Monday, October 15, 2018

Riders of the Realm #1: Across the Dark Water by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Across the Dark Water (Riders of the Realm #1)My name is Echofrost, and I swore Shysong wouldn't remain captive as long as I was alive. I thought escape from the Landwalkers would be easy, so I allowed myself to be captured. I didn't expect them to clip my wings, and I slowly realized resisting them only hurt myself. I was growing weaker and starving to death. I was surprised when I developed a bond with a Landwalker cub despite my best efforts against it. The cub actually fought three Giants to protect me even though he had no fighting ability! I'm supposed to be sold in a few days, but I've got to escape before then. Even if I get away, where will I go? I don't know where my wild herd went, and the jungle contains dangers I've never faced, including the Giants. And what will I do if Shysong refuses to leave?

The plot was more interesting than I expected due to the unique storytelling. The thoughts and dialogue were creatively blended between the humans and Pegasi. Rather than sharing the different points of view through alternating chapters, the author did it with one narrator. It could have been confusing, but the strategy worked. Rahkki, the human "cub", and Echofrost shared common traits of compassion, bravery, and determination. Echofrost displayed a grittiness to help Shysong, but she quickly felt a responsibility to free the Kilhari, the humans' trained Pegasi. Their ancestors had fled the same homeland centuries before, but most of these Pegasi didn't understand freedom and were reluctant to leave. Freedom was scary for them. In contrast, Rahkki only wanted the best for Echofrost, and he quickly decided the Pegasus should be released. However, he'd be punished, maybe killed, if he helped her escape. An additional level of conflict was found between the queen and Rahkki and his brother. The queen had killed their mother and would be happy if the boys were dead too. This subplot continued throughout the book, and a surprise was dropped near the end. I wished the first half of the book had moved more quickly, but I found the overall book very entertaining. Give it a shot.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Earthsea Cycle #1: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle, #1)My name is Ged, and my mentor said I might one day become a great sorcerer. I traveled to Roke where I hungrily devoured all of the training the school could offer. I even started to learn the old language and developed powers well beyond my peers. I'll not be made fun of, and the others will respect me. I know I was told about maintaining balance when working my magic, but I didn't really understand what it meant. Then I learned. I foolishly boasted that my powers surpassed those of another sorcerer, and I challenged him to a contest. I swore I could summon the dead, and I did, but the consequences were drastic. I released a malevolent shadow that now hunts me down, and I fear my powers can't stop it. I don't want harm to come to anyone else, but am I destined to run for the rest of my days? 

This book is for more mature middle grade readers, as the main character is in his mid-teens. There's nothing inappropriate in the story, but the plot moves slowly with Ged's self-reflection. He tries to understand his magic and his place in Earthsea, and he fears the futility of facing the shadow. Ged's actions teach us the powerful influences of jealousy and envy. He becomes obsessed with being the best, and he is angered when he perceives any hint that someone else might be better. He understands his thoughts are irrational, but the lesson is learned too late. I don't typically delve into an author's possible hidden messages, but I'll propose a possible life lesson in this book. Face your fears. Ged spent much of his time running from the threat, and he was powerless until he chose to attack it. Overall, the book isn't action-packed, but it's a good story that may make you think.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Storm Runner #1 by J.C. Cervantes

The Storm Runner (The Storm Runner #1)My name is Zane, and I was stunned to find the creatures in my mythology book are real! A shapeshifter named Brooks told me about a prophecy where I'll free an imprisoned god of the underworld, who will then go on to destroy the world. Why would anyone free an evil god knowing it will lead to death and destruction? Well, it might be because I'm a kind person and good friend. However, I made a stupid deal with Pukeface that may result in me becoming his minion for eternity. My only way out of it is for me, nobody else, to kill the god. Oh, did I mention I'm a half-breed, and my father's a god I've never met? That might have been cool except all the other gods want to kill me, since my father broke some agreement. I only have a couple ways to stay alive and figure out some way to avoid an afterlife as an underworld warrior.

Many books have been written about mythology, but this one describes the Mayan culture. I can't say I've read many of those, if any. Zane has a unique blend of interesting characteristics, as he lives in the desert with two unusual neighbors. He's been home-schooled, has no friends, and his one short leg makes walking difficult. I found his over-the-top devotion to his dog a little hard to understand. I've loved all of my pets, but Zane wasn't willing to accept his dog's death. He was willing to risk the fate of the world to resurrect his pet. A few characters were a little shady, which added another level of mystery. The imprisoned god was predictably dishonest, and I was surprised Zane trusted him more than once. Even Brooks had a mystique, as she was reluctant to share any information about her past. There was a darkness about her that she kept hidden. The story included a good amount of humor through the characters and dialogue. Zane's uncle was a mega wrestling fan, and Zane referred to the main antagonist as Puke or Pukeface. I recommend you read The Storm Runner, and I'm looking forward to the sequel. 

Secrets of Hopelight by Eva Blackstone

Secrets of HopelightMy name is Nubbin, and my family has been forced to keep a secret. We found a man stumbling in the morning heat and discovered he had cut off his own hand! Why would anyone do that? He said he delivered supplies between different enclaves and later revealed a powerful message. The Company is using the enclaves to supply a secret city of elite citizens, and they're using microchips in our brain stems to control us. My friend Piper is suffering from a new disease and may be used to frighten other enclaves. However, her little brother Tug doesn't have a microchip, and the Company will kill him if they find out. My head is spinning from all the secrets I've learned, but how could I be prepared for the secrets within my own family?

This book told a dystopian story of a future Earth. Citizens lived underground due to the hazardous environment above, and the government controlled everything. The microchips monitored everyone's health and kept them from becoming sick. People assumed this control was in their best interest, but Nubbin had reason to question the Company’s motives. It took me awhile to get into the book, as things were happening without a sense of urgency. The government control and secrets were bad, but they didn't feel serious or life-threatening. The first half of the book described threats to freedom but didn't present an overly-engaging adventure. Things picked up once Overseers and another enclave arrived for a cultural exchange and friendly competition. The tension and action definitely leaped a couple levels during the last fourth of the book. The story made me wonder about our own society and the "truths" we're allowed to know. Our beliefs are molded by the information we take in, but who controls our access to information?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Thrones and Bones #3: Skyborn by Lou Anders

Skyborn (Thrones & Bones, #3)My name is Desstra, and I think Thianna is starting to appreciate having a dark elf around. The frost giantess has returned to the land of her mother, and it's not what she expected. The two queens have the second Horn of Osius which they'll use to continue bullying the other city-states. Thianna's nasty cousin Sirena must master the horn before the great hatching, but luckily Thianna is the only one so far who can communicate with the wyverns. I'm not sure what's happened to Karn since we escaped from the queens, but I hope he's getting help. The city-states can stop being bullied by the queens if they'll only work together, but that's easier said than done. If Karn can get the minotaurs to revolt then there's a chance the other groups will join them. However, how do you change the minds of stubborn bulls?

This series has been fun to read, and the three main characters are the reason. Desstra created a trio after the last book, and her relationship with Thianna added lessons in friendship and humor. Desstra tried to kill the giantess in book two, so Thianna was reluctant to accept her help. This past animosity created some tension, but the two characters exchanged humorous banter as they became closer. Karn was the intellectual character and loved the challenge of any kind of game. He was the one connecting the protagonists, and he came up with the strategies to resolve the conflicts. His fighting skills improved across the books, but his mind was his greatest asset. Each book in the series has described a unique game along with directions on how to play them. These contests were woven into the events and became integral parts of the plots. A game was often the key to overcoming dangerous obstacles and antagonists. Overall, the series has been very entertaining, and I suggest you read it, starting with Frostborn.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Arken Freeth & the Adventure of the Neanderthals #1: SeaJourney by Alex Paul

SeaJourney (Arken Freeth and the Adventure of the Neanderthals #1)My name is Arken, and I've earned my place on the SeaJourney by defeating Gate in a sparring match. I hope to become a respected officer during this training voyage, since commoners like me are rarely admitted to the academy. However, Gate is determined to kill me, and his angry glares are a constant reminder. He's much larger than me, and there are many ways to "accidentally" fall off a ship. I've made a new friend who happens to be an ambassador's son. He's even smaller than me and won't be much help in a fight. I'm stronger than others might suspect, and I'm probably the best archer on the ship. I hope my skills will be appreciated. Oops, I need to run! An alarm has sounded, and we need to report on deck. I never would have imagined our ship would play a critical role in a brewing war.

If you've read many of my posts, you know I'm leery of stories told from more than two points of view. Several subplots added confusion early in this book, as my mind couldn't make connections between them. Arken's story was the most compelling, and the book became much more interesting once Arken was the focus. He was the runt of the cadets but was determined to become a successful ship's officer. His small stature was due to his secret heritage, but it also endowed him with unusual strength. His father and grandfather privately trained him, so he was skilled in fighting and archery. The subplots followed a young neanderthal, a captain's efforts to capture a magical necklace, and each chapter began with journal entries written by a princess. The subplots weren't necessary. The neanderthals were a non-factor even though they were cited in the title. I have no idea why they were even in the book! Any information about the captain and princess could have been introduced into Arken's story to avoid confusion and disruption to his plot. In addition, the ending was very abrupt and left the book feeling unfinished. Despite these issues, Arken's adventure was very entertaining! The underdog allowed his virtues and abilities to shine, as he overcame deadly perils. I truly hope the book's sequel sticks to Arken's experiences without other distractions, and I hope the conflicts are resolved.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Rules for Thieves #2: The Shadow Thieves by Alexander Ott

The Shadow Thieves (Rules for Thieves #2)My name is Alli, and I never expected to work with the Thieves Guild again. I've come to enjoy living with my brother Ronan after I was released from prison. However, Beck showed up at the door and shared some disturbing news. Some members of the guild are plotting to overthrow its king, and they've killed his most trusted man. Beck says they have a list of names of people they plan to murder, and the second name belongs to my brother! Why would anyone want to hurt an apprentice at a law firm? I hate sneaking around and lying to Ronan, but I've got to keep him safe. Beck and I need to retrieve a magical coin for the king, and I need to stop whoever is threatening my family.

This book included more magic than the previous one. Beck used his healing powers, magic was bought and sold in a secret market, and Alli used a mirror to help resolve her problems. Alli always wanted to make the correct decisions, but circumstances got in the way. Family life was new to her, since she was separated from her brother at the age of three. She misinterpreted her brother's intentions, as he displayed concern for her safety and future. Her assumption that he wanted to get rid of her clouded some of her choices. The family dynamics were complicated by Ronan's girlfriend living in the apartment next door. She was a protector, a law enforcement officer in this culture. Alli was reluctant to be honest, since a protector would probably throw Beck and her in jail for their association with thieves. However, Alli's assumption again led to questionable judgments. The mystery of the Shadow added some intrigue, as it was unclear if characters were friends or enemies. Some previous characters had switched sides. Overall, I think I felt more of a connection reading book one, but I still enjoyed this one.