Tag Archives: historical

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.

Advertisements

Katsugeki Touken Ranbu (Anime)

Title: Katsugeki Touken Ranbu
Episodes: 1-13 (complete)

Members of the Time Retrograde Army are out to disrupt Japan’s history. Standing against them are the famous weapons of Japan given human form. These warriors are sent back in time to preserve history, whatever the cost.

To be honest, the plot for this is a complete joke. The TRA only exists to give the pretty-boy swordsmen some generic zombie enemies to beat up at various points in Japan’s history. There’s some information about a few historical events, and the famous blades involved, but the main draw of the series is to watch nicely-designed characters having awesome-looking fights.

On that front, it succeeds pretty well. The majority of the story follows a newly-formed Second Unit (with a brief detour to the First Unit), and how the team starts to come together. The blades tend to take on some of the personalities of the masters they spent so much time with, which can cause some tension when we have Shinsengumi blades and Imperialist blades on the same team. But the blades are supposed to be beyond whatever old life they had in favor of wiping out the TRA. Unfortunately those emotions can linger and make life harder.

The strongest part of the story happens when three of those blades run across their former master. For one, it’s a mostly happy event—the mission and his desire to protect his master line up. For the other two, it’s not as happy. They know his death is coming, and it won’t be pretty, but preventing it will change the history they’ve been charged to protect.

Visually it’s a pretty series. Character designs for the blades range from traditional Japanese clothing to more modern clothes, which makes it kind of funny nobody in the historical times seems to notice. The action scenes are typically animated well. One of my favorite characters uses a spear. It’s nice to see spear-users get more representation, as their fighting style differs a lot from a sword.

Overall this is mostly something to watch for the eye candy. If you don’t like the designs or the prospect of a disappointing plot, then this is an easy pass. I enjoyed it well enough, but there wasn’t any sense of urgency about finishing it (I started this back when it was first airing, got distracted, and only now finished). I rate this Neutral.

Storm at the Edge of Time

Title: Storm at the Edge of Time

Author: Pamela F. Service

The Orkney Islands hold much history, and many secrets. Three children from across time are called to band together to find the three wands necessary to fortify ancient defenses against the forces of Destruction. Arni, an 11th century Viking boy. Jamie, a modern girl. Tyaak, a 26th-century half-human. None of them have experience with magic, but they will need more than ordinary power to prevail . . .

This was okay, but the plot felt too repetitive and predictable after the initial setup. Go into the era of one of the kids, use that kid’s local knowledge to get around, while the group tries to sense the location of the staff, then try to snatch the staff out from under the agents of Destruction who are also after it. The specifics vary, of course, depending on the century, but it’s hard to feel too much tension since this is obviously a stand-alone book and not part of a longer series. (In other words, there’s no time for failure. The page count alone tells me they have to succeed.)

Jamie, being the modern representative, gets the most narrative focus. She would have gotten a little more of my sympathy if she hadn’t been so determined to just fall into some great talent that none of her family enjoyed (hint: even natural skill in the areas her parents and brother succeed in takes a lot of hard work to become that big a success). At least she’s not instantly great at magic (mostly due to a failure of imagination about how to use it).

Overall this wasn’t a bad read, but I did find myself more bored with the story than not, so it’s not one I’d come back to. I rate this book Neutral.

Vision Quest

Title: Vision Quest

Author: Pamela F. Service

Kate Elliot was used to a military family that moved around constantly. After her father dies, though, she and her mother have a more permanent home in an old run-down town in Nevada. Kate is tired of losses, and determined not to make friends. Determined not to get hurt. But an ancient Indian artifact draws her into the lives of two ancient shamans . . .

This story is more about the shared visions that link an ancient shaman boy with Kate and later Jimmy. The story can be a bit more literary, but still fast-paced due to the short length.

The characters are well-drawn. Kate’s grieving and loneliness has turned into a determination not to be hurt again, which leads her to isolate herself. She’s particularly irritated at having to rely on Jimmy for anything—because her mother will consider them friends, and want her to be social. Jimmy was amusing too. He thinks Kate is crazy, but when the visions start coming to him too he commits to helping her get rid of them. I also really liked his insistence that Pete’s racial slurs be correct—he’s less offended by the slur and more offended that Pete keeps confusing him with other nationalities, even after he corrects him.

Wadat’s portions were good too. He’s not sure he wants to be a shaman, but his mentor and father-figure is, so he’s sort of fallen into the training. He keeps having visions of a strange spirit who follows him around, but as he’s familiar with spirits in general, he’s not bothered by the visions as much as curious what this spirit might want. He’s used to placating the spirits, and if this one wants something in particular, he’ll try to do what he can for it.

Overall this is another solid title, though not my favorite. I rate this book Recommended.

The Reluctant God

Title: The Reluctant God

Author: Pamela F. Service

Lorna Padgett is the daughter of an archaeologist, and more at home in Egypt digging up sites with her father than at her boarding school in England. But when a chance find uncovers an untouched tomb, her knowledge of the ancient world is needed in an entirely different way . . .

Ameni was the second son of the pharaoh. Constricted by a life of duty, he longs for adventure. But his life has a destiny he never imagined, and soon he will get an adventure he never wanted.

It’s been decades since I last read this, but I still remembered enough of the plot for it to feel like a reread than a new read. The two individual stories alternate long enough to build up both Lorna and Ameni before the single event that changes each life. After that it turns into a race to recover the missing urn.

I liked the hints of mysticism around Ameni. He’s in the line of Pharaoh, who is considered a living god, but he doesn’t understand what that really MEANS until the mantle passes to him. He’s still a man, somewhat. But he has a different relationship now with the gods, and can speak to them and hear back from them. And the ways Anubis particularly keeps stepping in for him are really neat.

I’m not as sold on the message of Osiris being a god of love, or the other gods actually loving the people who worship them. That’s not exactly evident in the myths. I can go with it for the sake of the story, but it does pull me out a bit now.

Overall this is a fast read that has an interesting concept, but it’s not a story I see myself going back to. Still, it was an entertaining read. I rate this book Recommended.

Berserker

Title: Berserker

Author: Emmy Laybourne

Hanne’s family has the old Viking gifts, the Nytte, but to Hanne, they’re more of a curse. Especially hers. Being a Berserker means that any time someone she loves is in danger, she becomes a killer. And when that finally manifests the way she always feared it would, the siblings must flee their home village. In America, they hope to start over. But America isn’t far enough to flee something within their very blood. . .

Owen is a bastard son hoping to make a new life for himself as a cowboy. But a vengeful trail boss undermines him, and he soon finds himself desperate for work. Meeting Hanne and her family allows him a chance to earn enough to survive the winter, even though he’s sure they’re running away from something . . .

This was interesting, though it mostly played out how I expected from reading the jacket summary. Owen’s early bad decision to drink made me far less sympathetic towards him as a character (he’s never seen anyone get drunk?), so after that happened I mostly just wanted to read Hanne’s parts of the story.

The early American frontier is supposed to be about striking out to unexplored lands and making your own destiny. Hanne is hoping for that, as well as to connect with her uncle, who is also a Berserker. She desperately wants to learn how NOT to kill people when her Nytte takes over. Unfortunately, other people know about her, and some have plans for her gift regardless of what she thinks about it.

I did like the climax of the book. The final fight promised a lot of hope for Hanne, and also for her siblings. It could work either as a standalone or a lead to a future story, too. Also I am always happy when annoying characters get what’s coming to them.

Either way, this was a good read. It’s not my favorite novel about berserkers by a long shot, but it offers an interesting magic system that could definitely expand more if there are any future books. I rate this book Recommended.

Fire on the Mountain (Mountain Trilogy #2)

Title: Fire on the Mountain

Author: Michelle Isenhoff

Series: Mountain Trilogy #2

Quon knows he’s not cut out for his father’s trade of making carriages, but when an accident with horrific consequences strands him, he has no idea what to do. Taking up the offer of an old man, he agrees to journey and learn . . . and eventually to become a hero. A mighty dragon is terrorizing the villages in the mountains, but Quon is destined to defeat it. Or is he?

This is technically a sequel, although almost everything in this book happens before the first one, so the only difference is readers will walk into this knowing how Quon’s quest has to end. And that makes everything just a little tragic, because Quon’s mistakes and triumphs and growth are ultimately pointed towards a different end than anyone he knows expects.

I like the setting, once again. It’s a fantasy vision of rural, historical China, and Quon lives as many kinds of laborer as he’s working his way towards defeating the dragon. It’s interesting to see how many of his decisions have reverberations throughout his life, and the lives of others.

It’s also nice to see a bit more of Song Wei and what became of him after the end of Song of the Mountain, though it amounts to little more than a good epilogue for his earlier quest.

Overall this could easily be stand alone, even though it will help to have read the first one just to understand more of the very beginning and very end. I rate this book Recommended.