Tag Archives: Lord of the Rings

“We have not yet slain the devil: how shall we determine who is to be our new god”

 

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The 1-line Review:

A seriously quotable fantasy novel .

The longer review:

There were at least 3 lines that I read and had to pause for a second because of how impressive the lines read. The first one that stopped me was “”We have not yet slain the devil: how shall we determine who is to be our new god.” that was a seriously awesome line to me. I can’t find the other 2 quotes for the life of me but there were a couple others that had some real pull.

The story starts off with a Ranger’s Apprentice feel and the rest falls in line with a story similar to The Beyonder’s series.  It is a lightning-fast non-magic fantasy.  The story is driven by political shifts and espionage, but not to the Level of Game of Thrones. This story would be a great read for a youngster who would love Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, but are too young for those levels of reading.

I was impressed with the sage-ness of the character Mordecani. Many of the ‘quotable wisdoms’ came from him. The main character, prince Korbin, progresses well from start to finish and was a very likable main character.  Prince Korbin ages from boy to man and has to fight with feeling of Duty, and a justice of law that must be brought down upon him.

The strength of the writing and flow of the story overcomes any debut novel shortcomings I detail below. I very much enjoyed the book start to finish.

 

Where the book lost a star:

Half a star for character naming. Down to the end I was confused with character and location names. The author favored names beginning with A (Aeggis, Ascanth, Astrith, Adamah, Addrich) and R (Rotchardin, Raccanith, Radrin, Roald) .  The sound of many of the names felt too similar,  like how Angie and Angela are similar while Angie and Amanda are less so.

My other gripe was the interjection of a young character in the middle of the novel. There needed to be a flash back type memory or discussion placed somewhere  in the beginning of the novel to tie that character to something. Rather it felt completely out of no where.

Bottom Line:

This was a great debut, I expect the next to really build and flourish off of this first tale. The land of Adamah has real potential to flourish into a great fantasy realm.

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The Lost Branch

 

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The 1-line Review:

What can I say, I loved this book just as much as the first. The magic gets even better, the plot lines are deep and woven, and we get a great story line into the history preceding the main trilogy story line.

The longer review

Marcellus, Nicolai, and Corren have to handle new roles as King, Prince, and Head of the order. The Norther magical guild, The Osiris Colony threatens the balance of the realm with a claim to the powers of the Phoenix. The earth faeries face a challenge that will challenge their way of life. Can the new king and his brothers safeguard the realm of humans and fairies before the land they know is destroyed?  (you should read and see)

The magic continues to impress from the first book. The book dives into the history of the  Mapmaker and the earth fairies that added a great depth of knowledge to the character of Salerno as well as the origins of The Order.  There is still much to learn about the order, leaving mysteries for the next installment.

The Lost Branch matches the great depth the first book, Gift of the Phoenix, contained . Again the layers of major and minor plot lines are woven together so intricately, and feel separate but connected at the same time  I felt like there were several “mini ending” throughout the story that gave me a satisfying sense as each perspective plot line came to a close.

The main character of each chapter rotates among Marcellus, Nicolai, and Corren, with occasional chapters and excerpts centered around pro and antagonists. Each chapters grips and pulls you into a story line, only to be switched back into another characters story pages after. It ends up creating quite the page turner as you constantly are reading to get back to each character to see what happens next.

Bottom Line:

 I can’t wait for the next! this series is truly one of the great ones.

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The Last Stored by Sonia Poynter- Review

Here, learns some more stuff about this book:

Will’s winning chapter: 14-Jessimn the Healer, (Honorable mention: 31, 31)

Will’s winning character: Lin

Will’s worn out word: giggle

The 1-line Review:

An enjoyable quest/destiny high-fantasy that would have been perfected with just a touch more depth in a couple places.

The longer review:

I would specifically recommend this novel to girls that enjoy or are just getting into fiction fantasy. The Last stored has adventure, tension, some mystery, and a few budding romances mixed into an excellent high fantasy. The story has a Lord of the Rings meets Immortal Bones kind of feel. (Don’t read that as two stories blended into one, more like little ingredients similar in feel blended together in a new recipe)

The book would fall under the christian high fantasy genre. I enjoy christian fantasy when the allegory is more subtle. Poynter does an excellent job at incorporating her faith in subtle, enjoyable ways. (Subtle vs not subtle christian authors: Wayne Thomas Batson:subtle, Christopher Hopper: NOT subtle.)–hopefully this gives you a perspective on what I mean if you enjoy christian fantasy yourself.

Sonia Poynter’s novel The Last stored is a great debut novel for a new upcoming novel. She creates an alternate world filled with color and dimension past what can visually understand here on earth. Her character cast in not overly large or too small and I enjoyed many of the supporting cast. My favorite character was the supporting protagonist Lin; I actually think i found her and her relationship with Chaney(another support protagonist) more exciting that the main characters Amber and Cree. (Adventures of Lin spinoff!)

The main characters Amber  and Cree alternate chapters in first person to give a great perspective on the same story. the characters really evolve as a team as they journey together through the story.  Amber is the unsuspecting destiny child with great potential power. She is protected by Cree, the highly trained and sworn protector who has the ability to ride the wind, be invisible, and sense others energies. Cree is called a “Wind Rider” and his ability is called “blowing out,” very cool name for a power 🙂

The book culminates to a great  fight seen in the end. I found it to be the high point of the book (The end should be the most exciting part). Some fantasies have a lack luster ending, but this is not the case here!

Bottom Line:

The Last Stored is a great new high fantasy that I would highly recommend for girls on any age that enjoy christian fiction-fantasy. Very worth the read and I would suspect more in this series to come.

If you want my critiques of the book read on….

Where the book lost a star:

For this book it was all minor points and not a major plot issue. (That is a good thing!)

  • I think the very colorful world became less descriptive as the story went on. The world is vastly different from earth and I wanted to here more of the settings.
  • Much of Amber and Crees feeling toward each other were explained very staccato-like. Ex. “I love that about her.”  I wish there was a bit more poetic-ness about it, and that the the character relied more on there actions portraying there affections rather than there thoughts on each other. I think this is why I enjoyed the Lin-Chaney romance more, because we could only see in through Cree and Amber’s perspective.
  • The characters do much traveling and avoiding conflict. I would of liked to see one or two more Moriavis(dragon) or Ague(mindless soldiers) attack on the traveling group.
  • Amber was consistently referred to by her full name and the people of Tali said that is how they do it, but Fej, Dartlin, Fink, Lin, Chaney, Lorthis were never referred to by there full name from what I can remember.

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Interview with Donna Cook

Gift of the Phoenix

I recently had the privilege of reading and reviewing Gift of the Phoenix by Donna Cook. Gift of the Phoenix is a new YA Epic Fanasy and was Kindle Book of The Year semifinalist for 2013.  I was lucky enough to have the chance to do an interview with Donna and ask her a few Question about her and Gift of the Phoenix.

Head over to Donna’s Blog to see what she is working on now. And be sure to pick up read her new novel Gift of the Phoenix at Amazon. Cook has written one prequel novella titled Nashua’s Chronicles, and an upcoming sequel to Gift of the Phoenix is in the works.

What made you start writing?

When I first learned how to read, I remember my mother explaining where books come from. I was so young, I guess I thought books came into existence all by themselves. She told me the author is the person who makes up the story. My eyes grew wide and I thought, I want to do THAT. She may as well have told me how to cast spells, it seemed such a magical revelation. I still feel such joyous playfulness when I create stories. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.

What books are you reading now, or what type of books do you typically read?

I read all across the board, but contemporary fiction is the bulk of it. I’m also fond of a good classic, quality young adult, and the occasional fantasy. Right now I’m reading A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. Other recent reads: The Rosie Project, by Simsion Graeme; Incantation, by Alice Hoffman; Little Bee, by Chris Cleave; The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe; and Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger. Fantasy books I frequently recommend: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss and The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner.

Do you have a schedule/system/routine for your writing?

I wish I were better about this. My husband and I have six kids between us, five still at home. There are days when I can put in a few hours and days when there’s not a minute to spare and I collapse into bed exhausted. When the kids are grown, I hope to have a better schedule. Until then I do what I can and try to enjoy them while I still have them.

Who edited your book, how did you find/choose them?

Displaying Donna Cook author Gift of the Phoenix.jpg

Donna Cook- Author of Gift of the Phoenix

If there is something you know now, that you wish you knew when you started writing, what would it be?

Well, I started quite young so there were all kinds of things I didn’t know. I wish I’d really understood how much time and practice it takes to develop the advanced writing skills required to create a solid novel. I would have been easier on myself and not so discouraged by false starts. I think this is why I love to encourage young aspiring writers. Go forth and be fearless!

What genre do you consider Gift of the Phoenix? Do you plan to focus your writing career mostly in this genre?

Gift of the Phoenix is an epic fantasy adventure. There will be at least one follow-up novel, plus I have another stand-alone fantasy in the works. I’m sure I’ll get back to my literary roots and write a contemporary fiction novel, but I don’t know when that will be. I’ve learned the hard way that the Muse is in charge of things like that.

(After the GofP sequel) do you have plans for another novel or series?

Answered above, but I hope to write until the day I die. I’ll write as many novels as fate allows.

What types of inspiration help you to create the characters and magic in Gift of the Phoenix?

Sometimes I know exactly where I got an idea, but other ideas seem to spring into existence from nothing at all. Music often inspires me. Loreena McKennitt’s The Mask and the Mirror album is a favored way to get my creative mojo going. The theme song from Forrest Gump inspired the horse race between Marcellus and Janus. I also love looking at old maps and fantastical illustrations of faeries or mythical creatures. I don’t directly use what I’m looking at, but it gets my mind working. When I first had the idea to write a book about a Phoenix, I made a list of my favorite things and brainstormed ways to work them into the story. Only a small percentage of those ideas stuck, but it was a fun exercise. My love of lighthouses led to the creation of the Rock of Light.

When writing Gift of the Phoenix, did you start writing from the beginning, end, or somewhere in the middle of the book?

With most of my projects, Gift of the Phoenix included, I use a plain spiral notebook to brainstorm ideas for plot, scenes, and characters. I work randomly, so by the time I’m done the notebook is an unorganized mess. The book is pretty well set in my mind though. I figure anything I forget wasn’t good enough to keep anyway. Once I start writing the draft, I work from beginning to end.

What is your favorite scene from of Gift of the Phoenix?

Oooh, that’s a tough one. I have so many! Corren going through the Labyrinth. Nicolai tending to King Clement. Marcellus and Corren in the Haven of Kings. Just about any scene with Janus. 🙂

Who was the first character from the Gift of the Phoenix cast that you created?

The Three were created as one, inspired by my three boys, who were quite small at the time. One day I told my oldest son a story about three boys who go off on an adventure, each with their own magical stone. I wasn’t crazy about the story itself, but I loved the idea of three protagonists, and the three stones. Corren, Marcellus, and Nicolai formed organically, with personalities very different from my sons.

Can you tell us anything about the coming sequel?

Hmmm…. I tend to be quite tight-lipped about these things. Especially since I so enjoy weaving a mystery, which you saw in Gift of the Phoenix.  I can tell you the sequel picks up right where Gift of the Phoenix left off. When Corren divides the egg of ash into seven parts, ceremonially placing each branch’s ash into their respective orbs, the Heads of the branches retrieve their ash from the altar. Only one orb will not lift off the stone. It’s up to Corren to figure out why. The answer entwines the fate of the Three with… well, that’s all I’m going to say. Sorry!

I want to thank Donna Cook again for taking the time to answer a few questions for me! This is the first interview I have been able to do for my blog. I look forward to the next in the series. If you would like to see my review of Gift of the Phoenix check it out here:

Gift of the Phoenix by Donna Cook – Review

Be sure to come back for another review and interview of Donna Cooks next novel, as well as other YA fantasy interviews and review.

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Gift of the Phoenix by Donna Cook – Review

Gift of the Phoenix

5/5 Stars

Check out my Interview with Author Donna Cook

The short:

This book belongs in the “epic” genre. Gift of the Phoenix is an exhilarating read. Fans of Eragon and The Lord of the Rings will want to add Gift of the Phoenix to their bookshelves.  Donna Cook writes an epic fantasy with an extensively layered story line.

I was amazed at the intricacy on the intertwined plots. It was very hard to predict the course of events from start to finish. Gift of the Phoenix surprised me at every turn and kept me on the edge of my seat.

The Long:

Gift of the Phoenix reminds me of a mix of Paolin’s Eragon and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but stands on its own as a unique fantasy-adventure. Cook creates a magic system that is intricate and unique, which can be hard to do in a genre littered with magic.

The story is as much a mystery as it is an adventure. The story is very complex, and yet very easy to follow.  I am truly amazed at the seamless-ness of the novel, no stone was left unturned in this storyline. The story is layers upon layers of intertwined plots that all culminate to a fantastic ending.  It could well be a stand alone novel, yet at the end cook tells us there is a sequel coming!

Cook’s characters all have great depth and uniqueness. They have their own feelings and ideologies and are expressed naturally throughout the course of the novel. All of the characters are well rounded and none of them feel over the top or unbelievable. I felt like I could really describe each of the characters as a person, rather than a fictional character.

I love the magical structure Cook created for this realm. The magical inhabitants of the real have have great knowledge of what magic exists, but as a whole much of magic is still a big mystery. There is an order set up by the wizards, but at the same time there are those not in the order as well.  The magical structure and laws set in this realm is creative and original, but has familiarity to what a fiction reader would perceive as in the realm of possibility.

Pros:

Epic new Series

Intricate, complex, yet easy to follow storyline.

Characters have great depth and individuality.

Cons:

The length might be a little daunting for young readers.

The Story:

( won’t give much story away here other then the very base idea, no spoilers!)

Gift of the Phoenix is a very large, 3 part book. Part one is long enough to be it’s own story, and parts two and three could have been made into a sequel to part one.  The fact that this much story was fit into one novel makes me very excited for the sequel to Gift of the Phoenix.

Part I: The Gathering, takes up nearly half of this 575 page novel. We are introduced to Corren, Nicolai, and Marcellus; three men from different walks of life who find themselves linked by 3 stones given to them by a very old wizard. This starts their journey together to stop “The Cunning One” from essentially stealing all the magic in the real.

Part II felt like sitting in a roller coaster going up the chains to the first drop; your excitement builds as you prepare for an exciting plunge. You don’t know how fast or how long the drop will be, but you know it is coming. The reader will see more and more of the story lines tie together, but still not be able to see how the story will end.

Par III is that plunge down the first drop of the roller coaster. I really felt as if I was falling while reading. After that you just hold on as best you can and try not to get woozy as the story excitingly whips you left and right. Part III is pure action and adventure as all the characters come together for the final magical clash to save or end their realm.

The Writing: 

(As I have already said a few times…) Cook layers her story like a seasoned pro. The mystery of the cunning one kept me guessing through the entirety of Part I. Cook wrote so many open ended characters and story lines that I could not begin to guess the direction her writing was going in. Other than the three main characters, it could have been any number of people or groups that could be “the cunning one.” Every characters relationships and sub plots are engaging and add depth and value to the main plot.

 It was exciting to see the plot lines come together in Part II, and reach the final climax in Part III. Every time I expected something to happen-it didn’t; making this story unpredictable and exciting.

Cook writes tense conversations really well. There were a couple of argument/discussions between two or more characters where I felt like I was hearing them rather than reading them. This type of skill in writing excites me as a reader.

The Characters:

Corren- A wizard who is given a red stone by Nashua. He is part of the Wysard branch of the Order of Ceinoth.He is curious and somewhat of a wizard prodigy.  He is very intelligent, curious, and has slight desire for power.

Nicolai- A farmer from Knobby Tree who has a yellow stone like Corren’s red stone. It was given to him by Nashua. He is very level headed and calm, and stays strong to his humble roots as a farmer.

Prince Marcellus- Prince of Caedmonia; Called Marcellus the Protector. He is a Brave, strong, and well loved son of King Clement. He has a blue stone given to him by Nasua. He is a very respected warrior and often called upon to govern the kingdom. He is confident in his abilities, but not arrogant.

King Clement- King of Caedmonia; Called Clement the Beloved. He is a weary king who loves and takes care of his people.

Princes Praea- Princess of Sakkara. She comes to Caedmonia to ask for aid in fighting Norrland, who she believes assassinated her brother. She seeks vengeance, and wants a full war with Norrland. She is intertwined in the destiny of the Corren, Nicolai, And Marcellus.

Conclusion:

This is a book that I will want in Hardcover on a prominent shelf. The Gift of the Phoenix is an epic story with an impending sequel. I would recommend this book to anyone of any age. If you enjoy C.S. Lewis, Rowling, Tolkien, Paolini (or all of them) then do not miss out on reading Donna Cook.

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The Door Within (The Door Within Trilogy: book 1) Review

 4/5 stars

A Christian-fantasy novel by Wayne Thomas Batson that is entertaining for Christians and non-Christians alike. (Coming from a reader who does not typically read Christian novels.) The Door Within is action packed from start to finish and is filled with good morals and lessons.

The hybrid of Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. The Door within is a magical fantasy read that is enjoyable for all ages. It is an easy read for children and tweens who might find The Lord of The Rings a confusing book to read at their age level.

The Door Within might feel too simple if you only enjoy reading at the level of Tolkien and George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

Pros:

Easy reading page turner

Classically entertaining medieval fantasy

Likeable characters

Very well written allegory

Cons:

Some character clichés

Simpler story if you prefer adult fiction fantasy. (Not a problem for me, but for some it is)

The Long:

Wayne Thomas Batson’s first novel has characters and plots similar to The Chronicles of Narnia, while being set in a real that show similarities to Middle-Earth. The story is just plain enjoyable, especially for a middle school boy. The realm that Batson creates is one than any imaginative boy dreams of going to himself; a place where you can go from an ordinary kid to a heroic knight.

Batson fills his story with a cast of likable and straight forward heroes.  The villain characters are also very straightforward. Good is good and bad is bad; there is not as much in-between in this novel.

While the realm in The Door Within holds similarities to other reals, Batson creates unique concepts in this storyline. Particularly the main beings or the realm, glimpses, and their ability to change eye color based on allegiance.

This is a novel I did not want to end. I was excited and eagerly anticipated the second novel, which did not disappoint. (Review for that one to come!)

The Story:

Aidan is the quintessential, average grade school kid.  He has a relationship with his parents you have seen in novels before. His family uproots him from his new school to move to Colorado to aid his sick grandfather. He finds 3 scrolls that, after reading, bring him to a parallel realm called Alleble. He is chosen as the 12th knight in a quest to unite a neighboring land with Alleble to help fight the tide of the villainous Paragor.

Batson’s realm might feel a little lighter than Middle-earth, but contains very unique and original ideas as well. The inhabitants are called Glimpses, which are a humans’ other-realm counterpart. A human and his glimpse may not be in the same real at the same time. If one dies, so does the other. Some religions and past cultures have similar beliefs. Glimpses are a similar concept to Grimes from Moroccan folklore.

Glimpses have a good, neutral, or bad relationship with King Eliam (the god-like character.) A glimpses eyes change color depending on allegiance. Blue for good; green for neutral, and red for bad. I love this was to portray character affiliation. The concept felt original compared to other fantasies I have read.

The Writing: 

Batson uses plenty of allegory in his writing. Most of the allegory flows very well, and some of it is unnoticeable to a reader who does not commonly read Christian works.  Other Christian novels I have read fell to preachy to me. The Door within did not feel like this at any point.  There is no doubt that Batson found a perfect writing style to satisfy Christian and non-Christian readers alike.

The writing is very appropriate for the 9-15 age level. Not too complex, but enough so that it can challenge a young reads vocabulary.  There are lessons and morals woven throughout that teach valuable lessons while providing a likable story.

The Characters:

Batson’s character are mostly straight forward. With the exception of one or two, they are either clearly good or clearly evil. Batson’s characters are believable personas and feel natural despite the lack of internal struggle between good vs. evil.

Many of the hero characters will share resemblances to characters you have read before. Whether or not I believed some of the character were clichés, I found that I really liked who they were and how they acted throughout the story. Perfect examples would be Knock and Bolt, who share commonalities to elven archers such as Legolas. These 2 were my favorite characters of the 12 chosen knights of Alleble. I found myself wanting to visit the Yewland and meet this pair of archers.

Aidan Thomas- may come off as too unhappy a kid. He feels like an average 13 year old despite his unhappiness. Teen boys will be able to relate to his averageness. The move to Colorado feels like an occurrence that is believable in an everyday setting. He evolves into a heroic character throughout the novel.

Robby- Aidan’s friend from back home in Maryland. A popular boy who was one of the only good things in Aiden’s life until the move to Colorado.

Paragor- The villain character. He is a classical all-evil destroy everything for power type of guy.

King Eliam- the God/Jesus like character. Ruler of Alleble, the real of good. Believers of the one true king have eyes that glint green.

Captain Valithor- Captain of the 12 chosen knights, the Elder guard. A great character for Aidan to look up to as he develops into a hero. Valithor is a strong and dependable leader for the team.

Gwenne- The love interest of Aiden. She is a reliable Glimpse warrior on the Elder Guard team of 12.

Conclusion:

This hardcover is one of my favorites. The pages of the novel are printed to look old and scroll-like. The extra effort for presentation makes this a great novel to have in hardcover displayed on a prominent shelf.

Knights, dragons, huge battles, a budding love interest, and a struggle between good vs. evil. All the makings of a great fantasy series. An easy page turner that has me excited for the next installment. I have suggested this book to most of my family, and everyone has loved it!

 This was one of my first and favorite YA fiction reads!

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