Talon by Julie Kagawa

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I’ve been waiting to read this series since the first time I heard the premise. A book about dragons in a modern day setting? Count me in! So of course I dived in the moment I saw the last book in this 5 book series set to publish next year. Overall I enjoyed the read, but unfortunately I have to day I may have over-hyped the series a bit.

Synopsis: Talon is set in modern day California and follows main character Ember Hill as she and her twin brother, Dante, are finally set free to complete the final part of their training to successfully infiltrate human society for a few months in incognito. Ember and Dante must learn about the outside world of dangerous humans, how to act and be one of them, all in order to continue to provide and keep safe their secret society of ancient dragons masquerading as humans (known as Talon). And of course, there is the evil society of dragon hunters of watch out for. But things aren’t what they seem. After Ember comes across a dangerous rogue dragon named Cobalt begins to question everything she’s been taught and been training for her whole life.

Rating: 6.5-out-of-10 Unicorn Horns.

Overall I enjoyed this story and the magical otherworldly aspects. The way the dragons have evolved and adapted over time in order to assimilate into human society is something that has kept me interested enough to keep picking up the next in the series. Normally this is the kind of story I love to pieces; ancient dragons, secretive societies, mysterious-not-what-they-appear characters, and a defiant, strong heroine, but the characters seemed to fall a bit flat. I kept recognizing them in the many other similar Y.A characters I’ve come across, and so found them all a bit too predictable for my liking. The only characters that really stood out to me were a couple antagonists.

Even though the story is interesting, I felt that the characters brought things down for me, that and everything seemed to be heading down an all too predictable road. I’d still recommend this book to teen urban fantasy lovers as the story begins to grow more complex in later installments, but would warn away those looking for stories with unique characters/character driven stories. 

Romance Read: Yona of the Dawn, Vol. 1 by Mizuho Kusanagi

*This Review is Spoiler Free* 

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This story, wow, I was genuinely surprised at the twists and turns within the first couple chapters. I did NOT at all expect for this story to turn out the way it did. This was intended to be a novel review but… I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump lately, and haven’t been able to finish/pick up most of the books I’ve set out to read. So have totally been coping out of doing intended book reviews with tons of manga and graphic novels! It still counts right? Yes? Well let’s pretend it does even if it doesn’t! Hahaha! Anywho, as someone who isn’t a big fan of shojo (manga for young/teen girls) in general I never really thought I would not only pick-up the manga Yona of the Dawn, but begin collecting it. Despite my continuing overall apprehension towards most romance this is now one of my very few shojo favorites. 

Synopsis: Yona of the Dawn is a fantasy set in a kingdom called Kohka. The story centers around main character princess Yona as she prepares for her 16th birthday. Yona, the only child of widow King IL, is a pampered young lady but things quickly change. Very quickly. As most know nothing good happens for royalty on their coming-of-age birthdays. 

Rating: 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

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To be honest, I was considering dropping this after the first couple pages as even though I was enjoying the comedy. The whole love struck pampered princess scene really wasn’t doing anything for me. But then came the plot twist and suddenly I’m 4 volumes deep and searching up the next release date. I loved this story and the unexpected action. The fight scenes were really well done and nothing I’ve ever come across in shojo (the art in general was really good). And the characters! I loved even the antagonist as a character, the character dynamics, and the often hilarious bantering and interactions. So far the major players are complex, and each had a side to him/her that was mysterious and at times unpredictable. For some what most caught my attention was the revelation of past or hidden thoughts/motives, for others it was major character development, and for the main protagonist Yona it was both in leaps and bounds.

As the 1st volume mainly dishes out the events that lead to her transformation so you won’t get to see the real results till the second volume. But I can promise watching this fiery spirited princess transition into a determined warrior with open eyes to the reality of her kingdom is every bit worth it. I can’t get too into it without spoiling something, but I loved the deeper fantasy aspect that arises once the mystery behind Yona’s red hair is revealed, as well as love how this questions the idea of right and wrong (Vol. 2-3). Safe to say I’ll be checking out the 24 episode anime adaptation available on both Crunchyroll and Funimation.

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As for the romance…well, there are some tantalizing scenes here and there, but overall I’d say this actually doesn’t have a strong enough overall romantic theme to actually be considered a straight up “Romance Read“. It plays an important role, but Yona’s adventures with new/existing comrades soon take center stage most of the time. Yet…once again- cop out. Since I’m technically only reviewing the first volume, which has a stronger focus on the romantic elements, I’m going to conveniently pretend it still counts! Yay me! 

Wayward: String Theory, Vol. 1 by Zub, Cummings, Rauch, Bonvillain, & Dillon

*This Review Is Spoiler Free*

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Hey mom…I’ve been seeing invisible glowing lines in the air that lead me to important places or terrifying supernatural shit

I picked this one up by random…okay, no, that’s a lie. I picked this up and decided to review it purely because it has a ton of kitties on the cover accompanied by a chick looking like she’s ready to kick-ass. Other than that I knew nothing about this series going into it. So never expected to find that this story is almost like a Japanese comic (manga) in American comic form. 6.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

Synopsis: This story, largely translated from Japanese, begins with main character Rori Lane moving from her father in Ireland to start over with her mother in Japan. On her way home from giving her new settings in Tokyo a quick tour she gets surrounded by a clan of cats, attacked by kappa (monsters/demons from Japanese Folklore), and saved by a strange cat-like girl. This of course, along with the strange red threads only she can see, leaves her beyond confused. As she obeys her urge to follow these threads before a dark threat descends over the city, she’s lead to dive further into her strange new power, and unveil the “patterns” to the puzzle of ‘what the heck is going on?’. These patterns often lead her to a variety of new people. All with strange powers of their own.

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Overall I enjoyed this story and liked all the characters- Rori, Shirai (Rori’s first friend who has strange powers of his own and must eat living spirits in order to survive), the strange-cat-girl named Ayane, and others we meet later on. Though I have to admit, the dialogue/character interactions felt off here and there. I also can’t say the story always flowed well, as there were some odd transitions and things that didn’t quite add up or felt choppy/rushed. Either way this urban fantasy is set in a different country from what I’m use to (outside of most manga/anime I’ve read/seen), and riddled with Japanese Folklore which makes it very unique in many ways, and stands out from the crowd (there are notes in the back of the book providing snippets of background information). 

The pictures on the other hand were beautiful and I LOVED all the pretty colours. According to the forward at the beginning of this volume the scenes of Tokyo, the high school Rori attends, the city’s people, and the overall feel of Japan were truthful depictions of the country as opposed to an Americanized and glorified view. I’ve never been to Japan so can’t really comment, but will say that it was pretty cool seeing a realistic depiction of Japan in comic format (again outside of some manga/anime). 

Though the execution of the story wasn’t the best the overall idea is very intriguing, and with the way the 1st volume ended I get the feeling things will get better. Much better. I can honestly say I am looking forward to more. This wasn’t a favorite, but I’d still recommend this to most urban fantasy, folklore (especially from Japan), and superpower fans.

Zeros by Scott Westerfeld

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I can’t say I love all his books, but I will say I am definitely a fan of Scott Westersfeld. So I was genuinely excited about his new series Zeroes…well new at the time seeing as this was published late in 2015. Aside from the author the premise seemed pretty interesting as well so, like with many of his books, I added it to my collection.

Zeroes is YA about a group of diverse teenagers born with special, and somewhat unique/original abilities. The story bounces from each of  six main character’s POVs, but starts off with just two, Ethan and Kelsey. Ethan (code name Scam) has just come from a date and using his unique ability- he thinks of something he wants, walks up to a person, and a foreign voice comes out of his mouth with enough intimate knowledge about the person to charm them into just about anything- tries to get himself a ride home. Unfortunately for him his ability appears to have a somewhat dark side, and ends up getting him into a very complicated situation where he’s forced to call up his old friends (Crash, Flicker, Anonymous, and Bellweather A.K.A Glorious Leader) each with there own special ability. 

Kelsey (A.K.A. Mob), a mysterious girl with the ability to feel the pulse an flow of a crowd and influence it, pulling or pushing them along with her moods, is mainly focused on just enjoying this crowd riding feeling at parties. Though all this fun comes to a screeching halt the night she crosses paths with Ethan and finds her father in deep trouble.

I honestly can’t tell if I really liked this group of characters or not. Watching them as they learning to use and control their abilities was pretty compelling, and I found myself anticipating the moments when they learned new aspects of their gifts, questioned their abilities, and revealed snippets of their childhood struggle with what they were and could do. But other than a few moments here and there, I can’t really say I loved any of them. The flow of the story and the diversity (race, economic background, gender, physical abilities, and overall personality) of the characters kept things interesting enough that even with less liked characters I didn’t feel the usual need to skip right over someones POV. The story line wasn’t action-around-every-corner interesting, but had a really nice flow going for it, balancing action with character insight and development.

Overall this was a good start to an interesting series. 7/10 Unicorn Horns

New Release: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

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Empress of a Thousand Skies follows Rhiannon Ta’an, the Crown Princess to the Kalusian Dynasty. Rhiannon has spent years training for when she would take over the throne, but she has not just been training for when she becomes Empress. Rhee has also been on a journey to exact revenge on whoever is responsible for the death of her family years before. People are watching carefully for when Rhee takes the throne and many are hesitant and wonder if she is ill-prepared for the duties that await her. Although the performance of the future Empress is in the forefront of the minds of many, the thoughts consuming Rhee’s minds are fueled by revenge, hatred, grief and loss.

I’m going to just say this off the jump…I was not expecting to like this novel as much as I did. Empress of a Thousand Skies is a standout for me within Young Adult Science Fiction. Belleza accomplished creating a captivating story that was well rounded with characters that had depth. I’m easily distracted by discrepancies within a story line, but I did not run into that issue with this novel at all. The author did an amazing job of keeping the story consistent throughout. I love that this story did not depend on “love” to bring a level of entertainment and interest. It is so refreshing to read a YA that did not have a love-triangle or case of insta-love anywhere in the story. The severity and importance of Rhee’s quest of revenge is not cheapened by a love interest that distracts her from her goal.

I give Empress of a Thousand Skies a rating of 7-out of-10 Unicorn Horns. The novel is well written, the characters are multi-dimensional, the world building is superb, and the story is entertaining from beginning to end. I would absolutely recommend this book to fans of YA sci-fi and fantasy novels.

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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I’ve been hearing about this series for awhile now and finally…after a few years of it sitting on my bookshelf *cough, cough* decided to check it out. I have to say I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this series on a whole yet. It is very promising in a lot of ways, but also, unfortunately, fell short of my expectations. Don’t get me wrong here I don’t regret my purchase, especially now that I’ve read the much improved 2nd installment Dance of Blades, but can’t honestly give the first book any higher than 6/10 unicorn horns

The beginning of this story starts off promisingly with a young boy and main protagonist Aaron Felhorn, son of the well known and greatly feared leader of the underground Spider thief guild Thren Felhorn, as the thief guilds begin a war with The Trifect- three very powerful Lords that have banded together in an attempt to protect their vast wealth. We bounce back and forth in a third person narrative following the lives of various characters on both sides of the war- mostly major characters but a few minor ones as well- and learn how the bloody power struggle between these two groups, The Trifect and newly banded together thief guilds (under Aaron Felhorn’s unforgiving cold dictatorial rule), has effected the lives of those within the city of Veldaren. 

I can’t talk about too much without giving things away, but the story-line was definitely interesting. My main issue lay with the characters. Many of them, to be honest, I couldn’t find a reason to really care about. The main character, Aaron, was interesting enough, as was his power hungry father Thren and a couple others like the mysterious Faceless assassins, an old and wise tutor, and the new Spider Guild recruit. Which wasn’t the best thing considering the story also covered quite a bit of one of The Trifect Lord’s daughter and heir. My feelings about some of the characters do change over time, but this isn’t until well over half the series. Though all this is really a personal preference and with so many POV’s it’s a give in not all of them will be liked by readers, having to go through chapter after chapter of a bunch of unliked characters I couldn’t find a reason to like or, more often than not, really couldn’t understand their significance in the story, is of course something that greatly lowered my enjoyment. There was also the fact that some of the the transitions and scenes came off a bit choppy, or simply didn’t flow as well as others. Some of the characters actions also, at times, didn’t quite make sense to me given what I’d already been shown of their character/personality. My really high expectations probably didn’t help things lol, but considering the fact that the other novels are set 5yrs after the events of the first book, the whole story ended up coming off a bit like a drawn out prologue. 

Okay, to be fair many of my issues are taken care of in the 2nd installment and I found myself liking almost all the character, both minor and major, that were re/introduced. And there is also the fact that many of the characters in this first installment were new and like with most fantasy novels, especially those that are part of a series, things are a bit slow in the beginning while the settling, characters, and necessary background information are all being put into place for readers. Clearly despite my various concerns and complaints I liked the story and some of the characters well enough to keep going and eventually pick up the next book, so things really aren’t as bad as I’ve probably made it sound lol. There are quite a few elements in this series to keep me interested enough to read the rest in this completed 6 book series, and it does look like things will continue to get better. I’d like to give this book a 7/10, but…that’s pretty much the rating I’d give to the 2nd installment. I’d still recommend this series to fantasy lovers, though can’t say it’s one of the better stories out there. Regardless, I’ll definitely be giving this book a chance and would like to hear from some of you what you thought of it if you’ve read it, or plan to. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Tokyo ESP Vol. 1 (Omnibus) by Hajime Segawa

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Someone once said: There are only two ways you can live your life. Either you live your life as if things like miracles don’t ever happen, or you live your life as if perhaps everything is a miracle.

This has turned out to be one of my most anticipated reads this year! Say nothing for all the gorgeous covers, this has been a very interesting story. The anime adaptation by the same name is what first thing to get me onto the manga (which is complete in it’s country of origin Japan, but just started printing 2-1 omnibus editions in English late last year), but as the anime has some odd pacing issues the manga is definitely the better pick. 

Not giving anything beyond the 1st chapter away, Tokyo ESP kicks off with main character Rinka Urashiba, a poverty stricken young teenager, as she wakes up one morning to call her father in a panic- suddenly falling through the floor and household furniture tends to do that to a person. A flashback to the previous day reveals Rinka’s encounter, along with a fellow high school student, with a very strange and mysterious event: A small African Penguin flying through the sky following a school of small, glowing, flying fish, one of which flies right into her. While she puzzles this out with aforementioned school mate, her protective father (a retired police officer and single parent since his wife took off) attempts to run home after receiving Rinka’s panicked message. A  very difficult task when you have every car in the area flying toward you like your a magnet. After witnessing this event and Rinka’s role in putting a stop to it while protecting dozens of nearby citizens, Kyotaro Azuma (the fellow high school student) lends a helping hand in their get away…by using teleportation to whisk them away.

With the mystery and issues that arise from dozens of magical fish flying through the city and gifting ordinary citizens with an array of superhuman abilities, it follows that groups of justice seeking masked vigilantes and super-powered villains would arise. This is a story that caters to superhero lovers as it centers around Rinka, Azuma, and their new friends as she incorporates her father’s morals and fights back against the raising tide of public chaos, and struggles with her own weaknesses in order to protect everything she holds dear. As you could probably already tell this story is a classic that has been told plenty of times, though as the story progresses (and boy does it ever), characters overcome and challenge themselves, mysteries arise and questions are answered, and both antagonist’s and protagonist’s pasts’ are revealed it gathers plenty of originality to keep readers coming back for more (I’ve read up to the fifth 2-in-1 omnibus volume). As for the art…I’m a bit conflicted on it. It’s different from what I’m use to and at times it’s very well done (those front and centered coloured pages in every bind-up are GORGEOUS!!), but it can sometimes drop in quality and become a little disjointed (never to the point the story-line can’t be followed). 

This was a really great find! I’d recommend it to anyone who loves stories with supernatural elements, superheroes, an undercurrent of romance, complex villains, kick-ass heroines (Rinka can hold her own against the best), and themes involving crime and justice.

8/10 Unicorn Horns!

I’m totally fangirling here but just look at all those beautiful covers!!

*Omnibus volumes 1-7 are currently all available in English. The last omnibus (volume 8) is scheduled to be released April 25th, 2017*