Tag Archives: highly recommended

Praise the Orc!

Title: Praise the Orc!

Author: Lee Jungmin / Translator: Rainbow Turtle

Status: 228 chapters (Complete) + 3 chapters extra story (incomplete)

Jung Ian runs his own cafe, content to earn enough money to support his younger sister and fund his own modest life. It’s a nice change from his previous position in the military. He’s not interested in the new virtual reality game, Elder Lord, which has exploded in popularity. At least, not until he overhears his sister complaining about how other players are harassing her. So Ian creates an orc character with the intention of protecting his sister, but the world of Elder Lord has many secrets . . .

I’m so glad I found this. I usually hate books about virtual reality games, but this one has several expected and unexpected twists, as well as solid writing that kept me blazing through chapter after chapter.

Right away, Ian stands out. He’s no slacker teenage gamer genius (although he MEETS a number of them). Instead, he’s a former member of an elite military division. An ACTUAL assassin. Someone who has killed before, and knows exactly what those kinds of battlefields entail. So when he faces the disturbing level of reality in Elder Lord, his previous combat experience gives him a leg up on many other players. He knows what it means for people to die. He knows what it means to be responsible for other lives. And that’s one reason he can’t leave bullies alone, especially when it’s players against natives.

The orcs are a simple, brutal race, but their philosophy suits Ian perfectly. Their traditions of honor and strength resonate deeply with him. I love how the constant refrain of an orc is “I’m alive.” It’s how they greet each other, how they say farewell, how they challenge their enemies. Ian slowly comes to appreciate exactly what an orc means about living, and why death isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

I love how the book is structured. All of the little acts of goodness Ian seeds grow into something far beyond what he could have imagined. The various lives he’s touched repay his trust tenfold. And the end is a brilliant declaration of hope against absolute despair, and celebrates the meaning of every single life even though those lives will eventually perish. It cracks open a window to something more.

The secondary characters are also a lot of fun. There’s an ongoing thread following Ian’s sister, who has no idea who he is in-game. I love the understated relationship between the two of them. She trusts Ian utterly, and he’s careful not to betray that trust. He takes care of her in place of their deceased parents, encouraging her. There’s another thread following a rich woman Ian knows, which gives a lot more insight into what Elder Lord is at a corporate level, and some behind-the-scenes looks at the things the players would never find out.

And then there’s the people Ian knows in Elder Lord. Anor was easily my favorite, even though he doesn’t grow into his potential as much as Tiyo. Anor was a shy, bullied half-breed until Crockta came into his life and challenged him to stand up for himself. But standing up for himself involved something like a psychotic break, and once his magic is unleashed so is his language. Anor went from quiet and polite to basically unable to talk without swearing at everything, and his responses to his own power range from terror to playing up his villainous side to the hilt. (I can’t even tell if he’s serious, psychotic, or just trying to roleplay himself into it. And I’m totally fine with not having a solid answer on that.)

Tiyo is another source of amusement. A muscled gnome who uses a magical gun, he’s overly sensitive about people looking down on him in any manner. He might be tiny but he’s got the biggest attitude of the whole cast.

The other users are well-drawn. Some simply want to play casually, and don’t really do much one way or another. Others see this as a chance to wreck havoc in a world that won’t punish them for rape, murder, or wanton destruction. A few, like Ian, have enough of a sense of justice to stand up for what’s right. The videos posted and snippets of forum threads commenting on game events perfectly capture the various types of reactions. (And who can forget the tabletop roleplayers who are generally pretty strong but have that one Really Embarrassing Friend who won’t shut up.)

Overall this was just a blast to read, and I desperately hope the rest of the Extra story (kind of an Afterward short story) gets translated. Not only was the ending perfect, but the followup was everything I could’ve asked for (AND I MUST KNOW HOW IT ENDS!). Highly, highly recommended.

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The Book Eating Magician

Title: The Book Eating Magician

Author: Mekenlo / Translator: Rainbow Turtle

Status: 353 chapters (Ongoing)

Location: https://www.wuxiaworld.com/novel/the-book-eating-magician

Theodore Miller wants nothing more than to be a magician. And he’s brilliant at studying, insatiably curious to learn new things, and dedicated to his schooling. That still hasn’t stopped him from failing the last year of university multiple times due to insufficient power to complete the practical exams. About to set off on his last repetition, Theodore finds a mysterious book in the library—one that bonds itself to his hand and demands to be fed books, or it will eat him instead. But the books Gluttony eats also offer small bonuses to Theodore . . .

The translation quality is excellent. I found almost zero mistakes in hundreds of chapters, and the text flows very nicely. This is a very readable edition, and I hope that if it ever gets an official translation it will sound as good.

Yes, there are a lot of chapters. But this does not feel anything like that long. The chapters are relatively short, and perhaps due to the serial format, something is always happening. Whether it’s Theodore’s initial experiments with the grimoire Gluttony, his clever approach to enemies, or the times the story pulls back to spotlight someone else showing off awesome power, something is always happening.

Theodore is finally able to rise through ranks he never hoped to reach before, but some of his enemies are so ridiculous there’s no way he can overpower them. So most of his fights are more about being smart about how he’ll use the various tricks he has available. And even then, sometimes it’s just about hanging on long enough for someone else to rescue him.

Theodore’s actual magical power, and sensitivity to magic, are terrible. Gluttony can boost him, if he feeds it the right books, but he’s still terrible for a long time. The scene where someone tries to help boost his sensitivity is funny because no one can believe he’s reacting so badly—everyone assumed his base level was much higher. I also find it interesting that it’s his sensitivity, more than his power, that’s the real block. He could buy things to increase power, but that doesn’t do him any good if he can’t use the power well.

I also really like Theo’s attitude. Before Gluttony, he’s persistent in the face of insurmountable odds. He just picks himself up to try again every time he fails, doesn’t complain, and studies harder. After Gluttony, he’s aware he’s only succeeding due to a “cheat,” and remains humble. He’s certainly aware of his own capabilities, but he’s polite, respectful, and far more interested in learning something new than showing off. His encounter with a bitter master of summoning magic is a good example: the man dislikes Theo for being stronger, but Theo’s interest in his life’s work despite the poor results eventually thaws him, and together they manage to work the kind of spell the master spent his whole life wanting to see. Also amusing to me was one part where Theodore is tackling an 1800 page book and has stayed up far too late reading the first 1050 pages . . . and his reaction is, only 750 pages to go! Onward! Which as someone who frequently loses sleep due to reading amused me greatly.

The secondary characters are also fascinating. I love that Theodore decides to trust Vince, the one professor who supported him as a student, with the truth about why can can suddenly surpass his old limits. That changes their relationship, but Vince remains a staunch supporter in every way he can, and Theodore respects him. Other favorites include Randolph, a mercenary Theodore met who becomes a friend, and Orta, the assassin’s assassin, head of the White Tower.

I like how the story circles back to characters. Someone will get focus for a while, then fade into the background, then pop up again later with some changes according to how they’ve pursued their own paths in the meantime. This keeps things fairly focused even though a long story, as new characters come in slowly and develop over time.

I also find it amusing that even though Theo is technically gaining a string of girls who all like him, every time it’s about to get serious with one of them something happens. (My favorite is Gluttony interfering with a ‘Burning Carnal Desire’ curse and Theo reflexively attacking the cause.)

This is my first real experience with reading web novels, but it’s been so good I’m eager to look into more. The blend of action, adventure, and magic in this story is a whole lot of fun, and the chapters are so short it’s hard to stop. I rate this series Highly Recommended.

 

Summer’s Fall (Of Cats and Dragons #3)

Title: Summer’s Fall

Author: Carol E. Leever and Camilla Ochlan

Series: Of Cats and Dragons #3

Omen’s penchant for adventure has been tempered by Kyr. Taking care of his older-little brother is enough of a handful, even without two talking cats that cheerfully complicate life even more. But when Tormy is recruited to help solve a kidnapping, Omen ends up on another adventure, like it or not . . .

I received an advance copy and was asked to give an honest review. I bought the book anyway because I loved it.

These books just keep getting funnier. It’s hard to tell how much of the cats’ innocence is real and how much is an act. They certainly know how to cause trouble (as Dev notes, anyone with less connections and wealth than Omen’s family would probably go bankrupt trying to care for Tormy). The scene where Fog, another talking cat, comes to recruit Tormy for a “secret mission” was my favorite part, but pretty much everything they do is great fun.

I love Omen’s new awkwardness in trying to take care of Kyr. He wants so badly to give Kyr everything Kyr was missing, and has no idea how to deal with Kyr’s ramblings. As a reader, it’s fairly obvious that Kyr is seeing things on multiple levels at once, but Kyr can’t distinguish between what only he can see and what everyone can see.

Templar returns! I love how he and Omen play off each other. The new additions to the adventure are equally intriguing. Devastation Machelli looks to have a backstory just as interesting as Omen and Templar, for all that he’s not sharing much of it yet. Dev’s lackadaisical attitude and finely-tuned ability to annoy people made me laugh, especially because his target of choice is Avarice. I love the names in this family. Shalonie provides some much-needed level-headedness and the general smarts to balance out the boys.

And Devastation is just the best. He’s turned trolling into an art form.

“Surely you’ve already told my mother everything there is to say,” he groused. “You can’t possibly have anything more to tell her.”
Dev’s lips twitched upward as he continued to write. “You are correct,” he agreed mildly. “I don’t think she’ll ever use the term ‘excruciating detail’ around me again.”
Omen blinked at him in shock. “You’re purposely annoying my mother by writing nonsense to her?”
“Oh, we passed annoying days ago,” Dev replied.

The action scenes remain strong, too. A gigantic sea monster nicknamed the Widow Maker has shown up off the coast of Melia, and it has a particular interest in Kyr. But Omen and Kyr need to get past it somehow to complete their quest. This is a difficult fight since their opponent is monstrously big, out in the ocean, and attacks mentally as well as physically.

Overall, this is just the first part of the quest line, but it introduces several engaging new characters and sets up an epic adventure. You could technically start with this book but I would encourage you to read the first two books because they’re amazing and will help set the stage. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

The Three (Forsaken Sons #1)

Title: The Three

Author: Christa Kinde

Series: Forsaken Sons #1

Benaiah doesn’t fit in. Half-human, half-angel, with looks that mark him a foreigner to the Israelites among which he lives, he scrapes out a living. But a single choice grants him unexpected opportunity—and the potential for deadly peril. His life tangles with a young shepherd boy named David, and soon Beneniah has a mission, a purpose, and a growing collection of misfits . . .

I loved this. It’s the story of a boy caught between worlds by his father’s choice. Lonely, weary, and uncertain, Ben is just trying to live as best he can. I liked the difficulty he has in being a leader. He stumbles multiple times in front of those he’d rather impress. And as half-Messenger, he’s not exactly cut out to be a warrior. Or a Captain, with the lives of others under his hand. But being a leader is about more than being the strongest—which ironically is what David also reveals to him, time and again.

Aleff cocked his head to one side to admire the final effect. “Scars tell a warrior’s story for him.”
“Mine all say, ‘frequently in need of rescue.’”

Although this is in some ways historical fiction, the majority of the story is following the angelic side. So even familiar stories like David and Goliath feel fresh, as it offers an angel’s-eye-view of the proceedings. I really liked David, too. He’s so personable but also young, and not all that wise in some ways.

And the three Benaiah goes to collect are also amusing. I like that they all add something different to the growing group, different personalities and skills . . . and different ways they were broken by who they are. Benaiah isn’t the only one terrified of his father, or fiercely determined not to follow his Fall. And they are just such great fun.

Josheb tugged at his chin. “What can you do, Shammah?”
“Destroy things.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“I am unstoppable.” Shammah’s delicate fingers knotted together. “Stopping is difficult.”

Overall this was another excellent adventure. It fits into the wider world the Threshold series established but this is a perfectly fine place to begin. I rate this Highly Recommended.

Wild Magic (The Immortals #1)

Title: Wild Magic

Author: Tamora Pierce

Series: The Immortals #1

Daine has nothing but her horse and a few supplies after bandits killed her only relatives and burned their home. Thankfully, she finds a job with Onua, who is bringing horses to the capital. It’s a chance to start over, to have her abilities with animals put to good use. That is, if no one ever learns her secret . . .

This is an excellent book. Daine may have a lot to learn about the wild magic inside of her, but some uses come naturally. Like talking to her horse, Cloud. I love the glimpses from the point of view of the animals, whether it’s a dog’s sigh because there’s no one to play fetch with him or Cloud’s contrary attitude. I love the curious ways Daine’s power works—not at all like the Gift of Alanna or Numair, but similar in some ways. It’s still something she can learn, can harness, but it’s also something that others can trigger in her.

I like the range of characters here too. For those familiar with Tortall already from Alanna’s books, a number of familiar faces appear. It’s been about ten years since Lioness Rampant, and several of those characters are now married with children, and others get a brief mention. But there’s also plenty of newcomers, from Onua, who purchases horses for the Queen’s Riders, to the sorcerer Numair, to various Rider trainees that Daine encounters. And, of course, all the animals that Daine befriends. (I adore how she’ll always sleep with at least one fuzzy companion. Way better than stuffed animals.)

Plot wise this is a fast moving book, too. The weight of Daine’s secret, and her recent tragedy, give her depth right from the start. The jobs she takes are never as straightforward as they first appear. And the presence of various mythological beings hints that life is about to get far more exiting than any of them wish.

Overall this is a very strong book with an ending that both ties things up and makes it hard to stop here. I rate this book Highly Recommended.

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.