Book Review: Evangeline by Gwen Williams

17436884Title: Evangeline
Author: Gwen Williams
Genre: Adult Romance, Retold Fairytale, Gothic Romance
Rating: 3,5 stars
Review copy was provided by Red Sage Publishing.

Paul Rumsfeld, a lonely, rich, widower, seeks Evangeline’s hand in marriage. He is her first real marital prospect, as the entire village considers her damaged goods. Rumors abound about the way Evangeline and her sister Rose Red, serviced the Black Bear who resided at their hearth during one particularly hard, bitter winter. Evangeline did no such thing, but no man pays her court. She accepts Paul’s offer to marry him, while trying to ignore the vile gossipmongers’ talk in the village that Paul’s last four wives died under bizarre-and troubling-circumstances. Is Paul a Bluebeard, or is he an innocent man? Evangeline trusts her husband implicitly, but the rumors are hard to ignore.

They marry and she travels with him to his marvelous villa on the sea. Once there, she is introduced to the household servants, including the grim and reproving Mathilda. Mathilda is a formidable opponent, and it takes all of Evangeline’s guile and resources to outmaneuver the imperious maidservant. Evangeline soon finds herself with child, and with the support of the midwife, she begins to exert her will. Out with the restricting corsets and stays! Evangeline has no desire to confine her body to the dictates of fashion. She wants her baby to be healthy and strong, and the only way to do that is to ensure her own comfort. Mathilda is horrified, but cannot bend Evangeline to her will.

At the same time, Evangeline is attempting to breach the citadel that is her husband’s broken heart. Paul honestly cannot say how it has come to pass that he is the widower of four deceased wives, each one expiring under odd and distressing circumstances. As a result, he has locked down his heart to any further intimacy. He is half-convinced that Evangeline shall also die, and it would be unbearable if he were to allow her into his heart.

Who still remembers the story of Rose Red, Black Bear and her sister – Snow White, in the original fairytale? Well I don’t, at least not completely. I think I was born right after the Rose Red and Snow White fairytale-hype, and I only heard it once or twice and forgot most of the details. I mean, I’m probably born in the generation who thinks of Snow White as the girl who bit in the apple and fell asleep, not the girl who took a big black bear into her house and took care of said animal, who later turned out to be some cursed prince. Evangeline is actually a spin-off of the original fairytale, now featuring Evangeline in the role of Snow White, and focuses on the events that happened after Black Bear left the sisters’ cottage. No man in the entire village wants to marry Evangeline – but that’s alright, because she doesn’t really want the village boys’ interest either. She’d much rather get the attention of Mr. Rumsfeld, an older and lone widower who is wealthier than she could even imagine. However, the town folk know a lot of gossip about dear ol’ Mr. Rumsfeld: turns out he has been married three times, and every time his wife died under peculiar circumstances. Determined not to let old wives tales’ stand in her way of getting the man she desires, Evangeline persues Paul Rumsfeld anyway. But as soon as they are married, the young girl starts to notice strange things: not only about the man she loves, but also about the house they inhabit and the strange creatures that lurk in the darkness.

I love retold fairytales, or spin-offs of original fairytales. I adore gothic horror. But although I found Evangeline an enjoyable read, entertaining and with rather interesting characters; it didn’t really awe me the way I expected it to. Several reasons. First off, I figured out the mystery surrounding the suspicious deaths of Paul’s former wives right away, and to be brutally honest; Paul is quite the idiot for not thinking about this sooner. In fact, his unawareness of the people around him practically blindfolds him, and makes him unable to realise even what’s right in front of his nose. Evangeline isn’t all that much smarter; and I’m pretty sure any self-respecting heroine with some basic intelligence level could have figured out the malicious person in the picture a lot earlier. I think this novel would have been significantly more interesting had the author introduced more characters who could have been responsible for the other wives’ gruesome murders, thus atleast adding some more suspense to the story. It’s no fun reading a gothic horror novel when you know right away who’s responsible for all the bad stuff that keeps happening.

Apart from that, there were parts about the book that I really enjoyed. For instance, the scenery and the decor. An enormous villa by the sea, with gardens you can get lost in and marble statues that seem to move in the sunlight for no apparent reason. Enough to get anyone who loves gothic novels to start drooling. Add an evil presence in the house, murdered wives and a bunch of nightmares, and you have the perfect set up for an impressive gothic horror tale. However, the setting is there as are the characters and the basic plot – it just doesn’t get executed very well. There is no actual tension, there aren’t enough suspects for the murder schemes on Paul’s previous wives, and Paul basically has the IQ of a carrot. I would have liked this novel to go more in the style of Jane Eyre – where you actually get to wonder who or what is behind all the wicked things that keep happening – or more along the lines of Wuthering Heights.

The see-through plot put aside, Evangeline does make for a very enjoyable read. The main characters have very different, rich personalities with their own fears and anxieties. They could have been a bit brighter, and perhaps a bit more courageous – this definately counts for Paul – but maybe their lack of these traits makes them more human and less like the fairytale-heroes they originally were. Gwen Williams does an excellent job of describing the haunting, eerie atmosphere and the dread and terror of her characters. However, this novel didn’t scare me at all – not in the way Jane Eyre does when the girl with the same name is trapped in the Red Room. I don’t even know if it’s meant to be scary, but I would have liked if it managed to atleast make me feel a bit uncomfortable while reading. The author does get the romance point straight on though, and the growing relationship between Evangeline and Mr. Rumsfeld feels real, honest and very loving. All in all, Evangeline is a nice read and if you’re a fan of the genre, I would definately recommend it.

Book Review: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

7656222Title: Lost Voices
Author: Sarah Porter
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication date: 07/04/2011
Rating: 3 stars
Advanced Review copy provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Fourteen-year-old Luce has had a tough life, but she reaches the depths of despair when she is assaulted and left on the cliffs outside of her grim, gray Alaskan fishing village. She expects to die when she tumbles into the icy waves below, but instead undergoes an astonishing transformation and becomes a mermaid.

A tribe of mermaids finds Luce and welcomes her in—all of them, like her, lost girls who surrendered their humanity in the darkest moments of their lives. Luce is thrilled with her new life until she discovers the catch: the mermaids feel an uncontrollable desire to drown seafarers, using their enchanted voices to lure ships into the rocks. Luce’s own remarkable singing talent makes her important to the tribe—she may even have a shot at becoming their queen. However, her struggle to retain her humanity puts her at odds with her new friends. Will Luce be pressured into committing mass murder?

The first book in a trilogy, Lost Voices is a captivating and wildly original tale about finding a voice, the healing power of friendship, and the strength it takes to forgive.

I must admit that I already read a lot of positive reviews about this novel before I actually started reading it. Now I’m not usually one to agree with the majority – I like being a rebel – but for this novel, I can’t help but agree. Atleast up till some point. I really liked this novel, and it pulled me in with an uncomperable force. However, there are some minor flaws I would like to discuss too.

Luce – short for Lucette – is living with her uncle ever since her father dissapeared while working on a ship at sea. Neither the ship, nor her father ever returned. Convinced her father is still alive, Luce tries desperately to hang on until his return, but that isn’t exactly easy. Her uncle is a brutal man who spends more time drunk than sober, and cannot live with the fact Luce’s mother fell for his own brother rather than for him. When his behavior escalates one night, Luce finds herself utterly and completely abandoned. Before she realises it, she is changing – changing into a mermaid. She jumps off a cliff, right into the ocean, and starts singing to a ship. Unaware of the fact her voice is the reason the ship is going straight to Davy Jones’ locker, Luce barely makes it out alive. She gets rescued by another mermaid, who happens to be the queen of the tribe that came to Luce’s aid. Now she must start a new alive, with her new mermaid friends. Although she feels at home for the first time in many, many years; her remarkable singing talent and the arrival of other new mermaids, might ruin her chances of ever truely finding a home.

I cannot help but praise the descrpitive, detailed writing style of Sarah Porter. Her descriptions are vivid, and pull you right into the story. It was easy for me as a reader to imagine the underwater surroundings, the mermaids’ cave, and everything else mentioned in the book. I was also very fond of the first two or three chapters – the one Luce spent while still being human. Then, the annoyance began.

First of all, I was annoyed by Luce. She seemed perfectly fine, an understandable and likable character while she was still human; but as soon as she went into mermaid-phase, I couldn’t grasp her anymore. She had these crazy mood shifts I couldn’t relate to, and I started liking her less and less. This became better once Anais came into the picture though, from that point on, I started liking Luce again. Maybe this had to do with Anais’ anything-but-likable personality and the way Luce was portrayed directly opposite of the wicked mermaid; I wouldn’t really know. I like to know what’s going through the protagonist’s mind, and I like to understand why they think a certain way. With Luce, I had trouble understanding her way of thinking. She was weak-willed and silent at first, like I expected from an often abused girl, but I had high hopes she would turn into an independent, strong-willed protagonist with actual leadership-qualities. No such luck.

So, what else annoyed me endlessly? All of the useless events. So why exactly did Luce meet Tessa? Why are we introduced to Gum, when he doesn’t appear in the rest of the story? What about the Larvae, ever thought about doing something about those? At the start I had the feeling that Luce would be the change this mermaid tribe needed so much – that she would somehow be able to make them more humane in their actions, and maybe protecting the larvae would be her first step towards that. However, Luce only tries to save the Larvae once, then decides she did enough for the little baby-mermaids who I couldn’t help but feel sorry for, and focuses more on life within the tribe. I can’t grasp how girls who have been put through so much injustice throughout their human life, could simply disregard other, smaller children with the same kind of injustice. It didn’t make sense to me, and in fact, it enangered me.

While I was constantly cheering for Luce to get up and finally do something, she stayed a passive player throughout the whole story, focused more on her own acception without her new family than on the faith of others. She is so focused on having Catarine as her friends, whereas she does not see other, more plausible and accepting friendsihps, for example with Miriam. Don’t get me wrong, I think Catarine was probably my favorite character throughout the story – I was dying to know more about her past- and I wanted her and Luce to be friends, but it became clear quite soon that all Catarine does is take, without giving anything back. A friendship with this kind of people isn’t healthy, and I was hoping for Luce to realise that along the way. Or atleast to stop relating her own self-worth with Catarine’s acceptance of her. I wanted Luce to grow as a character, but she did little of that kind.

Practically all the mermaids’ personalities annoyed me. Except for Catarine – which may sound strange, and I’ve read reviewers thinking she was the most annoying character of them all – but I could actually relate to her in a way I couldn’t relate to the others. I hated Samantha, and somewhere along the way I wanted her to get killed by a bunch of orcas. At first, I thought I could like Dana and Rachel, but then they ended up being the same shallow, spineless creatures as the rest of them. Anais was probably the worst, but to be honest, that tribe didn’t need a lot to change from a bunch of somewhat tolerable people into the most annoying, terrible and greedy creatures that ever walked this earth.

What also annoyed me beyond belief, was the way the mermaids’ personalities all seemed to blend together. None of them really had an outspoken, different personality. Except maybe Miriam. But she hardly gets enough recognition throughout the novel. I also had high hopes of one of the orphan girls to have leadership potential, especially considering the way Jenna and Dana acted while they were still human. Again, dissapointment. As soon as they turned into mermaids, they lost every single personality trait that made them unique and outstanding.

There were many useless events in Lost Voices. Personally I thought that the arrival of the 14 new orphan girls could have easily been let out too – what did those girls really bring to the story? Just more annoying mermaids, more of the same, flat, dull personalities. Perhaps it would have been better had the author focused on the original tribe, and developed the personalities of those mermaids some more, rather than keep introducing new but pointless and generic characters. These useless events also confused me quite a lot. For instance, when the perspective changed from Luce to the orphan girls, I was terribly confused and had to reread the first pages of the chapter several time to actually understand what was going on. Sometimes it felt like the story had no real way to go, as if it was just a bunch of chapters drawn together without any real purpose.

I know I sound a bit tough for this book, but I do have to admit that despite all of that, I did enjoy reading Lost Voices. The cliffhanger at the end, made me curious and I’m definately going to read the next novel. Considering it’s a debut novel, I think Sarah Porter did a pretty good job, however I’m hoping for more character-development, more different personalities and an actual solid plot in the second novel in the series. Plus, I would love the reappareance of old characters like Gum, Luce’s dad, and maybe Tessa. And no matter how many things I point out that may be wrong with the plot and characters; truth is that I did read this one in two reading sessions, unable to step away from my computer until I finished reading it. So there must be something about Lost Voices that kept me fascinated.

Book Review: The Witches Lottery by Krystal McLaughlin

17427104Title: The Witches Lottery
Author: Krystal McLaughlin
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Rating: 4 stars

When Sophia and Drew McKibben’s parents are killed in a tragic car accident, they are shipped off to live with an aunt they never even knew existed. Believing that they are moving to a privately owned island just off of the coast of Mystic, CT to live alone with her, they are surprised to find a sort of under-aged bed and breakfast.

Sophia draws the attention of one of the locals, Falen, immediately. He always seems to know exactly what she is thinking, and to her frustration, everything she does seems to amuse him. When a newcomer to the island brings with him a sense of deja vu, she begins to ask herself the ultimate question: Am I going crazy?

Sophia’s world starts to unravel when she notices her own brother acting just as abnormal as the rest of them. When she begins to realize that the life she left behind looks even more bizarre then the one she was forced to leave it for, she’s faced with a decision to make: embrace the new life that has been given to her, or drown in the past. Either choice brings with it more secrets and deceptions to unearth. The problem now is that the two worlds may actually be more intertwined than she thought.

The Witches Lottery starts of with the main character, Sophia, who is having a terrible nightmare about her parent’s accident, and who tells the reader about how people look at her and her brother now their parents are dead. I thought this first chapter was really touching, and it immediately made me feel sympathetic towards Sophia and her brother Drew. Then the two siblings are shipped off to live with their aunt Celeste, who they have never seen before in their life. Like things couldn’t get any worse, Sophia starts having strange visions and headaches. On top of all that, it isn’t their aunt who picks them up from the airport, but a stranger who introduces himself as Falen and claims to live on the island with their aunt. Although he and Sophie don’t get along too well at first (he finds everything she does amusing, which obviously annoys her), there is some obvious attraction between them. But the island aunt Celeste lives on isn’t just any normal island, and it hides an ancient and dangerous secret. It’s up to Sophia to find out what exactly that secret is – before it’s too late.

Being a debut novel, The Witches Lottery really appeared to me as striking, original and well-written. The characters are balanced, with interesting and rich personalities, and the storyline is fast-paced, with a few unexpected twists here and there that kept me on the edge of my seat while reading. This is really a novel that demands to be read during one single reading session – it’s just too exciting to suddenly stop halfway, and even when I tried, it was like it kept calling me to get back to my computer and continue reading. It’s a nice bonus when a novel does that; when it makes you feel for the characters and the storyline so much that you just need to know what happens to them next.

My favorite character by far was Sophia. I couldn’t help but like her: she’s determined, intelligent, independent, strong – but with a touch of insecurity and weakness that makes her all the more human. I would have liked to learn more about the other cast members: Falen, Mitch, Daphne and especially Gianna. My guess is that the other novels in the series will focus on the other characters, however I would have liked to learn a bit more about them already. I couldn’t help but feel like there’s a lot more to Gianna than meets the eye, and considering her late arrival in the novel, it made me very curious to know more about her. The only character I wasn’t completely fond of was Celeste: her personality seemed a bit flat, and I feel as though she should have played a larger role throughout the novel.

Personally, when I read fantasy novels, witches aren’t exactly my favorite subject. I like witches sure enough, but I prefer vampires, demons, angels, etc. However, The Witches Lottery made me decide to give witches-related fiction another chance, which shows how good this novel really is. If you’re looking for a nice, relaxing read, but one that will also keep you glued to your chair eagerly anticipating whatever is going to happen next, then The Witches Lottery is an excellent choice.

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2767052Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Rating: 5 stars

Twenty-four are forced to enter. Only the winner survives. In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Each year, the districts are forced by the Capitol to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games, a brutal and terrifying fight to the death – televised for all of Panem to see.

Survival is second nature for sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who struggles to feed her mother and younger sister by secretly hunting and gathering beyond the fences of District 12. When Katniss steps in to take the place of her sister in the Hunger Games, she knows it may be her death sentence. If she is to survive, she must weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.

Typically me to be ages behind with the best books of 2010, and only discover this gorgeous novel early january. On the bright side however, I now get to read the entire trilogy in one row – that is, when I find the budget to purchase the other novels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Now I know everyone and their pet chihuahuas has already read this novel and voted it the best thing since the invention of the wheel, but I thought I’d give my two cents anyway.

For starters, The Hunger Games really is amazing. It grabs you, puts you in your seat, eyes fixed on the novel, and the world around you starts to dissapear. It’s like some time machine thing. Then when you’re done reading and the world reappears, you somewhat expect that you’re in a TV show with your life at stake and you have to kill everyone else in order to survive. Thank God I didn’t respond to those feelings right away. No, but seriously: The Hunger Games doesn’t let you go, until you’ve finished reading it. And even then, it’s hard to put those thoughts aside about what will happen next, why “insert random person” had to die, etc. It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel as enthralling and surprising at this one.

The story focuses on Katniss, a young but independent girl who tries to take care of her family – her mother and younger sister Prim – by hunting rabbits and other small animals in the forest, accompanied by her best friend Gabe. Now although life in district 12, where Katniss lives, is difficult, and a lot of people die from starvation or working too much; the worst is yet to come. Because every year, two children, one boy and one girl, from each district are chosen to participate in The Hunger Games, a way for the Capitol to show they still hold power over the people they have supressed. Against all odds, Katniss’ younger sister Prim is chosen. However, unable to let her innocent kid sister participate in an event that might very well cause her to die, Katniss offers to participate instead of Prim. The other chosen one is a young boy called Peeta and whom Katniss is somewhat familiar with. Then, The Games have begun and it’s time again for the greatest hypocrysy thinkable, as The Almighty Capitol lets children murder other children.

How disgusting The Capitol may seem, it does make for a brilliant, well-written, fast-paced, exciting and highly original storyline. The characters are equally enthralling as the story, and not only did I start to feel for Katniss and the continuous trials she has to put up with, but for Peeta – who is so much braver than I at first anticipated – as well. Slowly but most definately I was starting to feel utter disgust towards the corrupted beings who choose to let innocent children murder each other for the entertainment of the public – not that most of the public is entertained, mind you. Most people hate The Hunger Games, which isn’t curious considering it might as well be them or one of their beloved who has to fight there one day. As the novel continues, the feeling of rebellion and revolution becomes very heavy, in the little acts commited, the little gestures done, both by the main characters and by the public. It adds a new sense of tension to the novel that I very much appreciated.

Well, what else can I say? The characters are wonderful, with a lot of good qualities, and their fair share of bad ones. Katniss and Peeta are so honest and loveable in every thing they do; I could not help but keep wishing they wouldn’t die. And as I already mentioned, The Hunger Games grabs you and pulls you in, and it doesn’t let you go, not even after you’ve finished the novel. It’s my best reading experience of the year (that includes 2010), and I would advise everyone: go grab a copy, and enjoy this amazing story that will keep you coming back for more.

Book Review: Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer by Maureen McGowan

9407790Title: Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer
Author: Maureen McGowan
Genre: Adventure, Paranormal Romance, Retold Fairytale
Rating: 3,5 stars

In this thrilling story full of adventure and romance, Sleeping Beauty is more than just a lonely princess waiting for her prince–she’s a brave, tenacious girl who never backs down from a challenge. With vampire-slaying talents that she practices in secret, Sleeping Beauty puts her courage to the test in the dark of night, fighting evil as she searches for a way to break the spell that has cut her off from her family. In a special twist, readers have the opportunity to make key decisions for Sleeping Beauty and decide where she goes next–but no matter the choice, the result is a story unlike any fairy tale you’ve ever read!

Lucette, the Sleeping Beauty of this retold fairytale, was cursed shortly after her birth, by the evil Vampire Queen Natasha. One day, Lucette will prick her finger, and her blood will set a curse upon the entire Kingdom. She will never awake until night falls, wheras the rest of her Kingdom will only awake while she is asleep. A terrible curse that would force her to spend her entire life alone. The King and Queen do everything in their power to prevent this awful event from happening, each of them in their own way – the King by being overprotective and the Queen by wanting her daughter to learn how to defend herself – but it is of no use. As the vampires, under leadership of their evil Queen Natasha, invade The Kingdom, Lucette is the only one left to defend the palace at night – that is, until she gets help from a vampire, Alex, and from a former crush of hers, Tristan. But there’s one way to break the curse. True love. However, Lucette will soon find out that finding true love might not be that easy afterall.

Do you remember those books from like hundred – alright fine, maybe ten – years ago, with several options you could choose from, several paths throughout the novel and alternative endings? I don’t know about you, but I loved those novels, so I was happily surprised when I discovered this novel fits right under that category! There are three or four times throughout the novel where you get to choose the path of the heroine. The only dissapointing part is that, no matter which path you choose, the ending still remains the same. That was a real setback for me, especially since the pairing I had been cheering for wasn’t the one that made it in the end. Bummer.

The main character, Lucette, was well-written with a deep, multi-layered personality and a witty spirit. Some of the supportive characters are a bit flat, like I would have liked to know more about Alex and Tristan, the two possible love interests of the heroine. Personally I thought that the personalities of the King and Queen were much better developed, with interesting and clashing personalities. However, I’m not entirely sure if the somewhat flat personalities of Alex and Tristan were really that bad, since it did match the fairytale-like feel of the novel. In fairytales there isn’t a lot of focus on character development or personality traits, but more on getting the story forward, and I got the same vibe with this novel.

I loved the story though, the twist to the original fairytale of Sleeping Beauty by turning her into a courageous, determined, vampire-slaying heroine and the upcoming war between the Kingdom of Xandra and the vampire kingdom. Also, the personal relationships between Queen Natasha, and the parents of Lucette, were highly interesting. Ofcourse this novel isn’t the most magnificent and enthralling piece of fiction ever written, but it is an amusing, enjoyable read that doesn’t bore you for a moment. I got through the novel in one single two-hour reading session, so that’s saying something.

I had a lot of trouble actually finding an appropriate rating for this book. On the hand, I wanted to give it a 5 – because for the specific genre this novel is aiming, it was perfect. On the other hand, when compared to other novels, well…this novel isn’t going to change your perspective on the world, and it isn’t going to leave you crying your heart out, or anything else that is emotionally shocking. So eventually I settled on a 3,5. But don’t turn it down simply because of the rating I gave it. If you loved those make-your-own choices novels as much as I did, you will like this novel a lot too. And if you’re just a fan of retold fairytales, then Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer is exactly what you’ve been looking for.

Book Review: Kiss of Darkness by Loribelle Hunt

9931657Title: Kiss of Darkness
Author: Hunt, Loribelle
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 3,5 stars

Winter, a hybrid, has spent her life at war. A group of humans who are part demon, the hybrids, along with the lupines and nightwalkers, have dedicated their lives to defeating demons and protecting humanity. Yet, despite their united cause, the three groups share an uneasy alliance.When hybrid military compounds come under attack from demon insurgents, Winter has no choice but to turn to the lupines and nightwalkers for assistance. It’s a partnership based on necessity and she has no intention of letting down her guard with either group.
Marcus, the nightwalker Lord, has other plans. The immediate attraction between him and Winter promises a passion he can’t ignore. To claim her as his own, he’ll not only have to fight the demons who seem hell-bent on destroying her, but her own misconceptions about him and the nightwalker race. It’s a battle he refuses to lose.

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about this novel. On the one side, I loved the main character, Winter Bennett, and her two best friends, Gia and Dupree, and their interactions. I also really liked the storyline: especially the merging of human and demon souls, and the great war against demons. The world-building was wonderful, with safety houses and compounds, and this entire we’re-at-war vibe, that was carefully crafted throughout the novel. Plus, I liked the division between hybrids (as Winter and her friends are), Nightwalkers (a fancy name for Vampires) and Lupines (werewolves). Now, on to the things I didn’t like that much.

The point of view constantly switched between about six characters, which made this book very hard to read. Sometimes I had to reread entire parts to actually know who was talking. I’m a great supporter of switching the points of view to keep things interesting, but it was a bit too much here, and it would have been better had the author only focused on maybe three or so characters. The story was very fast-paced at times, but the middle part of the novel was a too slow for my liking. Sometimes I really had the feeling I had to urge myself to continue reading. But once you get past those fifty-or-so occasionally slow pages, there is enough action and nearly-dying going on to keep you occupied till the end of the novel.

What really, really bothered me about this novel, and is the reason it only got a rating of 3,5 rather than 4 is the way all males – but with that I mean, all males – in this novel respond to falling in love. They feel an uncontrollable possessiveness towards the object of their affections. And not just the Nightwalkers, or the Lupines, mind you, for whom this despicable character trait might be part of their nature, but even Dupree, dear old hybrid Dupree, doesn’t escape from the need to control every move his love interest makes. Not only did I feel like going all Buffy The Vampire Slayer on all Nightwalkers in this novel every five minutes, but it also made me so annoyed I had trouble finishing the book. I mean sure, you can add one character whose immensely posessive, but do you have to make all of them like that? Plus, I’m not saying a little bit posessive, no. I mean totally over-the-top, extremely awkward clingyness. If another man just as much as touched their love interest, those Nightwalkers went berserk. I wasn’t too fond of these traits at all, and they annoyed me, as they were a major part of the story.

However, I must admit that the rest of the story amazed me. I loved the little plot twists and turns, the overall background story, the description of the war against the demons, and the way the tension was built up slowly. I liked this novel, but I would have liked it a lot more if it wasn’t for all the male characters to be overly posessive. If there’s ever a sequel out, I would like to read it though, just to know what happens to the characters.

Visit the author’s website.

Book Review: Demon’s Fall by Karalynn Lee

Title: Demon’s Fa9318237ll
Author: Karalynn Lee
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Carina Press
Rating: 4 stars

She was an angel at the gates of Hell.

When Kenan, an incubus, finds a caged angel for sale in the Hellsgate marketplace, he sees her as a challenge. Certain that his skills in seduction will work as well on a heavenly creature as they do on mortal women, he buys Jahel, intent on having her soul as a novelty in his collection.

Knowing he must gain Jahel’s trust if she is to come to his bed willingly, Kenan treats her more as his guest than as his slave. When she reveals what brought her to the mouth of Hell in the first place—retrieving the soul of a young girl she was guarding—he even offers to help her complete her mission.

Though he has promised Jahel freedom, Kenan soon realizes she has captured his heart instead. And as their passion for one another grows, they find themselves caught in a struggle between Heaven and Hell, one that will lead them to the very edge of the apocalypse…

Trying to get back the lost soul of a girl she was supposed to protect, the angel Jahel gets captured in Hellsgate, a town right before Hell proper; caged and eventually sold to an incubus demon named Kenan. Although he initially only has intentions to capture Jahel’s soul, he comes to like the angel and eventually aids her on her mission to reclaim the lost soul of her protegée. As his feelings for Jahel are growing beyond simple attraction, he learns that Jahel is not the only angel who got lost in Hellsgate as of late…and the other one has plans to commence a war between Heaven and Hell.

I’m usually not a very big fan of novellas, as I tend to believe it is hard to do some decent world-building, create believable character-development and make the reader feel a bond with your characters in such a short amount of time. However, Karalynn Lee manages these three jobs quite well, much to my amazement. The world-building in this novella is impressive. In just under 80 pages, she creates a world existing of three planes: the mortal plane, Heaven and Hell, an obscure ‘third path’ for people who choose neither Heaven nor Hell, and some towns with mixed inhabitants, both mortal and angelic in Heavensgate (although angels only fly over it, and hardly stop to walk through it) and human and demons in Hellsgate. I really liked the world she created: nothing too complicated, but a decent and solid base to fall back upon.

The currency in this well-designed world is souls: Angels want to save them, whereas Demons trade them for other goods. Kenan, one of two main characters, is used to collecting souls from his victims, who give him their full name and soul willingly once he seduces them – which is quite easy, considering he’s an incubus. Initially the only reason why he buys the Angel Jahel, is so he can secude her and then claim her soul. I loved how the dynamics between Kenan and Jahel slowly changed once he had taken her back to his home, and goes to great lengths to earn her trust and respect. The attraction between the two of them is clear from the start, but their affections towards each other develop slowly throughout the story – which was great, because I hate it when a romance blossoms too fast and then you lose every interest in the characters or their further relationship. This is definately not the case here.

The story is very action-driven, from reclaiming a Princess’ soul from a Hellhound, secuding a wicked queen and trying to prevent a war between Heaven and Hell, a lot of things are happening and sometimes it’s just too much. Had all of this taken place in a 400 page novel, it would have been fun and entertaining, but to push all of that in a 70 page novella is a bit too ambitious. It left a lot of questions unanswered (for instance: Why use souls as a currency? Why would an angel want to start a war between Heaven and Hell? What actually happens when you lose your soul?), and little room for details. All in all, this left me a bit dissapointed. There were things I wanted to know more about, and things I think could have easily been left out, for example the whole Snow White sidestory. To be honest, I was a bit confused about all that: when you have a novel with a great storyline and interesting characters, then why suddenly fall back upon a well-known fairytale? It just seemed out of place.

All in all, Karalynn Lee was perhaps a bit too ambitious considering all the things she wanted to include in the novel, but on the other hand she did do a great job writing her novella. I loved the characters and their relationship, the fast-paced action and upcoming Apocalyps/War Between Heaven and Hell backstory. The ending really left me impressed, although I won’t get into more detail about that. 😉 I would love to read more from her, and can’t wait until she writes another book. Perhaps a novel this time?

You can visit the author’s website here.

Book Review: Shards of a Broken Crown by Raymond E. Feist

19039985Title: Shards of a Broken Crown
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1998
Rating: 2,5 stars

The enemy has been routed, yet peace still eludes the Kingdom. Midkemia lies in smouldering ruins following the Demon King’s siege. Many lives have been lost, including that of the brave James, Duke of Krondor.

As the people turn their hands to rebuilding their once great nation, a new threat arises from the ashes of war: the fearsome Fadawah, Former Commanding General of the Army of the Emerald Queen. He has grasped the fallen reins of command and seeks to forge a personal empire out of the wreckage of the Western Realm.

And so it falls to two young men – Jimmy and Dash – grandsons of the late Duke, to gather together the shards of the broken crown and resurrect the Kingdom to its former glory.

Shards of a Broken Crown – the unforgettable finale to the world wide best-selling Serpentwar Saga.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Shadow of a Dark Queen, Rise of a Merchant Prince and Rage of a Demon King.

To be honest, I don’t know what Feist was thinking when he wrote this novel. It’s like he put everything he had into the previous one, Rage of a Demon King, and was now left to tie the knots of storylines that were half-developed, or spin a new beginning and end to plotlines that were already long passed their due time, and had no inspiration whatsoever to do this in the marvellous way he knows how to. It’s very peculiar how Feist portrays his greatness as master of the fantasy genre in Rage of a Demon King, and then totally and utterly fails to even get half-way the standard he set, in the last novel of the series. Maybe I’m getting something wrong here, but I was always convinced that the last novel of a series should be its greatest, as everything finally comes together and it’s time for the final showdown. Unfortunately it seems as if the showdown already happened, and Feist just wrote another novel for the sake of it.

Right from the start, there was something about Shards of a Broken Crown that bothered me endless. It was like I couldn’t get a grip with the characters, although we had been bonding for three novels now, and I knew the attachment was there. I just couldn’t find it. The characters seemed flat, emotion-less, and kept reminiscing about the past and great heroes like Prince Arutha conDoin and Jimmy The Hand, who made it to Duke of Krondor. Yes, I got the message first time around: Feist killed off all his masterly-crafted characters, and is now stuck with a bunch of wannabes of whom none has even the slightest potential to do something extraordinary. However, c’est la vie, and move on already. Unfortunately there aren’t incredibly clever or undoubtably courageous people in every war we end up fighting. I don’t see any reason how continuously whining about it is going to get the Kingdom back. Not only is the total lack of effort of any character in the first hundred pages in the book absolutely annoying, it also made me feel one emotion I have never felt before when reading a Feist book: boredom.

Yes, sorry to admit it, but this book bored me. And not even slightly, but a whole lot. The characters were dancing in front of my eyes doing God-knows-what, fighting off the army of the Empire of Kesh (who found no better time to attack the Kingdom then now, when it’s lying in complete ashes and a trail of devastation right across the land) or the demon army of the now-dead Emerald Queen, and I found myself not caring in the least. I actually flipped through some pages, sighed when once again the heroes were fighting an epic battle without any good cause, and wished they would already do something useful, unexpected or funny. Anything. All I got from this novel was: battle, battle, battle, Patrick does something stupid and acts like a spoiled brat and everyone hates him but he’s the King so no one will tell that to his face, battle, battle. No clever games in the style of Jimmy the Hand or heroic endavours by any of our heroes, no.

The thing is that Feist tried really hard to give the general feel of a kingdom at war here, with the perils and feelings of devastation, the civilians turning on each other, and the hardship of each day. But he took two wrong turns with that, and suddenly all I get from the novel is ‘blah’. First thing he did wrong is that he focused too much on the actual battling, especially when he added the ‘sort of plot twist with the dark energy that I saw coming from the start of the novel’ and we were off again for another heroic showdown between Pug and who-the-hell-cares. Secondly, he tried so hard to make Patrick seem like the worst ruler in history and to be able to think back of old times when the kingdom was still led by Prince Arutha. But newsflash. Patrick isn’t really such a bad ruler. Sure enough, he goes and bosses Pug around which you don’t do towards a magician who could basically made you explode in a matter of seconds. And yes, he doesn’t always make the right decisions, and he’s short-tempered, and sometimes a bit childish. But are Feist’s chosen two, main characters Jimmy and Dash really that much better?

In comes Malar, some fellow whom Jimmy and Dash found along the road. Everything about this fellow screams “SPY” yet the two chose to trust him, a mistake their grandfather would never forgive them for, had he known. Naturally Malar The Spy turns against them at some point, and they end up greatly endangering their Kingdom by trusting The Most Obvious Spy in History. Later on, Dash gets romantic feelings for a young and supposedly really, really hot female thief. Now I don’t want to spoil everything for you guys, but the decisions he makes afterwards are very irrational, and sometimes even downright stupid. Once again, Jimmy the Hand would turn around in his grave, and do everything he possibly can to come back and haunt his most idiotic grandchildren. And the thing about these two? They think they’re all-so-awesome, and everyone likes them, but in fact they’re no more grown up than Patrick is.

That being said, Patrick was the only character in this novel I could remotely relate to, and that’s saying something. Really, I can imagine it can’t be easy being so young and unexperienced and being in charge of the only army standing between the enemy and the total destruction of everything and everyone you’re ever loved, and you are responsible for. Plus, everyone is counting on you to make decisions wiser and greater men would have trouble making. But I can tell you, at some point in this novel, when against all odds Patrick appears on the stonewall facing the enemy, I was cheering for him. I really saw a King in the making, a King who will be able to rule properly one day, once his Kingdom is restored. But nevertheless, when the only character you can actually relate to is the one the writer has desperately tried to portray as being childish and immature, you know something is wrong with the book.

I wouldn’t have shed the tear had Feist just written another fifty pages to Rage of A Demon King, and called it the end. Start another series on how the Kingdom rebuilds itself, or whatever, or just rewrite this novel completely, because it really isn’t good. Flat characters with hardly any personality, a predictable storyline, and just…bad. Not the Feist I’m used to, and definately not a Feist I want to read more books from. Ofcourse you should read it for the sake of the rest of the series, but after seeing what amazing things this author can do in Rage of A Demon King, Shards of A Broken Crown is nothing but a major dissapointment.

Book Review: Rage of A Demon King by Raymond E. Feist

18856862Title: Rage of A Demon King
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1997
Rating: 5 stars

Midkemia once again lies under the terrible shadow of the Emerald Queen. Her dark forces are ready to launch a devastating invasion against the Kingdom of the Isles. Come the battle’s dawn the magician Pug, along with his life-long warrior friend Tomas, discover that something far worse than the Queen’s mere sorcery is afoot. For elemental, malevolent forces are being unleashed…forces that threaten to tear Midkemia apart unless Pug and his band of supporters can track down the long-missing sorcerer Macros the Black and confront his formidable powers.

A loyal soldier and a wealthy merchant have served bravely in the flames of an enduring war that is ravaging their land. But swords, bows, wits and courage will no longer be enough to defeat the scourge that is descending upon their home. For a foul and terrible thing has escaped from a world already devoured to feed on one consumed by chaos – an insatiable nightmare creature of dark and murderous nature which seeks to own and corrupt the very source of life itself.
The final conflict is joined, pitting serpent against man and magician against demon. For those who battle in the cause of good, there will be victory…or there will be doom for all.

There can be no other outcome.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Shadow of a Dark Queen and Rise of A Merchant Prince!

In Rage Of A Demon King Feist goes above and beyond all expectations, and lifts her writing to a new level alltogether. The brilliance of this novel can only be compared with his debut novel, Magician, and even then Rage of A Demon King is victorious. My favourite Feist novel up to date, definately a must-read and one of the most intriguing, breath-taking and indulging fantasy novels ever written. Just when I thought I couldn’t be amazed anymore, I find such a work of beauty.

The first part of this series, Shadow of A Dark Queen, was mostly written from the viewpoint of young Eric Von Blackmoor, former nobody, who manages to climb up to the rank of sergeant-major by the end of the second novel. The latter, Rise of A Merchant Prince, focuses on Rupert Avery – childhood friend of Eric -‘s personal and financial growth, and his path to become the wealthiest merchant in the Kingdom. Both entertaining, well-written novels, with nice twists and turns around every corner, but nothing compared to Rage of A Demon King, where Feist puts everything together. The story is told from all sorts of different views: we have Pug, the greatest magician the Kingdom has ever known, who is now on a quest to find Macros The Black, Eric who is trying the best he can to keep the enemy army at bay, Rupert Avery who single-handedly supports this war when it comes to money, and the entire royal family – William, Arutha, Prince Patrick and Robert -, most of whom are constantly wondering how they can prevent the war, or atleast make it less bloody. The reappearance of familiar and loved characters like Nakor, and overpowered magician Pug (who now finally discovers the limits of his powers) makes this novel heartwarming at times, but icely cold at others.

The storyline, told from all these different perspectives, doesn’t get boring for one single minute. The intrigue, the double-crossing, the clever plans to reduce the size of the gigantic army coming their way, and the growing tension every minute the army draws closer, turn this novel into something brilliant. Feist manages like no other to describe the anxiety staring into the face of war, the sacrifices of men whose loyalties bind them to a Kingdom, the total despair when you lose everything you ever held dear, and the cold and calm realisation that the end is near. A magician with words, a master of human emotions, Feist surprises everyone with this excellent piece of literature. Even me.

Book Review: Rise of a Merchant Prince by Raymond E. Feist

18858089Title: Rise of a Merchant Prince
Author: Raymond E. Feist
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Year of publication: 1995
Rating: 4 stars

Roo Avery, recently returned from a harrowing brush with the armies of the Emerald Queen, is now free to choose his own destiny and his ultimate ambition is to become one of the richest and most powerful merchants in Midkemia.

But nothing can prepare him for the dangers of the new life he has chosen where the demand for repayment of a debt can be as deadly as a knife in the shadows. Even those closest to him are suspect and as Roo struggles to build his financial empire, betrayel is forever close at hand. His instinctive cunning will serve him well, but he will soon realise that the road to success is far from smooth.

And while Roo works towards achieving his goal, the memory of the distant forces of darkness are never far away. For the war with the Emerald Queen is far from over and the inevitable confrontation will pose the biggest threat yet to his new found wealth and power.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Shadow of a Dark Queen!

Rise of a Merchant Prince, in all honesty, is somewhat of an “awkward” novel, compared to the other works written by Feist, and in the fantasy genre in general, but as an outcast-book there are actually two ways you can look at it: either you think it is the best thing that ever happened to the genre in terms of leading character and plot development, or you wish you had never even picked it up to begin with. Although the story of Rupert Avery’s rise from a commoner to one of the richest men in the Kingdom hasn’t entirely convinced me, I wouldn’t call it a complete failure either. From what I’ve read people are either entirely in love with this book, or they hate it with a passion. I guess I’m somewhere inbetween, as I do see some remarkable strengths in this book, along with some surprisingly obvious weaknesses. Not Feist’s best, but perhaps one of his most original works up to date.

In this novel, Feist shifts the focus from Erik Von Blackmoor to his best friend, Rupert Avery. Roo’s personality is a welcome change from the flawless Erik, who manages to be so amazing it gets annoying after a while. Rupert may not be the prettiest person alive – which actually works in his advantage, as it turns him into a much more believable character readers can actually relate to – but he has more personality and wit in his one hand than Erik has in his entire, utterly gigantic body. Roo starts out as a virtual nobody in the world of business, with one good idea gone completely wrong when he gets robbed from his well-earned money, but on sheer determination and a clever mind alone, he manages to make a fortune in an amazingly short amount of time. Feist really focuses on the more down-to-earth, business side of Midkemia here, a welcome change from all the warfare, epic battles and high-end magic. There is no better character he could have chosen as protagonist of this story than Rupert Avery: a man with flaws, but with a sparky and entertaining personality.

I really had trouble putting down Rise of a Merchant Prince once I really got into it, which is always a good sign. The intrigue, the drama, really showed how tough the world of business is, even in a fantasy middle-age world like Midkemia. It really portrayed the struggles of ordinary people just trying to get by, and Roo had to use all his intelligence and wit not to drown in that overwhelming ocean of intrigue here. Entertaining, sometimes even fascinating, but I can imagine that this book isn’t for everyone out there. If you’re really into the old fantasy clichés with epic quests, magicians and dragons, then Rise of a Merchant Prince really isn’t your deal. If you’re somewhat like me, and you’ve been eager for a fresh wind in the fantasy realm for a while now, then you will find this book to fulfill that wish.

Also, Feist deserves a thumbs up as in this book he finally steps away from his medieval perspective on women: either they’re unreachable statues of virtue and spoiled brattiness (princess Carlina and princess Anita from The Riftwar Series) or they’re hookers, or sort of hookers, and don’t seem to have even a spark of intelligence or a mind of their own. Luckily, in the midst of this series, Feist introduces interesting female characters who put some of the male characters to shame when it comes to intelligence and personality. Sylvia Easterbrook, a beautiful young woman and love interest of Roo, is the most well-developed female character created by Feist up to date. She is cunning, ambitious, determined, and isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to increase her own fortune and wealth. So perhaps she’s not the most likeable person on this planet, but atleast she has personality. Now I can only hope Feist keeps on introducing female characters who are more than little puppets, and then he’ll score even higher on my list.