Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Adventurers Wanted #3: Albrek's Tomb by M.L. Forman

Albrek's Tomb (Adventurers Wanted, #3)My name is Thrang, and I'm leading the quest to find the Ring of Searching that will help dwarves with their mining. We're trying to follow Albek's travels from hundreds of years ago, because we aren't sure where he left the relic. I'm thankful my friend Alex is now a full wizard and has joined our group. He seems so much older than when I met him on his first adventure. Alex and our seer can sense an underlying evil across the lands, but they can't tell where the feeling comes from. We must now travel to the Isle of Bones, but it's difficult finding anyone to sail there. The fisherman are all superstitious and fear the island, but I hope one of them will do it for a price. I'm not sure what we'll find there, and I'm afraid Alex will one day face an opponent with magic greater than his own. 

I recommend you read the previous two books in the series first, but the first one will give you necessary background information. Each book presents a unique adventure and a mixture of familiar and new characters. Alex is the main character, and he's clearly becoming one of the most powerful wizards ever. He's not the same innocent boy he once was and feels much older now. The author could easily have presented him as a supreme being, but Alex maintains his humbleness and insecurities to make him a vulnerable character. He continues to battle angry feelings that threaten to unleash an uncontrollable magic. The journey to the Isle of Bones reveals a secret about his past that even Alex was unaware of. Each book is divided into smaller quests, so they can be read very quickly. The author adds little surprises along the way, although Albrek's Tomb seems to have more major revelations than usual. Alex and another character undergo changes that will affect them forever. The plot continues to include an unseen evil, and a conspiracy is introduced this time. These conflicts will continue to create an underlying tension that I assume won't be resolved until the series ends. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Adventurers Wanted #2: The Horn of Moran by M.L. Forman

The Horn of Moran (Adventurers Wanted, #2)My name is Sindar, and our group is lucky to have Alex along on this quest for the Horn of Moran. His wizarding skills have greatly improved since our first adventure, although he's asked me for help in controlling his emotions. We need to retrieve the horn before the Spring Festival and return it to Bregnest's cousin. The horn will cement his cousin's claim to the throne before war breaks out. We know we'll need to pass through gates guarded by a sphinx and griffins and death awaits if we fail their challenges. Alex's mentor Whalen is writing fewer letters and seems to be letting him learn from his experiences. As an elf, my unique abilities will be an asset to the group, but Alex will be the key to our success. 

This series is a pleasant change from many adventure stories. It includes dwarfs, elves, goblins, dragons, and other familiar creatures. Alex is the main character and is full of kindness and compassion for others. He maintains an air of humbleness even as his powers and abilities grow stronger. However, his emotions challenge his self-control, which is a potentially disastrous situation for a wizard. The plot includes action, fighting, and some killing. It doesn't dwell on the fighting and death, and Alex always tries to find ways to avoid it. As with the first book, honor is a huge theme. Characters stick to their promises and display respect for their foes. A recurring event in each book finds Alex returning treasure bags to the heirs of deceased Adventurers. Even these exchanges display respectful negotiations that require the characters to avoid insulting high, or low, offers. An evil Shadow is a constant threat that appears in each of Alex's adventures, and I assume it will again in the sequel. It has tested Alex's abilities to the max and has been the most challenging antagonist. The book doesn't acknowledge its existence in the story until it makes surprise appearances to jeopardize Alex's mission. Overall, I'm really enjoying these adventures with tempered violence and recommend them to anyone loving medieval-type books. I suggest you read Slathbog's Gold first to fully appreciate the background story.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Wereworld #3: Shadow of the Hawk by Curtis Jobling

Shadow of the Hawk (Wereworld, #3)My name is Drew, and I woke up to find myself sold into slavery. The Werelord here expects me to fight and kill in the ring, but I refuse to do his bidding. The other gladiators have given up hope, but I'm slowly convincing some to consider escape. The Werecats have returned to Lyssia, and their evilness is spreading to the other kingdoms. I hear they helped King Leopold escape his imprisonment, but he was killed shortly after. The prince has taken his place, and I don't think that's any better. I hope my friend Hector is well and that he's been able to rescue Lady Gretchen. I hope he's fully recovered from communing with his dead father; that's very dangerous dark magic. It's time for me to accept my destiny to unite the seven kingdoms, but I hope it's not too late.

I've enjoyed Drew's plight, as he slowly brings hope to the citizens oppressed by the Werecats. However, violence and its graphic description are still central to the plot, and I'm still not crazy about how Hector's character has changed. The vile in his head is leading him astray, and he's slowly becoming another antagonist. Drew's character continues to be virtuous and compassionate toward the disadvantaged citizens. He constantly steps up to help others who might be bullied or abused. However, he frequently finds himself outmatched and in need of being rescued by one of his friends. Luckily, he makes many new talented friends along the way. I'm happy to see Drew finally seems to be making progress toward uniting different realms. He's been on the run since the start of book one and has been losing key supporters along the way. However, there's now hope of success leading into book four. Reunions between Drew and his brother and Drew and Hector seem inevitable, although the results should be dramatically different. 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Wereworld #2: Rage of Lions by Curtis Jobling

Rage of Lions (Wereworld, #2)My name is Whitley, and Drew and I are searching for Lady Gretchen. She was taken by the Werelion Prince Lucas, and I've managed to pick up their trail. However, I've been injured by an undead creature which means someone is practicing dark magic. Drew has been captured by the Werelion's supporters, and I don't know what's happened to him. He's been reluctant to accept his destiny to become king and doesn't understand how much the citizens need him. King Leopold has been trapped in his castle for two months, but something tells me the evil monarch hasn't given up. Is it possible he's hatching a plan to take back his crown? I don't know who would help this tyrant, but support for Drew hasn't been overwhelming. It feels like something huge is about to happen.

You should read Rise of the Wolf before reading this book. I must give you fair warning that the series contains explicit violence. The wereanimals don't fight cleanly, especially when their lives are at stake. I've been a little surprised by how fragile the cast of characters has become. I can usually sense when new/minor characters might become more important in the future, but several prominent characters don't survive this book. There are numerous battles between supporters of Drew and Leopold, but there is in-fighting too. Some characters can't be trusted, but their traitorous behavior isn't always foreseeable. Hector has been a good friend to Drew, so I haven't liked the changes he's been experiencing. He'll be a character to watch in the future. Overall, I've enjoyed the first two books in the Wereworld series, although I could do without some of the graphic violence. I like Drew's story as he tries to understand his new life, and I'm anxious to see something positive happen in the third book. If my comments haven't scared you off, give the series a try. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Keeper of the Lost Cities #7: Flashback by Shannon Messenger

Flashback (Keeper of the Lost Cities, #7)My name is Fitz, and I'm irate the Council is sparing my brother's life. Alvar says he can't remember his despicable crimes, and he's going to be allowed to serve his sentence at Everglen! The Neverseen are always one step ahead of us, but Gethen says this isn't part of their plans. Sophie and I are frustrated that we're forced to lay in bed, while we recover from echoes resulting from a Shadow attack. Emotions cause them to flare up and undo our healing. We've decided that we must learn to fight back even though elves aren't used to violence. However, the Neverseen have no problem hurting and killing us. And as if these problems aren't enough, we're sure the alicorns need help. Five kingdoms of intelligent creatures are uniting for the first, but it seems like we're always missing something when it comes to the Neverseen. 

This series is very entertaining if you're ready for a lot of reading. This book lacked the adventure and action of the first six books, at least until the plot arrived at the climax. Sophie and Fitz were injured and were under medical care for most of the first half of the plot. Other characters were off doing things, while Sophie was confined to bed rest, dealing with internal struggles/scars. It was hard to describe much action and drama, while the main character was stuck in one room. At least Sophie's love life became clearer. She also gained a few more bodyguards, but the pattern has become tiresome. Her defenders have always said she shouldn't leave without them, but she ends up doing just that. Also, the defenders have said they'll be ready for the Neverseen next time, but they never are. It's become annoying, since nothing has changed. I would expect Sophie and her friends to have learned from past mistakes. Overall, I'm still enjoying the series, but I hope the next book shows Sophie becoming more intelligent and the elves making progress toward stopping the Neverseen. The rebels have clearly been out-thinking the elves, and it would be nice to get a sense the elves might be able to stop them.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Wereworld #1: Rise of the Wolf by Curtis Jobling

Wereworld : rise of the wolfMy name is Josh, and I ran away from home when my father tried to kill me. I didn't understand the changes happening to me, but I was thankful for help from strangers. I've been told I'm a Werelord, but I'm not fully sure what that means. All I know is I have nowhere to go while being hunted by the king's troops. Hector fled with me, and I was forced to take his cousin Gretchen along with us. She’s supposed to marry King Leopold’s son and doesn’t think much of me. Now, Gretchen’s disappeared, and we have no idea where she went. It feels like everything’s going wrong, even though Hector thinks I’m destined for great things. Nothing good will happen if I can’t control the power within me.

I wasn't sure how I'd like a book with many characters changing into animals, but it was okay. They remained in human form most of the time, as Josh learned to control his changes. The animals emerged during conflicts and fighting. Actually, there was a good amount of violence, and the description of creatures fighting wasn’t pretty. I always enjoy a good underdog story, and this book fit the bill. Josh’s powers needed controlling, and most of the citizens were against him. His body’s unusual ability to heal came in very handy for much of the book, as the king’s soldiers were especially nasty. More importantly, Josh's compassion and character were much more significant to the plot. Despite his insecurities, he found it difficult to ignore injustices and stepped in to help while others stepped back. His honorable character gave others hope and motivated them to stand up for themselves. The climax to the story wasn’t unexpected, although the author saved a couple of surprises for the end. His growing affection for Gretchen will likely be an important topic in the future. Overall, I really enjoyed the book and plan to read its sequel, Rage of Lions.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Adventurers Wanted #1: Slathbog's Gold by M.L. Forman

Slathbog's Gold (Adventurers Wanted, #1)My name is Alex, and my head is spinning. I quickly became the eighth member of a team on a quest to kill a dragon called Slathbog. I don't understand half of what the others are telling me, and I think the shopkeeper made a mistake when he said I have wizard abilities. My brain is still finding it hard to believe in magic, but some recent events have changed my mind. I thought I was lucky to survive a troll attack, but now I'm not so sure. An oracle believes in my potential, but she says I must stop doubting myself. Can I possibly become a powerful wizard? Can I become a fierce warrior too? It's hard to believe I'm now in the middle of my first adventure, and the others seem to be glad that I'm here. I don't think there's nothing special about me, but what if I'm wrong?

As you read this book, you should remember what the characters say. Once you believe magic is real, everything else is easy. The same goes for  the rules for Adventurers; don't try to figure them out. Don't question how Alex can stow his belongings in a four-room storage bag or how the Adventurers decide to divy up the treasures they collect. Many novels allow young characters to discover their powers in a big way. Alex's biggest accomplishment for the first half of the book is starting and dousing fire. Bigger questions surround his elfin sword and the ring he collects. The ring is magical, but Alex is warned not to use it until he knows more. Actually, Alex is much more cautious than most characters with his emerging powers, as he  understands the horrible, possible consequences from uncontrolled magic. I'm most impressed by the code of conduct displayed by all of the Adventurers. Their behavior exhibits dignity toward each other and creatures they meet, and it's important to honor the memories of the deceased. These qualities are in the forefront throughout the entire book. Overall, Slathbog's Gold is the start of a series, and I'm excited to get my hands on the sequel.