Children of Fire
By: Drew Karpyshyn
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Rating: 3 stars
Drew Karpyshyn has made his mark with imaginative, action-packed work on several acclaimed videogames, including Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, as well as in a succession of New York Times bestselling tie-in novels. Now Karpyshyn introduces a brilliantly innovative epic fantasy of perilous quests, tormented heroes, and darkest sorcery—a thrilling adventure that vaults him into the company of such authors as Terry Goodkind, Brandon Sanderson, and Peter V. Brett.
Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.
Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.
Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.
Children of Fire is, in every way, pure popcorn fantasy. In other words, I think anyone coming into this expecting the kind of high concept epic featuring complex, iconic characters, groundbreaking uses of magic, or uniquely compelling world building is setting themselves up for disappointment, because to be honest, Drew Karpyshyn’s first foray into original material is mostly a retread of familiar ground. But that said, I do think this is still a book that has plenty of merit as a compulsively readable, wildly entertaining retread, because even though the fantasy elements are simplistic stereotypes and cliches, in this case, it’s not a bad thing at all, because Karpyshyn has done an excellent job putting them together in a way that’s easily accessible, but more importantly, interesting and engaging.
What makes the book for me is definitely the almost cinematic quality of the storytelling. As anyone who’s for example both read Lord of the Rings and watched Peter Jackson’s movies would know, watching the movies is a completely different experience from reading the books. And while most fantasy books aim to replicate that heavy, voluminous feel of Tolkien’s books (and Karpyshyn even cites Tolkien as one of his influences), Children of Fire is the exception that, with its simpler storyline and plenty of cinematic action sequences, feels more like watching the movie adaption, or maybe one of those old sword and sorcery TV shows. So although the setup involves nothing but generic fantasy stereotypes and nothing in Children of Fire screams unique or different from every other fantasy out there – even if Karpyshyn calls his elves (and they obviously are the generic woodland dwelling elder race everybody else calls elves) the Danaan – none of it really mattered for me because Children of Fire is a different, yet nonetheless enjoyable, reading experience from the typical fantasy. For me, the point of this book really wasn’t to build a complex fantasy world or to create an immersive cast of scheming, backstabbing characters, but just to follow a group of characters on a very simple quest of good versus evil while being entertained by the gobs of addictive action sequences along the way – and I was definitely entertained; it really is addictive.
The other aspect I really liked is that while following these various children of fire through their quests to save the world (and the passage of time is something I think Karpyshyn does well and makes the book feel more epic), he never resorts to the same old black and white characters that can really sink these kinds of books. Of course, there’s this demon character the Slayer who’s been imprisoned in an alternate dimension for eons and planning his revenge now that the barrier between the worlds has been weakened (sounds like a Buffy plot, no?), but the other characters never predictably fall into one category or the other. For example, there’s the Pontiff and his Order of anti-magic fanatics dedicated to stopping the Slayer by whatever means necessary, but while the sorcerer characters like Rexol perceive them as evil based on what they do, they consider themselves good, and you know, their eventual actions go both ways (plus, who doesn’t like reading about badass blind monks?). Even Rexol and the Danaan Queen Rianna, they have an understandable goal and course of action that helps and hinders the various children, but they can’t be said to be doing what they do because they’re ‘good’ or ‘evil’, and that ambiguity in the characters really makes up for the genericness of the plot and setting.
Still, in addition to the setup I did have one other problem with the book. Like I said, I thought the way Karpyshyn handled the passage of time from the birth of the children to their quest to save the world, over a period of years, was definitely a strong point of the book, but I really feel there may have been a few more coincidences in the book than necessary. The various intertwining storylines was definitely a great idea and a huge part of what makes the book work, but while many of them, like Cassandra being Rexol’s first apprentice followed by Keegan as his second, are understandable and in retrospect pretty cool, others, like the whole storyline with Scythe, felt really contrived. In fact, I’m not really sure of Scythe’s role in the story – is she even one of them? – and her inclusion feels more like a plot contrivance so we end with a party consisting of a warrior, a mage, a monk, and a rogue than anything else.
Overall though, while Children of Fire is a lot simpler than most fantasies, I think Drew Karpyshyn has made it simpler in a way that also makes it accessible to many first time or reluctant fantasy readers. Even better, I personally read a lot of fantasy and still found the story, despite its flaws, incredibly addictive, precisely because this is a book that makes the stereotypes work.
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
By: Matthew Quick
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary:In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I’m sorry I couldn’t be more than I was—that I couldn’t stick around—and that what’s going to happen today isn’t their fault.
Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.
But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school’s class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.
In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made—and the light in us all that never goes out.
For another take on the issues I had with this book, I encourage everyone to check out the New York Times’s review. I think Mr. Heller hits it on the head when he mentions how Quick writes Leonard Peacock with the darkness of an aspiring psychopath, and how that characterization conflicts with what we’re supposed to eventually accept about Leonard.
Admittedly, I picked up Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock with a great deal of skepticism. I like my issues books hard-hitting, dark, and gritty, but I’ve not had much success finding many authors who can deliver the kind of bleak realism that for me is the holy grail of the genre. I want to say Leonard Peacock impressed me with its authenticity, but for a book billed as an unflinching examination, Matthew Quick flinched – multiple times.
What disappoints me most about Leonard Peacock is that it’s written from the perspective of a teenager about to kill his best friend, but in the frame of mind of an adult trying to understand and ultimately come to terms with the difficult path that drove him to that decision, and it didn’t work for me. Frankly, I find it patronizing that the Leonard Peacock character is more an amalgam of stereotypes and excuses for explaining why a guy like him would be driven to do the unthinkable than a real character; I guess it makes people who struggle to understand the why feel better about themselves, but as a character study? – what I feel a book like this should be? – I’m sorry but it kind of sucks.
Maybe my problem is that I felt a complete lack of empathy for Leonard Peacock. Quick paints his character in bold strokes that only fall apart when you think about it, and for me I really needed a more nuanced approach to connect with the character. A lot of the story is quite superficial, Leonard as expected is condescending, has a superiority complex (because obviously someone who decides to kill another person is going to look down on everyone), and rails against the establishment, to the point Quick’s story feels very insincere, like he’s writing this for adults based on his consultations with psychologists rather than for teens based on interactions with actual teenagers who have these problems – that’s the only way I can explain how out of touch I feel Leonard’s character is. Nor does Quick ever reconcile that angry at the world mass shooter stereotype with the guy who needs to give closure to the four people who mean something to him before he goes through with his plan – I mean, sometimes he’s a psycho, sometimes he’s a perfectly normal if depressing guy, and maybe he has multiple personalities or something but I never did get the sense that he was one character all the way through struggling with the childhood trauma Quick eventually reveals is the cause of his actions – it was just bold stroke, bold stroke, bold stroke, there just wasn’t any nuance to fill in the gaps to his character.
Instead, Quick goes for tired philosophical and nihilistic musings in the form of Leonard’s attempted friendship with a home-schooled Christian girl to give his story the illusion of depth. You know, I expect a character who has suffered childhood trauma like Leonard has would feel a need to think about his place in the world, I’m not even going to call it a cliche, but this came off more like badgering people over their religious beliefs than any genuine soul-searching. And that’s a problem throughout this entire book, for a story about a guy who takes one last shot at coming to terms with what happened to him before he ends it all, there just wasn’t any genuine soul-searching, any depth, Quick tries to make Leonard sound deep with his writing style and the letters from the future and the distracting footnotes that are impossible to read in context with my ereader, but none of these things actually worked for me because each time I was pulled in one direction and started to get a feel for Leonard’s character, Quick’s overreliance on disaffected teen stereotypes just brought up too many inconsistencies and made the character impossible to connect with. Rather, it was all just a cheap after school special; I never felt Quick rises above trying to score points by feeding his readers the alienated lone gunman cliches we’ve come to associate with guys like Leonard to do an actual exploration of the character.
I wanted to be impressed by Matthew Quick’s hard-hitting, dark, and gritty storytelling, but Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is none of these things. Sure I felt it was sad, but not sad as in emotional – sad as in pathetic.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
By: April Genevieve Tucholke
Release Date: August 15, 2013
Our Rating: 1 star
You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.
A Note From Your Reviewers:
Normally, we have a lot of fun reading a book together. A lot of the time we disagree. This was not one of those times.
The writing is very simple. Haven’t decided if I like that since its supposed to be Gothic and all beautiful or whatever.
Katy – 1 minute in
Whoa I just caught myself nodding off.
Katy – 8 minutes in
I think Maggie Stiefvater would’ve done better.
Ugh still haven’t finished Raven Boys sequel.
Lol OK nvm Dream Thieves was not that great. Sarah Rees Brennan then.
Katy & Mitch – 15 minutes in
The only thing remotely Gothic about it so far is the lack of a point to what’s going on – so much setup.
Ok I’ve decided this is what a Gothic story Jennifer Armentrout might write feels like GAAAHHH
Mitch – 39 minutes in
That was day one. We made it halfway through the book before Katy fell asleep and Mitch decided to watch old episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine instead. Day two followed with much griping and talk about the worst book of the year. Yeah, it was that bad.
This book promised to be a gorgeously terrifying gothic horror, but for me, it ended up being a cheesy bad ghost – or devil, I should say – story. To call it a nightmare would imply that I was emotionally moved – intrigued, nervous, scared – and the only feeling I had for it was disappointment that it was so silly. I really tried to like the book, but I just felt Tucholke missed so many opportunities with this one because it had potential to be so great.
ELEMENTS OF STYLE & WORLD BUILDING
First of all, the writing felt elementary and was very simple, which would have been fine, but I was hoping Tucholke was going to throw me into a creepy, dark setting – I pictured Sleepy Hollow for the town of Echo and Jane Eyre’s Thornfield Hall for Citizen Kane. But the world building was weak, at best, with bare minimum description of setting or anything else. With such a premise, I was waiting to see that beautiful writing with descriptive imagery. Unfortunately, it never came to be.
And as for symbolism and analogies? I was hoping Tucholke was going somewhere with them because she name-dropped several books and stories including William Faulkner and Agatha Christie. I suppose I get the idea of where Violet was coming from, but she treated them so frivolously that there is no impact of their possible symbolism to the story.
Also, there was potential for the paintings to be used as such, but they weren’t either. There was one instance where Luke was painting a girl holding her shadow, and there was a lot of potential here to possibly compare the girl to Violet or maybe even River. But his metaphor seems almost backwards. If the shadow is the one that needs her support, why is it her that feels like she doesn’t exist? Unless I’m not understanding correctly or I’m lacking an imagination, I would think it should be the other way around, right? Who knows.
Now I’m just going to put this out there. I do not like the characters in this book. Any of them. At all.
Violet is eccentrically odd – and not in the spunky kind of way – more of the quiet girl with strange, disturbing thoughts that you have to watch out for. And I guess that would have been fine if she had been the villain in the book, but she wasn’t. She was different, yeah I get that. But she was also pretty much without friends, and Tucholke never really set up the scene for us that way, except with Luke’s occasional derogatory remarks. Totally different from her twin.
Speaking of the twin, I couldn’t stand Luke. Yes, I understand that Tucholke set him up to be a total and utter douchebag. But I never understood why he was the way he was. I know siblings fight, but their relationship was unnecessarily degrading. It was never explained why Luke was so nasty to Violet – if he was jealous of her growing up, if he had a bad childhood with Freddie or the parents, why it made him feel more manly to bully her. It was just annoying, especially in the scene where he “had taken off his pinstriped jacket” and “began to flex his pectoral muscles in the way that [Violet] hated.” No, they weren’t outside on a hot day, where he felt the need to cool off and use that opportunity to show off. It was just a random scene. Um, okay. I guess I Tucholke’s purpose was to make him such a bad seed where he had room to change at the end. Still, I think the character building was so flawed with his case, that it was hard to care about him.
And Sunshine? Can someone slap her please! Again, I suppose the point was to make her as a self-centered bitch so her personality can improve after everything they’ve been through. Like Luke, i felt she was too conveniently flawed so Tucholke would have the perfect set up for later. “Stop fighting. Both of you. It interrupts my flirting.”But wow, just get her to shut up and go away.
River West. I’m sorry, but he creeped me out from the beginning. I know he’s supposed to be the mysterious stranger that shows up out of nowhere, so you’re not sure if you can trust him. But I thought his lines were very cheesy and anything but smooth. In fact, if a guy tried to say some of those things to me, I would roll my eyes and try to stay far, far away. So, okay, Violet is lonely, and attention from a hot boy is exactly something that would make her melt, and there may be the addition of being under the influence or something like that. Still, at least make him a Rico Suave instead of some creepy stalker guy.
I won’t mention any other characters because I don’t want to ruin the story. But I do want to say that how convenient it is that the parents are gone and that other parental figures are just about absent from this book. do not like what Tucholke did to Freddie’s character. And by the end of the book, connections were made, but Tucholke didn’t really hone in on their significance. I get the Will thing, but who cares about John.
PLOT & STORY DEVELOPMENT
First, it took forever to get there, and even when it did, it wasn’t clearly formed into a coherent thought. I kind of wish she stuck to one thing instead of trying to throw in twists and turns (none of with was unpredictable, by the way) to keep the readers interested.
I won’t say much about the plot except that it’s silly. I mean no disrespect to Tucholke, but really?!? THAT was the story behind everything? I was really hoping for something huge. And I was so disappointed to find out the truth.
But back to the story development. I called it. I called it at the mention of Texas, and I called it in the attic and the aftermath. And it really messed up everything that Tucholke was building toward. That’s all I’m doing to say about it.
All in all, I think there was a lot of potential for this to be a truly amazing, beautifully written, gothically descriptive, twistedly haunting horror story. Tucholke had so much there that was already in place to be such. But the fact that it lacked world-building, had unlikable characters, slow developing plot and a scattered storyline, I just felt that it failed to live up to its potential. I really tried hard to like it. I just couldn’t.
You know how April Genevieve Tucholke’s writing has been called haunting and atmospheric? Well, it only is because either she borrows gothic horror tropes that have nothing to do with the actual story, like the whole deal with a crossroads demon or the entire discussion of music and art, or she comes up with these fake outs, like the stuff with the creepy kids waving stakes around, that end up being nothing, and the whole effect is like the book equivalent of eating cotton candy, filler to make you feel like you’re getting something substantive but in reality is nothing at all. I just made the comparison to Raven Boys because there the writing built up the setting and advanced the story, this was just fluff for the sake of fluff. What a waste of words.
The idea behind a mysterious boarder could’ve been interesting, but then this Violet chick had to go all Bella Swan on him. Not only does the romance take up ninety percent of the ten percent of the book that’s actual story and not just fluff, but by the time it’s revealed this River dude is a danger to her and she’s still thinking about how much she loves him – I think I threw up a little in my mouth.
Ha ha you’re kidding right? Sorry to break it to you, but there is no plot. The thrilling dread? False advertising. It’s just random pointless shit happening because River is a mysterious loner dude and potential menace to society. That leads to the dumbest plot twist ever because in order to make the romance work he can’t be a completely irredeemable psycho – even though murder is still murder. RUN VIOLET WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!!!!
Untold (The Lynburn Legacy 2)
By: Sarah Rees Brennan
Release Date: August 29, 2013 UK / September 24, 2013 US
Rating: 2 stars
|Summary: Free from bonds, but not each otherIt’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?’|
Review: Hurls iPad across the room. Muffles a scream of frustration. Sighs and goes over to retrieve said iPad.
I absolutely hated this book (no, not really). It made me want to pull my hair out (seriously, I have bald spots). But for the “lovely, lovely readers who suffered over the ending of Unspoken,” it’s definitely a must-read. Yeah, I read your acknowledgement at the end of this book. I am on to you, lady!!! 😡
In Brennan’s defense, my rating probably has to do a lot with my feelings toward Kami. Those who knew me when I read the ARC for Unspoken, knows there I have NO lost love for her. Yep, she’s still the sarcastic, nosy, self-righteous, “I’m going to find out the truth and write all about it” know-it-all that she has always been. And speaking of her “journalistic skills” – yes, it’s in quotes – I’m NOT impressed. (view spoiler) I just hate it when people like her give the stereotypically wrong impression of reporters. Sorry for the rant, but I just had to put that out there.
Putting that part aside, Kami STILL annoyed me to no end. For someone who prided herself as a keen, observant journalist, she really was blind to everything that was going on and was really slow to catch up. I understand that she’s lost a piece of herself, and she’s unsure of what was real, but geez! Open your eyes! She has NO idea what she’s talking bout, and she kept making assumptions instead of asking, leading to one stupid action after another.
But, but, what happens between Kami and Jared? Do they get it together? I can’t tell you. (Don’t throw anything at me!) But I WILL tell you this – and you probably already guess it. Be prepared for those scenes where (view spoiler) Yep, leave your eReaders in their protective cases and style your hair in a ponytail or bun where it’s hard to pull. But will it be all worth it in the end? You just have to read it and see.
A few other issues before I get to the good stuff. The beginning of the book was so depressing to read. Jared was being a complete and utterly stoic jerk, and everyone was so mean. I really, really wanted to slap Holly. And Ash? What HAPPENED to him? I mean, I get that he was hiding his true nature in the first book, but seriously? To go from a pretty conniving villain to such a “bunny killer” in this book was so disappointing. It was pathetic really.
Despite all of that, I still love Rusty, as I had claimed in my review of Unspoken. He’s so goofy in a dorky kind of way that just makes me chuckle and shake my head. And he’s pompous, but in a hilariously entertaining sort of way, not because he really thinks that much of himself. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s hot and very charming when it comes to the ladies. Swoon! It’s just a shame that (view spoiler)
Anyway, I still thought the story was pretty good, although it’s nothing like the uniqueness of them being in each other’s minds from book 1. There was a good mix of kick-butt action and learning about the magic, although I did have a pretty ridiculous image in my head (view spoiler) The history of Matthew Cooper was really intriguing, and it makes you wonder if history had and possibly will repeat itself again. It was really interesting to see who was on which side, and it was gripping to see who was going to come out on top because you could never tell if Lillian or Rob had the upper hand.
Don’t get me wrong, there were parts were I wanted to squee, and chapter 20 was an AWESOME chapter. But then, I had to suit up and go back onto the battlefield. And why did I throw my iPad? The end! OMG, the end! No, “lovely, lovely readers who suffered over the ending of Unspoken,” there is not a cliffhanger. Ha suckers! Brennan is (view spoiler) 😛 But, but, still… Ah dangit, I can’t spoil anything. Just read the book.
I know this book had a lot of the usually drama that goes along with being the “middle book,” which counts a lot to why my review seems so negative. But when I wasn’t cursing at the story, I was flipping through the pages, really enjoying the book. I can tell that Brennan is just rounding everyone up for the next book, which is going to be explosive. Now, if only I can hang on long enough for this book to come out before the next one even has an ARC.
Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)
By: Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Rating: 3 stars
|Summary: An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.
Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice.
Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?
Review: I LOVED Throne of Glass. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but with this one, not so much. TOG fan, please don’t kill me.
Celaena was so kick-ass in the first book, and I admired her for the strength she had to find in herself to overcome all of the challenges. I was really caught up with the games – both in the arena and in the palace. (I know the Hunger Games concept is now overplayed, but TOG came first before it was republished, and when I read the repub ARC in April 2012, it wasn’t too overdone in YA just yet.) And while the love triangle was there, I felt it was more of a side story, even though I loved Chaol.
But with this book, I felt Celaena grew soft. I’m not talking about what was happening with her missions assigned by the king. I’m talking about her stubbornness and cowardliness for not standing up for what’s right, or her slowness at seeing what’s right in front of her, and my God, the stupid love triangle (yes, it bugged the hell out of me in this book).
First of all, I felt that the “romance” took up way too much of the first part of the book – to where I was getting annoyed because I felt the actual book was the side story and the love triangle was on the main stage. I felt her relationship with both Chaol and Dorian was really awkward, especially with how Maas kept alluding to her fling or whatever it was with Dorian. Andwhat was up with all the testosterone?!? It seemed like every man wanted her and displayed jealousy or possessiveness of her affections. Ugh! It was much more tolerable about halfway through when she realized what she wanted, or didn’t.
As for the plot itself, I liked it enough, but the book kind of took a different direction from the first. Well yeah, I understand there would be no killing contest now that the king has a champion, but it became more of the politics behind the kingdom. I was taken aback at first because we’re thrown into a world of magic, and fae, and witches, and ghosts, and what? Hold on, slow down a little so my head can catch up to the new development in this series.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story. I do think on one hand thatmany will like this one more because Celaena is caught up in this whole different game – one more dangerous than the first because of the role she is playing. It was interesting to learn about everyone’s background, although it didn’t take you long to figure out about Celaena’s – which I thought happened WAY before the “surprise” at the end. Chaol and Dorian were good characters when they weren’t blinded by being jealous of each other. And the plot behind the king’s powers and the brewing rebellion was interesting, and Maas threw in enough twists and turns to keep readers engaged, although none of it was unpredictable.
Overall, it was a pretty good read (when I wasn’t bashing my head against the wall over the romance). Still, I just found that it didn’t suck me in like the first book did. I think part of it was that it became your typical fantasy. So like I said, good, but nothing special because it follows the basic plot and path every other fantasy book does. Either way, it’s still a good read, and I still want to know what happens next. I will add though, to those who finished the book yelling, “Oh my God!” I just have to say, how did you not see that coming?
Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire #8)
By: Naomi Novik
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Rating: 3 stars
Shipwrecked and cast ashore in Japan with no memory of Temeraire or his own experiences as an English aviator, Laurence finds himself tangled in deadly political intrigues that threaten not only his own life but England’s already precarious position in the Far East. Age-old enmities and suspicions have turned the entire region into a powder keg ready to erupt at the slightest spark—a spark that Laurence and Temeraire may unwittingly provide, leaving Britain faced with new enemies just when they most desperately need allies instead.
For to the west, another, wider conflagration looms. Napoleon has turned on his former ally, the emperor Alexander of Russia, and is even now leading the largest army the world has ever seen to add that country to his list of conquests. It is there, outside the gates of Moscow, that a reunited Laurence and Temeraire—along with some unexpected allies and old friends—will face their ultimate challenge…and learn whether or not there are stronger ties than memory.
Naomi Novik’s beloved Temeraire series, a brilliant combination of fantasy and history that reimagines the Napoleonic wars as fought with the aid of intelligent dragons, is a twenty-first-century classic. From the first volume, His Majesty’s Dragon, readers have been entranced by the globe-spanning adventures of the resolute Capt. William Laurence and his brave but impulsive dragon, Temeraire. Now, in Blood of Tyrants, the penultimate volume of the series, Novik is at the very height of her powers as she brings her story to its widest, most colorful canvas yet.
Something strange happened while I was reading Blood of Tyrants… I started to like Temeraire again. This series had me at ‘Napoleonic Wars’ and ‘dragons’, but while the first few books ranged from serviceable (His Majesty’s Dragon) to standout (Black Powder War), by the time Empire of Ivory rolled around, these books had started to get bogged down in a Carmen Sandiego-esque need to visit exotic world locales and became less about the War or the dragon. For me, the series peaked at Napoleon’s invasion of England and began a downward slide soon after, and if it wasn’t for a few things here and there, I would’ve completely lost all hope.
Crucible of Gold was one of those things and a step in the right direction, but as I said before, something’s not right when Austerlitz and Jena get maybe a paragraph and there’s chapters dedicated to African slave traders or setting up an Australian penal colony. I wasn’t sure which Temeraire would be making an appearance in Blood of Tyrants, the Napoleonic War invested Temeraire of Black Powder War or the random globetrotting filler Temeraire of Tongues of Serpents, but to my dismay turned surprise, both. Since, in maybe a first for the Temeraire series, Blood of Tyrants is divided into three parts sufficiently distinct they can probably be read as easily as three separate novellas as one full novel, I’ll just talk about each part separately and why Part Three makes this the best Temeraire book in some time.
Part One – if I could pretend this never happened, I would. As promised, Lawrence is shipwrecked in Japan and unfortunately this part involves the same kinds of excesses that made the last few books (Crucible of Gold somewhat aside) such chores to read. With the war raging in Europe, I could care less about what happens in Africa or Australia, and with the general narrative focused on defeating Napoleon, these side plots really provide no purpose other than filler that takes away from what’s supposed to be the main draw of the series. There’s just no point other than Naomi Novik telling us this is what happens to Lawrence and his crew, and while Novik does provide a glimpse of early nineteenth century Japanese culture with dragons, that doesn’t make this any less filler. Combined with Lawrence’s incredibly convenient amnesia which hardly affects the rest of the story and what even the book describes as useful, numbing minutiae, and Part One just seems like an intentional detour to drag out the book.
Part Two – better, like on Throne of Jade’s level. Still missing one crafty French general, but the court intrigue in China at least doesn’t feel as blatantly filler as the shipwreck storyline. While nothing in Part Two is really needed to understand Part Three, it does pick up some loose plot threads from Throne of Jade and explain why China would enter the war, and this time at least the explanation makes more sense than the whole fiasco with the Incan Empire in Crucible of Gold. Plus, Novik likes to show off where the logistics of draconic warfare is concerned, so having the various strategies used by the British vis-à-vis the Chinese side by side make for some interesting comparisons. Skippable sure, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Part Three – where have you been all this time? I’m thrilled Novik finally, finally gets to what I’ve been waiting for ever since Black Powder War, an actual, honest to goodness campaign that doesn’t involve the heroes being sent to another continent while the battles are being fought. Napoleon’s back. He’s invading Russia. Lawrence and Temeraire are there. That alone makes Part Three way more worthwhile than anything that’s come out since Empire of Ivory, and seeing how Napoleon’s actual invasion of Russia has shaped Novik’s fictional campaign is a real treat. Too bad awesome villain(ess) Madame Lien is still missing in action and the book ends on a cliffhanger with the Russian winter, but I am totally stoked to see what comes next.
In a nutshell, Blood of Tyrants is definitely the strongest Temeraire novel since at least 2007 (even without pretending Part One never happens), simply because Naomi Novik brings the series back to its roots. Fans of the series should be happy to know Temeraire is finally back on track.