Mystic by Jason Denzel

Related image

Find it on Goodreads

Find it on Chapters/Indigo

Find it on Barnes & Noble

Find it on Book Depository

Fit it on Amazon

Now let go of fears. Give yourself the gift of not attaching to your worries. Show…how you give thanks for this precious life…sing me a song about you.

That one quote (edited cuz, well, spoilers) and the scene that went with it was actually a game changer for me, despite my initial feelings. This one was a random Bookoutlet find, and is one among many I picked up while binge buying fantasy series.

Synopsis: In a world of magic welders known as Mystics, and an inescapable caste system that dictates where you must live out your life, Pomella yearns to learn of the magic reserved strictly for nobles. And Pomella, much to her distress, is far from royal. That is until she receives an invitation from the prestigious High Mystic to become her apprentice. Now, with significant handicaps and a dire consequence if she fails, she must compete against 3 other nobles for the right to be the Mistresses apprentice.

Rating: 6.5/10 Unicorn Horns

I was actually pretty conflicted about this one. It’s a pretty good story, and I love the world set up, but the not so great parts stuck out too much for me to ignore. So I’ll break this up and start with the negative, ending on the positive side.

The Negative:

Main Character Pomella. You know there’s an issue when you’re 170 pages in and still trying to find reasons to like a character. I couldn’t help but be bothered by how immature and downright disrespectful she was. While I actually like snarky, and smart-ass characters, Pomella just came off as someone who is completely self-centred. Most of these actions are done under the guise of “independence”, which I was attempting to make the stretch to understand, but then her actions not 2 chapters later completely undermine all that. Which brings me to the second negative.

The romance. Nothing wrong with it in and of itself. I didn’t mind the hints of romance at the beginning, the issue came up later. It all eventually just started to feel really out of place considering Pomella’s situation, and her constant need to make her own way by herself- something she voices throughout the story. A. Lot. 

Alternative book cover (link)

The Positive:

The world building was easy to follow, and we learn along with Pomella, which was nice and info-dump free. From the abundant and mysterious spirit-like animals in the forests, to the nature filled settings, their environment is something I loved reading about.

While the story line, could maybe count as both, as it has it’s up and downs, overall I enjoyed it. It was the story and the music centred magic that kept me going when Pomella made me want to stop. Unfortunately the most amazing part of this story is in the last 7 or so chapters, but with some significant character growth from Pomella those chapters alone made me think it was worth reading. 

Lastly there was the other characters.  It was really refreshing to read a straight up fantasy featuring such a diverse cast of characters. While I don’t feel there was much depth to them, they were all undoubtedly more interesting than Pomella.  In fact, one of the major balms to putting up with Pomella was the alternative male POV, Sim. His attachment to Pomella (something that’s put out there from the first couple pages) will forever boggle my mind, but was otherwise the more interesting of the two. But of course there was the game changing character. This is the one behind the above quote who’s existence made me change my mind about writing this book off.  Of course they don’t appear till well into the book, but even if Pomella didn’t show significant growth with their help, this character would have made me want to read more just to hear more about them. 

So, I Will of course be picking up the next instalment July next year. But would only recommend this if you’re more of a story driven reader.

Mystic Dragon US cover

Advertisements

Dorohedoro Vol. 1, by Q. Hayahida

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

*Sorry for the late post and replies.  Just a bit swamped with work, but will reply soon!*

Image result for dorohedoro volume 1

Find it on Goodreads

Buy it at Chapters/Indigo

Buy it at Barnes & Noble

Buy it at Book Depository

Buy it at Amazon

Three Words: THE FIRST PAGE 

Image result for dorohedoro volume 1

tumblr_o7vk2q0nyl1ujluuso1_500200-2

umm…okay. So I realize that maybe shouldn’t be my first reaction to such a scene, but I’m fine with just blaming my horror-movie-centered-upbringing. Moving on, I actually came across this one from a Google Image search while looking up a completely unrelated series (Berserk). I saw that one picture, and of course went looking for it. Luckily I was able to pick-up the first volume at my local library.  

Synopsis: 

A blood-splattered battle between diabolical sorcerers and the monsters they created.

In a city so dismal it’s known only as “the Hole”, a clan of Sorcerers have been plucking people off the streets to use as guinea pigs for atrocious “experiments” in the black arts. 

Rating: I’m actually not sure. 7/10? 9/10? ….Guess I go with 8/10 unicorn horns!

In short, my trouble rating this comes from that fact that this is that it’s a pretty weird story, with an equally strange cast of characters (especially the antagonists). Eventually my interest in the stories many mysteries won out, but it feels like this story and it’s uniqueness are the definition of hit-or-miss. It was sometimes difficult for me to figure out if certain oddities where something I actually liked, or just downright creeped me out. And while I ended up really liking it, I could easily see why others wouldn’t.

The world of “the Hole” is still largely one big mystery by the end of the first volume. It seems like the sorcerers and the people in “the Hole” live in separate dimensions, with the former preying on the latter, but that’s just a guess. Even so, I really liked how my many questions about this unique world were answered slowly, in bits and pieces over time.

Image result for dorohedoro chapter 1

pg. 3, Vol. 1

While I can’t say I liked it all, overall the strangeness of this world/story was a plus. There were quite a few scenes that had me doing double takes thinking, “did a man’s head really just pop out of lizard-head dude’s stomach to talk to someone?”, and “did this dude really just turn his enemies into mushrooms then talk about eating them?” I thought that last one was a joke, but nope. No it was not. 

As for the characters, the ones that had me so conflicted were the antagonists (the sorcerers). They are an interesting bunch, but the five introduced in this volume are on such a different plane of weird I don’t know what to think about them.

Related image

pg. 92, Vol. 1

Though the main characters Nikaido (the girl executing that headlock-see 1st pic) and Caiman (lizard head dude) were a different story. I was, for obvious reasons, surprised to learn that these two are the main characters. But with their unexpected mildly inappropriate humour, easy banter, and the overall mystery surrounding them it didn’t take me long to like them. Nikaido is one talented and strong woman, and I can’t help but wonder what her story is, and what made her join Caiman on his quest. And as for Caiman, it was his duality and humour (he has the feel of an anti-hero) that had me interested. I couldn’t help but be drawn into his ruthless, and often bloody, quest to find the sorcerer who cast a spell on him (the spell that changed his head into a reptile, and gave him the unique power to withstand magic).

It’s all these mysteries, like the strangeness of “the Hole”, the magic system, where the sorcerers come from and why they have no qualms about committing horrible experiments on people (really, they seem to lack some serious morals in general) that drive me to want to learn more. And, of course, there’s the bit about the unknown man living inside of Caiman….And..well, okay, all the gory action is part of it. 

200-7

Needless to say, this manga definitely isn’t for everyone. Though the scenes do serve to progress the plot, or give readers a better idea of the dark type of environment these guys are in, there is quite a bit of violence, and it doesn’t dial back on the explicit images to go with it. Which reminds me…I absolutely LOVE the artwork! It’s quite detailed, especially the facial expressions and eyes!

Related image

somewhere in chapter 1, Vol. 1…I think…

The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

*This review is spoiler free*

Image result for the burning sky

Find on Goodreads

Buy it from Chapters/Indigo

Buy it from Amazon

Buy it from Barns and Noble

Buy it from Book Depository

This is another I came across at library (a recent “random find”). Of course the cover is what grabbed my interest at first (they are all gorgeous!). Though if I’m being honest I almost put them back since the synopsis hinted at a ton of romance, which I’m not all that into at the moment. But of course as usual the covers eventually won out.

Synopsis: This book takes place in an alternate universe where everything mirrors life as we know it, except for the addition of magic, mages, and an entire magical kingdom (known as the Domain). Split between two POV’s are main characters Iolanthe and Tintus. Iolanthe is a talented female mage living a peaceful life in the Domain on Little Grind-on-Woe…if you can call her guardian, Master Haywood’s, fall from grace and addiction peaceful. 

Tintus, on the other hand, lives miles away in the privileged life of royalty…except for the heavy weight of ruling the entire kingdom, engaging in a political battle with Atlantis (almost like the Catholic church in the Medieval Period, but with magic), and eagerly awaiting the beginning of his late mother’s prophecy. A lighting summoning, unveiling of dark secrets, and magic battle later, these two meets, sparking the start of an adventure filled prophecy.

Rating: 7/10 Unicorn Horns!

Image result for the burning sky

I have mixed feelings about this one. The beginning didn’t do much to catch my attention, or give me reasons to expect much. Iolanthe wasn’t an appealing character, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck was happening since it was difficult to piece together where it was happening. I believe this is Sherry’s first YA (she’s primarily an adult romance writer), and it shows. Even after passing the initial confusion of the first few chapters, there were still more than a few awkwardly pieced together scenes. Ironically the romance itself, generally a plus in this book, at times felt strangely…off, and disappointingly cliched.

But of course, I kept reading for a reason. While the world building could use some more description, the magic system is nothing short of fascinating. Most notably the use of elemental (controlling natural forces) and subtle magic (using a wand to bend natural laws- Harry Potter style). Sherry explains all this in a pretty unique way; by including footnotes at the back of the book (set up as footnotes from a few magical texts available in the Domain). Though there were times flipping to the back would have been too much of an interruption, I found that around the mid-point you could usually leave the extra reading till later without becoming confused.

Image result for the burning sky

Then there are the characters and story line. Admittedly, the story becomes awkward here and there (especially the pacing), and I can’t say it’s original, but for the most part it’s a pretty good one. I was invested in finding out how things would turn out, and even when I could see events coming from a mile away the execution would often be surprising.

For the characters, things really start to pick up once, Iolanthe Seabourne, with the help of Titus, begins attending an all boys school as a guy: Archer Fairfax. Is it wrong that I enjoyed her more as Archer than Iolanthe? She played her part beautifully, and getting to know more about her through this experience is another part of what made this book for me. Diving further into the past and motives of Prince Titus, a pleasantly complex character, was another major plus. Actually, both ended up being somewhat complex characters in their own right. There were even a couple side/supporting characters that stood out. Lastly, well…unfortunately I can’t say the antagonists were the best out there, but they did their part.  

Even with the negative points, I’m actually curious to the point of being exited to see where this goes after the way things ended. It’s a complete trilogy so at least I don’t have a wait ahead. If the synopsis interests you, I highly recommend you check this one out for yourselves despite my mixed feelings.

New Release: The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

This Review is Spoiler Free

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

Find it on Goodreads

Buy it from Chapters/Indigo

Buy it from Barns & Noble

Buy it from Book Depository

Buy it from Amazon

I struggled for some time trying to think of the best way to form my thoughts on this book into something coherent, and not just a paragraph of gushing. Then I came across this gif:

200w-2

And this one:

200-35

Both of which chronologically summarize my feelings about this book perfectly! But of course, I can’t actually leave my review at that…no matter how tempted I am. I will say that most of my love of this book comes from the fact that I honestly missed hearing about it. I’ve seen the cover pop up here and there, but otherwise have heard almost nothing, so was expecting nothing. I’ve been feeling a bit sick of teen fiction (not including manga) for awhile now, so it was only the title and coverlust that drew me into hesitantly picking this up.

Synopsis: Using second person narration with multiple POV’s, Maxwell begins this story with a small group of mageus, lead by Prof. Lachlan, working together against their ancient nemesis, the Order, in modern day New York. Things sound pretty rudimentary at first, a group of supernaturally gifted people fighting against a group of religious fanatics trying to wipe them out, but there are a few catches. The major one being the terror of a deadly trap called the Brink, and Esta, raised and trained by Prof. Lachlan to take down the Order. She is also an amazingly talented pick-pocketing, lock picking, time-travelling thief. And it is these skills that get her sent back to 1902 in New York on a lone mission to steal a book- the Ars Arcana- that may finally lead to their freedom.

Rating: 9/10 Unicorn Horns!

This rich story-line, set primarily in 1902, was nothing to sneeze at. In addition to the gripping scenes of the magic welding mageus hiding, outwitting, and fighting the Order (who are at the beginning of forming a curious mix of alchemy and emerging technology), there was also the terror of the Brink to contend with. Many mageus travelled to New York due to rumours of a better life only to find that once they enter the city they cannot leave. Well, at least not without being stripped of their powers and dying in agony, or facing a lifetime of severe mental/emotional instability if they survived the mysterious force field surrounding the city. The effects the terror of this trap and the raids by the Order had on the mageus living in New York was amazingly well written, and just one of the many things that made me devour this book. 

It is this terror that the group main character Esta grew up in, and the street gang leader Dolph are fighting to destroy. Esta’s mission is to meet up with Dolph, the well-known leader of one of the bigger mageus gangs in New York’s 1902 underbelly, infiltrate his crew and prevent someone called The Magician from making the Ars Arcana disappear from history. It was the characters in 1902 that I fell in love with. Esta is a very strong young woman who’s resilient character I admired. Dolph, his crew, and The Magician himself are all complex characters with beautifully conflicting values and resulting contradictory actions. I loved that the gritty reality of the situation the mageus were faced with was actually reflected in the hard choices many of the characters struggled with. 

Though this book did still have some of the elements I’ve grown tired of in teen fiction, a few overly common troupes, those things weren’t so overbearing that they felt like they robbed the story of worth. I didn’t give this book a full 10/10 because in addition to that, part-way through the book things started feeling a bit dragged out. This wasn’t done enough to take off a full point, especially considering all those twists, turns, and bomb dropping towards the end.

mqdefault

Maxwell took some of my most loved themes, a historical setting rife with realistic social problems and strong characterization, then wove it into a beautifully entertaining story. I definitely recommend this one to all!

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

12954620

Find it on Goodreads

Buy it at Chapters/Indigo

Buy it at Barns & Noble

Buy it at Book Depository

Buy it at Amazon

*I’m very sorry for all the late replies. I will be getting back to everyone soon.

Also, I  don‘t know if any of you are having a similar issue, but I have been having a lot of problems with the new WordPress. A lot of schedules posts (including a handful of drafts) have been posting early and/or without me knowledge (e.g. The Versatile Blogger Award). I apologize for this, especially to the bloggers of meltingpotsandcalamities and blameitonchocolate.*

This is a series I have literally been waiting years to read. As many of you know I despise cliffhangers almost as much as I do spoilers, so often put off series I want to read until they are complete or near to completion (something I also do because of one too many series I loved, and had to wait 4+ years for due to publication issues). So when I heard this series was finally near completion I didn’t hesitate to dive right in.

Synopsis: This four person POV takes place in the three separate kingdoms of Mytica. The youngest daughter, Princess Cleo, of Auranos- the prosperous kingdom in both land and wealth- the young Prince and Princess of Limeros- a frozen land lead by a tyrannous king- and a young wine sellers son from Paelsia- a destitute country that hangs on by a thread; all four cross paths as their lands, one by one, slowly descend into darkness. 

Rating: 7/10 Unicorn Horns

I gave it this rating because, while I enjoyed it and the story line was good, it fell a little short of my expectations, particularly in the character department. On the one hand this is the first of six books, so it’s understandable that character development isn’t a focus yet. Instead the focuses in more on introducing readers to the world Morgan is creating, and only some insight into the characters we view this world’s events through. Even so, I have to admit the POV of one character in particular was a bit too painful for me to get past. This character (that shall remain unnamed), through a series of naive choices and a lot of spoiled behaviour, took some joy out of the story for me. Given the circumstances it may have been strange if they were any different, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that her character is grating. A funny thing, considering she becomes one of my favourite characters by the end of the second instalment.

The story, overall, is something I enjoyed quite a bit. While there wasn’t too much that stood out to me other than the mysterious group of mystical beings known as Watchers, I found the pacing appealing and the nations decent into widespread chance promises a lot more actions to come. That appeal has quickly gotten me to the 3rd book, and I can honestly say: “It gets better”. This of course goes for the characters as well, most of which grown and progress in leaps. The romance is present from the very start, and though it does take a back step here and there to various events, it is a running theme throughout the story. 

I would recommend this series to Y.A. fans that enjoy their stories with a romantic theme included. 

Talon by Julie Kagawa

17331828

Find it on Goodreads

Buy it at Chapters/Indigo

Buy it at Barnes & Noble

Buy it at Book Depository

Buy it at Amazon

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. 

A Dance of Cloaks by David Dalglish

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

51mix4lhtZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Find it on Goodreads

Buy it at Chapters/Indigo

Buy it at Barnes & Noble

Buy it at Book Depository

Buy it at Amazon

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!