Sorcerer to the Crown (Sorcerer Royal #1) – Zen Cho

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Summary:

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Review:

I am disappointed.

I wanted this book to be more than it was. I loved the diversity. I loved that the most kick-ass characters in this book were women. But man, there was a major problem I just could not get over: the pacing is atrocious.

When I first began reading this book I legitimately wondered what this book was trying to do. Was it a book about race in Society (Cho certainly had plenty to say about that). Or perhaps it was a book about the education of women in Society (another topic of which the author spent a good amount of time on) as opposed to devoting that building the world. The first half of this book was a slog. I only kept pressing on because I made myself. While it did eventually catch on for me, I wouldn’t blame others for giving up on it before it got going. And when it did get going, it picked up steam and picked up steam and them BOOM it was done. Worst still, I feel like the development of the people and the world suffered for it.

Biggest case and point: what does the Sorcerer Royal actually do? I couldn’t tell you. He doesn’t seem to have the ear of the king, he doesn’t seem to preside over any meetings. Is it ceremonial? He’s supposedly the most powerful sorcerer in England but to what end? I guess you can argue it’s a minor point, but when people are trying to kill the protagonist because he is who he is, I feel like it should have played a bigger part in this book. What are the stakes? What do you get from it? If these people regularly have assassination attempts against them, there has to be a reason for it! It just makes me wish he’d spent more time on the world building, especially when we don’t get a ton of development for the hero.

As for Prunella (the comrade of the summary) she goes from untrained to complete powerful and seemingly trained bad-ass in no time flat. I liked it, but it also feels like a cheat. I really, really wish that she had been there from the start so she could have been given more time to grow. She is spunky, she is ruthless in her own way, I liked her. I rooted for her. But her development was just too fast and hard to believe.

Ultimately I wonder, can I really commend a book only because the characters are diverse and the women so strong? No, that would be pandering. And that’s not honest.If you are looking for diversity in your lit, I would still say it’s worth giving a look just because it’s so hard to find. But other than that? I think you can do better.

There are some bright moments here (I really do like the character of Prunella, even if I am side-eying the way her powers grew) but it’s hard to overlook the flaws for me.

Verdict: A reluctant Skip It

Available: September 1

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Stacking the Shelves #8

Hey all! Haven’t done these in a while, so figured this was a good time to check up. I haven’t been buying too much lately, and everything here are e-copies. Let’s take a look!

eBooks purchased by me

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Magonia – Right around the time this came out, I got an e-mail from the publisher asking me if I wanted a copy. I replied yes and was totally jazzed about receiving it. Unfortunately, instead I got a copy of a Kelly Armstrong book. While the latter was more in line with what I normally got from the publisher, I was still disappointed because I’ve heard good things about this. I’m looking forward to finally reading it.

Cursed – Yep. This is the sequel to the just reviewed Fated. I had fun. I hope to continue to have fun.

The Husband TestThis is historical romance – medieval romance – at that. Not my normal cuppa, but I got it and look to read it when I need a break from fantasy.

eARCs provided by Publisher

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First Season/Bride to Be – this is a pair of Regency Romances that are being re-released as a pair, possibly as some kind of 30th anniversary deal. Again, this is very much a break from routine for me, but they are hopefully fun.

Son of the Black Sword – Epic fantasy with Gods and Demons. I’m in.

Sorcerer to the Crown – Of the five here, this is the one I’m most looking forward to. Regency England, magic, politics. I might be drooling.

A Crucible of Souls – A boy seeking the truth. Magic. Politics. What can I say. I have a thing for this kind of thing 😉

The Demon’s Librarian – To be honest, this sounds like it might be kind of cheesy Cinemax soft-core film. I’m hoping for something as fun!

Won in Giveaway

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I haven’t actually read this author before, but the concept of mixing post-apocalyptic and traditional fantasy is appealing! I look forward to reading this!

So that’s it’s for now. What about you? Anything new and exciting on your shelves?

Fated (Alex Verus #1) – Benedict Jacka

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Summary:

Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex’s own powers aren’t as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future–allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.

But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever’s inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none…

Review:

Urban Fantasy is a comfort genre to me. It’s the genre that I know that when I just want something to read that I know I’ll enjoy I’ll turn to. The best of the genre display all the creativity that other parts of fantasy can, but without the super-heavy plots that may or may not require flow-charts to follow. And because urban fantasy is as often about the city its set in, there is a good deal of flexibility in what the stories can entail. For example, this one has no vampires and no romance, but instead has an enjoyable take on magic and wizardry.

Like so many worlds, the wizards have divided themselves into two camps: the Light and the Dark. The Dark about your typical evil wizards: rule by force and immensely powerful, but are so paranoid that they tend to keep their own numbers in check. The Light wizards are ostentatiously the good guys, but through Alex’s slightly cynical eyes we see them more as pragmatists. If you can’t beat them, tolerate them. As long as they keep the kidnapping, torture and slavery to their side of the playground, they put up with them. They’re hardly knights in shining armor, but the reader can appreciate such a set-up, even if Alex (understandably) cannot. As a result, that leaves Alex a bit of a rogue to boot, neither liked nor trusted by either side, until he one day becomes invaluable.

Why?

He’s a diviner, he reads the future. Though he can read things like cards, he actually instead views all of the thousands of possibilities for consequences of actions he takes uses that knowledge to try and move ahead. And to compensate for that skill, he can do zero practical magic. His power is in information, and just like it with us humans, information is power and it does give him leverage. And while such a gift sounds like it can be used to make him all powerful, I do think Jacka does a good job of reigning it in making it so he has an edge, but not that he’s cheating. Even more importantly, when he’s unable to read, it feels natural enough to seem like an actual limitation on his abilities versus the author just putting in an invisible wall to stop the action.

The other thing I like in this book are some of the side characters, name Luna and Arachne. Luna is a girl whose family was cursed, and the curse is one that ultimately protects her by sending the harm that would befall her to others around her, forcing her to isolate herself so she doesn’t injure anyone. It’s really one of the most clever curses I’ve seen in fantasy in quite some time. I hope she gets fleshed out a bit more in future books. As for Arachne, no she’s not named after the myth, she probably was the inspiration for the myth.

And a giant spider.

A giant spider that’s a seamstress. Creepy. But honestly awesome.

Like a lot of Urban Fantasy series that are initially released in mass paperback form, these books are being released twice a year in an open-ended series. Book six was just released yesterday and book seven is already being planned for a 2016 release. I generally do try to avoid such open-ended series, but for now I’m in. This series won’t necessarily be my go-to recommendation for Urban Fantasy, but it’s definitely one of the better series I’ve started in a while. Fans of Urban Fantasy should definitely enjoy this, and I’d say it’s not a bad entry point into the genre as a whole.

Verdict: Buy It

Available: Now

Blackwatch (Wintercraft #2) – Jenna Burtenshaw

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Summary:

Note: This book has not one, not two, but THREE different official descriptions floating around of it. None of them are entirely satisfactory. For the purpose of the review, I’m going to go ahead with the one printed on the back of my book as I feel it does the best job of explaining the plot.

Everyone wants Kate Winters, either to lock her up or to use her as the ultimate weapon. She is the one person gifted enough to walk freely through the veil between life and death, to work the magic held in the ancient book of Wintercraft. And she cannot control it. Hunted by the Blackwatch – the elite assassins of the enemy – and by her own people, Kate flees deep into the tunnels beneath the graveyeard city. And she’s still linked to the murderer and traitor Silas Dane. As the Blackwatch close in, Kate and Silas will face terrors that could destroy Albion. Only they can stop them. And time is running out.

Review:

Today I am continuing my tour of books that have been put on my shelves to kind of gather dust.In this case it was because it’s the sequel to a book I haven’t read. Sigh. Oh well, at least it only cost me like $2.40?

Anyway, this book does have some promise: the magic – a form of necromancy seems rather cool, though I wish I better understood what was going on. I picked up bits and bobs, but the author does new readers no favors.I wish she had though, because it does seem like something fresh: especially said necromancy seems to dip into the realms of divination and healing and other things we don’t normally see with this sort of magic. So points for that.

I also like that the book has a male protagonist and that he has absolutely no romantic interest in our heroine. Of course, that’s probably being a bit too generous because from what I can tell, the age gap is such that it’d probably be creepy. Still. I liked Silas well enough.

That’s about the only praise I can muster. The story is driven by plot, and the plot isn’t quite as interesting as the summary makes it out to be. The majority of the book is Kate and Silas being chased at the same time in two different places. The Blackwatch don’t come across as assassins but more like a privatized city guard. The terrors they face don’t really threaten Albion so much as the one who is hunting them does. Furthermore, the characters are thinly developed (if the book didn’t tell me Silas was meant to be a villain, I’d never have guessed) and ultimately this book is quite dull.

Overall, I found myself bored, nothing here was deep enough or compelling enough to draw me in. The idea had promise, but the execution left something to be desired.

Verdict: Skip It

Available Now