Fantasy Books

Diversity: Austin Chant – Peter Darling

33358438I always claimed that validation feels too tremendous to mean nothing. “Peter Darling” by Austin Chant (ISBN 1620049589, 164p.; Goodreads) is a good example of that. While the story itself is mediocre, it passes on a colossal message.

Peter Pan is a powerful story teller, with imagination so wild, and pain so severe – he almost tore the Neverland apart. He played his wars, fought the pirates, and lived his life free, as Peter, as a boy, until one day he remembered he had a family. A family who, truth be told, didn’t like the whole pretend games much, nor their daughter Wendy dressing up as a boy. Yet his love for them was far too great to just leave them like that, so he came back, sure they will have to accept him now, sure that he is indeed a real boy and they have to see it too. This way Peter doomed himself to a decade of living a pretend life, putting on a mask and a smile, just so his parents wouldn’t disown him or worse, put him into a mental hospital. For Wendy just cannot be Peter.

Ten years later Peter, unable to bear it no more, returns to Neverland, and as rules of this place demand – forgets having had any life outside this land at all. Now, a grown man, he still is unable to shake off the concepts of masculinity plastered on him, and tries to restore his former life here, regain power, and hopefully continue having fun with the Lost Boys, fighting those pesky pirates! But thing is, pirates flourished without him, and were perfectly able to live with no bloodshed under captain Hook’s rule. Lost Boys grew up and found there’s little fun to play a war against an enemy who isn’t really an enemy. The world has changed, but Peter is just unable to live and feel whole without his adversary. How else if not via killing the villains does one become a good man? Or, at the very least, a man?

Gender is a more complex concept than those who never had doubts about theirs would have you think. On top of having to accept yourself for who you are, you have to find your way through all the frames just ready and waiting. Peter’s actions might be hard to understand to those who were never in his or Wendy’s shoes, it’d seem cruel and silly to fight for the sake of fighting, or even make such silly gestures as claim you fight for you are a boy. But likely any transgender person will confirm: it is difficult beyond measure to allow yourself something that’s not considered normal to the gender you’re claiming to be. Trans men often avoid wearing make-up, for it lessens their word’s worth in the world, or at least it feels like it does. So while I can only give this book 4 out of 5, due to story being so-so, I still claim this is a fine message, with a fine transition out of a stereotype and into your own life.

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Categories: 4-5, Fantasy Books, LGBTQ+ Books, M/M Literature, Pirate Books | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holly Black – The Cruel Prince | The Folk of the Air 1

26032825Holly Black‘s book “The Cruel Prince” (The Folk of the Air 1; ISBN 0316310271; 384p.; Goodreads) was an impulse read to me. Just a book I kept seeing everywhere, and heard everyone talk about. The last time this happened, I got mighty disappointed. This time it was better. In fact, the book ended so well, I will read the next one, just to find out whether it worked or not, and how if it did.

Jude and her two sisters, then little, were taken by a fae warlord out of our world into the High Court of Faerie, all because the eldest was his legitimate daughter. Madoc, the said warlord, or rather a general, I guess, came in with no mood for compromise, for he thought his wife dead, as he found remains of what he thought was her some years back, after his home was set ablaze, and now he knew he was lied to. But who’d give up their child so easily? So he slayed all he found living in the house, and took all three girls with him: his wife, so his daughters. The girls swore to hate him forever, but as years went by, and he was nothing but kind and attentive to them, the promise grew hard to keep. And Jude wants nothing more than to have a place among the fae folk. Every day of her life is filled with bullying, ridicule, and even fear for her life. They despise humans, and she seems to be right at the end of the spectrum too. They think her a liar, for folk cannot lie. They think her already dead, rotting in her own shell, for she was born a mortal. They can glamour her into jumping out of towers, if she’s not extra careful, or eat the fae fruit, that’d drive her mad with wish to make them happy for another bite of it. With all that knowledge, her wish seems insane.

Yet when the time comes to either run, or seize power, Jude has no doubt she wants to stay and become something here, in the Faerie. So she becomes a spy to the King-to-be, one of the many princes in the royal family. Each one is more cruel than the next, and it fills her heart with dread to think one of them the High-King. On top of it, her work as a spy, at which she is very good, keeps revealing more and more secrets, intrigues, and gruesome plots. To the point where Jude’s not sure at all whom can she ever trust.

Author has a great writing style, the plot twists were perfect, often I didn’t even suspect one coming. I loved that Jude wanted to be a knight to set her feet in the Faerie, and not, say, find a good match of a husband to do that for her. What I didn’t like was the romance line. The whole “I treat you like dirt, because I like you” and “I almost killed you, because THEY would’ve killed you” is unpleasant to read to say the least. I hate how easily heroines, yes, heroines! forget all about the fear and horror they’ve been put through by the man who is kissing them now. I’ll give this book 3 out of 5, and will read the next one, with hopes it grows into something better. The plot outside the romance is great, and romance can improve, the way Sarah J. Maas books did (that’s personal opinion, of course).

 

Categories: 3-5, Fantasy Books, LGBTQ+ Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John Patrick Kennedy – Princess Dracula [1]

33763808I started reading John Patrick Kennedy book “Princess Dracula” (Princess Dracula 1; ASIN B01MSQGCS3; 203p.; Goodreads) last year, and barely managed to finish it last night. It’s a very plot-lacking book that smells of a man not knowing he can just write a woman like she’s a person, and not an alien.

Ruxandra Dracula, daughter to Walachian prince Vlad the Impaler, has been raised in a covenant for most of her life. One of these nights he comes to collect his daughter, and Ruxandra can only pray it is so he can marry her off to someone kind and handsome, like one of the knights that came with him. Instead Dracula takes her into a cave where a ritual for demon summoning is being prepared. He offers the demon his own daughter, confident he’ll be able to control the powers given, and use them against the Ottoman Empire. But demon only laughed, for it had spiteful plans of its own.

Ruxandra craves blood. At times her own body fights her, and all too often completely overpowers her, with this need to survive, while she herself is not exactly feeling like it. But she’s a Dracula, meaning she’s stubborn and determined. Determined to not hurt people, and find a way to die eventually. Until a beautiful young man finds her in the woods. Kind and caring he inspires hope in Ruxandra’s dead heart.

Too much work was put into explaining the logic of why the female protagonist has to be naked time and again. Too little work left, thus, on the plot, which was mediocre at best. For most of the book – nothing happens. And what does happen, like the brides of Dracula take (there’s an unevolved plot-line where those “brides” are actually Ruxandra’s friends, and they’re having this strange poly-amorous relationship, it could work, it would be an interesting take of Dracula’s Brides, seeing how Ruxandra is Dracula), gets left mentioned by a word or two across whole book. So I start a year with a book I can only give 2 out of 5 to. But that doesn’t mean I won’t read further.

Categories: 2-5, Books: Dracula, Books: LGBT, Fantasy Books, LGBTQ+ Books, Nosferatu Books, vampires | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Adrian Tchaikovsky – Guns of the Dawn

23524779I can’t recall how this book reached me. But it did, and I’m brewing with happiness I’ve read “Guns of the Dawn” by Adrian Tchaikovsky (ISBN 1447272676; 658p.; Goodreads). It was an amazing read, one beautiful story in fantasy-steampunk realm, story of war, heroes, crimes, and the reasons behind it all.

Denland and Lascanne were once allies. Now they’re mortal enemies at war, for long enough too so that regular lascanner forgot the times denlander was but a neighbor. Lascanne king is pouring all he has into the war zone, all his warlocks, created by the spark of royal blood anointing them, giving them power to wield fire by burning an imprint on their skin. All his soldiers, and every able men. And, when even that wasn’t enough, he demands every third woman to be taken to serve too. In the end, they almost won anyway, so for them it’s merely a chance to get a medal and run back home, victorious! But if the war is truly almost done, why all this effort against Denland, country whose king was assassinated even before the war, thus a country with no mages to put to warring.

When towns and villages had only women, old folk, maimed folk, and babes left, and when even the women were required to come and serve, most genteel families sent off their maids, serving girls. Such noble families as Marshwics were expected to do the same, but Emily, their eldest, always had a heart a little too kind, a little too brave. So once the time came, she reported for duty, she and many other women, not many of any worthy rank, came to have their hair sheared short, and get taught how to use their weapons. Given the choice she even asked to serve in the worst of the worst of places, in one of the swamps covered by constant mists, full of giant beetles that thought of these meager humans as food, and as good as littered with dead of both sides. One of the last warlocks made by their king served here too. And so here, among these people she soon started calling friends, Emily learned what war is all about. For, after all, even the noble lips sometimes lie, even the most loyal hearts tend to believe wrong, and even the most deadly enemy with all the advantages sometimes offers peace, and most importantly, truth.

I can’t tell you how great this book was. Not a moment in it boring, not a moment dull. And so unique at times, what with magic only passed on by the burning touch of the royal line. But most importantly, I loved how to the very end I couldn’t tell how could this possibly be solved! It takes changes to change things. Unheard thing: drafting of women, was what it took to change the tide of the war, and then end it too. 5 out of 5, a glorious 100th book this year for me.

Categories: 5-5, Books: Fantasy, Fantasy Books, Sci-Fi Books | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Witcher | Sword of Destiny

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I am so happy they’re doing new releases of The Witcher for us. I will, of course, forever be grateful to Dagon, for that very first publishing, and Eridanas, for the whole Witcher series that we got before the first game ever came out, and many other great books they published while they still lived. But I am thankful to Alma Littera too, for the covers are wonderful, and the shape of the book is great (it’s narrow and tall, with beautiful separations between chapters)

Categories: Books: Everything, Fantasy Books, high fantasy | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christina Henry – Red Queen | The Chronicles of Alice 2

27246122I wasn’t really in the mood for anything wonderlandish, but I needed something short and light, and so I picked up second book in The Chronicles of Alice by Christina Henry, the “Red Queen” (The Chronicles of Alice 2; ISBN 042526680X; 291p.; Goodreads). It was pretty good, but again, not the best as Alice’s retellings go, and maybe a tad poorer than the first one too.

Lands beyond the Old City are burned, scattered with bones, and patrolled by strange people in even stranger contraptions. But this is the path Alice and Hatcher must take in order to find his daughter Jenny. So they simply move forwards, trying their hardest to survive against the climate that lacks so much as clean water for drink, and hides many a predator, let alone all the spells, traps, and schemes cast upon the land by White Queen and Black King.

The Black King was once a man. A man no one said “no” to. He was used to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. Including magic. Their family magic was fairly weak, so when a magician got in his way on one of the hunting trips, his fate has been sealed. And not even because he wanted it all that bad. No. More because the White Queen has wanted him to, and likely instructed what must be done to obtain that power. But their hearts were not meant to be, for one didn’t wish to belong to another. And so today their spill their anger and sorrows onto the former green and hopeful lands.

For some reason these books reminded me a lot of Howl’s Moving Castle stories. Likely because of how magic works, or how Alice wields it so similarly to Sophie. I really loved the White Queen’s story too. But all in all, I can only give this book a 3 out of 5, but if there’s gonna be more, I will read more.

Categories: 3-5, Books: Fantasy, Books: Horror, Fantasy Books | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Neven Iliev – Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests | Vol. 1

36469357If a funny book gets noticed, the funny book gets taken and read without waiting in the TBR line. I do like me a good comedy. And I am a gamer, so “Morningwood: Everybody Loves Large Chests” by Neven Iliev (ASIN B076NSQ6JT; 252p; Goodreads) was just a must-have and must-read-now book. I regret nothing!

It all began rather simply. A hero was raiding a low level dungeon on his own, expecting some not too dangerous monsters to help him level up. Then he could at last move on to bigger places, where loot and treasures were automatically better. His wish almost came true when, finally truly lost, he noticed a low level treasure chest at the end of the corridor. Hey, it may not be a monster he wished for, but treasure chest is a treasure chest, and he wasn’t big enough level yet to pass one when found. The chest waited patiently as hero came closer. And as the man finally bent over to open the lid – chest ate him whole. For the treasure chest wasn’t really a treasure chest. It was a mimic in whose nature it was to look like one, that’s all.

After mimic has sated the immediate hunter, it was ready to slump back down and await another traveler. Yet, an undefined thought spread in it’s brainless little head: his surroundings were suspicious, what with all the blood and discarded gear, and might scare off potential food. This logical decision to tidy up has sent the snowball rolling, levels gained, abilities unlocked, decisions more complex than going after food getting made, and even a very beautiful summoned companion mimic could, at the very least, eat up while bored.

The book was very amusing. At first one can’t even expect this is not a story of a hero on a stupid quest, but rather of a little low level mob. It is also very well written and funny, even with all the random gore there and here. Definitely a 5 out of 5.

Categories: 5-5, Books: Fantasy, Books: Funny!, Fantasy Books, high fantasy | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Lynn Flewelling – Casket of Souls [6]

10184855Yep. The last Lynn Flewelling book in Nightrunner series wasn’t the best (but it was pretty good anyway), therefore this one, “Casket of Souls” (Nightrunner 6; ISBN 0345522303; 476p.; Goodreads) is far better. Yes, the titles are very spoiler-filled, and author doesn’t care to keep any suspense whatsoever, but the characters are easy to like, and I will miss them dearly when the adventures are over.

People of Rhimenee, in hardships brought by war time, get struck down with a mysterious plague they call Sleeping Death. People, mostly just poorest of the poor, fall into a sleep-like coma, and stay so until death of starvation or thirst claims them. No one knows where it came from, what’s causing it, or even if it’s contagious. Not many even care to make a fuss about it, ask these questions out loud, until important people start falling ill too.

In the meantime there’s a new theater trope in the city, and everyone seems to love them. Alec and Seregil make sure to get into the fan crowd as part of it too, if only for the sake to have actors, with whom people often talk very openly, and who hear a lot of things too, on their side. Yet both of our beloved characters harbor healthy distance due to suspicion. After all, they got here just barely before plague started, and they did admit they had to run from their previous home.

You can likely guess that the story is very predictable. From the title, to the newcomers, to the author inserting actual chapters of the evil guys doing evil deeds as if she’s letting us in on a secret. But the adventures are usually fun, and characters – pleasant, so I really can’t give it any less than 4 out of 5. Lovely ending too!

Categories: 4-5, Books: Fantasy, Fantasy Books, high fantasy, LGBTQ+ Books | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lynn Flewelling – The White Road [5]

6290240Here goes another Nightrunner book by Lynn Flewelling. Honestly, I don’t know why the books are called that way, when there’s far more, far greater things happening in them, and nightrunning is a rare occasion. But I digress, as I often do, let’s instead talk about “The White Road” (Nightrunner 5; ISBN 055359009X; 385p.; Goodreads), for this, sadly, is the less interesting book, again. Can’t be helped, the previous one was pretty great.

Sebrahn, a homonculus child, created out of Alec’s blood, was considered a failure by his maker. Alchemist was prepared to chop the kid up in pieces if it failed it’s primal purpose of healing, for that’s what the client, one of the Aurenfae clan leaders, has requested for. Yet here he is, more unique than any other homonculus ever made. More useful, and far more dangerous than any before him too. But before his maker could figure all that out, Seregil and Alec made a run for it, grabbing Sebrahn with them, and killing the alchemist. By doing so, tho, they condemned themselves to be hunted once more.

The dying clan leader, at the very least, wants the books back, and is willing to take any measures necessary to get them. If he could possibly get Sebrahn too, it’d be even better, for one can never know how much time one has left. But that’s by far not the greatest of dangers Alec and Seregil are about to meet. The magic that created Sebrahn belongs to Alec’s people, and they want it back. These secretive, secluded people, ruthless with their rules, and unbelievable with their magic.

The book was a bit unpleasant to read. While we were assured that homunculus is more a dragon that looks like a humanoid, everyone around Alec treats it like it is a child, especially Alec himself. So when they start pondering whether to give the kid to whoever promises not to kill it, how difficult it is with him, etc., it just strikes all the wrong cords for me. And in general – there was oh so much traveling, walking, riding. I’ll give this book 3 out of 5, but I do expect the next one to be better, as tradition sorta demands now.

Categories: 3-5, Fantasy Books, high fantasy, M/M Literature | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Lara Elena Donnelly – Amberlough

29939270I heard a lot of good on “Amberlough” by Lara Elena Donnelly (ISBN 0765383810; 400p.; Goodreads), thus I expected a lot of good too. Sadly, that’s not what I got. But the book was very unique, and pleasant in its own way. Like an interwar story set in a fantasy place: spies, soldiers, politics and trouble when your views on it are wrong, and so on.

Amberlough is the Heart city of Gedda. Full of corruption, bright lights, spies, ugly politics, and revolution, if not outright war, smell in the air. This smell gets stronger as the reader progresses. It all starts fairly innocently tho. Cyril DePaul, against his wishes, against his horror, and fear, is sent back out into the field. As a master spy, he ends up on the other side of the front lines. He’s doing his job well, but soon is informed – there’s a mole on their side. Cyril DePaul is exposed. Funny how sometimes you can expect more humanity from the enemy, than your own comrades…

Cyril bargains for his life, for papers that’ll get him, and his lover Aristide out of the city before the war starts outright. Thanks to Aristide he even gets a very good cover, a woman who can pretend to be his mistress, and not get appalled or run blabbing when she finds out he’s not interested in her. The three of them end up helping each other a lot, sometimes on purpose, other times – by pure accident. But that still doesn’t mean all goes well. It never does, does it?

The book is interesting world-wise. The story itself is mediocre. It’s not bad, truly, no. It’s just not so special either. I do believe that people who like stories from interwar times, rowdy soldiers catcalling at nightclubs, and said club owners shivering at the backstage, for one wrong show will set their property ablaze – will like this book. The characters are interesting, and as I said, the world is too. I can give it a firm 3.5 out of 5, easily.

Categories: 4-5, Books: Everything, Fantasy Books, M/M Literature | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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