This is my first review of a fellow Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off participant. I actually picked this book up before it was entered into the competition, but I just finally got around to reading it. I’m glad I did.
Here’s the description:
Long ago the world fell into twilight, when the great empires of old consumed each other in sorcerous cataclysms. In the south the Star Towers fell, swallowed by the sea, while the black glaciers descended upon the northern holdfasts, entombing the cities of Min-Ceruth in ice and sorcery. Then from the ancient empire of Menekar the paladins of Ama came, putting every surviving sorcerer to the sword and cleansing their taint from the land for the radiant glory of their lord.
The pulse of magic slowed, fading like the heartbeat of a dying man.
But after a thousand years it has begun to quicken again.
In a small fishing village a boy with strange powers comes of age…
A young queen rises in the west, fanning the long-smoldering embers of magic into a blaze once more…
Something of great importance is stolen – or freed – from the mysterious Empire of Swords and Flowers…
And the immortals who survived the ancient cataclysms bestir themselves, casting about for why the world is suddenly changing…
The first book in The Raveling, a new epic fantasy saga
Here’s my review:
This was a very good beginning to a series and author I’ll be watching closely. It’s classic fantasy done very well. Fans of The Wheel of Time will find a lot to like here. It isn’t a copy by any means, but it gives the same vibe.
The best thing about this book is the sense of mystery throughout. You get the feeling that there is always something more beneath the surface of every interaction, every place in the world, every revelation. That sense of mystery propelled me through the book.
The characters are mix of the likeable (Keilan, Nel and Xin), the conflicted (Senacus), and the mysterious (Jan and Alyanna). This mixture in the characters really worked for me because it provided a lot of variety and had me interested in every point of view.
I’m not sure what to expect from the magic of this world yet. A lot of it still remains a mystery, but that’s okay. There are definitely a lot of competing factions, both magical and non-magical, that make things interesting. You have immortal sorcerers, demons, magical assassins, paladins that hunt sorcerers. It has a lot of the great ingredients that make me love a fantasy book.
It also had some good action scenes. There weren’t a lot of them, but they were good when they did happen. I won’t quite put them up there with my favorite action scenes, though. I also thought at times that Hutson got a bit too descriptive, but that’s about my only major complaint with this one.
I’m going to try to get back into reviewing books. I’ll probably review some big names from time to time, but I’m hoping I can get in more reviews of some of the lesser-known authors out there (both in trade publishing and self-publishing).
In that spirit, I will start with a review of Hope and Red by Jon Skovron. This one immediately caught my attention when I first heard of it because it sounded like something Brent Weeks would write.
You have two main characters. One of them is a young woman who, as a girl, was the only survivor of a sorcerous attack on her village performed by the emperor’s Biomancers. These Biomancers like to experiment on people, and the empire largely turns a blind eye to these experiments, which are quite disturbing.
These Biomancers were one of my favorite things about the book. It’s a type of magic you don’t see as often in fantasy, and it made me feel that I’d be getting more than just a Weeks clone.
The girl, who comes to be called Hope, ends up being sent to an island where an order of warrior monks lives. The leader of these monks trains her even though they are not supposed to train women, and she becomes quite a force.
The other main character is a charming young rogue who goes by the name Red, on account of the red eyes he gained as the survivor of his mother’s drug addiction. In addition to being a thief, he’s also quite the artist. He comes to play a major role in a slum within one of the empire’s largest cities.
As you can probably guess, their stories end up coming together. Along the way, there’s plenty of action, some good bits of humor, and characters that you want to root for despite their flaws.
It’s also another in the growing list of gunpowder fantasy you see these days. It’s nice to see more and more fantasy moving away from its quasi-medieval roots. Don’t get me wrong. I love a lot of fantasy novels with that setting, but it’s also refreshing to see more varied settings.
I never quite got that feeling I get reading my favorite authors, but this was a very good adult fantasy debut for an author who has written some young adult before. I recently read the second book, and it continues the story quite well, throwing in some interesting new wrinkles.
I read this a while back, but I thought I’d dig out this old review because this is one of those books that has really stuck with me in some ways.
Elantris was the first Brandon Sanderson book I ever read. Since then, he has established himself as one of my favorite authors.
Why was I attracted to Elantris?
1. It was a standalone (and not terribly long).
2. The concept was really cool. I mean, who doesn’t want to read about a fantasy city that draws on the legend of Atlantis, but does it in a completely novel way in a secondary world?
This novel is probably the least polished of Sanderson’s efforts. You can tell this was early in his professional writing career. But it’s a great book nonetheless. I was sucked in immediately by the first line of the prologue.
Elantris was beautiful, once.
This captured my attention because of the final word, separated skillfully by a comma to emphasize it. As I read, I immediately wanted to know why it wasn’t beautiful anymore. This is an author doing his job. There’s a mystery here, and that’s one great way of showing tension.
When I got to the first chapter, I was immediately sucked into Raoden’s story. Why? Because of this opening line:
Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.
This line, although it might be seen as a break in POV, truly grabbed my attention. I didn’t even know who this prince was, but I already felt for him. Being damned for all eternity sucks. A lot. Anyone can feel empathy for a character in that situation. Not to mention, it adds mystery and gets the plot rolling. Working through mysteries is one of Sanderson’s strengths as a writer.
Now, to the rest of the book:
It has been more than two years since I’ve read the book, so I won’t go into incredible detail here. However, I will mention what Sanderson did well (and what he didn’t).
1. Sanderson created likeable characters. Note that I said likeable. For many readers, Raoden and Sarene are not perhaps the most interesting characters. But I know I liked them, and I wanted to root for them.
2. The main antagonist, Hrathen. He is not perhaps as likeable as the other two main characters, but he makes up for it by being one of the best villains I’ve ever read. I won’t give away too much of the plot, but I’d describe him as a great example of an anti-villain.
3. The setting. The city of Elantris is one of the most interesting settings I’ve ever read in fantasy, and it has really stuck with me. It’s a city where people, taken by a mysterious transformation, are doomed to live out eternity looking hideously disfigured. Not only that, but for every injury they suffer, their pain remains, building until they go insane. It’s a city without order, where gangs rule the day. It’s this chaos that Raoden seeks to correct once he is exiled there.
4. The magic. As you’d expect from Brandon Sanderson, the magic system is intricate, interesting, and integral to the plot (how’s that for alliteration and consonance!). I’ve forgotten some of the details, but I remember the magic, which you discover later in the book, as a great mystery to unravel. Just like the city of Elantris itself.
5. The mystery. As I mentioned above, mysteries abound in this one. The city of Elantris is a mystery. The magic is a mystery. The character of Hrathen is a mystery. Sanderson achieves a well-developed balance of mystery, intrigue, and action that keeps you reading despite occasional rough patches in the writing itself.
6. The action. Through much of the book, you don’t see big battles, but there is one at the end, and it’s awesome. That’s one of Sanderson’s strenghts.
1. The writing isn’t as clean as Sanderson’s later work.
2. The pacing is, at times, a little slow (but not terribly so).
3. The “interesting factor” for two of the MCs, as mentioned above.
As you can see, I can’t find much bad to say about this. Elantris is one of those books that has really stuck with me. I loved it when I read it, and I still love it now. It’s not perfect, but it’s a highly entertaining read that every fantasy reader should at least give a chance.
I can’t believe I hadn’t reviewed this one here. So here goes…
Here’s my Goodreads review from back in July
| This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and I’m not just referring to self-published books. I’m referring to all books. This one opened up with a great action scene. Then it proceeded to make me care deeply about the characters. There was only one POV that I didn’t connect with completely, and that was Tharok, who is separate from the rest of the characters.
I loved reading in Audsley’s POV. It’s so much fun to see the scholar type of character getting involved in things so far outside his comfort zone. Tiron was also a great character. His internal conflict was depicted brilliantly.
Early on, it took me a bit to adjust to the author’s writing style. He is fond of longer sentences than you see in most fantasy these days. But once I adjusted to it, it didn’t bother me at all. Books like this show that you can find brilliant books that have been self-published.
I will add to this review that Tucker really has a way of writing action scenes that make you feel like you’re there with the character. I was frantically flipping virtual pages. It gave me the same kind of feeling I get toward the end of a Sanderson, Weeks, or Butcher novel, where all the various threads come together into an explosive action scene.
I will also add that I thought the second book was even better. Tucker’s roots in horror really show in that one. There were a lot of scenes that I read with great anxiety in that one. But that’s a review for another time.
This is the kind of story that I think has the potential to be commercial fantasy with a capital C. It’s not great literature, though it is written well. First and foremost, it is a fun story, and it only gets better.
This reminds me…I need to read the third book. I’ve been putting it off because I don’t want to run out of material to read.
Not that that’s a big problem, though. Tucker is a prolific writer. Somehow, he manages to write books quickly without sacrificing quality. I wish I could find a bit of that talent myself.
It’s been a while since I’ve done any book reviews here, but I thought I’d start that up again. I actually read this one a while back and really enjoyed it.
Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:
Took a chance on this one because I know the author on Twitter (but not in real life). It had generally good reviews, though not a lot of them, so I was a little skeptical going in.
As it turns out, I had no reason to be skeptical. It’s not a perfect book (occasional awkward sentences and minor editing issues), but these issues never pulled me out of the story.
I connected with Aiden and Willem right away. It took me a bit longer to connect with Tako, but his story has a lot of potential to become very interesting in subsequent installments. Rem and Lem were a lot of fun.
The best thing about this book was the action, especially toward the end of the book. I had that frantic feeling reading the last thirty percent. When I get that feeling, I know a book is good.
If I had to take a guess, I’d say fans of Weeks and Sanderson would find a lot to enjoy in this story.
I’ll see if I can add a bit to the review here. I feel like the biggest strength in this book was the pacing. It rarely let up, and that made it an enjoyable read for me. The characters weren’t the most complex or interesting I’ve ever seen, but I felt like rooting for them, and that’s the biggest thing an author has to do for me to enjoy a book.
If you’re looking to give a self-published author a chance, this book is good option. I feel like it hasn’t been noticed as much as some other self-published titles, and I think that should change.
Early this year, I ran across a gem of a self-published fantasy: Circle of Reign by Jacob Cooper. I knew the author from the SFFWorld forums, so I decided to give his book a shot. I ended up really enjoying it.
I think I liked his prequel, Altar of Influence, even better. Cooper has done a great job with his characters, his world, and his plot. In this one, he expands the backstory of some of the characters and events mentioned in Circle of Reign.
Cooper has created a world that feels both different and vibrant. There are quite a few characters, but they’re easy to keep track of. The writing isn’t always perfect, but it didn’t bother me. I was so lost in the world Cooper created and in his great ability to write extended action scenes.
I think you can start either with this book or with Circle of Reign. They’re both great reads that prove some self-publishers are doing it right.
Here’s another on my list of self-published fantasy gems. I’ve been finding so many of them that it’s kind of weird to keep calling them gems. Clearly, there’s a lot of good stuff out there in self-published land. Is it outnumbered by stuff that’s not so good? Probably. But if you know what you want as a reader, you can find stuff you’ll like. I’ve never bought the whole “wading through tides of crap” argument. Generally, I’ve found it’s pretty easy to separate the crap from the stuff I’d actually like.
I chose this particular book because I found it in my Goodreads recommendations after finishing another self-published fantasy that I really enjoyed (it might have been Mitchell Hogan’s A Crucible of Souls, which is no longer self-published). I’m glad that I gave Wight a chance.
This is fantasy that definitely has a traditional feel to it in some ways. The plot is relatively simple. It’s a training/quest story. On the surface, that makes it sound like a thousand other fantasies out there. What separates this book from many others out there is that Wight developed a fascinating system of magic. In that way, it reminded me of something by Brandon Sanderson. The way he handled his magic also made the training section great fun to read. It wasn’t endless studying of spells. The main character developed his abilities through facing dangerous situations. He didn’t really have any guidance, and that made it all the more exciting.
For most of the book, this was a solid 8/10. I liked it, but it wasn’t blowing me away. Then we hit the last 30 percent or so. From that point on, it was constant action, and I got that frantic feeling I love getting during well-done action scenes. That feeling, combined with some interesting revelations at the end, pushed my rating up to a 9/10.
If you’re a fan of the modern Grimdark movement in fantasy, this story probably isn’t for you. But if you, like me, are longing to see modern takes on classic fantasy, this is a great read. I should warn you that it also might not appeal to you if you’re not a fan of young adult fantasy. While I wouldn’t call this book a YA fantasy, it did feel like one at times. For me, that isn’t a bad thing, as I also love a good YA fantasy.
Overall, I was very happy with this one, and I will read more by Wight. I’m especially intrigued by his newest series. I love the idea of looking at a conflict from both sides.