Jade City / Fonda Lee

Title / Jade City
Author / Fonda Lee
Publication Date / 2017
Series or standalone / book 1 of 3
Page no. / 512
Overall Rating / 

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Goodreads synopsis:Magical jade—mined, traded, stolen, and killed for—is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. For centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion. Now the war is over and a new generation of Kauls vies for control of Kekon’s bustling capital city. They care about nothing but protecting their own, cornering the jade market, and defending the districts under their protection. Ancient tradition has little place in this rapidly changing nation. When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone—even foreigners—wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones—from their grandest patriarch to the lowliest motorcycle runner on the streets—and of Kekon itself.

 

This one is actually going to be quite a hard one to review. I wanted to love it and there are things I really liked about it but overall this one just didn’t work for me. It is the first book in an adult fantasy series. Firstly I loved the concept of this book. Basically it is set in the fictional world of Kekon, where Jade is a precious stone that will enhance a warrior’s capability in 6 different ways: strength, perception, steel, lightness, deflection and channelling. The more Jade you have, the more power you can harness.  Kekon is reminiscent of Southeast Asian countries and the capital is Janloon. The capital is controlled by two warring clans; the No Peak Clan and the Mountain Clan. I think the author did a fantastic job at creating these two warring clans. I love these types of settings and I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. We get to see the conflict through the eyes of a few members of the No Peak Clan. I thought the world building was one of the main strengths of this book. Lee has done a great job at creating a vivid world with an interesting magic system. I really liked the magic system but I think it could definitely have done with more explanation. Despite my issues with the plot, which I’ll mention later, overall I thought it was quite good and I think a lot of people will enjoy it.

 

So it’s was a little tricky for me to come up with the reason I didn’t love this. It’s one of those books you can’t quite put your finger on why, if that makes sense, but I’ll try to order my thoughts for you guys. Firstly I think the pacing was an issue. It felt quite uneven at times, which meant that I struggled a little to keep invested in the story. There were sections that really pulled me in, but these parts would end and I would be less invested again, if that makes sense. Due to this the plot moves at a painfully slow pace at times, which detracts from the story itself. I also felt that the plot felt quite thin at certain points throughout the book. This book is just over 500 pages long but I don’t think it needed to be. The characters had potential to be fantastic, but I personally felt that they lacked development. To me it also seemed that some decisions made by characters were done purely as a way to move on the plot, despite the fact they felt contradictory to who the character was. The last thing I wanted to mention is the lack of suspense. I don’t know whether it’s just me but I didn’t see the wider picture of the conflict. Why are the two clans fighting? What happens if one side wins? Each clan is just as bad as the other and I didn’t fully grasp why we were supposed to root for one over the other. Maybe that’s just because I skim read parts and missed something.

 

Overall this was a good book, but in the end I found it didn’t find its footing. I didn’t become fully invested in the characters or story, despite the fact there are so many great things about this book. I know I didn’t rate it very highly but I would still recommend checking this one out, because I think a lot of people will enjoy it. Have you read this book? I would love to know your thought I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

 

Pippa

 

 

The Beast Player / Nahoko Uehashi

Title / The Beast Player
Author / Nahoko Uehashi
Publication Date / 2018
Series or standalone / book 1 of 4
Page no. / 508
Overall Rating / 

 

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Originally written in Japanese and published in 2006, this edition is translated by Cathy Hirano. At the heart of this book is a coming of age story but there is so much more to it then that. Set in a fictional fantasy world, the story starts when a young Elin’s life is thrown into disarray when her mother is sentenced to death.

 

I have to admit that the cover drew me to this book first. I am very glad it did because this book was fantastic. From the very beginning I was hooked. Once I started reading I didn’t want to put the book down and once I’d finished I just wanted more from these characters and world. Since I haven’t (and can’t) read the original Japanese editions I can’t comment on the how good the translation is, but I will say that I thought the writing was fantastic. It immerses you in this world and characters from the very beginning. At just over 500 pages this is quite a lengthy book but even in the slower moments the writing and characters mean this is a compelling read throughout. The overall pacing of this book is quite slow as it does focus more on the characters and their relationships (especially Elin’s and Leelan). There isn’t a lot of action, until towards the end of the book, so if you’re looking for a fast paced, action packed fantasy then this isn’t it, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t try out this book. I would say the first half of the book is slower then the second half. Although it does have a slower pacing and a rather meandering plot line, I personally found this to be a very compelling read.

 

One of the main strengths of this book and the characters and their arcs. When we start the book, Elin is roughly 10 years old but by the end of the book she is in her twenties. I loved that we got to see this development of the main character. Yes, there are skips in time, which I find can sometimes distance you from the character, but that is not the case with this book. She is a wonderful female protagonist and I think a lot of people will love. It was such a pleasure to see her develop from a young child to a young woman. Despite the fact we mainly follow Elin, we do get some other perspectives throughout the book. The other characters are just as well written as Elin, which is quite impressive when you think about the size of the cast. There are quite a lot of characters, but there is a character list provided if you need a little help keeping track of them all. The author did a fantastic job at developing the relationships between characters too, especially between Elin and Leelan. Another strength of this book was the lack of romance. I feel sometimes authors write in romance because they feel it has to be a part of a book, so I loved that the main character doesn’t have a love interest. It would have felt so unnecessary to the story and it was so refreshing to not have it included.

 

The world is another strength of this book. The author did a fantastic job of creating this world and slowly revealing things to the reader as the story progresses. I loved that although we focus very much on the world around Elin, we also get a wider look into the world as a whole and the cultures are all so interesting to read about. The author has a PH.D. in cultural anthropology and I think this shows in her writing. There is such depth and clarity to her world building, which makes it so enjoyable to read. The only thing I would say is that it is a shame there isn’t a map of the world included within the book.

 

Overall, I adored this book. It has gone straight onto my favourites list and I cannot say enough good things about it. From what I understand this is part of a series and there are about 4 books out in Japanese, but only one has been translated so far. I am unsure whether this translated edition is the first Japanese book or whether it’s a combination of some or all of the already released 4 books in Japanese, if that makes sense. There is another series by this author that has been translated, which I fully plan on checking out. If you are looking for a new fantasy book to read, then I highly recommend checking this one out. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Have you read this book? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

 

Children of Blood and Bone / Tomi Adeyemi

Title / Children of Blood and Bone
Author / Tomi Adeyemi
Publication Date / 2018
Genre / YA fantasy
Series or standalone / book 1 – Legacy of Orïsha trilogy
Page no. / 531
Overall Rating / ★★
Goodreads synopsis: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

 

So I’d been debating about whether to pick this book up for a while. There’s been quite a lot of hype surrounding this book but after hearing a lot of good things about it I decided to give it a go. Unfortunately this one didn’t work for me. Firstly, I think it’s fantastic this is an African-inspired fantasy, because that’s not something that I’ve seen a lot of in the fantasy genre. I enjoyed the setting and mythology of this book, although at times it felt quite shallow. Although I love that it introduces the reader to Nigerian mythology and culture, I can’t help but feel that it was pared down for the masses. I’m not criticising this, however I would loved to have more depth to this world. There is minimal world building in this book but it had so much potential. To me world building is an important part of a fantasy book and unfortunately it’s lacking in this book. There are so many details missing that could have given the reader a better understanding of the world and characters. Speaking of the characters, I was not a fan of the protagonist, Zélie. She consistently makes bad decisions and likes to lament the fact that no one understands her. Cue eye rolling. Amari and Tzain had potential but were underdeveloped in my opinion, and all I’m going to say about Inan is that he bugged me all the way through the book. Generally the characters and their relationships lacked depth.

 

OK, onto the main issue I had with this book – the romance. From the moment the love interest is introduced, you just knew how it was going to play out and it bugged me all the way through. To me the romance felt very forced and manufactured. There wasn’t any connection between them and I just couldn’t get behind it. They literally hate each-others guts and then within like 5 minutes of meeting they love each other. I’m sorry but no. This was a huge instance of insta-love. I don’t mind the whole enemy to lovers idea when it’s done right but this romance had no time to develop naturally. At one point Zélie is tortured and the first thing she does after being rescued is have dream sex with the love interest. Seriously? Get your priorities straight. Basically I really disliked the romance and it detracted from the story. The other main issue I had was the writing. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the short sentences and I found the writing to be so repetitive. Not only did this mean that I struggled to get into the flow of the writing, but it also meant that it dragged for me. I read a lot of long books so 531 pages shouldn’t be an issue but due to the writing this book felt longer to me. I thought about DNFing it multiple times. The pacing is uneven throughout, which also means the book drags a bit. Some parts are so slow and then it suddenly switches to about ten different things happening at once, which can be quite confusing. The plot had potential but I found it to be predictable and I wasn’t the biggest fan of how it progressed.

 

Overall I wasn’t a fan of this book. To me it felt like quite a generic YA fantasy book, although I think it is great that this is an African inspired fantasy book. Now I am definitely in the minority here. There are a ton of good reviews on Goodreads and I think if you are a big YA fantasy reader then you will enjoy this, but it didn’t work for me. Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Under Heaven / Guy Gavriel Kay

Title / Under Heaven
Author / Guy Gavriel Kay
Publication Date / 2010 (first published)
Series or standalone / book 1 of Under Heaven duology
Overall Star Rating / 

 

 

Under Heaven is set in a fictionalized version of the Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China and contains a masterful story of family, intrigue and power. It is a historical fantasy and it is the first book in the Under Heaven companion duology; the second book is River of Stars which is set in a world inspired by the Song dynasty.

 

The world is not something to be understood. It is vanity, illusion to even try.” – Li-Mei

 

This was my first book by this author and it will definitely not be my last. Simply put, this was a fantastic book. From the beginning I could tell that every word is so well placed and that the writing is very well thought out. It was a pleasure to read this book, because the writing is so good. It immerses you in this world and characters, and makes you want to read on. It is quite a long book at over 500 pages and at times the pacing makes it quite a slow read, but the writing and characters will keep you engaged throughout. Some may find that the slow but steady pacing results in the story dragging, however I had no issues with this. Even in the slower moments, the book was compelling for me. The first few chapters really hook you into the story and from then on it never loses momentum, even when the pacing is slow. The plot is compelling throughout and once I’d started reading I didn’t want to put this book down. Another strength of this book was the world building. Under Heaven takes place in Kitai, which as I’ve mentioned is an alternate version of the Tang Dynasty. From the very beginning of the book I was completely immersed in the world. It is clear that the author has done a lot of research on this period of history. Now I do not know a lot about Chinese history, so I cannot comment on authenticity, but I can say that this complex world is richly painted. Not only do we get a good understanding of the world as a whole, we also get to see some of the inner workings of court intrigue. The politics and intrigue are fantastic. I love political intrigue in fantasy and Kay has done it so well. Everything unfolds at just the right pacing, without rushing it, and it was a pleasure to watch to all unfold.

 

Although we mainly follow Shen Tai, there is a fantastic cast of characters that we meet in this book too. This is primarily a character driven story with compelling narratives for each character perspective. As I’ve mentioned Shen Tai’s perspective is used the most, but each perspective is as compelling as the last and the flow is never disrupted by a switch of perspectives. All of the characters are incredibly well written. There are so many characters that I loved in this book but one of my favourites would have to be Wei Song. She is such a strong and intriguing character and I would love to know more about her. There are many more characters I could talk about, including Li Mei, Sima Zian and Meshag, but then this review would be incredibly long. Just know that all of the characters in this book are all complex, flawed and wonderfully vivid. Even with a character you dislike, Kay manages to make you think twice about them and to see them in a more sympathetic light. The relationships between the characters are also well written. It was so interesting to see all the different relationships between the characters and how they developed throughout the book. The characters are definitely a massive strength of this book and I think I will pick up on new things about each character when I reread this book. Put simply, I adored this book and I want to recommend it to as many people as I can. Everything about this book is well thought out and I loved reading every second of it.

 

Overall, I loved this book and I cannot wait to read more from this author. This is a wonderful mix of historical fiction and fantasy that has resulted in a compelling and fascinating read. The characters are so well written, the plot is compelling, and the writing is fantastic. Kay has managed to weave these elements all together seamlessly to create a complex and layered book. This is the kind of book that you just don’t want it to end and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It has definitely moved into my favourites. I would highly recommend reading this book, especially if you enjoy a mix of historical fiction and fantasy, and/or enjoy character driven stories. However, if you want a quick, action-packed fantasy read then this probably isn’t the book for you. I will definitely be checking out the other book in this companion duology, River of Stars. Have you read this book? What did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Ininiate Brother duology / Sean Russell

Title / The Initiate Brother and Gatherer of Clouds
Author / Sean Russell
Publication Date / 1991 and 1992
Series or standalone / Duology
Page no. / 784 (bind-up)
Overall Rating / 
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Goodreads synopsis of book 1: Plague and warfare has swept across the Orient, ravaging the ancient kingdom of Wa, devastating the royal line, and leaving a new dynasty on the throne–a new Emperor, Akantsu, filled with fear of all who might seek to wriest the Empire from his grasp. Among those out of favor with the new liege is the Order of the Botahist Monks, whose mystical powers have enabled them to hold positions as Spiritual Adviseres to the Imperial court for nearly ten centuries. But Emperor Akantsu fears none so greatly as he does Lord Shonto, the brilliant leader of the most important of the Old Families, whose infludence could rally the Great Houses against the throne and whose adopted daughter, the beautiful and talented Lady Nishima, is the last surviving member of the old royal family. Sent to be military Governor of a northern border province long threatened by barbarian invaders, Lord Shonto knows he is being lured to his death. But Akantsu has underestimated his foe, for not only is Lord Shonto the greatest military genius of the age, but he has with him a Spiritual Adviser from the Botahist Order–a young man gifted with extraordinary martial skills and magical abilities, Initiate Brother Shuyun. And even Lord Shonto does not realize the true potential of this young monk. Only time will reveal that Shuyun’s magical powers have not seen their equal in nearly a thousand years–not since the Perfect Master himself walked the paths of the Empire…

 

This is a fantastic fantasy duology set in an East Asian inspired world with well written characters and compelling plot. I didn’t know much about this book when I picked it up but I’m very glad I did. I ended up loving this book. Firstly I think the world is so well written. From the very beginning I was immersed in the world and I loved the way the author slowly revealed more of it throughout the duology. There are some fantastic descriptions of the landscape within these two books. If you enjoy good world building in fantasy then you will not be disappointed. The cultures of this world are all really interesting and I enjoyed learning more about this aspect of the world. There is so much detail put into these books but it never felt overwhelming and I never felt bogged down. It is all relevant and interesting. One of the main things I loved about this world is the intrigue and politics. I really enjoy fantasy books that incorporate politics and Russell does it so well.

 

This is very much a character driven story, which I personally really enjoy. There are so many wonderfully written characters in this book. All of them are complex and flawed with fantastic development through the two books. I will admit it was a little tricky at first to keep track of everyone but after a couple of chapters I was invested in the characters and story. Due to this being a character driven story the pacing is quite slow. Although there is action in this book, it is not a fast paced fantasy book so don’t expect that. The focus is on the development of the characters and the politics of the world. Despite this slower pacing I found the plot to be compelling throughout. I was hooked from very early on and once I’d started I didn’t want to put it down. Although I will say that the set up of the first book is especially slow, so bear with it as it does pick up. There are some great plot twists too. Russell did a fantastic job at creating intricate lines of plot that all come together at the end of the book. Finally I thought the writing was great. This was my first book by this author and I found it so easy to get into the flow of his writing style.

 

If you enjoy character driven fantasy with a slower pace and/or enjoy fantasy with politics then I highly recommend checking it out. I loved it and want to recommend it to everyone. If you’ve read and enjoyed Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay then I think you’d enjoy this book too. I’m definitely planning on checking out some of this authors other books too. Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

The Poppy War / R. F. Kuang

Title / The Poppy War
Author / R. F. Kuang
Publication Date / 2018
Series or standalone / book 1 of a trilogy
Page no. / 544
Overall Rating / 

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Goodreads synopsis: A powerful epic fantasy novel with roots in the 20th-century history of China. A brilliantly imaginative talent makes her exciting debut with this epic historical military fantasy, inspired by the bloody history of China’s twentieth century and filled with treachery and magic, in the tradition of Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings and N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

 

This was one of my anticipated releases of this year; unfortunately this one just didn’t work for me. It sounded like something I’d love as it is inspired by East Asian and has a focus on military strategy but somewhere in the execution it fell flat for me. In some ways it read like a YA book to me but from the content I would say that this is more aimed at adults. This book is not for the faint hearted; it contains violence, rape, self-harm, genital mutilation and drug abuse to name a few things. This is a dark book and it doesn’t pull any punches, so be aware of that going into it. I think the military elements of this book was well done and the world building is good. I never felt bogged down by the information provided and I enjoyed finding out more about this world.

 

I think the main issue I had was with the characters. Yes they are well written but I wasn’t invested in them and consequently felt detached from the story. One thing that bugged me was that Rin picked things up so quickly, despite the fact that she started of with very little training. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it frustrated me in this book. I get it, she works hard but I just can’t get my head around how she does it so quickly and it’s suggested that no one has picked things up as fast as she has. Cue my eye rolling. I just can’t quite get my head around it. In general I think the characters were lacking a little depth and were a little inconsistent. For example one relationship changes from hate to like seemingly very quickly. I know there is a war occurring in this book and this might offer some perspective on grudges but the hate seemed so deeply embedded I don’t understand how this relationship shifted. Despite this I think that generally the characters were well written and I think the author did a good job at developing the characters throughout the darker parts of this book.

 

Overall this was a good book but one that didn’t work for me personally. There are a lot of great aspects to this book, like the military setting and the world, but as a whole I didn’t love this as much as I’d hoped. I would still recommend checking this out as I think this will be loved by many and I’ve already seen a ton of five star reviews of this book. Do you plan on picking this book up? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

 

An Echo Of Things To Come / James Islington

Title / An Echo of Thing to Come
Author / James Islington
Publication Date / 2017
Series or standalone / book 2 of the Licanius Trilogy
Page no. / 784
Overall Rating / 

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This is the second book in the Licanius trilogy, the first being The Shadow Of What Was Lost. It is a epic fantasy trilogy set in the fictional world of Andarra and picks up roughly a month after the events of the first book. As with the first book it is written using multiple perspectives.

 

Firstly, this sequel has a refresher at the very beginning to quickly go over the events of the first book. As these books are quite dense there are things it missed, but I found it useful to just remind me of the very basics of the first book. It allowed me to more easily settle into the flow of the story. A glossary of terms is provided as well, which was also useful. The plot is compelling with a fantastic flow between of the multiple perspective. I find with multiple perspectives it can sometimes be a little jarring when it switches between the characters but that is not the case with this book. Each perspective is compelling and has a distinctive feel to it, although I did feel that Davian’s chapters were a little lacking at times. In my opinion you can see an improvement between the first and second book. To me, the writing felt more assured and it felt like the author had really settled into the flow of the story. I love the complexity of plot and how the author brings all the threads together. There are also some great twists in this book. One thing that I wasn’t the biggest fan of was the use of flashbacks, which are used quite a lot throughout. However, I understand why they are used and they didn’t detract too much from my overall enjoyment. Although I enjoyed the progression of the plot, the first few hundred pages are quite slow. At times there isn’t a lot of actions as the characters are stationary in their respective places. Due to this there were times it felt a little aimless. I still felt that the pacing was well done throughout, although the first half is slower than the second half. Overall, I loved where the plot was taken, and I am excited to see how things progress in the next book

 

One of the main strengths of this book, as well as the first, is the world building. We get to explore more of this world in this sequel and it was a pleasure to find out more about it. The magic system is also wonderfully done. These are such important aspects for a fantasy series and I think the author did a great job at building on what we learnt in the first book. However, I will say that this may also be a negative for some. This is quite a dense fantasy books with a lot happening and a complex world, so it does take some concentration to keep up with everything. Personally, I don’t mind this, but it may be something to be aware of when starting this trilogy. If you are looking for a light and quick fantasy read, then I would suggest that this is not the book for you. Moving onto the characters. I think the author did a wonderful job at developing the characters in this book. In the first book I thought the characters came across as a little cliched at times but in this sequel, I think they really developed into their own. There are also some new characters introduced that are well written. Although there are quite a few characters to keep track of, they all felt distinctive and I became even more invested in them while reading this sequel. Another aspect I like in this book is that you don’t have the typical bad vs. good aspect. Yes, there are bad guys that must be defeated but the line between good and bad is blurred and sometimes the ‘good’ people must make hard decisions. This is especially apparent with the character, Caedan. I really enjoyed this aspect of this book. In terms of the writing, I thought it was good, if a little repetitive at times.

 

Overall this was a fantastic continuation of this trilogy and I cannot wait to read the next book. The third and final book, The Light Of All That Falls, is set to be released early next year. I would say that this trilogy so far has a traditional fantasy feel to them.  If you enjoy fantasy and/or are looking for a new fantasy series to try, then I would highly recommend checking this out. I would also recommend reading this sequel quite soon after reading the first book as it will help you to keep up with everything that happens. Have you started this series? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next.

 

Pippa