Tag Archives: winged-humans

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

Valkyrie (Valkyrie #1)

Title: Valkyrie

Author: Kate O’Hearn

Series: Valkyrie #1

Freya is the youngest Valkyrie, finally come of age. But she’s never felt right about taking her place among the rest of the Valkyries. She hates the evils of war, and the thought of rewarding those who fight well in them, and the pointlessness of the eternal lives those warriors enjoy in Asgard. But when a promise to a dying soldier and a conversation with Loki leads to her exploring the human world, she quickly becomes embroiled in an entirely foreign set of circumstances. War she understands, but human school?

I liked how this played out. Freya’s immaturity and insecurity make her a very relatable Valkyrie, yet she’s got a full set of equipment, skills, and magic to make her every bit the deadly warrior her kind is supposed to be. I adored the scenes with flying. As the cover image shows, Freya has wings, and she also has a winged horse that she’s supposed to ride into battle. I also liked the way her unrelenting hatred of humans starts softening once she sees that there really are more dimensions to people than what she’s seen in war. She’s just never had exposure to anything like a normal human life before.

The myths and everyday life mix well at first, and although I do very much like some things about the ending, the blend felt off-balance at the end. Odin is far too willing to trust Loki, who has betrayed him numerous times by now, and calls up forces mighty enough that he really ought to think twice. (Not that I’m objecting to Chicago getting wrecked for once instead of certain other cities that are always featured in books.) I don’t suppose Odin needs to worry about cameras and evidence, but there is a certain level of care taken early on by everyone to remain hidden from humanity, that the ending just doesn’t care about. What about the consequences? One lone Valkyrie moonlighting as a force of justice can be somewhat explained away to the public consciousness, but given the wreckage caused by that last battle, the world would have a tremendous shift towards believing the old Norse legends again.

Anyway, overall it was still a fun story, and even if the end gives Freya a little bit more leeway than she probably ought to have, it’s better to have a happy ending. I rate this book Recommended.

Sky Bounce

Title: Sky Bounce

Author: Deanna Miller

Hesper, a winged Alula, is not supposed to know someone like Tristan, the Boytaur. The female Alulas hold themselves strictly separate from the male Mantaurs, but Hesper has made friends with one. When Hesper stumbles across something she shouldn’t have seen, she is sent to the human planes. Tristan vows to follow her, but crossing planes has its own hazards.

I wish I didn’t have to wince writing out that description. Boytaur? Mantaur? Just . . . no. They should’ve had a name like Alula, something that could hint at species without being so clunky. The racial division is also a gender division, and the revelation partway through of how they manage to propagate was also rather strained.

That said, this was otherwise what I had expected: a light fantasy/romance between a winged girl and a centaur, spread out between multiple parallel planes of existence. Traveling between the planes has its cost, and isn’t something done lightly.

The overall dilemma works better between Hesper and Tristan than the threat of things that blend the various planes. The big picture stuff tends to be vague and has a similarly vague conclusion, but the tension between the two of them against the world plays out pretty well.

Overall this is not a bad read, but it’s hard to get past some things like the naming conventions. I rate this book Neutral.

Heir to the Sky

Title: Heir to the Sky

Author: Amanda Sun

Kali is the only child of the Monarch of the floating islands of Ashra. She daydreams often about the earth below, which no one has visited for hundreds of years, because of the monsters. The Phoenix had raised Ashra above the land for safety, and so Kali can only dream, and prepare herself for her betrothal and her upcoming responsibility to rule. Then she falls over the edge—and somehow survives. Suddenly everything she knows or thought she knew will be challenged in a fight for survival . . .

This book crams so many of my favorite ideas into one little volume. Floating islands, fantastic monsters (and the daring few who hunt them), and most especially the winged people. The setting bursts with vivid detail, painting a wild landscape both alien and familiar. I particularly liked the kinds of creatures that show up, from the well-known mythological nods to original creations. And I wish there had been more of the Benu, as I would’ve liked to see far more of their culture and their history.

I liked Griffin a lot too. He’s bold, capable, confident, but not overbearing, and helpful to a fault. And the other survivors are also good, though Griffin gets the most time on page. Kali grew up in an extremely sheltered world, in more ways than one. Griffin was named for his first kill, which he made as a small child against the monster who had slain his parents and was about to finish his sister off as well. The contrast between the two works well.

So why not rate this higher? Mostly because there are a number of things around the end that don’t add up (and one trope that I’m getting really sick of seeing). First, the trope: I would’ve preferred Kali to be correct rather than Griffin when it came to the Phoenix. I was fairly certain in the first pages when the Phoenix was introduced how this was going to end up, and that’s exactly how it played out.

Aside from that, though, there are a few things that just don’t make sense. A prophecy is mentioned in the last few pages, without ever spelling out what the prophecy actually is (and I suspect Kali ends up fulfilling it accidentally, but there’s no way to be sure). The whole rebellion plot has a very confusing resolution. Kali herself wonders: why those lies, specifically, when the instigators are condemning themselves? And the ending is almost unrealistically upbeat, considering the vast majority of people are going to die because of it, and therefore won’t see things in nearly the same light as Kali does. (Though it would be interesting to see if the addition of engineers, specifically, would make a difference. Griffin mentions one of the chief problems is the lack of people with skills other than hunting, who might have known how to build towns able to stand up against the monsters.)

So overall I like the story, though not as much as I would’ve liked to have liked it. Kali takes forever to catch on to a few things that are rather obvious, and some pieces of history remain unknown that might’ve been interesting additions to the plot (mostly about the Benu. How did they survive before the islands? How did anyone survive long enough to get to the islands? Why aren’t there more traces?) But it was still a good read. I rate this book Recommended.