Tag Archives: highly recommended

Sword of Fire (Pyrosian Chronicles #2)

Title: Sword of Fire

Author: James Galloway

Series: Pyrosian Chronicles #2

Tarrin has one simple mission: find out what happened to the Dwarves and Sorcerers that entered Pyrosia a few thousand years earlier to escape the Blood War. And now that’s become a more urgent mission to find Kimmie and Phandlebrass, who escaped an avalanche and entered that world almost a month ago. But the more they explore Pyrosia, the more they realize something is very wrong. The local Younger god is consorting with demons, the Elder god has abandoned his responsibilities, and Kimmie’s trail is going in worrying directions . . .

This book is so much fun. Tarrin reacts about as well as could be expected to a culture built on oppression, and besides leaving a rather messy trail carved through the countryside, ends up caring for a few children that caught his attention. Eventually he takes personal affront to the One and continues to escalate their spats.

And behind all the action is the question of just how much of his power as a god has followed him back to his mortal life, and what that’s going to mean for him going forward. The majority of the gods on Sennadar are overjoyed he left and don’t want him to come back, which is causing all sorts of problems as his Goddess tries to stand up for him.

But soon what Tarrin wants becomes secondary to what has to be done. And since it’s indirectly his fault, he feels responsible to fix it.

It’s hard to say everything I’d like to say about this book because most of that would spoil something good. This is another great adventure, with crazy fights, spectacular magic, and clever twists. Highly Recommended.

You can read the book for free here: http://www.weavespinner.net/worlds_of_fel.htm

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Honor and Blood (Firestaff #3)

Title: Honor and Blood

Author: James Galloway

Series: Firestaff #3

With the Book of Ages in his possession at last, Tarrin needs to get back to Suld, where he can use the book to determine the location of the Firestaff. Unfortunately, his Goddess has prohibited him from getting on a ship, so he’s stuck making the thousands of leagues journey over land. To keep his friends safe, his only company is Sarraya, a Faerie. But the journey brings challenges and surprises, forcing Tarrin to confront his ferality and his power . . .

I think this may be my favorite book of the 8 book series. It’s certainly the longest (Calibre Page Count estimates just over 1800 pages). By this point, Tarrin has turned hard and ruthless, and he survives by making his mission his sole focus. But now he’s got far too much time to think, and he’s also got a goddess determined to push him to improve, which means confronting a lot of his degrading morality. The Selani who populate the desert aren’t enemies, since he has the brands of Fara’nae, but he doesn’t want to get involved with them.

Of course, he ends up picking up companions (albeit somewhat temporary) despite himself. Because the Selani don’t back down from a challenge, and their honor also provides some obstacles to Tarrin’s determination to get along by himself.

I like how the confrontations with Jegojah end. Tarrin has proved over and over again it’s very easy to push him too far, but what “too far” looks like tends to go in one direction. Jegojah breaks the mold (although it’s mostly the help that did it). He’s also a reoccurring threat that in some ways gets worse every time he shows up, because he’s not just someone Tarrin can roast with a single magical firebolt.

I also really like the war. The return to some of the earliest locations from the series provides an interesting new look at them (and poor Duke Arren always seems to have bad run-ins with the trouble that follows Tarrin around). The climatic battle of the book is enormous and gives a great sense of how magic and steel can work together for a devastating assault or defense. Although magic is powerful, it has enough limits to put the outcome in question, especially when the enemy has its own nasty tricks.

Overall, this might be the longest book in the series, but it also delivers at a level above either of the two books that came before. Highly Recommended.

You can read the books for free here: http://weavespinner.net/worlds_of_fel.htm

Angel Unaware (Threshold, prequel)

Title: Angel Unaware

Author: Christa Kinde

Series: Threshold (prequel to books 1-4)

Although Marcus is a cherub, he hasn’t had a typical life so far. Grafted from practically the moment he was found by a Caretaker, he’s lived for so long among humans he can think and act much more like one of them. He wants to be a warrior. He never expected to gain a human friend . . .

This is a prequel novel for the Threshold series, but is probably better to read after those four books (or at least, don’t read the epilogue until after, or most of it won’t make sense). It’s the story of how Marcus and Ransom met and became friends.

I always liked Ransom, and seeing him here, younger and less inhibited, is a real treat. It’s funny how his friendship with Marcus is almost more of Ransom deciding they were friends and Marcus not having the heart to push him away, because Ransom is as up in your face as ever. (Continuing a trend, Ransom’s guardian angel has a few of those same traits, which is also really funny.)

Which is not to say Marcus dislikes Ransom. He just has no idea why a non-Christian and an angel would be friends. And Marcus has no specific Sending one way or the other, so he has no direction for where to go with this.

I absolutely loved getting Marcus’s perspective on life. He’s not very verbal in his human disguise, and only somewhat more talkative around his mentor and his Flight, but he’s got a world of things going on inside. He’s at once completely relatable yet wonderful—embarrassed at his own shortcomings, wholehearted in his struggle to learn and improve, and above all driven by pure love to do what he can for those around him. And sometimes the hardest thing to do is trust that God’s plans for Ransom are good, even when Marcus has no indication things will ever work out.

And the book, like all of the Threshold books, is so funny. Some samples:

“He’s a cherub, Jedrick.” Aleff drummed his fingers on the motorcycle helmet. “Marcus was made for war. He wants to dress up in armor and bash at things with pointy sticks.”

Or:

“Your jacket?”
“Not as snazzy as, ‘Lo, I am with you always,’ but it has pockets.”

Overall . . . well, I read this book six times online before I managed to get a paper copy (and read it again). It’s a cute story with a lot of laughs, but also a lot of things that really pushed me to think more about why I believe what I believe, what that ought to mean, and what kind of impact it can have (or not have). And I adore stories about real life and faith that still have swords and flying and impossible surprises around every corner. Highly Recommended.

(If you want to read this online, the main text of the book can be found here: https://christakinde.wordpress.com/thresholds/angel-unaware/

However, the epilogue is exclusive to the print book, and provides answers to a lot of questions about where Marcus was during various moments in the Threshold books, and also provides a bit of new material.)

Aster Wood and the Lost Maps of Almara (Aster Wood #1)

Title: Aster Wood and the Lost Maps of Almara

Author: J.B. Cantwell

Series: Aster Wood #1

Aster Wood is devastated about spending the summer with his grandmother in the middle of nowhere. But his boring isolation becomes far too interesting when he accidentally travels to another world. Now if he wants to get back, he’s got to track down an ancient group who once traveled between the worlds looking for the cure to a sickness that’s suspiciously similar to what’s happening on Earth . . .

This was excellent. Aster is an engaging protagonist—a kid who wants to be typical. But his heart defect means he’s unable to do anything really active, and it’s made him cautious about anything that looks more strenuous than a walk. Which his adventure definitely requires. And when he stumbles over a possible cure, it complicates his decision about finding his way back home. Thankfully, he does have the ability to be physically active after he gets cured (which in itself comes with some interesting wrinkles).

I liked the way multiple worlds show up, and how they’re handled. I liked the mystery of the links and how I’m still not certain Aster made the right choice with one of them. And the wolf is amazing and needs to show up in some future book.

Besides all that, the pace is snappy. Aster never stays in one place long enough to get bogged down. The plot lingers just long enough over his initial transport and shock to really ground him in the new world, but he hasn’t got anything like all the answers. Which is really funny when he determines to destroy a certain rock.

Overall this is a great adventure, and I look forward to seeing how the story develops. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

A Shard of Sun (The Summer King Chronicles #3)

Title: A Shard of Sun

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #3

With a newly-hatched dragon, Hikaru, under his protection, Shard must find a way not only to escape the wyrms but honor the promise he made to Hikaru’s mother. Meanwhile, Kjorn has flown all the way from the Silver Isles in search of Shard, but even though he finds traces of Shard everywhere, he can’t seem to locate the gryfon himself. And Kjorn, son of Sverin, son of Per, has the infamy of Per dogging him. Will Shard succeed in his quest to understand the history behind Per, the dragons, and the wyrms, and ultimately secure peace or victory? And what changes will Kjorn inadvertently bring to this new land?

First: Hikaru is absolutely adorable. He’s such a happy dragon, but Shard can’t help remembering that Hikaru’s lifespan will only be a single year. It’s a fascinating contrast. The dragons have a rich culture, but their short lives means the generations turn over incredibly fast, and Shard’s best sources of history are stories passed down a hundred generations, with all the complications that ensue from that much secondhand information. I also like the inversion of dragons as incredibly long-lived (well, the wyrms are, but these are dragons too). And Shard playing father is also very cute, as he tries desperately to be a good role model for Hikaru, who constantly surprises him.

I liked seeing Kjorn maturing too. He’s come a long way from the arrogant son who thoughtlessly took on many of his father’s more destructive beliefs and shipwrecked his friendship with Shard because of it. And he’s challenged in ways his size and strength can’t fix—winning trust, building alliances.

I also appreciate how even the most minor characters have their own lives, their own stories, and often, their own character arcs. The wolf that Shard saved from gryfons has grown up—and is struggling to be the kind of wolf that can win Catori’s heart. Or take Caj, who is torn between his wingbrother oath to Sverin and his love for his Vanir mate, and does everything he can to be honorable and faithful to both when they are completely at odds with each other.

All in all these continue to impress. The world has so much depth and detail, and I love the thread of redemption that breaks through evil. Because the ultimate goal is so much more complicated than simply killing a tyrant, of whatever kind. Real, true peace must break the cycle of violence—not ignoring the wrongs perpetrated but rising above them. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Skyfire (The Summer King Chronicles #2)

Title: Skyfire

Author: Jess E. Owen

Series: The Summer King Chronicles #2

Shard can’t afford to linger on the islands he’s known all his life. The Aesir came from over the sea, and knowing the reason for that long quest might provide the way for him to break through Sverin’s ever more despotic rule. But he also has the destiny of the Summer King to wrestle with. No one can tell him any more than the old song, a song known by many different species. If Shard is to be a king, how? If he is destined to unite the pride, how can he do it without perpetuating the cycle of war?

It’s a rare series whose second book is better than the first, but this is one of them. Shard’s tale interweaves with the story of those he left behind, and, surprisingly, neither one drags. Shard’s growing happiness contrasts against the growing misery of the rest, but both of them have incredible challenges that seem insurmountable.

I liked getting to know a new set of gryfons. Shard has a chance to see how a pride might look when it isn’t isolated and pushing hard for its own survival. There’s still dysfunction, but overall it’s a much healthier place. I particularly liked Asvander. He’s a little more than he appears, but it’s also true Shard’s own emotions cause him to misjudge him.

Also fun was seeing Shard interact with both eagles and lions. The various races all have their own flavor of legend, and although they seem to have an almost universal dislike of gryfons, there’s a lot of commonalities too.

Overall this continues to be an engaging fantasy with strong characters, hard choices, and plenty of surprises. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

Knights of the Borrowed Dark (Knights of the Borrowed Dark #1)

Title: Knights of the Borrowed Dark

Author: Dave Rudden

Series: Knights of the Borrowed Dark #1

Denizen Hardwick is an orphan. Unlike the stories, he’s not expecting a grand destiny or secret power to claim him. He knows where he is, who he is, and what his future is likely to hold. Then an aunt he never suspected he had shows up to claim him—and he encounters creatures of a darkness beyond this world who would destroy him . . .

This was fun on so many levels.

First, it’s incredibly self-aware of the various genre tropes that tend to crop up in books like these, and there are often little winks skewering concepts even while embracing some of them. Orphaned children discovering secret societies and great power—where have we heard that before? Right. But the fact that the story knows well enough where it’s going, and where others have gone, to poke fun at things lends an air of amusement to the whole thing. Even when it’s uncovering the fact that most of the secret world is really nasty and populated with extremely competent and deadly people who exist to stamp out the really nasty bits.

“Right,” Denizen said. “I thought this place was actually haunted or something.”
“Oh, not at all,” Darcie said brightly. “It’s just in constant danger of falling into the dark end of the universe.”
She frowned. “That’s not better, is it?”

Or bits like:

Three. Three near-death experiences. Was that a lot? How did they ever get anything done?

The horror and the humor work really well together. I can’t really read horror unless it’s screamingly funny, because something about the darkness sharpens the jokes. I loved the Tenebrae and the various bits of it that Denizen encounters. I loved the power and the Cost, and the deeper implications of it may be unstated for now but like Denizen is warned early on, there’s clearly a limit to what they can do.

“Rescue you,” Denizen said again in the same annoyed tone. “I’m here to save you from the Clockwork Three. Not”—he kicked some files out of the way—“that I’m expecting a thank-you or anything. With the kind of day I’ve been having, I expect you’ll try to kill me when I free you. Everyone else has. It won’t even be difficult. I’ve had about”—he half slid down another drift of folders, barely catching himself from pitching headlong into the circle—“ten minutes’ training since this whole debacle started.”


And the characters are so good. I liked Simon a lot, and how he proves so unexpectedly resourceful. I like his friendship with Denizen and how the two of them compliment each other. I loved Denizen’s caution, skepticism, sarcasm, and attachment to having things familiar and predictable. All of the Order that he meets is awesome in his or her own way.

It’s also well-written at a sentence level. The language is often playful, often beautiful. But the book isn’t so in love with turning a phrase that it doesn’t read swiftly. I chewed through it in one day but I think I’m going to read it again, to better appreciate the little details.

Overall this was a lot of fun, and I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series. I can’t wait to see how Denizen’s last choices change things going forward, and what happens with certain other characters I liked quite a bit. I rate this book Highly Recommended.