To Light the Dragon’s Fire by Margaret Taylor

TaylorToLightTheDragonsFireWhere I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!).

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Length: 7 hours 17 minutes

Series: Book 1 Dragons, Griffons, & Centaurs, Oh My!

Author’s Page

Twin sisters Terra and Lanni Heegan go caving in the wilds of Wyoming. For Terra, it is her last hurrah before entering into a loveless marriage. However, things take a turn pretty quickly and soon they are swept up in another world where shifters and chimeras rule. They will each face numerous foes, and perhaps even find a mate.

Draven is a shifter and lord of the land. He is use to being obeyed and his every word taken seriously. That is, until he is presented with two examples of the mythical being known as human. Terra is pretty sure Lanni has set this up. Perhaps it is with actors. Perhaps it is one of those all submersive vids that you can buy. Maybe even a dose of mushrooms. So when she doesn’t take Draven seriously, things go awry. He has to shift into his dragon form to save her from a nasty fall. Unfortunately. Draven’s guards take Terra’s actions as an act of aggression and she and Lanni are tossed in a dungeon, only to be rescued by an unlikely being.

The action picks up really quickly and Terra and Lanni, neither of the shrinking violet variety, do their best to hold their own. Periodically, they are being rescued. Sometimes they do the saving. Draven and his wing man (Arin) make a good duo for the twins to alternately argue with and fight evil side by side. The world building is full of fantastical creatures, such as talking animals, all sorts of chimeras, the shifters, and magical creatures who don’t appear to do any shifting (like the unicorns and rhocs). Arin is a bit of an outcast as he is part of a small group of beings that are never fully human, always retaining some traits of what they shift into. So I pictured him as looking a little like the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, but more disgruntled and trimmer, being the war commander he is.

While Terra is a bit more kick ass than Lanni, they both contribute to the plot and are not simply there as romantic interests. They do tend to do more thinking than the men, but this is required by someone if they are to outwit their foes. And the foes are many, with several of them hidden.

My one quibble is that Lanni becomes a trauma medic without having had any hands on training or experience, but just from having read a medical book or two. At one point, a character is injured, passes out, and Lanni stitches this character up. That’s fine. Lots of people can do stitches in a pinch. Once the character wakes, she goes on to say how they must have had some internal bleeding. Uh… well, if that is the case then it is pure luck they didn’t die and that the bleeding either stopped on it’s own, or slowed enough to leave the injured stable until a real medic could be called.

The romance is a light thread that carries throughout the book. For some of the characters, the connection is made really swift, and others it takes a while. It did not detract from the plot and in certain instances, added to it. There’s also a touch of modern and just over the horizon tech. I liked how this was done lightly, so that we could stay focused on the characters and the plot and not get hung up on whether this was fantasy or science fiction. The ending left us on a very dramatic note (which I liked) and then a bit of a cliffhanger. So be ready to jump right into Book 2 because there is plenty of plot left to unfold and resolve!

The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a good job with all the character voices. I especially liked his slightly furry voice for Aaron (and since he has whiskers and a kind of leonine face it totally fit). His female voices were believable and he had a range that allowed for distinct characters. There was a true challenge in doing voices for Terra and Lanni (who are twins) and yet making them distinct for the listener and he met that challenge with excellence.

What I Liked: So many magical beasties!; Terra and Lanni kick butt and add to the plot; plenty of action; dramatic ending; ready to jump into Book 2!

What I Disliked: Lanni has excellent trauma medic skills after reading a book or two.

BannerOnceUponATimeIXTis the season for fantasy reading. I am participating in this year’s Once Upon A Time IX reading event hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Anyone is welcome, so swing by SSD to join.

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Night Owl Romance

The Violet Hour Book Reviews

Kingdom of the Last Dragons by Theresa Snyder

SnyderKingdomOfTheLastDragonsWhere I Got It: Own an Audible.com copy.

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Mary Sibulsky

Length: 1 hour 55 minutes

Series: Book 2 The Farloft Chronicles

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works as a stand alone. However, if you want to give Book 1 a try, the audiobook version is free on the author’s website.

The Healer Theresa has returned to the kingdom after studying for a decade in the far east. She renews her friendships with Farloft the dragon and the Wizard Laval. She also gets to know James as he continues to make strides in his learning how to be a dragon. Meanwhile, Theresa’s niece visits. She catches the eye of both the Prince and James. Laval appears distracted and secretive and Theresa tries her best to pry out of him what is the matter. Pretty soon, the Zonguldak Ruby is casting it’s evil spell upon everyone.

This was a fun installment in this jaded and interesting dragon series. On the surface, these books look like children’s books. But once you start digging in to them, you see that the characters have real, human issues. Or dragon issues. Farloft is ancient, full of wisdom, and rather arrogant with his know-it-all ways. Laval is harboring a deep hurt (from Book 1) and prone to vengeance. His pain could damage more than just his target.

Then we have Theresa and her niece who are doing their best to try to reconcile these two old friends (Farloft and Laval) while not ticking off the Prince. Plus they have their own lives – healing, house chores, the niece’s art. Snyder’s writing is so concise that she can fit a lot into a book that isn’t even 2 hours long.

So it’s obvious that the author made the decision to write herself into the book as a pretty important character. Usually, I find it kind of awkward and clunky when an author chooses to do this. However, in this book it was seamless. I really didn’t notice it at first and about 10 minutes in, it finally clicked that our Healer was a version of the author herself.

In Book 1, we learned a bit about the issue between Laval and Farloft, and also how the rift between them deepened. In this book, we get the back story. For then ending, we have a very satisfying resolution to this issue. My time listening to this book was well spent time indeed!

Narration: Mary Sibulsky was a good choice for this book as it was told from Theresa the Healer’s point of view. She also had a range of voice for both men and women and I especially liked her voice for a ticked off James and a recalcitrant Farloft.

What I Liked:  Not just for kids; the cover art; plenty of story in such a short amount of time; the Farloft-Laval issue from Book 1 is revisited here in Book 2; satisfying ending; great narration. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – I really enjoyed this book.

Kind Little Edmond by Edith Nesbit

NesbitKindLittleEdmondWhere I Got It: Review copy provided by the narrator (thanks!)

Narrator: Karen Krause

Publisher: Audiobooks by Mike Vendetti (2015)

Length: 33 minutes

Series: Book 8 The Book of Dragons

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 8 in the series, it works completely as a stand alone.

This is the tale of young Edmond, who was filled to the brim with curiosity, so much so that he often irritated his elders. After all, finding out things for oneself isn’t anything like sitting quietly and attentively in a school room. He likes taking things apart to see how they work, and this irritates even more elders. But not his loving and doting grandmother.

One day, Edmond decides to explore the nearby mountains, and hears some very odd sounds. He builds a lantern of sorts and returns the next day. He meets and helps a mythical beast, who rewards him by telling him magnificent tales. he continues his explorations and eventually a beast is awakened that threatens the village!

This was a great little tale and I really enjoyed it. This is only my second Edith Nesbit tale, but I can’t believe I didn’t discover her works until early this year. I think these little dragon books are some of the best out there and are true classics that stand the test of time. I especially enjoyed this one as the tale has this underlying current about the value of learning things for oneself.

Narration:  Karen Krause once again had a great little kid boy voice, this time for Edmond. She also had some great voices for the few mythical beasts Edmond comes across. She also pulled off curmudgeonly elders.

What I Liked:  The cover art; mythical beasts; Edmond’s curiosity about the world; the calamity that hits and Edmond’s role in fixing it.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – this is a great short story!

James & The Dragon by Theresa Snyder

SnyderJames&TheDragonWhere I Got It: Free on the author’s website (thanks!).

Publisher: Self-published (2014)

Narrator: Steve Sibulsky

Length: 1 hour 36 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Farloft Chronicles

Author’s Page

A plague has beset the land and many have perished. The Wizard Laval believes he can find a cure to the illness, but he needs a bit of dragonwing. Will the only known dragon, Farloft, of the land cooperate? Meanwhile, James struggles in a bog, cutting peat for the oncoming winter. With both his parents dead, James is on his own and his crude & rude neighbors know it.

I initially took this as a kid’s book, but there are deeper plots going on here. I love how all the characters have flaws – Farloft is a know it all, the wizard is arrogant, the boy James is lonely and afraid. While the humans suffer from disease and starvation, the dragon dithers on whether or not to give up a bit of wing. Laval didn’t argue very hard in his first attempt, feeling that was beneath him. James has sticky fingers, but this could easily be explained as being destitute, orphaned, and 10 years old. So you see, it’s not a simple pleasant kid’s book where all the characters follow well-rehearsed lines.

I liked this book for it’s complexity. Farloft has a hundred and one stories to tell, and during his time with the recovering boy waiting out a snow storm, he has a captive audience to show off all his wisdom too. James, being the mostly good lad that he is, soaks it all up. They build a bond. But then reality intrudes and both realize that a human child and an ancient dragon can’t live together as family.

Meanwhile, the Wizard Laval plots vengeance. And he has decent cause! Laval turns to trickery and sneakiness, but I couldn’t blame him 100% either. Farloft’s first refusal cost Laval something dear. Indeed, there was little cut and dry about this story and that made me like it.

The ending solved some problems and left others dangling. I felt it closed out the smaller story arc well while leaving room for more Farloft Chronicles. Plus the ending had a little surprise twist that I quite enjoyed! Definitely worth the listen!

Narration: Steve Sibulsky was a good choice for this book. He had excellent voices for the know it all dragon, the arrogant wizard, the scared kid. Then he tossed in an array of side character voices. He made this book come to life!

What I Liked:  Not so simple kid’s book; all the characters have wants and not all wants will be met; they all make mistakes, some of which can’t be undone; satisfying ending with surprise twist. 

What I Disliked: This is a small criticism – I felt the ending could have used just a touch more in showing things from Laval’s perspective, considering what he lost.

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One Thousand Worlds in One Thousand Words

David Stevens

Lanie’s Book Thoughts

Undiscovered Tomes

The Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit

NesbitTheBookOfBeastsWhere I Got It: Won a copy on Eargasms (copy provided by the narrator) (thanks!)

Narrator: Karen Krause

Publisher: Audiobooks by Mike Vendetti (2014)

Length: 30 minutes

Series: Book 1 The Book of Dragons

Author’s Page

A child king (Lionel) finds a book once owned by one of his distant grandsires. Like all good kids, he plays with it and sets a giant butterfly free. He’s warned not to do so again, but he releases yet another fantastical critter (a bird of paradise), and then another (the dragon!), which threatens his kingdom and he must make it right again. A hippogriff and manticore come into play too!

This was a great story for kids and fun for adults too. The very young Lionel knows he is king, but also knows he must answer to his nurse for any bad behavior. He will be sent to bed without supper if he misbehaves. This was a great point about the story because, while the king supposedly had great control over his kingdom and people, he also had to face the consequences of poor choices.

The story starts off with some harmful ‘beasts’ that are really quite pretty to look at and enjoy. So at first, the consequences of messing around with this magical Book of Beasts is not readily apparent. But as the story continues, we find our young hero king in a world of trouble! I think this is great fun for both kids and adults and would be fine entertainment for a car ride.

Narration:  Karen Krause did a great job having the perfect little boy voice for the child king. She also had a stern, yet amusing, voice for the king’s nurse.

What I Liked:  The cover art; giant butterfly!; there’s a dragon involved; subtle point about consequences to actions/choices but not preachy at all.

What I Disliked:  Nothing – this is a great short story!

VintageScifiBadgeI’m taking part in Vintage SciFi Month over at The Little Red Reviewer. Fantasy is allowed too! This book was originally published in 1900 as part of a collection called The Book of Dragons. Anyone can join, so feel free to check it out!

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Weekend Notes

The Balborite Curse by Kristian Alva

AlvaTheBalboriteCurseWhere I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 6 hours 9 minutes

Series: Book 4 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 4 in the series, it works as a stand alone. It is like a first book in a second trilogy following characters we met in the first 3 books, but set years later.

This was another excellent installment in the Dragon Stone Saga. In this book, the main character is Tallin, the half-dwarf dragon rider and teacher to Elias from the first three books. He was a fascinating character in previous books and I was quite pleased to see him take center stage. The Balborite Curse takes place about 5 years after Book 3, Vosper’s Revenge. Peace has lasted, though it is threadbare and falling apart in places (such as the dwarf kingdoms). There are still few dragons and few riders. Sela is still head of the dragon riders but is soon called back from her vacation to help Tallin deal with yet one more merchant attempting to smuggle a deadly poison into the desert city. I sense these two may be headed for romance in future installments, but for this book there was just the merest hint of something more than friendship.

The interrogation of the merchant leads to more questions and sends Tallin on a small quest to ensure the safety of the merchant’s family, if they still live. Along the way, he visits Chua and Starclaw. Starclaw gives Duskeye (dragon companion to Tallin) some much needed advice on finding receptive dragon females, if any still live. Dragon reproduction is a taboo subject for humans and dragons to chat about, therefore there is much mystery as to why the dragons have not started reproducing again.

Peppered throughout Tallin’s narrative, we get to hang out with the Balborite assassin Skarekina (spelling?), who we have met in previous books. We get some flashbacks to how she became a deadly, accomplished assassin. She has a grudge against Tallin and it comes to blows! Skarekina is a wonderful villain because she is so competent!

We also learn a little about the Orcs and their civilization. It seems that everyone discounts and looks down on the Orcs, even some of our heroes. However, I get the feeling that the author has something more planned for us when it comes to the Orcs. I look forward to surprises later in the series. Towards the end, another dwarf magic user is introduced. She is elderly and practical and was a joy to see in action. I expect we will be seeing more of her in Book 5. I am already somewhat attached to her, so I really hope she doesn’t get killed any time soon.

I know I keep saying it about this series, but I feel each book is just a touch better than the last. I couldn’t be more satisfied with a fantasy series. The characters are interesting, the plot has more than one story line and is not horribly predictable, and the bad guys are complicated and often competent. Plus we then have these side issues going on (fighting dwarf kingdoms, the Orcs, dragon reproduction, etc.) that keep the reader wondering what will happen in the next installment. With this book in particular, we have what could be a very significant question to be answered in the next book and I am very much looking forward to giving it a listen.

Narration:  Adam Chase continues to do a great job with this series. I love his blunt voice for Tallin. He voice for Starclaw (an older female dragon) was also great as I could just imagine her wrecked body and mild anger during her chat with Duskeye. Chase has the most wicked female laugh which he employs quite well while performing the assassin.

What I Liked:  Tallin is a great character and totally deserves his own few books; the evil assassin is competent and wicked scary; more info on the dragons; possible new threat in the Orcs; a new awesome dwarf magic user is introduced.

What I Disliked:  Nothing, this was a great book!

What Others Think:

Bookworm Family

Mary’s Cup of Tea

Vosper’s Revenge by Kristian Alva

 

AlvaVosper'sRevengeWhere I Got It: A review copy from the publisher (thanks!)

Narrator: Adam Chase

Publisher: Defiant Press (2013)

Length: 8 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 3 Dragon Stone Saga

Author’s Page

I am going to go all gushy on this book. I have already given Books 1 & 2 high ratings, but this book is even better. This is just one of those series that each book surpasses the previous one in writing skill, character depth, and plot intrigue.

First, the basics. Book 3 picks up where Book 2 left off. Vosper and his evil minions are poised to take the continent by storm as the forces of good (or at least the forces of the reasonable) are scattered and/or arguing with one another. Elias is still learning about his powers and his parentage. His bond with Nydiered (his dragon) grows each day. Without tossing out spoilers, there is death, there is intrigue, there is hope. This is one of those series that a young reader can grow with.

For many of the characters, we have had 2 previous books to get attached to them, or to learn to despise them. In Book 2 we had a traitor, and part of Book 3 shows us what our heroes have to do with that traitor – the tough choices they have to make (as they don’t inherently enjoy killing people and yet, how to trust this person ever again?). These interactions were some of the most moving, most intense in the book.

Then we have Elias and his father (Chua, who he learned about in Book 2). These were also touching moments, but more than that, they were sometimes downright hair raising. Elias’s dad has a wealth of knowledge, and not just from his time as a warrior, but also from his new hard won ability as a seer. He provides some background to Elias, and not just about Vosper but also about his mother, Ionela.

Tallin was probably my favorite character. Being taciturn by nature, he is a tough nut to crack. He is also a half-breed, not truly accepted by either race, and yet he has to deal with them all. We get to learn plenty more about him and just why he is a bit of a grump, and pretty distrustful of most folks.

I have one little quibble about a severely injured character. This character is then transported and it takes days. Yet no real treatment is given to this injured character during that time and this character survives the transport. So, I felt a few lines could have fixed this minor slip up in weaving reality into the fiction.

Now for Vosper. He does wreak havoc among our heroes. Also, his power continues to grow as he makes plans to go through with a final transformation that will leave him more powerful than he could ever be as a mere man. Of course our heroes hear of this plan and it both scares them and spurs them on to desperate heroic acts. It all comes to a head at the end and while I found one tiny element a little rushed (can’t say as it would be a spoiler to the ending of the trilogy), the ending was quite satisfying to me.

I did not want to say goodbye to these characters and this world. Luckily for me, there is a wholenother series in this same world with some of the same characters. You can expect me to be bringing you reviews on that series in 2015.

Narration:  Adam Chase did a great job once again but I will say that I feel his narrating abilities have grown with this series. He had some powerful scenes to bring to life in this book and he did an amazing job. He also had some truly freaky, hair-raising voices to create with the numerous necromancers walking and and out of this book. I pictured him having to contort in order to make some of these characters come to life. His performance in this book puts him on my list of favorite narrators.

What I Liked:  Elias has lots of hard decisions; death & traitors; generations-old secrets coming to the light; Elias’s visit with Chua; Tallin’s character; the ending.

What I Disliked:  I have 2 very tiny negatives that did not detract from my immense enjoyment of this book: 1) a severely injured character receives no treatment and yet lasts for days; and 2) one element of the ending felt a bit rushed.

What Others Think:

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