New Book Review 32: Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe

shining-onesThe next book I’m reviewing here is Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe, a modern fantasy novel by Sanna Hines. The book takes place in the 21st century, primarily in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, and draws heavily on the legend and mythology of that part of the world for its fantasy elements.

In the book’s backstory, the magical races of the Danann and the Formorians have been at war for centuries, a war which has taken place over a few different parallel dimensions and which has employed magical weapons and strategies which have shown up in our world’s mythologies in various ways. Characters such as Merlin (of the Arthurian legends) and Finn Mac Cool (of Irish legend) were and still are immortal players in this conflict, and legendary items such as the sword Excalibur and the Four Treasures of Dagda (Sword, Spear, Cauldron, and Stone) have all played roles in this conflict. I’m not especially familiar with this particular area of mythology, but I can imagine somebody else really geeking out over it.

The story gets set into motion when a teenage girl named Lia is kidnapped by Formorians, who have plans to use her in their quest to discover the secret behind Danann immortality. Lia’s father, Sam, has to set out on a quest to save her, with the help of the Danann woman Tessa, her nephew Cory, a dog named Cu, and several other characters who all have some connection with the ongoing conflict. Tied up in all of this are teleportation portals, ancient temples, and a ritual involving the alignment of three asteroids in the shape of the mystical triskelion symbol.

I recognize that this book’s worldbuilding is excellent. It created a believable and detailed world by merging together disparate mythologies, real-world geography, and science. I was impressed with this. That being said, I had a lot of difficulty keeping track of who the characters were. I know that some were ordinary humans and some were of the magical races, but in terms of the way they interacted with each other, they weren’t very distinct. In the final quarter of the book some of the mysteries about the different characters’ pasts and connections were revealed, and in that section I was able to see clearly how the characters were different, how their different backgrounds had led them to play the role that each had played in the story. But, there were at least a dozen other characters besides those I’ve named here who all were important yet indistinct until the last quarter, and this was a problem for me. Having finished the book, I feel like if I reread it knowing the ending I would be able to get more out of it, and appreciate the story more.

Overall, it was an enjoyable (if confusing) read, a fantasy work not quite like any that I’d read before. I should note, though, that the book is written for adults, not children. It does have some profanity and a fair amount of strong sexual innuendo and implied (if not totally descriptive) sex scenes which most parents probably wouldn’t want their children or young teenagers reading.

Now, once again, my bit of promo. If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.

As a final note, I might not be able to post reviews to this blog as frequently as before, as I’m working a lot now and devoting a lot of time to writing my second book, Tales of Cynings Volume II. Reviews here may come every two weeks, or even less often.

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New Book Review 31: Rise of the Europan

europanThe next book I’m reviewing is Rise of the Europan, a collaborative science fiction work led by Joel Stottlemire. The book’s central premise is that in a future where humans have established colonies on other worlds in the solar system and elsewhere in the galaxy, settlers on Europa, the ice moon of Jupiter, have awakened a god-like entity (Genabyel) who begins a campaign of destruction against humanity. The book contains interrelated stories by six different authors chronicling the events of this war, on different worlds and from the perspectives of different people and from Genabyel himself.

Using multiple authors to tell various parts of one story is an ambitious project, and I laud these authors for taking it on. The project brings to mind the Star Wars expanded universe novels (the Thrawn trilogy, the New Jedi Order series, etc.) which I consumed and loved as a teenager. It gives a sense of size and scale to the narrative, even when the characters of the different stories don’t interact with one another. The continuity and connectivity of it, the fact that in spite of the distance between stories it maintains cohesion, is admirable.

Of course, the fact that the stories uses different viewpoints in different locations means that the novel-length book does not follow a consistent set of characters, but instead several characters with short character arcs. The only character who appears in each of the stories is Genabyel himself, about whose personality and attributes we learn more and more as the book progresses. Genabyel has some Lovecraftian attributes about him. He comes from a home deep beneath a strange ocean, he claims to have travelled through other dimensions and made contact with various divine beings, and he looks on humans in the same way that a human might look on cockroaches: troublesome creatures to be crushed. He thinks of destroying humans as a divine mission, and uses language reminiscent of the Bible in his musings about them. I liked Genabyel as a character; at first I thought he might be just a Cthulhu knock-off, but as the story progressed I appreciated how well-developed he was. The human characters that appeared throughout the stories were, as far as I recall, adequately developed as well. There are soldiers, politicians, scientists, and generally diverse cast all reacting to the crisis of the Europan in various ways, some heroic and some cowardly. We don’t get to spend a lot of time with these characters, but the time we get is enjoyable.

The war against the Europan, however, is completely hopeless. He is undefeatable, and this kid of has the effect of making the genre here seem a variant of apocalyptic fiction. It’s about the human characters reacting to the end of their world, that is to say the end of their world-spanning human civilization. The sequences of destruction, happening in their various ways and various places, are very detailed, and generally I liked the way the book was written. There was one significant problem, a surprising one given the otherwise high quality of the book. There were tons of typos, tons of misused apostrophes and spelling errors and use of incorrect words. The problem was throughout the book, not just in the stories of one or two of the authors. A bit more proofreading  would have easily solved the problem.

Now, once again, my bit of promo. If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.

New Book Review 30: Stormwielder

stormwielderThe thirtieth book I’ve reviewing here is Stormwielder, the first of the Sword of Light trilogy by Aaron D. Hodges. Based on the information given about the world in which the book is set, the genre could be epic/high fantasy, but  since this first book was only concerned with a small number of characters and events, I’m more inclined to simply call it medieval fantasy for now.

As we learn in the first chapters of the book, the protagonist is a young man named Eric who is cursed with a magical connection to the weather. Anytime he gets upset or angry, storms and lightning fill the air around him, wreaking havoc. His inability to control prevent this reaction causes an entire city to be burned up by lightning strikes, causing Eric to flee from the vengeful survivors of the city, who believe him to be a demon. As he flees, Eric is aided by an old man named Alistair, who is eventually revealed to be a ‘magicker’ (the term this author uses for characters who might otherwise be called wizards). Alistair mentors Eric in the control and use of his magical powers and guides him through many dangers and perils with the goal, eventually, of saving the world from ominous forces led by the dark lord Archon, who seeks to take control over it.

Now, I will readily admit that this book uses some very common clichés. The teenager whose superpowers make him a danger to others could come right out of an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The wise old wizard mentor has been played out in Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi,  Zeddicus Zu’l Zorander, and so on throughout fantasy culture. The power-hungry magical dark lord has likewise been seen dozens of times in Sauron, Voldemort, Arawn Death-Lord, and others.  Much of the book’s content has been done many times before. However, it did have a few concepts that I hadn’t seen before, such as the particular way that magic works in this world. I can’t explain that here without giving major spoilers, but it was unique.

There were also a lot of typos throughout the work. I’ve come to generally expect that of self-published novels, having spent a year reading them, but it still always irritates me. Apart from that, many aspects of the book’s plot relied on plot twists which I thought came rather abruptly and clumsily. With a good plot twist, the reader can see in retrospect how the story led up to the twist, but with the few plot twists that this book had, I got the impression that they were just dropped into the story without any lead-up. There was also a romantic arc which I didn’t find convincing or necessary, but of course different people will have different preferences about that.

I don’t want to criticize too much though, because I did enjoy the book. As a fan of the fantasy genre, I thought it was a fun read and I’m sure other fans of the genre will think the same. It’s also more light-hearted than something like, say, A Song of Ice and Fire. There wasn’t any profanity, the violence was at times descriptive but still generally PG-13, and there wasn’t any explicit sex. There was implied sex, but not explicit. I think parents could allow their teenage kids to read this book without too much concern.

Now, once again, my bit of promo. If you are a fan of fantasy, you can look into my own book, Tales of Cynings Volume I, in print format here or Kindle format here.