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!

 

 

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

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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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!

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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So, I recently read my first John Scalzi novel, which was Lock In, and did a review of the novel on here a view weeks ago. I liked that book so much that I went to the library soon after that and picked up Old Man’s War, as well as the next two books in the series. About half-way through Old Man’s War I returned to the library and grabbed the rest of the books in the series. If that is any indication at all that I enjoyed this novel as much…and more than I enjoyed Lock In…I don’t know what is lol. 

The main character of this novel is 75 year-old John Perry, who after visiting his wife’s grave on his 75th birthday joins the Colonial Defense Forces. The CDF is an army of the Colonial Union that is situated in space, which is where the bulk of this novel is set. The novel follows John as he enlists in the CDF and follows him through his journey to become a soldier. Once again you shall only be getting the bare bones of the synopsis (…sorry, not sorry!)  because a great part of my reading experience was discovering the world and the intricacies of the CDF as Perry got his understanding of life in space. There are no real spoilers if you do read a full synopsis of the novel on Goodreads, or elsewhere, but when I went back and read the synopsis after reading the novel I was glad that I went into reading it with as little knowledge of the story as possible.

The novel is very interesting and the world building is amazing. The pacing of the story is well done and it’s fitting to have a MC that doesn’t know everything that’s going on around them and get to figure it out with him. This added to my overall enjoyment of the novel because it aids on giving the novel an aire of suspense and an added level of intrigue. This book was very well thought out and the more scientific aspects of the story were not just simply glossed over. You can very easily tell that Scalzi put in the effort to make the novel’s more otherworldly aspects, as well as, the connections between what John Perry experiences interesting, inventive, but at the same time believable. Let me not forget to mention that John Scalzi’s humorous writing is superb! I laughed out loud, in public, at least a dozen times while commuting to and from work. Now, this may embarrass some other unicorns, but as a seasoned transit reader it doesn’t even phase me anymore. Okay, admittedly the few times I snorted in public while reading this book were not my finest moments and I *may* have sported some good ole anime/manga style diagonal line blushes.

I enjoyed this novel and HIGHLY recommend it. There was not much that I can recall disliking. I’m making my way through the rest of the series and hope to be able to provide an overall review of the series when I complete it. I give this novel 8 out of 10 unicorn horns! Any fans of Science Fiction should definitely check this novel out. Readers who don’t tend to generally read Sci-Fi, but would like to venture into the sub-genre should give this novel a try…especially if you like combat scenarios, political intrigue, good world-bulding, stories that bring into question what defines our humanity, and/or humorous writing.

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

*THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE*

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This book is the first installment in one of my favorite series. Can’t say I had the best experience reading Westerfeld’s other series Uglies, so even though I had liked that series enough to pick this one up I wasn’t expecting much. Okay to be honest it was that cover and, primarily, the promise of beautiful illustrations that really had me checking Leviathan. It was my first steampunk and I love it. This is one of the few series I practically sit-down to re-read on an annual basis. 8.5/10 Unicorn Horns.

Don’t want to give too much away, but this series is about two characters, one a young girl, Deryn, disguised as a boy in order to join the British Army, the other a young Austro-Hungarian Prince, Aleksander, on the run and hiding his identity, who have an unlikely meeting that turns into a long and interesting adventure set in an alternate WWI (Clankers Vs. Darwinists). I really enjoyed the main character’s personalities, humour, their alternating POVs, and the way they both ended up developing. Also really enjoyed the range of other personalities found in some of the more minor characters. The world-building is something I will NEVER get over, simply amazing, and probably the top reason I can’t help but keep returning to it. This series was a real improvement from his last in terms of sheer imagination, dialogue, overall story line and pacing.

The fanciful descriptions of magnificent and extraordinary hybrids, beasts, and the machinery that existed along side them?….uuhhhgggg…words cannot describe lol. It often went over my head. I had trouble here and there trying to picture something so imaginative, so the illustrations by Thompson were really something. Really beautifully done (have you seen those maps?!), and in a way that I felt fully captured and presented Westerfield’s incredibly imaginative creatures. Though the purely mechanical creations sometimes seemed to lack some creativity in comparison to the creatures, there were plenty of others that more than made up for this. Made me really want to read some more of this genre (seriously, if you know of any good recommendations please feel free to give me a shout! =)