The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham

Pico resting before dinner.

Pico resting before dinner.

Why I Read It: Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings was running a read along of it on Goodreads; how could I resist?

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Looking for a new take on epic fantasy? Check this book out.

Publisher: Orbit (2011)

Length: 555 pages

Series: Book 1 The Dagger & The Coin

Set in an ancient world long since ruled by dragons, the 13 dragon-made races of humans continue on with civilization. Cithrin, a half-Cinnae ward of the Medean bank, grows up with numbers and sums as her nursery rhymes and ledger books as her dolls. Marcus Wester, well known for his military achievements and his ability to instill loyalty in his soldiers, now leads a quieter life with his trusted friend, the Tralgu Yardem. Dawson, an honorable man in his own eyes and according to a certain code, needs everyone in their proper places in society, and will go to great lengths to maintain that order. Geder, a tentative and secretive scholar, unfortunately is part of the military, and also the butt of all his friends’ jokes. All these people will find themselves at the center of big changes that will affect not just their city or country, but the entire continent.

This was a brilliant book. I love my epic fantasy and I walked into this book expecting a good story with some typical epic fantasy tropes (stuff I enjoy and why I keep returning to the genre). Yet Daniel Abraham gave me more than that. First, the world of The Dagger & the Coin series is ancient. It has evolved. It was once a place ruled by dragons, where the races of humans were created to serve or entertain the rulers of the world. Now, the dragons have long since disappeared, all but fallen into myth. The races have intermingled, have their own religions, commerce, cities, and politics. Next, the characters we follow are interesting, with pasts of their own, and caught up in circumstances that they must navigate successfully, or perish. Several of the characters grow throughout the book, and there were a few twists of circumstances that turned some characters in a different direction than I expected. Political intrigue, a bank’s treasury on the run, military action, manipulation, a troop of actors, and the occasional drunken bout fill these pages. It is a hell of a ride!

Of course, I developed my favorite plot lines with the chapters moving from character to character. Cithrin and Marcus Wester were a lot of fun to ride around inside their heads. Cithrin probably grew the most in this book and I found myself rooting for her at every turn. The conversations, clipped as they were, between Marcus and Yardem often had me chuckling with the dry humor. In fact, if life was a bit different, I could see my man and I having some of those same conversations. At first, I wasn’t too interested in Dawson, but as time went forward, I saw how his rigid view of the right and the wrong of the world made him a very complex man. Of course, this same trait also makes him a volatile man in the sense that if you step out of your place he can’t help but try to shove you back in it, or even eliminate you entirely. I had the same reaction to his wife Clara, at first practically ignoring her as a woman primarily interested in appearances. Later we learn that she is quite a bit more than that. Of course Geder turns out to be a very complex man. I don’t want to say too much here as I mean to avoid spoilers, but damn! I loved watching his story line as it took turns I did not expect.

What I Liked: The detailed world-building; the complex characters; there’s several characters with mysterious pasts; the dragon myths; Geder’s story line; the ending sets the reader up for Book 2 perfectly.

What I Disliked: Not a true complaint, but it did take me most of the book to start picturing the different races in my head. Abraham has a good description of each on his website. Perhaps this could be in the books too?

What Others Think:

Stainless Steel Droppings

Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews

Susan Hated Literature

Two Dudes in an Attic

The Ranting Dragon

The Call of Agon by Dean F. Wilson

WilsonCallOfAgonWhy I Read It: The cover is what first drew me in, and then the epic, mythological story line.

Where I Got It: From the publisher via Orangeberry Book Tours (thanks!)

Who I Recommend This To: Folks who love an epic story with an old world feel.

Publisher: Dioscuri Press (2013)

Length: 384 pages

Series: Book 1 The Children of Telm

Ifferon is in hiding, and has been successfully hidden as a cleric for 10 years. But now evil forces have set upon his village and he must flee again, as he has always done. See, Ifferon thinks he can hide what he is, and in hiding, escape the unfair responsibility that was laid upon his shoulders by his bloodline. One of his ancestors got frisky with a now dead god, Telm. This god fought and imprisoned Agon ages ago, and now the jerk is threatening to win his way free. Ifferon may be the only last surviving direct descendant of Telm, and therefore, the only one who could go toe-to-toe with Agon. First, he will venture through many lands in his continued attempt to flee, and then further travel will ensue in his attempts to prevent the freeing of Agon. Lots of friends, foes, and unknowns will assist and hinder him along the way.

Ifferon and Teron part ways hurriedly while battle approaches their village. Ifferon is assailed by black chasing shadows almost immediately as he and another (wannabe cleric Yavun) run willy nilly like startled bunnies. Soon, they bump into Herr’Don The Great, savior of damsels in distress, bringer of the sword, major task accomplisher, and blow hard. They all leave, running into the magus Melgales who reveals hidden things. Next enters Thalla, the lover of Herr’Don and apprentice to Melgales. She also has a bow but rarely uses it. In fact, she starts off strong and interesting but then quickly slides into Silly Lass With Breasts role. For nearly half the book, she is the only female character. Other heroes, magi, women, bad guys, and youngins make an appearance as we move forward.

So far I have made this book sound a bit light hearted. It isn’t. This is a thick book, not so much in page numbers, but in the fact that so much is going on on every single page. Additionally, the book is told in limited third person, like Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings. This means that we see everyone’s actions and hear everyone’s words, but we never know what is going on in anyone’s head. In some instances, this can be challenging, and in some it makes the plot that much more interesting because you truly have to weigh everything about a character to figure out if they are the spy and betrayer.

I enjoyed the intensity of this book. The serious, desperate need to defeat Agon and his minions weighed on all the characters and drove the plot. There was a variety of ages; not just the young and beautiful were key to this novel. Eventually, we do get some warrior women, one with sense and the other without. I do have to mention that nearly all the women are called sluts or prostitutes or whores by some man at some point in the book (and those male characters are soundly booed by other male characters). But it stood out in my mind as I was reading it. Perhaps because the main female character, Thalla, was driven by the need to be attached to a man and had to be protected, or fought over, for most of the book.

By and large, the book was very interesting with beautiful prose, good guys with personality flaws, and large, well-developed world to play in. From a technical aspect, I only have two points that stand out for me as minor detractions: 1) Occasionally the reader would be following a group of heroes and several pages into the scene, a character, who I thought had gone with the other hero team, speaks up. Ooops, where did you come from? Been here all along, have you? 2) The ending left several of the smaller story arcs unanswered and I felt I could have used at least a few more pages to wrap things up for this book. I know it’s a series, but there were just some nagging questions. Nothing major for those who plan to continue with the series.

Definitely interesting, full of mythological flavor and dressing, and I still love the cover. Ifferon is a worthy lead character, conflicted about his role in life and running from a hidden, deep, gnawing guilt. Despite Herr’Don’s bluster and self-importance, I want to know more about why he isn’t home playing the prince he is. Delin Trueblade makes a respectable aged knight in shining armor and I hope his sense of right and wrong leaves him untarnished. It will be interesting to see where Dean Wilson takes his characters, and his readers, in the rest of the series.

OnceUponATime7What I Liked: The prose; built-in mythology; characters of all ages; knights in armor (cling-clang!); Elly the warrior woman; Ifferon the conflicted.

What I Disliked: Thalla started off interesting and then turned silly….and stayed silly; author could be a little more creative with his rude male characters insulting the ladies; the ending was a little abrupt, but wouldn’t bother me if I had Book 2 to jump into right away.

I received this book as part of the Orangeberry Book Tour. If you want to see other reviews, interviews, and guest posts, click HERE for the schedule and links.

Tis the season for all thing fantastical over at Stainless Steel Droppings. Stop by and enjoy Once Upon A Time, a celebration of the Fantasy Genre.

 

The Shadow of the Sun Read Along Part III

Pico consented to pose with my book.

Pico consented to pose with my book.

Welcome back everyone. Today, as part III of the read along, we are covering Chapters 16-21 of The Shadow of the Sun. Over here is the SCHEDULE if you would like to join us. Barbara Friend Ish is graciously offering a free download of her book for the duration of the read along and you can find that over HERE. Also, there is a GIVEAWAY going on for the duration of April where you could win a signed paper copy of the book or your own choice of ebook from Mercury Retrograde Press.

1) Up to this section, we believed the Basghilae could not cross water, but we learn to the detriment of our heroes that this is not so. What further hidden abilities do you think might crop up from these walking dead?

Bows and arrows? I mean that would pretty much end the Tanaan and any who defended them. Would probably make for a shorter story. Hmm….Maybe the Basghilae can’t see good enough to operate bows appropriately – being dead and all with the soft tissues going first.

2) As the party enters the human lands, they come up with a cover story and request that Letitia remove her torc. She refuses. Do you think her decision was the correct one?

This is pure pride. Letitia even shot a look at Easca, probably gauging how she would take it if she did remove her torc. I get that the torc is a hard won crown. On the other hand, Letitia has already lost a great number of her retinue and if removing the torc would keep them (and consequently her) alive longer, that would be a simple and good thing to do. I am guessing that she is still shook up over the Tuaoh Stone not recognizing her at all. I say it’s just a stone and you can’t expect too much out of it anyway. It has a limited number of ways to express itself and apparently it was saving itself up for a big reaction to Ellion. And let’s face it, Ellion has gotten a big reaction out of everyone he’s come across in the book, from Coran Mourne to Letitia’s papa to Amien to Letitia and her retinue.

3) At one point Ellion lingers over the warding process, specifically warding Letitia, and how a person must be completely nude for wards to be put in place. I’m going to leave this one wide open for comment ;).

Well, that alone should have motivated Ellion to give up his vow of no magic and do the personal wards himself. And why is Letitia the only one warded? Surely the closest of her retinue should also be warded too. Perhaps Amien only has so much magic, or he can only stand warding so many naked Tanaan a day. I wonder if the male Tan would be OK with human males doing personal wards on them? Do they have nudity taboos? And then Amien and Ellion could take some time to ward each other……which might be awkward and I as the reader would be OK with stepping outside for that scene.

4) Ellion makes a tough decision to leave the Tanaan and while he watches them leave he has a huge epiphany about his inner motives. How do you think this will affect his actions and motivations the rest of the book?

I think this is excellent characterization for several reasons. Many folks believe that men by and large have a one tract mind. Ellion certainly demonstrates this – he has this vow of no magic, and he sincerely believes that he is a threat to the party because of the mysteriously appearing/disappearing assassin. He hasn’t really thought outside those tracts and merely goes over them again and again until he makes this decision that he can’t go with the party. And as they float away he sees how selfish that decision is and how he could be an asset to the party, has been an asset, if he allows himself to be open to other possibilities.

Then of course the balloon crashes and the party is reunited. Ellion swears his undying protection for Letitia, which makes everyone uncomfortable, but made me sigh in satisfaction as the reader. And this of course takes us back to the one tract mind. He is now dedicated, completely focused, can’t even consider another path. I want to muss his hair and tell him he chose well.

5) We saw the Tanaan and Ellion in some interesting situations of a more personal nature in these chapters, from the Night Butterflies to cutting in at a dance. What did you make of these instances, what further cultural differences along these lines do you foresee happening, and have you ever been a part of such a situation?

Hehe! Comic relieve built specifically for ME. Yes, I found these situations funny, especially when Ellion had to explain to the Tanaan about purchasing the affections of the night butterflies. Of course, Letitia then has a closer look at her scarf and gives Ellion a look. I would too. I mean, we don’t really know what that scarf was used for…..It might have been subjected to hazards of the night life, right? Perhaps it was used to clean up after the last assignation. I hope it was a newish scarf…but still.

This feeds back into my question about nudity. Do the Tanaan in general have a nudity taboo? Could be interesting to find out.

As for personal faux pas along this line…..Explaining to a male cousin on my man’s side about the use of condoms was unexpected. Oh, and I read that book Bonk by Mary Roach and told my knitting circle all about it. Hmm…and I did use the phrase ‘wild monkey sex’ the other day in a mixed group. You could hear the crickets afterwards.

Once again, we were treated to some fight scenes. What stood out for you about these scenes?

Wow! When Ellion and Amien fought back to back, I could see them whirling and slicing and defending each other like some of the best choreographed sword scenes of Hollywood. How could you, as either one of them, not be addicted to the power and connection to another human that magic like that affords.

Then of course there is the scene with Manannan giving his life for the party. He was on his way out through a slow death anyway and he chose to take a quicker ending doing something to defend many. I felt like I needed a strong drink along with Ellion after that myself.

Other Tidbits:

Amien has been trying to summon aid and so far that aid has not arrived. At the end of Chapter 21, he fell into a elementary trap and now the Bard’s Wizard has his name. All these things do not bode well for the party.

When Ellion’s harp was ruined I was quite sad with him. Well, we don’t know how ruined yet. There may be a chance that it won’t warp. Perhaps, if things settle down and he can baby it.

My question for Barbara for this section: As we get to know Ellion more and more, we definitely are not spared from his private thoughts, including his romantic thoughts. In making your main character the opposite sex of yourself, what came easy and what came hard? How did you overcome obstacles of those nature?

For a nice long and entertaining answer, check out Barbara’s post: The Sex Lives of Male Characters

Here is an additional bit on the subject: Writing About Sex: Love Through Other Eyes

What Others Think:

Just Book Reading

Lynn’s Book Blog

Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers

The Shadow of the Sun Read Along Part II

Tofu sniffing my book suspiciously.

Tofu sniffing my book suspiciously.

Welcome back everyone. This week we are covering Chapters 8-15 of Barbara Friend Ish’s epic fantasy The Shadow of the Sun. Lots of interesting stuff happened in this section. If you think you’d like to join us, there’s still time to do so – here’s the schedule. Also, Lady Ish is offering her book as a free ebook download for the duration of the read along. And we also have a giveaway going the entire month of April that features both ebook and paper of The Shadow of the Sun, a swag pack, and a winner’s choice of ebook from Mercury Retrograde Press.

1) Ellion has quite a mystery on his hands with yet the third assassination attempt. The assassin is the same dude, and once ‘dead’, he proceeds to disappear once again. What do you make of this elusive, reappearing, dead guy assassin?

Well, like Ellion, I believe some hither to untried/undiscovered magic is at work. Reanimating a dead guy twice – not such a big deal. Somehow forcing that body to move, heal, and pump blood like a living man – pretty friggin awesome magic. Bringing said dead guy back around after burning the corpse – What the Hell! Yeah, I’m a bit freaked out, so I can only imagine how this must be disturbing for Ellion. Although, he took that last attempt like a macho man and simply washed off and acted like nothing happened. On the other hand, we don’t really know why he is being targeted, so maybe it is best he play it cool.

2) Throughout this section, Ellion and Amien have several exchanges of words. Did you have the urge to ask them politely, yet firmly, to step out back and settle the matter for the duration of the trip?

Haha! Letitia and Iminor sort of did that, in their ever so polite (and slightly confused) way. Still, if I was around for some of those confrontations I would be tempted to ask those guys to simply lay them out on the table and measure them so the rest of us could get on with the important present day nonsense of staying alive. They obviously have a history – one of past friendship, mentor-student relationship, disagreement on studying certain dark arts, and Ellion’s horrible accident. Still, none of that angst is helping Letitia and her retinue stay alive.

3) The Tanaan suffered a great loss in the past, calling it The Deluge, believing it to have been brought upon them by a wrathful goddess. Do you believe this Deluge was due to a goddess striking a disobedient people? What could the Tanaan have done to warrant such action?

I think this is probably some natural calamity – perhaps a smaller dome volcano? That would explain the reshaping of the land, the loss of plant life, and the current smell. Humans have been interpreting acts of Mother Nature as divine acts forever – literally. It is very much human nature to blame yourself first, because that means you actually have some control of the situation and can change yourself/your actions to prevent the event from happening again. Alas, I don’t believe such thinking will benefit the Tanaan in this case.

4) The Tanaan are use to fighting in tourneys, one-on-one, and not in formations with team goals. How do you think they will take to Ellion’s attempts to school them in real combat tactics?

Not well. Many more will die because this is just too hard, too foreign. Even if they want to make the effort, in the heat of battle they will react on what has worked before – the one-on-one personal glory thing that they have been training for and competing in for years. A few odd days, perhaps weeks attempting to train under team formations will do little good.

5) Letitia has been wearing her mother’s diamond on her torc, which turns out was a gift from Amien. He crafted it himself and says it is a tool. What kind of tool do you think it is?

Yes, I’ve read this before and I should remember this, but I don’t. The way Amien said ‘tool’ and avoided explaining in detail makes me think that Letitia would not like the answer. As with all ego-driven persons, they like to go on and on about their work. Amien simply clammed up on this one. Perhaps it is like a GPS chip in magic – allowing Amien to track the diamond…or overhear conversations?

6) What is up with the Tuaoh Stone having a strong reaction to Ellion?

Hmm….Well, I would say the Tuaoh Stone wants Ellion badly, in a way he isn’t willing to give. Yep, that stone has plans for Ellion – and I think those plans involve rulership. Which is OK as Ellion kind of wants to be a ruler anyway. He already enjoys being acknowledged as royalty, so this shouldn’t be to big of a leap for him. However, he is fighting it because he doesn’t believe he is worthy in a way. I say that if he just took some time to practice impulse control, then he wouldn’t have to worry about blasting anyone else to death, unintentionally. I would say he could start by controlling the impulse to put his penis into every willing lass, but that would probably offend some ladies and would cut down on my entertainment as a reader.

Other Tidbits:
Poor Easca! She seemed to really have a thing for Niede, who fell off a cliff during one of the skirmishes. And she is next in line to rule Arian, which received the brunt of The Deluge.
Letitia must feel like her world is coming apart – loosing so many friends and followers, her mother’s disappearance, and then the Tuaoh Stone doesn’t recognize her at all. And she knows something about her mother’s disappearance but chooses to keep it to herself. Very curious.
Rishan seems to have figured out that Ellion can at least receive telepathic communications directed at him. He’s not as daft as I was thinking.

My question for Barbara this week: You have used language throughout the book as a way to sew culture clash, create bonding, and swear creatively. How did you go about building the various languages into your story?

You can catch the short answer from Barbara in the comments below. For the awesome full answer, check out her blog post in response to this question: That’s Not Even A Real Word!

What Others Think:

Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers

Just Book Reading

Lynn’s Book Blog

P. S. Here is another entertaining video from Rachael Murasaki Ish – It’s her unpacking the dolls to be used for Story Time of The Shadow of the Sun.

The Eye of the World Read Along Part VI

eyeoftheworldbannerWelcome back everyone! I hope everyone got an eyefull (or earfull) with this week’s reading (Chapters 34-40)! My, oh my, did some big things happen here. Definitely getting interesting. Remember that this week Anya over at On Starships and Dragonwings is hosting. So, make sure to stop by her space to read her thoughts and add your bloggy link.

Also, we had a winner in The Wheel of Time audiobook giveaway. Congrats to @mattperrin! I hope he is still doing a happy dance, as we are excited for him too.

Last bit of administrative stuff before we play: When do you want to start Book 2, The Great Hunt? Yes, we do care what you think. Read alongs are funner with friends. So, below you will find a poll to answer on this most serious question before you leave today. Or, just leave me a comment on your preference. We will most likely go with Majority Rules as there are no American Politics involved in this vote ;) For your reference, Book 1 read along ends on Sunday Feb. 10th.

Now, onto the questions! Spoilers Abound!

1. Looks like Rand and Mat met another ally finally. What do you think of Master Gill? Do you think his hope in Thom is well placed?
I’m not done with Thom. I want to know the backstory of what he muttered to the boys just before throwing himself at the myrrdraal. And now that Master Gill hints at other tough scrapes, I want to know about those too. So, I really hope that Thom is merely suffering greatly in some sodden ditch instead of dead. I have needs that only he can fulfill by turning up again and revealing more abut himself.
2. Loial the Ogier! How adorable right? We only get a brief glimpse into this new race, but what do you think? What part do you think he’ll play in the story?
I had totally forgotten about Loial from when I read this over 10 years ago. Bad me! He is such an interesting character. I have vague memories of what he does for the rest of the book, but nothing clear on his significance. I do like how Jordan keeps pulling in more and more of the larger world, and scaring the poo out of the kids while doing it!. I think we all have some inherent prejudices and incorrect assumptions of the world and other cultures based on where and how we were raised, and the various experiences the kids have in this book reflect that (like Egwene’s initial reaction to The Tinkers, and now Rand’s response to Loial).
3. During the rescue of Perrin and Egwene, did it seem like Lan was overly concerned about Nynaeve to anyone else? >.> <.<
Ah! Do we have our first adult romance in the blooming? I hope so. Nynaeve has a stiff enough spine to be an equal to the Warder, but will Lan’s past allow him the freedom to pursue a relationship? Hmm…..
Somewhat related, the rescue was intense! Child of the Light Byar even had me believing there for a moment. I am so glad Perrin had his wits about him and thought things through. Also Nynaeve was excellent to grab the horses. Yeah Bela!
Picabuche - Just a smidge demon?

Picabuche – Just a smidge demon?

4. The Dark One has been blamed for all sorts of things lately. Do you think that the Dark One is the root of Perrin’s power like Moraine fears? How about Rand’s?

I don’t think the Dark One is the source of all the bad stuff going on. I mean, we have humans with free choices (some bad, malevolent, or just stupid) going on left and right. Then some of the things that would be labeled EVIL by aes sedai I don’t think really are, but are simply a state of being (like Perrin’s new power). As for Rand… wow. I am going to have to see how the series turns out to really weigh in on that. I have been very careful to avoid spoilers for the series, especially for the final book, so I honestly don’t know if the world is still standing.
5. Very briefly Rand encounters a beggar who is obviously determined to find him specifically. Who do you think this is? What do you think is going to happen with this beggar in the future?
I believe the beggar is Padan Fain, as his neurotic behavior in these chapters is similar to his behavior displayed before. I would guess that a) he is a Dark Friend or b) he is being compelled against his will by the Dark One to track Rand. Rand and crew are not exactly inconspicuous, so I would say sooner or later the beggar will track Rand down. I expect he will try to coerce Rand or try to kill him, just as previous Dark Friends have done.
6. We learn a whole lot about Queen Morgase in this section, including getting to meet her in person! What do you think? Do you like the tradition of sending the royal children to study with the Aes Sedai and Warders?
That was super intense, and filled with humor. I think Rand’s meeting with royal family has been one of my favorite scenes so far. The kids’ dry humor had me laughing out loud at inappropriate moments. I am glad that Queen Morgase upholds her land’s laws, otherwise Rand would be in a world of hurt – the Queen’s aes sedai is intense! I think both kids should get the basic Warder training as no matter how skilled you are in sorcery, there will come a time that tracking your next meal, or wounded enemy, through muddy forest terrain will come in handy. Also, knowing some basics of hand-to-hand combat is healthy for everyone. Once both kids have the basics, then they can go off to specialize.
7. Rand had quite an adventure in the palace there, wow! And we finally get to meet another Aes Sedai. What do you think of Elaida and her dark assessment of Rand’s future?
Fuck Elaida! she may be the most dangerous and deadly thing we have come across yet. I bet she turns up later (maybe not this book, but in the series) and there will probably be a reckoning. Rand is very lucky to have been able to get out of the palace.
And why is everyone going around predicting Rand’s future, like he has no free will, etc. It’s like he has a floating tarot deck about his head that only certain folks can read, but those inconsiderate folks go right ahead and do so, scaring the crap out of Rand with their predictions.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Smudge does not snuggle books, even really good ones.

Smudge does not snuggle books, even really good ones.

Why I Read It: Because I like riding on the tail of wagons. Oh, and this dude in line for Sanderson signatures at Bubonicon highly recommended the series.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To:
Epic fantasy freaks who love their characters grey and their plots twisted about each other.

Narrator: Roy Dotrice

Publisher: Books on Tape (2004)

Length:
28 CDs

Series: Book 1 Song of Ice and Fire

This is a very complex book. I suggest you check out this wikipedia article if you want a comprehensive summary of the book. I will simply tell you every little thing I loved about this book. First off, the characters are complicated; while there are some few that are more evil or more good than the rest, by and large they are all grey, each having a gentler side and a ruthless side. At first, the Starks of Winterfell seem driven by honor and therefore, will hold the bulk of the good deeds for the book, while the various competing families of the capital city King’s Landing appear to hold the lot of plotting, scheming, nefarious deeds. But the plots quickly become much more interesting, especially as the ‘heroes’ are forced into hard choices and the supposed villains show hints of decency (such as Tyrion Lannister)

Add to that a removed, but related, plot line occurring across the seas on the grassy plains of the wandering tribes of the Dothraki. The last remaining Targaryens live in exile among these horse nomads, dreaming of the day they will reclaim their throne. Daenerys became one of my favorite characters because she grows so much throughout this book. While I know her end goal could put my other favorite characters in jeopardy, I couldn’t help but root for her.

Much closer to home, the Wall north of Winterfell is manned by the Night’s Watch and they keep eyes on the forest and the possibility of The Others, a race thought to be mythological by most. Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned Stark, joins this Watch along with his direwolf. I am really looking forward to see what George Martin does with Jon, the Night Watch, and the walled-out forest in the next book.

I loved Arya right away, the younger daughter of Ned Stark. She’s strong-willed and much more interested in being self-sufficient than her very lady-like Sansa. I found Sansa young and vapid, until the last bit of the book, where she is forced to grow up quicker than she wanted to. Tyrion Lannister is a dwarf and the younger son of the Lord Tywin, a hard man who has little use for his ‘deformed’ son. Tyrion had some of the best lines throughout the book and I always looked forward to the sections told in his voice.

The narration was excellent. The cast of characters in this book alone is HUGE and Roy Dotrice did an incredible job of making each one of them distinct and recognizable. He varied the accents and ages of each, as appropriate. If I have any criticism, it is that his feminine voices just aren’t really feminine. Distinct, but more like soft-spoken males. Still, I loved his narration and plan to continue the series with him, as I can’t imagine Tyrion’s voice any other way.

And no, I haven’t watched HBO’s series yet, and have been very diligent about avoiding any such spoilers.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: Direwolves; dragons; spies; traitors; death; the well thought out intricate plots; complex characters; Tyrion Lannister; plenty of sex; Martin world building includes these full-fledged varying cultures.

What I Disliked: The narrated voices for the ladies could benefit from a bit more femininity; alas, there are no maps with an audiobook.

This review is part of the Read&Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by there to see more great reviews.

The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

Why I Read It: Started the series as part of a read along over at Stainless Steel Droppings.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: If you’re into epic fantasy, this series is a must.

Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates (2008)

Length: 796 pages

Series: Mistborn Book 2

Vin kicks even more ass!

This sequel picks up a year after Book 1, Mistborn: The Final Empire. Elend is king, but can he hold his crown with his even-handedness and high ideals? The Assembly he created to help rule Luthadel is constantly arguing. Meanwhile, multiple armies are marching to take Luthadel by force. Vin is Elend’s love, and his body guard. Many, many people would love to see Elend dead. Vin’s companions in the mist are quite an eclectic lot: assassins, her helpful kandra, some sort of mist creature, and another Mistborn with mysterious intentions.

With Kelsier gone, his remaining crew try to stay true to Vin in their own way – strengthening Luthadel’s defenses, intrigue, spying, and even returning to a besieged city. Sazed had wandered far in pursuit of his dream of teaching the Skaa about the world’s lost religions. However, he finds few willing, let along enthusiastic, students. Instead, he comes across tales of mist mysteriously appearing during the day and killing people. Kelsier’s brother Marsh appears on the scene and leads Sazed to an abandoned Steel Inquisitor tower, where they find few answers and only more questions. Sazed is convinced he must return to Luthdel, despite the imminent danger the city is in.

I believe this book was even better than Book 1. Book 1 set up several of the main characters and the world. In this addition to the series, Brandon Sanderson explores more of the world. For instance, we learn about Koloss society, Mistborn and Feruchemist abilities, and the complicated kandra. We also get more info on the legend of the Hero of Ages. This book was full of action, friendship, betrayal, hard choices, and a little bit of kissing.

What I Liked: The relationship between Elend and Vin was more real; kandra in a dog suit; Vin in everything she does; Zane as a crazy counterpoint to Vin; Elend’s growth in character; Sazed and Tindwyl.

What I Disliked: I found the sudden relationship between Breeze and Allrianne to be a bit forced plot wise.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

Chupacabra and Warbreaker

Why I Read It: Read along hosted by Once Upon A Time

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Those into epic fantasy.

Publisher: Tor Fantasy (2010)

Length: 688 pages

This book was a play on plot twists. Brandon Sanderson has entertained me quite well once again. Siri and Vivenna are sisters, Princesses of Idris, a high mountain, sober town. Vivenna has known all her life that she was betrothed to the God King of Hallandren, a bustling city steeped in color and vice. However, the King of Idris cannot bear to send his eldest, and favorite, daughter. Siri is sent in her staid, much to the shock of all, including the untrained and ill-mannered Siri.

Vasher and his thought-projecting sentient sword Nightblood have a quest of their own, which no one is quite sure about for a good chunk of the book. (I loved guessing on his intentions). Denth and Tonk Fah are dark-humored mercenaries who meet Vivenna shortly after she makes her secret way to Hallandren to rescue her sister. Siri, in the mean time, has been learning to enjoy succulent fish dishes and wear fancy, flashy, sexy gowns. She befriends one of the pantheon of the Court, Lightsong. He has some of the best lines of the book, constantly irritating and making the other gods and royalty laugh. A good chunk of the pantheon and their priests are for war with Idris, which is seen as a rogue city defying the rightful rule of The God King. Oh, and they have some very lucrative mountain passes used for trading with other nations. Just in case you need a monetary reason to go to war.

In this tale, BioChroma plays a large role. The more Breaths a person has, the more objects a person can animate and command. This includes dead bodies, and hence Hallandren has an army of Lifeless – soldiers who do not need sleep, rest, food, or water. They feel no pain. Shudder. Yeah, Idris is in trouble. While Siri and Vivenna work in their separate ways to head off this war, Lightsong begins snooping around after a mysterious death of servant occurs at Mercystar’s palace. Vasher and Denth continue to circle each other, alternately aggravating and avoiding one another.

What I Liked: The BioChroma rules for this world; the dark humor of Denth and Tonk Fah; the God King’s secret; Lightsong’s banter with the curvaceous Blushweaver; Nightblood has some of the best lines; the lifeless squirrel!

What I Disliked: The first time reading it, it took me some time to grasp the rules of BioChroma.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Heldig and Mistborn: The Final Empire

Why I Read It: Participated in a read along over at My Awful Reviews.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Epic fantasy junkies!

Publisher: Tor Fantasy (2007)

Length: 672 pages

Series: Mistborn Book 1

Vin kicks ass.

It needed to be said up front.

This is another wonderful Brandon Sanderson world; it’s ashy and grey, there are Steel Inquisitors with metal protruding from their eye sockets, Allomancers rule the night with their ability to manipulate metal objects, and mistwraiths roam the lands between cities always hungry. Much of this story is seen through Vin’s eyes; she is a street thief and an Allomancer (though she doesn’t know that last to begin with). Kelsier runs a group of skilled individuals who want to overthrow the empire and he takes Vin under his wing. He has a suspicion that Vin is somewhat like himself – a Mistborn. Mistborns can manipulate all kinds of metal, whereas most Allomancers can only work with a pair of metals. And Kelsier could definitely use another Mistborn to help him with his plans.

This book was wicked fun from beginning to the end. The premise of a small rebel group wanting to overthrow the ruling regime probably seems simple, maybe even overused. However, it gets complicatedly good quick. Each character has a backstory, some of which we learn throughout the tale. Each has his and her own reasons for following Kelsier on his mad quest. The bad guys are not fumbling idiots either, but rather skilled, deadly, and mysterious. A side romance adds a few complications to the master plan, but played well for the reader.

What I Liked: The cloaks; the intrigue, on many levels; Sanderson creates rules for his world and sticks with them; Hoid; there were several twists I did not see coming.

What I Disliked: The initial romance was a little sudden, but I eventually settled into it.

Warbreaker Read Along Part III

It is very hard to get hyper Tanuki to pose for a pic. Bribery was used.

What a crazy week! So much happened in this week’s readings; even though it is a re-read for me, I am greatly enjoying the book and found it a little hard to stop.

This week’s reading included Chapters 24-34. Schedule over HERE.

Thanks once again to Once Upon A Time for keeping us all organized and Amanda over at Ramblings for this week’s questions.

The Questions:

1. Lightsong is beginning to remember his past, or at least, what he thinks is his past. Why do you think this knowledge is coming to him now, after five years as a Returned?

I think his subconscious is preparing him for big things. He has to believe in himself for what is to come. Once upon a time he did something heroic and bold and he needs that piece of himself again. It’s been buried all these years, waiting for the right moment to strike, like a hidden panther.

Or perhaps his servants will run out of grapes and he will have to peel them himself.

2. In this section, Vivenna has learned a lot about herself, and not necessarily to her liking. How do you think the new knowledge will change her going forward?

I think it was healthy for her to admit she was a hypocrite. Learning that ‘your people’ are gangsters and prostitutes and feel that they are better off in the slums of Hallendren rather than the empty slopes of Idris must have stung a bit. In some ways, Vivenna became a much more interesting person in this week’s reading- having to confront what she would do in a moment of terror. Perhaps now she will vary her daily dress a bit.

3. From the beginning of the book, both the Idrians and Lightsong have been telling us that the Returned aren’t Gods, and that the Hallendren religion is untrue. Now, though, we’ve had a few other different perspectives: Jewels’ vehement faith in the God King, the God King’s own belief in his divinity, and finally, Hoid’s collection of historical stories. Given the new information, have your ideas about religion in this book changed? How do you view it now?

Most importantly, it was very good to see Hoid again. He turns up here and there in other Sanderson books.

Religion is an organized group of people who believe roughly the same thing. Hallendren definitely has it’s religion – with some of the Returned subscribing to it and others not. I really love how Sanderson weaves together all this religious turmoil into the story line. I think Lightsong is deeply disturbed by the religion surrounding him, because he does not believe himself worthy of such adoration and dedication, not to mention the breaths he must take from children each month.

Susebron has known nothing else. Siri is the first person he has had contact with that has been honest to his face about not believing in his divinity. While the priests that surround him use religion as a tool to maintain power, they have always reinforced his belief in his divinity.

The only way I can think to relate to this is by looking at my mundane life and imagining someone telling me, very seriously, that I am divine. Huh? You must be a little nuts. Go put the harp away. No, we don’t need choir music. OK, leave the candles if you must, I wanted to read anyway.

4. Denth says, “Every man is a hero in his own story.” What do you make of this, especially given Denth and Vasher’s apparent rivalry, and Vivenna and Siri’s different perspectives of life in Hallendren and the Gods’ court?

Siri is making the best of an impossible situation. She wasn’t trained for this position, she was ordered to it last minute, and when she gets there, it is not as advertised. I think she is doing remarkably well. It is a good thing she is flexible.

Vivenna started off as pretty inflexible and it was her stubbornness and idea of ‘Right’ that got her this far. But this week, we saw a lot of her believes challenged. I am expecting this to lead to personal growth on her part.

Denth and Vasher. this is a a re-read for me, so I won’t say too much. So far, we have spent very little time inside eithers’ head. We’ve heard more chat from Denth and how he has taken pains to protect Vivenna. On Vasher’s side, we have seen a lot of threatening postures, a few deaths/injuries, and several occasions where he goes out of his way not to kill. So far, they are both suspicious to me.

Other Tidbits:

Hoid’s storytelling performance with the various thing she pulled out of his pockets was very cool.

Hopefinder and Blushweaver: That was a very entertaining conversation, with all the back and forth.

Do you think Clod has any of his personality left? It was pretty amazing how the Lifeless retained such mobility and fighting skill.

Sooner or later, Siri will have to explain to Susebron exactly why she bounces on the bed, making moaning noises. I find it entertaining how she is in the awkward position of sooner or later explaining the mechanics of reproduction.

Warbreaker Read Along I

Warbreaker Read Along II