Tag Archives: dragons

The Phoenix Ascension (Eve of Redemption #10)

Title: The Phoenix Ascension

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #10

The war is in full swing. Kari, Kris, and their allies are pushing to conquer the desert kingdom of the shakna-rir as fast as possible, so they can take down an ancient evil before it unseals itself. This is complicated by the simultaneous wars on two other worlds Kari holds dear, but slowly, things are starting to pull together . . .

I received a review copy of this book for free, but I bought it anyway because I love the series.

This is a book best suited to being read shortly after the previous, as it picks right up where those left off and wastes no time throwing the dozens of characters we’ve come to know into play. The epic scale shines, although in contrast to most of the rest of the series, the grand nature of the constant battles leaves little time for anything else.

Despite the raw power commanded by many of the individuals in Kari’s army (least of all Kari herself) it was interesting to me to see how war changes things. Whether it’s Kari turning down Ashanti’s plans to fight 17-to-1, or to have the focus more on the position of troops than any individual fighter, it was clear that the sheer numbers of soldiers involved changes the game considerably. And that’s without considering Kari’s desire not to wipe the “enemy” out, as she’s mostly interested in curtailing the demon activity involved in the usurpation.

“Then we shall have to clear a path,” Ashanti said.
“I like your determination, but not your sense of self-preservation,” Morduri said with a roll of those amethyst eyes.
“No kidding,” Kari said. “Sheesh, it’s one thing to die for a cause, but can we set our sights a little higher than foot soldiers and maybe aim for fighting something like this idiot?”

There’s also still a bit of humor, even though the circumstances lend themselves less to banter.

I was happy to see several longstanding plot threads resolved—and some of them in very surprising ways (Kari’s reaction to the portal at the end was priceless). Although the plot is bending in a few new directions, it feels like the series will resolve soon.

Overall this is another strong book, though not my favorite in the series. The focus on battle does mean less opportunity for characterization, and the huge cast means it’s hard to stay emotionally connected with them all. But this is a necessary chapter in the ongoing saga, and it will be interesting to see what comes next. I rate this book Recommended.
Other favorite quotes:

Kris blinked. “I didn’t mean go there to fight, Kari. You’ve got a much tougher job than that. You’ve got to go do cleanup detail after the fight’s won. But then again, if our friends fail… kill everyone you can, and we’ll figure it out afterwards.”

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Dragon Seed (Archemi Online #1)

Title: Dragon Seed

Author: James Baldwin

Series: Archemi Online #1

Hector is dying of an artificial virus, but he’s determined not to go out quietly. When he receives a message from his estranged brother, he returns home to find an unexpected opportunity to extend his life via the first full virtual reality game. The only problem is that the game’s still in progress. Still, Hector decides it’s worth the chance, and plunges into a fantastic world with the goal of becoming a dragon rider . . .

This has amazing characterization. From the very beginning, Hector’s reckless personality shines bright, and the various humans and NPCs he runs into are equally compelling. (I’m not totally ditching the “this is actually another world” plot twist, but for now they do appear to be actual NPCs).

Hector’s start in the game is plagued by some disturbing glitches. He’s dumped straight into a nightmare-grade quest, the safety measures that the devs assured him were in place don’t seem to be working for him, and he somehow caught the interest of one of the local gods (which really wasn’t supposed to happen given the game’s background lore).

Of course, my absolute favorite character is Cutthroat, the dinosaur-like mount used to haze the newbies, which of course ends up as his gifted steed. Cutthroat has all the tricks of a bad horse and then some, and her antics frequently had me laughing out loud.

Given where this ends, the next book is going to be really entertaining.

The litRPG element is fairly light, with most of the game elements confined to the character creation scene. Most of the rest of the book plays out like a more typical fantasy adventure, just with a few skills to use during battles.

Overall this was a very fun book, and I’m eager to see where the series goes from here. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime (Anime)

Title: That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime
Episodes: 1-25

Mikami Satoru was an ordinary man, until the day a mugger ends his life and sends his spirit to another world. Reincarnated as a slime monster named Rimuru Tempest, he fumbles his way through meetings with dragons, goblins, ogres, and more in this brand-new world.

So now that the first season is completely over, I thought I’d throw a few thoughts out there.

The first two major arcs are definitely the strongest. The initial exploration of this new world, culminating in meeting Shizu, and the Orc Lord arc were both a lot of fun whether it was anime, manga, or light novel portraying them.

The last two arcs, unfortunately, are a step down in several respects. I never liked the Milim arc much, and cutting down the number of episodes adapting it doesn’t help an already weak plot with Charbydis. The major characters here basically show up, fail to pose a credible threat, and resolve much too fast.

Similarly, the last big arc with Rimuru turning teacher doesn’t have enough focus on the kids who are supposed to be at the center of it all. In both cases, the weaknesses were present in the light novels, but not as strongly because of other interesting content to balance it out. I still hope Rimuru’s journey to the capital gets animated as an OVA, as that had several amusing encounters that the anime completely cut out.

The last two episodes are special episodes. One is a standalone episode about Shizu and a particular demon who will later meet Rimuru, and the last is a recap of the series with Veldora and Ifrit voicing some of the scenes from Veldora’s diary (the short stories at the end of every manga volume). I liked Shizu’s episode better, as it at least provides some new material. Veldora’s diary was a recap coming right on the heels of another episode with a lot of recap (plus they skipped some of the funnier bits of his diary anyway, like how he found manga through Rimuru’s memories and took it as sacred texts).

Overall I still enjoyed my time each week with the show, but I think after the Orc Lord arc the quality does go down a lot. That said, I’m looking forward to season 2, which has already been announced, as it will cover some of my favorite moments in the web novel. (The light novels covering those arcs haven’t come out yet in English.) I rate this series 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.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 6 (Light Novel)

Title: Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest, Vol. 6

Author: Ryo Shirakome

Format: Light Novel

Hajime never intended to get involved in the war between the demons and the humans, but when the royal capital is attacked while he’s in it, he can’t help but get caught up in things. In addition, conspiracies are multiplying like crazy: Aiko’s been kidnapped because of what Hajime told her, some of the people around the palace have been acting very strangely, and some classmates are not what they seem.

This volume continues the trend of excellent fight scenes. Some of them are the expected curbstomps—the invading army was pretty much doomed when it picked a city Hajime was in—but Hajime is starting to attract the attention of higher-level fighters who can match or exceed him in combat, which keeps the overall book more interesting.

Aiko had some good moments too, although I still dislike how she’s basically falling in love with Hajime over something he did while she was dying.

I’m a bit mixed on the other student conspiracies, though. Some of this has been set up over the course of a few books now, and it was nice to see how that plays out, but others just felt like the author went “Welp, you need to be evil now.” I don’t entirely buy the reason or the behavior because there was just no clue ahead of time. (And no, the nameless student segments hinting that someone is evil don’t really count for me, since we can’t see it in the person’s behavior otherwise, and those scenes could just as easily apply to others.)

Overall if you’ve been enjoying the series so far, this is another good entry. I rate this book Recommended.

Gods and Kings (Eve of Redemption #9)

Title: Gods and Kings

Author: Joe Jackson

Series: Eve of Redemption #9

The time has come at least to open the Temple. But in some ways it leaves more questions than answers. A conflict spanning thousands of years is reaching its tipping point in the present day. Kari and her allies must coordinate multiple plans over multiple worlds as they fight to overthrow the demonic Overking.

It’s hard to summarize this book because there’s so many characters and so many plot threads. Almost every chapter drops some major revelation or advances something critical. And a lot of the things hinted at did not turn out at all the way I expected (particularly regarding Max’s father). I would definitely recommend catching up on the other books before reading this one, as it drops you straight into the action and never lets up.

I love that the gods are pretty much uniformly good in this series. They’re not the conniving, selfish manipulators so many other books use. They have different focuses, different forms, different worlds, but they have an underlying unity of purpose. And they all care for their believers. Which is one reason that although faith is hugely important in this series, it’s not restricted to a single group.

I also love that Gil gets a fanclub (richly deserved). The werewolves continue to be one of my favorite parts of the series. And Starlenia’s reaction to finding out she can’t inherit the “curse” is hilarious.

The humor stays strong. One of my favorite lines was this:

“Perfect. As for everyone else, I’d say Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, but since that list apparently includes sleeping with demon kings, I’ll just leave you to fend for yourselves.”

Overall, this is another strong volume in a fantastic series. Start at the beginning and work up to this one for the full impact. I rate this book Highly Recommended.