Tag Archives: elves

The Torch Port Ensemble (The Faraway Paladin #4)

Title: The Torch Port Ensemble

Author: Kanata Yanagino

Series: The Faraway Paladin #4

Just because he’s defeated a dragon doesn’t mean it’s time to relax. Will still has a territory to manage, and various issues that crop up around everyday life. Whether it’s romantic entanglements, a side trip with Bee, or trying to find a resolution to a giant that’s blocking access to a road, Will forges on.

This book is almost more of a collection of short stories, covering various little adventures in the lives of the characters. They each have a different focus, and a framing scene ties them together.

I liked the unexpected directions these go. Reystov has always been a fun character, someone who lives for those fights with tough enemies where he can put his incredible sword skills to use. But after helping to slay the dragon, he’s found something more difficult. The various hijinks that ensue are both funny and sweet.

It did technically count as unlawful trespassing and abduction, but I was sure my god would forgive me for it. After all, it was her revelation that had told me about all the good entry points.

Similarly, I was amused when Will realizes he’s fallen in love, and with whom. He’s not going to get any help from Menel on this one (though given how crass Menel can be, that’s probably a good thing). That’s something that will be interesting to see play out over future books.

It was also really neat to see a fight that DOESN’T work out for Will. And why. It’s the same concept as when he fought the dragon—it doesn’t matter how good you are, sometimes things just don’t go your way. It’s not even that Will did anything wrong. Murphy had it out for him that day.

I’m hopeful that future books will push the story to new lands, but after the intensity that was the fight with the dragon it’s nice to have this bit of a breather before whatever adventures come next. I rate this book Recommended.

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The Lord of the Rust Mountains (The Faraway Paladin #3 – Secundus)

Title: The Lord of the Rust Mountains

Author: Kanata Yanagino

Series: The Faraway Paladin #3 – Secundus

Setting out after the dragon, Will and his team make their way up the river towards the back door to the Iron Mountains. But this terrain has been unknown since the demons overran it two centuries before, and simply getting to the dragon will be a quest in and of itself.

I like how the books keep teasing that old loan Mary, Blood, and Gus made when they slew a wyvern. I hope Will can go after it soon. And Reystov’s fishing adventures cracked me up. He needs to find another fishing spot. Or maybe better lures.

There’s plenty of fun on the way to the dragon. Al gets to see much more clearly how Will behaves in actual combat (and the discussion about Volt’s hero who slew a hydra by himself was funny). Something I really appreciated is that Will actually steps back for a number of these fights and takes a more supportive role, instead of trying to do everything himself. Since Will has magic and benediction, he’s just as effective in a supporting role as he is on the front lines, and although he’s strong and proactive he recognizes that doesn’t mean he has to do everything.

I like the secret they find on their way to the mountain. I’m going to be vague to avoid spoilers but I loved the character interactions, and what it might possibly mean for the future. Specifically Menel’s future (although his choice of words could easily cancel that out, but I think he’s still got a chance).

And I love the deepening layers of temptations that Stagnate keeps dropping on Will, and his response to them. And what ultimately becomes of them. Will is utterly opposed to Stagnate—but both Stagnate and Gracefeel are, in a way, gods of second chances. His understanding and respect for Stagnate results in several very interesting conversations, and Stagnate is beginning to respect him in return.

The confrontation with the dragon was amazing. Valacirca proves as unpredictable as Gus warned, and I like that Gus’s suggestion to see if there wasn’t another way to resolve this gets explored at such depth. Will—at least once he’s not panicking—can clearly see the benefits and disadvantages of the alternative.

And this is THE fight that tests their teamwork to the absolute limit. It’s epic in so many ways. (And that ending . . . Ouch). This is the ultimate fight so far, and as expected of a dragon, Valacirca is both terrifying and complex, able to use multiple strategies to maximum effect. I do like how Will points out that because this is life, not a game, and therefore not tied to stats, there’s a chance (however small) that he can win. And conversely, even if he’s dealing with small fry, he needs to stay alert because there are multiple ways a weaker foe might be able to capitalize on an opportunity and take him down.

This was a wild ride all the way through. It’s a struggle of dwarves who are fighting to take back their pride as a people, to somehow erase that failure of 200 years ago that drove them away from their mountains. It’s Will’s struggle to find bravery in the face of something he knows he’ll need a million miracles to defeat, and the courage to choose to not give up even in the face of horrific opposition. Everyone is choosing to move forward. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Lord of the Rust Mountains (The Faraway Paladin #3 – Primus)

Title: The Lord of the Rust Mountains

Author: Kanata Yanagino

Series: The Faraway Paladin #3 – Primus

Will is trying to manage the lands within Beast Woods and protect the people, but a prophecy about the evil within the Rust Mountains warns him that trouble is coming. For the Rust Mountains house a mercurial dragon. Sometimes siding with the gods, sometimes siding with their enemies, in the last war this dragon partnered with the demons to devastating effect. The dwarves lost their ancestral home. Thousands died. Will has no chance of beating the dragon, but he can’t stand aside as innocent people are once more going to be slaughtered . . .

This volume is split into two parts, so the story here is incomplete in and of itself. That said, the story arc as a whole is very strong, and this first part sets out the stakes and throws in a lot of complications.

Here we meet the dwarves. Will envisions them the way Blood talked about them—warriors proud and strong, unyielding in the face of certain death. But what he meets is the wreckage of a people who have wandered for two centuries. Timid. Spiritless. Broken.

That would be enough for Will to help anyway, but I love how he’s trying to encourage them—and one in particular—to stand back up. Even though Will himself admits he did the same things they did, in his previous life. Maybe because of that, he wants them to go farther than he had. He can’t quite remember the thing that ultimately broke him in that life, but he knows what the results were: a life where living and dying were basically the same to him.

I also really like how Will points out it doesn’t take anything exceptional to succeed. Practice and basic skill building, and a willingness to get back up again, are really all you need. The biggest things are built on those little building blocks.

Menel gets some interesting new abilities, too. I like that he’s not getting left behind as Will continues to improve. Even though he might feel like Will’s far better than he is, they’ve become a team.

Stagnate gets an interesting encounter too. (And it’s awesome that the god of undeath is called Stagnate.) I like how Will can totally understand where Stagnate is coming from and still be resolutely against Stagnate’s conclusions. Stagnate is nothing if not complicated, and Will can benefit from that even if they are enemies. And Will wants to be enemies—everything Stagnate can offer is everything that ruined him previously, but that doesn’t make it less tempting.

Will’s crisis of conscience is also very good. The skills and abilities he’s gained in this time are not insignificant, but he’s being told point blank by multiple parties that this will not be enough to stop a dragon. That it’s okay to step back or run away. But that’s a dangerous position for Will, who has memories of an entire lifetime where he’d stepped back and run away from the problems facing him. So far those memories have been the impetus for him to take hold of life with all his strength, but they also represent a trap. Giving in just once will put him back in that place inside his heart, and then the next time his courage is required its fractured strength may falter again.

This is one of the main reasons I enjoy his displays of overwhelming strength. It’s often training prevailing in spite of what’s going on in his heart. He’s not proud, but realistic about how far he’s come and how far he has yet to go. He keeps a very level head. But even Will needs encouragement to push him to take the steps he wants to take, but is afraid to. Even though he can remind himself, he needs other people to stand up with him.

I adore the end. Will finally divulges a bit more about his past to his closest friends, to hilarious results. (I’ve wanted to see Menel’s reaction ever since they became friends.) It’s so understated, and just imagining the reactions had me laughing long after I put down the book.

The humor continues to be really good. Whether it’s Will commenting on how hiring maids actually worked out for him (versus the tropes he’d been familiar with from Japan), the conversation where he’s trying to defend his utter lack of a dating life, or watching how everyone around him reacts to what he thinks is perfectly normal, there’s a good bit of levity balancing out the more serious bits.

Overall this (partial) volume continues the adventure in some wonderful directions, and although I’m a bit sad they didn’t just bundle both halves of volume 3 together for the English release, I’m still very glad I continued with the series. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Cypher (Guardians Inc. #1)

Title: The Cypher

Author: Julian Rosado-Machain

Series: Guardians Inc. #1

Thomas is living with his grandfather after his parents disappeared. There’s a lot to get used to—but he never expected helping his grandfather search for a job would land them both jobs at the mysterious Guardians, Inc. Or what that job would entail. Guardians, Inc. harbors secrets of magic and technology, and are committed to finding a mysterious book that could help them shape the next five hundred years. But others are searching for the book as well . . .

This was a pretty solid book. Thomas is pressing through a life turned upside-down when everything goes sideways yet again with an unexpected job offer. I liked the worldbuilding, which has a variety of mythological creatures running around the modern world (or trying to leave well enough alone, as the case may be), and the way Thomas is introduced to it. I liked the abilities of a Cypher, and how it comes with some interesting limitations (only written words, not spoken, was a fun twist). And the plot doesn’t drag but keeps things fresh with a new wrinkle pretty well every chapter.

Thomas felt a little young to me. I kept expecting him to be twelve instead of sixteen, which made the scenes of him crushing on a girl feel a bit strange. I’m also not generally a fan of this type of crush, which short-circuits someone’s brain (even though there are several hints this is being encouraged by magic, it’s still not a plot device I like). I did like Thomas’s relationship with his grandfather. It’s nice to see how they both support each other, even though they don’t always agree.

Tony rubbed me the wrong way. For a special agent that’s supposedly as well-trained as he is, he acts like a big kid. I spent most of the book suspecting him as a spy or a plant (and I still don’t know if that might end up being true) because he’s not very professional most of the time.

Overall, though, it was still a fun read. The book ends in a way that basically sets up a series to come, so it’s more about introducing the world and the quest than providing much resolution. I rate this book Recommended.