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

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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

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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.

I Hate Fairyland Vol. 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young

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LMAOOO!!! I’m still slightly new to the American comic book world -as much as I love the stories I’m admittedly a little afraid of all those Marvel volumes- but had started picking up and collecting some Image Comics to start with. I don’t have much to compare it to, but as a fan of comedic TV shows and movies I have to say that this is a good pick that caters to my type of comedy- sarcastic, a bit witty, crude and unapologetic. I’d recommend this to any fan of satirical comedy shows like Futurama, Family Guy, or Robot Chicken. I look forward to the 2nd installment and give it 8/10 Unicorn Horns

The story, pretty self-explanatory considering the title, cover page, and opening quote:

It was a nightmare. Nothing but the green of her hair…and the blood of my people.

– Thaddeus J. Star, R.I.P.

Is basically a parody of fairy tales in general, so on occasion you’ll recognize themes/elements from scenes of well known fairy tales. All within the first 6 or so pages you get a bit of an Alice in Wonderland parody where a young 6 year old named Gert is whisked away, yelling and screaming, into a fairlyland. After a brutal and very bloody landing, the Queen of Fairyland sends her on an epic journey with an optimistic looking fly named Larry as a guide to find the magic key that will open a door to her way back home. On the 7th page, 27 years later, we have a now alcoholic looking Larry and an angry and psychotic looking Gert floating on a magic boat, flipping off and threatening the moon (in creative curse words I have to say) for insulting her. After she successfully…and very, umm, violently expresses her feeling for the moon the story goes on to follow the hilarious and always eventually violent adventures of the certifiable 47 year old woman trapped in a 6-year-old girl’s body.

I enjoyed this comic quite a bit. Gert is an incredibly insane and violent character that was a lot of fun to watch, and Larry, the straight man and unwilling side-kick, well…there’s not much to say about him to be honest, but his stoic ways do compliment Gert’s expressive homicidal ways quite nicely. The story line is nicely creative in some places and predictable in other ways, Gert will always do something crazy/stupid, but even then I was often surprised with the “how”. You may be able to tell she’s about to demolish a town, but really anything goes when it comes to how she’ll do it. I enjoyed meeting the host of other random and often hilariously creative characters and creatures, but more than that I loved the art. I’m a big fan of the style and have to say I really loved all the vivid colours used as well. 

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

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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!

 

 

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

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Furies of Calderon is the first instalment in the epic fantasy series, Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. The series follows a few different characters who at the beginning of the story are in different areas of Alera. As the story progresses the individual storylines intersect seamlessly. Some of the most notable characters are Tavi, a furyless 15 y.o.boy who lives on his Uncle’s steadholt. Amara, a woman who is training to become a Cursori (spy) for the First Lord of Alera. In Alera people have the ability to use Furies, which allow them to connect to the elements and use their Furies to manipulate the elements.  

As much as I do love a long Fantasy novel, I can admit when one becomes a bit taxing on my reading life. That thankfully did not happen while I was reading this book. As a reader it does not take too long before you form bonds with particular characters. Whether those be negative or positive feelings that you develop towards individual characters, it absolutely adds to the overall reading experience. You are able to grow with the characters, feel their struggles and triumphs, you feel betrayals stronger and deeper than you would without having made those connections.

The magic system is rather intriguing and I have seen some interesting stories of how Butcher developed the magic system; however, I have never looked into it to see if it is in fact true so I won’t comment on that point. In Alera people are able to control the elements (earth, air, fire, water, and metal). I enjoyed the fact that the magic system was rather easy to believe and understand. There were very few inconsistencies that I remember reading in this novel, none that I can recall at this time. It sometimes takes you completely out of the world/story when you are made aware of actions and abilities that don’t make sense based upon the explanation of the world/magic system that an Author provided. Luckily, that doesn’t happen in this novel and the magic system, abilities, and limitations of “crafting” are consistent and explained. 

The novel contains political intrigue and unrest, adventure, shifting family/friend dynamics, suspense, a good magic system, character development and an understandability of the magic system and the story as well. If you choose to continue on with the Codex Alera series you will find that Furies of Calderon, acts more as a prequel to the remaining 5 books. I give this novel a rating of 7 out of 10 stars. My rating of the series as a whole is considerably higher. This novel serves as more of a introduction to all the hell that this series is going to put you through over time. 

The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw Vol. 1 by Kurt Busiek (author) & Benjamin Dewey (illustrator)

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I’m officially hooked. A futuristic world filled with magic where humans have, I assume, as it hasn’t been explained yet, become extinct? Compelling characters, and a classic story-line?  This volume had it all, to say nothing of all the beautifully designed scenes and landscapes-ughh, those COLOURS though!! Autumnlands was a gift from a friend back when it first got released and I went into it, like I do with most stories nowadays, not knowing what the heck I was getting myself into, but the beautiful cover has been staring me down for weeks now so I finally decided to jump in- is my bias towards colourful art showing yet?

The Autumlands is a fantasy story written by Kurt Busiek set in the very, very distant future where not a single human being is in site (let alone heard of), and animals roam the world in the comfort of luxurious floating cities…or at least the wealthy higher class beasts do. The mass of “lower beasts” get to spend their days on the ground slaving for the higher class under threat of being punished by the gods should they step too far beyond their station (sound metaphorically familiar anyone?). This world of rampant exploitation and absolute dominance of the lower social class races is something our main character, Dunstan, son of a privileged magician, is just beginning to be introduced to. Though our main character has some doubts about things after seeing how his father deals with them, this all takes a backseat to a more pressing matter. The magic the beasts of this world rely on like we rely on fuel is quickly running out. After master magicians, sorcerers, and politicians world-wide came together in an effort to discuss possible solutions, one bold sorceress came forth to propose the impossible: reach through time to bring forth “The Champion”. A legendary and mysteriously human shaped (unbeknownst to them) hero in history said to be capable of unimaginable feats.  

There’s a major event I’d love to talk about here, but everything that I’ve mentioned so far only happens within the first 25 or so pages, and I don’t want to reveal anything further, but trust me it only gets way more interesting from there. There wasn’t a single character (especially the key character revealed later in the story) I didn’t enjoy reading about, even the bad guys. Dunstan’s character doesn’t stand out too much for me just yet, but I can tell that will soon change-was changing as the story progressed. A lot of the story felt pretty authentic to how different human beings would react when faced with so much adversity in a situation so foreign from them. I couldn’t help but compare and contrast some of the elements in this story with current society. Also, as I’ve pretty much already gushed about, the illustrations by Benjamin Dewey were easy to follow, visually pleasing, and quite detailed. Deceit, battles, devastation, magic, tactics, power plays, a touch of humour and hint of sci-fi, tactics. This was a really great read that, I’ve got to say, ENDED IN A CLIFFHANGER. Why?! Why would you do that to a person?!?! 

Regardless of that cruel, cruel ending (Thank GOD I didn’t read it back when I first got it, now it’s only 3 months will the 2nd volume is released- Feb 28th), I really enjoyed this story and can’t wait to see where things go from here.

7/10 Unicorn Horns!

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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This book is one I’ve considered taking off my favorite self many times, primarily after reading something I know I enjoyed way more, but I never actually manage it. I struggled for quite a while trying to puzzle this out, but after re-reading it I remembered: I love this book. It’s not the type of favorite that stands out, demanding constant attention, and actively battles it out with new arrivals for a top spot. It’s also not one that immediately pops into my mind when I consider a recommendation. This is one of very, very few that subtly and permanently settled into my mind and quietly made itself at home, yet has somehow rarely made itself known. I’m still not even entirely clear on what it is that’s made it a favorite of mine, but I will try my best to explain it.

The Scorpio Races weaves an enchanting story about a young recently orphaned 17 year girl named Puck who, along with old and younger brothers (Gabe and Finn respectively)-a generally private and close knit family- who live on the only island known to occasionally grant wishes, favour the brave, and every year during the Fall…it’s willful ocean parts with dozens of man killing, flesh eating horses. Yup, you read that right: flesh eating horses straight out of the sea. Despite this each November Thisby becomes a thriving tourist destination, not because these foreigners all have a death wish, but because this is the time the people of Thisby, who have lived alongside these carnivorous water creatures (known as capaill uisce) for generations, take these horses and race each other on their backs right next to the sea- the place where they will and have killed many men in a struggle to return to.

It was to these capaill uisce that Puck Connolly lost her parents. Yet due to an unexpected turn of events, Puck is forced to make an insane decision: to not only be the first woman to ever ride in the races, but to also do it on the back of what the capaill uisce often view as food, her normal island horse.

After much pacing and head scratching I finally came to understand what it was about this story that set it apart for me. While of course the original story was part of it. Yes magical flesh eating horses that occasionally lure people out to the sea to drown is actually a well know fairy tale, but I have never come across one that was done quite like this. Much like with Stiefvater’s other series Shiver, she has taken this common fantasy creature and made it her own. All this is a big part of what made me love and favorite the series, that and of course the horses themselves, but it was actually the characters that’s kept it a definitive favorite.

I’m very impressed with how Stiefvater has created the characters, namely Puck, Finn, and primarily Sean Kendrick (the quite 19 year old, 3 time winner of the Scorpio Races) with whom Puck switches POVs with. The amount of body language and carefully put together dialogue that went in to creating Kendrick, who’s silence manages to command power and authority instead of the opposite, has really made this story stand out in my mind. The beautifully realistic and natural way relationships between people and horses alike (Kendrick and his capaill uisce, Corr, among the top), are expressed was another. There was also the communication between all these human (and other) characters (both platonic and otherwise)-a thing Stiefvater accomplishes like nobodies business. Being able to get to the root of the characters, and the snippets of the islanders long standing  and complex relationship with these deadly horses in Scorpio Races is something I really loved.

8.5/10 Overall, with a recommendation to all animal lovers and Y.A. and fantasy lit fans.