Tag Archives: fantasy

Impyrium

Title: Impyruim

Author: Henry H. Neff

It’s been 3000 years since Max, David, and Mina won the war against Astaroth. The Faeregine have ruled since then, expanding their dominion until they control most of the world. Hazel Faeregine is the youngest of the triplet Faeregine sisters. She has no interest in the throne, only her magic. But simply being a Faeregine comes with dangers and expectations . . .

Hob is a poor miner in the mountains until an unexpected opportunity brings him to the capital. Here, he finally has a chance to help overthrow the Faeregine family’s 3000-year rule, which he hopes will bring a better life for all the non-magical people who suffer under the current policies. But revolutions are tricky business, and Hob is only one player in a much larger game . . .

I’m glad we get a chance to return to this world, although the huge time-skip means it’s not necessary to read the Tapestry books before this one (although I would highly recommend it anyway because they are excellent). This is a different sort of story, with various powers clashing and two kids caught in the middle of things.

Hazel and Hob are both good characters, although I preferred Hob for his determination and his competence. Both Hob and Hazel are considerably less able to influence their situations than one might expect. The ending also leaves Hob particularly in an inconclusive situation, which I wouldn’t mind as much if there was definite news of a sequel. It’s otherwise irritating to get so many hints that big things are stirring without being able to see many of them worked out.

My only downside is that the book felt somewhat long for a payoff that feels like it ought to take more than one book. The whole war with the demons issue is important, but the heart of the book is more with the struggle between the caste system that’s grown up around magic-users versus non-magicians, with the new technologies the Workshop could unlock against the way people have always lived, with the old and inflexible Spider Empress and the extremely young heir to the throne. Those conflicts, as well as a certain necromancer still in the wild, would be plenty of material for future story.

All in all, it’s a solid beginning, and I hope it will be a series of its own. There are some nods to fans of the Tapestry books, though mostly those times are treated like the ancient history they now are. I rate this book Recommended.

The Red Winter (The Tapestry #5)

Title: The Red Winter

Author: Henry H. Neff

Series: The Tapestry #5

Having successfully defended Rowan from Prusias, the alliance is now ready to go on the offensive. Prusias, the seven-headed dragon/demon who claims rule of the world, must be defeated. Worse, the victory must come at the place that is the seat of his power. And always, in addition to Prusais’s menace, David, Max, and Mina must grapple with the mysterious Astaroth before his plans can come to fruition.

I can’t think of a more perfect cap to this startling and excellent series. Max, the Hound of Rowan, the son of the Celtic sun-god Lugh, is still discovering what his heritage means. Pursued by ruthless assassins that are actually his own clones, discovering new aspects to his power, and faced with impossible decisions, he may be Rowan’s great savior . . . or its destruction. David and Mia similarly uncover new depths of character, but my favorite has always been Max. Demigods that actually portray some fragment of the vastness and horror that an actual god might possess are rare in fiction, and Max has the unique challenge of integrating his humanity into his divinity, lest he become something worse than Prusias. “Never summon a god into the world,” he’s warned. And that warning is accurate.

I do wish I had reread the previous books before this one, because the story is both vast and sweeping as well as close, tying up a lot of the little hints and threads from previous books, allowing most everyone who survived this far to have their own little piece of the story (Bob and Mum are particularly touching). Connor surprised me, more than once. So did the vyes. The emotional highs and lows struck all the right notes, and there’s plenty of action and intrigue to move things along.

This has been a long journey that changed drastically along the way. From the humble beginnings of a boy attending a magical school, to the world-altering disaster that followed, to the covert rebellions, then open war, then beyond, this has been an absolutely amazing ride and cemented its place among the best of the best. Read them all in order (preferably in a row) to better appreciate the little clues and subtle details. I can’t wait to see what Henry H. Neff writes in the future. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Dragon Trials (Return of the Darkening #1)

Title: Dragon Trials

Author: Ava Richardson

Series: Return of the Darkening #1

Agathea Flamme (Thea) is a noble who dreams of being chosen to be a dragon’s rider. She’d rather be like her brothers in the Dragon Riders than married off to help carry on the family name through her children. Sebastian is the son of a drunken blacksmith who never even thought he’d qualify for such an honor. But when the same dragon chooses both of them, they’ll need to learn to work together. Because a greater danger is stirring . . .

I’ll say up front these do not read like 17 year olds. I read them about twelve. I enjoy middle-grade fiction as well as YA, so I still enjoyed the story, but I do want to note that the way the characters think and act in no way speaks “teenager” to me. Thea’s blind hatred of Sebastian for being a commoner is a grade-school level grudge.

Sebastian is easily the best part of the book (well, him and the dragons). He’s insecure due to his background but is willing to do what he can not only for himself but to help those around him. He’s thrilled with his dragon, and his interactions with her are sweet and a lot of fun.

Thea is also insecure, but unlike Sebastian, the story doesn’t flesh out her family beyond the extreme sense of duty she feels to live up to what she believes is their high expectations for her. So she comes off as an insensitive jerk for most of the book. I would actually have less of a problem with this if the story had included a few scenes showing her interacting with her parents, losing arguments, being weak, or otherwise humiliated, and then taking that pain out on Sebastian as a way to cope. As it is she’s going to be the make-or-break part of the book, because she’s mostly needlessly cruel. If you can’t stomach reading about her until she softens up, then you might as well just put the book down and go do something else.

Overall, though, I liked the dragons, and since Thea does get better by the end, that leaves me feeling more positively about the sequel. I just hope it takes more time to flesh out the characters and motivations through scene. I rate this book Neutral.

The Burning Page (Invisible Library #3)

Title: The Burning Page

Author: Genevieve Cogman

Series: Invisible Library #3

The Library’s timeless existence may be running out. Alberich, though he cannot enter, has found some way to threaten it—a fact painfully clear to Irene, who has been stuck doing dangerous missions thanks to her probation. But she, Kai, Vale, and the rest of her allies don’t have the slightest idea what Alberich is up to. Irene only knows she must do whatever she can.

This has good points and bad points. Irene remains amazingly competent in a great way. I love how ready and able she is to bite back on petty retorts, or force herself to overlook offenses, because it’s childish and won’t help what she really wants to do. She’s smart and quick to judge situations (usually correctly), but she’s not perfect by any means. She knows the Library is hiding things from her but accepts that as part of the way things are and tries to work within the system (at least, to the extent that’s even possible).

The dragons still frustrate me. We finally get to see Kai’s true form, which is nice. I’m way less a fan of how dragons appear to be the dumping ground for things that don’t make sense with their natures. This time around it’s creatures of order who are totally fine with a dragon’s gender being whatever said dragon says it is, regardless of biology. Which is a headscratcher. So dragons never change their minds? But mostly it’s the biology. We have a dragon willing to declare Irene insane and take over for her because she makes what that dragon considers an irrational choice, but declaring one’s gender to be opposite one’s physical sex somehow makes sense. It would make total sense as a Fae trait, because they define themselves by the stories they tell, or participate in. I guess the dragons got stuck with it in order to make this sound cool.

I had mixed feelings about the ending. The final fight was good, and everything plays out well until the very end, when certain matters about Vale suddenly come to a head. And then the completely-exhausted Irene does something that we’ve already seen is very difficult and it’s over in about two sentences. It felt more like getting this out of the way than bringing that tension to a climax and resolution. Vale mentions nothing, and we can’t even see him react, and then it’s the end.

I also suspect Irene may be more right than she knows, and Alberich may be wrong, about one crucial detail. And Bradamant probably found out in the first book, because she’s the one who actually read the Grimm story, and I still think she cut the ending short. But if that is the case, it will take another book or more to play out.

Overall this didn’t grab me as much as the previous books. The story was more straightforward, and one of the more interesting subplots fell flat on its face by the end. If you’ve been reading the previous books and liked them, you’ll probably still like this one. I rate this book Recommended.

God Eater Resurrection (PS4/Vita/Steam)

Earth has been overrun by a new lifeform dubbed Aragami. These creatures will eat anything, and in a short period of time have devastated the earth. An organization called Fenrir has succeeded in creating artificial Aragami as weapons, and the so-called God Eaters who wield them are the only force capable of standing against the remnants of humanity and total destruction.

I can see why people think the plot of the first game is better than the second, although to my mind the anime actually did a better job of fleshing out the earliest story arc. Lindow doesn’t have much time to make an impression before things go haywire, and the aftermath feels a little strong for someone the player will hardly know. It’s almost more fun in the second arc piecing together who he really was, and what he’d been doing, and why he got into such a mess. And I like Ren, who is hugely critical of Lindow to the point where you can’t really tell if he thinks anything much of the guy everyone else admires. (And Ren pretty much requires rewatching a few of his cutscenes later on in the game to notice something that isn’t spelled out until later.)

Character-wise Soma, Ren, and Shio were the only ones who really made an impression. Soma has a very interesting backstory, although the game never gets really deep into it, but it’s interesting how he struggles between doing what his father commands and hating him for it (and then trying to deal with all the fallout from his father’s actions), along with the unusual circumstances of his birth.

The gameplay for this remains strong, although I struggled a lot in the beginning until figuring out ways to compensate for lower-damaging moves. Thankfully the Aragami can all be killed with melee only, although once you progress far enough to unlock the best sniper gun line (level 4) and the best blast gun (level 10), guns offer a handy alternative to those monsters you just aren’t in the mood to fight again. New type God Eaters are still a rare thing, so you don’t get more than a handful of characters who can both shield themselves and shoot you a healing bullet, which makes HP management a bit more of an issue here.

Resurrection, since it takes place before Rage Burst, doesn’t offer some of the enhancements found in the later game, but it does have its own unique gameplay in the Predator Styles. Basically, the devour function that allows you to steal enemy bullets and a bit of a power-up was revamped to allow for different moves, such as a dash-and-devour, arial devours, etc. In addition, the five different devour actions allow you to equip bonuses (basically free skills) that will apply once that form of devour is used and remain until that particular burst bar runs out (or in the case of melee/gun boosting, until your next melee/gun attack).

The menus have also gotten a welcome revamp. Now each weapon type has its own page, so you can more easily find just the recipes you’re interested in crafting. I was a little frustrated that it was harder to keep a non-elemental weapon early to mid-game (at least for Spears), but the crafting system in other ways is less frustrating because you have more missions featuring only a single Aragami, so it’s much easier to go after the particular ingredients or tickets you’re missing.

Overall this is a great bonus to have bundled into the God Eater 2: Rage Burst game, which is how I would recommend buying it, as you can get both games for a reasonable price. I beat all the plot missions around 55 hours, but am still working on missions I missed completing and trying to platinum the game. I rate this game Recommended.

The King’s Traitor (Kingfountain #3)

Title: The King’s Traitor

Author: Jeff Wheeler

Series: Kingfountain #3

King Severn has gone past the point of harsh but not unjust, and is now becoming the very monster everyone said he was. Which leaves Owen in a hard position: continue to support the man who rules over him, or support those who would rather see him fall? And the king’s decision to use Owen’s marriage as a bargaining chip is not a welcomed one—particularly not when Owen finds things going in directions he never expected.

This was the hardest book to read, in a way, but also the best. Owen is no longer young, or idealistic. The loss of his first love (to a happy marriage, no less) has embittered him, and the long-term presence of King Severn and his biting remarks has shaped Owen into someone much more like the king than he wants to be. Owen has little left but his honor, and Severn seems determined to destroy even that.

The plot took several unexpected twists, although I think the title is unfortunate as there can be little doubt as to whom it will refer. But I did enjoy the ambiguity of it all. Owen wants to do right, but it’s terribly unclear what the right thing to do actually IS. He’s so sick of destiny playing the same story of betrayal, revenge, and usurpation that he continually tries to find a better way—but when magic can manipulate the fates of men, is that even possible? Can he trust his own judgement about those who offer support, but might after all be something far worse than the alternative?

I also really liked Owen’s struggles to stay honorable. To be a true knight, even though that costs him some of what he desires. It’s rare to find characters who both struggle with questions of virtue but also ultimately triumph—lust vanquished, and love remains. And I was also impressed at the way it ended. Breaking the cycle of violence isn’t just a platitude. Owen is so serious about it he goes way beyond what I’ve ever seen. And because of that, although it may still go horribly wrong in the future, the ending feels far brighter.

Overall this would be a rather bad book to start on, as watching Owen grow, mature, and change provides a lot of depth to what happens here (not to mention it would spoil a lot of neat things from the earlier books). I rate this book Recommended.

Gratuitous Epilogue (Touchstone #4)

Title: Gratuitous Epilogue

Author: Andrea K. Höst

Series: Touchstone #4

Marriage, kids… Cassandra thought she’d have more time before all that happened. But life had other ideas, and now that The Worlds Have Been Saved, it’s time to live life to the fullest. Muina continues to grow and develop, the Setari are finally able to get a break, and everyone has their own ways to make this planet home.

It’s really hard to describe this one, except as a novel-sized love letter to fans of the trilogy. Those who liked a healthy dose of action mixed in with the adventures of everyday life might find this disappointing. It mostly covers a few weddings, some parties, kids, lots of babies, and some intriguing events that could (hopefully) lead to future books.

I liked seeing where it all went. Sen, Rye, and Ys can be a bit too good sometimes, though. I find it hard to believe she’s not dealing with bratty or challenging behavior more, especially from Sen, but on the other hand, the diary format means much of Cassandra’s life is summarized.

And the end, of course, leaves open a number of interesting “What happens next?!” possibilities. So I can hope another Gratuitous Epilogue might come along. If you’ve read the series and really like the slice of life bits, I rate this Recommended. If you haven’t read the series, by all means do that first, and if the slice of life isn’t to your taste than this will probably hold less appeal.