The Grace of Kings

The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1)

By: Ken Liu

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

I was really torn on this book.  If I had only given it the first 100 or so pages, I would have never have gone any further.  This could be why I don’t tend to try and read too many epic fantasy books.  They mostly seem to start so slow and spend so much time building the world and characters without getting anywhere, or really doing much with the plot.  The same is mostly true here. There’s enough of a cast of characters in the novel that we spend a great deal of time introducing them and getting backstory for each.  We also spend some time, rightfully, learning a bit about the history of the world that we’re entering.

Liu is a talented writer, who has a skill with prose that makes it worthwhile to continue on into the story.  Eventually, after he’s done the building, and we get into the meat of the story, the characters bring you into the plot.  The plot and characters really saved the book for me.

This is likely to be seen as one of the better epic fantasy novels of the year, and if you’re into epic fantasy, it really should be added to your to-read list.

Righteous Fury

Righteous Fury

By: Markus Heitz

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

This is the first book by Heitz that I’ve read.  The book, along with most of the rest of Heitz’s books were originally published in his native German before being translated over into English for those of us who are mono-lingual.  There’s a series that comes before this series, The Dwarves series.  From what I can tell from other reviews, and from having read this book, it’s not necessary to have read any of the other books in order to read this one.  The Dwarves series, as it’s name implies, tells the stories from the perspectives of the dwarves in this world, while Righteous Fury is the first in the Alfar series told from the perspective of the Alfar.

The Alfar are Heitz’s version of a dark elf.  At least, from what I can tell.  They’re an evil race with visual similarities to the Elven race.  The two main characters are Alfar who begin as rivals, but are forced to get along in order to execute on a plan that their rulers have chosen them for.  From there, we’re led through a journey as they fight amongst themselves, as well as with many of the other inhabitants of the world.

It’s hard for me to comment much on the actual writing of a book that’s been translated.  By default, when translated, the language had to be restructured in that most languages have a different grammatical structure than English.  So, I just won’t.  I can comment on the structure of the story though.  From a structure piece, there were a few places where it was a bit weak, and it seemed like we jumped from some dire circumstance right into the saving action.  Perhaps it was necessary, but it almost felt like the story had been written into a corner and it was the most convenient way of getting it out.

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  It’s a well written fantasy story that doesn’t extend itself into the length of the epic tomes that seem to be dominating the market just now.  I suppose it bears warning that the main characters are evil Alfar, so you’ve got to be able to get through a few grotesque descriptions and overall evilness of the people in order to really enjoy the story.

 

Dark Talisman

Dark Talisman

By: Steven M. Booth

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Dark Talisman tells the story of Altira, a Dark Elf, who is thrown out of her home after it’s discovered that she robbed the Sultan.  It wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to be doing, since the Sultan is an ally, but all she did was steal a few gems.  Hardly worth banishment.  Quickly, Altira finds herself deep into a plot that has many folds and reveals.  Not all of them are completely hidden, and I did see a few of them coming, but nothing that ruined the story, or even made it unreadable.

This is, technically, classified as a YA fantasy novel, which is fine.  It actually reads a bit higher than that, and was a good read.  The plot moves along quickly, pushing the reader to keep turning the pages and digging deeper into the story.  The world that Booth has built here is well done.  I think it’s hard to build a world with enough detail to properly give the reader the feel of it, while limiting the detail so that it doesn’t become pages of description and explanation.  Booth does both really well here.

The protaganist, Altira, is younger (usual for a YA), and as such, has a few naive flaws, that were sometimes a bit annoying.  I think it went a bit too far, and didn’t give the character enough credit to be resourceful on her own.  She kept having to be distrustful, and then be proved wrong when the people she couldn’t trust come back to save her.  Maybe the combination of her age and being a Dark Elf made it seem like she needed to be that way?  I just think it could have been dialed back a bit.

That’s a pretty minor quibble, if you ask me.  Dark Talisman is a good book, with a heroine, which is good in a YA fantasy novel, I think.  If you’re a fan of fantasy novels, and want something with a lighter (e.g. not 600+ pages) feel, Dark Talisman is worth checking out.

Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon

By Steven Erikson

I’ve seen this book on countless lists as one of the best fantasy books and series.  So, I picked it up off of PaperBackSwap so I could check it out.

It’s an epic fantasy set in a fantasy world.  The book follows several different groups of characters.  A group of veteran warriors called the “Bridgeburners” who are on the cusp of being eliminated by their own leadership.  A group that’s comprised of a odd, round talent, an assassin, a thief, and a displaced noble.  And a few others for good measure.

Erikson does a wonderful job of world building and an especially good job of building the system of magic in the world.  But, that’s about where my enjoyment of the book ended.

It’s been a long time since I’ve found a book that I’ve contemplated putting down and not finishing.  This was one of them.  The book dragged on and on.  I found parts of the book eternally slow, and in my opinion, unnecessary.  Whole sections of the book could have been cut and not detracted from the story at all.  Everything else seemed extra wordy as well.  Many of the more subtle plot points and plot point revealings were almost too subtle.  In fact, I’m sure I missed a few.

Most books, despite being in a series, have an ending that ties things together and seals off some of the points.  But this book was very clearly meant to lead directly into the second book.  Only about half of the plot arcs seemed to be finished or, if they were, were finished in a very vague way.

To be fair to the book, I’m not an epic fantasy fan.  So, maybe fans of Tolkien might enjoy this book.  And perhaps they do considering how widely this book is recommended.  One things for sure.  It’s not for me.