Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On is a 522-page fantasy novel by Rainbow Rowell, published by St. Martin’s Griffin in October of 2015.

23734628Simon Snow, a wizard in his eighth year at Watford School of Magicks lives with his evil, vampire roommate Baz and is constantly worrying about and fighting against the Insidious Humdrum. The story shifts between Simon, Baz, and their friends Penny and Agatha’s points of view. More

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling is a 464 page novel, published by Harper Paperbacks in 2013. It’s the first in the series of the same name.

The Queen of the Tearling Cover

Much scientific (especially medicinal) knowledge was lost during the Crossing—three centuries previous to the events in this post-apocalyptic tale. I believe the Crossing was from America to Europe, partially due to a legend of an entire ship full of doctors and medical equipment sinking during the Crossing.

In the new feudal world, Queen Kelsea–who has spent 19 years being raised and trained to rule the Tearling–is herded onto the throne in place of the Regent who happens to be her slovenly uncle, desperate to keep his place on the throne. More

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Libriomancer is the first book in the Magic Ex Libris series by Jim C. Hines. It is a 308 page fantasy novel published in August 2012 by DAW. I’ve never read anything by Hines before, but this was a pleasant first novel experience.

Libriomancer coverBefore I get into characters, I wanted to describe libriomancy for anyone who hasn’t read the book. Libriomancy is what it sounds like–book magic. The most known form of libriomancy is the act of pulling objects, any that are small enough to pass through the borders of the pages, out of books and into our world. There are deeper and more interesting forms, but most libriomancers are only aware or capable of that basic ability. Libriomancy was founded by Johaness Gutenberg, and the background of it is fascinating.

The story is set in the UP (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan. It is told through Isaac Vainio’s perspective. Isaac is a sort of forcibly-semi-retired libriomancer that currently catalogues books in a library. His fire spider Smudge is his constant companion who ignites whenever any negative magical beings are around (he’s on his usual place–Isaac’s shoulder–on the cover). The other main character is Isaac’s female friend Lena Greenwood, who is a magical dryad that was plucked out of a book before she was actually alive.

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone was recommended and lent to me by a friend. It is a 418 page fantasy/magical realism novel by Laini Taylor. It is also the first book in the series of the same name.

The plot of the novel focuses on a 16 year old girl, Karou, who grew up in Prague in the presence of three chimaera and strange men who bring teeth to the chimaera named Brimstone to trade for wishes. Needless to say, her childhood was a little odd. Karou attends a school for the arts; she studies drawing and painting alongside her best friend Zuzana, who studies more physical arts–like puppetry.

Everything seems “normal,” or as normal as it can get for Karou, until Brimstone sends her on a mission to get more teeth in Marrakesh (Morocco) and she is interrupted by Akiva, an angel bent on closing the portal doors to Brimstone’s shop and cutting Karou off from her only family, for reasons unknown to her. When Karou tries to stop him, she sets on an unstoppable course to finding the true, awful, source of magic and the unending war in another world known as Eretz between angels and chimaera.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora is a little hard to describe. On the surface, it is a 504 page novel by Scott Lynch. At the end of the novel, I noticed it’s library categories: Swindlers and Swindling, Robbers and Outlaws, Orphans, and Gangsters, and none of that sounds interesting to me, even now that I’ve read this book. Let me tell you, although those categories may seem to fit, it’s only because this book not only blends and crosses over genres, it completely ignores them.

Setting had a huge impact on the story, as it was set in some pseudo magical Renaissance Italy–possibly Venice as there are a lot of water-based scenes and I can just imagine how it probably smelled. There is an interesting religion set up in this country (multiple countries are described and given their own religions–huzzah for world-building!) which deals with 12–or 13, depending on who you ask–patron saints of a myriad of everyday things. Saints of each god are revered, even by those with no reverence for anything.

The plot is almost too large to talk about as one thing. So much goes on in this book that by the time I was done with it, it felt like I had gone on a whirlwind ride. The story starts out with young Locke Lamora being sold to a priest of Perelandro, Lord of the Overlooked, who resents buying him because he is a thief with illusions of grandeur that got some of his thiefly peers killed. Chains, the fake-blind priest of Perelandro, raises Locke with two other initiates, Calo and Galdo. They learn fine etiquette, languages, mummery, and much more. More

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

The Way of Shadows was Brent Weeks’s 645 page debut novel. It is the first book in the finished Night Angel Trilogy, which is a fantasy trilogy that Weeks has stated that he plans to write more about in the future. I borrowed this from the online NEIBORS site via my hometown library.

The plot takes place mainly in Cenaria, a country that is quite far behind us in technology. The main character, Azoth, is a guild rat who dreams of a better life. The guilds are groups of children and teens that steal to survive in the gutters and alleys of Cenaria’s ghetto, the Warrens. Azoth goes to the top wetboy–Durzo Blint–to apprentice him in order to get out of the slums. A wetboy is similar to an assassin, except for the fact that they are practically infallible. As Weeks writes, a wetboy has a deader, an assassin has a target–because assassin’s sometimes miss. Azoth does everything he can to get out of his abusive guild and into Durzo’s life, although overcoming his innate goodness makes his entrance into the world of killing difficult. More

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

The Blinding Knife is the 671 page sequel to The Black Prism. It is the second book in the fantasy Lightbringer four book series by Brent weeks. This story continues the narrative of the seven Satrapies and the Chromeria.  For a fuller explanation of the government and magic system–chromaturgy–see my review of The Black Prism.

The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer, #2)In this novel, the story focuses on developing relationships between Gavin, the Prism of the Chromeria, and the people closest to him–Kip Guile (son), Karris White Oak (ex-fiance), Andross Guile (father), and Dazen Guile (prisoner/brother). Brent Weeks really does some great characterization in this novel. I actually began to like Kip, who was really bullheaded in The Black Prism. Well, he’s still bullheaded, but now he has goals and sticks up for himself. We also meet some new characters, like Teia, a small slave girl who has been sponsored to train and be tested as a Blackgaurd, and gain a deeper understanding of Chromaturgy and secret draftable colors thanks to Kip’s training in the Blackgaurd.

Also partially thanks to that training, the fighting and focus on battle in this novel was more intimate and more involved than in the first novel. Kip trains and plans to try out for the Blackgaurd, the elite force that guards the Prism’s life and answers only to the White (basically the head of the Chromeria). While Kip is training, Gavin is attempting to defeat the bane — a “god” of a certain color. Gavin first attempts to find and tackle the blue bane, which has been causing many oddities such as blue snowflakes around the world. While searching for the blue bane, he is also trying to stop war from happening. During his search, we see a lot more of his relationship with Karris, which was one of my favorite things to read about in both novels. Whispers of betrayal and regret make their interactions electric.

While in The Black Prism there were whispers of color wights (drafters gone mad after they draft too much) answering to a higher calling, this novel actually presents the real threat. The Color Prince, known as Lord Omnichrome, is a polychrome wight–a drafter of many colors who has “broken the halo” on all of them, meaning he should have gone mad from drafting so much light. Instead of madness, he has taken to leading the wights and people who believe that wights can still be sane. This goes against everything the Chromeria teaches, so Gavin has to deal with both the wight banes and the Color Prince in order to attempt to stop a war.

In The Blinding Knife, Weeks does some more amazing work with his light magic system, introducing a new draftable color and new concepts of drafting and alternate theories of wights. Along with those improvements, his fictional world grows even more; we are introduced to Seer Island, a remote location that houses a mystical Seer that sort of helps, in the vague way that Seers do, Gavin search for the blue bane. These aspects, and the excellent character building that Weeks does, make this an even more fantastic book than the first. I could hardly put it down. He even throws in a fascinating card game–Nine Kings–that I really hope he explores more in the next book. This series is one of the best that I have read in a long time, and if you haven’t started reading it, I ask… Why not?!

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Elantris is Brandon Sanderson’s debut novel. It is a 622 page fantasy standalone. After reading and loving the Final Empire trilogy from Sanderson, I asked for some more books by him and got this one for Christmas. I’ve just been waiting for finals crunch to be over, so once summer hit, I picked this book up right away.

Elantris

The story takes place ten years after the pristine city Elantris, and its god-like inhabitants–Elantrians–have fallen. Elantris was once the capital of Arelon, and a huge hub of activity, as the Elantrians could perform magic of sorts to heal and feed the people of Arelon. However, one day the shining silvery people of Elantris started losing their white locks, started losing their shine, and started developing black spots on their skin and aches and pains that would never cease. The people of Arelon condemned the Elantrians to stay in Elantris–once a beautiful city, now a large prison. The unfortunate thing about being an Elantrian is that you aren’t born one, you can’t decide to become one–you are instantly transformed into one randomly in the middle of the night. It is uncontrollable and unpredictable, and once you show the telltale signs of darkened skin and hair loss, you get thrown into the guarded city.

This story follows three main points of view. The first is of Arelon’s fallen prince, Raoden, who was taken by the Shaod (the Elantris transformation), and was pronounced dead by his kingly father and thrown secretly into Elantris; the second is of Sarene–a princess from another nation who was the intended wife of Raoden in a political marriage who now finds herself widowed to a man she never met in person; and third, Hrathen, a Shu-Dereth priest, who is sent to Arelon to convert the citizens to Shu-Dereth within 3 months, or face their extermination at the hands of his religion.

The setting and the multiple nations were really interesting to read about. Sarene was brought from her home country of Teod in order to enter a political marriage to Raoden that Hrathen’s religious advances put into jeopardy. Sanderson does a fantastic job of entwining the three points of view and bringing the story together. The separate POVs also allow for some much needed movement for the plot, which is a tad slow in some areas. However, the characterization and relationships between major and minor characters makes up for that. For one novel, an incredible amount of change happens to each character.

Just like Sanderson’s Mistborn series, this book has well developed characters, an interesting magic system (though not as thoroughly discussed as Final Empire’s magic), and a magnetic pull that won’t let you put it down until you finish. Raoden and Sarene were both incredible characters that I loved to watch learn their surroundings and adapt in order to lead. Hrathen was a great character to hate, in a deeper way than just being the “bad guy.” It is honestly surprising that this was Sanderson’s first novel, as it is well written. Although there are some bumps in the pace of the plot, overall, it is a fantastically deep read for how quickly it goes. I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy, politics, magic, or Brandon Sanderson novels.

The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore

The Crystal Shard is the first book in the Icewind Dale trilogy and the fourth book in the Drizzt Do’Urden series (after his original trilogy, Legend of Drizzt). It is a 344 page fantasy novel set in the Forgotten Realms, a popular Dungeons and Dragons campaign verse. Although this trilogy was actually written before Drizzt’s origin trilogy, it is in fact chronologically AFTER the Legend of Drizzt trilogy by R.A. Salvatore.

The Crystal Shard (Forgotten Realms: Icewind Dale, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #4)This novel follows Drizzt Do’Urden, a dark elf who forsook his evil brethren in their dark home of Menzoberranzan for the cold lands of Ten-Towns, Bruenor Battlehammer, a stalwart dwarf and one of Drizzt’s only true friends, Regis the halfling, a cunning thief who owns a mysterious pendant that helps other see his point of view, and Wulfgar the barbarian, who is rescued by Bruenor after the battle of Ten-Towns.

The main plot of The Crystal Shard focuses on a wizard, Akar Kessel, and his discovery of none other than… the Crystal Shard! It is a malicious, magical Shard that gives its rightful wielder immense power. Kessel intends to use the Shard to unite all the goblins, orcs, giants, and beasties in the Icewind Dale in order to take over Ten-Towns–home of many citizens and our heroes.

Another threat to the towns are the barbarians that have been putting aside their differences in order to attack the towns and steal their wealth. While these threats are obvious to our heroes, the people of Ten-Towns will never admit something is wrong — so it is up to Regis, the cunning halfling, to try to gather the towns’ forces in order to save the people. There are, of course, character developments and fun training sessions from Drizzt, the ultimate fighter, but the majority of the novel deals with the impending battles and then the battles themselves.

What I really love about Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms novels is that they are so straightforward that they make for incredibly fast reads. The story is not slow paced or fast paced–it just is. The fighting is done well, it doesn’t take too long and isn’t too brief. The characterization is deep throughout the novels but not overdone. These are just solid fantasy novels about pretty typical RPG characters–a cunning and precise drow, an easy to anger and Mithral-loving dwarf, and a brutally strong and single-minded warrior. It is enjoyable and excellent at getting to the point.

If you haven’t read the Legend of Drizzt trilogy, don’t fret. This book catches you up on all the plot points and characters you missed. Although I enjoyed that series a lot, as I really loved Drizzt’s character development and homeworld, it is not necessary to read before reading The Crystal Shard. I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys fantasy or role playing worlds.

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The Magician King is a 416 page fantasy novel. It is the sequel to The Magicians, the middle book in The Magicians trilogy. I bought this quite a while ago, and decided to pick it up to continue the story of Quentin, Julia, Eliot, and Janet.

The Magician King

This story is mostly set in Fillory, the magical meta-world in the series that is featured in a series of novels that Quentin is obsessed with that pretty closely resemble the tales of Narnia. The other parts of the novel take place in Italy, Brooklyn, and an odd assortment of other towns that Quentin and Julia visit. The main plot is much shorter than the first book, which was a bit of a breath of fresh air. The story starts out with the four rulers of Fillory and their lackluster adventures. Quentin is dying for something a little more exciting, and he unwittingly gets it when he travels to Outer Island and finds a key that kicks him out of Fillory and back into real life. The rest of the story centers around
Quentin and Julia trying to get back to Fillory.

My favorite part of the book was another large plot line, which was a woven narrative from the perspective of Julia previous to meeting Eliot and Janet, after Quentin had left for magic college. Julia was supposed to forget that she attended the Brakebills College magical exam, but they couldn’t keep her memories away. She fell into depression and quit caring about school and family. She was desperate to find magic — she would go to safehouses and learn magic from some pretty seedy types. It was her refreshing active roll that balanced Quentin’s angsty inaction and kept the book moving. Julia went from being a character I cared very little about to one of my top three favorites. Quentin, however, remained in the bottom of my favorites. He is still exceedingly angsty and quite selfish, though not as much as in the first novel, thankfully.

While this novel holds less of the Harry Potter/Narnia feeling that The Magicians did, it had a lot better paced plot and kept me more engaged. The first third of the book was what seemed a continuation of The Magicians, but once it broke free of that, The Magician King’s story soared. I finished the rest of the novel in one day. In particular, Julia’s POV was incredibly dark and intriguing. Once she gets into a good group of magicians, they explore unknown and dangerous territory, which fascinates me.

If there was one thing I did not like, besides Quentin’s horrible post-teen angst, it was how Grossman drew attention to Julia’s oddness. Mentioning that Julia never spoke with contractions was jarring–mentioning when she broke character and started using them was just annoying. Although that part seemed unnecessary, Grossman clearly has fun with breaking the fourth wall in this novel. More than just bringing up pop cultural references, he refers to Fillory in a Harry Potter/Narnia sense in the novel. It made the story feel very modern and fun, which allowed for a little forgiveness in mentioning certain peoples’ character flaws.

Overall, The Magician King is a solid sequel to The Magicians. Though I would never have guessed it from how the story ended, the final page in the book had an advert for the next book in what is planned to be a trilogy. After doing a bit of researching, I found that the name of the next and final book in the trilogy is (quite probably) The Magician’s Land. After enjoying The Magician King, I know I will pick the third book up and read it when it comes out. If you haven’t ventured into the magic world that Grossman created, and you enjoyed the similar series (HP, Narnia), I would recommend starting out with The Magicians. It was a perfect disillusioned story after finishing the epic Harry Potter adventure of my youth.

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

The Daylight War is the third installment in the Demon Cycle, a planned five-novel series by Peter V. Brett. It is a 639 page fantasy novel. The story continues to follow the main characters of the previous novels and adds a new main POV — Inevera — the woman (should I say seductress?) on the cover on the novel.

The Daylight War

The first two novels in this series were focused on two powerful men who learn the secrets of defeating corelings, Arlen Bales and Ahmann Jardir. This novel focuses heavily on the women behind the scenes of the men, Renna, Leesha and Inevera. The main plot centers around the tensions between all these people, and the fact that each community believes either Jardir or Arlen are the Deliverer-come-again to rally armies and save humanity from the corelings. In the meantime, the mind demons become aware of these two powerful minds and aim to destroy them before they can make a difference in the world. Unfortunately for the demons, Jardir is equipped with ancient weapons of immense magic and power that protect him, and Arlen — thanks to consuming demon meat and tattooing himself with wards — is learning the secrets of their power, and starts traveling through the core and virtually teleporting around the world.

Along with the demon battle going on, the namesake, The Daylight War, is finally getting a little more exciting. The Krasians have left the desert and are coming to the north to gather everyone into one great force to fight the demons. In order to rally forces, first they must “convince” the northerners to come to their side. This shows the culturally real side of the Krasians; they rape, pillage, set fire to food supplies and force their women-as-second-citizens culture onto the greenlanders. We get to see this in-depth when Leesha and some of her company travel to the Krasian fort. Seeing the culture push was a wake up for how brutal most Krasians can be. I loved these sections of the book, though–the Krasians are and have been my favorite to read about in the second and third novels. Brett is excellent at exploring and describing different cultures.

While this story follows Arlen and Renna, Rojer, Leesha, Jardir, the mind demons, and pretty much all the characters from the previous novels, my favorite character in The Daylight War was the new main POV, Inevera. Because she was so mysterious in the first two novels, I was always curious about her training as a Krasian dama’ting, a healer and fortune teller of sorts. While most dama’ting are born into the life, every once in a while the dice, mystical pieces of carved demon bone, foretell a Damaji’ting–the predicted wife of Kaji, the original leader of the Krasians (and therefore wife of the Sharum Ka, first spear and leader of their country). Because the other nie’dama’ting have known each other and have been training since birth, Inevera is not only behind in knowledge, but also an outsider and a pariah in her group of peers. Her struggles are endearing — I applaud Brett for being able to make me sympathize with someone I once detested.

On the lighter side of things, we also get a POV from Abban — the Krasian trader and friend of Arlen. Smaller perspectives like his–while not a huge source of plot movement–kept the story fresh, because by the end of the novel, I wasn’t sure if I could stand to read, “Love you Arlen Bales” another time. The romance is fun for a while, seeing Arlen being more of a normal human, but Renna’s character seemed like she was trying too hard to please him. She becomes sort of a wild woman, hunting all the time, eating demon flesh, a generally violent and feral woman-beast. It seemed Arlen was more a temperance for her than she for him.

The coreling battles, while less numerous, were outstanding in this novel. Corelings start coordinating, and the mind demons act as generals to the lesser demons. Their attacks on major human settlements were both disturbing and fascinating. This is where Jardir’s and Arlen’s powers truly shone; Brett did a fantastic job narrating the battles. At the end of the novel, when the demons have been at bay for the waning of the moon, there is a human battle of sorts (supporting the title!), and is all too brief for my tastes. It was thrilling, but the ending felt unfinished. Perhaps that’s because I am now anxious to read the next novel and don’t want to wait.

Overall, I would say this book is an improvement in point of view on The Desert Spear, and moves along much quicker, if only because you’re hurrying to get to Inevera’s next section. This installment of the Demon Cycle is a great addition, so if you’ve read The Warded Man and The Desert Spear, this is definitely a must-read. If you haven’t had a chance to get into the series, what are you waiting for? This series is incredibly creative and fun.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

When I was desperately in need of some well done fantasy, I went looking for a new author. Peter V Brett led me to Brent Weeks, and I tried out The Black Prism on a whim. It is a 629 page sort of epic science fantasy novel, the first in a planned four book deal known as the Lightbringer series.

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)

Before I detail the plot and characters, I want to give a little description of the magic system which centers around light and the ability to “draft” physical objects from it. Each drafter can draft different colors — each color has certain strengths and weaknesses; green can be incredibly durable, but will also weigh you down and can induce mania, superviolet may be invisible to most, but it can be used in secret messaging, and so on. When someone can draft, which not everyone can, they can be a monochrome (one color), bichrome (two colors), polychrome (3+ colors, usually in successions: red-orange-yellow), or if they can draft every color, they are known as the Prism.

Only one person can be the Prism at a time. They last for years in increments of 7 — they die out after 7, 14, or if they’re lucky, 21 years. Gavin Guile is the Prism at present. Unfortunately, due to unknown circumstances, his younger brother Dazen was also granted prismatic drafting abilities. This spawned the Prism’s War (or the False Prism’s War, if you were on Dazen’s side). Gavin won the war 16 years ago, and has been the religious figurehead, sort of emperor, and High Luxlord Prism of the Chromeria ever since. The Chromeria is a neat, sort of oppressive ruling body and elite school where anyone who can draft, and can afford it or earn a sponsor, goes to learn the magical craft.

The Black Prism follows Gavin and a few other key characters, like his bastard son, Kip, his prisoner and brother, Dazen, his ex-fiance Karris, a general who fought on Dazen’s side in the False Prism’s War, Corvan Danavis, and Corvan’s daughter, Liv. I honestly can’t talk too much about plot without giving away a huge spoiler that happens about 1/3 of the way into the book. Though I will say that watching Kip and Liv, both from the same town originally, learn and grow so differently based on how the Chomeria affects them when they go there was a great dynamic.

Spoilers aside, the plot focuses on Gavin’s great purposes that he sets out to accomplish before his final 7-year span finishes and how each of the other characters eventually help or hinder him. In the land, there are seven satrapies (sort of territories/countries) that are loyal to the Chromeria. Unfortunately, one of them–Tyrea, has had their head satrap (diplomatic leader) go rogue and insist he is the King of Tyrea. Gavin has to enlist the help of everyone to try to figure out why this occurred–aside from the fact that Tyrea suffered major losses 16 years ago in the (False) Prism’s War–and how they can put an end to the senseless massacres of innocent citizens.

I loved this book, and the magic system was incredibly fun to learn about. Of course, once you think you have a handle on it, Weeks throws in some curveballs that the characters don’t even understand, but that just adds to the whole mystery of chromaturgy (drafting powers). The only real complaint I have about the book is Kip’s POV. Even from the beginning of the novel, I wasn’t a huge fan of his sections. At first, I thought he was a boring weakling, but even after he started becoming more powerful, he was just awkward. It was obvious that it was part of his appeal, but I didn’t find it that appealing. The shifts from third person narration to first person in his sections was a little jarring at times, and sometimes just felt unnatural. Fortunately, it was a rare occurrence that the rest of the brilliant narrative easily makes up for. Balancing his incredibly awkward teen vibe, Gavin Guile absolutely shines in the book as a debonair, clever, handsome, and extremely powerful ruler who is actually wily and more humble than he likes to admit. His character was incredibly fun to read as a POV and I am excited to get more of him in the next book, The Blinding Knife.

With The Black Prism, Brent Weeks spins an incredible tale of secrecy, intrigue, loyalty, and questionable faith. If you enjoy high/epic fantasy with incredibly intricate and clever magic systems, I highly recommend The Black Prism. It’s through the magic and worldbuilding that the book really shines. With plenty of character growth in the second half of the novel, the Lightbringer series is a promising one.

The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett

The Desert Spear is a 583 page fantasy novel. It is the second book in The Demon Cycle. After reading The Warded Man (first of the series), I immediately picked up the Desert Spear and continued the journey of Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer. Along with the familiar characters, Peter V. Brett added in a few new perspectives, like that of Jardir (Ahmann asu Hoshkamin am’Jardir am’Kaji) from Krasia.

The Desert Spear (Demon Cycle, #2)

The first 200 pages detail Jardir’s life from childhood to the approximate present that The Warded Man brought us to. Jardir, being a male, was basically taken from his family at age 9 and put into intense training called Hannu Pash. Through this training, almost all the boys of Krasia are trained in order to fight alagai’sharak every night. During this, they use spears, nets, and teamwork to trap and kill corelings, the demons that rise from the core of the Earth every evening as the sun sets. It was fun to get a deep back story and understanding of Krasian culture and history as a precursor to the events in the rest of the novel. We also get a new view of Arlen here, as he manages to travel to Krasia and befriend Jardir.

Although I really enjoyed Jardir’s point of view, I think I would have liked it more if it was spread throughout the book rather than condensed into the first 200 pages. It felt as if his story was just playing catch-up to the other characters, and didn’t really fit into any major plot other than back story for a main character.

Along with Jardir, the second primary point of view comes from Renna Tanner, a young woman on a farm just outside of Tibbet’s Brook. When she was young, she and Arlen were promised (basically an arranged marriage agreement). Renna has it rough living with her family and rather disturbing and backwards father. Her viewpoint was an exciting way to get back into the hamlets without reliving the stories from the first novel. She eventually travels with Arlen, and it was nice to see him return to his human side after thinking absorbing Core magic was turning him into a demon.

Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer are returning POVs in The Desert Spear. In this book, I think Leesha’s view was my favorite. It was really fun to see her going on adventures. Other than that, I feel not too much changed from the first book that wasn’t natural progression. Aside from the regular human perspectives, this book actually brings in one of the more intelligent demon breeds — a mind demon — and gives a little hint into their thought process. In the face of this demon and the other corelings, humanity is desperate for the return of the Deliverer, a prophet foretold by both the Ejevah (Krasian holy text) and the Canon of the northern cities, to save them from the darkness. Krasia claims the deliverer is Jardir, and the northern cities and hamlets claim Arlen for role. It is this that sparks such tension between characters in this novel.

The book moved quickly, as it felt like something completely different from The Warded Man. The additional POVs really brought some spice to what could have been a simple continuation of The Warded Man. It was fascinating to see Krasia, a civilization that actively fights the corelings every night, rather than just hiding behind wards. Arlen’s explorations into various worldly places was one of the best things Brett could have done for the series to expand the world in a believable and understandable way. The exploration of previous POVs was interesting, and the new ones really brought a fresh feel to this book. If you liked The Warded Man, you should not miss The Desert Spear.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

The first book I finished this year was The Warded Man, the first of The Demon Cycle, and the debut novel of Peter V. Brett. It is a 453 page fantasy novel. I was recommended this by a trusted fantasy-reading friend and then happened to receive it and its sequel for Christmas and began reading them the next day.

The Warded Man (Demon Cycle, #1)

The Warded Man follows three main characters: Arlen, a young boy from Tibbet’s Brook; Leesha, a young girl from Cutter’s Hollow, and Rojer, a young boy who is orphaned at the age of 3 and travels with an alcoholic Jongleur (sort of jester). They all show interesting talents (warding, gathering, fiddling) and deal with hard lives thanks to mostly human pettiness and demon injuries (to self or family).

The story follows their progression into adulthood and their travels and dealings with Corelings, which are demons that rise from the core of Earth when the sun sets. Humans have suffered greatly at the hands of Corelings — hiding behind wards (magic symbols that deter the demons from living quarters), so they constantly check their homes’ wards and are at a constant struggle with keeping the hamlets (small villages) alive and thriving.

Of the three characters, I think I would pick Arlen as my favorite; perhaps that is just because he was strong enough to get away from a bad situation at home and pursue his own interests, even at a young age. I’ll be honest and say any book that relates magic and science have me hooked from the beginning; the wards in The Warded Man are particularly fascinating, and Arlen’s grasp of warding is admirable.

Peter V Brett’s intertwined plot of the three characters in order to tell this story is extremely well crafted. Never once did a character become boring before switching to anothers’ point of view. I was captivated by each viewpoint in the end, regardless of how little I liked the people surrounding each character (Brett also creates great unlikable characters!). Something that surprised me was how much I enjoyed watching Arlen, Rojer, and Leesha mature; though I saw much that could have gone wrong with telling the story over 7+ years, it was so well done that I can’t imagine it happening another way.

Overall, The Warded Man has quickly become one of my favorite fantasy novels (that I regularly lend out to others). Although this was the first book I finished this year, I have a feeling it will still be in the top three I’ve read in 2013 by the end of it. I must say, for a first novel, this is impressive! After finishing The Warded Man, I am particularly looking forward to reading The Desert Spear and The Daylight War, the second and third books in the planned 5-book Demon Cycle series. If you enjoy fantasy, I would absolutely recommend checking out The Warded Man!

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel is a prequel of sorts to the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. This book takes place in the same fictional world of vampires, werewolves, demons, and most importantly, Shadowhunters. However, this book takes place in the late 1870s and in London rather than New York City. Clockwork Angel is a 479 page fantasy novel, the first of a series called The Infernal Devices.

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)

This novel focuses on a girl named Tessa and her struggles to find and save her brother Nathaniel. They originated from New York, and were orphaned at three and six, respectively. When grown, Nathaniel leaves Tessa with their aunt while he moves to London for a job opportunity with the former employer of their father. When their aunt dies, Nathaniel sends a ticket for Tessa to come to London and live with him. Once she arrives in London, she is picked up by the Dark Sisters who proceed to force her to reveal her strange power. I don’t think it will give much away to say that she eventually escapes the Dark Sisters, but only after she really learns to use and control her power to Change into other people.

She is then taken to the London Institute, the home of the Shadowhunters. From here, the plot focuses on her getting to know the Shadowhunters, Will, Jem, Jessamine, and the two watchers of the Institute, Charlotte and Henry. They search for an unknown evil person, vampire, or demon who is trying to get rid of all Shadowhunters.

Whatever doubts Clare left me with the extremely disappointing City of Fallen Angels were quelled with this book. It was an incredibly quick read — it only took me a day to finish. This is light fantasy/romance at it’s best. After reading A Game of Thrones, a little bit of teen fluff was just what I needed. The characters were relatively simple, but of course, as is Clare’s style, the main male character seems dark and mysterious. There is a small bit of romance, but it does not detract from the story. Clare also sets up the fickle desires of humans quite well, even though Tessa isn’t technically human.

Though early on in the story, I really doubted whether or not Clare had really lost what she had in the early Mortal Instruments series, I think the almost steampunk nature of the novel and fun world helped draw me into the book.  I’m not really sure what Clare plans to do next with these characters, but I love the world she created so much that I’m positive I will continue the series at some point. I just hope she brings less of the human drama element and more of the fantasy element into play (the Fae were barely even mentioned!).

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