Friday, May 27, 2016

King's Folly (The Kinsman Chronicles)

Title: King's Folly

Series: The Kinsman Chronicles (Book #1)

Year: 2016

Author: Jill Williamson

Summary: The gods are angry.

Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers--everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father's superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful heir apparent to the throne.
When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles? (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Wilek 
~ Trevn 
~ Mielle
~ Charlon
~ Hinckdan 

Review: If I were to try to explain this book in one sentence, I'd say it was most like a parody of the End Times or Noah's Flood. The world has turned wicked in so many ways, and the one true god (Arman) is punishing the realms with the Five Woes, leaving a remnant behind and turning hearts back to good. 

This book is divided into three parts (Darkness Reigns, The Heir War, and The End of All Things), each of which was previously published in an ebook form. It was so nice to have the whole thing together in one book (bonus bragging points for getting to tote around a thick novel). In a nutshell, I have to say I really enjoyed reading this, and I'm hoping to get my hands on the next three parts, which are collected together under the title King's Blood

Wilek is a young prince (called a "sar") and in line to be named Heir by his father the king. However, his half-brother Janek is also a contestant in the Heir War. This begins as the central conflict of the story, yet the plot grows to include so much more. The false gods play a big part in this story, as each person, upon reaching maturity, picks five gods to serve out of a rather lengthy list. 

My favorite character, hands down, was Trevn. Energetic, fun-loving prince with a knack for running the roofs and annoying his mother in every way possible. Grayson, too, was pretty epic. I loved the character development, the easy-reading style, the action. Definitely all a plus! The abnormal amount of fragments on every page, I will admit, bothered me. Yes, it added to the fast pace of the book but, as a writer, my brain rebelled against reading all those incomplete sentences. *rant over*

There were, however, multiple things that made it really difficult to rate this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the plot and the characters and the world, but I struggled with putting the rating possibly at 3 stars or even 2. For two main reasons.

Advisory: First off, this book is of a world that has gone insanely wicked and against the teachings of truth. That being said, there is an awful lot of talk about prostitutes, concubines, and immoral affairs. It is common for the king and his of-age male heirs to have harems, and nobles at court talk about their different interactions with women. Nothing is described explicitly (other than a few kisses), but *much* is hinted at. I understand how the immorality was necessary to the plot, but reading about it made me uncomfortable. It was for this reason that I was tempted to rate this book at 2 stars. For this reason, I'd recommend this book for more mature readers. 

The other thing to take note of is the gods and magic. Yes, there is magic in this book. I was wary at first when it began showing up (and almost didn't finish the book because of it), but reading further helped me to understand how the author was using the magic. 

The gods that the people worship are shown as being false gods. Although the realms have turned away from Arman, he is the one true god over all. However, there is still demonic power in worshipping the false gods. The scenes describing the dark magic and spells I found really creepy, but they are all clearly shown in a very bad light. The people who use the demonic power/magic are called mantics, and they receive that power through the help of a god/goddess. To use the magic, the mantics have to ingest a poisonous drug (evenroot), after which they are able to see into the Veil (or the spiritworld). Demonic creatures known as shadirs help the mantics cast their spells from the Veil, although they cannot be seen by regular eyes.

So how do I stand on the issue of magic in this book? I do see it as necessary for the plot. In addition, I did think the author handled the issue very well. For most fantasy, it is difficult to use magic correctly without dabbling in something that our Lord condemns. The dark magic used in this book is shown clearly as being wicked, a power that is gained through complete submission to a demon. The magic cannot be used without the help of the demon and the consumption of the drug. It is excellently paralleled to the powers in our own world, the power of the Lord against the power of the devil. The devil does have power, and he does grant it to his servants for dark purposes, but in submitting to the devil, those people will never prosper nor receive the Lord's blessing. 

Also, please note fantasy violence. I didn't have a problem with any of it, but there are strange creatures who attack our heroes, people are injured/taken ill/killed, one man has his arm bitten off, but I thought it all handled well for the tone of the book. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

*Please note I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Daring Sacrifice (An Uncertain Choice)

Title: A Daring Sacrifice

Series: An Uncertain Choice (Book #2)

Year: 2016

Author: Judy Hedlund

Summary: In a reverse twist on the Robin Hood story, a young medieval maiden stands up for the rights of the mistreated, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. All the while, she fights against her cruel uncle who has taken over the land that is rightfully hers. Forced to live in the woods and hide with the poor people she's grown to love, she works to save and protect them, but she never anticipates falling in love with the wealthy knight who represents all she's come to despise. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Juliana Wessex
~ Collin Goodrich

Review: To be honest, I've gone back and forth with this review. Part of me really enjoyed this book, and the other part really didn't. I'll give you the low-down.

First of all, I really loved how the author twisted the beloved tale of Robin Hood to meet her own needs. Really. I thought it quite superbly done. There was a lot of recognizable Robin traits, and yet the novel had so much of its own spunk that it never tasted cliche. Definitely two thumbs up in that respect. I really do love it when novels claim to be retellings of favorite classics and then actually live up to that claim by holding onto everything I love so much about the aforementioned classics and also stand so well on their own that you don't need the original story to love the new one. So, if you're any fan of Robin Hood tales, put this one on your list.

The cast of characters were delightful. I actually liked our hero, Collin, when I fully expected not to. He's a great guy. Really. I loved watching how he grew throughout the story. Also, fantastic minor characters. I sense that's common for these types of books and me. 

This book is the second in a series; however, I haven't read the first. While it usually is a good idea to read books in order, I didn't find that I misunderstood anything in this book because I hadn't read the first one. Which was nice. *grins* I was a little worried at first to read the middle of a series first. 

Also: shout-out for the cover. It's just really cool and epic, and I really like it. Look at it again, folks. Don't you think so, too? Purple and green go really well together.

What I didn't like as much about this book was the romance. Yeah, I know. You guys are probably going to roll your eyes at me again and say, "We've heard this before." So, I'll keep my soap box short.

Lots of physical contact and mushy emotions as our two lovebirds got together. More than I found was comfortable for me. Juliana focused a lot on how Collin's touch made her feel, and I was, to be honest, disappointed. There's more to love than physical contact. *end rant*

Advisory: My romance soap box above, as well as some fantasy violence. Multiple characters are hurt/killed. If I recall correctly, there are also a few comments that I'd label for more mature readers.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

*Please note: I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.*