Posts Tagged ‘Highly Recommended’

‘The woman is a danger…What she does is an abomination.’”

About :

Shai is a MaiPon Forger in a country that despises Forgers as abominations. When she gets captured during a routine palace art theft, she scrambles for an escape plan; but before she gets the chance to spring herself from prison, her captors change the game.

‘She is a valuable tool. This woman can save us. We must use her.’”

They visit her prison cell and demand that she complete a job for them, a job so secret that Shai knows she will be murdered at its close: reforge the emperor’s soul. The Emperor’s Soul is a Fantasy Novella written by Brandon Sanderson and published October 11th 2012 by Tachyon Publications. Hugo Award for Best Novella (2013), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Fantasy (2012).

Thoughts :

This novella opens with the emperor’s staff debating the fate of their captive Forger, and this first layer of cultural tension immediately intrigued me: What is Forging? Why do they hate it? And why must they use it to save the country?

Nearby in prison, Shai desperately seeks a way out of her cell before the next day’s scheduled execution, and her technique introduces readers to the unique Asian stamp magic of the novella:

To Forge something, you had to know its past, its nature.”

At this point (on like page four), the cultural tension and the magic already have me intrigued. Then the emperor’s councilors arrive and explain the situation to Shai and to readers: the emperor has been attacked and needs a new soul to survive.

Whoa. What?

They grant Shai a stay of execution for the next hundred days, during which she must create the soulstamp—a task that will involve a huge amount of complex, untested magic.

Her ambitious artist’s soul longs to create the perfect soulstamp, but she knows she must prioritize one thing over this primal urge toward faultless creation: she must escape before those 100 days are up or she will never leave the prison alive. The 100 day countdown heads each new section, and I totally felt the squeeze by the end of the novella.

Over the course of the story, Shai uses her magic in a variety of ways: transforming her room, making various stamps to reforge the emperor’s personality and history, etc. But a constant war rages inside her between the need to create a perfect soulstamp and the need to escape with her life. Her escape plan is just one more layer of mystery that kept me reading.

The final layer that got me fully invested in the story relates to the characters. In order to escape, Shai knows she’ll need to do something that makes her cringe: she’ll have to manipulate the elderly Arbiter Gaotana who visits her cell to test the soulstamps.

Gaotana seems to have the most integrity of all those palace staff, as he alone regrets the need to forever silence the young Forger after she completes the stamp. So when he criticizes Shai’s choice of profession—thief, Forger, abomination—Shai feels his disappointment keenly.

Why? Gaotana thought again. Why would someone capable of this artistry, turn to forgery?…Why not be a true artist?”

Aarcanum-unboundednd now she has to trick him—just to escape with her life? It made my heart hurt just thinking about it!

Overall:

I love the human psychology and the theme of cultural misunderstanding in The Emperor’s Soul. And, of course, I love the Asian-inspired stamp magic. It ties in with the “form” type magic present in Stormlight Archives, I think, too—or it sounds like it does, anyway. In fact, I love the format and pacing and characters and everything about this story! I’m so happy it was included in Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, even though it was published previously. I kinda wish we could hear more about Shai because her potential as a heroine is limitless; but I understand that Sanderson wants to finish a few series before starting an entirely new one, haha.

Recommended To:

Although the novella is set in the same universe as Elantris, the reading order doesn’t matter. In fact, this might be a great introduction to Sanderson’s work, if you’re not ready to jump into The Way of Kings. There’s no fat to trim.

*****5/5 STARS

wordsofradiancecover2

About:

The Way of Kings launched readers into Roshar, the world of The Stormlight Archives, by introducing us to key members of the cast. We learned Kaladin’s backstory and we got some teasers about the magic in store for us in this ten book series. But as you can probably tell from the title of book II, Words of Radiance, this second installment begins revealing some of those secrets we wondered about in book I: secrets about the Radiants, about spren, about voidbringers and parshmen, and about the mysterious oaths that gave Kaladin his own powers in the exciting battle scenes of book one.

And Bonus!

Shallan is the backstory character for this second book, and behind her veneer of “scholarly Brightness,” she hides some pretty dang scary secrets. Epic High Fantasy published March 4th 2014 by Tor Books.

SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1! Not too many, but there’s at least one big one!

And if I tried to summarize book II, I would spoil it, so I’m going to skip the plot details. Because the actual plot-development of a ten-book series like this is so slow, revealing almost anything will seriously, seriously spoil the books. In fact, here’s my advice: if you like high fantasy, I recommend just skipping the rest of this review and picking up The Way of Kings. But if you want more than my blanket recommendation, by all means read on…

Thoughts :

I seem to be in good company when I express my potential inability to properly review Words of Radiance. The Way of Kings was my #1 favorite read of 2016, but book II is even better.

The pace starts off at a sprint and pretty much keeps going, only slowing down in Kaladin’s POV sections and during the Interludes. Even Shallan’s backstory feels like forward motion as we learn about her past and how it affects her present-day narrative. And there’s plenty of conflict to keep the main storyline hopping, too, as two major high princes of the war camps openly battle each other for allies and the prophesied Desolation draws nearer, clue by menacing clue.

As in book I, Dalinar Kholin continues to cop a King Arthur-like role, working to bring together Roshar’s equivalent of the Round Table. He pushes the main plot forward in a way lesser-ranked characters don’t have the ability to do. And it’s. So. Exciting! He doesn’t get as many scenes in Words of Radiance as in The Way of Kings, but I’m looking forward to looking backward on his life. He’ll get his backstory eventually, I’m sure….and it sounds like he was kind of a bad boy.
words-of-radiance2
Kaladin, my favorite narrator from book I, spends most of book II fighting metaphorical demons from his past. He leaves book I as an angry, bitter soul, despite managing to pull himself and his men from the depths of Hell by his cracked and bloody finger nails (with Syl’s help, of course). Basically, he wavers back and forth on one all-important character-building and plot-development decision, and can I just say that it’s completely agonizing to read about? Haha. But in a good way. That way a good book can give you an ulcer.

And SHALLAN! I literally cheered (on Goodreads) when we started getting Shallan’s backstory! In book I, Shallan’s tense narrative feels like a subplot (as opposed to Kaladin’s and Dalinar’s sections, which interact more); but in book II, Shallan slams herself into the main plot, refusing to be benched from the action. Now that Sanderson has loosed her into the middle of things, Shallan is a really really really ridiculously good lookin-…I mean, proactive narrator. I love her! Like many of Sanderson’s women characters, she continues to challenge the status quo for women in ways that make for totally entertaining or enlightening moments of social impropriety. I could go on and on about the characters, all of whom are doing interesting things (Adolin and Jasnah Kholin, the princes of war, the bridgemen…even Renarin Kholin and the spren!).

But I must mention the plotting and worldbuilding: the new secrets revealed in Words of Radiance color both Shallan’s arc and Kaladin’s in really engaging and interesting ways, not to mention how they set up the plotlines of the series…and I can’t share any of them here because they would spoil you 😉 But rest assured, we learn a ton about Roshar and its history in this book.

Everything about Sanderson’s writing, in this series, distinguishes itself noticeably above the first books I read by him (his original Mistborn series, which I enjoyed largely for their setting, creatures and plot twists). In terms of humor and messaging, there’s no comparison. I can’t stress enough the subtle and effective way Sanderson manages to keep up a running commentary on big topics, especially racism, elitism/classism and sexism. He does it with genuine insight and emotion and without harping on any crowd in particular. Kaladin’s sections in this book strike an especially thematic chord, as he deals with the trying situation of being a powerful darkeyes in a culture of elitist lighteyes:

‘…Of course. I keep looking at those captain’s knots on your shoulder, but—‘

‘But I’m just an ignorant darkeyes.’

‘Sure, if that’s how you want to put it. Whatever.’”

Yeah, that’s gonna put him in a great mood, haha. And as I mentioned earlier, Shallan’s narrative also shares moments like this. Here she’s remembering some advice from her enormously pragmatic mentor Jasnah Kholin, as she masters the art of [Highlight to read SPOILER: conning everyone around her].

‘Using a fetching face to make men do as you wish is no different from a man using muscle to force a woman to do his will,’ she’d said. ‘Both are base and both will fail a person as they age.’”

Yeouch!

I really enjoyed alternately reading and listening to this book, as I did with book I. (Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to sit and read through back-to-back tomes of 1,000+ pages, but this worked out really well!) I recommend either or both forms; get ready for some late nights!

Overall :

A High Fantasy that reads quickly, despite its huge scope, largely because of the highly personable cast of humans and other species. The series will give you a second home for 10,000+ pages—and give you a serious book hangover.

*****5/5 STARS

shadowsofself

About :

A year following the events of The Alloy of Law, Waxillium Ladriam has successfully retired from The Roughs into the city of Elendel and managed to compromise between his “lawman from the Roughs” and “rich city lord” responsibilities. He still fights crime, but he manages to fit in a party, here and there, with his respectable fiancée, Steris.

But the city of Elendel has grown more restive, even in the last year. Labor workers riot, religions battle for worshippers and everything else that might go wrong in a young, developing city, does. Wax, his sidekick Wayne and their associate, Marasi, now a newly-minted constable, work together to find the source of the city’s tensions, which seem to revolve around the possibly-corrupt Governor Innate. But at the center of it all, they discover a rogue kandra, a creature which is considered an ancient servant from the time of the last emperor, Elend Venture (detailed in the first three Mistborn books).

And Wax could never have anticipated the staggering personal consequences of involving himself with this particular investigation…not that he had a choice. Shadows of Self is an adult western fantasy authored by Brandon Sanderson and published October 6th 2015 by Tor Books. Set in the Mistborn universe.

Thoughts:

‘Out of work,’ Marasi thought. Too many idle men out of work’…

The governor had recently given political speeches to these men, making promises. More coach lines to compete with rail lines, going places the railroad could not. Higher tariffs on imports from Bilming. Empty promises, mostly, but men losing hope clung to such promises…How would people react if they began to wonder if the governor, Replar Innate, was as corrupt as his brother?

‘A fire is kindling in the city,’ Marasi thought.”

And Wax finds himself at the center of the fire, yet again. As The Alloy of Law explores Wax’s identity crisis—is he a Roughs lawman? Or a respectable city lord?—so Shadows of Self forces him to face the tragic death of his girlfriend, Lessie, over a year before. He never recovered from her loss, and his heartache shows in his emotional distance from both his betrothed, Steris, and from constable Marasi, whom he rejects even as a colleague after she expresses her admiration of him. I didn’t anticipate the direction of this novel at all, but that’s part of why I LOVE IT! Sanderson incorporates Harmony, Waxillium’s past and the kandra (which are an awesome throwback to the original trilogy!) to add an emotionally potent character arc to the normal adventure and mystery of an Alloy Era novel.

The mystery plot ties in directly with the character arc, too. I love how Wax and Harmony brainstorm together about how to deal with the rogue kandra:

‘One of your ancient servants,’ Wax said, ‘has gone mad and is killing people.’

‘Yes.’

‘So stop her!’

‘It is not so simple…Something is wrong, unfortunately.’

‘What?’ Wax asked.

God was silent for a time. ‘I don’t know, yet.'”

Shadows of Self totally levels up the series. Everything has improved on the last book (which I also loved), from the secondary characters to the metal powers to the action and the humor. I had been leaning toward a 3.5 stars for the first book until the explosive ending, which earned it 4 stars. But Shadows of Self was clearly a 5 star read from the beginning.

As with book 1, I never wanted to put this second installment down, and the patented Sanderson twist got me again in the best way. I was desperate to start The Bands of Mourning after finishing Shadows of Self. Of course I didn’t have it on hand, and of course I had another book to finish at the time. But the Sanderson Epoch isn’t over yet! And I suspect it won’t end with Bands of Mourning, either…

Overall :

I NEED BANDS OF MOURNING!! Immediately!

Recommended To :

If you’ve read this far into the series, I say ‘Don’t stop now!’

*****5/5 STARS

The Shaod, it was called. The Transformation. It struck randomly—usually at night, during the mysterious hours when life slowed to a rest. The Shaod could take beggar, craftsman, nobleman, or warrior. When it came, the fortunate person’s life ended and began anew; he would discard his old, mundane existence, and move to Elantris. Elantris, where he could live in bliss, rule in wisdom, and be worshipped for eternity.

Eternity ended ten years ago.”

A lot has changed in the decade since Elantris fell: the Shaod transformation has become a curse; a militant religion called Shu-Dereth has risen in Arelon’s theocratic neighboring country, Fjorden; and almost every nation has fallen to the Fjordell Empire. Now only Arelon and Teod stand free.

Prince Raoden of Arelon betroths himself to Sarene, the princess of Teod, hoping to create an alliance against Fjorden. But his plans change, suddenly, when the Shaod descends on him and his parents, the king and queen of Arelon, secretly exile him to the rotting city of Elantris.

A short time later, Princess Sarene steps off her ship from Teod into Arelon’s capital city of Kae, only to find herself a “widow” to the “deceased” prince Raoden. However, never one to waste an opportunity, she uses her new station and powerful personality to begin digging into the diseased heart of the crumbling kingdom, searching for strength necessary to keep her new home safe from Fjordell.

Meanwhile, Hrathen, a Derethi priest from Fjordell, plots domination of Arelon as he also arrives in Kae—and his plotting involves the Elantrians. Elantris is adult Fantasy authored by Brandon Sanderson and published 2005 by Tor.

Thoughts:

It took about two seconds for the mystery of Elantris to grab me. Who were the Elantrians? What happened to them? Could their sickness be cured? The characters work to answer these questions in different ways.

In fact, the three main narrators maintain a continuous duel of wits, throughout most of the book, hoping to reach their own ends before the others can stop them. It’s difficult to express just how fun a conniving dance of a novel like this can be, but let’s start with the cursed Prince Raodan.

Raoden makes it his goal to discover the secret behind the Elantrian curse. It’s almost like an Undercover Boss moment, for him, when he realizes how the city next door has been suffering during his parents’ reign. I loved following him around Elantris as he brought small, but clever changes that made all the difference to the Elantrian standard of living. Raoden uses his curse to solve problems constantly, and it’s just so much fun to read! For example, at one point he needs to escape the guarded walls of Elantris. He knows of a river that runs under the city to Kae, so he takes advantage of the fact that he can’t die: he holds his breath and lets the river drag him, underwater, to freedom.

Now is that clever or what? And all this while plotting to thwart Sarene’s and Hrathen’s plans for the city of Elantris and keep his old identity a secret from everyone around him.

Sarene comes up with equally clever plans to destroy the power of a certain Derethi priest from Fjordell (hrm hrm, Hrathen). If Hrathen wants the people to hate the Elantrians, Shallan will start a food drive for those poor souls. If he wants a certain noble sympathizer to topple the king, no problem, she’ll marry someone else to give her own sympathizer a step up over the competition.

I seriously love this chick.

These characters pull the best tricks on each other, but Gyorn Hrathen might be the most conniving of the three. To him

Elantrians represented the ultimate flaw of human arrogance: they had set themselves up as gods. Their hubris had earned their fate. In another situation, Hrathen would have been content in leaving them to their punishment

However, he happened to need them.”

All three really came alive, for me, with their clear motivations and proactivity. Occasionally Sanderson would “tell” a character’s feelings, instead of showing them, but even in the “telling,” their motivations felt so truthful.

While I did enjoy the setup of all these tensions, the pacing does drag, at times. I think the biggest reason for this drag has to do with the questions about Elantris. We wonder about the Elantrians from page one, but it takes a long time to start getting answers. I raced through the pages when Raoden made a discovery, or a big plot twist happened. But other times, I was just plugging along to get on to the good stuff. A few other, smaller things contribute to this. For example…it’s a little maddening that Raoden won’t just tell Sarene his identity! Also, it took me some time to get into Hrathen’s POV, although he really came alive before the end.

My only other beefs with this book have to do with the ending, which feels a little rushed. First of all, Raoden’s mother sort of disappears. [Highlight to view SPOILER: What about her heroic death? Why isn’t she buried with honor near the king and Hrathen?? Did Sanderson just forget about her or something?] But Queen Eshen feels slightly shell-like, to me, anyway. I mean, what mother wouldn’t tear down even the walls of Elantris to reach her sick son?!? Other than that, I just have a few unanswered questions that I’m hoping might find answers in book II or Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection. [Highlight to view SPOILER: What “possesses” Hrathen, near the end? And where do the Fjordens get their power? Through a corruption of the Dor?]

Overall :

Fantastic debut. Absorbing mystery, compelling characters and a world that I would love to explore in further books.

Characters: 4.5/5
Plot: 3.5/5
Worldbuilding: 5/5
Writing: 3.5/5

****4/5 STARS

Recommended To :

Anyone who already loves Brandon Sanderson will enjoy Elantris. It’s also a great place to start with him, being a standalone, although I would recommend other works (*ahem* The Way of Kings *ahem*) as even better starting places, since they’re more polished than Elantris. Anyone looking for a really original fantasy with fleshed-out characters, cultures and religions will enjoy this novel.

Truth can never be defeated, Sarene. Even if people do forget about it occasionally.”

Have you read any great standalones lately?

way-of-kings About:

Roshar is a land ruled by Highstorms and Shardblade warfare. But as a cycle of Desolation approaches to destroy humanity, four people will play key roles in the outcome:

Szeth-son-son-Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar, assassinates King Gavilar and begins a cycle of vengeance—the “Vengeance Pact”—between two races. He weeps as he is forced to kill for his masters.

Kaladin Stormblessed, an apprentice surgeon, is forced to become a soldier in the armies fighting for vengeance. After suffering the betrayal of a “light-eyed” noble, this dark-eyed soldier fights for his life and that of his dark-eyed crew.

Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands an army like the one that employs Kaladin. But as he is drawn to an ancient text of law, The Way of Kings, he finds himself questioning the purpose of this war.

Young Shallan Davar, Brightness of a small, struggling estate, risks everything to plan a daring theft. The first step of her plan is to train as a scholar with the heretic Jasnah Kholin, Brightlord Dalinar Kholin’s niece; but as she gains Jasnah’s trust, she realizes that the woman studies much more than obscure academia: she studies the secrets of the fabled order of the Knights Radiant, their shards and the Desolations they fought so long ago. Adult High Fantasy Published August 31st 2010 by Tor Books.

My Thoughts :

Wow. 1,000 pages of wow. Just let me fangirl for a moment, here.

Don’t let the size of this tome fool you: The Way of Kings is a compulsively readable, highly character-driven high fantasy. The characters always let you know what they want; but you never know what twists lie in store for them.

And there are so many twists! They start coming early on. It’s almost funny how I continue to guess and theorize because I’m always totally wrong. Everything is sailing along as the characters expect, and then BAM! You weren’t getting comfortable were you, Christy? Because this guy’s being sold into slavery and this gal’s not the naïve young bookworm you thought. You think you know what’s going on? Trust me, you don’t.

I can’t talk overmuch about the plot without spoilers, but:

I dare you to get bored during a Kaladin scene. Seriously. I bet you can’t do it. Early on in the novel, he’s drafted into a hellish portion of the army known as “bridge duty” (wherein generals force crews of unarmed men to rush first into battle, set bridges across chasms and draw enemy fire away from the “real” soldiers) and his goal becomes one thing and one thing only: keep his bridge crew alive. He constantly schemes up crazy ideas to meet that goal, and I promise, it’s worth your time to read The Way of Kings just for this one innovative soldier’s arc.

But Dalinar Kholin’s arc is a close second favorite. Uncle to the king and brother of the slain King Gavilar, Dalinar dominates the battlefield. Known as the Blackthorn, he fiercely wields a weapon called a “Shardblade,” a giant sword with unimaginably destructive power. As the book’s description says, wars are fought for and won by these ancient, mysterious weapons that appear from mist and kill souls as easily as they kill bodies. Dalinar is a cultural hero among his war-obsessed countrymen—but he has lately been troubled by Highstorm visions that may or may not be the onset of madness. As everyone including his sons and the king begin to question him, Dalinar has to navigate the visions, public opinion and private family business. A complex man with a complex path. I’m totally obsessed with Dalinar.

I think Shallan’s arc qualifies as the most complex among the four main narrators. She possesses the potential and desire to become a great scholar, but family secrets close that option to her. While innovation and leadership concerns characterize the narratives of Kaladin and Dalinar, Shallan’s narrative blossoms more slowly, and it feels almost self-contained until we find out more about Jasnah’s research. Nevertheless, I love Shallan’s scenes. Her intelligence and ambition make her arc tense and painful, at times, but always twisty and keenly satisfying.

Szeth the assassin is the most mysterious of the four narrators, but I suspect that he holds the secret to the coming Desolations. We shall see.

The worldbuilding itself is like a fabulous character. It’s so big! And it feels that way, paradoxically, by detailing the small stuff.

“Kaladin stared out over those grasses blowing in the mild breeze. Whenever the wind picked up, the more sensitive of the grass stalks shrank down into their burrows, leaving the landscape patchy, like the coat of a sickly horse.”

Although we expect large amounts of setup and worldbuilding in a novel like this, Sanderson incorporates it all smoothly into the secretive and engrossing characters arcs. The swords, the storms, the mysterious “stormlight” that connects everything together…and don’t even get me started on the countries, social prejudices and religions! One society lives on an endless, shallow lake, and citizens just…stay wet. All the time. And Alethi men and women must eat gender-specified foods! It’s craziness. The smooth writing let me slip easily into the world of Roshar, never drawing attention to itself. I got lost in this engrossing giant of a novel.

When plot twists pay off—when the action starts—it’s explosive. This is totally cliché, but the battle scenes really are heart-rending and pulse-pounding. Very “visually” effective (better than Mistborn‘s action scenes, I would say). The tactics and strategy are extremely well drawn.

I switched back and forth between the audiobook and the hardcover copy, so I can confirm that the story reads easily in both. Hearing all the unique names pronounced with such assurance made the audio version a favorite with me; but the easy writing makes the hard copy equally as engrossing—and the illustrations! They’re gorgeous!

Overall :

Combines the intrigue of Elantris with the action and themes of Mistborn. X1000. It’s definitely my favorite thing by Sanderson, as yet. As I was reading, I kept wishing the book could last forever. Thankfully, 9,000 is a conservative estimate of pages remaining in the series, right?

Recommended To :

It sometimes feels like I was the last person to this Stormlight Archives partaaay, but I know that’s not true! The books are so gigantic, I was intimidated away until I saw the list of contents in Arcanum Unbounded. Then I knew I needed to get on these books already. But seriously, if you like character-driven fantasy, I highly recommend trying The Way of Kings. You might be surprised how the pages fly by, once you start to get to know the characters.

*****5/5 Stars

Yo! I’m still on my two week holiday break from blogging (I meant to post my review of Marissa Meyer’s Winter by now, but, alas, the holidays! The food, the games! Next week, I promise), but I couldn’t resist writing the ubiquitous Best of 2016 list. I got to read such a great stretch of books near the end of 2016, and I found a couple of new to “go-to” authors throughout this year. That’s a good reason to come back from my break for a day, right? You know it!

I read something like 65 books this year (not counting rereads such as Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park audiobooks I enjoyed this Fall). Many were new releases, but, happily, I also managed to fit in some backlist reading! Most of my 11 favorites are books published pre-2016, but the best books published this year were smash hits. I grouped them all together, below, roughly in the order of favorites; but really? The books in the top two rows are basically all tied with each other, as are the bottom two. I just loved so many books this year! It’s been wonderful!

Favorites of 2016

  • Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone. Max Gladstone is one of those clever authors who subvert expectations constantly with humor and unique religious insight (this time about Mesoamerican ideas of sacrifice). Definitely one of my faves! Even though I enjoyed book I (Three Parts Dead) more than Two Serpents Rise, book II still earned a whopping 4.5/5 stars.
  • The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. This year has been a Sanderson Epoch for me! I read and loved the original Mistborn trilogy on audiobook. All in all, I will have read seven and started an eighth Sanderson book, all in the course of 2016.
  • The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. Because if a book makes me laugh this hard, it belongs in my favorites!
  • Waer by Meg CaddyA gorgeous YA travel fantasy by a debut Australian author. Told in the style of Juliet Marillier. Published in 2016.
  • Railhead by Philip Reeve. Sentient trains ship passengers throughout the galaxies. Great setup for a great series, I hope!
  • The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima. I really enjoyed this YA Fantasy and would love to finish the series. Just bought book two with Christmas money!

 

2016 Runner-Ups

  • Ibenus (Valducan #3) by Seth Skorkowsky. I was really impressed with this gritty adult urban fantasy (published in 2016). If that’s your jam, you should definitely check out this series.
  • Emperor of the Eight Islands by Lian Hearn. A literary Asian-influenced adult fantasy (2016). I really enjoyed this dark fantasy, much more so than the other book I’ve read by Hearn, The Nightingale Floor.

And that’s it! What a great year. What did you enjoy reading in 2016? Link your recap posts to mine so I can read them!

waer

“I forced myself to accept his help. I needed to regain my strength. I had not escaped Caerwyn to just like down and die.”

About :

Young waer Lowell Sencha and his family live in the sheltered, idyllic Gwyndhan Valley, where they can shift into and out of their wolf forms without fear of persecution from the prejudiced blood-purists residing in other parts of Oster.

But when a wounded female waer named Lycaea washes up on the shores of the valley river, everything changes. Lowell helps the renowned healer Moth Derry care for Lycaea until, suddenly, a powerful blood purist attacks the valley in a frenzied hunt for the waer girl. The two women convince Lowell to travel to Lycaea’s home-city of Luthan to gather allies against the blood purists. Debut standalone YA Fantasy by Australian author Meg Caddy, a personal mentee of Juliet Marillier. Waer was published March 1st 2016 by Text Australia and available in the US on Book Depository. Shortlisted for the Text Prize.

Thoughts :

In the tradition of Juliet Marillier, Caddy brings a legend to life and surrounds it with a lush world of tradition, travel and diverse cultures. Readers journey with the characters through the lands of Oster, discovering mythology, new terrain and the ins and outs of shape-shifting.

‘There are waer in the southern desert, near where Dodge Derry comes from. But they are…different from us.’

‘How?’

‘Much bigger, and more savage. They do not cook their kills, they take meat raw. And some other are not…born waer.’”

I wish I could quote half the book to you, just to prove how wonderful the travel-writing is; but rest assured, I got lost in this world and you will, too, if you read Waer. One of my favorite things about the worldbuilding is how tenderly Caddy builds Lowell’s shape-change religion (and, later, challenges it and everything it means to Lowell).

I burned a sprig of rosemary in the candle, and let the ashes fall into the water in homage to Freybug, born from a rosemary bush. Finally, I blew out the candle, sipped from the bowl and trickled some of the water over the stranger’s brow. It was a bitter brew, but all elements of life joined in the water. Drinking it was a giving of thanks.”

And the characters! If Tamora Pierce wrote in first person, she might write characters like these. Lycaea is a prickly new shape-changer. She has a complicated relationship with her Waer form, but luckily for her, Lowell, a believably perceptive and wholesome country boy, understands this.

It was clear to me from the beginning that she had her own distaste for our people, complicated by the fact she was one of us.”

Caddy develops the characters well enough that they have actual fights about things that matter. I wish I could quote one for you, but as with the travel scenes, it’s probably better if you experience them in the context of the story.

As for the plot, the twists didn’t surprise me, but Caddy still uses the main one effectively as a psychological expression of Lycaea’s internal struggles. And although one character is clearly a convenient plot device, the writing, characters and worldbuilding far outweigh an any problems with the fast-paced and straight-forward plot, especially for such a young author with her debut.

I just had such an emotional, immersive experience with this book, I can’t seem to care about anything else!

Overall :

What a fabulous surprise! This is exactly what I want, when I pick up a YA Fantasy. It’s so nice when YA—which has so much potential for emotionally impactful coming-of-age fantasies—gets the details right. I love everything about this book. An ungrudging five stars for Waer!

Recommended To :

Fans of Juliet Marillier, Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley. At the risk of sounding like the complete fangirl I am, I would say, were J. R. R. Tolkien writing in the modern YA field, he would write something like Waer. I can’t wait for my birthday, so I can buy this for my personal library. And when it becomes available on Amazon, I’ll be getting it for the teen section at my work! I can’t wait for Meg Caddy to publish something else!! Hurryhurryhurry….

Thank you so much to Meg Caddy, Text Publishing and Netgalley for my e-galley of Waer.

*****5/5 BRILLIANT STARS