natural” is equivalent to choosing to live like a caveman. And given the way they do computers, it’s also true.

I liked the layers of mythology with the stories of the seven seraphim, and the way it’s never quite clear how much of this is true. I liked how the story challenges Jonothon about dealing with reality, and how both Dark and Day have their own stories that blind them to what they might otherwise see. I liked that it wasn’t quite as black and white as it initially appears.

The illustrations are gorgeous. My only wish is that they’d show up in color when I read it on the computer. It was great to see all the characters, and some, like Celeste, were a reference I didn’t catch until I saw the picture.

Which was the other thing that made me smile. There are callbacks to Final Fantasy, Tolkien, and more. It’s not so big as to be a ripoff, or so obvious as to be distracting, but it’s a nice little wink to those who recognize names like Wedge and Biggs.

Overall, if you have any interest in fantasy adventure stories, read this. The world is bursting with detail, the pace never lets up, the story careens around all sorts of twists and turns, and the end pulled everything together in a satisfying conclusion. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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.

Tales of Zestiria the X (Anime)

Title: Tales of Zestira the X
Episodes: 13-25

With the war on hold—for now—Sorey turns his attention to the larger issue: the Lord of Calamity. But issues from Roses’s past and Alisha’s present threaten to derail them. The second season picks up right where the first one leaves off, continuing the Shepherd’s journey.

I loved Tales of Zesteria the game, so the anime has been alternately really good and really frustrating. The frustrating part is that, by and large, Sorey has been mostly sidelined in what’s technically supposed to be his story. I’ve heard this referred to as the Rose and Alisha show, and that’s not far off. The second major criticism I have for the show is that its attempts to blend Berseria continue to feel out of place, and I think the story would’ve been stronger to ignore the Berseria bits, or just refer to them much more briefly.

That said, the anime also continues to expand on some things the game either explained poorly or not at all, and it changes some of the minor things that were rather frustrating about the game. Maltran’s whole subplot is gone, which works better—they either needed more time to expand the whole mess, or it needed to go, and the anime chose to cut it (which I like more, since I liked Maltran, and the game threw her under the bus). Similarly, Eizen’s fate is much happier in the anime. Dezel and Rose’s backstory gets more attention, and is told in a much more straightforward way (although Dezel still can’t avoid how it turned out). Alisha’s present struggles with her father and the kingdom also get more attention.

I really liked the way the anime adjusted the final boss battle (no more bullet mechanics!) to be a better transformation, and actually wish they could patch that back into the game. (Besides, Heldalf’s multi-phase fight really sucks. I had SUCH a bad time the first playthrough because I had mediocre equipment. Second playthrough, knowing what was coming and able to gear up better, was a lot better.)  The downside here is that Heldalf himself is really a nonthreatening villain in the anime. In the game, he toys with Sorey, whereas the anime just has him as the focal point of malevolence and therefore only dangerous because he exists and not so much for doing bad stuff.

I also really liked the epilogue, which is about half the last episode, and expands on a few things the game left really vague (I really like Mikleo’s future design . . . and the fact that he’s trolling random kids who are arguing about seraphs being awesome).

This is still probably best for people who have played Zesteria, and possibly Berseria, who can appreciate the various things the anime did to adjust the story. But it wouldn’t be a bad introduction to those curious about the game, either, since unlike the Tales of the Abyss anime this doesn’t feel nearly so much like a videogame.

Overall I still enjoyed this second half. The anime is at times a very different thing from the game that inspired it, so even if you disliked much of the game, this could still be worth a shot. If you’re going to get into the show, start at the beginning, so the whole journey makes a lot more sense. I rate this Recommended.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (PS4/Vita)

Title: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

Systems: PS4/Vita

Series: Ys

Adol Christin is an adventurer, but he isn’t planning to embark on his next one quite so soon. When the ship he’s on sinks, he and the rest of the castaways must survive on a deserted island. Only this island has far more in store for them—Adol’s dreams connect him to a mysterious girl, Dana, whose story has great importance for their own . . .

I have never played a Ys game before this one, but this has little enough to do with its surrounding series that it wasn’t a problem. Adol’s adventure is pretty self-contained, with only minor references to what I presume are series staples or callbacks.

The game was excellent. I loved exploring every corner of the island, unlocking its secrets one by one. The gameplay is action-based, and fights generally go very quickly, so there isn’t much grinding required (even if you’re like me and have to horde healing items for longer dungeons, the fruit regrows pretty quickly, and the ingredients for potions are easy enough to gather).

I liked how there isn’t any money in this game–you’re on a deserted island, with only fellow castaways, so what use would it be? Instead there’s a trading system that allows you to trade up or down for various materials.

And I wish the journal was something all RPGs implemented. It keeps track of the expected basics, like a plot summary and the tutorial screens that you’ve seen so far, but it also keeps track of every fish, monster, and material, which makes figuring out how to craft anything a breeze. And the menus are cross-linked, so you can start with a material, pick a monster that drops it, and go right to the screen with details about that monster. It’s such a little convenience, but one missing from pretty much every other game I’ve played.

Because of features like this, you don’t actually need a guide to get 100%. Just keep an eye on the quests in the village after every major story event and things will take care of themselves.

The graphics are admittedly dated, showing the game’s Vita origins. Still, I like the bright, colorful world, and the tropical locations are beautiful. The setting is the ancient Mediterranean very thinly disguised (Greek is the name of the country? Really? I suppose they speak Greece there).

The characters are mostly good as well. I was never fond of Laxia, who has the unfortunate distinction of being humiliated for fanservice right at the beginning of the game. It’s things like this that make it really hard for me to get non-anime fans into these games. They see a dropping-the-towel scene like that and figure the game will be smut, especially since this comes barely an hour into the game. And it makes no sense for her to even have a towel at that point in the game, much less feel safe enough to take a bath, given that she’s just washed ashore from a shipwreck and the local wildlife is decidedly unfriendly.

However, others, like Sahad, Ricotta, and Dana, were much better. Hummel is just kind of there to be comic relief.

I should probably mention the localization is getting an update, though as of my playthrough I only saw the original. It would be nice to get a few of the place names updated to something with less awkwardness in English (the Archeozoic Big Hole is probably the worst offender), but I didn’t find it a game-ruining experience.

Overall, I am very glad I picked this up (would also like to get the soundtrack, and if there is an artbook I want it, because the monster designs are awesome). I beat it in 77 hours, but that was with a lot of exploration, the final boss, true ending, postgame dungeon, and various points early on trying to subvert the need for double jump to get some chests (hint: the characters have different jump distances, and this can also be altered somewhat with moves. So Sahad, if you can get him to do his 4-swing attack in the air, has a lot of horizontal distance, or Laxia has a charge attack that can move her forward). I only missed the platinum because I decided to play on Normal and not Nightmare. I rate this game Recommended.

Dragon Defender (Dragon Defense League #1)

Title: Dragon Defender

Author: J.A. Blackburn

Series: Dragon Defense League #1

Peter Clark is not really an adventurous sort—unless you count building robots. But when an uncle he didn’t know about shows up on his twelfth birthday, he learns his mother’s disappearance is connected to an unexpected legacy with dragons. Now he’s running around South America looking for a dragon egg . . .

This was pretty good, although it relied a little too heavily on circumstances being favorable for my tastes. Peter might be an approachable lead, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of skills to offer (the awesome car battery scene aside). He picks up two companions fairly quickly, though. I don’t care much for Xana, whose main contribution appears to be that she’s rich and has parents who don’t care if she runs around in a dangerous place unsupervised. Similarly, Mario is almost a bit too good when his introduction paints him as a kid who has had a very hard life and turned to crime to support himself.

Those are comparatively minor quibbles, though. The dragons are the main point of the book, and those are a lot of fun. I like that there are multiple types, with their own habitats, and in some cases ties to local folklore. And the particular dragon this book is tracking down isn’t exactly typical. Given what ends up happening, I am curious to see how Peter interacts with other dragons in the future.

As might be expected, the first book is in large part setting up a series to come. I am curious to see how the larger story unfolds. It would be nice if the bad guys aren’t so one-dimensional, but given everything else this book was doing there wasn’t a lot of room for that here. I rate this book Recommended.